Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How to lower taxes, and raise taxes at the same time

McCain says he’s opposed to raising taxes.

He’s also said that we’ll have to figure out a way to increase revenues for social security, possibly by extending the payroll tax to wages that are currently exempt, specifically removing the $105k limit on wages subject to the 12.4% social security tax.




“I’ll sign that bill if you lower the rate to 12% even across the board.”


That’s a 3.25% drop in social security taxes for almost everyone who was already paying social security taxes.  By removing the cap on the wages it’s not “technically” a new tax, to which McCain would be opposed.  And by extending the new, lower tax rate to wages that were previously exempted, he’s raising the additional funds needed, but also lowering taxes people are already paying—even working in the “across the board tax cut” thing that Regan did.  Call it “closing a loophole” in the tax system.

That’s simultaneously lowering and raising taxes.


But is it honest?


To extend the exercise…  He’s opposed to raising taxes.  The tax rates we currently enjoy are resultant from a temporary reduction in tax rates passed by congress, pushed by Bush, way back in 2000 or 2001.  They’re set to expire in 2009 or 2010 (can’t remember, precisely).


So, what if McCain, who is opposed to new taxes, negotiates a permanent tax rate somewhere lower than where they were in 1999, but higher than they are now, and before the current rates expire gets the new legislation passed that lowers the permanent rate but allows the current rates to expire.


He has then successfully lowered the permanent rate, allowed the tax cuts that he called reckless and weighted too much toward the rich just a few months ago to expire, but never technically raised taxes because the old, lower rates simply expired.


But again, is it honest?


And are those two theoretical ideas better than what the alternative would bring by giving the keys to the coffers over to Nancy and Harry in congress?  A budget passed by the house and only 50 votes in the senate, plus a VP tie breaker, only needs a Presidential pen to become law. 

That is, if I recall correctly, how Clinton’s taxes became law.

Alternatively you need 2/3 majority in both houses, or a better bill.

Overheard, then "He said what?"

Ok, generally I don’t give a tremendous amount of credit to crap I overhear at Quizno’s.  Seriously.

Especially in the political realm, especially during a campaign year.

My “bullshit” monitor runs very hot this time of year when all kinds of silly accusations float around.  It’s not unlike the alleged “Michelle Obama hates Whitey” video that turns out to never have existed of a panel discussion that apparently never happened.  My reaction is generally “interesting, let’s see if it’s real”.


Needless to say, when I hear someone in suit say with no small amount of alarm in his voice “Obama is all for reparations, going to give away free money to blacks” my bullshit meter redlines and I think to myself “really?  What candidate would be stupid enough to actually say that, out loud, during a campaign?  No way that happened.”


This morning I hear the phrase again on the radio “reparations movement” and think to myself again “talk radio is ginning up some more garbage.”  I don’t hear much else because I’m flipping past stations looking for the sports stuff (Astros won again and trade rumors are in the air with the Rockets, so my priorities are straight, thank you very much).


Then later on the two phrases connect and I wonder if I should Google Obama and Reparations just to find out if there’s any kernel underneath the goofiness.


Sure enough, underneath some early 2007 links I find this one from 7/30/08 (yes, it’s a blogger, no I haven’t vetted the blogger’s sanity, I’ll leave that to you fine folks to do), which is today, and refers to the Star Bulletin (actual Honolulu newspaper) and Drudge (actual muckraker semi-journalist):


Democratic Candidate Barack Obama told a Chicago audience on Sunday the he believes in reparations "not just in words but in deeds."
The Star Bulletin and Drudge reported:

"There's no doubt that when it comes to our treatment of Native Americans as well as other persons of color in this country, we've got some very sad and difficult things to account for," Obama told hundreds of attendees of UNITY '08, a convention of four minority journalism associations.

The Hawaii-born senator, who has told local reporters that he supports the federal recognition bill for native Hawaiians drafted by U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, noted other ethnic groups but did not mention native Hawaiians when answering a question about his thoughts on a formal U.S. apology to American Indians.

"I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged," the Democratic presidential hopeful said.

"I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it's Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds."



 I lifted the text directly, a quote from a quote from a quote.

