30 June 2008

I'm Dying

Perhaps not today, but eventually.

I have this thing on my back...no, not there, left side, up above the shoulder blade.

It's been there for about three years and I'm thinking of getting it looked at. Can't be too careful.

I've also found that my left trapezius muscle is bigger, more developed than my right even though I'm right-handed (right dominant if you want to be naughty).

I've got to work on that.

28 June 2008

The Hidden Cost of Raising Children

Just over a week ago I bought an eight-pack of AA batteries. At the time of purchase, nothing needed batteries.

We're going to the zoo today and I put the last two batteries from the pack into the camera.

Great Day

for a bike ride. Getting ready for the MS City to Shore 2008 (I'm the chubby one on the left), I was aboard my trusty Trek 1000 for 3:25:41; covered 51.79 miles, averaging 15.1 mph which would have been faster if I hadn't hit the wall around mile 40.
It was a little warm out, but I felt good for most of the ride.
Around mile 46 or so I passed some guy mowing a lawn with a riding mower that was spitting out grass all over the place. It just so happened that was was along the curb of the road I was on as I was passing.
I can't tell you how interesting it is to try to pedal a bike when its hot and humid, after forty-some miles, while holding your breath. Good times.
No obnoxious drivers.
My ass hurts.

18 June 2008

Say Again, part II


Then there is this piece from yesterday's Wall Street Journal (I will reprint the entire article below in case those rat bastards pull the article from free public viewing).

In the article, which is a condensed interview with Obama on the economy, the would-be president had this to say:

"Globalization and technology and automation all weaken the position of workers," he said, and a strong government hand is needed to assure that wealth is distributed more equitably.

Now I know that I'm neither a lawyer† nor a constitutional scholar and that Mr. Obama was the editor of the Harvard Law Review and taught Constituional Law, so when I read statements like the one above I run, not walk, to my nearest copy of the constitution and puruse and puzzle until I find where the man derives such awesome authority, especially in the executive office.

Sure enough, as you could've guessed, I found none.

I find it morally repugnant and more than a little frightening that Barack Obama sees it as a legitimate function of goverment to redistribute wealth "equitably." He also says it nonchalantly. Left unsaid is who gets to define "equitably."

Further, there's this:

Sen. Obama also proposes eliminating capital-gains taxes on start-up companies, though he backs higher capital-gains rates overall. He hasn't defined precisely what he means by a "start-up." Wasn't he concerned that tax lawyers would simply form "start-ups" for existing companies looking for a new tax break?
"There are always folks who are interested in gaming the system, and obviously one of the things you have to do with tax policy generally is to pin down definitions so they're not twisted beyond recognition," he said. But he argued, "Companies that are starting off...should be allowed to accumulate capital, reinvest profits, if there are any, to the point that they
."(emphasis added)
I also didn't know that keeping my money, as a businessman, was a privilege allowed to me by the goverment. And that the goverment has the authority then to stabilize my profits, all in the name of equanimity, of course.

His view of the role of goverment and from whence authority flows is anathema to me. Corporate profits are the property of the stakeholders to do what they deem best for themselves corporately. Taxes on corporations are silly and counterproductive. They serve merely as an indirect tax on the people. Any tax burden is simply passed through to the cost of the goods or services provided. Even Robert Reich agrees with this. The only people who benefit from corporate taxes are CPAs and tax attorneys.

Obama's views skew far beyond mere Keynesian economics and tiptoes towards authoritarianism.

The government should take only what it needs to perform its defined functions*, and those restrictions should be read very narrowly. Anything more is an unjust dimunition of liberty or taking of property.

We've just had eight years of staggering incompetence from a man who said that when people hurt, government has got to move. We've also seen what happens when people depend upon the federal government to provide that which is beyond its purview or competence.

For the reasons stated above and below, I cannot vote for Barack Obama. I will address the thorny war issue specifically and foreign relations generally in due time.

