Posts Tagged Hill

On Debt Ceiling, WH Compares GOP To Terrorists – Business Insider

Senior Obama Adviser Compares House Republicans To Terrorists, Kidnappers, And Arsonists


Dan Pfeiffer


White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer used three vivid analogies to attack House Republicans’ laundry list of demands for raising the debt ceiling, comparing Republicans to arsonists, hostage-takers and suicide bombers.

“What we’re not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest,” Pfeiffer said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Thursday afternoon. “We’re not going to do that.”

Earlier on Thursday, House Republican leaders released a preliminary list of items they plan to attach to any bill that also raises the debt ceiling. Among other things, it includes a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act, construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and entitlement reforms.

But a report from The Hill later Thursday suggested that Republicans might not have the votes necessary to move that bill.

The White House took pains Thursday to emphasize President Barack Obama’s position of not negotiating over the debt ceiling. Pfeiffer did so in an especially colorful way.

“Republicans are not asking for a negotiation,” he told CNN’s Tapper. “It’s a negotiation if I’m trying to sell you my house, and we are debating the price of it. It’s not a negotiation if I show up at your house and say, ‘Give me everything inside or I’m going to burn it down.’

“Republicans have provided a laundry list of essentially ransom demands of things that were essentially the Romney agenda that voters rejected.”

On Debt Ceiling, WH Compares GOP To Terrorists – Business Insider.


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Tax chaos looms in wake of Boehner’s failed ‘Plan B’ proposal – The Hill’s On The Money

Tax chaos looms in wake of Boehner’s failed ‘Plan B’ proposal

By Bernie Becker and Peter Schroeder – 12/26/12 05:00 AM ET


The failure of House Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” could create chaos for taxpayers across the income spectrum.

With a slew of tax provisions scheduled to expire in less than two weeks, a dive off the fiscal cliff could also complicate the chances for a fundamental rewrite of the tax code — something top officials on both sides have said they want.

But with the clock ticking, some lawmakers aren’t so sure that their colleagues appreciate the possible upheaval if all current tax policies expire, even for just a few days or weeks.

“People have certainly been told,” said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who is retiring at year’s end and has spent much of the last two years pushing for a broad deficit deal. 

“It’s always hard to know how people process what they hear, how much they really understand,” Conrad, the chairman of the Budget Committee, told The Hill. “Clearly the committees that deal with this, they understand.”

On Friday, President Obama called on Congress to pass a pared-down deficit reduction deal, extending tax rates for all but the highest income levels and extending unemployment benefits. At the same time, Obama added that policymakers could build off that measure with additional tax-and-spending measures. 

That statement came a day after Boehner (R-Ohio) declined to put his proposal to lock in rates for annual income up to $1 million to a vote, after acknowledging that he didn’t have the support in the GOP conference to pass such a deal.

The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center has said that, all told, taxpayers would face more than $500 billion in larger bills in 2013 if Washington does nothing, from higher payroll taxes to increased individual tax rates to a broader estate tax. 

All income tax rates, for instance, will rise on Jan. 1, with the top rate going from 35 percent to Obama’s preferred level of 39.6 percent. The top dividend and capital gains rates, now 15 percent, would shoot up to 39.6 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

The exemption for the estate tax would also shrink significantly, from roughly $5 million a person to $1 million, and the rate would rise from 35 percent to 55 percent. 

Democrats, meanwhile, are fighting to keep stimulus-era expansions of tax breaks like the Earned Income Tax Credit, meant to help the working poor. Sevearl other targeted tax incentives are also scheduled to expire. 

Figures from across the ideological spectrum have suggested many or all of those provisions could be dealt with retroactively, if it came to it. 

But some changes would have an immediate impact on taxpayers. Obama’s most recent offer to Boehner, communicated before the Speaker shifted to “Plan B,” did not ask for an extension of the current 2-percentage point cut in the payroll tax.

Wall Street economists and the Congressional Budget Office have said that allowing that tax cut and expanded unemployment insurance to expire would drag down economic growth.

The IRS has also said that roughly two-thirds of 2012 tax returns could be delayed if Washington fails to roll back the reach of the Alternative Minimum Tax, a system meant to ensure that the wealthiest can’t legally evade paying taxes.

Congress did not patch the AMT for inflation when it was enacted, forcing lawmakers to routinely pass a “patch.” But the last patch expired at the end of 2011, and some 30 million more households could be hit by the tax for 2012 without congressional action.

With all that in mind, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said that, despite how the situation looks now, she doesn’t believe Congress and the White House would allow the economy to totally fall off the cliff. 

