Friday, July 17, 2009

An Interesting Experiment

There is an experiment whose outcome I'd love to know: whether, over the long-run, a horse offered a carrot at the end of a stick will perform better than a horse that is whipped.  Intuition tells me the former is true in the long-run while the latter may be true for only brief spurts.
There is of course the metaphor here to society and economics.  The metaphor I thought was one that was settled in experimentation.  I thought it was proved that communism doesn't work because society's workers do not perform well when offered a whip, or at best a meager carrot.  Output falls and other means for sustaining society must be found.  Of course the fall of the Soviet empire isn't the only example, it is just the most recent.
So if history is replete with examples of undermotivated workers not performing well, why then is the Democrat majority of the United States bent on establishing a system that punishes the best performing workers in the country and returning to the rest mediocre benefits?  There are only two possible answers.  One, the hubris of the Democrat leaders is such that they feel they can be the ones to make it work.  By the force of their personality they can change fundamental societal behavior and charm their way to success. 
The other possibility is they are experimenting, as academicians are wont to do.  The problem is that they are experimenting with livlihoods, not computer models.  Every engineer is taught that any computer model must be checked for reasonableness and reality.  After running a computer model a small scale test is performed and the model is altered based on reality.  This continues until reality and the model converge and then the experiment can be placed into production.  Democrat leadership seems perfectly willing to bypass, really ignore, small scale testing and jump straight into production.
The largest states that have tried some of the schemes being suggested have shown the model to be a failure. 
Raising income taxes on the hardest working simply means the hardest working find somewhere else to work.  Raising INCOME taxes at a national level will simply mean the richest will shift their money to a different stream.  Rather than accept salary as income, they can shift it to capital gains via stock, or some other accounting trick.  Society's richest have proven time and again willing to pay their "fair share", but not the entire share.  Pretty soon the bill for "health care reform" will come due and it will fall to subsequent generations to pay for it.
Those that voted for change, you will be sorely disappointed in the change that is emminent.  The promises that change would be free to the masses will prove to be hyperbole, if not outright lies.  We cannot outrun history, and it would be better if we didn't repeat the worst parts of it. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jack Sprat Could Eat No VAT

We have entered into a new era, an era of change we can believe in.  We can believe in higher deficits and higher spending.  We can believe in higher government spending and more profligate handouts.  We can also believe in higher taxes.
There are a number of tax schemes being discussed.  Some purport to revamp our antiquated tax system, replacing it with something "better."  Some schemes suggest "selling" carbon allowances.  Some schemes are simple additions of money grubbing.  All schemes will increase the cost of living.
Ignoring carbon "cap and trade," the most egregious tax scheme proposed is the Value Added Tax (VAT).  Proponents like to tout that the rest of the developed world has a VAT and that we are the lone society without one.  To me, this is like saying that Lemmings show marvelous group cohesion and we should emulate their group behavior.
What worries me is what should worry everyone who even pays a little attention to what happens in DC: politicians never leave money on the table.  If we hear about a promise to "revamp" the tax system you can bet we won't see that.  We will certainly see a new tax, probably multiple new taxes, but we won't see an abandonment of any tax system. 
The current proposals promising free (see next posting) health care for all, "fairness" and all the other happy promises that are being made cannot be funded under the current revenue schemes.  Talk of new schemes barely brings us to a small deficit when added to the current schemes.
Long before we allow our representatives in DC to make changes, I think we need to extract iron clad promises that things will get better.  I don't want to see revenues increase only to watch spending increase too.  I want not just a balanced budget, I want a debt reduction.  I hope you will join me and let your representatives know that we need real change, not just believable change.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Getting Older

This morning I helped Grace get dressed. As she was taking off her pajamas she ran out to get some Pull-Ups. I told her if she can't always put her waste in the potty, she was going to have to wear diapers. She reminded me of the last time she put it in the potty. The following conversation ensued:

Me: When are you always going to put your pee and poop in the potty.
Grace: Um, in about three minutes. When I'm older. I'm still not old enough.