†I've been advised that if one is to go on about such things, one must put forth whether or not he is a lawyer. This is a custom I will follow here and probably never again. One must be a lawyer to practice law. One needn't be a lawyer to read current events and know what the constitution or legislature says about this or that. To read the law takes no expertise. And if any of my arguments are deemed insufficient, I will gladly accept any legitmate criticism. The fact that I am not a lawyer is not legitimate criticism or refutation of any point, it is a straw man.

*"...to plan expenditure programs entirely in terms of what the community wants to do through government rather than privately...to plan tax rates so as to provide sufficient revenues to cover planned expenditures...to avoid erratic changes in either governmental expenditures or taxes."--Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, p. 79.

WSJ article:

Obama Plans Spending Boost, Possible Cut in Business Tax
By BOB DAVIS and AMY CHOZICKJune 17, 2008; Page A1
FLINT, Mich. -- Sen. Barack Obama shed new light on his economic plans for the country, saying he would rely on a heavy dose of government spending to spur growth, use the tax code to narrow the widening gap between winners and losers in the U.S. economy, and possibly back a reduction in corporate tax rates.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the Illinois Democrat said that he was trying to put together tax and spending policies that dealt with two challenges. One is the competition from rapidly growing developing countries, like India and China. The other: the U.S. becoming what he called a "winner-take-all" economy, where the gains from economic growth skew heavily toward the wealthy.
Sen. Obama cited new economic forces to explain what appears like a return to an older-style big-government Democratic platform skeptical of market forces. "Globalization and technology and automation all weaken the position of workers," he said, and a strong government hand is needed to assure that wealth is distributed more equitably. He spoke aboard his campaign bus, where a big-screen TV was tuned to the final holes of the U.S. Open golf tournament.
Sen. Obama's nod to lowering corporate taxes comes as Republicans have been attacking him for proposals that would raise the cost of doing business, such as his pledge to raise the tax rate on capital gains, and his vow to increase the top income-tax rates, which are often used by small, unincorporated enterprises.
He didn't say how deeply he would cut the rate, but said it could be trimmed in return for reducing corporate tax breaks, simplifying the tax system. With existing loopholes, he said, "How much you pay in taxes as a corporation a lot of times is going to depend on how good your lobbyist is." With "a level playing field," he said, the rates could be reduced.
He stressed the idea was not a move toward Sen. McCain's broader tax-cutting philosophy. While Sen. McCain has argued that tax cuts -- particularly on business -- spur growth, Sen. Obama rejected that as flawed economics. "I've seen no evidence that...would actually boost the economic growth and productivity," he said.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, chief economic aide to Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, dismissed the Obama strategy as "classic industrial policy which shows a lack of faith in private markets." He was skeptical of any potential Obama corporate-tax cut, noting a lack of details. "It's like being for kittens, puppies and sunshine," he said.
Clinton Deficit Hawks
The overall Obama economic approach echoes the 1992 presidential platform of Bill Clinton, who also launched his bid for the White House seeking a big expansion in infrastructure spending. But those plans were quickly shelved once he reached the White House. Congress rejected a proposal to steeply increase energy taxes, which could have been used to pay for the spending.
Clinton deficit hawks, especially then-White House economic adviser Robert Rubin, successfully argued that slashing the deficit would have a bigger impact on growth than boosting spending because markets would react favorably to a shrinking deficit. "Rubinomics" became the reigning Clinton economic strategy, and many labor leaders backing Sen. Obama worry that the 46-year-old senator ultimately will turn to Mr. Rubin, as Mr. Clinton did.
Sen. Obama waved off that concern. "I've got Bob Rubin on one hand [as an adviser] and [former Labor Secretary] Bob Reich on the other....I tend to be eclectic." Mr. Reich, has long championed infrastructure spending to boost jobs and the economy, and is a favorite of labor. He frequently and famously feuded with Mr. Rubin early in Mr. Clinton's term over the administration's ideological direction.
The chances of pushing through an infrastructure spending program are greater now than they were in 1992, Sen. Obama said, because of new concern about energy prices. Many alternative-energy projects -- clean-coal technology, wind-power generators and the like -- could be packaged as infrastructure. "The difference I would suggest is that there is a strong recognition in the public mind that we can't continue on our current energy path," he said. That means "there's a bigger opening to bring about change."
Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain disagree sharply on economic issues, with the Arizona Republican promising to cut the corporate tax to 25% from 35%, retain all of President Bush's cuts in personal income taxes, and push for a host of free-trade agreements.
Sen. Obama has proposed a variety of measures that would raise taxes on individuals at the top end and provide tax relief to middle- and lower-income households. Under his plans, those in the middle would see their after-tax income increase by 2.4%, or $1,042, according to a nonpartisan analysis by the Washington-based Tax Policy Center. Americans with incomes above $2.8 million would see their after-tax income decrease by 11.5%.
The Democrats' 2008 standard-bearer laid out a series of large-scale spending plans during a speech earlier on Monday in Flint, which has been a symbol of economic decline since the anticorporate movie "Roger and Me" was released in 1989. While Sen. Obama has made the proposals before, he wrapped them together for the first time in what he called a "competitiveness agenda."
Spending Program
The heart of Sen. Obama's spending program is his plan to spend $15 billion a year for 10 years on energy technology. It would be funded by revenue collected from a separate Obama proposal to cap greenhouse emissions through a system of trading pollution permits. Sen. Obama would auction those permits to producers of carbon dioxide, such as electric utilities, and figures the sales would yield about $100 billion a year. Most of that would go to consumers as rebates on utility bills, he said.
He also would fund an "infrastructure reinvestment bank" that would finance $60 billion in high-speed railways, improved energy grids and other projects over a decade. He would double spending on basic research, subsidize investment in high-speed Internet hook-ups, and offer $4,000 a year in tuition credits for students who later perform public services.
To "capture some of the nation's economic growth," he said in the interview, "and reinvest it in things we know have to be done like science, technology, research and fixing our energy policy, then that is actually going to spur productivity."
Sen. McCain argues for as little government spending as possible and paints his opponent as a liberal who would tax more, spend more and drive the country into deficit. He backs a cap-and-trade system that would be used to fund energy technology, but Mr. Holtz-Eakin said the scale would be far smaller than the Obama plan. And, Mr. Holtz-Eakin said, a "green technology fund is plain silly. Silicon Valley has piles of money devoted to clean technology."
Energy Market
Sen. Obama made the case in the interview for large-scale government intervention in the energy market, saying that although venture funds are investing heavily in energy technology, there was a gap in funding that should be filled by Washington. He called it supporting the "middle stage" between innovation and commercialization. "You have this point in time when things haven't quite taken off yet and still entail huge risks," he said.
Under President Clinton, the Commerce Department put together a broader-based commercial technology program aimed to fund projects at a similar stage. But it never grew beyond fairly small-scale projects, because of fights with a Republican Congress over whether the government was wasting money on projects that ought to be funded by the private sector.
Sen. Obama likened his proposal to a venture-capital fund, with the government seeking private investors to contribute. He lauded a Central Intelligence Agency project which helps fund technologies the CIA finds important, but which lack long-term capital.
Sen. Obama regularly compares the energy effort to President Kennedy's project to rocket a man to the moon in the 1960s. But the record of using government funds to produce big breakthroughs in commercial technology is spotty at best. The few projects that have succeeded were often small and aimed at limited research goals.
'Carter's Second Term'
Under President Carter, the U.S. tried and failed to build a synthetic-fuel industry in the 1970s. (Sen. McCain has taken to saying Sen. Obama would represent "Jimmy Carter's second term.") Plans to build commercial nuclear reactors that would produce more nuclear material than they consumed also failed, and a half-century of government investment in commercial hydrogen reactors haven't produced the necessary breakthroughs.
More recently the Clinton administration, at the urging of then-Vice President Al Gore, spent heavily on a project with the Big Three auto makers to build a higher-tech family car that produced three times the gas mileage of a conventional car. The car was never built and the Bush administration killed the project. At a rally in Detroit Monday night, Mr. Gore announced his endorsement of Sen. Obama.
Start-Up Companies
Sen. Obama also proposes eliminating capital-gains taxes on start-up companies, though he backs higher capital-gains rates overall. He hasn't defined precisely what he means by a "start-up." Wasn't he concerned that tax lawyers would simply form "start-ups" for existing companies looking for a new tax break?
"There are always folks who are interested in gaming the system, and obviously one of the things you have to do with tax policy generally is to pin down definitions so they're not twisted beyond recognition," he said. But he argued, "Companies that are starting off...should be allowed to accumulate capital, reinvest profits, if there are any, to the point that they stabilize."

