Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Deception of Capital Gains

I could rant on this topic for hours, but for now, I'll focus on one point. Capital Gains tax rates are lower, typically far lower, than the average tax rate. This has been rationalized as being acceptable by saying that since you're investing in the growth of businesses, you should be rewarded or by saying that it encourages investment which in turn fuels business growth.

Don't believe it

What it actually does is reduce the tax rates for wealthy people. Now before you immediately stop reading and think I'm just spreading propaganda or anti-republican party BS, think about it. The only people that could really benefit from the lower rates are people that have extra disposable income. If you're living paycheck to paycheck and worrying about putting food on the table, you don't have extra money to invest in another business. In order to invest, you have to have at least some disposable income. Many or most middle class families make enough to invest some of their money, but most are investing in retirement plans and saving for the future. Retirement plans have their own tax incentives, but don't benefit from capital gains rates because they're separate. The beneficiaries of capital gains rates are those that have enough money to "make their money work for them" and use money to make money.

Don't you wish you could do that? Sounds like a great deal.

So basically, capital gains rates only apply to money that is made using money that you already have, and theoretically could afford to lose. Considering this type of income can only be made if your wealth increases and you only get taxed on the gain, not what you put in, do we really need to incentivize this behavior?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Initial Thoughts on Windows 8

I recently installed the Windows 8 consumer preview on a virtual machine and thought I would post my initial reaction.

I actually like the new approach to the start screen and having information update in real-time and I think the UI will be really nice with a touchscreen. However there are drawbacks to this approach. I am mostly talking from a perspective of using a keyboard and mouse.

  1. When using a mouse, I realize I can hover in the bottom left and the button will appear, but this takes more time than simply clicking a button. Please just give me the option to show a button. The hover just takes too much time. I've also inadvertently launched IE from the desktop twice now because I hovered to bring up the button, then thought I clicked the button but the click went through to the pinned Internet Explorer icon. It might be possible to pin a short-cut to the start screen on the taskbar...
    1. I'm running the preview in a virtual machine and since my virtual machine display is itself in a Window, it's actually relatively hard to move the mouse to the corners of the display without going into my host environment. This will cause problems with users using Remote Desktop.
    2. Once I new about the "hot" areas, it became usable, but it's not obvious. It reduces the number of UI elements on the screen, but new users will have trouble.
    3. I know that I can click the Windows button to bring up the start screen, but again, since I'm using Remote Desktop to a virtual machine, the Windows button is keyed to my host machine. I might not mind the lack of start button as much when I'm using it as my main OS.
  2. The buttons being so big makes it nice for a touchscreen because you have more click-able area, but when using a mouse, it winds up taking much longer because you now have to move your mouse a much greater distance. e.g. you might have to move across the entire screen instead of just a few inches.
  3. I'm a developer and I use a lot of programs in my day-to-day life. By a lot, I mean I have about 8 programs I run every day (Visual Studio, 3 different browsers, Outlook, Messenger, SQL Management Studio, Notepad, etc) plus a large number of others that i run situationally. The old start menu gave me a way to organize those programs by function and was pretty good at simply listing them all. Everyone seems to be moving towards Search to find your app, but if you don't remember the name, you're basically browsing for the right app so you want to browse by category and/or simply view everything you have so you can find what you're looking for.
  4. The buttons on the start screen are not very visually distinctive. I can appreciate the look you're going for and seeing the screenshots, I really liked it, but as I said on item #3, I use a lot of different programs and having to search through them all when all the buttons look alike is not a prospect I look forward to.
  5. I still haven't figured out how to turn it off.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Campaign Contributions Must Die

Tell me if you disagree, but I think the biggest problem with our current political system is campaign contributions. Basically, the problem is that in order to be elected, you have to fund your campaign. Since most funding comes from corporations or special interest groups, politicians become beholden to said corporations or special interest groups and therefore work in their best interest rather than the interest of the public at large. This also encourages extremism in the beliefs of the candidates and what they propose because they're trying to get the support of a group that supports that belief (a problem with the political party system in general).

I can see two ways of fixing this:
1. Fund campaigns using government money.
2. Require all campaign contributions to be anonymous.

Option 1 should theoretically be more effective because each candidate would have an even playing field and voters would support the person with beliefs most in tune with their own. Since candidates run on money from the people, they're beholden to the people, not a faceless entity. Option 1 also evens the power between the wealthy and the poor since campaigns aren't dependent on the amount of money each supporter has available to donate.

Option 2 is more moderate. People, corporations, and groups could still donate to help ensure their candidate wins, but the candidate is theoretically unaware of where these funds are coming from and is therefore less beholden to these groups. However, there is a large potential for abuse by off-the-record phone calls and the like. This option also has the downside of wealthier people having more influence.

Or there is a third option:
3. Allow people to vote on the issues themselves rather than having a representative do it for them.

This would be the theoretical ideal but it runs into the problem of informing people about all the issues in a simple enough way that everyone could understand and then actually getting them to go out and vote. This is already hard for some people and increasing the number of things they're voting for might make it worse for some, though it might make it better for others since they would feel like they're part of the real process and not just voting between bad candidate A and bad candidate B.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hunan Express

I decided I'd also make a ringtone from Scott Johnson's Hunan Express story from episode 190 of The Morning Stream (If you haven't heard it yet, I embedded the YouTube, below).

Then you can eat rice! mp3 or iPhone

I also made a longer version that has an intro of Scott's angry little man voice in mp3 or iPhone

Friday, February 3, 2012

Justin Robert Young, Rolling in the Deep Ringtone

You might have heard Mr. Gordon Wilson Phillips's (A.K.A. Justin Robert Young) rendition of Adele's Rolling in the Deep he sung on NSFW or heard it mentioned on Frogpants podcasts such as The Morning Stream, where I first heard it myself. Well, I decided to take the audio and create an ringtone out of it which I make available to you, if you want it, as either an mp3 or an iTunes ringtone. Enjoy!