Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Happy Jewish Hipster Merry Christmas to You

Here's the original post, which has the links to the explanations, but it's just an excuse to post this video again.  Happy holidays to one and all.

But if you want something more traditional, here's the Opera Company of Philadelphia at Macy's (the old Wanamaker's building) in Center City Philadelphia surprising shoppers with Handel.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

NDI International Election Delegation for Egyptian National Assembly Elections

Just back from a week in Egypt with National Democratic Institute.  Here's the NDI statement following the second round of the elections.  And here's my mention in the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram, apparently based on a statement issued by the governor of Aswan after our meeting on Tuesday evening ahead of the elections.  The translation:

NDI President [should be: Vice Chair] Checks on Election Progress in Aswan

On Wednesday, [the] former President [should be: Hattie Babbitt, Vice Chair] of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and [former] Congressman Sam Coppersmith, met with Aswan Governor Mostafa El-Sayed to discuss the progress of the electoral process. The accompanying delegation expressed their appreciation to the efforts made by the Egyptian government to wrap up the democratic transition process through the parliamentary and presidential elections.

A delegation member stated that Egypt’s parliamentary elections are being followed up across all of the 27 governorates, explaining that NDI has begun working in Egypt in 2005, as part of its human rights efforts. The institute has followed elections in about 76 countries worldwide.
It is worth noting that civil society observers as well as international observers were present in a number of stations in the governorate of Aswan.

Here's Aswan Team 1 taking a break from witnessing the election along the banks of the Nile:

Fascinating week.  I hope I get to go back.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Phoenix's Least Convincing Business Combination

Thomas Road east of 32nd Street.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Your Nonpolitical Arizona Tax Credit Reminder
No commentary this year, just a reminder that the out-of-balance Arizona tax system makes it exceedingly easy, and almost entirely cost-free, to make several types of charitable donations--at least for relatively well-off taxpayers.  Of course, you should be giving to charity anyway, and I hope you do, well beyond taking advantage of these credits.  But if you’re charity-challenged, Arizona makes it really easy even for the obnoxiously or ideologically cheap to pretend to act charitably.

Several tax credits let you reduce your state income taxes by the entire amount of your donation.  This discussion, as before, assumes you itemize deductions and don’t pay alternative minimum tax (AMT).  If so, donate by December 31, then in April, you pay that same amount less in state income taxes by the amount of the donations due to several dollar-for-dollar tax credits.  All it costs you is some time (and maybe a stamp where you can’t or don’t give online).

First, contributions to “private school tuition organizations” that offer scholarships to private schools qualify for a tax credit for individuals of up to $500 and for married couples up to $1,000.  Please consider giving to Schools With Heart Foundation, 1131 E. Highland, Phoenix, AZ 85014.  Designate your contribution for The Family School, which (in addition to getting our annual contribution) was the site of our son’s community service project; he and his buddies cleaned and painted one of the school buildings 4 years ago.

Schools With Heart doesn’t have online contributions, so you have to write and mail a check and designate the check for The Family School (in a cover letter or on the memo line of the check).  Schools With Heart is one of the better PSTOs; it doesn’t let donors earmark for specific children and doesn’t spend money on insiders’ salaries.

You contribute now, then report your contribution on Form 323 when filing state income taxes in April, getting a full dollar-for-dollar credit up to the cap.  But make sure to include this and your other donations as charitable contributions on your federal return to get the full benefit.

Second, this being Arizona, there's a less-generous public school tax credit lets single taxpayers give and get back up to $200, and married taxpayers, up to $400.  You write the check directly to the school, not to a PTO or foundation, and report this credit on Arizona Form 322.
Of course, wealthier school districts benefit more from these tax credit donations, so if you want your money to make more of a difference, you should contribute to a school in the Isaac School District, 3348 W. McDowell Road, Phoenix, AZ 85009.  You can download the contribution form, on which you designate a specific school to receive the donation, or call Sophia L. Flores at (602) 455-6774.  Your gift is far more significant in a school district with (last I checked, the website hasn’t been updated) 90 percent of its students at or below poverty and two-thirds from non-English-speaking homes.

Third, donations to charities which assist low-income residents qualify for another tax credit if you exceed the “baseline” of your charitable contributions for 1996 or the first year you itemized, if later.  This particular credit is available up to $200 for single taxpayers and $400 for couples.  Lots of Arizona charities qualify for this Form 321 credit, both those providing services and certain “umbrella” organizations (like the United Way) that providing funding for service provider.  The list for 2011 is here.  You may already have donated to one of these organizations, so take advantage of this credit if you did--and maybe give some more?

