Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why the Payroll Tax Cut is a Bad Idea

Extending the "Payroll Tax Cut" is a bad idea. The specific tax it cuts is the Social Security tax. Social Security is already underfunded and every politician in Washington D.C. knows it. That's reason enough to let this tax cut expire, and why it never should have been enacted, but there's an even bigger reason:

The tax cut will save most families about $1,000 over one year. The politicians pushing it say it will stimulate the economy. No, it won't. $1,000 per year is less than $20 per week. Most families won't even notice it. In fact, most people aren't even aware that this tax cut is already in effect (scheduled to expire at the end of this month), because that amount, spread over such a long period of time, just doesn't make a big difference to each family. The accumulated funds from every taxpayer, though, makes a significant difference to Social Security.

If you want to simulate the economy with a tax break, fine, but give families the $1,000 as a lump sum distribution so they actually notice it, and treat it like a windfall, and DO NOT take it out of Social Security!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Still Looking For a Good Republican Candidate

I keep hearing a lot of pundits make statements about Evangelical and independent voters that I don't think are accurate. I know many of them aren't accurate for me, and I'm both Evangelical and independent.

For example, Dick Morris said just a week ago, "Evangelicals... can’t back Romney due to his religion or Newt because of his personal issues." I don't care what religion a candidate holds, and I only care about their personal issues where it reflects on how the person would govern. Where Morris references Newt's personal issues, I believe he's referring to Newt's past sexual indiscretions, and not things like changing his positions.

I decided that Herman Cain wouldn't have been one of my preferred choices, because of his very notable weaknesses on foreign policy issues. He has other weaknesses, but that was the biggest one for me. I don't know that he's guilty of any sexual harassment or infidelity, so that wasn't a reason he moved to 2nd-tier in my mind. I think his new policy website ( is a good way for him to contribute politically.

Also in my 2nd-tier are, with example reasons:
Perry relies on his intuition, and I think he has poor intuition.
Bachmann makes flippant false accusations and frequently misstates facts.
Paul is so ideological I don't think he could govern effectively, and he's too isolationist.

That left my first-tier as Gingrich and Romney, but the more I evaluate them, the less I like them, and I'll probably drop them to 2nd-tier if I think there's a least one candidate who's better.

My biggest concern about Gingrich is his tendency to make substantial pronouncements without careful consideration. He's capable of excellent reasoning, but he still doesn't seem to discipline himself well enough to avoid ill-advised assertions. I suspect his propensity for speaking off-the-cuff would make him the most entertaining candidate and president, but that's not my top priority for candidates or presidents.

My biggest concern regarding Romney is the fact that he consistently denies he's changed positions on a number of issues. It wouldn't bother me if he consistently acknowledged his changes and explained why he changed, but his denials in the face of video evidence makes me wonder how much more he'll change on issues and deny he's changing.

That only leaves Rick Santorum and John Huntsman as current candidates, so here's my current take on them:

Santorum: I haven't begun evaluating his policies yet, but I don't care for his personality much, at least as he's come across in the debates.

Huntsman: I just recently started evaluating Huntsman's policies and character, and there's a lot to like so far. He may end up in my first-tier, even though he doesn't spell his first name correctly. :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sexual Harassment and Herman Cain

Sexual harassment is a bad thing. It's just as evil as sexual misconduct such as adultery, because we can expect that the harasser intends to do more than just harass unless the effort is rebuffed. However, falsely accusing someone of doing wrong is just as evil as sexual harassment.

Often in the case of sexual harassment, only the individuals involved know the truth. The public can examine the character of the individuals, but that can only improve our odds of correctly guessing who's telling the truth. If one person is notoriously corrupt and the other is famous for good character, that gives us the best odds, but if both people seem to have roughly equal records, that gives us the worst odds.