Don't you long for the days when getting older was measured in minutes and hours and not in decades? (Happy birthday Holly.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Apple Surprise

This is a bit of a departure for my normal fare. Last year for Christmas treats I came up with a dish that involved removing apple flesh but keeping the skin for a vessel. Since I got so many "wows" on this one I thought I'd post a recipe (or mas much of a recipe as I ever make). Note, this dish contains nuts and gluten. If you want to do the dish without either, see comments following recipe.

Apple Surprise (may change if I can think of a better name)
Serves 10
Prep and cook time: ~1 hour

5 individually selected apples (I like to find some with some character in the peel, striations of white and red. Also, a firmer flesh variety is best.)
1 stick of no-salt butter (that's right, I said butter. If you substitute for something else, don't blame me if it isn't right.)
1/2 c chopped nuts (pecans work great. For a more subtle nutty flavor, use almonds.)
1 c brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon (I say 1 tsp. The truth is I've never measured. I shake till it smells right. If you need more than 1 tsp, let me know and I'll adjust.)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c rolled oats
1 c raisins or dried cherries or dried cranberries (I haveonly tried the raisin but I am dying to try the rest)

Begin heating a large frying pan on medium heat. Take the apples and slice off a very thin amount from opposite ends. This is to make it so the casing isn't rolling all over the place later on. Next, using a melon baller carefully remove the apple's meat. Discard the core, but keep all the rest. Don't worry about the apple turning brown. The scooped out parts will become much more brown when mixed with the brown sugar. If you selected an apple variety that is particularly white, you can preserve the color by brushing a little lemon juice inside the apple. The scooped out apple should look like this.

When you have scooped out the first apple (both halves), put the stick of butter in the frying pan to brown. You want the water in the butter to completely cook out. While the butter is browning, core out another apple. Now you can add the nuts to the butter. It is important that you add the nuts at this point to allow them to release their oils and thus their flavor. Don't worry that the mixture foams. That will go away. Stir the nuts occasionally to make sure they aren't burning and to get them all in the butter. When the nuts reach the stage in the picture, you can add the cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Press the brown sugar and stir around in the pan to make sure it absorbs all the butter. Now you can add the vanilla. This will begin the process of melting the brown sugar. Continue to core out apples while the sugar melts. Once you have all the apples cored, coarsely chop the balls and pieces.

Once the sugar has mostly melted, add in the apple pieces. Stir everything together to evenly coat the apple pieces with the sugar mixture. Now is also a good time to add the raisins/cherries. The apples will begin to release their juice. This is a good thing but I feel that it takes too long to reduce the liquid. About 3 minutes after adding the apples, add the rolled oats. (I like the contrast in texture the rolled oats brings to the party. If that isn't for you, drop the oats, but add some heavy cream to help thicken things up.)

Everything should be fairly thickened, the apples should be somewhat soft at this point and ready to place back into the apple bowls. Carefully scoop the mixture from the pan into the bowls. (Note to any one out there. This stuff is hot. It is sugar that is melted by heat. Use appropriate caution and don't go flinging this stuff around like it is ice cream.) Place the bowls onto a serving platter. You can garnish or leave alone. I recommend serving this while the filling is still warm. Garnish could include whipped cream with a mint leaf, vanilla ice cream, a candy cage, etc. You might even consider a pie crust top. Let you imagination run wild. So far, people have been quite impressed with the ungarnished variety.

A note on variations. There are gluten free oats on the market that can be substituted for normal rolled oats. If you don't have access to these or they are prohibitively expensive, simply leave out the oats and substitute heavy cream into the recipe. If someone has a nut allergy and you want to leave out the nuts, that is fine. They are there for flavor and texture.

