Quick Roundup 340

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Michael Berliner's editorial on the significance of Independence Day is required reading for this holiday. And by "required", I mean, "by the facts of reality", which is really the only thing that one can properly speak of as being a "requirement", Obama and McCain to the contrary.

Too bad for us that no matter who wins the Presidency, we will have someone in office who is completely at odds with what makes this nation great:

Fourth of July speeches are a time to celebrate what makes America great, to speak about America's ideals. It is notable that Obama can see nothing worth talking about but statist-collectivist-altruist ideals. For a holiday that celebrates America's independence, Obama focuses on the opposite, on our supposed dependence on on another. For a holiday that traditionally celebrates freedom, Obama advocates expanded service to the state.

I submit that there has never been a candidate for President of a major party who so grossly misunderstood the meaning of America as Barack Obama. Liberals can scream that I'm "questioning his patriotism" all they want, but I firmly believe Obama is the least American, most European presidential candidate ever. [Too bad this isn't what some children are thinking of when the slam their peers betters for "acting white". --ed] This little man has no idea what made America great. His vision of America's ideals is exactly what is destroying American liberty and individual rights.

... John McCain is just as bad. He extols sacrificing for something greater than ourselves. He has contempt for the profit motive. He is as ignorant of economics as Obama. Just about the only good thing that can be said about McCain is that he doesn't come off as an effete European like Obama. His heroism in the military is unquestionable.
I differ with Myrhaf only in his evaluation of McCain's not coming off as an effete European as being bad. I say that the more a man's demeanor matches his evil ideals, the better, since he will be easier to oppose.

Let's enjoy the Fourth, and take the breather to remind ourselves that freedom is worth fighting for.

Brasilia -- or Nippopolis?

It seems that almost every time I hear Brazil being discussed, there is a heavy element of left-wing fantasy projected onto the country, which I always find extremely annoying.

It was in part to indulge this annoyance that I read about the fiasco of urban planning that serves as that nation's capitol. One passage in particular made me laugh because I'd recently watched a South Park episode it reminded me of.
Although he was a disciple of Le Corbusier's and clearly embraced modernism, Niemeyer, with his love of curves and organic shapes, offered a jaunty alternative to the geometric severity of the International Style (a "monotonous and repetitive architecture ... so easy to create that it quickly spread from the United States to Japan," as he characterizes it [Slam capitalism for sins of the left. Check. --ed] in his own, often repetitive, memoir). Confirming Niemeyer's assertions, Philippou repeatedly shows how eroticism inflected Niemeyer's approach --"form follows feminine" is one of the architect's many, somewhat tiresome, pronouncements -- and how that approach quite literally grew out of his girl-watching (something of a dirty old man, he's forever explaining his architecture by sketching women's breasts and backsides for mock-scandalized journalists). [It isn't "sexism" if a nihilist does this. --ed] He was obviously also inspired by the undulating beaches and topography of his native Rio de Janeiro (his longtime studio, in the penthouse of an Art Deco landmark building, takes in famously sweeping views of Copacabana and Sugarloaf). [bold added]
No. The image at right isn't one of his drawings, and I'm sure his modernistic impulses prevented Niemeyer from indulging himself that literally, but were Brasilia a bit more like the "cheesing" scenes (probably not work-safe) from "Major Boobage", Brasilia would be quite the tourist trap!

Having gotten that out of my system, I have to admit that I do find some elements of the architecture shown in the article appealing, but still, the description of Brasilia as a city sounds very unappealing to me.

Now that I have your attention, ...

... consider helping to put a stop to urban planning where your efforts will be most likely to bear fruit: The Ad Hoc Committee for Property Rights of Houston, Texas -- which is working to keep the largest American city not to have zoning free of zoning-- accepts donations and has a mailing list. If you live in or near Houston and can't afford to donate, you should at least join the mailing list. Property rights are once again under assault here.

And be sure to read its Independence Day post of quotes about property rights. I particulary like the one by Calvin Coolidge.

This group beat zoning ten years ago, and deserves your support.

New York Invents Internet Looting

At least phishers and spammers can't take anyone's money by government fiat.
The Empire State has found a new way to subject its citizens to even more taxes. New York tax officials are looking to fill budget shortfalls by looking beyond state borders. As part of its budget, New York passed a first-of-its kind law that saddles sales tax collection burdens on catalog and online retailers in every state of the country.

As of this month, Assembly Bill 9807 requires out-of-state retailers who sell products to New Yorkers to register as vendors with New York tax officials. Civil and criminal penalties now face retailers who fail to comply. What's more, out-of-state retailers refusing to register have already been threatened with possible auditing and charges for years of back taxes.


Given the flatly unconstitutionally nature of AB 9807, maybe New York's interstate tax grab might really be a tax smash-and-grab. It may be a long while before Amazon's court case brings New York's new tax on out-of-state online retailers to a grinding halt. But in that window of time, New York could find itself benefiting from ill-gotten gains along with any other states that decide to join it. [bold added]
As Dismuke, who told me about this put it, "This is SICK."

-- CAV


Daniel Rigby said...

In my operations management book, it said that around 40% of the mail in Brazil never gets delivered. Ever.

Gus Van Horn said...

That's an astounding figure.

Dismuke said...

That New York sales tax not only loots New York residents and puts a regulatory burden on out of state retailers to act as tax collectors, it is causing major headaches for New York residents who own websites.

The legal "loophole" the State of New York is attempting to use is the claim that a retailer's affiliate marketing link on a New York based website constitutes a "physical presence" on the part of that retailer in New York state thus making them required to collect sales tax on ALL purchases from New York.