A long time ago I learned that any human is capable of just about any failure. I'd like to favor the accusers when it comes to accusations of sexual harassment, but unfortunately, some people are just as capable of making false accusations as others are of committing sexual harassment. I can believe that Herman Cain is blameless regarding the current accusations, or I can believe that though he is a man of generally high moral character, there could have been a time in his life when he succumbed to sexual temptations. If he committed these crimes, he may remember them well but have too much pride to acknowledge them, or his mind may have walled off those memories so well that he's convinced himself he never did them. Never underestimate the ability of people rationalize their failures, to misshape their memories, or to deceive themselves.

Likewise, I can believe that the women who have accused him are wrong. If they are all wrong, the ones who are purported to have "felt uncomfortable" at some of the things they claim he said are probably motivated very differently from the woman who's accused Cain of physically groping her. The former could easily have been based on a misunderstanding, perhaps exacerbated by their personal circumstances at the time. I know a coworker of mine grossly misinterpreted something I said once, and it led to a major blowup between us. My coworker took very serious offense to something I said because she thought it revealed that I thought very poorly of her. Nothing could have been further from the truth: I had tremendous admiration for her skills and capabilities, but she didn't perceive my attitude or motivation correctly. Based on that experience, I feel sure that every day there are people in the working world who make similar mistakes where they think sexual issues are involved.

The woman who has accused Cain of groping, Sharon Bialek, can have no such misunderstanding. She's either lying or telling the truth, and he either groped her or he didn't. She could be telling the truth, and it could have been very difficult for her personally to come forward. Or she could be lying for any number of reasons, from simply hating something about him, to seeking notoriety and profit.

As for Mr. Cain's candidacy for the Republican nomination, I've studied him and his major positions a bit, and I like him. I also admire him for many things. But if someone comes up with proof that he committed sexual harassment or worse, my overall respect for him will decline substantially. Unfortunately, proof either way is unlikely unless someone comes up with explicit photos, audio recordings, or a DNA-stained dress.

I'm puzzled by Gloria Allred's claim that Ms. Bialek has two corroborating witnesses from the year when she claims she was groped, but that she hasn't released those statements. Those statements wouldn't constitute proof, but depending on the witnesses' own character, plus what they said and when they said it, the statements could significantly increase the odds of the public being able to correctly guess if Bialek is telling the truth. As long as they're not made public, they're obviously useless to the public. The fact that Allred hasn't released them makes me suspect they may not lend much credibility, but unless they release them, we'll never know.

So, will I stop supporting Herman Cain? Not yet. Where there's smoke, there's fire, but that doesn't tell you whether or not it was arson. Based on some leftist blogs I've read, there seem to be people who hate Cain so much they might recruit women to make false claims against him, hoping that the more accusers there are, the more people will doubt his innocence. On the other hand, maybe Cain's almost as bad as Bill Clinton when it comes to sexual misdeeds. I don't know. What I do know is that I will presume innocence until I see proof or overwhelming, high-quality evidence. I actually don't like presuming innocence, but I like presuming guilt even less.

If such proof or evidence comes to light against Cain, I'll shift to my very close second choice: Newt Gingrich. I don't like Newt, because I already know he has a lousy sexual track record. For those of you who don't know, Mr. Gingrich was committing adultery against his second wife while she was battling cancer, and then he divorced wife #2 and married the woman he was committing adultery with. On the other hand, Newt is much smarter than anyone else running, including Obama. Obama's pretty smart, but if there's ever a debate between Gingrich and Obama, I expect Obama will end up looking like the Great Pretender. So, -1 on Gingrich for poor personal character, +1 for dominant intellect. Newt also gets +1 for being down-to-earth (as much as any Presidential contender can be), and another +1 for his political skills while in office. The most important of those skills, in my view, was when he lead the House and he successfully worked with Bill Clinton to accomplish a lot of great things. I'd have taken President Clinton with Speaker Gingrich over Bush Jr. or Obama any day of the week.

By the way, today is election day, and I VOTED.

