Good Tax Policy 1, Lobbyists 0

By Kirk Walsh | Apr 30, 2008

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Okay, so the real score is probably Lobbyists 7,565,545,312,212 Good Tax Policy 1, but in this case the Missouri Senate did the right thing.

See, Bombardier is thinking about building a plant in Kansas City adjacent to the airport. But first, they want to milk the State of Missouri for all it’s got before committing to do so. The Missouri House passed the proposal but a Senate Committee decided that it was too rich even for them and voted it down.

The subsidies would be up to $40 million per year for 22 years. That’s $880 million for Bombardier from the State of Missouri. The plant itself would only cost $375 million, so the company is making over 2:1 on their money with little risk as the enabling legislation only says that a “reasonable” repayment plan be in place before the credits are issued. If Bombardier doesn’t meet the required payroll for the given year they will simply forfeit the credits for that year, not be required to pay back any of the credit previously earned (hey, for Missouri that’s a step in the right direction).

I loathe incentives such as these. Most of them go to taxpayers for doing what they would have done anyway without the subsidies. Of course, Bombardier has to certify that another city or country is in the running and they would only locate in Missouri if they get the credits *wink, wink*.

The legislation is here if you want to read it (why would you?). I don’t expect it to be down long, though. The Missouri Lege is known for handing out incentives like hotcakes (Edward Jones, you hear that?) and the lobbyists will be hard at work in the last 12 days to swing the two GOP Senators back to the yes column.

Why I’m Not a Fan of Wordpress 2.5

By Kirk Walsh | Apr 28, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I upgraded to WordPress 2.5 and that I wasn’t sure about the new interface. Raj Dash at Performancing shortly thereafter put up a post “Why I hate WordPress 2.5“. While hate is a strong word, I definitely agree with a lot of his points.

One of the big problems that I’ve had is future posting doesn’t seem to work. Before, there were big numbers on the right hand side that you changed and the system saved the post with that timestamp. If it was before that timestamp the post didn’t appear. Now, there is a little link that says “Publish immediately” and you have to manually edit that way, that is if it works. There are a lot of reports that future posts get published immediately, even if you want it in the future.

The admin panel is not good. They have changed several of the most important links and put less focus on important links like “Settings” and “Plugins” which are in a much smaller font away from the rest of the links. I could maybe understand that those are “meta” items that only administrators will deal with, but then why put “Design” (the old “Theme” category) next to Manage? Writers won’t deal with the design aspect either.

I understand that the folks at Automattic want new people to use the software and that it’s mainly focused on the WordPress.com folks that actually make money for them, but as someone that has used the software for a couple of years, I shouldn’t have to relearn how to use the admin panel. This is one of the reasons I bought a Macbook rather than a Vista laptop, if I have to relearn a software, I might as well go with the best solution rather than what I am familiar with. When I installed WordPress for the first time, I was absolutely wowed (coming from Movable Type when they began charging for everything). I don’t think that I would get the same impression today. I’m half tempted to throw up a MT installation to see how they’ve changed and evaluate the two next to each other.

I probably won’t go that far, but I’m not impressed with the new version. If you’re still at 2.3.3, I’d stay there. I’d definitely check your plugins as I had one (Semiologic’s Related Posts) that is no longer supported and caused a fatal error when I tried to upgrade my sandbox version to 2.5. I had to delete the install and reinstall the new version (I guess that’s why I have a sandbox).

Does anybody else have blogging software they really, really like? I would have been in the WordPress camp until two weeks ago. 

Do People Really Watch This?

By Kirk Walsh | Apr 26, 2008

Today is the NFL draft. ESPN has a 4 hour pregame show. For the draft. I overheard a guy at lunch tell his buddy that he couldn’t go golfing because he was watching.the.draft. Seriously? Do people actually sit through 4 hours of pregame for a draft? I’ve watched some weird and, admittedly, boring things but I just don’t get watching teams pick players for several hours. I understand fantasy drafts because you actually participate, but you don’t actually participate in the NFL draft. 

