Entries Tagged as ''

Tax Land Mines

There’s all this talk about how the Republican Party crafted a tax land mine when they put in place the Bush tax cuts with a ten year expiration — that they knew that the laws would force action by the Democratic party (you mean the Republican’s knew that after George W Bush there wouldn’t be another Republican in White House, nor would they be in control of either branch of the legislature?

Hmm… I don’t but it, but if it’s true that’s cause for major concern.

So the rational goes:

  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose not to renew the tax cuts; they are seen raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts for only those making less than a quarter million dollars; they are seen as raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts as they are now, the Republican’s get what they want, and they are seen taking no action to address the growing deficit.

I don’t know what alternate Republican reality these analysis came from, but I certainly don’t understand why the Democrats can’t take the reigns and turn this into a political hot potato for the Republicans.

Elections are about votes; and most American’s earn far less than a quarter million dollars per year, so they aren’t effected by renewing the tax cuts for only those who earn less than that (the current strategy favored by the Obama administration)… so leverage that, show how (once again) the Republican’s want to benefit those who are wealthy, and are only providing lip service as to trying to control the deficit (it is, after all, Republican policies of the Bush administration that created the deficit we have now — remember when Bush took office there was the so called budget “surplus”).

Regardless of your political affiliation, the only real way to take control of the deficit is spend less than you take in — it’s not a revolutionary concept, and in the end it’s likely we’re going to have to both increase taxes on at least some American’s, cut waste, and likely reduce spending.

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Originally posted 2010-10-02 02:00:45.

Solar Lighting

I’ve been looking at several solar lighting products to potentially light my driveway, my walkway, and areas.

The first thing you notice is that prices are all over the map — for products that have very similar specifications.

You will find that some of the products have plastic housing, and some have aluminum (or even stainless steel) — but interestingly enough, that doesn’t seem to track their prices.  In fact one of the least expensive models for driveway/walkway lighting I’ve found is in a stainless steel case (now you do have to buy a six pack, but that’s actually about the right number even for short driveways).

For area lighting there’s a huge different in styles; and these are much harder to compare.  The biggest disappointment thus far with the area lights is the amount of light (Lumens) that they produce — they’re so low, in fact, that they seem like they’d be fairly useless without a backup light (run from AC).  In fact since I can run AC to all the locations I want area lights I’m considering just putting in motion/photo sensors and using outdoor LED lamps (that will use electricity, but it’s fairly energy efficient, and produces much more light).  One thing’s for sure, if you like the light your HID (like the sodium lamps I have) gives off, you’re not going to be happy with what you can get from a solar lighting system (or even an LED lamp).

I’ll do a little more “testing” and provide some brands (and where I found them) that you might want to consider; but keep in mind that everyone will have a slightly different set of requirements and there’s likely not going to be one model that’s right for every need.

If you want to buy something right away; make sure that you shop several different vendors before you decide — it’ll surprise you how much essentially the same item varies in price; and the “discount” stores don’t always have the best price!

Originally posted 2009-08-20 01:00:15.

Bill of Rights – Amendment I

The past week has made me question if it’s not just the financial future for the United States that is in serious question, but the very founding principles which established this republic.

The framers of the Constitution of the United States were compelled to add the first ten amendments to that document before ratification. Known as the Bill of Rights the first of these amendments (Amendment I) contains precept son which much of the expansion of this country has been based (though this is not the first time it’s principle has been tarnished).

On 17 September 1787 the current United States Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and ratified by each US state in the name of “The People”.

The United States Constitution is the oldest written (single document) constitution still in use by any nation on our planet, and had for over two hundred years defined law in the United States.

On 25 September 1789 the following was added to the United States Constitution, and enacted in full force on 15 December 1791.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The “eviction” of peaceful protestors in a number of cities across the nation was alarming in itself; but the use of pepper spray to clear out a group of peaceful protesters at the University of California Davis, in Davis, California is a travesty.  This incident, caught on video and seen within 24-hours of it happening by over half a million people is truly alarming.

I do agree with University of California Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi that an independent investigation be conducted; but I believe that several investigations need to be conducted, including one by the Justice Department under the direction of the US Attorney General.

