Saturday, January 01, 2005

new Social Security Plan

Once again today I have heard another half brained attempt to fix social security. I forgot to write down which morning talk show it was on but the idea was that after 50-75k people would not get social security even if they paid into it. The idea is that you pay for car insurance every year yet you do not get that money back if you are not in an accident. The idea being that only if you did not have a retirement would you collect social security. According to the man who was presenting this idea this is the original intent of social security. Now LBJ who extended social security when it should have been killed in my opinion is the person to blame for our current mess. Social security at the end of the day needs to be abolished and there will be no easy way to do it. What is NOT a good idea is borrowing in an effort to privatize. This will not work and only sinks this nations economy even further than it already has. I feel like I am beating a dead horse and it is probably going to become a common post about discussing how social security is doomed. The American public is going to have to give up its third rail and let the train drive on two again. We have an accident waiting to happen without meaningful reform in social security and a reorganization of tax revenues with a flat tax (or national sales tax plan) will only prolong the agony of dealing with social security. This is no longer a problem that can be passed to the working generation and taking more from them. It needs to come to an end and either have a serious renovation or be abolished completely. People should be allowed to keep their own money and I am not adverse to an optional insurance if you want to pay into it. My dad was a federal employee and while he paid into social Security he is not eligible for it. This system needs to come to an end. If I am not receiving it I am not going to have an incentive to pay into it. This new system that was proposed today may be where the system ends up but the problems it will cause to get there are the same ones we will face in trying to abolish it so we mine as well go all the way.

Beltway Boys End of the Year Awards

The Beltway Boys end of the year awards as reported on Fox News 3 PM 1/1/05

Best Move: Fallujah Invasion
Liar of the Year: Kerik
Turncoat of the Year: Zell Miller
Truth teller of the year: Bill Cosby
Gone and not forgotten: Yassir Afafat
Forgottoen but not gone: Bob Shrum (Kerry campaign)
Gone and forgotten: John Edwards
Not gone and not forgotten: Osama Bin Laden
Worst Spin: Dan Rather
Best Spin: Ashley Ad (Progress for America)
Rising Star: Bob Jindal (Lousiana congressman)
Falling Star: Kofi Annan
Low Life of the Year: Lindi England
Best Political Strategist: Karl Rove
Worst Political Strategist: Putin
Best Idea: National security over economic issues in Bush Campaign
Worst Idea: stressing Vietnam service for Kerry Campaign
Best Campaign: 9/11 Commission campaign for intelligence Reform
Worst Campaign: Hollywood for Kerry (Moore and Goldberg)
Spoiler of the Year: Swift Boat Veterans for truth
Comeback of the Year: Boston Red Sox
Makeover of the year: Afghanistan
Funniest Moment of the Year: SNL Kerry Hunting Clip
Winner of the Year: Allawi
Loser of the Year: Tom Daschle
Person of the Year: President Bush


War Tax

Today on Forbes on Fox the idea of a war tax to help alleviate the cost of the War On Terror was proposed. The idea of course is to simply stop the burden that we are continuously having of going further and further into debt fighting foreign wars. I agree that we must fight the war on terror and to have money earmarked from a tax for that purpose I would be in support of. One suggestion was for a gas tax which would add five cents a gallon onto the price of gasoline. While this is a good way to raise revenue we would also be hurting people who should not really have to feel as much of the burden. I do not know how the WTO rules would work on this but I did like the idea of putting a tariff of say 50 percent on all French, German and Russian goods coming in to our country. There have always been higher taxes during war times and as I have said once before someone very soon is going to have to remind the American public that we are not entitled to tax breaks and if we want government services including defense we must be willing to pay for them. War bonds are another measure but once against that is only transferring the debt elsewhere and while I would prefer the debt to be held by Americans it still begins to make us only appear more and more insolvent. We have to decide whether future generations will pay for our security now or are we willing to cut some of these foolish pork programs and save money. Companies are forced to cut cost and maximize profits. In the case of the United States we forgot how to cut costs and eliminate fringe benefits. It is an alien concept that is only dragging us down and causing major problems. I am aware that I did not elect a fiscal conservative and I am under no illusion that President Bush is concerned at all about the budget deficit. We do need however a strong person in the treasury and good reporting from the Congressional Budget Office to help bring this problem under control. Our tax cuts have risen revenues and our projected deficit was lower by 70 billion. Huzzah and hurrah we managed to knock off 70 billion of a projected DEFICIT!!! We need to start dealing with the principle owed or we are going to be the next country going to the IMF 30 years from now trying to fix our deficit and forcing painful economic decisions on guess what guys our generation. Later on today I will put up a post about the trade offs of cutting the taxes of the deficits and try to illustrate this a little more clearly.

