When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do? -- John Maynard Keynes

Monday, December 31, 2012

Howard Dean may be right: Let’s Go Over the Fiscal Cliff--Whee!

I was hoping for comprehensive tax reform and entitlement reform to "fix" the USA but it's not going to happen in dysfunctional Washington. But instead of some kind of bastardized last-minute deal, the best thing may be to do what Howard Dean suggested weeks ago--Let's Go Over the Fiscal Cliff!

Howard Dean: Let’s Go Over the Fiscal Cliff: "“We will get a lot more deficit reduction if we do the fiscal cliff,” the former Vermont governor said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “I actually think the markets will reward the fiscal cliff over a period. “There will be some panic and some moaning and groaning, but the fiscal cliff is not a real cliff, it’s a slope, and you are going to get the biggest bang for the buck in terms of deficit reduction.” Dean (Democrat), who ran for the White House in 2004, said the economy will be able to withstand the effects of the cliff. “Yes we will go into two quarters of recession,” he said. “But we are in deep trouble here, somebody’s going to have to pay the bill and it is going to have to be all of us and you get a much better tax bang if you go back to Bill Clinton’s tax rates.”"

Sounds like Howard may be right--more deficit reduction and more revenues--isn't that what Republicans and Democrats wanted all along?


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Windows 8 fails on desktop

Sorry, I couldn't pass this up--one more time--

10 MORE technologies that are just plain broken | TechRepublic: "9: Windows 8 Modern UI - This interface is lame on the Windows phone and it’s even worse on the desktop. Not only does the Windows 8 UI (formerly Metro) look like a child’s toy, it’s hardly an efficient use of space and movement. It’s clear that Microsoft is shooting for the multi-touch moon, but on a standard desktop, Windows 8 fails. This version will go down as the new Windows Me. Back to the drawing board with you Microsoft!"


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Quote of the Year

Couldn't leave 2012 without kudos to Vint Cerf for his classic statement (in reaction to the UN's ITU and WCIT 2012)--

Bitter struggle over Internet regulation to dominate global summit | Reuters: "Google's Vint Cerf, the ordinarily diplomatic co-author of the basic protocol for Internet data, denounced the proposed new rules as hopeless efforts by some governments and state-controlled telecom authorities to assert their power.
"These persistent attempts are just evidence that this breed of dinosaurs, with their pea-sized brains, hasn't figured out that they are dead yet, because the signal hasn't traveled up their long necks," Cerf told Reuters.""
Well said Vint. Well said.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Government, Antitrust, and Cartels

I remember when old "Ma Bell" was broken up--now we are just about back to where we began--

Break Up the Telecom Cartels - NYTimes.com: "SINCE 1974, when the Justice Department sued to break up the Ma Bell phone monopoly, Americans have been told that competition in telecommunications would produce innovation, better service and lower prices. What we’ve witnessed instead is low-quality service and prices that are higher than a truly competitive market would bring. After a brief fling with competition, ownership has reconcentrated into a stodgy duopoly of Bell Twins — AT&T and Verizon. Now, thanks to new government rules, each in effect has become the leader of its own cartel. The AT&T-DirectTV and Verizon-Bright House-Cox-Comcast-TimeWarner behemoths market what are known as “quad plays”: the phone companies sell mobile services jointly with the “triple play” of Internet, telephone and television connections, which are often provided by supposedly competing cable and satellite companies. And because AT&T’s and Verizon’s own land-based services operate mostly in discrete geographic markets, each cartel rules its domain as a near monopoly. . . . "

When I hear that the FTC is enforcing antitrust, I want to puke. Comcast should be the first required to divest of its internet services--and there are many other monopolies now in telecommunications.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

New FCC rules will let a single company own a town's ISP, newspapers, 2 TV stations and 8 radio stations

I thought the FTC was trying to enforce antitrust--guess they've been too obsessed pursuing meritless cases against Google--well they ought to look at what another federal agency is doing:

New FCC rules will let a single company own a town's ISP, newspapers, 2 TV stations and 8 radio stations - Boing Boing: " FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants to gut existing rules that limit media consolidation. This is bad news for people who care about the effects of too much media in too few hands. Genachowski's proposed plan would make our media less diverse, create local media monopolies and ultimately mean less news. This rule would allow ONE company to own a daily newspaper, two TV stations and up to eight radio stations in your town. And that one company could be your Internet provider, too. Scary.""

