Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Silliness of the "Double Taxation" Argument

Economic conservatives like to argue that capital gains, that is, income from investments, shouldn't be taxed because it amounts to "double taxation", that is, the person with the investments worked to earn that money, and it was taxed when he received it. The argument is baloney. Let's say you've saved a chunk of money, say $100,000, and now have that money invested in an interest-bearing account (this analogy also works for investments in stocks, etc). You are, indeed, taxed again, but only on any PROFITS that you have made from that investment. In other words, you are not taxed again on that initial $100,000, and in fact if you don't make any more money from it you won't be taxed on it. You are only taxed on any PROFITS you make off of the investment; this is self-evidently money that you have never had before; it is NEW money to you. So it makes no sense at all to say that you are being doubly-taxed on income from investments.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Me and Steve Jobs

No, I never met the man, but like so many of us he changed my life, several times in fact.

I've always been an Apple user (with a timeout in the mid-80s when the Mac became the Mac II and I couldn't come close to affording it, going with a Commodore Amiga instead).

True stories: 1) in the very late 70s I heard and fell in love with the Fairlight sampling synthesizer, as used on records (records!) by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. But I couldn't afford a $30,000 Australian computer/keyboard. The closest I could get was a keyboard/computer card combo for the Apple II called the Alpha Syntauri. It was a strange and clumsy system, and it didn't sound that good (it was 8-bit and sample length was limited to about 1 second), but it taught me so much about computers and sound. In fact, it forced me to learn about both in the GEEKIEST WAY POSSIBLE, and had me doing things like walking around making recordings of strange noises and then isolating single waveforms from a short samples, or building sounds additively by combining sine or more complex waves. And most of the time I'd just get something that sounded like a short in my audio cable. Fourier transforms anyone? Perhaps you'd like to play with a light-pen?

But ... having this machine allowed me to get my very first full time paying job in music, when I was hired to play keyboards(!) in Michigan's premier 60s cover band (my boss, Steve King, being almost as tech-obsessed as I was). And that job gave me the experience and $$ to record my first album. The rest is history (however obscure, it still happened in the past).

2) In the late 80s I realized I needed my nights free to work on and perform my own music, so I quit my cover band and pursued the profession of my fathers, that is, being a lawyer. But I thought I'd try such a seemingly-boring profession out before committing, so I got a paralegal certificate (this was when paralegals were a very new thing) and got a job as a legel secretary in a firm in Birmingham, Michigan. We were a group of legal secs that contracted work for various area lawyers. We used PCs running DOS; Windows 3.0 had just come out and I was very excited, I could actually fool programs like WordPerfect into running in a multitasking, graphical environment. But anyway ... I happened to impress one of the lawyers we did work for, and he was ramping up his Workers Comp practice and needed someone to work full time. So I went to work for Vern Leopold. Vern liked his computers (although he knew little about them) and decided to get the best, so he bought Macintoshes. He is still the only lawyer I've ever seen who maintained a Mac-based office. And those things were beautiful, elegant machines. I spent hours playing with the colors (up to 60K!) and writing form generation programs using Filemaker Pro. I finally realized that working with these wonderful machines was going to be my career, and since 1994 I've only done computer work.

So as you can see, without the work and integrity of Steve Jobs my life would have gone in a very different direction, at least twice. Tonight, I spent a couple of hours recording original music on my current Macbook Pro using the most elegant hardware and OS available, MacOSX, and now I'm writing this blog post on that machine.

Goodbye Steve. All my respect and admiration are yours, forever.


Monday, October 03, 2011

Presidents and TV

I'm getting kinda tired of people complaining that Presidents have to be TV stars. Of course they have to be TV stars; every Presidential candidate must work well on the media of the day. Lincoln made good "stump" speeches; that's how candidates connected to the greatest number of people in his day. FDR, Truman and Eisenhower were all great on the radio.

Let's look backwards a bit at people's ability to talk on TV: Obama = great; GW Bush = not great (but better than Kerry or Gore); Clinton = very good; GHW Bush = better than Dukakis, not as nearly as good as Clinton; Reagan = great; Jimmy Carter = better than Ford ; Nixon = started out terrible on TV, hired experts and got MUCH BETTER. Are we seeing a pattern here? The ability to connect to people on TV is extremely important, and before the Democrats nominate another Kerry or Gore or Dukakis, they really need to keep this in mind.

It'll be interesting to see who can capitalize on Internet exposure in the future, although Obama does that quite well too.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Colin Powell

I wonder why Colin Powell never ran for President? I'll bet the Bush administration left a really bad taste in his mouth. And I mean that metaphor in the meanest possible sense ...