While I do not feel Linda Katehi needs to step down; I do believe both her and the commander of the police force, as well as any officer acting outside the bounds of the orders issued, need to be put on administrative leave immediately; and their actions would need to be fully investigated before allowing them to return to their positions of authority.

Points of law, and the legality of actions are determined by the judiciary; but it is the responsibility of the executive branch to insure that potential violations of law (and civil rights) are arraigned.

The Arab Spring was seen as a great movement forward to allowing people to be free(r) and allow them to have a (larger) stake in deciding their future; but now, perhaps the United States needs to request international observers to insure that our government doesn’t continue down this road to infringe on the rights that “we the people” have given so much to secure.


Originally posted 2011-11-21 02:00:40.

Comparison of Canadian and American health care systems

There are a number of comparisons between the Canadian and US health care systems; and like with any complex issue you can make the comparison show almost anything you want depending on the metrics chosen for the comparison and the facts included (or omitted).

Often the Canadian and American systems are compared since until the 1960s they were extremely similar, and Canadian and Americans share a large common history and to some extent culture.

This comparison on Wikipedia appears to be an honest attempt to compare and contrast the two systems, it includes a number of citations.  I recommend reading it, and considering what it has to say in light of the the current state health care in the US.

Comparison of Canadian and American health care systems

Originally posted 2010-03-16 13:03:11.

Unhealthy lies and the truth about health care reform

On 18 August 2009 John Groom published an article on CreativeLoafing that might give you a little more perspective on the health care reform battle.  It’s dated, but still very relevant.

The article starts off…

For weeks, health insurance companies, Republican political operatives and politicians, and their media cheerleaders have thrown a thick blanket of lies over the national debate of health care reform. By now you’ve heard the one about how Obama is going to pull the plug on your granny. Maybe you also heard that illegal immigrants would soon be enjoying free health care on your dime. Or that new health care policies would be a bonanza for abortion clinics.

Most of the screamers we’ve seen at health care town hall meetings are obviously, at best, very uninformed about details of proposed reforms. What you may not know is that those uninformed views are largely the result of a deliberate, cynical campaign of outright, blatant dishonesty the likes of which this reporter hasn’t seen in nearly 40 years of following politics. Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein summed up the risk the GOP is taking with its current tactics: “By poisoning the political well, they’ve given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They’ve become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.”

For the complete article see: Unhealthy lies and the truth about health care reform.

Remember, question everything.

Originally posted 2009-12-29 01:00:56.

Gettysburg

Thursday 19 November 1863, then President Abraham Lincoln was part of a ceremony to dedicated part of the battlefield on which the battle considered the turning point of the American Civil War took place from 1-3 July 1863 (significant because it was the first battle Confederate General Robert E Lee lost).

On that date President Abraham Lincoln (scheduled to be but a minor speaker) delivered by far his best remember speech, and possibly one of the best speeches ever delivered – The Gettysburg Address.

The Gettysburg Address was Lincoln’s attempt to explain why the American Civil War was important, and why preserving one nation was essential.  Lincoln; however, when much further in his short speech and attempt to clarify (or some say re-define) the precepts of the Declaration of Independence and promote a society where all men are equal (he likely didn’t include women in that view, that expansion of equality would have to wait several more decades).

Today most respect and revere Lincoln as one of the greatest leaders the United State has every had.

Just keep in mind; that the party of Lincoln no longer represents Lincoln’s beliefs.

Originally posted 2010-11-19 02:00:35.

Economic Stimulus

It amazes me how the United States Government can make simple things so complicated… and that it always seems that laws to benefit the greater good cannot be passed without benefiting special interests.

I say this is a very simple thing to handle.

The House and Senate need to approve an appropriation bill which allocates a given amount of money to an economic stimulus effort.  With that they can define the types of spending (broadly) that are acceptable.  Further, they can designate that government entities (federal, state, local, etc) can submit a request to a panel composed of four Representatives (two Republican, two Democrat), two Senators (one Republican, one Democrat), and the Vice President to review and approve.

Further, they could specify that each and very request must be for a single project; well specified with goals and measurable objectives.  That each and every proposal submitted must be acted on within ninety days, and that all actions and meeting of the committee must be open to the public (and news media, complete with cameras and microphones).