Also, 2011 is now the last year for some qualifying organizations.  Effective January 1, 2012, a “qualifying charity” cannot provide or provide referrals for, or financially support a charity that provides or provides referrals for, abortion.  A.R.S. §43-1088(H)(3).  Just more of that “less-government-is-best, except when it isn’t” philosophy for which we’re famous in Arizona.

But if you haven't made a qualifying donation yet, I serve on the national and local advisory board, and having disclosed that can urge you, without any conflict whatsoever, to contribute to DevereuxArizona and its behavioral health programs.  Devereux’s H.O.P.E. 4 Kids Fund provides recreation, gifts, and support for kids in behavioral health programs who otherwise would have to do without.  You can help at no cost to you because you’ll pay exactly that much less in state income taxes.  Send your check to Devereux Arizona, 11000 N. Scottsdale Road, Suite 260, Scottsdale, AZ 85254, or click here to donate to the program.

Additional information on these three tax credits, and links to the necessary Arizona tax forms, is available from the Arizona Department of Revenue’s tax credit page.  However, the page hasn’t been updated to include two other available Arizona tax credits.

The first is the Arizona Military Family Relief Fund tax credit which, for tax years through 2012 only, allows taxpayers to claim $200 for single taxpayers or heads of households, and $400 for married couples filing joint returns, for MFRF donations.  To claim the credit, you need a receipt from the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services, and to give you a receipt, the ADVS needs your full name, address, and last four digits of your Social Security number, required by A.R.S.§41-608.04(H).  The MFRF is also capped at $1 million a year, so you need to give before they reach the ceiling, which they did last year.  As of November 8, they were 18% of the way there for 2011.  Celebrate the return of the last US troops from Iraq this December by sending your contribution to MFRF, c/o Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services, 3839 N. 3rd Street, Suite 209, Phoenix, AZ 85012.  The contribution form is here, or you can call Travis Schulte, the MRFR manager at ADVS at (602) 234-8403.

The same deal applies as with the other credits; you take the credit on your Arizona return, and make sure you include it in your charitable donations for deduction on Schedule A of your federal return, and the contribution is completely offset by the credit and deduction and costs you nothing.

Then there’s a fifth credit available, from Arizona’s voter-approved but endangered system publicly-financed state elections.  Despite the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, you can still write a check in 2011 and pay less in state taxes in April, 2012.  (However, it’s not a true dollar-for-dollar credit because political contributions are not deductible for federal taxes.)  The credit is now $670 for individuals and $1,340 for couples, or up to 20% (yes, that’s one-fifth) of your total state tax liability, whichever is greater.
Send your contribution to Citizens Clean Election Fund, 1616 W. Adams, Suite 110, Phoenix, AZ 85007.  There are no specific forms for this credit, either for the donation or for your Arizona tax return, where you instead list the credit directly on your Form 140.  Also, the Commission no longer accepts online contributions, so you have to write and mail a check. For more information, see this page on the CCEC website.  You can’t designate the contribution for a particular candidate or party; instead, you’re limited to supporting democracy in general.

So make some donations by December 31 and reduce your state taxes this coming April 15 by the precise amount of your ostensible generosity.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

C2C: Two Additional Bridgewater State videos

Former Congressman Rob Simmons (R-CT) and I talking about public service and US-Canada relations during our visit to Bridgewater State University.  Audio isn't the greatest because neither of us knew we were being recorded and neither of us used the microphone.

Discussing public service:

US-Canada relations (BSU has a program on Canadian Studies, so that topic got added to our visit):

I should note that my bow tie is from Dogwood Ties, neckwear purveyor to the future stars.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

C2C: Bridgewater State University
As part of my recent Congress to Campus visit to Bridgewater State University, former Member Rob Simmons (R-CT) and I taped an episode of Commonwealth Politics, sponsored by the Center for Legislative Studies at BSU.  I continue my new tradition of wearing a bow tie on public (and cable access) TV.  They wanted two over-the-hill guys to discuss what's happening today and, more importantly, how we can get those kids off our lawn.  Enjoy--and Go Bears!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Return of the Crusties

More Harvard Band fun, as about two dozen former Bandies returned for another That Seventies Show reunion.  Two generations of Coppersmiths marched and played.  I now have a Band nickname:  "Big Louis."  Seems like a demotion, but actually it's better than people continually harping on that Bass Drum incident many years ago.  Someday the HUB will post video of the pregame and halftime on the Band blog, but today is not that day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Congress to Campus Visit to Royal Military College, Kingston
My trip to Ontario with Hon. Paul Dick, former Member of the House of Commons, Canada.  A report from Cadet Ethan Strong (he's more properly 25961 OCdt Ethan Strong, meaning he's Cadet number 25961 in the history of RMC) is available here (scroll down to "A Talk with Former Canadian and American Politicians.")