Should America be Generous?

Today on Cavuto on Business there was an interesting discussion about whether or not the government should be giving relief to the areas affected by the killer tsunami. No where in our constitution does it say that we are required to give foreign aid or that the congress has the right to do so according to Jim Rogers. Mr. Rogers would like to see people if they choose to donate to the private organizations and if the government wants to influence people to donate do so through the tax code and cut taxes allowing for more disposable income to be spent. A part of me wants to agree with Mr. Rogers and say why it is our business yet I feel that the aid was needed very quickly and it was more efficiently done by the federal government. America goes deeper into debt and any fool who says we actually have 350 million to give away is just that a fool. The united states government is so far in debt that technically we should be doing nothing but making payments on the debt and funding basic expenses like any good business in debt would be. I will talk about this in a later post on whether we should be cutting the deficit or taxes.

scumbags!!

I caught a brief news bulletin that people are out there scamming money that should be going to the relief effort and no ladies and gentleman I am not talking about the UN. Some scumbag Americans are pretending to collect money by going door to door for the relief effort. If you want to safely donate money go to the red cross website or amazon.com. My hope is that these people are caught and suffer greatly when they are thrown in jail for fraud. This act is despicable and these people have no moral grounding.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Natural Disasters

The earthquake in Indonesia is one of the most devastating natural disasters to occur in quite some time. The other blogs and David have done a pretty good job on covering this but I wanted to throw out a book for those interested in natural disasters. “Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded August 27, 1883” is a book that examines the effects of one of the most devastating natural disasters we have ever seen and one that quite literally shook the world. This book is a very quick read and an excellent account of that event.

With regards to the US and donating money to the natural disaster effort I would tell the naysayers to be patient. At this point simply throwing money will do next to nothing and only add to the chaos of having an uncoordinated rescue effort. One of our Air Craft Carriers is already on the way to the scene to help dispense clean water and help with rescue operations. This costs a great deal to do and much of what the US does will not be in the form of a straight out donation. So to President Bill Clinton and all his cronies who hate Bush I would suggest you be patient and wait for an appropriate response.

Wal-Mart Reflections

After the recent debate with Wal-Mart I had decided that it was time to do a little more digging and see what the company has been up to. I had read a fairly complete history that went through about 1990 but decided to see what had happened since founder Sam Walton died in 1992. Now love or hate Wal-Mart and for the interest of fairness I am more on the hate side (just so no one is confused) because of their practices. The argument that Wal-Mart is an efficient company does not hold because they allow stores to intentionally operate when marginal cost exceed the revenue while they drive away the competition. This is monopolistic behavior in trying to corner the market and it is not efficient. Some day a lawyer at the DOJ Anti Trust division (god willing me some day) will bring suit against Wal-Mart. DOJ aside Wal-Mart is reportedly sued almost once every 2 hours every day of the year and six times every business day a case is decided with Wal-Mart involved. This has actually given Wal-Mart good statistical data to figure out where they are being sued and try and stop that occurrence from happening in the store. Mistreatment of workers is a common suit and ironically enough it was one that caused a lot of commotion out hear in CA. When the grocers union went on strike because the big three Ralphs, Albertsons, and Vons would not raise their salaries. It was due to Wal-Mart SuperCenters that did not pay their employees as much or offer benefits which allowed them to keep prices low undercutting grocery stores. The idea behind Wal-Mart is in some cases to lose money on the food and know that when people come in for food they will buy other items which have a higher margin. Once again we see an economic inefficiency. The grocer’s union strike was resolved for now but until grocery stores can cut the excess burden they are carrying they will only keep losing to Wal-Mart.

The management team that took over Wal-mart after Walton’s death was committed to his legacy for better or worse. Rob Walton the son who was the most involved in the company became the Chairman of the Board with David Glass the CEO who had been groomed by Sam Walton for the position. A very talented logistical analyst Glass has expanded the company beyond Walton’s wildest dreams. Sam Walton did not embrace new technology and did not like debt so he did not expand as rapidly as he could have. Glass loves technology and is a traditionalist that was raised in the 1980’s who says to hell with the debt and goes right ahead doing it. Wal-Mart has recently had to fight more of a public relations battle. Wal-Mart encourages its stores to help in their local community which by and large has NOT been successful. Target Corporation uses a company wide policy that is enforced and while still not perfect is practically generations ahead of Wal-Mart. Now Wal-Mart is starting to get organized at the company level and see what it can do. There is argument over whether or not companies should even have to give contributions back but that is post for another time. One of Wal-mart’s biggest arguments is that because their prices are so low they are giving back to the community but as we have seen in some cases they really destroy he community putting people out of work and destroying family businesses with outlandish sales that lose money until the store is empty. (See Yucca Valley). Wal-Mart has changed a generation of shoppers and did build a very successful empire which does make it an interesting case study.