He touches on some common themes he’s touched on before, most recently in Germany, when he says “There’s no doubt… we’ve got some very sad and difficult things to account for.”  It’s not something I disagree with, necessarily.  I said as much before when I said that there is an America that WAS and an America that COULD BE and the America that IS is struggling between those two conflicting realities, but the America that IS is not the America that WAS by any stretch of the imagination and I then went on to wonder which America the young senator believed this nation to currently be.  And if truth be told, the America that IS has left a mark on history that is peppered with both good and bad, yet the young senator’s Freudian slip might betray what he really thinks…  “I personally would want to see our tragic history…”  “…our TRAGIC history…”


Er, um, er…  I mean “the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged.”

In college I had a lot of conversations with people who would argue that the United States is more an agent of discord and turmoil in the world than an agent of liberation and peace.  I also had several conversations with people who would argue that the US not only landed a man on the moon, but the moon revolves around the US and owes its very existence to the continued prosperity of the US.  It’s nearly impossible to have an intelligent conversation with either person. 

I tend to argue that the US is both benevolent and clumsy, great and flawed, and our foreign policy is, indeed, inconsistent and flawed and steeped in self interest.  But if you take the US out of the equation, you don’t have a better outcome.  And that’s true for most of the great powers throughout history.  Suggesting ours is a “tragic history” does not, however, reveal the inner thoughts of someone who believes the US is a great power, but rather a great, clumsy, dangerous, foolish child that stomps over the map and leaves nothing but destruction in its wake.

After all, now is the time that we begin to care for our sick.

Now is the time we begin to feed the hungry.

Now is the time…  because we haven’t done so in the past.

But then on to the soup de jour…  “I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it’s Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. Government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds.”


Let’s be sure we understand this…


“I consistently believe that…”

When it comes to Native Americans…

Or when it comes to African-American issues…

Or when it comes to reparations…  [this actually divides reparations from “African-American issues” or “Native Americans”, suggesting reparations may be owed to a much, much larger subset of the population]


The most important thing for the US Government to do is…

Offer not just words…

But…  (connects the second verb and predicate noun to the first part of the sentence…)

The most important thing for the US Government to do is offer deeds.



The junior senator consistently believes that when it comes to Native Americans the most important thing for the U.S. Government to do is offer not just words but deeds…

The junior senator consistently believes that when it comes to African American issues the most important thing for the U.S. Government to do is offer not just words but deeds…

The junior senator consistently believes that when it comes to reparations the most important thing for the U.S. Government to do is offer not just words but deeds…


Ok, Barak.  What deeds?  I’m all ears.


Alternatively, how long before his consistent belief reverses itself.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It's like I'm a prophet or something

I wonder why the President just doesn’t go ahead and lift the ban on offshore drilling and put the decision in Congress’s hands, and then just a few days later he does it.

I wonder why there’s no bounce from Obama’s world tour, and the very next day honest to goodness “get paid for this crap” media types are wondering the same thing.

Hhmmm…  lemme try something out here…


I wonder why a million dollars hasn’t shown up on my back porch?

(I’ll keep you posted)

Monday, July 28, 2008

(un)Convinced yet?

Did you see the 5 point bounce the Sen. Obama got from his European trip?

What about the 2 point bounce?


Yea, me neither.  I’m honestly befuddled as to why this guy isn’t gaining traction.


All in all, the trip to Euroland and the Middle East (including his first ever visit with the general who’s [failed] surge was successfully implemented over the “no” vote of the same senator) was a success—he looked “presidential” (whatever that means) and didn’t screw anything up too badly (except appointing himself to the US Senate Banking Committee, oops). 

Yet, still nothing significant to show for it.  I think one poll had him ticking up a whole point by the end of the week.  1 whole point.  Not a statistically significant event.


It’s very curious indeed.  This guy should be up a lot more than that and well outside of the margin of error.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A new challenge?

I change challenges like I change underwear.


Ok, I change my underwear a little faster…  slightly.


Currently, I’m knocking out an MBA (quite expertly, I might add).  There’s the standard “being a good husband/father/Christian” thing that is more a constant struggle with a set of unique, yet related challenges rather than a specific challenge.  Then there’s this 366 miles in 366 days thing that I’ve foisted upon myself (still haven’t given up the idea, I’m just realizing that it’s getting awfully close to “put up or shut up” time).  In days gone by there are marathons, MS150s, multiple MS150s, both in 1 year (still haven’t pulled that one off), and this revolving idea of a Texas Double Triple of 3 MS150s and 3 marathons in 1 calendar year.


