Sunday, May 19, 2002

On Stanley Works moving to Bermuda

I note that James Maloney and his peers are upset about Stanley Works reincorporating offshore ("Maloney Rips Stanley for Relocating Abroad, May 19, 2002 CT Post), even going so far as to compare the corporation to the infamous Benedict Arnold. I suggest that Maloney and his fellow legislators stop blaming others and take a look inward to find the reasons - and solutions - for that relocation.

Stanley is a for-profit corporation. It has a responsibility to its shareholders - especially those among the working class - to produce a profit. Without that profit the shareholders lose their investments, and not only are large financial investors (such as the mutual funds in which much of our individual 401k and pension plans are invested) affected, individual shareholders, such as Stanley employees, would be hurt as well. With the profligate tax levels to which our legislators are becoming accustomed, most corporations are starting to see those profits quickly dwindling, and they have a responsibility to their shareholders to do something about it.

Stanley's solution is to re-incorporate its holding company outside of the United States. While Stanley will still maintain its headquarters here in Connecticut, will still keep jobs and continue to manufacture many of its products here, and will continue to pay taxes on all of those associated profits, Maloney will lose the ability to tax Stanley on profits made outside this country. Why Maloney feels entitled to cuts of profits made outside the USA baffles me.

Where does Maloney get the gall to compare Stanley to a traitor? Can he not see that the reason this corporation wishes to leave is solely due to the stifling taxes that our various governments have applied to the company, apparently for the "right" to do business in this supposedly free country? Can he not see that the reason countries such as Bermuda are so attractive is because they have developed attractive and efficient tax structures, rather than an oppressive and punitive one?

Maloney apparently feels that the Federal, State, and local governments are "entitled" to taxes on profits, even those made outside the USA. It's indicative of an attitude of how our governments feel they deserves cuts of profits that exist around them, regardless of their involvement in the production of those profits, not unlike the way "protection money" was paid by local businesses to organized crime. We threw most, if not all, of those guilty parties in jail for a long time...

Is Maloney's concern really about the loss of the holding company from Connecticut, or he is more concerned that the cash trough might be drying up just a little bit, threatening his ability to "bring home the bacon"? If it's so important to him, why not use the opportunity to reform the tax structure to be more attractive to corporations, thereby enticing them to stay, rather than attempting to use strong-arm tactics to attempt to *force* corporations to stay? Who's really the traitor here?

James Maloney should be applauding Stanley Works for using the opportunity of the freedoms of this country (and of the world) to find creative and peaceful alternatives to the burdensome tax rates that he himself is associated with creating, rather than the war time methods used over 200 years ago by other "tax dodgers" to defeat another profligate taxer and spender, King George III.

Greg Amy
Milford CT

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

On the House Drains

Remember the "Dat pipe's not foh watuh, dat's pipe's foh GAS!!!"?

Well, it seems to never end...

I'm at home this week, not working. I was in Salt Lake City on business last week, and Thea calls to tell me the pipes are overflowing downstairs. Seems that while the toilet and bathroom sink are working fine (and the bath tub still drains slow), the driveway side of the house is plugged up. Running the dishwasher, kitchen sink, or washing machine results in a pretty geyser gushing up from the washing machine drain.


So, Saturday night we tried dropping in a gallon and a half of drain cleaner (after Thea did a gallon on Friday) and by Sunday morning I can see that it's not working. So, I volunteer to stay home and call Roto Rooter, and see if I can make our troubles go away down the drain...

"Elmo" drives up mid-morning on Monday. He's a tall black guy, "from the Islands, mon", and seems a nice guy. I give him a walk around of the place, show him where all the pipes and drains are, and let him go. I also told him that I wanted him to look at some other outstanding plumbing issues we have such as replacing the outside faucet that froze up a couple of winter ago (that Fritz and I almost caught the house on fire trying to replace) and the slow-draining bathtub. We'll get to those later...