Further Reading
“The Wal-Mart Decade: How a New Generation of Leaders turned Sam Walton’s Legacy into the World’s #1 Company” by Robert Slater
“Sam Walton: Made in America” by Sam Walton
“On Target: how the World’s Hottest Retailer Hit a Bull’s-Eye” by Laura Rowley

津波について (About Tsunami)

I apologize for the limited blogging this week. I'm trying to spend some time with family and friends for the brief time they'll be in town and getting ready for a trip to Washington, DC, so I've neither read nor written as much as I'd like to.

I couldn't help but do a double take at a post in the Corner titled "His Nami, Not My Nami." After confirming that this was not a reference to a certain red-haired anime character, I was still blown away to find a discussion of Japanese and English etymology on one of my favorite blogs. Scrolling down, I dscovered that this quite naturally evolved from this post by notorious Lehigh-slanderer and all-around cool guy Jonah Goldberg.

Jonah begins by wondering, "why do we have to call them tsunamis" as opposed to the more colloquial "tidal waves." I'm not quite sure why we have to, but I always thought there was a distinction between a tidal wave and a tsunami. My understanding has always beem a "tidal wave," which, as Jonah notes, has nothing to do with tidal forces, is an abnormally large wave impacting shore while a "tsunami" is an enormous wave (bigger than a tidal wave) caused by seismic activity. Of course, this is based on nothing other than my observation and use of the English language throughout my life, but I'm pretty sure we reserve the word "tsunami" for waves caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc. To my ear, "tsunami" also carries the connotation of being much larger than a generic tidal wave.

A Corner reader, attempting to help out, offers this explanation for the word "tsunami," which, unfortunately for him, is terrible. Lights began flashing even after he admitted he's no Japanese scholar when he either confused or mistyped "etymology" as "entymology," two hugely different disciplines.

Anyway, the reader begins with the assertion that "tsunami" does not mean "harbor wave" as Jonah (correctly) understood, but that "tsu" in this case means not "harbor," but "steal." This is, of course, flat out wrong. He likely just looked it up without checking the kanji (Chinese characters), which usually hold the key to meaning in Japanese. He's right that if you simply look up "tsu" you get a kanji (this one: 偸) meaning "steal." I'd never seen this kanji before (it doesn't even show up in a list of common kanji when typing "tsu"), and I've never heard a context in Japanese where one would just use "steal" as a noun.

Looking into the kanji is interesting, though. As I suspected, one may use that kanji as an alternate way to write the verb "nusumu," meaning "to steal." Here is the way nusumu is commonly written: 盗む. I'm assuming, then, you can also write it like this: 偸む. The latter kanji, rather than being used by itself to mean "steal," is used in words that combine it with another kanji. The example that jumps out at me is 偸安する (touan-suru) meaning "to snatch a moment of rest." As you might expect, 安 (an) can mean "rested or peaceful". Thus, 安心 (anshin) meaning "relief or peace of mind." But kanji are often surprising, and many students of Japanese, myself included, first encounter this kanji in the word 安い (yasui) meaning "cheap."

But, I wildly digress. The reader continues by saying that there is no word for "harbor" in Japanese, a claim of which I was immediately suspect. He offers the loanword from English, ハーバー (haabaa), which is valid, but he is apparently unaware of the extremely common 港 (minato), meaning port (clearly a synonym for "harbor" in English) which can be found in words from "airport" (空港) to the kanji for Hong Kong: 香港. So he's really wrong about there being no word for harbor.

Had this reader looked at the kanji in "tsunami," though, everything would have been made clear. Tsunami is written thusly: 津波. It is not broken up, as he suggested into "tsuna" and "mi." Rather, that first kanji is read "tsu" and the second "nami" which does indeed mean "wave." The first kanji is not anywhere near as common as "minato," but it does mean harbor and is found in words such as 入津 (nyuushin) meaning "entering a port" and interestingly, 山津波 (yamatsunami) meaning "landslide." (山 means "mountain") So, I don't know where this guy came up with his conclusion of "a sword that moves like a rope," but he's not even in the ballpark. Readers who know what they're talking about offer the correct explanation in the post I first linked to. The readers there breifly mention kanji readings of Chinese, as opposed to Japanese, origin and explain the inclusion of "harbor" in the word.