This doesn't pass the "smell" test by a mile!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Think the U.S. doesn't have debtor prisons?

Think the U.S. Constitution outlawed debtor prisons? Think again--

Man sits in jail while unable to pay alimony that exceeds his income | NJ.com: "For nearly seven weeks, John Waldorf has been in the county jail on a “non-support” charge for allegedly failing to pay alimony. He claims he is a victim of New Jersey’s "antiquated" alimony system and many people agree with him. In late October a small protest was held outside the courthouse. Bruce Eden, Civil Rights Director, of DADS (Dads Against Discrimination) is hoping to garner support for Waldorf on Friday, Dec. 7 when a judge will again hold a hearing to determine how much Waldorf must pay to be released. Waldorf, who divorced his wife of 11 years in 2011, was ordered to pay $2,000 a week in alimony to his ex. That amounts to $104,000 a year. In addition he was ordered to pay $3,300 in child support. The problem is that Waldorf has only been taking home about $90,000 a year on average, according to Eden. Eden said he has Waldorf’s tax returns dating back to 2000. The highest income reported by Waldorf during the marriage was $147,000 before taxes according to Eden. In most years Waldorf made $90,000 to $120,000 before taxes. His average take home pay has been about $90,000 a year."


Monday, December 24, 2012

Windows XP Tablet -- think what might have been

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition: A Look Back | Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows: "Windows XP Tablet PC Edition was one of two major additions to the XP lineup that came in the years after the main product line debuted in 2001. . . .  There were two versions of XP for tablets, Tablet PC Edition (which appeared in 2002) and Tablet PC Edition 2005. After that, Tablet PC functionality was simply added directly into more mainstream Windows versions in Windows Vista and 7. The early Tablet PC days were a heady time. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was an early adopter and proponent of this system and proudly declared that it would be a primary computing device for hundreds of millions of people within years. That never happened, but some of the technological advances Microsoft made in these products have stood the test of time, even in these days where more and more consumers are gravitating to simpler (and more simple-minded) devices like the iPad. . . ."

Despite what Steve Jobs (RIP) or others say--the iPad was not an original idea, but built upon work done before--like Microsoft's Windows Tablet.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gas tax hike could be part of fiscal cliff solution

Wonder why no one has brought this up in the Washington fiscal cliff talks?

Gas tax hike could be part of fiscal cliff talks: "Currently at 18.4 cents a gallon, the federal gas tax is used primarily to build and repair roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure. The tax raises about $32 billion a year. But that's not enough. The government hands out about $50 billion a year to states and towns to help with road costs. The difference comes out of general funds or has to be borrowed. Meanwhile, the gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993. "Establishing a sustainable resource base for transportation needs to be part of any grand bargain," said Emil Frankel, a former transportation expert in the George W. Bush administration and now director of transportation policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "In the short run, raising the gas tax is the best way to do that." Raising the gas tax was one of the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction plan in 2010. The plan called for a 15 cent-a-gallon hike to the gas tax, a level that would basically cover the current shortfall in the transportation budget. Others went further. In a 2010 letter to the commission Delaware's Democrat Senator Tom Carper and former Ohio Republican George Voinovich proposed a 25 cent-a-gallon hike in the gas tax, with the additional 10 cents a gallon going toward debt reduction. The pair estimated it would generate $83 billion over five years to chip away at the debt, and an additional $117 billion for road repairs. . . ."

25 cents sounds about right considering inflation since 1993.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Google Revenues Sheltered in No-Tax Bermuda

Google is just doing what every large multi-national does--no more, no less--and it is governments that have made this possible. Google is not the problem, tax laws set up by governments are the problem!