UPDATE December 1, 2011:
Since this original post, Ginger White has claimed she had an on-again-off-again affair with Cain over a 13 year period. It's been only 3 days, but so far she has provided no evidence of an affair. She's provided evidence of a relationship, but not of an affair, so that leaves us with guessing about character again. I've discussed Cain above, so here's some potentially relevant information about White: She filed a sexual harassment claim against an employer in 2001, which was settled. She's had several eviction notices over the last 6 years, although she claims she's never actually been evicted. A former business partner of White's sought a restraining order against her for "repeated emails/texts threatening lawsuit and defamation of character," and that was followed by a libel suit against White, which she lost by not showing up in court. Further, on Good Morning America, she said of Cain, “I honestly do not think that he is, in my opinion, would make a good president as far as I’m concerned.” Those are characteristics that would be consistent with a person who would make false allegations for a political purpose. Whether she is lying or not, we can only guess, unless she provides evidence of an actual affair.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Presidential Candidates for 2012, v2

Six months ago I blogged about presidential candidates for 2012. I'm more firmly convinced it's too late for Obama to win reelection, baring an event of near catastrophic proportions. I think President Obama is too narcissistic to step down like Lyndon Johnson did, and I think it's too late for anyone to successfully challenge Obama in the Democratic party primary, even Hillary. Obama controls the Democratic party machinery, and a challenger would not only have to do without that, they would have to overcome it. And no other party can field an electable candidate. If I'm right that Obama will be up for reelection, but cannot win, that means our next president will be a Republican.

That also means whoever wins the Republican primary will be our next president, so pay attention now, folks, because the campaign for the Republican nomination is in full swing. Democrats in States that allow any voter to vote in either primary may want to consider voting in the Republican primary this time around.

Six months ago, there were no declared candidates, and I said that Mike Huckabee was my favorite potential candidate. He decided not to run, but a boat-load of others are in. I'm no expert on any of these folks, but I've heard some positions and noticed some personal failings that have turned me off to several candidates, and I've seen a few things that I like in a few candidates. There isn't a single candidate that I like 100%, but that will always be true. If I ran myself, I'd agree 100% with my positions, but I'd be concerned about how my health might hold up under the rigors of being president, so I wouldn't even be for myself 100% taking everything into account. Nevertheless, I do have some new favorites that I'm willing to share:

My top choice of these folks is a tie between Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, and my third choice is Mitt Romney. There are things I like and things I dislike about the rest of the pack, but I prefer that none of the others become president for various reasons.

I like Herman Cain for president because he's not a career politician, he has a strong business management background, he's matured enough since he got into this race to stand up to the rigors of the election and the office, and most importantly, I like a lot of his ideas. He understands the importance of fiscal responsibility and simple and stable rules for businesses to be able to risk expanding their workforce and for entrepreneurs to start new businesses. And this isn't a big deal, but I think it'd be cool to have a presidential election between two black guys. Okay, a black guy and a half-black guy that most people refer to as black.

I like Newt Gingrich for president because he worked very well with President Clinton once Republicans controlled the House under Clinton's tenure, and the two of them got a lot of great things done for our economy and our finances, and because Gingrich has a lot of great ideas and stays open to new ideas. He also understands the stability and simplicity of rules that business people need regarding risk management, expansions, and start-ups.

Mitt Romney has answered the complaints against him very well, he has some very good ideas, and he comports himself as a president should.

I'll reveal a personal problem I have with a lot of candidates and elected leaders that I now hold against some of the Republican candidates: Verbal short-circuits. Anyone can make a misstatement or other verbal gaffe, but when a leader of my civil government does so, I cringe. It's embarrassing. Bush Jr. had the most frequent flubs, and Nancy Pelosi has had two of the worst of all time. Obama has had an average crop. It may be a flaw in my character, but  Bachmann and Perry have surpassed my comfort level with their foul-ups. Even though they're reasonably intelligent people (despite how they're portrayed by the media), the sheer number of their gaffes so far leaves me cold. I kind of hope it's not too much to ask for a President that won't embarrass me all the time like Bush Jr. did.

UPDATE (1Oct2011): After watching a bunch of Herman Cain videos, I'm no longer undecided between Herman Cain and Newt Gingrinch. I'm on Hurricane Herman Cain's train.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Cost of Gov't Jobs That Are Already Paid For

Contrary to what many people think, a civil government cannot efficiently grow a national economy with centralized planning.

