Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Criticism of the Technology Liberation Front

I've had several posts critical of the The Technology Liberation Front. Ryan Radia has provided a very good reply. I had written: "I would hope that the TLF would take a greater interest in exposing these unfortunate laws."

That's a fair point. Unfortunately, however, threats to liberty are abundant while TLFers (and cyberlibertarians in general) are all too scarce. As a group, we're admittedly not perfect when it comes to being "equal opportunity" critics of infringements on freedom. But like most group blogs, our areas of focus are in large part determined by the expertise and interests of our contributors. And from time to time TLFers do touch on some of the issues you raise (Cord's discussion of the Special 301 Watchlist and Jerry's recent post on ACTA, for instance).
I look forward to more TLF posts invoking "equal opportunity" criticism.

Obama's, A Change We Can Believe In

Here's a cute cartoon that my daughter sent from Brad Fitzpatrick.

Of course I need to reiterate that I do believe that taxation is an appropriate cost of doing business. The distinction in this case is that Obama is moving forward with "transference of wealth" taxes in the vain of "bread and circuses" for political gain. This is abundantly illustrated with Obama's proposed initiative concerning foreclosure assistance. Both the Washington Post and the New York Times had a flurry of articles on this. I've provided one link to: "Foreclosure fund gets $600 million to help residents of 5 more states save homes"

As a quick summary of the comments submitted to the New York Times and the Washington Post by the readers, the readers question both the equity of this program (helps some to the exclusion of others) and the use of tax dollars to subsidize irresponsible behavior.
What about those who bought houses that they could not afford?
What about those who fraudulently obtained home loans?
What about those who lost money in the stock market?
What about those are current with their mortgage payment but are underwater?
What about renters?
What about letting the market set the price of the house?
What about those who took-out home loans to buy "toys"?
What about tax starved public infrastructure (roads, sewer, schools)?
Spoll wrote:
"If I stop paying my mortgage, will I qualify?"
The list is endless. As illustrated by the cartoon above the Obama administration will be using tax dollars to reward irresponsible behavior. To conclude, LRT wrote: "Why reward those who made mistakes? That only encourages more of that kind of behavior. How about the rest of us who are barely hanging on? We get nothing while the deadbeats get a free ride."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Belkin Bad - APC Good

We had a Belkin Uninterpretable Power Supply (UPS). A few year ago our house was zapped by lighting which destroyed the electronics in our house, including the Belkin UPS. Of course you can't blame the Belkin UPS for failing in the face of a lightening strike. Belkin honored its warranty and replaced the unit. But I noticed something odd???

It turned out that WindowsXP no longer recognized the UPS. The box plainly said "compatible with Windows". To make a long story short, after several frustrating and time consuming experiments and talking to Belkin technical support it dawned on me that they modified the UPS so it would only work with Windows if Belkin's proprietary software was installed! Of course that was never disclosed in their brochure.

The prior UPS had worked just fine, so I was quite disappointed with this "downgrade".

Today, the Belkin UPS failed. Rather than deal with getting another warranty replacement, I went out an bought an APC UPS. Once again, Windows recognizes the UPS. The moral of this experience, proprietary products suck.

I should also mention, that in registering the APC UPS, that the box for send me all your junk mail was actually NOT checked. Its good to see when a company clearly recognizes that you may not want to receive junk mail. Another positive, we have another APC UPS and we were able to go to Radio Shack and get a standard replacement battery.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Intuit Turbotax Upate II

Well the Washington Post finally got around to doing a review: Tax-preparation software from TurboTax and H&R Block have drawbacks, benefits.

As previously discussed, Intuit is not a company that operates in a clean transparent manner since it uses Orwellian Newspeak to hide the true meaning of its actions. Rob Pegararo noted: "Shockingly enough, Intuit has lobbied states offering free online tax preparation to switch to the IRS "free file" model, in which the government cedes the field to private companies that promise to offer tax-prep tools at no charge to people below a certain income level. ... So not only does the hideously complex tax code force us to use software to perform a basic job of citizenship, it's given rise to the sickening spectacle of the vendors of this software asking governments to write laws locking in their business. This needs to end."

Also see: Intuit Lobbying The Government To Make It More Difficult To File Your Tax Returns and Turbo Tax maker Intuit, again, is mired in political turmoil. Anthony York of Capitol Weekly wrote: "While Intuit, makers of the popular Turbo Tax software program, has largely tried to remain behind the scenes in the state’s political battles, their five-year long crusade to eliminate the state’s free tax-filing system, Ready Return, essentially brought business in the Capitol to a stand-still." (emphasis added).

The Post also ran a companion article: How to calculate the AMT, a tax we love to hate. The significance of this article is that it draw attention to known problem that seemingly never gets fixed. I periodically see our Democratic and Republican Congressmen speak of having a solution so they can get some face time in the news, but a solution never materializes. Our politicians claim to be working on behalf of the American people, clearly they are not.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Taxes - A Cost of Doing Business

No one likes to pay taxes. Taxes are perceived as a "black hole" (a waste) to the economy. This concept is consistently reinforced by politicians and others who incessantly speak in terms of the "government picking your pocket". Sure there are "bad" taxes and there are legitimate questions concerning what projects should be funded through tax dollars, the appropriate tax rate, and how (flat tax, income, sales, and user fees) taxes are collected.

The March/April 2010 issue of Science Illustrated contains an article titled "Fly Factory". This article profiles a "factory" in Mexico that provides sterile screwworm flies for purposes of eradicating screwworm flies. The Science Illustrated article notes that "Flesh-eating screwworm flies once caused ten of millions of dollars in damage to livestock annually in the southern U.S." The article goes on to say that: "Sterile males were introduced in Florida in 1957, and by 1996 the pests were eradicated in the U.S". By the year 2006, the screwworm fly had been eradicated from Central America. The Jamaican PDF handout notes that the screwworm fly eradication "... would improve livestock productivity and food self-sufficiency on the island. ... There will be a reduction in the import cost of chemicals for treating NWS and the toxic burden on the environment will be alleviated. The risk of chemical residues in milk and meat will also be reduced."

Clearly the livestock industry has benefited from this program. Society also benefits through better food production. While this is only one example of an industry benefiting through the use of tax dollars, it does highlight that taxes are a legitimate cost-of-business and that tax dollars are not simply a "black hole". Furthermore, that there are certain types of programs where the government is the appropriate solution since private industry would not be up to the challenge. So when you hear people lamely assert that taxes are always bad for business think of this program.