Google Revenues Sheltered in No-Tax Bermuda Soar to $10 Billion - Bloomberg: " . . . Google Inc. (GOOG) avoided about $2 billion in worldwide income taxes in 2011 by shifting $9.8 billion in revenues into a Bermuda shell company, almost double the total from three years before, filings show. By legally funneling profits from overseas subsidiaries into Bermuda, which doesn’t have a corporate income tax, Google cut its overall tax rate almost in half. The amount moved to Bermuda is equivalent to about 80 percent of Google’s total pretax profit in 2011. The increase in Google’s revenues routed to Bermuda, disclosed in a Nov. 21 filing by a subsidiary in the Netherlands, could fuel the outrage spreading across Europe and in the U.S. over corporate tax dodging. Governments in France, the U.K., Italy and Australia are probing Google’s tax avoidance as they seek to boost revenue during economic doldrums. . . .“The tax strategy of Google and other multinationals is a deep embarrassment to governments around Europe,” said Richard Murphy, an accountant and director of Tax Research LLP in Norfolk, England. “The political awareness now being created in the U.K., and to a lesser degree elsewhere in Europe, is: It’s us or them. People understand that if Google doesn’t pay, somebody else has to pay or services get cut.” Google said it complies with all tax rules, and its investment in various European countries helps their economies. In the U.K., “we also employ over 2,000 people, help hundreds of thousands of businesses to grow online, and invest millions supporting new tech businesses in East London,” the Mountain View, California-based company said in a statement.
The Internet search giant has avoided billions of dollars in income taxes around the world using a pair of tax shelter strategies known as the Double Irish and Dutch Sandwich, Bloomberg News reported in 2010. The tactics, permitted under tax law in the U.S. and elsewhere, move royalty payments from subsidiaries in Ireland and the Netherlands to a Bermuda unit headquartered in a local law firm. . . .Google’s overall effective tax rate dropped to 21 percent last year from about 28 percent in 2008. That compares with the average combined U.S. and state statutory rate of about 39 percent. . . "

So when will governments "fix" the problem with comprehensive tax reform?


Friday, December 21, 2012

Pronouncements, Predictions, and Projections

From Krugman comes this bite-size insight into what the future holds (as far as jobs) and it's not very positive--
"Along with its new policy pronouncement, the Fed released its economic projections (pdf). What struck me is that the Fed expects the unemployment rate to be well above its long-run level even in the fourth quarter of 2015, which is as far as its projections go.This means that the Fed is projecting elevated unemployment nine full years after the Great Recession started. And, of course, the Fed has been consistently over-optimistic."
Welcome to the New Normal!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

State Department Blamed for Benghazi Disaster not YouTube video

Contrary to the story concocted earlier by Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the reason the US ambassador to Libya and 3 other Americans were killed at Benghazi on September 11, 2012, was the failure of Clinton's State Department to provide proper "security"--and it had nothing to do with an obscure YouTube video (which obviously was a narrative developed by the Obama administration to provide a "smoke screen" and deflect attention from their own incompetence and ineptness)--

State Department Blamed for Libya Security Falling Short - Bloomberg: "The State Department had “grossly inadequate” security at a U.S. mission in Libya before a deadly attack by militants and must overhaul procedures to correct “systemic failures,” an independent review panel said. . . . The findings in the report released yesterday raise questions about the State Department’s leadership under Clinton, who is preparing to depart the post as one of the most popular figures in President Barack Obama’s administration. The report criticized the performance of “senior levels within two bureaus” under Clinton without faulting her by name. . . . The report repeatedly faults the State Department for producing a “security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place,” according to an unclassified version of the report by the five-member review panel."


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New home sales stagnant, cast shadow on housing

Housing--you think everything is coming up roses? Think again--

New home sales stagnant, cast shadow on housing | Reuters:" Wednesday's data did not change the view that housing is still in recovery mode, although the pace of new home sales in October was below the level of May, suggesting little upward momentum. "It's just that progress will be slow," said Yelena Shulyatyeva, an economist at BNP Paribas in New York. U.S. homebuilder stocks fell, even as broad market indexes rose slightly. . . Wednesday's report showed the median sales price for a new home in October was 5.7 percent higher than a year earlier, but the pace of year-over-year price gains slowed for a second straight month. . . . "Some of this could potentially be Hurricane Sandy," said Megan McGrath, an analyst at MKM Partners in Stamford, Connecticut. However, the Commerce Department said the storm did not affect data collection at all and its impact on the pace of sales was likely "minimal." Economists polled by Reuters had forecast sales rising to a 390,000-unit rate last month from September's previously reported 389,000-unit rate. To provide support for the housing market, the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates at rock-bottom levels since 2008. In September, it launched an open-ended program to buy mortgage-backed securities, driving mortgage rates to record lows."

