MasterPo says: This blog is about topics and issues that are of importance to me. I am not one of the countless blogging lemmings that are tripping over each other scurrying down the hill and off the cliff of blogging oblivion trying to write the greatest blog on the latest topic de'jour. Your comments are welcome.

October 29, 2009

Affordability Does NOT Mean "Rich"!

For some years now there has been a growing state of thought in this country that is a person can afford to buy something they must be "rich" in the sense they have more money than just the purchase price. So if someone buys a $1,000 item, the thinking goes, they must have more than just a thousand dollars.

For example, in the current so-called healthcare reform proposals people with high end "Cadillac" health insurance plans will be required to pay a tax on them. That presumes people with such coverage can afford to pay the insurance premiums plus a tax on it!

Another example: Back in the 1980's a "luxury tax" of 50% was imposed on items such as boats.

This presumed that someone who could afford a nice boat had extra money to pay a 50% tax on it at the time of purchase! In other words, if you have the money to pay $50,000 for a new boat then you must (so the philosophy goes) have an extra $25,000 to pay the luxury tax on it!

This thinking is patently not true!

Like most rich vs. poor philosophies, this one fails on several accounts.

It doesn't take into account the possibility the buyer may be spending every last penny they have to afford whatever the product (or service) is. The person may have saved, scraped by, borrowed every penny they could in order to be able to make the purchase. There simply is not any more money to pay a tax with!

Or, it could be the person has made the decision to cut waaaaaaay back on other expenditure in order to have the money to pay for this product or service. In their decision process this thing is worth the reduction in purchases of other items in order to be able to have the funding.

Or, it could be the person is working extra long, extra hard, maybe even a second or third job to be able to have the money to buy whatever. To them the product or service is worth the additional work effort to get the money to have it.

Or, it could also be the person really can't pay for whatever in the long run and will eventually need to sell it or discontinue the service. But at least for a little while they have it.

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that just because someone is able to purchase something does not automatically mean they have additional funds to pay big taxes on the product or service. Such think only serves to continue to foster the notion that "the rich" have been and always will be "rich" regardless of what government forces them to pay.

Even "the rich" don't have money coming out their butts!

October 22, 2009

Lessons From The Colony – Part 1: Taking Without Giving (or Ask Not What You Can Do To Help)

Last night (that is, at the time I wrote this article) the Discovery Channel aired the final episode of "The Colony". I had reviewed this series in a prior article and still give it 2-thumbs up. Now that the show is over (hope they do something like it again!) there are several lessons from the show that I believe are totally applicable to life today in our present society. In particular there is one scenario they showed that I want to discuss first.


Continue at your own risk.

When the colonists first arrived in the warehouse it was clear that someone else had been living there. No one was around but there was bedding items, some canned food on shelves, a couple of this and that trappings of very basic life, etc. A few episodes later the now-former residence returned.

A man and a woman, Andre and Elizabeth, came in a back door with a key and surprised the colonists. Both are obviously actors like the rest of the outsiders the colonists meet. But they played their roles very well.

"Andre" is a very large and muscular man, clearly more a fighter than a thinker. The woman called "Elizabeth" seems to be playing the part of a scared and physically vulnerable woman alone in a world of anarchy. We (the audience, nor the participants of the Colony) don't know what either person was in life or did for work before the disaster that is the back drop for the show, though it's clear that dog-eat-dog has been their philosophy since then. It also isn't clear what the relationship is supposed to be between the two. Are they married? Lovers? Or just loosely banded together for mere survival? (Towards the end of the series Elizabeth appears at the door of the Colony alone asking for food and water; Later Andre comes in alone threatening the colonists; So it appears the two went separate ways soon after initially meeting the Colony participants.)

The Colony participants, after getting over the initial shock of their sanctuary being so easily "invaded" realize these are the people they thought had been living here when the show first started. Andre doesn't like that the colonists are in "his" warehouse and Elizabeth immediately starts sizing up what can be taken.

The colonists do try to be the better people and welcome them, albeit cautiously. The two claim to have been on a long range scavenging trip and now are just returning. The colonists show them around, show them all they have done to improve the warehouse, all they have so far created like filtering water, growing some food, producing electricity from wood gas powered generators etc. The colonists offer them food and the chance to stay as members of the colony. But with the understanding that the two follow the same rules and conduct as the rest of the colonists.

And there in lies the problem: Andre and Elizabeth (especially Andre) do not want to follow the rules! Andre goes so far as to say over dinner "What if I want to stay but not follow your rules? Just do my own thing?"

They want the benefits of living in the colony – the food, water, shelter, electricity etc – but refuse to take part in the operation, organization and work to advance the colony's survival. Things quickly come to a big confrontation as Andre and Elizabeth are found stealing food and other supplies from the Colony and the colonists are forced to physically drive them out of the building.

I think this episode more than any other of the show is an excellent example of the problem we face right now in today's society. That is, more and more and more people want to take the benefits of living in the American society yet fewer and fewer and fewer are willing to obey the rules and laws, and especially fewer and fewer are willing to contribute to the society by hard work in education and later vocation that adds value to the society!