As a case in point, in this article, the Dept. of Energy has been accused of creating only 3,500 permanent jobs with $38.6 Billion in stimulus funds. The DoE defends itself by saying when they're finished it will be 60,000 jobs and many more in the supply chain. For the sake of argument, let's say the DoE is right, and let's say another 60,000 jobs will be created in the supply chain for 120,000 jobs total.

$38,600,000,000 divided by 120,000 jobs is $321,666 per job. That's using the DoE's most optimistic numbers.

$321,666 per job.

Somehow, the President and his administration think their trillion dollar stimulus program has "prevented the collapse of the financial system, saved millions of jobs, and put the economy back in a place where it's creating jobs and growing again," according to White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer. Of course, both parties habitually claim their policies are responsible for all the good things in our economy and the other party is responsible for all the bad things, and that's easy to do since reporters rarely challenge them on such claims. But $321,666 of tax money per job? C'mon, only morons could believe that's a good thing.

You know what would have had far better effects on our economy? If they hadn't taken that $38.6 billion dollars from taxpayers in the first place, and instead they embraced "The Stossel Rule": For every business regulation they pass, they must repeal two or more. Stossel's rule is based on the sound idea that "hiring doesn't come from new laws. It comes when government gets out of the way and leaves all of us with simple and predictable rules."

So forget the "PassThisBill, PassThisBill, PassThisBill, IfYouLoveMePassThisBill" mantra. The trillion dollar stimulus didn't work, and another half-trillion dollar stimulus won't work any better. Taking money from companies and families by taxation and spending $321,666, or more, of it to create one job is not a road to recovery.

As to the claim that it's paid for (the President used the present tense in his televised speech), that's a foolish claim. Even a claim that it will be paid for is foolish as long as the Federal budget isn't balanced.

Suppose you loaned me $10,000 at 2% interest to support some essential business ideas I had that were guaranteed to work and benefit you, me, and everyone! At the end of the first year I paid you $200 in interest and you loaned me another $10,000, because the expenses for my essential business ideas kept growing. Except first you loaned me the $10k, and then I paid you back the $200. We repeat it the next year, but I pay you $400 in interest because I now owe you $20k. But I decided I need more money for more essential business plans, so I talk you into loaning me $15,000 the next year. So I've borrowed $10k the first year, $10k the 2nd year, and $15k the 3rd year, for a total of $35,000 borrowed, and my next interest payment is $700. Wow, the interest I owe you keeps going up for some reason. I need to borrow more money from you so I can be sure I have plenty to do everything I want and pay the interest I owe you. Okay, now I want to borrow an extra $5,000 in the middle of the year for an essential new business idea. What? You're getting reluctant to loan me more money? Trust me! I know exactly what I'm doing. I have everything under control. And, most importantly, this new project is already paid for! How is my new project paid for if I still owe you so much and I'm borrowing even more money from you? Simple! It's paid for because I was going to borrow that money from you anyway eventually and use it for something else, but now I've changed my plans and now I'm going to use this extra borrowed money for my newest essential idea. And if you notice my newest essential idea is the same as my old essential idea, well, that proves how good my original idea was.

(For any critics of my analogy who may want to point out that it's not a perfect parallel to life, may I point out that the paragraph above is an analogy, and it's not intended to be a perfect parallel to life.)

Can you think of a huge problem my analogy didn't go far enough to cover? It's this: Compounding Interest. The amount of interest keeps rising if you only pay the interest and none of the principal, and you keep borrowing more money. It will eventually reach the point where you cannot borrow enough new funds to even pay the interest on the debt.

In 2010, we paid $196,000,000,000 (196 billion) in interest on the national debt. In fiscal year 2011, we're paying $205 billion dollars. Just think of all the good things we could have done with that $205 billion dollars if we hadn't had to pay it on interest. These figures are from the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (see the Summary Tables), which projects the interest over the next ten years:

2012, $240 billion
2013, $322 billion
2014, $421 billion
2015, $505 billion
2016, $584 billion
2017, $661 billion
2018, $730 billion
2019, $798 billion
2020, $863 billion
2021, $928 billion

This is not the amount of our debt, this is just the interest on our debt. And these figures are based on interest rates that are at historic lows. Interest rates will rise. And when they do, the amount of interest we have to pay will go up higher than these projections, unless the morons in Congress stop borrowing more money and dramatically pay down our debt.