Anyway, Elmo brings in his Roto-Rooter, a big electrical-motor-power drum of spring cable, into the basement and opens up an access port right over the washing machine. He brings in the light-duty rooter, one without anything on the end. After about 20 minutes he's played out 80 feet or so, and it's still going, and the water's not draining. He gets a quizzical look on his face and tries to pull it back out and it sure seems like it's pulling back against him!! After a bit of a struggle he gets it back out and goes outside "for the bigger one."

In comes another drum, this time with a half-again thicker cable and a meaty-looking cutter on the end. He runs that one down the pipe, and at about 50 feet the motor starts laboring. Elmo gets a smile on his face and runs it down another 5-10 feet. That motor is still laboring hard as he's pulling it back out, and 60 feet of retraction later there's this bug ugly, dirty-oil-black, well, SOMETHING on the end of it. It looks like a combination of a foot-long jet-black ponytail intermixed with a small hedge.

"Roots!" he says.

"Huh?" sez Greg.

"Roots. Mixed with a lot of stuff, maybe hair."

"Hmm, hair, you say?" I say. Can't imagine why...

Anyway, he runs some chemical down the pipe ("enzymes") and asked me to run the kitchen sink. 5 minutes later there's still no geyser so he calls it a success.

As he winds down that little adventure I ask him about the other stuff. He suggests that I run a rooter down the main sewer pipe once a year, and if it hasn't even been done (or it's been a long time) we should do it. That not only keeps the pipes cleaned out but it cuts any roots that may be growing into the pipes, keeping them from growing bigger (at least, that what I inferred.) So I asked him for a price and when he could do it.

We talked about the outside faucet, and I told him about the slow-draining bath tub. He gave a cursory look at the tub and said the whole mechanism was leaking and needed replacement (the drain, pipes and stopper valve), and he gave me a single price of $950 for all of the work (Monday's work, the outside faucet, the rooting of the main line, and replacing the bathtub mechanisms and pipes, plus two gallons of their "non-corrosive" enzyme-based pipe and drain conditioner - "not a drain opener, but a drain cleaner"). I agreed to have him come back in the morning to do that work.

Elmo arrived Tuesday morning, and he took some measurements for the outside faucet. He asked me to bring him to where the underside of the bath tub was. We turned on the light in that corner, and he turned on his flashlight to look.
The look on his face when he saw that combobulation was precious. "Oh my goodness!" he cried. "Look at all these pipes! I've never seen so many pipes used to go just from here to there!"

So, after he stopped chuckling, he got to the business of removing some pipes to measure for the ones he needed to buy. He left during lunch and returned with the bathtub parts, and got all that installed in a couple of hours. Looking for the clog downstream he removed several of the pipes, mostly breaking them off because they were so corroded. It wasn't too hard to find the clog: a nice foot-long blockage consisting of rust, mud, and hair. Hmmm, hair again, you say...?

The next step was to get out the Big Motha of rooters, and run it down the main sewage pipe into the street. This thing was pretty hefty, and had a cutter on the end the size of my fist. After removing the end cap (actually, breaking it off as *it* was also rusted) I got to take a look down the hole. Not particularly impressive: rust, mud, small roots, and likely some things I'd rather not describe (Fritz, I just decided you really *don't* want clear pipes in your basement...) That job wasn't too bad, it only took him a half-hour or so to run the guy down the pipe. He played out about 100 feet and didn't find any major blockage. The pipe looked better after that (but I certainly wouldn't say it looked "good".)

Anyway, at that point he started planning on what pipes he needed to buy to replace the clogged and broken ones for the bath tub, and I asked him: what would it take to just replace it all and make it "right"? We talked about it for a short while, and he said that he'd remove ALL OF THESE, and do this and this. Plus, he'd remove THAT pipe sticking out with a cap on it, and THAT pipe apparently going up through the floor to nowhere (capped off, hopefully?) and *that* fitting and *that* junction, and *that* part too. Basically, he'd replace it all with 3 pipes and a junction. By this time it was the end of the day, and it was also raining here so he was in no mood to solder the outside faucet on, so we agreed to have him come back in the morning to finish up what was left while giving me an estimate on what it would take to replace all the pipes under the bathroom.

As of right now, I can wash clothes, dishes, and my hands, and peeing is OK; however, showers are out unless I want a big mess in the basement. Of course, I'm a bachelor this week, so showers are optional anyway...