Can anyone explain this to me?

Earth Day

By Kirk Walsh | Apr 22, 2008

So, today is denoted as Earth Day. While I prefer to think of everyday is Earth Day, it is a day to reflect on our relationship to the environment. I’m not a hardcore environmentalist, and I agree with the Exurban kids that I think we are far from understanding changes to the environment and our role in it all (though I’m not about to agree with Newt).

But I’m also not a denier when it comes to what we are doing and how it might be affecting the planet. I’m simply not smart enough to make the determination that we are/are not messing with the planet’s climate. While we are far from understanding how we affect the environment, I still think we are doing some incredibly stupid things that could and should be changed just in case we are doing irreversible harm to the planet.  Just because I can’t prove that the carbon from the coal fired plant isn’t going to FUBAR the planet doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be working towards replacing it with something that is move environmentally friendly.

But, I’ll have to agree with a lot of people on the Right when I laugh at liberal environmentalists that jet from place to place, but they drive their Priuii (Priuses?) to the private airport. I couldn’t care less what [insert random Hollywood celeb] thinks about anything really, whether they are on the right or left. I pay you to entertain me, not condescend to me on issues that I likely know more than you do (and I know very little).

It reminds of somebody I know. They have one of those cute little tags on their e-mail that says “consider the environment before printing this e-mail”. That’s great and all, but I think when they leave work in their GMC Yukon puffing away on a cigarette driving towards their 4,000 sq ft home on the edge of town they are doing far more damage to the environment than anyone is doing by printing a silly e-mail. It’s easy to put a trendy tag on your e-mail, it’s a lot more to actually change your habits to become more Earth friendly.

I’ve admitted I don’t do everything I should. We recycle a heck of a lot more now than we did five years ago. My wife and I live in a town that is centrally located from our places of employment so that we minimize our driving. I’ve considered public transportation, but it would take me more than 2 hours to get to work when it takes only 20 minutes to drive (I’m not joking, that is what the trip planner for the local transportation district estimated). I’d love to live in a city where I don’t have a car, but we simply don’t have the options in St. Louis that people in NY, London, or Chicago have.

On this Earth Day, we should reflect on our impact. There are some amazing places on Earth and I don’t want to be the reason that my grandchildren can’t enjoy them. Whether it’s acid rain eating at the treasures of the ancients (and that’s definitely our fault) or glaciers melting that may inundate coastal areas (whether that’s us is up for debate) we should simply be kind to future generations and leave the planet at least as well as we found it. I wouldn’t trash my friend’s house, why should it be any different with the Earth?

Maybe I’m editorializing about something I know little about and I’m just as bad as the Hollywood types angling for face time talking about the latest fad campaign. But at least I can be turned off.

McCain Has More Stupid Tax Ideas

By Kirk Walsh | Apr 15, 2008

Ahhhh, April 15th. The day when tax people party (there ain’t no party like a tax party!) and politicians hoist ever dumber tax ideas on an unsuspecting public. Today’s contestant is John McCain. Let’s see what Senator McCain would do if he were Supreme Overlord:

  • Extend the Bush Tax Cuts (which he didn’t support until running for President)
  • Suspend the Federal Gasoline Tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day
  • Double the tax exemption for each child from $3,500 to $7,000
  • Create a third individual taxing system by allowing people to elect a flat tax (all the rage in GOP circles these days)

Oh, he has other economic ideas as well.

  • Stop adding to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve so oil prices will come down (maybe he should check out the Strategic Helium Reserve sometime and how it’s basically been propping up the helium market).
  • Strengthen states’ ability to be the lender of last resort for student loans (rather than the Federal government?)
  • Suspend all discretionary spending increases other than the military for one year (you mean like the Student Loan program?)

Pandering, pandering, pandering. I’ve said before I’m all for a simpler tax system. Adding a third tier of individual taxing systems and increasing preferences for one group of people ain’t it. The gasoline tax helps to pay for infrastructure, which is already crumbling. How will we pay for it (and it’s discretionary spending, John)?