Even if interest rates stay flat for many more years (not likely considering Bernanke's historic monetary expansions), if we keep borrowing more and more money, in a few years we will spend more money in interest on the national debt than we spend on Social Security or Medicare, or the military. A decade after that we may be spending more on interest than on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the military combined.

We are all fools if we continue to elect politicians who think taking your money and borrowing even more money to spend $321,666 of it to create one job will magically make us prosperous.

We don't have to wait for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution to correct this problem. Find yourself a congressional candidate with personal integrity who will refuse to vote for another dime of deficit spending, and help them get elected in 2012 and in every congressional election after that.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Creating Jobs

Political policies to create jobs is about economic incentives. Here I present two ideas to help create jobs, neither of which will cost a dime in additional tax expenditures.

As a preface, the President and Congress are currently yammering about creating jobs. This concern is long overdue. In my view, any time we have significant unemployment, policies to facilitate the creation of jobs should be a top issue in national politics. That President Obama waited until he was 3 years into office to get serious about this issue is a disgrace. Lest you think I'm just another Obama-basher, I have just as many complaints about Bush Jr. before him. But, I don't merely want to complain, so without further ado, here are my recommendations:

#1. Permanently eliminate or dramatically reduce the corporate repatriation tax.
#2. Have the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) change the age-old definition of fiduciary responsibility for publicly-held corporations to put domestic employees on an equal footing with shareholders.


1. Economists estimate there are over a trillion dollars in profits held overseas by U.S. corporations. If every billion dollars brought home eventually resulted in 1,000 new jobs, a trillion dollars brought home would result in 1,000,000 new jobs. If every billion resulted in 10,000 new jobs, it would result in 10,000,000 new jobs. So this is not a trivial suggestion; It would have a large, beneficial impact on our national economy. I say eventually, though, because it takes months for companies to gear up new projects, and a given company can only manage a certain number of new projects at a time.

Most of our overseas profits are held by only a few dozen of our largest companies. If they bring that money back into the United States, it is currently, and normally, taxed at a 35% rate. That's an extremely powerful incentive for these companies to keep that money overseas. Eliminating or dramatically reducing that tax increases their incentive to bring that fortune back into the U.S.

What does this have to do with creating jobs? Well, what do companies do with profits? For the most part, they reinvest them, in a perpetual effort to increase their profits, but job creation depends on how the companies invest those profits: there are both job-creating investments and job-neutral investments. The same is true for how individuals invest, although most people only think about job-neutral investments.

If you take some of your retirements funds (or your pension plan managers do this for you) and purchase some stocks in an established company, that's a job-neutral investment. You and someone else are trading shares of that company's stock. That's a valuable function in society, but it doesn't create jobs. If, however, you  were to invest in a start-up company, or start your own company, that creates jobs. If you start your own company and succeed in it, then you've created at least one job, even if you don't hire anyone else.

There are quite a few job-neutral investments available to corporations if they repatriate their overseas profits, the same as with domestic profits, such as repurchasing shares of their own stock to try to increase their stock prices or issuing stock dividends to directly reward investors.

The corporate repatriation tax has been in effect for many years, with an occasional tax "holiday" that resulted in bringing overseas profits home in big lumps. Some opponents of eliminating or reducing this tax point out that when the holidays have occurred in the past (the last one in 2004), companies put most of that money into job-neutral investments, not job-creating ones. Of course they did! Because they can only manage a certain number of new projects at a time, they invest what they need in those projects, creating jobs, and they invest the rest as wisely as possible. For example, if they repurchase stock now, they are later able to reissue that stock to raise cash when they're ready to start or expand new projects.