“If you can’t do it now, how difficult is it going to be January 1st?” Snowe, who did not seek reelection this year, told reporters on Friday. 

“You’re dealing with a new Congress, newly elected senators, members. It’s a whole new equation. It’s not going to be that easy to put the genie back in the bottle here.”

But top lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern that politics could trump policy in the coming days.

Boehner, after being asked at a Friday news conference, declined to rule out bringing up a fiscal cliff measure that House Democrats would need to carry over the finish line. 

Democrats in the chamber, meanwhile, urged Boehner to follow in the footsteps of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who as Speaker relied on Republicans to pass an Iraq War spending bill. 

“It’s important that the Speaker put the good of the country above Republican House caucus politics,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said at a separate Friday news conference. 

For their part, Boehner and other Republicans have said that, after “Plan B” went down, the burden was on Obama and Democrats to put together a deal that could make it through Congress. 

“We all know it’s a disaster. We would like to solve it,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), the top Republican on the Finance Committee. “Somehow, the president’s got to get in and say, ‘Yea, I’ll take this, I’m not going to veto this.’”

“I think they really want to go over the cliff, I really do. That’s pretty apparent to me,” Hatch added.

Allowing current tax policies to lapse would also underscore the challenge of tax reform, in which popular tax breaks and some supported by powerful lobbies would be put on the table as policymakers look for ways to streamline the code and lower rates.

But Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a longtime fan of the last comprehensive tax revamp, from 1986, shot down any concerns that the late breakdown of deficit talks could complicate efforts to pursue broad tax reform in the coming year.

“We’re not doing tax reform bills in four days, but I think what’s going to happen between now and the end of the year positions us well for next year,” he said. “It’s obvious that both sides are going to keep searching for common ground and that’s the way it ought to be.”

 Tax chaos looms in wake of Boehner’s failed ‘Plan B’ proposal – The Hill’s On The Money.


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Business groups grow frustrated over impasse in ‘fiscal cliff’ talks – The Hill’s On The Money


Business groups grow frustrated over impasse in ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

By Vicki Needham – 12/23/12


Business leaders are growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress in talks to head off billions in looming tax hikes and spending cuts they say will harm the nation’s economy.

Concern increased among business groups following the failure of House Republicans to round up enough votes to pass their “Plan B” bill that would have stopped tax increases on anyone making $1 million a year or less.

“We’re not in a state of panic over last night because it was part of the process,” David French, the chief lobbyist for the National Retail Federation, told The Hill.

But “we’re nervous,” he said.

French argues though that while a deal at this point is logistically difficult, reaching an agreement would set a positive tone for the next couple of years when lawmakers will be forced to work together on comprehensive tax and entitlement reform.

Lack of a bipartisan compromise would be the “worst thing that can happen,” he said, as it would spell “two more years of political trench warfare.”

The stark reality of that possibility sunk in after lawmakers left Washington on Friday for the Christmas holidays with neither a broad bipartisan agreement nor a back up plan that could, at the very least, prevent more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to begin in January.

French said all of the sides must come together on a deal.

“House Republicans negotiating with themselves aren’t going to resolve this,” French said.

Through most of the month, business leaders sounded an optimistic chorus. And talks between Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Obama did appear to make progress before Boehner moved to his backup plan.

But the latest news has shifted the mood among business leaders.

“There is incredible frustration,” said one source representing the business community who asked not to be identified.

Business owners across the country now feel like the last month has been “virtually wasted” with unnecessary political posturing when they “could have been at the table hammering away” toward an agreement, the source said.

“Our position hasn’t changed, we know what businesses want and we’re advocating for what they need, which is something that will offer growth.”

The White House and Capitol Hill have served as a virtual carousel for dozens of chief executives who have urged lawmakers and President Obama to craft a broad agreement that includes tax hikes, spending cuts and entitlement reforms.

Collectively, business groups generally have pushed for the sides to agree to a sizeable deficit-reduction package that also prevents tax hikes on most taxpayers. Big and small businesses have sometimes been at odds during the talks, with corporate CEOs offering more support for higher tax rates and small business groups arguing that would hurt their members.

Many hoped the talks could provide a framework for tax reform next year, something that has long been a priority for the corporate world.

 Business groups grow frustrated over impasse in ‘fiscal cliff’ talks – The Hill’s On The Money.


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Graham to defense firms: Notify workers now of layoff threat from automatic cuts – The Hill’s DEFCON Hill


Graham to defense firms: Notify workers now of layoff threat from automatic cuts

By Jeremy Herb  06/26/12 02:44 PM ET


Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called on companies to issue hundreds of thousands of layoff notices to workers threatened by an impending $500 billion in automatic defense cuts to highlight the danger of sequestration.