In other words, the Fed is out of bullets--housing is going to be long, slow recovery.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Susan Rice and her political ambitions

I meant to post this last week--Susan Rice is quite a politico ("live by the sword, die by the sword")--

Stephens: Failing Up With Susan Rice - WSJ.com: ""At an interagency teleconference in late April [1994]," writes Samantha Power in her book "A Problem From Hell," Ms. Rice "stunned a few officials present when she asked, 'If we use the word "genocide" (in reference to Rwanda) and are seen as doing nothing, what will the effect be on the November [congressional] election?' Lieutenant Colonel [Tony] Marley remembers the incredulity of his colleagues at the State Department. 'We could believe that people would wonder that,' he says, 'but not that they would actually voice it.' . . . ""

So when Susan Rice complains of "politicization"--remember she is probably one of the most "politicized" operators in the U.S. government. Shed no tears for her self-inflicted falling with her "trumped-up story" about Benghazi--in fact, Obama has now dodged the disaster of having her as Secretary of State. John Kerry will be a much better Secretary of State than Susan Rice could ever have been.


Monday, December 17, 2012

FTC nominee Joshua Wright to skip Google cases

FTC nominee Joshua Wright to skip Google cases - Tony Romm and Elizabeth Wasserman - POLITICO.com: "The Obama administration nominated Wright at the suggestion of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Republicans support Wright because of his long-standing, free-market, light-touch views on antitrust enforcement. But the nominee quickly faced criticism because his prior research cautioned against any antitrust probe of Google, a case the FTC is currently pursuing — albeit one that could be finished before the end of the year. On one hand, recusal could help Wright win the support of lawmakers who may have been on the fence about his nomination. The panel’s chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), did not comment Friday on whether he would press Wright on the matter at the hearing. However, if confirmed, Wright may also sit out other enforcements related to Google — cases involving privacy, for example, an area in which the company and regulators have tangled. . . . "

Wright sounds like a good nominee, but I'm sorry he is going to recuse himself on Google cases. We desperately need his point of view on the FTC which has been seriously off-track in pursuing weak and meritless cases against Google.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

WCIT2012 -- the Debacle in Dubai

With the "debacle in Dubai" now over, we can all sigh in collective relief that the ITU and WCIT were blocked by the free world--

European Parliament: Stop the ITU taking over the Internet | PCWorld: "The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) will attempt to revise international telecommunication regulations, which have not been updated since 1988. A resolution approved by an overwhelming majority of Members of the European Parliament on Thursday warned that some of the proposals presented ahead of WCIT could result in the ITU itself becoming “the ruling power of the Internet,” something the parliament is determined to prevent.

“The ITU, or any other single international institution, is not the appropriate body to assert regulatory authority over the Internet,” said the resolution, drawn up by Dutch parliamentarian Marietje Schaake."

Here's the scorecard of nations that supported (in "green") and did not support the WCIT "treaty"--I truly feel sorry for the people who live in the "green" nations--(source: the ITU website):
signatories WCIT 2012 - source: ITU
Click to Enlarge


McAfee settling into Miami - 'will not go back to Belize'

LA Times report (excerpt below):

McAfee settling into Miami, 'will not go back to Belize' - latimes.com: " . . . Since landing in Miami on Wednesday, McAfee has held impromptu press conferences on the steps of his hotel despite a request on his blog that still urges press to “please respect John’s privacy.” After dropping contact with two Vice journalists since Guatemala (he accused the magazine of purposefully revealing his location in a cellphone photo’s metadata), he’s since had two other Miami reporters in tow, who report that he spent Thursday dining on hundreds of dollars worth of sushi and browsed phones and sunglasses in a posh shopping district. “I have no future, and if I have no future, that means I have no fear,” McAfee said to the reporters. Meanwhile, the family of Gregory Faull, who was found faceup in a pool of his own blood in Belize, said McAfee should be questioned in Miami. “I’m shocked by this,” Faull’s stepfather, William Keeney, told Reuters on Thursday. “He’s running around footloose and fancy-free in Miami. How in the world can that be?” Belize police spokesman Raphael Martinez has said officials there have no plans to travel to the United States to question the tech giant. But Martinez also left open the possibility that McAfee could go from "person of interest" to a named suspect, a situation in which he said Belize could explore additional options under extradition treaties with the United States."