Now K’s gone and tossed out not one but TWO challenges in the last few days—100 pushups and the Stephanie Johnson Triathlon.  With planning I can do the 100 pushups.  When I was applying at the FBI and Postal Inspection Service part of the application process was a physical fitness test and part of that test was a requirement to do 50 pushups in 1 minute.  Yes, I could have passed that test back then, but that was 2 or 3 years ago.  And I realize that it’s never the first 50 that kill you, it’s the last 5.  Needless to say, I haven’t chosen to add that to my list of “stuff to do”, but I’m giving it serious thought.  Maybe after the Business Law class I’m taking finishes.


Needless to say, I’m a big fan of people who live life, ESPECIALLY in the face of long odds or imminent death.  After all, we all die sometime.  Some of us sooner than others.  Some people, however, sit around waiting for it to happen and others stand up in defiance of the inevitable and say “you may take me today, but until that moment comes, I will LIVE!”


I am inspired over and over again by the latter group, of whom I suspect Stephanie Johnson belonged.  I never knew her and will never know her personally (at least not in this life), but there’s something about someone who gets a verdict from a doctor and thinks to herself “you know, I think I’ll do a triathlon”.  There’s something about knowing someone is laying on a couch recovering from chemo who WANTS to go out and do SOMETHING that makes me feel a little guilty about laying on a couch, able to do something, and thinking that today I’m just too tired. 


There’s something about someone like that. 


I want just a little piece of that something.


Maybe I’ll do a triathlon this year.  Maybe I’ll do a triathlon in September.





Friday, July 18, 2008

The rock star goes on tour

The media is breathlessly anticipating Obama’s trip to Europe, Jordan, and Israel.  Rumor has it that he may add Iraq and Afghanistan to the tour, I’ve seen itineraries both with and without stops to the two greatest foreign policy challenges to the next president.

I think it’s good that he goes overseas and meets the neighbors and allies.  It’s important for a candidate to have a working knowledge of foreign policy stakeholders and challenges.  It’s something the GW should have done more often before, during, and after his candidacy.

And once again, I think the media kind of has it wrong.  It’s not news that Obama is travelling abroad.  The story is that it IS news…  I mean, when the other guy travels abroad, it warrants some mention, but it’s not THE story, it’s just a story.  And that’s probably how it should be, considering the international standing of the US under the watch of the current office holder.  It should be “the candidate is going overseas and the sun rose in the east”.  Nothing stunning, nothing shocking, and certainly not warranting the doting of so damn many anchors you wonder how the boats will ever stay put again.

So, all in all, I don’t think Obama has much to lose on this trip.  Best case, he does something stunningly clever.  Worst case, he does something stupid and laughs it off as “now I made the gaffe everyone was expecting, I guess the RNC will have a field day with this one!”  Most likely case will be that he shows up well prepared and knows everyone’s name and can discuss important issues facing that country and the US.  Nothing spectacular, but that would be spectacular in and of itself.

And again, that’s a little sad, that the criteria for an awesome showing (and big campaign win) is not screwing the whole thing up.

Welcome the “Trent Dilfer” condel to Europe, Israel, and Jordan.


And, of course, by the time the media lap dogs are done creaming their shorts over their guy’s trip abroad, we’ll all expect him to be able to just walk back across the Atlantic.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Taking bets, anyone?

I’m making the call today:


McCain/RomneyçI’m a little uncertain about this one, but it looks pretty likely.  Bobby Jindal just isn’t VP material, yet.  In 8 years, though, I betcha there’s a “Jindal for President” thing.  4 years if Obama wins.


Obama/BidençThis one seems a little like a no-brainer.  The kid with no experience teams up with the old guy with ALL the experience.  All of the political chops Obama doesn’t have, Biden does have.  All the charisma that Biden doesn’t have, Obama does have.  It’s like peanut butter and jelly.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What is it about his speeches?

So, I’m reading McCain’s speech to the NAACP and Obama’s speech regarding national security issues (as a prelude to his foreign policy tour). I read through the remarks to the NAACP regarding education and economic reforms and find reasonable programs, though I don’t agree with all of them. Some of his education reforms seem to put too much power in the hands of Washington bureaucracy rather than the local school districts. I don’t care what he says, giving money to the principals of schools to spend as they wish will never, ever happen and there is no such thing as no-strings-attached federal grant money.