Graham told reporters Tuesday that the threat of job losses that’s set to hit in January is the only way to pressure lawmakers to actually act and reverse the cuts.

“We will do nothing until the layoff notices come,” Graham said of Congress.

“We wrote this stupid law, we should feel the effect of this stupid law. Don’t hide us from our stupidity,” he said, before adding that he voted against “this stupid law.”

Graham was referring to the Budget Control Act that passed in last year’s debt-limit deal, which set in motion roughly $500 billion in cuts to both defense and non-defense spending in January unless Congress can find alternate deficit reduction.

Nearly all Democrats and Republicans want to avert the cuts, but the two sides have deep disagreements over taxes and mandatory spending and have been unable to reach a deal.

Graham in recent weeks has begun talking about Republicans putting new revenues on the table, although he has not gone so far as to endorse raising tax rates, which Democrats are demanding.

The defense industry has tried to up the ante by threatening to issue layoff notices due to sequestration just days before the 2012 election, pointing to 60-day requirements under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

Graham said that the companies should issue the notices even sooner, because he believes that will spur Congress to act.

“I am calling on the business community to release the layoff notices in compliance with the statute as soon as possible,” he said. “I’m calling on the Pentagon to inform their civil employees this is the law of the land and you’re going to lose your job come January.”

 Graham to defense firms: Notify workers now of layoff threat from automatic cuts – The Hill’s DEFCON Hill.

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Congress’ Approval Rating Recovers Slightly : It’s All Politics : NPR

Congress’ Approval Rating Recovers Slightly 


U.S. Capitol dome.

Charles Dharapak/AP

U.S. Capitol dome.

Americans seem happier with Congress these days. That’s what Gallup’s two latest polls show: Congress, with an approval rating of 17 percent, has gained a whole seven points since February.

Still, they shouldn’t get too cocky on the Hill, because this just means that 79 percent of Americans disapprove of the institution. That’s down from a record high 86 percent in December of 2011. We suppose that’s like saying in December almost everyone disapproved of Congress and now mostly everyone disapproves.

Here’s Gallup’s historical chart of Congress’ approval rating:


Congressional approval since 2011.

Congressional approval since 2011.

In a blog post to go with the latest poll released today, Gallup points out that with a general election on the horizon, it’s unlikely that Congress will get much done to affect its standing.

Instead, “the direction of congressional approval over the coming months will more likely be contingent on the state of the economy,” Gallup reports.

 Congress’ Approval Rating Recovers Slightly : It’s All Politics : NPR.

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Facebook settles class-action lawsuit over ‘sponsored stories’ ads – The Hill’s Hillicon Valley

Facebook settles class-action lawsuit over ‘sponsored stories’ ads

By Brendan Sasso – 06/22/12 12:12 PM ET


Facebook has agreed to give users more notice and control over how their profiles appear in “sponsored stories” to settle a class-action lawsuit.

The company also agreed to pay $10 million for the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and give an additional $10 million to charities.

The plaintiffs had complained that Facebook had used their names and profiles in sponsored stories without their permission.

Sponsored stories are advertisements that appear on the side of the Facebook page that feature a user’s friends. But the friends never agreed to endorse or support the advertised products.

In the settlement, Facebook agreed to update its terms of service to notify users that their names and pictures can appear in advertisements. The company also agreed to create a tool to allow users to see and control which actions they take that will cause them to appear in the sponsored stories.

The company would have to obtain the consent of a parent or guardian to use the profiles of children under 18 in the ads.

But the settlement does not require Facebook to abandon the sponsored story ads.

An economist hired by the plaintiffs claimed that the sponsored stories are worth as much as $103.2 million for Facebook.

A spokesman for Facebook declined to comment on the case.

 Facebook settles class-action lawsuit over ‘sponsored stories’ ads – The Hill’s Hillicon Valley.

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Ex-lawmaker lobbyists more likely to put leftover campaign money to political use – The Washington Post

Influence Industry

Dan Eggen & T.W. Farnam

Ex-lawmaker lobbyists more likely to put leftover campaign money to political use

Max Gersh/AP – Former House speaker L. Dennis Haastert (R-Ill.), center, has given $275,650 to other lawmakers from his leadership PAC, including $18,000 to members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over one of his top clients, Lorillard Tobacco.