Saturday, December 15, 2012

More video from McAfee

Source: http://nbcbayarea.com.

John McAfee, the anti-virus software founder who has been evading Belizean authorities in a homicide inquiry abroad, on Thursday walked outside a South Beach hotel and said, "It's good to be back in America."


John McAfee - the CNBC interview (video)

John McAfee- the saga continues - CNBC interviewed John in Miami (where he arrived from Guatemala) - "I stopped being on the run once I arrived in Miami" . . . watch the video for the rest.


Friday, December 14, 2012

"Do you not know with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

Watching Washington grapple with the fiscal cliff, I am reminded of the famous quote by Oxenstierna--

Axel Oxenstierna - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: ""Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?" (in a letter to his son Johan written in 1648, in the original Latin An nescis, mi fili, quantilla prudentia mundus regatur?).[16] Although attributed to Cardinal Richelieu as well, this is probably the most famous Swedish quotation in the English-speaking world. The words were intended to encourage his son, a delegate to the negotiations that would lead to the Peace of Westphalia, who worried about his ability to hold his own amidst experienced and eminent statesmen and diplomats."


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The 90s Economic Boom Is Not Coming Back

The "good old days" aren't coming back--

Why Obama Can’t Bring Back the 90s Economic Boom: "Analysis by Ethan Pollack at the liberal Economic Policy Institute forecasts that public investment will decline over the next four years. These investments initially surged under Obama because of the 2009 stimulus and currently represent 2.3 percent of GDP, but discretionary spending was trimmed last year in the Budget Control Act to reduce the deficit. According to the Obama budget proposal—which is more generous than the GOP alternative—they’ll slide beneath the Clinton-era average of 1.7 percent around 2016. And because the stimulus supported the fragile economy for the past three years, Pollack expects that “the wind-down in investment as a share of GDP will drag at growth rates.” Given the historically low interest rates on U.S. Treasurys and the relatively high 7.9 percent unemployment rate, it makes sense to many economists to continue deficit expenditures to help the economy—an option that’s no longer prominent in policy discussions between the White House and congressional leaders. Interest rates were not only higher in 1993, but unemployment was slightly lower when the deficit trimming began under Clinton. Read more at http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2012/12/06/Why-Obama-Cant-Bring-Back-the-90s-Economic-Boom.aspx#QUMAjbr4SesQvEbu.99


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Declining Jobless rate due to shrinking labor force not good news

The spinners in the media have been rejoicing over a declining unemployment rate (even the small decline reported over the last few months). Unfortunately, a decreasing unemployment rate is not necessarily good news. After all, if everyone dropped out of the work force, the unemployment rate would be zero (-0-)! A decreasing unemployment rate is not good news when it reflects a shrinking labor force--

Jobless rate 7.7%; 146,000 new jobs: "The government revised down job gains for September and October by a total 49,000. September's additions were revised from 148,000 to 132,000 and October's, from 171,000 to 138,000. . . . Meanwhile, the continuing sharp drop in the unemployment rate -- from 8.3% to 7.7% since July -- is surprising and at least partly reflects retiring Baby Boomers, says Chief U.S. Economist Jim O'Sullivan of High Frequency Economics. "What's happening here is the demographics have changed," he says. He says monthly job gains of about 75,000 are likely enough to keep the jobless rate from rising, down from 100,000 to 150,000. A shrinking labor force, however, does not bode well for economic growth because retirees have less spending power."