Those explanations. of course, are all you really need to read to understand this, but I wanted to write a bit from my own perspective because it was fun for me and was hopefully interesting to someone reading. I could go on to explain Chinese and Japanese kanji readins in Japanese, but at the moment I need some sleep. Perhaps tomorrow.

I do want to note, though, that this is another reason I love the Corner: their wildy divergent but almost uniformly interesting tangents (the notable exception being discussions of Yeats and other interminable poets) that almost always start somewhere in news or politics. Case in point: the other tangent for today was attempting to explain why liberals would like The Lord of the Rings in a philosophical sense.

Further Tsunami Information

If you want the latest information on the situation in the Indian Ocean, make sure you go to the newly-created South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog. It is a repository for breaking news, casualty estimates, rescue efforts, and ways to help.

You can go here if you have money available to donate to the Red Cross through Amazon. Glenn Reynolds has more suggestions here.

Over $3 million has been raised through individual donations at Amazon alone. What was that about Americans being stingy, Jan Egeland? If you're interested in this aspect of the story, Jim Geraghty of the Kerry Spot has some good commentary and a good roundup of responses to this idiocy while Instapundit links to Redstate's take.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Indian Ocean Tsunamis

A 9.0 magnitude eathquake struck off the coast of Sumatra today, triggering massive tsunamis through the Indian Ocean, which caugh thousands of people unaware throughout South Asia, resulting in over 10,000 dead.

Our prayers go out to everyone there as I'm sure out aid will shortly.

Part of the tragedy here is that many people could have been warned to flee to higher ground if a coordinated tsunami warning system had been in place like there is for the West Coast of the United States. Thailand was apparently working on one but did not have it implemented in time.

I'm comforted that we have one in the Pacific, but I wonder about the Atlantic. The Atlantic Ocean is nowhere near as seismicly active as the Pacific and there is not as much open water to gather power, but no one was expecting anything in the Indian Ocean either. I think that was kind of short-sighted, considering the Indian Ocean can also be affected by the Ring of Fire. I just hope that we could manage a warning for the Atlantic Coast if necessary, however unlikely it might be.

See Drudge for the latest. Instapundit also has information.

The Intern Update: Weeks 2 and 3

I have tricked myself into blogging tonight by using the excuse that really, this is like homework. In reality, I'm sitting here with a huge reference book on my lap and attempting to avoid "real" work. But, since it's been took long since my first intern update, I think I need to discuss some of the happenings around the office so that when I do need to write this up into a journal, I'll actually remember some of it.

Two weeks ago is pretty fuzzy already, but I did pretty much the same things. After mastering the art of inputting constituent cases into the computer, I was handed an enormous stack of theminverno.
"
caducas. Deus fez fez a primavera... ainda bem. gosto da ausência do inverno.
"

Party Platform part 2

Okay for the second round of the basic outlay of my views on conservative ideas I start to disagree with Zell Miller. He is for a great deal more environmental preservation than I am. I am not in favor of preserving many of the wetlands that are needed for development in Florida. I am pleased to see that Senator Miller supports drilling in ANWAR which will lessen the need for foreign oil and not damage the environment significantly. The oil pipelines have proven to be very safe and the argument that they would cause uncalculatable environmental holocausts as the Sierra club likes to maintain is unfounded. School reform is another issue very important to me as I went to a public school and saw what horrible things happened during the Clinton years and what Bush’s no Child Left Behind has done. Education in public schools has been destroyed by both of these administrations. Clinton added on the touchy feely side of having students feel inclusive with no competition. I agree with Zell Miller that we need academic competition. One of my teachers in high school was blasted by the parents for having students change seats every two weeks sitting in order from highest grade to lowest grade. It provided an incentive to be the best and not be the worst. In my high school until No Child Left Behind took away the budget you were able to get a letter for playing a varsity sport or for academics. Academics are no longer around due to budget cuts. The idea of forcing administrators to become responsible is a good one and needs to be followed up more. Where I disagree with Zell Miller is in pushing for more arts to be incorporated into the classroom. Music, art, sex ed, social training, diversity exercises and personal journals all take away from the education that students should be learning. We pull away from the three R’s and students suffer while people wonder why. Now we look at standardized tests as the answer. Someone not even teaching the class will decide what we should know. Students are not given a chance to show what they know with an essay test or allowed to analyze the ideas and develop critical thinking skills. Multiple choice does not show critical thinking with the critical thinking questions because students can use other methods to eliminate answers and not actually critically analyze the material. A new system is needed and maybe we can’t compare across boundaries but we will have a better educations system because of it.