On the economic side, discretionary spending isn’t the problem. It makes you look like you’re attacking the problem, but it’s nowhere near the problem. Just about two years to the day I posted about the Federal budget and what percent relates to what. Senator McCain wants to freeze non-military (and veteran) discretionary spending? Here’s a reprint of that chart:

Function
Amount
Social security
$ 0.21
National defense
$ 0.19
Income security
$ 0.14
Medicare
$ 0.13
Health
$ 0.10
Net interest on Debt
$ 0.08
Education, training, employment, and social services
$ 0.04
Transportation
$ 0.03
Veterans benefits and services
$ 0.03
All others*
$ 0.06
Total
$ 1.00
* Includes community and regional development; administration of justice; international affairs; natural resources and environment; agriculture; general science, space, and technology; general government; commerce and housing credit; energy; and undistributed offsetting receipts.
Source: Office of Management and Budget, Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2007 (available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2007/); Tax Foundation calculations.

Assuming that all of the miscellaneous falls into the category, we’re looking at less than a quarter of the budget. If we want to get serious about the Federal deficits (which politicians aren’t but want you to believe they are) they’ll have to attack the 75% of the budget that’s the new third rail of politics. If you can’t cut defense, Medicaid, or Social Security and want to cut taxes you don’t have a lot of choices. But you can appoint a commission to study it and report back to make it look like you’re serious when everybody knows the report will be DOA because it will involve hard choices that no one will make.

Maybe I’m just cranky today, but I’m sick and tired of stupid, pandering tax ideas. Senator McCain’s hardly the only one. The ideas on the Democratic side are just as stupid and pandering. The more special giveaways that you give to politically desirable sub-groups, the more everyone pays. I’d love it if we made the dependant exemption one million dollars, but all the tax would be paid by those that don’t have children. The same thing happens on a smaller scale with all these tax giveaways, we just never see the sleight of hand that takes away what they are “giving” us. We all need to fight for a simpler, fairer system that just makes sense. And that means giving up some of our preferences for a lower rate.

Oh, and telling politicians not to put out more stupid, pandering tax ideas on April 15th.

Blockbuster Wants Circuit City?

By Kirk Walsh | Apr 14, 2008

Ok, I’m no genius and certainly not an expert on all things business, but I have zero idea what the heck is going on with Blockbuster actively seeking to buy Circuit City. To me, and it seems a lot of the research analysts in the Reuters piece, it seems like one company that’s in serious trouble trying to buy another company in deeper trouble to save itself. It makes zero sense to combine these two businesses that very likely won’t be around in 20 years, unless it’s a last ditch effort by Blockbuster to stay in business.

Blockbuster is touting the synergies of the deal by saying that back office functions and real estate are two key areas that both companies could save money. A combined Blockbuster City could sell the iPods that can play movies that you rent from their location is the rationale, I guess. I don’t see how the two companies together would do any better against Best Buy than they are doing separately. Best Buy has simply eaten Circuit City’s lunch over and over again and I see little way for that to change anytime in the near future.

If I were a Circuit City shareholder, I would vote for the deal in a heartbeat (and the market agrees sending the stock up 33% as of this writing). If I were a Blockbuster shareholder, I would wonder WTF is going on (and the market also agrees sending the stock down 11% as of this writing).

Can anyone clue me in here?

Upgrade Complete

By Kirk Walsh | Apr 11, 2008

I upgraded the site to the latest version of WordPress (v2.5) this morning. Let me know if you see anything weird going on.

I’m not sure the much hyped new and improved admin panel is better. I actually thought the old one was nicer.

It’s Just Another Tuesday

By Kirk Walsh | Apr 8, 2008

Today is the second Tuesday of the month and for the first time in a long time I don’t care. Why? Because I purchased a Macbook a couple of weeks ago.

What does one have to do with the other? The second Tuesday of the month is Patch Tuesday, the day when Microsoft releases its monthly load of security updates. I don’t have to remember to run the security update (the automatic update never seems to work correctly) when I get home. I don’t have to remember to login as administrator in order to run the updates. I can just go home, open the Macbook and go.