I wasn’t compelled to read McCain’s speech twice, but there’s something about Obama’s speech that compelled me to read it 3 times. THREE TIMES!!! And it’s a long damn speech. What’s up with that?

I go on to read the national security speech and the first thing that strikes me is the very first paragraph:

"Sixty-one years ago, George Marshall announced the plan that would come to bear his name. Much of Europe lay in ruins. The United States faced a powerful and ideological enemy intent on world domination. This menace was magnified by the recently discovered capability to destroy life on an unimaginable scale. The Soviet Union didn’t yet have an atomic bomb, but before long it would. "

That’s fine rhetoric and an interesting way to start a speech, but it’s simply not true. Yes, the friendship between the Soviet Union and the US barely lasted through the war, but they weren’t exactly enemies at the close of the war. It was quite an icy and contentious relationship that would quickly dissolve into the titanic standoff between two superpowers, but in 1947 the Soviets were still more interested in protecting their western frontier and rebuilding their economy than world domination.

One could even argue that the titanic standoff was not yet cast in stone. One could posit that the US’s own arrogance that came with being the sole superpower that “saved” Europe and the Soviets from Nazi Germany hardened the resolve of a proud Soviet empire into ensuring that the US would NOT dominate them. “World Domination” wasn’t really a goal, but national protection was, and from that first principal of national security against the perceived American threat, countering American influence on the world stage came to be seen as world domination—either they would wield influence in far flung and distant lands, or we would, and if we didn’t get there firstest and with the moistest toys, then they surely would try to do so. Thus, as the US began to gain influence in western Europe, the Soviets once again saw a threat on their borders just as the Napoleonic invasions and German invasions crossed over weak territories to threaten the very existence of the Russian state (saved only by the harsh Russian winter on more than one occasion), a coalescing of western states around the common interest of an arrogant and brash United States was a growing and grave threat to the Soviet Union.

Economically speaking, on the back side of WWII the US was briefly the sole superpower of the world, and for a slightly longer period the sole nuclear superpower in the world. The two great empires of Japan and Germany were completely in ruins and occupied by foreign forces. All of Europe—east and west—was burned and the Soviet Union was economically devastated, though not nearly as badly as the rest of Europe. While the Soviets successfully turned back the Nazi assault, the effort devastated the economy. The eastern front consumed almost all of the Soviet’s major cities and industrial zones. There was one significant difference between the Soviet devastation and the European devastation, however. The Soviets were not subject to constant bombing campaigns from the US, British, and Soviet planes. The infrastructure that was utterly demolished in the west was merely incapacitated in the east. While the US was briefly the sole superpower in the world following WWII, the Soviet Union was a sleeping bear just waiting to rebuild its economic base—though not yet an enemy, and not yet a powerful adversary at all. And certainly not an adversary we needed to fear due to the fact that the US, and only the US, was capable of death and destruction on a nuclear scale.

For a brief, shining moment in the history of time, one nation stood without fear upon a shattered world. So, I’m left with a tale of two speeches. One that read well, though probably didn’t sound great coming from someone who is a bit of a clumsy orator. The other read well and probably sounded good, too, but was totally spoiled by starting off, not even a full paragraph in, with a patently untrue statement. There’s something to be said for good oratory, but there something MORE to be said about accuracy.

The irony, I suppose, is that if what McCain spoke about in his speech (better education) were to come about, Obama wouldn’t be able to get away with how he started off his speech. Marshall did not present his plan in a world where the US was being threatened with immenent destruction from an ideologically hostile superpower armed with nuclear weapons and hell bent on world domination.

As much as I want to believe in this so-called “change we can believe in”, my hunch is that the more Obama talks about this change without giving any substance to the follow-up question of "to what?”, the less likely he is to win the election.

Nonetheless, the world he describes today is actually more paralleled with the real world of 1947—the power to destroy and devastate could potentially fall into the hands of those who would seek OUR destruction, just as it did in 1947 when we were the sole nuclear power and there was great risk associated with that power falling into the hands of a nation that would one day oppose us.