The previous paragraph highlights why it would be beneficial to make this change permanent, rather than have unreliable, once-in-a-while tax holidays. It would create stability in those cash flows, allowing corporations to make reliable plans further out into the future, and that is a critical factor to any company considering hiring new employees. In addition, if the change is not permanent, then the remaining tax creates incentives for companies to permanently move jobs overseas, the opposite effect from what we need.

As far as eliminating vs. dramatically reducing, some of the CEO's of the companies holding that trillion dollars overseas have indicated they would have sufficient incentive to bring the money home if the tax rate was lowered to 5% or less, as opposed to eliminating it. I have no strong objection to that, so why do I suggest eliminating the tax? Because permanently eliminating the tax would maximize the incentives to bring the money home, and keep it working here to create jobs on a steady basis. 

It is more than interesting that the United States is almost the only nation in the world to tax repatriated corporate profits. Why did a previous short-sighted Congress create this tax? They obviously thought it would raise revenue. They were wrong. Companies simply hold those profits overseas and wait for the next tax holiday and invest those funds overseas in the meantime. Also obviously, other nations see this tax for what it really is: a counter-productive drain on the national economy. 

2. As long as we've had public-stock companies, the managers of those companies have been legally required to make their decisions in such a way as to maximize benefits to the stockholders. This didn't always result in moving jobs overseas because international shipping and communication used to be far more expensive and far less reliable. However, in the last half-century or so, both shipping and communication have become much less expensive and highly reliable. When this is combined with placing stockholder interest as the exclusive top-priority of corporate managers, of course they've been moving jobs overseas where labor is cheaper: They're legally required to do so if it increases their profitability!

We can permanently reverse this trend with one simple adjustment that won't cost any taxes: Have the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) change the age-old definition of fiduciary responsibility for publicly-held corporations to put domestic employees on an equal footing with shareholders. 

This change won't stop all American jobs from ending up in other countries, but it will protect many of them, and will eventually result in many jobs coming back to the United States from overseas. When the needs of domestic employees are given equal consideration to those of shareholders, an existing factory will only be relocated when that factory is completely unsustainable where it is. In that case, the local factory has to be shut down no matter what. The company could, under those conditions, still build a replacement factory in another country, if that's feasible. But no U.S.-based factory would ever again be relocated to another country just to increase profits when that factory could be sustained where it is at marginal profits.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 235th Birthday to U.S.!

It was 235 years ago today that the Continental Congress passed the Declaration of Independence, and it was eventually signed by 56 of our Founding Traitors.

We usually refer to them (and a few other notables from that period) as our "Founding Fathers", but at that time, they were legally subjects of the British crown. Declaring independence made them traitors. Today we don't think of them that way because the colonists won the War for Independence, but if they had lost, they'd probably be remembered mostly as traitors who failed at rebellion.

I appreciate our freedom and history as much as anyone, and would sacrifice my life for our nation as quickly as anyone today, but I've often wondered what my opinions and actions would have been during that time. Holding rule-of-law in high regard, I may have been a Royalist, as were many colonists at the time.

I've also wondered more than once how the signers of the Declaration would fit into our current labels of liberal vs. conservative. It's my perception that our current conservatives are generally strong Constitutionalists, based on principles such as the fact that we owe our continued freedom and prosperity largely to that set of laws. It's also my perception that our current liberals generally don't care to adhere to the rule-of-law principle in that they're willing to forsake rule-of-law for expediency in attaining their political goals, despite how dangerous that path is even to their own interests. (I think many liberals are principled in the aspect that they want to do good, but are short-sighted when they endorse a simple current-majority-rules approach.)

Our Founding Fathers valued liberty highly enough to risk their lives in rebellion, so rule-of-law wasn't paramount if that rule was tyrannical. Yet they had a legal precedent of sorts in the English civil war from a century past, and a major purpose of the Declaration of Independence was to explain their carefully-reasoned justification for the rebellion. By their written testimonies and by the fact that they were pitting 13 small colonies against one of the strongest militaries in the world (they were not only risking their lives, but with little assurance of success), it seems clear that they were acting on principles.