Say Again, part I

I know the presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic Party has a significant following and may very well win this November. Personally, I had been leaning towards McCain for any number of reasons--on which, more later. I voted for Ron Paul in the primary and consider myself libertarian. I agree wholeheartedly with Thoreau that that government governs best which governs least, especially the federal government.

That all being said, I don't dislike Obama (I also don't dislike McCain, so I'm ahead of the game considering the last three presidential elections). I think his "change" rhetoric is getting a little tired, but the same could be said for any of the major candidates this year (McCain, Clinton, Romney & Huckabee).

A friend of mine is an Obama supporter (and quite possible the only person who reads this page) and he asked for whom I would be voting--this was before the primary. I told him Ron Paul and gave a few reasons. McCain had the Republican nod wrapped up and there was still a contest on the Dems side. I also told him that I wanted to wait and see and read more on Obama. I also said that there was no way in hell I would vote for Hillary. Maybe if Bush ran again, but I swoon at the thought of that scenario.

I have read some things by and about Obama and I'll say right here that I don't care about his wife or his pastor(s).
I do care about how a president sees his role in our government and the government's role in the lives of the people. And based on recent statements by Obama, I cannot vote for him.
Recently he gave a speech that touched on his view of the judiciary. I cannot find the speech, but a good (but very limited) synopsis of his views (juxtaposed (poorly) with McCain's) is here. In the article he says, regarding Supreme Court justices, "I want people on the bench who have enough empathy, enough feeling, for what ordinary people are going through." Now, its just dandy to have empathetic judges, so long as their empathy doesn't interfere with their job. He mentioned in his speech the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear. He over-simplifies the case and reduces the majority opinion to a lack of heart and disregard for legislative intent. I don't want to get too far into it (see here and here for some good background). The legislature was quiet on whether each paycheck represented an act of discrimination under Title VII. The court held that the discriminatory act was her employment review which was more than 180 days prior to her complaint. The 180 day time-frame was set by the legislature, not some heartless judge. The plaintiff (petitioner) would have had recourse under the Equal Pay Act.

I agree with Justice Antonin Scalia's view of how judges should read the law ("reasonably," a fantastic primer on this is A Matter of Interpretation--I cannot recommend this book highly enough--see also here). Judges should read and interpret the law; not what the legislators intended to say, what they did say--and, of course, whether they have the authority to say it at all.

To use this decision as a cudgel, to try to make a point that Justice Ginsburg is your ideal based on this case is, in my opinion (non-lawyer that I am), a mistake.
I disagree with Barack Obama's view the the federal judiciary should base its decisions on "empathy," or with "feeling for what the ordinary people are going through." This is an invitation for the judges to make law. In our system, that is not their purview.


04 June 2008

Tennis Anyone?

Baseball should take a page out of the governing board of professional tennis to ensure that its players aren't taking steroids.
Yep, that's a chick.