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

UN's ITU Should Be Dismantled says Former White House Official Says

UN's ITU Should Be Dismantled, Former White House Official Says CIO.com: "The U.S. government should push for the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union to be dismantled in addition to playing defense against proposals for restrictive Internet regulations at an upcoming telecom conference, a former White House official said. The ITU has outlived its purpose of coordinating international telecom regulations as the world's communications networks move to Internet Protocol, said Andrew McLaughlin, an entrepreneur-in-residence at startup funding firm Betaworks and former deputy CTO in U.S. President Barack Obama's administration. The ITU is set up to advocate for government intervention into communications networks, at the expense of users, and the organization lacks transparency, McLaughlin said Thursday at a Future Tense discussion of Internet governance. . . . "

Sounds good--no more ITU!


Monday, December 10, 2012

ITU Proves It Is Unfit To Regulate the Internet

Proof is "in the pudding"--

ITU Approves Deep Packet Inspection Standard Behind Closed Doors, Ignores Huge Privacy Implications | Techdirt: "One of the big issues surrounding WCIT and the ITU has been the lack of transparency -- or even understanding what real transparency might be. So it will comes as no surprise that the new DPI standard was negotiated behind closed doors, with no drafts being made available.But probably most worrying is the following aspect:
Several global standards bodies, including the IETF and W3C, have launched initiatives to incorporate privacy considerations into their work. In fact, the IETF has long had a policy of not considering technical requirements for wiretapping in its work, taking the seemingly opposite approach to the ITU-T DPI document, as Germany pointed out [doc] in voicing its opposition to the ITU-T standard earlier this year. The ITU-T standard barely acknowledges that DPI has privacy implications, let alone does it provide a thorough analysis of how the potential privacy threats associated with the technology might be mitigated.
This apparent indifference to the wider implications of its work is yet another reason why the ITU is unfit to determine any aspect of something with as much power to affect people's lives as the Internet."


Sunday, December 9, 2012

John McAfee: "I wish I could just pack my bags and go to Miami"

I've been following the sad, bizarre saga of John McAfee--you can't make this stuff up:

Software guru John McAfee wants to return to US - Tech - IBNLive: "US software guru John McAfee, fighting deportation from Guatemala to Belize to face questions about the slaying of a neighbor, said on Saturday he wants to return to the United States. "My goal is to get back to America as soon as possible," McAfee, 67, said in a phone call to Reuters from the immigration facility where he is being held for illegally crossing the border to Guatemala with his 20-year-old girlfriend. "I wish I could just pack my bags and go to Miami," McAfee said."

John, I can well imagine you do wish you could just pack your bags "and go to Miami"--but you're going to have to deal with Belize.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sticking With Windows 7

Good news for PC users like me who are sticking with Windows 7:

Sticking With Windows 7 - NYTimes.com: "Microsoft’s latest edition of the Windows operating system has just landed, but Windows 7 is not going anywhere soon. As explained on Microsoft’s site, copies of Windows 7 will be available for retail purchase for another year, and PC manufacturers then have an additional year to keep selling Windows 7 installed on new computers. The company has long-term technical support plans for Windows 7 too. According to the Microsoft Support Lifecycle page for Windows 7, mainstream support lasts through Jan. 13, 2015, and provides paid and free support, warranty claims, security patches and feature updates. Extended support, which includes feature updates and warranty claims, continues through Jan. 14, 2020. Microsoft does allow plenty of transition time to new systems. Extended support for Windows XP, which arrived in 2001, is scheduled to finally end in April 2014."


Friday, December 7, 2012

The Payroll Tax - the problem and part of the solution

Our Enemy, the Payroll Tax - NYTimes.com: "Payroll taxes are a relic of New Deal Machiavellianism: by taking a bite of every worker’s paycheck and promising postretirement returns, Franklin Roosevelt effectively disguised Social Security as a pay-as-you-go system, even though the program actually redistributes from rich to poor and young to old. That disguise has helped keep Social Security sacrosanct — hailed by Democrats because it protects the poor and backed by Republicans as a reward for steady work. But the costs of this disguise have grown too great to bear. Whatever its past political advantages, the payroll tax now imposes an unnecessary burden on a stagnating economy. In an era of mass unemployment, mediocre wage growth and weak mobility from the bottom of the income ladder, it makes no sense to finance our retirement system with a tax that falls directly on wages and hiring and imposes particular burdens on small business and the working class."