Retiring U.S. lawmakers face tough restrictions on what they can do with their leftover campaign money, but some have found ways to make fat political bank accounts work for them, according to a new study.

Those who become lobbyists are much more likely than other former lawmakers to put remaining money to political use — donating to lawmakers who have the ability to help their lobbying clients, according to the report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which tracked 57 House members who left Congress in 2007 and 2008.

The roughly two dozen in the group who became lobbyists have given much more than the other retirees to politicians and much less to charity.

“It’s actually an incentive to build up your campaign funds even if you know you’re going to retire,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. “If you’re thinking of a lobbying career, all the more reason to fundraise.”

The study looked at official campaign accounts as well as former lawmakers’ “leadership PACs,” which face fewer restrictions on spending than campaign accounts. Under federal law, remaining campaign money can be donated to lawmakers, political parties or charities, but it cannot be used for personal expenses.

Former congressman Bud Cramer (D-Ala.), who joined the lobbying firm Wexler & Walker in 2009, has since given $308,500 to lawmakers’ campaigns, the highest amount among the group tracked in the report. Cramer has $1.1 million left under his control.

“I spent eighteen years on the Hill trying to make Congress work better and less partisan,” Cramer wrote in an e-mail. “Since I left the Hill I have used my campaign account to make contributions to members who accomplish goals similar to mine, centrists who want to be effective legislators.”

Former House speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has given $275,650 to other lawmakers from his leadership PAC, including $18,000 to members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over one of his top clients, Lorillard Tobacco.

A spokeswoman for Hastert’s firm, Dickstein Shapiro, said he was not available for an interview.

Several lawmakers who left the House put relatives on the payroll of their inactive campaigns, the study said.

The campaign of former congressman Dave Weldon, who is running in a crowded GOP primary to take on Sen. Ben Nelson in Florida, paid his wife $6,402 and his daughter $2,920. The records also show the campaign account funded $525 for a stay at the Ritz-Carlton on Valentine’s Day last year.

Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for Weldon, said that the former lawmakers wife and daughter were paid for help winding down his campaign office and that the hotel stay was for “an early morning meeting with potential donors and supporters for a possible next race.”

Former lawmakers also often donate to help the political fortunes of family members. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood donated $60,000 to his son’s state Senate race. And Hastert gave $15,800 to his son Ethan’s campaigns for state and federal office.

In one case, the campaign of Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) continued spending hundreds of thousands of dollars after he died in 2008. It spent nearly $150,000 on consulting and computer services with a company run out of the home of his campaign treasurer. The committee also gave $127,000 to political candidates from New Hampshire, where his daughter Katrina Swett was running for office.

The treasurer, Janet Szelenyi, said that the contributions were made following Lantos’s instructions and that payments to the company were made for services including government filings, research and “official portrait management.”

“Congressman Lantos indicated that for a few years after his death he would like the political committee to remain active in supporting Democratic candidates and campaigns as well as other causes,” Szelenyi wrote in an e-mail.

Former congressman Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.) is sitting on $4.8 million — and the interest it pulls in — in his campaign account.

The CREW report calls for creating a time period in which campaigns of retired members would need to wind down their operations.

“The concept that you can keep this indefinitely is problematic,” Sloan said.

Legal hot water

New legal troubles for former senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) have surfaced more than four years after he tried to withdraw a guilty plea following his arrest in a Minneapolis airport bathroom as part of a sex-sting operation.

The Federal Election Commission filed suit against Craig this week for using more than $200,000 in campaign money to pay for his legal defense in that case, which the commission alleges was a personal expense and therefore impermissible. The commission is asking a federal judge to require him to repay the money.

A call to Craig’s lobbying office was not returned.

 Ex-lawmaker lobbyists more likely to put leftover campaign money to political use – The Washington Post.

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Maryland bans employers from asking for Facebook passwords – The Hill’s Hillicon Valley

Maryland bans employers from asking for Facebook passwords

By Andrew Feinberg 04/09/1 

Maryland on Monday became the first state in the nation to ban employers from requesting access to the social media accounts of employees and job applicants.

The state’s General Assembly passed legislation that would prohibit employers from requiring or seeking user names, passwords or any other means of accessing personal Internet sites such as Facebook as a condition of employment.

The bill has its genesis in a controversy that began when Maryland Corrections Officer Robert Collins returned to work following a leave of absence taken after the death of his mother. While completing a re-certification process needed to return to duty, Collins was asked for his personal Facebook password, ostensibly to check for known gang activity. He refused, and obtained the assistance of the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which quickly filed a lawsuit, bringing the case onto the national stage. 