These and other reasons lead me to think that a large majority of our Founding Fathers would have been somewhere in the middle between our current liberals and conservatives.

As a modern-day patriot, it bothers me not to know with certainty which side I would have ended up on, but there are just too many what-ifs for me to figure that out. What I can figure out, happily, like most of our Founders, is that I can give thanks to Divine Providence for creating a nation with a degree of freedom that is awesome in its historical context, and has directly blessed me, my family, and all my fellow-citizens.

So, as a grateful beneficiary of their sacrifices, I wish a very happy birthday to all of U.S.

May we as a nation become ever-more deserving of our freedoms, and much better at helping those who still yearn for the liberty we hold so dear.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Microsoft Acquires France

News Flash: Microsoft has just announced it will acquire the national government of France as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

In a historic move, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) has announced that it will take advantage of the recent weakening of the Euro against the dollar to purchase the national government of France. This represents the first time a sovereign nation has been acquired by a corporation. Microsoft's strategic objective in this friendly takeover is to reduce it's own exposure to European anti-trust liability, while increasing the anti-trust scrutiny of Google. The primary benefit to France is anticipated to be free upgrades from Windows Server standard edition to the enterprise edition, free competitive upgrades from Oracle to SQL Server, and a five-year discount on Microsoft Premier and Consulting Services.

President Sarkozy explained in a press conference with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that current French legislators at the national level will become employees of Microsoft and receive a free Windows Phone 7, while retaining their French vacation and retirement benefits. Local elected officials will be unaffected, and citizens of France will reportedly be offered discounts on new purchases of X-Box consoles. The French Foreign Legion will now be known as the Microsoft-French Foreign Legion, and will begin a three-year plan to switch from military activities to I.T. consulting.

Microsoft stock declined slightly on the news, despite record profits in all departments. Wall Street analysts have been cool on the deal, noting that the French divested the last of their colonies several decades ago, dramatically reducing the wholesale value of France. During a question-and-answer session, Ballmer denied that plans had ever existed to offer French colonies their independence in exchange for an agreement to use Windows operating systems exclusively. Vanuatu President Iolu Abil, vacationing in France at the time, said that he had not been approached by Microsoft, but that their island nation was open to being acquired by Microsoft or to hosting a self-contained Data Center.

There was no explanation for recent sightings of French reconnaissance aircraft over Mountain View, California, where Google's headquarters are located, or for a squadron of French Mirage jet fighters with air-to-ground missiles moving their base to an area of a Boeing compound just outside Seattle.

Google executives, ensconced in private meetings with German officials, could not be reached for comment.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Birther Bother

Since even before Obama was elected President, some people fussed that he might not be a U.S. citizen, raising the birth certificate issue, while Obama's supporters belittled their concern. Then he won the election, and the issue heated up. Eventually, a certificate of live birth was released for Obama. A certificate of live birth, however, is not the same thing as a birth certificate. Some cried that a certificate of live birth wasn't good enough to prove Obama's citizenship. Obama's supporters insisted that it was good enough. Nothing came of the ruckus, and the noise eventually died down, even if the issue never went completely away.

Recently, Donald Trump has raised the issue again on a popular talk show, and Obama supporters have gotten defensive again. Trump later provided what he called his birth certificate to the media as proof that he is a U.S. citizen. Except that what he actually provided was a certificate of live birth. That's where the funniest part comes in: Some Obama supporters then howled that Trump's certificate of live birth was insufficient proof. (In so doing, they weakened their own argument in favor of Obama.) Trump quickly came up with his actual birth certificate. So far, President Obama hasn't.

What's my position? The same as it always has been: I believe in rule-of-law, and that we should enforce the requirement that a person must be a U.S. citizen to be President. Seems to me like a certificate of live birth is adequate proof, so that's good enough for me unless someone proves otherwise. So, I'm satisfied that Obama is a natural born American, and entitled to be President on that count.