Congress could allocate more funding to the program as needed, or elect to stop funding it at any point in the future (but couldn’t pull back funds once granted).

Additional there should be a requirement on any entity that receives funds that they will abide by the letter of Federal law in allocating work which is wholly or partially paid for by the funds, and that any failure to use the funds as specified will require repayment with interest.

Look here, in a few hundred words I’ve outlined a framework that is totally transparent, highly adaptable, and fully accountable…

The whole problem is that we’ve changed nothing in Washington.  While I believe that Barrack Obama wants to change the way government governs, most of the individuals in Washington only wish to benefit themselves.

We gave Barrack Obama an overwhelming charter to change America for the better, and if each and everyone of us doesn’t stand up now and tell our Representatives and Senators that they are either part of the solution, or they are part of the problem and will be dealt with severely.

One thing is for sure, things will change — we will either choose to make the changes, or the changes will be the result of social and economic upheaval.  But if we’re going to have the choice, it has to be soon.

Originally posted 2009-02-08 01:00:01.

Discover Discover

Last week I called up Discover Financial Services to get an answer to a question I had about my Discover Card.

I’ve long considered Discover as a tertiary provider of card services; their card is not as widely accepted, and (until recently) their rewards program has been weak in comparison to others.

While all that may still be true, one of the most important qualities to appraise any service by is the quality of their customer service.

The only thing I can say is, I was floored.

The woman who assisted me was possibly the best customer service agent I’ve ever spoken with.  Her voice was soft and even toned and crystal clear.  She certainly made me feel like she was concerned that I be satisfied, and her knowledge and understanding of Discover made it a relatively easy task for her to shine.

This call caused me to reflect back on Discover as a whole, and I realized that I’ve never had a bad experience with Discover customer service.  While I won’t try and tell you that every call to Discover has been at this level, none have ever required that I ask for a supervisor.

I also realized that even the way that Discover has you identify your account is designed to make it easy for a customer (consider the credit card companies that have you key in a sixteen digit number, time out if you take too long, and rarely get the number right on the first [or third] time and then ask you for the number again when you finally end up talking to someone).

A Discover Card might not be the right fit for everyone; but take a look at their financial services, and if they look like a good fit, I encourage you to give them a test drive — you might like the experience; and as Discover grows we can only hope that other financial service companies feel the pressure to provide consumers with reasonable customer service.

Discover

http://www.discovercard.com/

NOTE: Discover Cards are issued by Discover Financial Services, GE Consumer Finance (aka GE Money Bank, ie Walmart and Sam’s Club), HSBC, and Green Dot Corporation (pre-paid) — as with VISA and Master Card the issuing financial institution is responsible for servicing the account, so your customer service experience will likely differ with a non Discover Financial Services issued card.

Originally posted 2010-08-08 02:00:20.

Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell

Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is inevitable
By Christopher Wolf, CNN
22 September 2010

Senate Republicans successful in blocking the repeal Tuesday of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military’s discriminatory policy on gays and lesbians in the military, obviously did not read or simply chose to ignore a California federal judge’s ruling several weeks ago that the policy violates fundamental constitutional rights.

Given the opportunity to undo the bigotry that was written into law 17 years ago, the senators chose not to follow the lead of the House of Representatives, which voted in May to repeal the law. Instead the Senate opted to pander to socially conservative voters. For now, at least, the law remains on the books.

But the march to repeal or invalidation must and will resume. The unfairness and wastefulness of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been demonstrated repeatedly.

Twelve years ago I handled a case that by itself showed the absurdity and mean-spirited nature of the law. In 1998, I represented a highly decorated 17-year veteran of the United States Navy who had served honorably and continuously since he was 19 years old.

Out of the blue, the Navy decided to kick him out of the service because he was gay, and not based on anything he did as a sailor. (I was called into the case the night before the discharge was to take effect.)

At the time of the Navy’s decision to discharge him, he was the senior-most enlisted man aboard the United States nuclear submarine USS Chicago, the sole source of income for his mother and nearing retirement eligibility.