We're getting there, though. Closer and closer...


Pete's response:

Here's what I know and maybe you don't, yet.

I don't think I was in on the bath tub piping job, but I do recall removing the bath tub clean out plug down there and taking a shower in gook plus the dirty shower water that someone had just created.

However, there may be a time when you discover draining problems in the bath room. This is because the sink was once on the same side of the room as the bath tub and we moved it across the room where it is now. Fritz and I were mere laborers in this job so don't blame us.

First off, I don't believe that the drain on the sink is connected to a vent stack, so you may occasionally here some gurgling when you drain a full sink of water. When you do, don't breathe it in deeply or light a match. You can easily fix this by installing a "pro-vent" under the sink. This will let air in as it drains and not let any sewage vapors out. We have one in the kitchen and it meets code.

Now here's the good part. When we removed the sink we had to reconnect the tub drain to the vent stack in the wall. This called for, I'd say, 2 lengths of PVC pipe about 18" long, an elbow connector, and maybe two adapters to hook into the existing cast iron pipes. At that time the total cost might have been around $8-$10. Well make that $20 at most in case we needed to buy some glue. But, no! We already had perfectly good pipe in the basement and it was threaded cast iron. Only you couldn't cut it so we had to figure out how to lay them out so they would go together and connect from point A to point B. This took over an hour to figure out and even longer to do, as I recall. Fritz went nuts and insisted in a most frantic yet futile manner to drive 15 min to the hardware store and get the right stuff. I stayed calm and did what ever stupid thing I was told (which turned out to be excellent training for the job I have now). Anyways, the pipe route looked something like a distorted letter "S" with a knot in it, used up about 5 feet of short pieces of pipe, and had maybe 5 connectors
or so. The real challenge was screwing them together so that the last piece of pipe would thread properly on both ends at the same time. When it was done it was an impressive piece of work and really only had to pass air and not water, thankfully. One day when if you ever have to demolition that wall you will find another "Dat pipe's not foh venting, dat's pipe's foh MUSEUM!"


It's done! And, boy, is it pretty. Nice clean PVC pipe, smooth bends, nice slopes and transitions. Everything heading DOWNWARD instead of THERE-WARD.

Best part, water flows, no backups, and I can take a shower without standing in 3 inches of water. In fact, I'm enjoying that so much I'm emailing you while I'm still in the shower (just kidding...)

Well, $1400 later we've got all drains draining, all faucets working with no leaks, plenty of access holes to scrape out the scheiz should it get clogged again, an outside faucet that works, and even a little more storage room in the basement. I weighed 95 pounds of cast iron and galvanized pipes that were replaced by about 15 pounds of PVC.

There is one continuing problem, and it has to do with the original problem, the drain over the washer. The pipe over the washer is only a 2" PVC pipe. As it extends down the far wall to the foundation it wyes into a 4" pipe. Given that all he could use to cut out the clog was a 2" cutter, it's highly likely that we have a 2" hole in a 4" clog. To fix it will require extending the 4" pipe out past the false basement wall and installing a 4" tap, then re-rooting the clog. They suggested that we not put too much stuff down the garbage disposal until that's done (and ironically that recent addition may have been the final straw in this whole affair...)

Now, if I can only convince Thea to stop throwing dog hair down the drain(s), this might last for a while. BTW, I've saved not only a section of clogged pipe but also our clog that was pulled out Monday, all for the sake of show-and-tell. Kinda like a brain in the jar in Chemistry class, you know?


Tuesday, January 15, 2002

An Offer You Can’t Refuse (2002)

The numbers racket, protection, gambling. Looking for more ways to make money for the organization, they're now using fear and extortion to gather the income needed, making you an 'offer you can't refuse'. Am I talking about the latest episode of "The Sopranos"? Maybe one of the movies from "The Godfather" saga? How about your Uncle Herbert's 'business partner'?
Nope, I'm talking about our very own State of Connecticut. If you owe Connecticut back taxes, Tax Commissioner Gene Gavin is making you an offer you can’t refuse.[1]

Surely I'm not the only one that is concerned with the latest money-making scheme that "The State" has come up with for finding a way to pay for the bloated government? Radio and TV commercials aired for most of this past Fall describing CT's "tax amnesty" program, where 'they' were giving you the opportunity to 'come clean' on your taxes. While not being one to endorse avoiding paying taxes, I found Connecticut's strong arm tactics against the very citizenry it was alleged to protect and serve to be in line with HBO's favorite organized crime family. With slogans such as, "an offer you can't refuse" and "oh, we'll find you" how can one not 'get the hint'?

