Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Social Network Vortex

I have long been a social networking curmudgeon; I maintain that myspace is blogging for lazy people that are easily distracted by funny pictures. Myspace is to excellent online content as text messaging is to literary classics.
Facebook attempts to be the less childish version of myspace by requiring some sort of collegiate affiliation…and we all know how mature and intellectual college students are.
At work I am surrounded by recently graduated college students that are constantly checking their myspace pages and their facebook friends networks and it all seems like a digital version of junior high, where being loosely affiliated with a desirable and influential “cool kid” will somehow rub off on you via osmosis and you will become cooler by association. I can’t help but get the feeling that all that “friending” is just delusional attempts by lonely geeks to establish an affiliation, any affiliation with anyone. Case in point--I read something I found amusing so I link to it and now permanently link to Web2.Oh..really, although it would be a better example if I "friended" him from a social network.
I’ve wondered aloud how pointless all this interactive content creation is and if you are really feeling like wasting a few minutes—read Joe Rago’s column, “The Blog Mob: Written by fools to be read by imbeciles” that ran in the Wall Street Journal last year.
Actually, if you REALLY feel like wasting time take a mindless 6 degrees blog journey---it's easy. First you go to a blog of someone you know, find a link to someone else's blog, repeat until you are at least 6 degrees of seperation from the original blog, and see what you find. Most likely mindless drivel, like my blog but occasionally you will stumble on to something truly bizarre.
Craig Stoltz talks about having too many networks and too many friend groups and too many blogs and too many rss feeds etc...here.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Warren Buffett is not a convincing advocate for increased taxes

Actions speak louder than words, and while the “Sage of Omaha” bemoans the unfairness of current tax laws and that he pays relatively less than his office staff, including his secretary, in terms of taxes and calls for a greater burden be placed on “the rich,” his actions are specifically oriented to limit his tax liability, both corporately through Berkshire Hathaway and personally. J-Dub writes about it recently here although he and I come to opposite conclusions. There are at least a couple of explanations for Buffett’s low tax burden (as a percentage of his wealth). He pays himself a relatively modest salary. He earns the lion’s share of his personal wealth through capital gains and dividends on stock owned…which is taxed at a lower rate than income tax rates.
He also says that estate taxes are necessary and a way for the government to prevent dynastic transfer of wealth from one generation to the next, to prevent a rising aristocracy, but again his actions speak louder than his words. He is planning to give away 85% of his wealth, over $40 billion dollars to the philanthropies of his choice, most notably the charitable trust that Bill Gates and his wife have established, prior to his death--- thereby avoiding any estate tax penalties. If he really believed that the estate tax is good, he would hold his wealth until his death, let the government confiscate 49% at his death and then distribute the rest to the charities of his choice.
And of course, if he really feels bad about his meager contribution to the federal government, he could just write a check, gifts can be made directly to the gov’t:
Gifts to the United States U.S.
Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch 3700 East-West Highway, Room 6D17
Hyattsville, MD 20782
Buffett doesn’t want to pay more in taxes; he wants you to pay more in taxes…

Monday, November 12, 2007

Officer Cochese reporting for duty

I had to show a couple pics from Halloween---better late than never.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

what part of "illegal" do we not understand?

I know that the immigration "issue" tugs at the heart strings sometimes, and is a big and complicated mess that only a professional heart string tugger (Democrat) can understand and therefore offer a "solution," but I just don't understand what is so complicated.
In Missouri, a loooong way from the border, we have an enormous influx of illegal aliens.

In my overly simplistic conservative mind I have created a simple solution. Whenever law enforcement personnel come into contact with an illegal alien, they should detain them in order for INS to deport them.

I know it's heartless, and cruel but they are here illegally---by definition...and I am not saying they should form immigration squads and go door to door rounding people up. I am simply saying that if a law enforcement officer comes into contact with an illegal, like a traffic stop or a misdemeanor---that would be a good time to go ahead and deport them.

In NY, they are going to go ahead and say, "we know you are here illegally, but here's your state issued driver's license." I am going to go out on a limb and say that most Missourians would not agree with that decision.

If you watched the Democratic debate a couple nights ago, you noticed that Senator Clinton had a hard time nailing down exactly what she thinks about giving people here in the US illegally a driver's license. She actually said, it "makes a lot of sense" to give licenses to people here illegallly and that Gov. Spitzer is trying to "fill the vacuum left by the failure of this Administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform," which she then followed up with, “I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it." This prompted Mr. Dodd to interject that her second answer didn't sound like her first. So the moderator tried to get the candidate to clarify: "Do you support [Mr. Spitzer's] plan?"
"You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha," Mrs. Clinton replied. "It [Spitzer's proposal] makes a lot of sense. Do I think this is the best thing for any Governor to do? No."

It's clear, unequivocal leardership like this that we have come to expect from the Clinton's. It's going to be a long election cycle.

Power to the people

Why do we ask our employers to provide health insurance as a part of our compensation? Think about it a minute, it’s so entrenched in our minds that it’s hard to imagine getting a full time career-type job that did not include at least some health benefits, but I ask---why do we expect our employers to purchase health care coverage for us? Look around your company, do you need the same kind of health insurance that the 55 year old woman down the hall needs? Or the 22 year old single man that races motorcycles on the weekend, should you have the same health insurance simply because you work in the same physical location? Even worse, why would we want the gov't, state, local or federal to handle our healthcare services?
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we collectively agreed that instead of asking my employer to “give” me this perk or that perk, dental insurance, short term disability, health insurance, etc…which isn’t a gift at all, it’s simply money that they spend on me to pay for these perks that they could have otherwise given me in the form of a pay increase…wouldn’t it be amazing if we all cut the umbilical cord and said, “Mr./Mrs. HR guy/gal. I would like to know approximately how much it costs to provide me my benefit package. I am going to decline coverage, and in exchange for declining coverage I would like to request a pay increase by 75% percent of that amount.”
I will then go out and find my own health insurance, determine what I want my own coverage to be, decide what I think is comfortable for deductibles, and prescription benefits, etc…
There is a precedent for this. We all require homeowner’s insurance, (if you own a home) and automobile insurance if you drive a car, but we don’t expect our employer’s to group us together and buy that for us as a perk…we shop for the best deal and decide for ourselves. And there are lot's of companies vying for our individual business.
Health insurance could work the same way, and already does work the same way for the self-employed, or the commission only sales people, and if millions of more consumers flooded the market looking for the best deal, prices would drop, consumers would actually have a reason to be price sensitive and shop for the best deal and begin to treat healthcare services like any other services. Doctors and hospitals would compete for our business, and we could all make our healthcare decisions based on our own criteria, instead of letting an HMO network decide for us who we will see, who will treat us.
We already have the best healthcare system in the world. If we allow our federal, state and local governments to take more and more control of it by attempting to universally insure the populace, we take away any financial controls and incentives for the market to innovate. If, instead, we unleash 100 million people to go and act in their own best interest, choose the services/coverage that they think is best for them, then we all benefit.