Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Obama a Socialist?

In the last week or so Obama’s tax plan has been compared to socialism. I personally do not agree, though I can see why some would say this. Frankly the more recent bail-out plan that both McCain and Obama voted for is much more socialist than taxing the rich a bit more.

The bottom line is this: The gap between the rich and the middle-class is huge and getting larger. Is this acceptable?

I say, “No!”

There have been numerous examples through history that show how destabilizing and how damaging it can be for a country when the rich tower too far above the rest. That was a major catalyst for the French Revolution. Or another way to look at it, do we become serf or slaves to the rich land owners, bankers, politicians?

Again I say, “No!”

CEOs are getting paid huge amounts in bonuses and other benefits, aside from their large six figure salaries. Middle-class wages, however, are fairly stagnate and benefits are cut regularly. I don’t agree with unions but they may have to come back to bring fairness into the equation. The rich are getting richer off the backs of the middle-class who are working just as hard as always, maybe harder, and getting less for their work.

Is Obama or his tax plan going to completely level the playing field? It absolutely will not. Most of the wealthy that would be affected by Obama’s tax plan will barely feel the pinch. Most of them can afford to pay tax advisers to find loop holes and other ways to avoid paying all the taxes they are supposed to anyway. Hell even we in the middle class do that! We look for any way to reduce our taxes we can. No one likes paying taxes, but the wealthy can certainly afford to do so much more than I. When gas prices jump, when food prices jump, when equity in our homes plummets, what are we left with? Living paycheck to paycheck wondering if we’ll have enough gas to make it to work tomorrow? Fearing that if your wife loses her job that you’ll lose your house? Having to go to a food bank for the first time in your life so that your children can have a decent meal? The wealthy don’t have to worry about that. They should be ethically and socially responsible and help those who need help. It should be their personal duty to spread the wealth. They shouldn’t have to be told to help but some have to be told.

To all those very wealthy who would be adversely affected by Obama’s tax plan:
  • Do you really need more than a couple houses? I can understand a vacation home and your ‘regular’ home but why more?
  • Do you really need a $100,000 car, in some cases multiple high-priced cars? A $30-40K car is pretty nice these days.
  • What are you spending your money on anyway? Are you wasting it on silly toys and rare foods? Are you hording it away?
  • Why is it so bad to give a bit more to help keep the country that made you so wealthy running well? Help educate the children. Help the less fortunate get on their feet and make something of themselves. Help make wages fair and equitable for all. These things would help the entire country excel. Isn’t that a good thing?
So finally, no I don’t think Obama is a socialist for his tax plan. It’s not like he’s taking all the money away from the rich and making everyone equal in a utopian middle-class. It won’t work. As long are there is money and man, there will always be a class system, but it does not have to be unfair.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quick Thoughts on Final Debate

My mind is now made up. Here is how I saw the debate:

McCain: It's all about the Benjamins! Money money money, that's all he seemed to care about. Not in relation to the middle-class but in every case. When talking about Columbia he talked about all the money we can make from them but didn't give a shit if it was blood money or not.

Obama: Long term growth. Obama was looking at the long term picture, something that has been sorely lacking in Washington and the economy for awhile now. Invest now so that we can reap the rewards later. This is a sound and logical plan!

Body language was also important in this debate. Obama frequently talked directly to us the watchers of the debate. McCain did better this time on that front, but not as well as Obama. If McCain said something that needed correcting, Obama would smile and have a look of, "There goes grandpa again.". When Obama said something that McCain thought needed correcting he rolled his eyes and sighed a lot. Careful Obama I think you're making grandpa angry.

Respect. I know Obama respects McCain, you can hear it in the way he talks to him. On the other hand McCain does not seem to respect Obama much. Experience may be important but it's not what makes a great president. Bob asked the candidates to explain why their VP pick was better than their rivals, I thought, OK here is where the better man will shine. I was wrong, both did well, but I can't help but wonder if Obama going first set the stage for McCains answer. The fact that Obama didn't take any shots at Palin showed great diplomacy and respect. He certainly could have torn into her, especially comparing her against Biden, but he didn't. He let Biden stand on his merits. McCain did the same and I give him credit for that.

This was definitely McCains best debate. It was more focused and it felt like real information was shared with the voting public on what both candidates would do if they won the presidency. Despite how much better McCain did, he was overly aggressive, attacked constantly and came off angry and hot headed. I don't personally want that kind of person leading diplomacy for the USA, not right now. There are too many hot beds where that kind of personality could lead this country into more conflicts that we simply cannot afford.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Thoughts on the Belmont Debate

I'm trying to keep an open mind and consider all the available information leading up to the election, so that I make an informed choice. These debates are helping but also pushing me more and more towards Obama.

The 'town-hall' style debate was a joke. I feel bad for those individuals up on stage (no not the candidates). They came in with questions and maybe six got to ask theirs. The answers, from either McCain or Obama were many times generalized to the point that the question really was not answered. In a couple cases the response had nothing to do with the question. That was disappointing. I (and I'm sure many others out there) wanted straight answers. We didn't get them.

Additionally, Tom Brokaw was like a mother with two bratty kids. He had no control over them and they pretty much ignored his requests for more order and keeping to the time limits. Tom failed as a moderator in my opinion.