Connecticut's Department of Revenue Services (DRS) offered a web site for more information on the program. Plastered with Tax Commissioner Gene Gavin's mug shot glaring at you with a menacing grin from behind his desk (a visage worthy of Tony himself) the message is crystal clear: pay up or we'll break your legs. Well, maybe not that specifically but I quickly found myself rifling through all my Stop 'n Shop, Jiffy Lube, and Dunkin Donuts receipts to make sure I had paid all the taxes; after all, I didn't want to find myself on the wrong side of Gene "Tony" Gavin and the Department of Revenue Services! I'd surely hate to be remembered at my imminent memorial as a tax cheat, delinquent, or deadbeat! With a motto of "Either Way, You Will Pay! After Amnesty, you will definitely pay more!" The State began to make me worry about the health and security of my legs (and I don’t sleep well with horse heads, either.)

To make matters  worse, they've got the technology now: "According to Dr. Walter Zarycky, professor of political science at New York University...crime syndicates in America have brought a new level of sophistication, technical prowess, and ruthlessness to an already fiendishly competent and highly competitive criminal marketplace."[2] I guess this could explain the DRS's investment in newer, higher-tech electronic monitoring - uh - computer systems: "The ITAS [computer] system represents the most significant initiative in DRS history," Commissioner Gavin said. "This new computer system ultimately will help DRS further its mission...improve our ability to ensure that every taxpayer pays their fair share to the state...ITAS will give DRS a more precise view of Connecticut revenue collections...and provide a repository of taxpayer data from various sources."[3]


A really scary part (as if it wasn't already) about all this is the crowing after the program ended on December 1st. The Tax Amnesty web site[4] was updated, with the submission information removed and replaced with a press release. This release praised "the whopping success" of the "unusually successful program". The State reported the preliminary numbers of total Amnesty programs collections "at more than $95 million, with the number expected to rise to more than $100 million by the end of the week."[5]

Well, yeah, even the 'family” pulled in some serious coin by threatening those they purported to "protect", but I don't ever see Tony sending out press releases...

"If everyone paid the taxes they owe, the state would be in a better position to fund the programs that improve the quality of life in Connecticut, and prevent in these difficult times, the need to possibly increase taxes on everyone," Commissioner Gavin said. [6] The DRS's press release stated that, " is also good news for the law-abiding taxpayers of Connecticut who will benefit from the success of Amnesty."

This is just one more log on the fire of a state government bent on increasing its size and scope, financing itself on the backs of the citizens via protection money (income tax), the numbers rackets (lottery), gambling and casino interests, and now fear and extortion. Our state government is acting in ways that would have caused serious prosecution and federal jail time if you or I did it, but it's OK if the government does it?

This could be a reflection of citizens or businesses that 'fail to pay their fair share' but it sure seems wrong that The State feels it has to threaten its population with its nearly omnipotent financial powers in order to get more money out of ‘em. It's pretty embarrassing, actually. Frankly, Governor, I'm not feeling any better about benefiting from this program; I think I'd rather pay extra taxes than have to live under a constant fear of a state government threatening me and my fellow citizens for extra spending money.

How about you?

"Commissioner Gavin said the only bad news is for those tax delinquents who did not come forward during Amnesty. As we did in 1995, DRS warned tax scofflaws that the 2002 Tax Amnesty was a limited-time offer,' Commissioner Gavin said. 'They had their chance to come clean. Now it is time for our audit team to track them down and make sure they pay their fair share like everyone else.'"

Thanks, Commissioner. I'm sure the citizens of the State of Connecticut will sleep better tonight.