More and more people just don't see the "need" to contribute to society. I am not referring to the tired old liberal saying "Give back to the society that made you." That's a rallying call for taking resources away from building a society by usurping the energy and vitality of people that otherwise would have been put towards advancing the economy which in turn helps all.

I'm referring to "contributing" by going to school (or vocational training) and earning your diploma or degree, getting started in a career (as oppose to languishing for years and years at a minimum wage Wendy's or Starbucks job), voting and taking part in your community, saving and investing for your own future and that of your family, maybe even starting a business or buying into a business etc. That is how people contribute and "give back" or pay back society from which they take the benefits of living in.

But too much now people, especially (and frighteningly!) young people just don't see the importance much less the need to break out of the "fun zone" of youth and start building for their own futures. Then they complain that others have things and/or more things than they do.

You don't build an expanding, healthy economy or society when there are more takers than givers.

And you certainly do not advance a growing healthy society when government forces people to give "contribute" by taxation of those people who have worked hard for what they have.

Liberals often say that a society is measured by how well it cares for those who can't care for themselves. I don't know where that brain-fart of a line came from. Nevertheless, there is a big difference between caring for someone who can't care for themselves vs. caring for someone who is capable yet unwilling to provide at least some care or input for themselves!

Remember that even the Roman Empire wasn't conquered but collapsed from with in as more people demanded services and fewer were willing to work for those services.

History is sometimes prolog.

October 18, 2009

The New Selfishness

We have turned the corner.

Maybe the corner had been turned years before but now we can see the corner clearly behind us and oblivion in front of us.

That corner being: Looking out for others is more important than looking out for ourselves and our dependents.

This is the new definition of "selfishness" : Putting the needs and care of yourself and your dependents (those who you are responsible for like your family) first before someone else is now being "selfish".

How did we get here?

How did we get to a point where it is considered "selfish" to look out first for your own needs and well being and those you have responsibility for before trying to care for someone else?
Every day I see people working longer and harder than ever before and still slipping in their ability to care for themselves and their families. Yet these are the same people who are being lambasted for not doing enough to help others.

What are these "others" doing to help themselves?

Few would argue against a helping hand every now and then. I certainly won't.

But there is a big difference between a hand to help you up and an arm to carry you all the time!

So what have these people done to at least reasonable try to avoid needing help?
What are they doing now to ensure they will no longer need help as quickly as possible?

The truth is that in a great many cases the answer is: Nothing!

The hard workers have to support themselves and their own responsibilities and others who just don't think or try as hard. And when the hard workers balk they are called "selfish".

If more people just concerned themselves with how to provide for their own lives and their own families (as was once the norm in this country) we'd be so much better off.

If that means I am "selfish" then be it.

So sue me.

October 15, 2009

Cause and Effect: A Systems' Point of View

When I was in school we were taught that a "system" is a set of interrelated parts working together towards a common goal or purpose. Each part may or may not know what that goal or purpose is.

They may not even be aware of any other parts of the system. That is, each piece operates independently of the others (more or less) but all are part of the total overall function of the system.

As such, the work of one part of the system may not know what the impact of its work is on the overall goal of the system. Equally, if the work of one part of the system changes it may or may not know the impact that has on the overall operation of the system.

For example, the driver is the controller of the system we call a car. The goal of the system is to get the driver from A to B. The car system is made up of many smaller parts (sub-systems). Each knows what it has to do but doesn’t have a clue what the overall goal is of how it's work (or non-work) affects the other parts. So when the drive steps on the brakes the brakes know to slow and eventually stop the car (I know it's an inanimate object but work with me).

But the brakes don't know why they are being called upon to stop the car. It could because the car has reached its' destination. It could be due to traffic. Or it could be to avoid hitting another car! The breaks don't care as long as the car slows down.

Similarly, if the brakes fail to slow the car the brakes don't know the ramification on car system. The brakes don't know that not doing their job means the car bumps the curb or smashes into a tree! It doesn't care either way.

This applies to people systems as well as mechanical systems. One agency, office, department is just part of an overall system of the organization which itself can be part of a larger organization. The work done or not done can (and usually does) ripple throughout the overall organization and impact the results. Often with unexpected and very negative consequences.
As an old saying goes: Garbage in, garbage out.

This concept applies very well to laws and regulations. It is in that context I continue.

To say there is much debate about what the proposed healthcare plan, specifically H.R. 3200, does and doesn't do, covers and doesn't cover, and what the impact may be is an understatement.

My views on the plan as it is currently proposed in H.R. 3200 have been well document on other sites so I'm not going to rehash it now.

I do, however, want to address the great unknown of the plan in the context of systems and unforeseen outcomes.

Chaos Theory
The Butterfly Effect
Law Unintended Consequences

Whatever you wish to call it the fact is that sweeping laws and regulatory changes often come with a barrel of unintended and unforeseen events. While I agree that isn't a reason not to undertake certain changes, when dealing with such sweeping and far reaching changes haste and get-it-done attitudes are not what is needed.

The problem didn't form overnight. Neither should the answer.