It does still puzzle me, however, why he won't authorize the release of his actual birth certificate. I used to suspect it must have something on it that he might find embarrassing, so a while back I looked up an example copy of Hawaiian birth certificates, and I didn't see anything that could justify much embarrassment. Because I believe a certificate of live birth should normally be adequate, I don't care much about the issue, other than it's entertainment value.

Since the actual birth certificate wasn't released, however, there are people who have spent a lot of effort investigating to try to determine his citizenship based on other facts. While I'm not concerned about the issue of citizenship, I am concerned about some of the issues run into by investigators. They have apparently been actively opposed, with someone paying lawyers to fight the release of information like the following:

Passport files
University of Chicago Law School scholarly articles
Harvard Law Review articles
Harvard Law School records
Columbia University records
Columbia University senior thesis, "Soviet Nuclear Disarmament"
Occidental College records, including financial aid that he may have received
Punahou School records, where Mr. Obama attended from the fifth grade until he finished high school
Noelani Elementary School records
Complete files and schedules of his years as an Illinois state senator from 1997 to 2004
Obama's client list from during his time in private practice with the Chicago law firm of Davis-Miner
Illinois State Bar Association records
Baptism records
Obama/Dunham marriage license
Obama/Dunham divorce documents
Soetoro/Dunham marriage license
Soetero/Dunham Adoption records

For someone who promised unprecedented openness, we find unprecedented hiding instead. This bothers me. I'm curious. Most people seeking the limelight would be happily inclined to release such records, and running for President is clearly seeking the limelight.

President Obama is a pretty bright guy. Surely he knows that most, if not all, of this information will become public sooner or later, and much more like it. So I keep asking myself... why doesn't he release such information himself? Why pay people to fight its release?

If anyone has any rational explanations and can express them calmly, I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Presidential Candidates for 2012

There are generally two strategies in voting for a presidential candidate for a party:
1. Who can beat the opposing candidate?
2. Who do we want to be the president?

The first concern often relegates the second concern to a footnote, and sometimes results in choosing the strongest campaigner rather than the person who would be the best president.

In 2012, President Obama will almost certainly be the Democratic candidate for president. The 3rd-party candidates aren't likely to be significant in any way. That leaves the Republican candidate as the next big choice.

I suggest that the campaign ability of the Republican candidate won't matter a great deal, because I think President Obama will win or lose based primarily on how the economy is doing. If the economy is doing well, Obama is likely to win no matter who the Republican candidate is. If the economy is doing poorly, Obama is likely to lose no matter who the Republican candidate is. If the economy is muddling along, then it might be closely contested and the campaigning skills of the Republican candidate might be important, but I project that our economy will be doing quite poorly in the months leading up to the next election a year and a half from now. The long-term economic factors are headed in that direction, and has too much momentum to turn around before then.

If I'm right, then Republicans (and Independents who vote in Republican primaries) should focus their attention on which candidates would make the best president, because no matter who it is, that person is likely to become the next president rather than a footnote in history.

My favorite for the Republican candidacy at this point? Mike Huckabee. Not because he used to be a preacher, which is irrelevant in my view. The leading reasons I prefer Huckabee are because he's knowledgeable on both domestic and foreign issues, I agree with his big-picture positions (the ones I'm aware of), he has a little more humility than most presidential candidates, he's optimistic, he knows how to build consensuses well enough to manage large organizations such as the State of Arkansas, he has personal integrity, and he's cordial even with his opponents. Does he have flaws and past failures? Sure -- but as long as we're electing humans, that will be the case, and I think Huckabee's flaws are less serious and less numerous than most other contenders. So I hope Republicans and Independents give him serious consideration.

One last thought, just for Democrats who live in States with open primaries (anyone can vote in any party's primary). You don't need to vote in the Democratic primary, because no one is going to beat Obama in the primary anyway. So you could vote in the Republican primary and try to vote for whoever you think Obama could beat most easily in the general election. Well, I'd like to ask you to consider the reasoning I provided above, because we may have a Republican president next time no matter who it is. So if you vote in the Republican primary next year, don't vote for who you think would be most likely to lose, vote for whoever you would like as president the most. Or at least the person you would hate the least! And right now I hope that's Huckabee.