I’ll have a post about switching later on with my feelings (and my wife’s).

I do have a question for any Mac users that read (and I know there are some that access via Safari). Do you use a money management program? I use MS Money, but obviously there is no Mac version. What I really need is a cash flow forecast to make sure I’m not bouncing payments using Internet billpay. Rather than build something in OpenOffice, is there a good program that will read my .qif files from Money? I’ve used Moneydance and wasn’t very happy and would rather not spend $75 on Quicken if I don’t have to.

Heston’s Legacy

By Kirk Walsh | Apr 7, 2008

We received word over the weekend that Charlton Heston died in his home after a long battle with a disease similar to Alzheimer’s. The first thing I thought of was his legacy and how it would be different for each generation.

For those of a certain age, they will remember Mr. Heston as the grandiose figure that won Oscars and played Moses and Ben Hur with such authority. For my generation, however, Mr. Heston’s legacy is likely to be far less romantic.

See, most of Mr. Heston’s classic roles were well before my generation was born. While I’m not opposed to watching movies made before I was born, there are a great many of the “classics” that me and those in my generation have not seen. I can’t sit still long enough to watch all three and a half hours of “The Ten Commandments” (which is why I’ve never seen the Lord of the Rings movies either) and “Planet of the Apes” has been mocked so many times that it is hard for a contemporary audience to watch it with a straight face.

No, see, Mr. Heston’s legacy for my generation is more likely to be as the gun nut that held a pro-firearms rally in Denver just days after the Columbine shootings. While I don’t blame guns for the Columbine shooting, holding a rally in support of gun ownership after a couple of kids shot up their school was not the best idea and for a lot of people in my generation that is what they will remember. We remember seeing the images on tv (I watched the live footage of the high school on CNN in real time) and seeing Mr. Heston in Denver capitalizing on the tragedy made a lot of us uncomfortable. [ed: while I realize some of this is in Bowling for Columbine, I ignore 90% of what Michael Moore does and am not relying on that but relying on my personal memory].

Whether or not it’s fair that this will be the first memory that comes to pass for a lot of my generation is up for debate. I’m not advocating that this should be his legacy, I just thought it was interesting how different the same person can look to people of different generations. Mr. Heston did a lot of wonderful things in his life, and even his political life was a lot less one-sided than simply being President of the NRA, but it’s often the last public images that people remember.

God speed, Mr. Heston. You will be missed.

NBC Releases Fall/Winter Schedule

By Kirk Walsh | Apr 3, 2008

It’s good news, bad news on the LA Times entertainment blog this morning. First, the NBC schedule for next season was released and Friday Night Lights is coming back for 13 episodes! Woohoo! Being a huge fan of Scrubs, I’m used to the stress of wondering if the show is coming back and only getting a partial season.

tvoyadubna.org . http://pro-kostanay.net Site Map The bad news is that we’re getting screwed out of 6 Scrubs eps because of the strike. Apparently, the scripts weren’t done and NBC won’t pay to shoot the episodes. The final NBC ep does have me excited because I can’t wait to see what they’ve done with The Princess Bride, one of my all time favorite movies. The Wizard of Oz episode last season was fantastic. The persistent “will ABC pick it up” rumor is in full swing (Disney produces the show) but NBC is not falling for it again this season and I’m not holding my breath. I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but I’m pretty sure that everyone’s contracts are up after this season (Zach Braff’s especially) and it will be an uphill climb. While they have moved the focus from Braff’s character this season, I don’t think the show goes on without him in some way.

Chuck is also coming back and The Office is getting a spin-off (surely a sign of death if I’ve ever seen one). This season of The Office just hasn’t brought the funny and the spin-off will probably suck. There’s only so many ideas that plausibly work with the show and they’ve already gone off the deep end a couple of times. I’m afraid they’ll keep going farther and farther until I just stop TiVoing the show altogether. Lipstick Jungle is coming back, which will make my wife happy.

The entire schedule is available at the LA Times website.

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