Imagine a world where our adversary believes a nuclear armed US is hell bent neutralizing its influence and seeks to topple the economic and governmental system, in self defense, acquires technology that can be used to develop the same offensive weapons that the US possesses. I’m actually describing late ‘40s and early ‘50s Soviet Union, but you can replace “adversary” with “Iran” in that equation just as easily.

But, then again, I guess the greater problem with the speech, after you get past the untruths that it opens with, is that we’ve heard it all before. All of the “could haves” that hindsight affords that really have no relation to that fateful day in September 2001. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, was thinking in the aftermath of that day that we should expand the volunteer corps. That’s just plain silly.

To be fair, once you get past the revisionist history and the “heard it all before” rhetoric about the Iraq war, there’s plenty to head nod about. No, I don’t agree with how he sees the Iraq war, and it’s easy to oppose a federal action from a state legislative office, so he gets no points from me on that count. But I do like the idea of pulling out troops when the situation on the ground allows us to do so—not unlike the actual position of his adversary, contrary to the position he assigns to him—and focusing more energy in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan. We abandoned that nation once, I’d hate to see it happen again.

Functionally, I don’t see any difference from McCain saying “pull out when conditions allow” and “keeping a presence there for as long as they’re needed and welcome” not unlike the Korean presence, and Obama’s position of removing the forces by the end of 2010, a year after security forces in Iraq are projected to be taking care of things on their own anyway, and keeping a small force for specific missions as needed on the ground. I guess the only real difference is the specific date—2010.

I also like his ideas about energy independence, but there’s very little substance behind what he’s offering. We’ll invest money to develop green energy sources? We not only have to build more energy generation sources, we need to replace the carbon-based energy sources we currently have. How many solar panels and windmills will it take to replace the coal and gas power plants we already have? What about 45 new nuclear plants, will that do the trick? And how safe to they have to be? Safer than the current US standards where there hasn’t been a single accident since 3-mile island? Safer? How so? I like the idea, but simply saying “this is what I want to do” isn’t going to cut it with me. I guess what it boils down to is who do I believe on that point?

And then the international relations part I don’t so much disagree about either, but once again I don’t see much difference between the young senator and the old senator, except for who’s pulling the strings. Both would seek to repair our reputation with the world, but by different means. I don’t think John McCain for one second will allow the kind of brutality that went on under GWB’s watch, nor would Obama. I genuinely believe that both would seek more consensus on foreign action and especially Obama would be extremely nuanced with regard to handling nations on a situation-by-situation basis. But then I begin to wonder who would really be in the driver’s seat. With a President without the force of conviction and bullheadedness (ignorance?) of GWB coupled with the lack of experience and political background, would foreign leaders and especially foreign adversaries take advantage of the younger senator? Or, just as the speculation always was that Cheny and Rummy were in the driver’s seat with GWB, I wonder how much driving Obama would do in a car with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Poor, poor Dan Uggla

Ok, it’s not every day that you get invited to the All Star game.

It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to play in the All Star game.

It’s not every day that you actually get to make a play in the All Star game.

Good job on all that, Dan Uggla.


Of course, it’s not every day that on 3 consecutive at bats you get to post a “hit into a double play, E-4, E-4” for the box score, either.  Yes, that’s right.  He hits into a double play, then the next two batters hit balls right at him that …  well, end up somewhere other than the first baseman’s mit.

That said, the next out was a 4-2 put out at home.  Good job with that one, Dan.  You recovered nicely from your disastrous series.


Congrats to the former Astros closers, too.  It was exciting to see you play on the greatest stage again and a little comforting to know that old dogs do not, in fact, change their spots.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My 2 issues

The more I think about it, the more two specific issues percolate to the surface:

1.       True energy independence

I know this is a little silly because there’s no such thing as true energy independence, but there is such a thing as not being a slave to energy generation.  If I’m going to have to put my keys down and ride my bike to work in August—baby in tow on the way to the day care—I don’t consider that energy independence.  If I’m just trading gas at the pump for gas at the power station that still pumps garbage into the air that I dare to breathe on a daily basis, then I don’t consider that energy independence.  I think cheap, plentiful power generated for mass consumption is essential for economic growth and future stability.  In fact, for developing countries power generation is as much a key to growth and development as education.  Often time power generation is a leading indicator of improved economic conditions and education level lags behind because a man can learn on the job, but can’t generate power on the job (unless he’s an electrician).  I don’t think the solution is one faceted.  I think all options should be on the table including, but not limited to, alternative power generation (wind, bio, solar), “smart home” power generation (turbines, tidal, etc), and mass produced, large, centralized power generation not tied to combustible fossil fuels whether it’s nuclear or microwave or some other form of power we haven’t even conceived of yet.  I’m pretty happy about the decision to drop the executive ban on offshore drilling, but at the same time I’m a little worried that if congress follows suit the price of oil will drop TOO much and the alternatives will no longer be viable alternatives.  I’m less worried about that than I am of $10 gas, though.  $5 gas I can live with, much more than that and I think we’re entering dangerous territory.  Simply put, I don’t mind living a simpler lifestyle, but I don’t want to be forced to live
2.   Executive independence

The last 6 years of Bill Clinton’s Presidency were among the best years of any Presidency in the history of the office.  Yes, he made some HUGE mistakes, but all Presidents make those.  Plus congress was mostly made to look foolish during those last 2 years, though the Senate mostly did its job.  His first 2 years, however, were absolutely atrocious.  Why?  He regularly demonstrated himself to be a pawn of a democratic congress.  Same with the current President.  His best period in office was not with a friendly congress, but when the congress has been hostile (or at least less friendly).  Presidents seem to get more, better work done with a congress from the opposite party.  For that reason I am VERY reluctant to vote for the horse that controls the congress (no pun intended).


All that said, I’m willing to be convinced.  McCain has not convinced me.  Obama hasn’t convinced me.  I’d hate to go into November yet again with the intent to select the candidate who hasn’t convinced me the least (I think I was so disgusted in 2004 I voted libertarian or green, 2 halves of the same worthless coin).  I really would like to vote, for the first time in over a decade, FOR a candidate.  As best as I can tell, Obama has the best chance to convince me to vote FOR him, if he’s for real and not just a bunch of rhetoric.  McCain, on the other hand, has actually DONE a lot of the things Obama talks about doing.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A thought from the road

As I was heading home our flight was diverted over the Gulf of Mexico (America’s southern coast) and we saw several wells off shore pumping oil and natural gas for local consumption.  It’s the stuff that drives a good chunk of the southern coastal economies.


That got me to thinking briefly about the offshore drilling ban...


Wouldn’t it be nice if the federal government got out of the way of the states so that the states could make a determination what they would like to do with their own resources?  Why not lift the executive order and put the ball in Congress’s court?  Why not lift the statuary ban and put the ball in the executive court?  Why not extend the ban to the southern coast and be consistent and protect the southern states from themselves just like you protect the east and west coasts from themselves?  Or, if they’re not capable of being responsible with their resources, reduce the number of representatives they have in Congress, because if they can’t be responsible for themselves, why should they be allowed to have a disproportionate say in legislation that affects anyone else?


Come on, now.  If we’re going to have a “new kind of politics”, why not make that a consistent and rational kind of politics?  I want to hear a candidate say he’ll be consistent with the law for all the land.  I want to hear a candidate say that the same laws and protection that applies to those states apply to the other states, as well.  I want a candidate to claim that the “Equal Protection” amendment applies to the states’ rights to handle their own resources. 


Or, I suppose we can continue with some states being more equal than others…  and the beat goes on…

A vacation where the "wow" lives

Ok, so I’ve been to the mountain top.  Thunderhead Mountain, to be specific.




Colorado is beautiful country, and we had a beautiful vacation there.  It was surely relaxing and invigorating, all at the same time.

Thanks to all who made it so great.


Plus, a week cut off from the news and general pop-culture garbage is generally a good thing.


That said, it’s really nice to be back here where there’s plenty of oxygen to go around.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Time equivalency

Ok, I’ve fairly well decided that I won’t be running 366 miles this year.  It could happen, but flying butt monkeys and all that.


So, I’m thinking of expanding the “time equivalency” notion I was working under earlier this year.  1 mile running was roughly 10 minutes, but I was able to knock that down to 9:30 after a few dozen miles.  So, I figured 10 minutes on a elliptical or treadmill was equivalent to 10 minutes on the road, and consequently 1 mile, time equivalent.