As usual, the New York Times only gets it half-right. Yes the payroll tax is a problem (for those employed), it is extremely regressive, but it also provides a remedy (if changed along the lines I suggest below) to find a way out of the morass we are in. Employers are increasingly limiting or deleting benefits for employees--pensions, health insurance, etc. What's the answer? Level the playing field, make ALL employers contribute to the social cost of retirement and health care based on the gross compensation (including payroll) of every employer--

1. Delete entirely all payroll tax paid by employees.
2. Increase the payroll tax paid by employers to 10%  of gross employee compensation with no income limit and "compensation" to include not only payroll but the value of ALL compensation paid to an employee such as the value of stock options, etc. This would increase revenues dramatically by eliminating the $110,000 cap and including all compensation (stock options etc.). (The present employer payroll tax is 7.65%--6.2 Social Security + 1.45 Medicare.) We all know that executive pay is out of control--there is no reason any employer or employee should not have his "total package" subject to the payroll tax. In addition ALL employers should be subject to this federal payroll tax--no "opting out."

3.  Means testing of social security and medicare benefits and other cost controls to efficiently and fairly administer the system. No double dipping, etc., to insure fairness and solvency.

4. Phase out (over time) of all pensions and other non-social security retirement plans, replaced by employee self-funded retirement accounts -- funded by direct withholding from an employee's wages at the default rate of 5% of gross wages (employee option to increase this up to a maximum of 20%) and paid to a federally regulated financial institution (yes this could be an "institution" operated by a union) of the employee's choice (completely portable), guaranteed 100% by the US government.

5. Self-employed individuals would have to pay a 5% self-employment tax on their own income (in lieu of the  payroll tax rate of 10%) generated by "self-employment" (50% of said self-employed income being considered like "dividend income" paid by corporations to stockholders on which there is no "payroll tax" paid).

If you want to solve our "crisis," you also need to reform the income tax--

Eliminate all personal deductions, "favoritism" and special tax breaks--ALL income (capital gains, dividends, wages, etc.,) subject to a flat 20% income tax rate on all income over $20,000 per year (first $20,000 being exempt from all federal income tax). Income over $1,000,000 per year would be subject to an additional 5%, making a total effective tax rate of 25% on all income over $1,000,000 per year--individuals, corporations, etc.--no exceptions or special tax breaks!

If Congress would pass this, the "fiscal crisis" would be solved--and watch the economy boom! Oh I know there would be whining and complaining--but this is "doable" and it eliminates or lessens tax burdens on the poor and middle class.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cuba, free speech, and internet freedom

One thing the U.S. government is doing right--

Cuba denounces US diplomats - KansasCity.com: "U.S. officials have long maintained that they are doing nothing illegal in Cuba and that supporting free speech, cultural activities and Internet access is a common practice at missions around the world. "We are absolutely guilty of those charges. The U.S. Interests Section in Havana does regularly offer free courses in using the Internet to Cubans who want to sign up. We also have computers available for Cubans to use," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington. "Obviously this wouldn't be necessary if the Cuban government didn't restrict access to the Internet and prevent its own citizens from getting technology training.""

U.S. taxpayer money well spent!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The American brand and DHS

Good article below, which begs the question--what is the USA brand today?

Overview » FutureBrand: "A strong country brand is more than the sum of its attributes: in total, it must make people’s lives better. FutureBrand assesses the strength of a country brand in much the same way as any other brand, measuring awareness, familiarity, preference, consideration, advocacy and active decisions to visit or interact with a place. But the most important factors – the aspects that truly differentiate a country brand – are its associations and attributes across five key dimensions: Value System, Quality of Life, Good for Business, Heritage and Culture and Tourism."

For example, does the Department of Homeland Security add to, or diminish, the American brand? Does DHS represent the dark side of government--arbitrary, unaccountable, opaque, power seeking, intrusive, overbearing, threatening? Is DHS a prime example of the continuing governmental intrusions upon civil liberties? Does it incorporate what is best about America, or is it merely a Bush-era over-reaction to radical Islam terrorism? A bureaucratic nightmare to both liberty and the American brand?