Thus New York state is claiming that if just ONE website owned by a New York resident has an amazon.com search box or affiliate link on the site, then Amazon now has a physical presence in New York and is thus required to collect sales tax on ALL of its New York business - even business that has nothing to do with that particular affiliate marketing link.

In response, online retailers such as Cafe Press have terminated all of their affiliate agreements with New York residents. Overstock.com has done so as well.

Many websites, of course, depend entirely on affiliate marketing agreements for their revenue. So if you live in New York and operate a website - well, you have been screwed once again. Of course, if you are from New York, you are probably used to it by now.

What is scary is that other states might jump on the bandwagon. If that is the case, affiliate marketing programs might become a thing of the past. Such programs are wonderful for all parties involved - small websites can generate income and operators of the program only pay for such advertising when an actual sale has been made.

And then, of course, there is the question as to what constitutes a "physical presence." What if one's website is hosted by a web hosting company with an out-of-state server? If the hosting service I use has its server farm in New York, does that mean that a company with an affiliate marketing link on my site would also have a "physical presence" in New York even though I live in Texas?

This is, of course, one of the reasons why the population of New York state is falling and why talented young people leave upstate New York in droves the same way and for the same reasons that in years past they left states such as Arkansas and Mississippi. A young person without existing assets in the state or an extremely urgent family situation would be an IDIOT to remain in and settle down in that state. Upstate New York is very much on the road towards becoming another Appalachia.

By the way, residents of New York have ALWAYS been required to pay sales tax on out of state purchases. It is just that New York state has not had the authority to compel out of state retailers to collect the taxes unless they had a "physical presence" in the state. If you live in New York and buy something out of state, you are supposed to report it on your income tax form at the end of the year. Of course, almost nobody does - which is why they want to force retailers to become collection agents. Things are so bad that someone I know who lives up there told me that a few years back they actually stationed New York state troopers in the parking lots of New Jersey malls to write down New York license plate numbers so that they could follow up with car owners at the end of the tax year to see if any out of state purchases had been reported on their tax forms. Apparently that was too much for even sheepish New Yorkers to tolerate so the troopers were sent back home after a public outcry.

Gus Van Horn said...

Ugh. That's one of the things I hate about the Northeast. How can so many people tolerate this?!?!

We have already encountered the same asinine premise in Massachusetts. Since they are next door to New Hampshire and, oddly enough, people chose to start buying cars there to avoid sales tax, Massachusetts now has a law on the books that when you register your car -- and you will have to if you're dumb enough to want to park it in Boston -- you have to pay the difference in sales tax between Massachusetts and the state in which it is registered.

Bruno T. Raymundo said...

Actually, the postal system is one of the few public services that works well in Brazil (well meaning "functional, not chaotic"). I find that 40% figure to be quite exaggerated.

I wouldn't bet against it, though. Never underestimate state-owned bureaucracies capacity for incompetence. :)

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the local perspective, Bruno.

40% sounded unbelievably high to me, too.

Dismuke said...

"How can so many people tolerate this?!?!"

Actually, it is interesting you said that because that is exactly what someone else here in Texas I mentioned this to said.

My answer, by the way, was "for the same reason you and I tolerate all sorts of crap."

For example, if you work for a living and earn wages, 7.65 percent is taken off the top for Social Security and your employer is forced to pay ANOTHER 7.65 percent as a cost of employing you - i.e., money that would otherwise have gone towards your salary most likely.

Thus over 15 percent of what you make is taken away away and put into a Ponzi scheme where it is immediately spent and, in return, you are paid a pittance years later from the proceeds of younger people who are being similarly looted.

Now consider this: If you are 20 years old and make $25,000 per year and NEVER GOT A SINGLE PAY RAISE FOR THE NEXT 45 YEARS YOU WORK and 15% of what you make was set aside in a 401(k) plan that had nothing more than what has been the average rate of return on the stock market since the Great Depression, you would retire a MILLIONAIRE. Again, that is with NO pay raise AT ALL ever and ONLY making $25,000 per year for the rest of one's life.

So imagine how well off we would all be - and how much more prosperous our entire economy would be - if even the most modest workers could look forward to retiring as MILLIONAIRES. That would be actually be possible to anyone who works today and pays social security without costing them a single extra cent in their take home pay if only they were allowed to privately invest what they currently pay to Social Security.

The only hope most people have to retire a millionaire with Social Security is if they inflate the currency to the point that millions of dollars amounts to jack squat. The money currently diverted to Social Security is high enough that it make it difficult for many people to save on their own.

Now, imagine going back in a time capsule to the 1920s before FDR and his successors blighted the economy and the country. Imagine telling somebody back then what I have just described. I guarantee you that the very first thing they would ask would be: "How on earth do you people tolerate it? How come there aren't riots in the streets over it?"

Of course, some New Yorkers are NOT tolerating it. They are moving to other states - and there are a LOT of recent arrivals from New York here in Texas. They love New York but are unable to make a go of things up there. Heck, I would move to NYC in a heartbeat if it weren't for the fact that it is a socialist pesthole and I am not wiling to reduce my standard of living to such a degree.

Unfortunately, when it comes to national stuff such as the Social Security Ponzi scheme that impoverishes every one of us, there are not a lot of alternatives for those of us who would prefer not to tolerate it.

And, of course, the REAL reason most people tolerate it is because it never even occurs to them that it is unjust as they have been brainwashed by altruism. And even if they do grasp to at least some degree that they are victims in the whole dirty scheme, they don't speak out about it because they fear it would be "selfish" to do so or that their Leftist professors and colleagues and social circle would look down on them as backward bumpkins who drink the sort of coffee served in truck stops and gas stations.

Gus Van Horn said...

Rhetorical question on my part, but for any newcomers, this is an excellent explanation....