Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Supremely good news re: DOMA

Congratulations and thank you to the SCOTUS for its rulings on gay marriage that have just swallowed this news cycle whole. And a belated shout out to Senator Lisa Murkowski, who came out in support of gay marriage recently, I might add.

This apparently leaves untouched the various state constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and woman -- it passed in one of those charming referendums here in Alaska in 1998 -- but it will have implications here in Alaska nonetheless.
Those who think that Alaska is populated solely by ultra-right wing, evangelical rednecks might be surprised to learn that the State of Alaska already provides same-sex partner benefits for its employees.  This came after a 2005 ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court that it was unconstitutional for the state to continue to deny state employees (and retirees) benefits for their domestic partners. Of course, The Lege tried to end run the Alaska Supreme Court on that with HB 4001, but Sarah Palin vetoed the bill on the advice of the Department of Law (not because she was supportive of gay rights or anything.) The whole "unconstitutional" thing pretty much trumped legislation by bigots.

Since then, state employees with same sex partners have been going about their lives, doing their jobs, and the earth has continued to orbit the sun, all with little impact on the marriages of heterosexual couples statewide. With health insurance for the same same sex partners of state employees. Taxable health insurance, mind you.

The SCOTUS ruling that the federal government can not deny federal benefits to same-sex couple will hopefully mean that health insurance benefits will no longer be considered "imputed income" and reported as untaxed income to the IRS.  As noted on the State of Alaska webpage "Tax Implications for Enrolling Same-Sex Partners"
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has determined that the cost of providing benefits for same-sex partners and their children who do not meet the IRC Section 152 (as modified by IRC Code Section 105(b)) definition of qualified “dependents” is considered ordinary or “imputed income” and is, therefore, subject to taxes.
The fair-market value for health insurance for a same-sex couple is $808 per month.

After the supreme disappointment (a ha ha) that was the ruling on the Voting Rights Act, it is great to see a positive outcome on this one.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

At Extreme Everything

Happy belated Solstice!  Here we are at the height of summer, and whoo boy, we are overachieving on all points this year here in Greater Redneckia.

First it was a ridiculously cool, late spring.

Next came the truly prodigious number of mosquitos.

At the moment, we are sitting here baking in a prolonged heat wave that has everyone wondering when someone will accidentally start a fire. Conditions are perfect for extreme fire behavior here, with high temperatures, no recent precipitation or forecast, and wind -- and let's not forget the fact that where there are human beings, someone is going to make a bad decision eventually.

As a result:
  • You can't find any mosquito dope for purchase 
  • Oregon crews have been brought in, along with additional retardant tankers, just in case 
  • Both Fred Meyer's are sold out of kiddie poolsEditors note on 6/26: The Steese Fred Meyer's did in fact have them. But apparently, fans and air conditioners are pretty tough to find.
Fortunately, we always have several cans of bug dope stashed around the house, in the cars, etc.  But we went through a can and a half in a 24 hour period over the weekend.  It's tolerable during the day, but once the sun drops low and things cool off a bit late in the day, it gets pretty epic -- nearly "tundra level" mosquito density.  I've stopped putting the dog out on her zip line in the evening because to do so right now comes pretty near close to mistreatment.  

We spent yesterday "fire-wising" The Compound in the morning. Not to be a middle-aged lecturer (Gods, when did this happen?), but I'd highly recommend that folks make their property defensible.

As for the kiddie pool, we looked around for one yesterday, dignity be damned. If I can find one in town today, I will feel no shame sitting in the yard sharing the pool with the dog. But I'm not sharing the cold beer.