There is a saying: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

October 12, 2009

Out Gunned, Out Classed

For the first time I competed this year in the spring Jamaica Bay Kayak Fishing Tournament. The 6th annual tourney attracted 250 kayak anglers not only from New York but from New Jersey, CT, PA, Mass – even from Canada!

I don't usually fish tournaments. I'm not a competitive fisherman. I fish for the fun and sport. But this tourney is as much a competition as a 3 day social event (the tourney itself was Saturday but the area was open for practice on Thursday). Many members of my kayak fishing club came (some have been doing this tourney since the first event) and it's always good to see others you don't get to hang out and fish with often.

As you would expect there were all kinds of anglers with all kinds of fishing kayaks. Some even had a few home made wood yaks. As long as it was a human-powered craft it was eligible to compete.
For me (and I'm sure others too) that's part of the fun of a grand event. Seeing all the different kayaks brands and models, and even more interestingly take note of how anglers have rigged their yaks. You never know where a good idea will come from that you want to copy!

But it seems the majority of anglers had some model of Hobie kayak. The Revolution and Adventure appeared to be most common.

I'm a paddler. My kayak, the Goldfish, is a Heritage Marquesa 14. It has served me very well in the 3 years I have been in the sport. I've caught many good fish. I even won the Kayak Fishing Association's first annual "Angler of the Year" award in 2008 fishing from the Goldfish.

But this time I was out gunned by the Hobies.

Chiefly it was the speed and drive power that won the day.

The day of the tourney the weather turned bad and stayed bad. The wind kicked up early and just grew stronger all morning long. And naturally the wind was blowing right out of the direction you wanted to go in for the prime fishing spots! I still managed to cover a lot of water that day (over 9 miles according to my GPS). But it was slow going and hard against that wind. Plus with so many other competitors on the water speed to quickly get to where you wanted to fish before others got there was key. As it was it took me nearly an hour of paddling to get across the channel from the launch ramp to the far side of Ruffle Bar. That's an hour of lost fishing time.

So, with more than a bit of regret I have to admit defeat. I can't fight it any more. No mas. There's no sense denying the truth. Sometimes it has to be painfully exhibited for you. The power of the Dark Side is too strong. The Hobies have it.

I'm probably not going to give up or sell the Goldfish. It's still an awesome kayak fishing platform for many locations (like the freshwater fishing I also enjoy doing). But I think I'm going to have join the Revolution or Adventure.

I'll stick with the Goldfish for this year. But at the end of the year I'll look for a close out or end of year special at one of the local yak dealers and if the deal is good I'll get a Hobie. Probably a Revolution. That seems to be a good middle choice between the Outback and Adventure.
Won't be cheap. The hull alone can be $1,500 even on sale. Then add in the turbo fins, larger sailing rudder etc. And I need a new fish finder (maybe now is my chance to get the side scan unit I've talked about!). Going to take a while to outfit it but I have all winter.

I don't regret at all getting the Goldfish. I had no idea how much I was going to like this sport or have time to fish it. Of course had I known then what I know now I would have probably gone with a Hobie then. But I didn't. No different that starting with a basic surf out fit than later going for the custom rod and VS reel after you learn what everything is about.

Viva La Revolution`!

Updated: Well, I finally did it. After 3 years of kayak fishing I couldn't hold out any longer. I finally came over to the Dark Side and got a 2009 Hobie Adventure on special. It's sweet! Everything I had wanted – Speed, tracking, maneuverability. Well worth the investment.

Watch out fish – here I come!!

October 8, 2009

Why Ron Paul Would Be An Ineffective President.

Ron Paul.

The name has become as synonymous with alternative politics nearly as much as Obama's.

While I do agree that Congressman Paul does have some good points to make and good ideas to try to implement, if he ever were elected as President he would be ineffective at best. An abject failure (in term of his state policies) at worst.

I know there are a lot of Ron Paul minions out there but before you flame me follow:

While a President does set the agenda, to make real, substantive change a President can not do it alone. A President also needs a supporting Congress. A political party, to be successful, needs both a President and controlling majority in the Congress (Senate too would be helpful).

Ron Paul would have neither.

Presuming Ron Paul ran as an Independent and somehow managed to win the Presidency (someday, he isn't getting any younger!) while he would no doubt have the support of some in Congress, "independents" are not a party and as such do not have the party unity needed to control a body like Congress. Ron Paul would have to work at best with a so-so supportive Republican Congress or very adversarial Democrat Congress. The only President to succeed in the latter with in the last 50 years was Ronald Reagan. And Ron Paul is no Ronald Reagan.

A President can not act alone. Even with the power of Executive Orders the President does not have the authority to issue EO's for things like taxes, budgets, military procurement, social programs etc. That ceases to be a President and becomes a dictator. Not something America wants regardless of how blind many people are.

If Ron Paul somehow won the Presidency as a Republican candidate, given his very outsider and controversial history he sure would not have the full unity of the Republicans in Congress behind him either.

So while I like and even agree with some of his stated goals and policy changes, the reality is that if he were to be President he would fall far short of the hopes so many have placed on him. For change may start at the top. But change needs support from below too.

No man is an island.