Despite the failures the debate was not a complete waste of time. It was good to hear some more from the candidates on what they planned to do as President of the United States. McCain was the weaker of the two here.

More often than not he talked about what is HAS done rather than what he will do. Now he seemed to have some pretty firm ideas about foreign policy. That was good but I did not agree with most of his thoughts there but I can see where that would connect with some. However the statement about how fixing Social Security would be easy was a, "WHAT!?" moment for me. How do you fix a program that has more money going out than going in? Tax us young people more? Cut other programs to fund it? What IS your plan there McCain?

Obama seemed to have a much better idea for what he wanted to do if elected. We all know that not everything will happen over night and it was good to hear the question of what would be their priorities. Though Obama answered the question with options that were not part of the question I think he successfully resonated, at least with me, on making energy a priority. He successfully used energy to spring board into the economy and foreign policy. Job growth/creation, energy independence, energy export, energy leverage, all strong points and good ideas.

Obama really seemed to focus on letting the public know what he was going to do for us. McCain seemed more focused on reminding us of all the work he's done in the past and pointing fingers at, "That One."

I was getting very upset at McCain for the attacks. He slung mud more than he talked about the issues at times. Obama had to go on the defensive numerous times because what McCain was spouting was inaccurate. Obama was guilty of this a few times too. Why do we need to hear from the opposing candidate what their plan is. Focus on your plan and let the other candidate explain theirs and let the public decide which one they like.

What scares me the most is that, on both sides, people will believe what the opposing candidate says about their opponents plans, rather than going to listen to the other candidate themselves. People will believe that Obama is going to raise taxes because of what McCain says. Just as people are going to believe that McCain is going to keep doing what Bush has been doing, because that's what Obama says.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

No Scrobbler for Zune

I've been a Last.FM user for over two years now and I've really enjoyed the service. The song tracking and recommendation engine is robust and mature.

Last Christmas I got an 80GB Zune. I love it. I love the interface and the device quality. It's a nice solid piece of technology.

My big issue is that there is no scrobbler for the Zune. A scrobbler is software that monitors your music listening habits and reports it back to Last.FM for your account. I have a plugin for iTunes that tracks my listening at work but when I'm listening to my Zune in the car or at home, I have no way to track that music, with Last.FM.

Sure I could switch over to the Zune software exclusively, however there are a couple of problems.
  1. My song counts and listening habits are not well done at Zune.net. The count and last track played haven't updated in weeks and even when they did, it was frequently wrong.
  2. I have over 21,000 songs of history on Last.FM. I would loose all of that by switching services.
  3. The recommendation engine in Last.FM works better, in my opinion, than the one on Zune.net. I'm sure over time it will improve, but not if they don't collect data accurately.

So why no scrobbler for the Zune? Two issues:
  1. As noted above, Microsoft and Zune are trying to create their own social music ecosystem. Rather than give their users a choice they are tying users to their exclusive system.
  2. The system is locked down, either because of #1 or because of technical reasons. Last.FM relies on a plug-in system, which other applications, including Microsoft Media Player, allow. The Zune software does not.

There have been a couple attempts at creating a scrobbler for the Zune but they've always been hacked together and require additional user intervention or can only collect a certain amount of data.

At the end of the day either some very smart developer will have to figure out a way to bridge these two products or Microsoft will decide to allow plug-ins. I'm not terribly optimistic about either frankly. As much as I love my Zune the market is small compared to the iPod/iTunes Juggernaut.

Friday, October 03, 2008

R.I.P. Loki

I lost my buddy yesterday. Loki was about 5 years old and a great cat. He had gotten into a fight awhile back and got an infected abscess from an injury. The vet took care of that but it didn't heal right. I took him in yesterday morning to have it looked at. They needed to stitch up a hole in his skin that didn't heal over. During surgery he died.

Even the vet is uncertain what happened and why, so we agreed to let them send his body to be autopsied, to determine why this happened. Loki was healthy and happy so it was a great shock to everyone.

I'm still sad about it but I'm getting by fine. He was my buddy though. I had him since he was a tiny kitten that could fit in the palm of one of my hands. He's always slept with me too. He liked to curl up in my armpit at night. He got the nickname "TeddyCat" for that, because he was. He was my teddy. I do and I will miss him. At least he'll live on in my memories.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

We already have a 'bailout'

A Homeowner Rescue Bill was already passed back in May of this year to help home owners who were fighting foreclosure to have their home values reassessed and refinanced at an adjusted (presumably lower) value.

So why has this program not been pushed? It passed. It's out there. The government is already setup to pay for the losses that the banks would take in this program, yet still allowing the bank to retain ownership of the mortgage and arguably it would be in better shape then. The home owner could afford payments, giving the bank interest. Additionally since the government would absorb the loss on the value, assuming that prices don't drop considerably further down the bank would have something of value to claim if the owner still foreclosed.

The major problem I see with this is the bill basically makes all these home owners take an FHA loan with a steep mortgage insurance fee associated, so their monthly payments certainly won't drop as far as they could. The insurance helps pay for the program and was a necessary component to get the bill passed, however it does not help the people with the problem very well. These individuals are not going to have great credit so they are not going to get a great interest rate. The FHA loan will give them some help with the interest rate but not a lot. In the end it'll help some of those home owners that are right on the edge of foreclosure but for some this will not be a viable option.