Collins’s case reached the halls of Congress, where several lawmakers gave speeches against the practice of employers asking for passwords or “friending” applicants. Lawmakers in the House and Senate are working on legislation that would ban the practice nationally.

Maryland ACLU legislative director Melissa Goemann said that Maryland “has trail-blazed a new frontier in protecting freedom of expression in the digital age, and has created a model for other states to follow.” 

Collins said he is “excited to know that our esteemed policymakers in Maryland found it important to protect the privacy of Maryland’s citizens.” 

“I hope that other state legislatures, and more importantly the federal government, follow Maryland’s lead and ensure these essential protections for all Americans nationwide,” Collins said.

 Maryland bans employers from asking for Facebook passwords – The Hill’s Hillicon Valley.

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McCain: Citizens United will bring ‘major scandals’ – The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room

McCain: Citizens United will bring ‘major scandals’

By Daniel Strauss – 03/27/12 04:21 PM ET


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) predicted there would be “major scandals” as a result of the rise of super-PACs thanks to the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court.

“What the Supreme Court did is a combination of arrogance, naivete and stupidity the likes of which I have never seen,” McCain said Tuesday at an event hosted by Reuters.
“I promise you, there will be huge scandals because there’s too much money washing around, too much of it we don’t know who’s behind it and too much corruption associated with that kind of money,” McCain continued. “There will be major scandals.”

McCain coauthored with then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), legislation that limited the amount of money individuals could give to political organizations. The Citizens United case overturned part of that legislation. In the ruling, the Supreme Court said Congress shouldn’t be allowed to limit the amount corporations, unions and similar entities gave to campaigns.

Since the ruling and the rise of super-PACs during the 2012 election cycle, McCain has been an outspoken critic of excessive campaign donations.

In late February, Feingold said that super-PACs were making the Supreme Court increasingly “squeamish” and that sooner or later the Citizens United ruling would be reversed in some way.

 McCain: Citizens United will bring ‘major scandals’ – The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room.

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Do the right thing: Fix the COLA for seniors – The Hill’s Congress Blog

Do the right thing: Fix the COLA for seniors

By Thair Phillips, president and CEO, RetireSafe – 01/10/12

While many Americans resolve to lose weight, quit smoking, and save more money in 2012; the United States Congress can resolve to take a fairly simple action that will correct a longstanding wrong and finally address a problem that impacts nearly 55 million older Americans. That problem is the flawed Consumer Price Index (CPI) used to set the annual Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) that beneficiaries (and military retirees) depend on to save them from the ravages of inflation. The solution is H.R. 1086, the CPI for Seniors Act cosponsored by Representatives John “Jimmy” Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL), along with a bipartisan group of their House colleagues. Why is passage of the CPI for Seniors Act a must?

·         It starts with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) formula used now to measure price increases and set the Social Security COLA. BLS uses the CPI-W index, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, hardly a correct measure of price inflation for older Americans struggling with higher health care costs as they age, plus increasing costs for basic needs like food, gasoline, heating fuel, clothing, and rent. While some costs have pulled back recently, they remain higher on a year-over-year basis.

Also, while many of these prices are volatile, characterized as “headline” inflation, there can be no argument that seniors have faced tremendous price spikes since 2009, the last year they got a COLA increase. Clearly long-term commodity price trends are up. For example, a 2012 soybean shortage and higher food prices are projected; and some predict crude oil closing the year 18 percent higher, pushing gasoline prices up. These, plus ever-increasing health care costs, hit fixed-income seniors the hardest. We must fix the flawed CPI for our seniors with a CPI just for older Americans, one that will finally provide an accurate, ongoing, and fair measure of senior cost inflation. That is why the CPI for Seniors Act must be enacted.

But wait, as they say in the TV ads, didn’t a 3.6 percent Social Security COLA just take effect in January, 2012? Clearly a “catch-up COLA,” after two years with no COLA, this COLA will be worth just $43 each month to the average retired worker on Social Security, increasing their check to just $1,229 per month. The annual COLA increase total for 2012 will be $516 for the average beneficiary. By adding 2012 to the previous 24 months, you get a clearer picture of what seniors actually got thanks to the flawed CPI — $516 total increase over 36 months, or just over fourteen dollars a month more. This is not an issue of “greedy” seniors as some suggest, but rather one about older Americans and military retirees who have earned and deserve fairness and accuracy. Resolved, before Congress reforms anything, they must fix the broken CPI and provide seniors with a fair and accurate COLA each and every year!

 Do the right thing: Fix the COLA for seniors – The Hill’s Congress Blog.

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