Play around with it and let me know of any variations that work for you. Enjoy cooking!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

For Whom The Bell Tolls

The sermon by John Donne of so many years ago has been ringing in my head lately. The entire sermon can be found online and is a great read. But the part of that sermon that is most famous I'll copy here and explain:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

In politics it is common to preach to the masses that something (taxes, abortion, war) is evil and addressing it will be painless to most. This timeless poem should serve as a reminder that no action can be taken that does not affect me, and each of you.

To demand a sacrifice money from the few is to demand a sacrifice of all. Ours is a great and generous country and were it possible to hand the poorest in the country a few hundred, or even a few thousand, dollars to remove them from their poverty it would have been done already. There is no shortage of charities in our country that are dedicated to helping those who need help. (Here is my favorite. Ask me if you'd like to know why.) So it is disingenuous to pretend that raising taxes on 5% of the population will solve the problem of poverty in our country. It is disingenuous to pretend that such a hike will not afflict the other 95% in loss of industriousness or other means. It is disingenuous to pretend that something can happen to anyone in society and not affect society as a whole.

We desperately need to help our brothers who can't help themselves. We need better education programs. We need better health programs. We need better understanding that equality for all doesn't mean all are equal. It means all have equal worth and need a chance to succeed. What we desperately don't need is a big brother government that believes that wealth redistribution will of itself solve all our great countries problems.

I'll close with a bit of cheesiness and borrow from Mr. Donne.
Each man's tax increase diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the tax increases,
It increases for thee.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What Is Your Price?

I don't think any of us thinks we, or our sacred vote, are for sale. Any politician who suggested as much could kiss his career good-bye. And yet, that is precisely what we see happening in this year's presidential election.
One candidate is offering 44% of Americans money for their vote. He wraps it up in the form of tax cuts. But these Americans don't pay income taxes. They do pay payroll taxes, which funds Social Security, and this "tax cut" is to offset the payroll tax. And yes, you are right. If we take money out of government to offset Social Security taxes something is going to have to happen to the Social Security program.
This would all be paid for by raising taxes on only 5% of individuals. Never mind the Robbing Hood syndrome (covered in a previous post). That only addresses individual taxes. It is well known that liberals view capitalism and business as the great enemy. You can count on a few things, based on recent history. 1) Business will have their taxes increased. 2) Environmentalists will be given a free hand at reorganizing economic development. 3) Lawyers will be given a free hand in tort cases against business. 4) Business will find it advantageous to relocate to other countries where tax policy and environmental policy is not so onerous.
So for $500 dollars 44% of Americans can sell their vote to Obama. In return, they get job insecurity and a doubtful future for Social Security. 51% of Americans can sell their vote for a promise (from a politician) not to have their taxes raised.
So back to the title question: what is your vote worth to you?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I learned to fish

My family is split, politically speaking. Some of us are right, and some aren't. I've been giving the differences a lot of thought lately and I believe I understand the fundamental differences between us.
Dad always taught us to treat others with respect, dignity and as we'd want to be treated. He never used words like oppression to explain his thoughts, but over time we understood them. Those manners stuck with us and in large part shaped our political views, and led to our political differences.
Those of us who are right believe in fairness, dignity and respect for everyone; rich and poor, young and old, every color in the rainbow. However, we reject the oppression of a biased social agenda that, to borrow the phrase, "hands out fishes" rather than "teaching to fish." We have all lived, to varying degrees, in poverty during our lifetimes. We are nearly all out of poverty, thanks in part to the social programs that taught us to fish, like student loans.
So when a political party comes along claiming it is fair to take more money from one group to give it to others in a "fish redistribution" program those of us who are right have a problem with that. We understand that the unspoken corollary to this scheme is that as the poor elevate their economic position in society, they will be punished. Their hard work and studying of fishing techniques will inevitably lead them to fish while someone else takes advantage of their hard work.
Having lived in poverty we all know the personal gratification that comes along with succeeding and pulling ourselves out. We wish to extend this same satisfaction to others and sincerely hope everyone can improve their status through hard work, initiative and education. We reject the oppressive schemes that seek to maintain a large portion of America in "its place" by encouraging less ambition and less effort.