Well, if 1 mile is roughly 10 minutes on the road, and 10 minutes on the elliptical is roughly equivalent to 1 mile, then 10 minutes on my bike should be roughly equivalent to 1 mile running.  It is, after all, the time the heart and lungs are working at or near capacity, not the distance being run.  Sure, there’s the effort being put in, but I can almost guarantee that I ride a helluva lot harder than I go on the elliptical.


So, maybe I put in an hour a couple of days a week…  that’s about 12 miles a week…  and I need a little more than 300 miles still…  according to my math (which is totally awesome) that’s 52 hours of biking, or 26 weeks, or half of a year of consistent 12 mile weeks.


Yea, not going to happen.


On the other hand…

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Part of the problem

Final test tomorrow night.  Then vacation and some much needed golf and relaxation time.




You know, we can bitch and moan about gas prices all we want, but that’s not the real problem in poor neighborhoods.

Check this out:


Keep reading toward the bottom…  and you’ll see “The finance charge for these loans is based on 485.450 percent APR and the number of days of the loan.”


485.45 PERCENT!!!

In the FAQ they answer the question “HOW MUCH IS THE FINANCE CHARGE?”
“The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on a typical 14 day loan is 520.00% to 782.14%, which is $10.00- 30.00 per every $100.00 borrowed. You can also renew your loan.”


Dude.  That’s expensive.  That should be illegal.  The oil companies aren’t gouging, the banks are.  If you rolled up to a gas station with an empty tank and they said “rather than the $4 posted price, we’re going to charge you $109 per gallon”, there’d be a lynch mob forming.

On the other hand, you roll up to a payday loan shop with no money in the bank and they say “instead of 19%, we’re going to charge you 27 times that much” we blame the poor people.


“Yea, but they don’t have to take out a payday loan.”


Yea, but they don’t have to eat, either.


I mean, look.  If Barak Obama is going to try and pull the wool over our eyes and claim that people are quitting their jobs because they can’t afford gas, he should step up and demand that there be a cap on interest rates charged by finance companies.  If he really cared about the poor neighborhoods where he stomped around as a community organizer in Chicago—the only real “job” he ever had as far as I can tell—he’d vow to fight these loan sharks who dole out cash to people without regard to whether or not they can pay it back and at huge rates.


Yes, when you’re down to your last $50 and your car battery breaks down, and you need some quick cash today and payday isn’t until 5 days from now, the payday advance office is a godsend (though, which god is debatable).  But to then turn around and charge 300% to 800% turns that helping hand into a smack in the face.  It’s as if I say I’ll give you my kidney to save your life, but I’m going to take both of your legs as payment.  There’s a difference between a vital service and gouging.


“But the banks won’t make any money.  The risk is too high.  Cap the rate and the loan shop shuts down then nobody is being helped, not even the responsible ones who pay back their loan.”


Nobody is being helped now. 

Congress should be passing laws to protect the people, not the banks—at least that’s what a REAL populist and new type of politician would be saying. 

The risk is already too high…  for the customer.


If the world’s largest financial conglomerates (who can afford to lose billions upon billions in bad home loans and still come out as viable enterprises) can’t afford the risk on a $500 loan at a fair price to the customer, then they don’t need to be in the business of banking.  Besides, they’ve already had their asses covered with the most draconian bankruptcy “reform” ever passed since they allowed debtor’s prisons.


He was willing to do it for the military in 2005.  His opponent, Senator Clinton cosponsored the bill that passed the Senate with unanimous consent.  Why not do the same thing for civilians?


Sure, I know that both parties are in the pocket of the banks.  Sure, I know that GW pushed through bankruptcy “reform” in a huge giveaway to the banks with bipartisan support.  What makes me think McCain will be any different?  I think he might at least listen to the public outcry (as evidenced by his shift on immigration policy after listening to public outcry…  though I STILL disagree with his position there).  Barak, on the other hand, has decided a path on which to go, which troubles me.  He thinks HE will be setting this country on the path to greatness.  You know, ‘cause we’re not already a great country.  Will he listen to the people, or his party.  He’s fond of saying that McCain voted with Bush 90% of the time or some such…  but he voted with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid what percent of the time?


I WANT to believe that he’s a different kind of politician.  I really, really do.  And not just the typical fear mongering, elitist, class warfare liberal we’ve all grown to know and love.

Just show me something…  anything.  I’m listening.  And waiting.