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Final Caveat on Windows 8

Caveat Emptor--

Wolverton: Windows 8's awkward interface makes it one for PC users to avoid - SiliconValley.com: "As a PC user, I hate -- a word I use sparingly -- the new interface that is the centerpiece of Windows 8. With the new version of its flagship operating system, due out Friday, Microsoft has replaced its tried-and-true desktop interface with what it called until recently the Metro interface. Instead of a start button, taskbar and windows filled with applications and folders, Metro features a screen full of program "tiles" and applications that run full-screen. While I think this interface has a lot of promise for tablets, on a traditional desktop or laptop computer, or even on a newer notebook sporting a touch screen, it's clunky and unintuitive. Metro often feels like a work in progress, because seemingly obvious features are unavailable. And worst of all, Metro makes it much harder than before to do everyday tasks and real work on your computer. Take the idea of viewing multiple applications on your screen, a core feature of Windows since even before Windows 95. You can't do it in the Metro interface."


Monday, December 3, 2012

Take Action: Add Your Voice to Keep the Internet #freeandopen

Take Action: Add Your Voice to Keep the Internet #freeandopen

Starting today, the world’s governments meet behind closed doors on the future of the Internet. Some governments want to increase censorship and regulate the web.

Tell them to keep it #freeandopen by signing the petition: http://goo.gl/tU9uY


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Microsoft Windows 8: welcome to the worst in both worlds

When Is a Tablet Not a Tablet? When It's Microsoft's Surface | Tim Bajarin | PCMag.com: "This discrepancy in design reinforces the fact that the Surface is more like a small laptop that is not optimized to deliver a rich tablet experience. Because of that, I am skeptical whether the Surface will be a big hit. Landscape has its advantages in many scenarios, like when watching movies or playing some games, but in a broad set of tablet use cases, portrait is equally and sometimes more important. I believe that a true tablet provides an excellent experience in both landscape and portrait modes."

It seems Microsoft has given the worst in Windows 8 -- by trying to be a one-all, fits-all operating system, it has made compromises that severely impact functionality, both for tablets (as the above review attests) as well as regular PCs (as many reviews have stated).


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cat Signal Issued by Internet Defense League

Via Velcro Feline: "A Cat Signal has been issued by the Internet Defense League:

"We're writing to tell you about a serious threat to Internet freedom, and invite you to take part in an action this Monday, December 3rd. In short, an obscure international meeting next week could give a top-down, non-transparent UN body (one with representation from many dictatorships) the power to regulate the Internet. It's called the ITU. The ITU would literally give dictators like Syria’s Assad (who was trending yesterday for--it seems--cutting Syria off from the Internet) a role in crucial decisions about the Internet’s future. You can learn more here: http://internetcoup.org/ (scroll down for a video . . . ) . . . "


Early sales of Windows 8 are far below Microsoft’s expectations

Whispers are out that early sales of Windows 8 are far below Microsoft’s expectations - The Next Web: "The extent of the miss is the only remaining question. . . . Is there any need to fret, therefore, about Windows 8, given that it will sell truckloads of copies, simply due to the dynamics of the PC market? Yes, as consumers could reject the new Metro Start Screen, increasingly turn to Macs, or drop out of the PC market entirely if Windows 8 is found to be too unpalatable."

Personally, I was scheduled to update and buy a new PC at the end of this year. Due to the problems with Windows 8 on a non-touch screen PC (I need a keyboard and mouse to do my work, and Word is a critical "must-have" program)--I updated early to a Windows 7 HP Ultrabook prior to the launch of Windows 8.  I know of others who are migrating from Windows 7 (and XP) to a new Mac--Microsoft's loss, Apple's gain--and even some moving entirely to the Cloud via Chromebooks. How significant the overall loss and erosion from Microsoft to Apple and Google's Chrome will be, only time will tell.

I can foresee moving entirely to a Chromebook within 3 years. How about you?


The Big Picture

Financial Crisis - The Telegraph

JohnTheCrowd.com | The Sailing Website

Craig Newmark - craigconnects