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Tour de Scottsdale 2011
Kind of warm out there, and a head wind going down Nine Mile Hill, which was odd.  No photos yet, just results.  3:43:04, which is 27/78 in my division and an 18.8 mph average.

UPDATE:  Now with photos.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In Which I CrossThree Steps into North Korea, and, More Importantly, Cross Back


My visit to the DMZ last month.  I’m visiting on a Monday, which normally isn’t a visiting day for the US/UN side, so the DPRK soldier peering in the window is more curious than ominous.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Titan Marching Band

If you had kids in the Arcadia High School Band in the early part of this century (or were in the Band then, but if so, why are you reading this old guy's blog?), you'll appreciate this essay by our son Ben.  Did you know that he's tied for third-funniest in the family (as is everybody else)?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Vineman 70.3 Half Ironman

Rookie mistake--had too much fun on the swim (fun!) and bike (fun and beautiful, too!) and didn't leave enough for the second half of the run (not fun!)   But I finished in 6:23:51, 36 out of 53 in my division, and well under my "positive" goal of 6:30, and better thus than my "basic" goal, which was finish, and my "satisfactory" goal, which was finish in under 7 hours. But had such fun on the swim and bike that my ego got ahead of my GI tract on the run while chasing after a "stretch" goal. But enough! My first half ironman, and I finished.
UPDATE:  The local newspaper's story on the pro event, with some pictures.  Plus from the event photographer:  Not just photos, but 2 videos, one of the finish and one of me waddling out of the water.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Jewish News Report on the Century Ride

Here's Marilyn Hawkes's report on Andy's Tahoe ride. The version in the paper has the picture, but without the speech bubbles. Sorry, L.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The Boys Do A Century Ride

America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride, with temperatures between 41 and 47 degrees, rain, plus hail. Maybe it got warmer than that in the afternoon, but then it started hailing again. I never shed any layers during the ride, and it was pretty cold, even going up the switchbacks to Emerald Bay (hence the shower cap to keep out the hail/rain). Not the best day but we did it. Speech and thought bubbles by E. Gordon (now known as L.)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tempe International Triathlon Action Photo!

Thanks to Lisa Kravetz. The professional shots are usually far less kinetic, at least for us age-groupers.

Monday, May 16, 2011

2:47:47, which is a new PR for the Olympic distance by all of 1 second, but I'll take it. I had a good swim (more, and more visible, buoys next year, please!), a not-bad bike ride, and was just not so slow on the run as to use up all the time I gained in the transitions over my Nation's Triathlon time. (A tri with 10,000 participants means more time in transition; doing an event with 1,000 means a couple of minutes gained just because the transition area isn't quite so huge or so far from the swim and bike courses.) Maybe if we hadn't started 40 minutes late I could have picked up another second or two, it got pretty warm by the end of the run. TriScottsdale won the club championship, plus I was fourth in my age group (out of 14). There are more pictures here.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Mountain Biking in McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Korean

A page from a bicyling profile of U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea D. Kathleen Stephens from magazine (click for larger view).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Not Me, or Any of My Relatives

Or a novel that I'm likely to read, but maybe I should (and give a cover blurb for the next edition?)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mountain Biking in the Sonoran Desert

Snow on the McDowells, Sunday, Feb. 27:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Desert Classic Duathlon 2011

Not too bad considering I lost 14 minutes (and 16 seconds) changing a flat tire on the bicycle portion. If you give me that time, I could have been in the top half of my age group. Without, still OK. Wish I'd known one fellow 55+ male was only 3 seconds in front of me on the second run. No pictures yet. UPDATE: Pictures.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Mummy Mountain Loop

The Map My Ride analysis of my favorite (or at least most frequent) training ride, courtesy of Jason Franz. (Link fixed, sorry.)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

(500) Days of Summer

I laughed out loud. I got nothing to say about it, I just want to save this link. Plus the opening announcement:
Author's Note: The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Especially you Jenny Beckman. Bitch.