The “offense” triggering the Navy’s witch hunt was an e-mail the sailor had sent from his AOL account seeking donations of toys for the children of his shipmates at Christmas. (His AOL username made the Navy officials suspect the sailor might be gay, but nothing in the contents of the e-mail or anything else in the sailor’s behavior in the service justified what the Navy did.)

The Navy decided to go on a “search and destroy” mission against the service member (those are the words of the judge hearing the case), when it asked AOL to get information about the sailor to confirm he was gay.

Then-Judge Stanley Sporkin–formerly general counsel of the SEC and CIA, so no bleeding heart liberal — found that the Navy had violated federal electronic privacy law by demanding information from AOL to make its case against the sailor, and that it had violated the strictures of the “don’t ask” part of the military policy on gay and lesbian service members. He stopped the Navy from throwing out a distinguished service member in light of its illegal activity.

The case made news at the time. The decision was a courageous one and against the conventional wisdom that Congress had accommodated gays and lesbians just fine with “don’t ask, don’t tell” and it was not up to civilians to tell the military how to operate.

Sporkin wrote in his opinion that “It is self-evident that a person’s sexual orientation does not affect that individual’s performance in the workplace. At this point in history, our society should not be deprived of the many accomplishments provided by the people who happen to be gay.”

He said the court “cannot understand why the Navy would seek to discharge an officer who has served his country in a distinguished manner just because he might be gay” and that the case “vividly underscores the folly of a policy that systematically excludes a whole class of persons who have served this country proudly and in the highest tradition of excellence.”

He acknowledged that the case specifically did not reach any of the constitutional issues underscoring the “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” policy, but he felt compelled to note that “the defenses mounted against gays in the military have been tried before in our nation’s history — against blacks and women.” Sporkin concluded: “Surely, it is time to move beyond this vestige of discrimination and misconception of gay men and women.”

Twelve years later, a successor of Sporkin’s on the federal bench in California decided just that — that it is time to eliminate discrimination, as a matter of constitutional law. In the meantime, scores of qualified and committed service members have been ousted based solely on a policy whose foundation is unconstitutional bigotry.

They did not have a Sporkin to take up their cause of justice. They will never get their careers back, or purge the trauma of being labeled second-class citizens, and neither will our country be able to recover their valuable lost service.

Although the Senate stopped repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in its tracks yesterday, the California ruling will work its way through the appellate process. In the end, this will turn around and the day will come when gay and lesbian service members and their allies can say we were right all along, and just as in the days of segregation, the country was wrong.

Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is inevitable on CNN

Originally posted 2010-09-25 02:00:31.

VMware Fusion

Last week I decide to upgrade my copy of VMware Fusion 1.1.3 (Build 94249) to Fusion 2 (it was free, and looked like a pretty compelling upgrade, and I already decided I wasn’t going to spend more money with Parallels).

I downloaded VMware Fusion 2.0.1 (Build 128865) and installed it on my Mac Pro and upgraded my Windows XP machine (following all the instructions).

Then I launched my Windows XP virtual machine, it seemed to run just fine, so I shut down — and my Mac rebooted.

I tried this a few more times; and yep, every time I shut down the virtual machine (that had been working perfectly for a very long time) it reboot my Mac Pro.

So I decided to give it a try on my MacBook Pro.  Well, at least it didn’t reboot my MacBook Pro — but on both the MacBook Pro and on the MacMini I got an error when I shutdown the virtual machine and ended up rebooting before I could run it again.

Four machines, all four of them exhibit problems that ten minutes of QA should have uncovered (of course I probably have run Fusion 2.0.1 on more machines that VMware has).

There is absolutely no excuse for publishing software like this… if I had actually paid for the upgrade I’d be looking for a refund.  Instead I’m just going to remove this crappy software from my Macs and go with a much better overall virtualization solution — VirtualBox.  And if I decide I want a commercial solution, I can always upgrade my copy of Parallels Desktop.

At least when software is FREE you stand a chance of getting what you pay for.

NOTE:

The only reason I was interested in trying Fusion 2.0.1 is that it includes “experimental” support for running OS-X as a guest.  But if it won’t run something that’s supported, I’m not sure I care to even try something “experimental” — glad I waited until it was out of BETA to take a look at it.

Originally posted 2009-02-05 01:00:17.