Homeland security and border patrol are two other important issues raised in the book. I am very much in favor of putting National Guard on the boarder to help stop both the flow of drugs and illegal aliens. We have called it a war on drugs for so long that it is time to treat it as one. I also agree with Miller’s idea of having random drug tests in school. I went to school where drug problems were not just a reality but an epidemic and DEA enforcement was not an uncommon thing. The INS however is one of the worst agencies in the federal government. It is almost completely ineffective and does not do the job it is meant for. We have so many illegals and so little enforcement ability thanks to courts and the ACLU that we are held hostage by the foreign countries. Governor Gray”out” Davis gave driver’s licenses to illegals, primary education, and free health care. We can barely afford these things for our own citizens and we give them out for free is sheer lunacy. We need a system to defend America and I am glad that the Bush Administration has stood up to terror. On page 194 the following quote from one of Miller’s speeches appears “I say bomb the hell out of them. If there is collateral damage, so be it. They certainty found our civilians to be expandable.” This is one of the truest statements I have ever heard and one that I think we need to take to heart. War means casualties and we must not be afraid to go against those who would attack and kill our citizens. It is a war on terror and soldiers combined with intelligence information our the weapons of choice. We may not hear about all the victories or even all the defeats but we must trust in what we are doing and stand behind those who defend us. With all this being said I strongly encourage anyone to read Zell Miller’s book if for nothing else then just to get a reminder of all the issues we sometimes ignore and remind ourselves what we want our party to stand for.

A platform of ideas part 1

I have recently finished reading Zell Miller’s book “A National Party No More: the conscience of a conservative Democrat” and was drawn to many of the viewpoint that he made known. I support a great deal of what senator Miller says and the book reminds me of Hannity’s “Let Freedom Ring” which simply laid out his viewpoints and why he supports them. Zell Miller’s book covers more areas then “Let Freedom Ring” and I found myself agreeing with a great deal of what this man says. I will try to outline the basic viewpoints of the book and for further explanation I highly recommend that you read the book.

Zell Miller takes the time to criticize both sides and while he points out that mainstream America is a mixture of conservative and liberal it is also possible for the very far left or very far right to break with their sides on issues and have nothing be wrong with that. I wish this man would declare himself a republican but he is very insistent that he was born a democrat and will remain a democrat trying to improve the party from within which I do agree is a good goal for both parties. The first argument made in the book is against special interests which have hijacked the democratic process. Campaign finance reform is something that I have not paid to much attention to but I think is badly needed in this country. The amount spent in the previous election is truly disgusting and a more eloquent debate as opposed to mud slinging commercials, especially ones by PAC’s, should not be a part of the political system. The way the Senate is structured was also brought up by Senator Miller and it is a reminder that the idea of a filibuster really does need to be removed. There is some very interesting discussion in the book related to the federalist papers and filibusters which I encourage everyone to check out. The basic argument and one I agree with is that filibuster does not help debate it stalls it and instead of cooling down the political process it freezes it. Money is changing hands even as I type this for our political system and while we would like to fight out special interests it will probably never happen. Zell Miller talks about feeling like a busy prostitute when he asks for money and until he ran for governor he did not have to run this way which he was grateful for. The corruption in our system is nowhere near as bad as elsewhere in the world but it is something that could be enforced better.

Abortion was another argument of former governor Miller and he is against abortion. I agree with this idea and wish we could put an end to the horrible process of murder. This is an argument that activist judges created (and for the record whether you are an activist judge for the left or the right do us all a favor and retire) and something that we will not be able to shake off very easily. I also agree with Zell Miller in allowing people to bear arms and although he does not mention it I am very disappointed that the assault weapons ban was lifted. It only makes it easier for criminals to obtain these guns and with many of my family members in law enforcement it is something that I worry about. Tax reform and welfare reform are high on the Senators list and he sides with the Bush administration in tax reform. He believes that no tax cut is too large as long as law makers wake up and realize that they cannot spend. The government should be putting a “Return to sender” on the tax revenues that are collected and not needed by the government. I would love to see tax reform and I think the Bush administration is moving in the right direction although I would rather see a flat income tax as opposed to a national sales tax which will only hurt consumption initially(more on this in a later post). Welfare reform which forces people to work has always been high on my list. I am disgusted by the way that we simply hand out checks all over the place with no accountability to anyone. This system must come to an end and we need to encourage people to work and support their families. Okay this is getting a little long but I think it is important that I address all the issues he raised and just lay out the basic positions since we don’t often get to look at everything so I will make a separate post later on today.