I will donate $1,000,000 to the US Govt This Year

The US debt is a big problem (currently ~$16T, or about ~$50K per person). I’m willing to do my share to help pay it off. To do this, I need the government to commit to a sustainable plan so that I’m not just throwing good money after bad.

Thus I make this promise:

If Washington can make spending match tax receipts, I will donate an extra $1,000,000 to the USA to help pay down the debt.

Buying Into The Carpool Lane

Scott Adams nailed me today:

RV-AB441_ADAMS__G_20110128010821 

Living in the Bay Area, I’m anything except “rich”.  But I guess according to most standards, I’m in the top few percent.  But I can’t remember how often I have said this to my friends:  “The only reason I got a hybrid was to buy my way into the carpool lane.”

And yeah, it is totally worth it!!!   But how much did our government make off my desire to drive faster than all the commoners?  $8.  Honda got the rest.  What a bunch of suckers.

Google Will Rue The Day It Invited the Gov’t to Net Neutrality

A few years ago, Google started poking the government to act on Net Neutrality.  The motive behind Google’s goal is well intentioned.  But practically, it is foolish.  We’re inviting a beast into our industry that is more devastating than any beast we’ve yet imagined.  Eventually, Google will come to oppose the very legislation that it helped create.

The main problem with Net Neutrality is that we don’t need it.  The market works.  There are many choices for network access today, and you can access your favorite sites from Amazon to Wikileaks from almost anywhere in America.  We have access to the internet at home, in libraries, in schools and at work.  Who is not getting access again?

For individuals, the real debate is that some people want more bandwidth to more remote areas and they want someone else to pay for it.  Steve Wozniak, the eccentric co-founder of Apple, was very clear about this.  He wants to live on a remote hill, pay $29/mo, and have everyone else be required to pay to run the cables to his secluded hide away for fast internet access.  Steve’s argument is not new.  Many people have made the same argument far more elegantly.  They claim it “costs too much” for the high speed links and that dialup is unreasonably slow, or that “there is only one provider in my area”, etc.  None of those arguments hold.  These very same people still have access through wireless, through dialup, at work, at school, at the library, and at about a half million Starbucks or McDonalds across the planet.  And their access grows every single day!  They just want it cheaper.

Finally, the most important part of net neutrality is ensuring that content is available to everyone.  (No, this doesn’t mean you should get to watch your “Family Guy” or your favorite TV show for free)  Most of us hold at least some fear that eventually a big company (Comcast, AT&T, or Verizon, or Google) will screw the little guy by using their monopoly to restrict content and maximize profits.  This fear is reasonable,  because censorship on a grand scale would be a horrible thing for all of us.  But it’s not happening, and there is no evidence of it happening any time soon.  Further, if it ever did happen, customers can and would revolt.  Competition provides us everything we need.

But our fears of corporations are grossly misplaced.  There is someone far more scary, with vastly greater power that we should fear – the US government.  There is simply no company that can wreck devastation at the scale of the US government. Who’s rules are more scary – Comcast’s rules (sorry to pick on you, Comcast!), which would only apply to those that pay Comcast money?  Or Uncle Sam’s rules?  And every 4 years we elect a new set of politicians.  Even if we trust the politicians today, what happens when we get into a war, or have a 9/11-type event, and suddenly a “temporary” cease of terrorist communications is required?  (Did we forget about the TSA already?)  Who’s the terrorist?  Is Wikileaks a terrorist?  Is Wikipedia?  What if you have a science blog about particle physics?  Can you be shut down too?  The government is what you should fear.  Not a piddly little Microsoft, Google, or Comcast. 

Ok, but why will Google rue this?

With continued prodding from Google and others, legislation will be passed, and today was a starting point.  Whatever they pass will be  costly to companies and will cause that cost burden to be passed on to customers like you and me.  Further, it will put America at a disadvantage in our global marketplace.  All to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

The first problem they’ll create is that of cost.  Every law has enforcement, and that means we pay people to define the specific rules, monitor compliance with those rules, and enforce punishments for those that do not obey.  This will cost billions of dollars and be spread into the margins of every content provider and ISP in America.  Of course, those companies will pass the cost onto their customers.  This means the price of DSL, Cable, AOL, and Netflix will all rise.  (I still think costs are heading down overall, but they could decrease faster without net-neutrality)

Second, it will snowball from “fair access” into content filters (aka censorship).  Initially, it might include banning certain forms of pornography.  It might even seem like something you agree with.  But with each new regulation, our freedoms are diminished.  Then, we might enter into a particular international conflict “requiring” a ban on certain types of communications to keep us safe.  With the content filters in place, the variety and types of information we can publish and read diminishes, and it is all out of our control.   You can’t switch providers to escape the unfairness of it all.

Finally, remember that America is in a global marketplace.  If our legislators legislate too much, Internet companies will simply move out of the country, taking the jobs, the profits, and the tax revenues with them.  This has already happened – gambling is alive and well on the internet – it just runs out of Costa Rica, Antigua, and other disputable places – leaving consumers at risk while simultaneously sticking America with a bill to ensure that gambling doesn’t happen here.  How silly!  Now the government will need to block outside access, or credit card payments to certain areas in order to keep Americans safe from information.

Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”  But with our own Government censors and the massive costs created to enforce “net neutrality”, Google will find this mission impossible to accomplish.  And that is when Google will rue the day…

 

Note: This article solely represents the views of a far-too-opinionated software engineer, and does not represent the views of his employer in any way.

Introducing Eco-Water

dietwater As many of you know, several years ago I came up with the concept of Diet Water.  Given the worldwide thirst for bottled water, Diet Water simply recognized the fact that diet-anything is better than non-diet, especially when the flavor can be maintained.  After months of lab research using state-of-the-art technology, Diet Water was born.  The Diet Water vision was fully realized when popular beverage maker Sapporo started distributing the Diet Water concept which so many people take for granted today.

But that was nearly 10 years ago.   So it is with great pride that today I introduce a new brand of water designed to address the concerns of modern times:  Eco-Water.  Lets face it – we live in a dirty world.  We contaminate our skies, our forests, our rivers, and our oceans.  Unlike other bottled waters, Eco-Water is completely earth friendly and totally “green”.   It is 100% bio-degradable and non-toxic.  Why buy those other waters when you can be saving the world with a refreshing glass of Eco-Water today?

Still in testing, but coming soon:  Diet Eco-Water.

Exciting Belshe.com Upgrades!

core2quad I’ve not updated theme or features of belshe.com in quite a while, but this week we have a couple of nice improvements.

New Server
belshe.com first moved  it’s servers to ServerBeach in July 2006.  I’ve always been delighted with their service, particularly when I found in December 2007 that the site had run, without a hiccup or even a reboot, for 470 days.

Of course, in the 4 years that we’ve been hosted there, computers have changed a bit.  The 1GB Athlon 220 was getting a bit old, despite flawless service, so we’ve upgraded now to a new 2GB Core 2 Quad Q9400!  Hopefully you’ll be able to read all of my rants with amazing speed now.

New Software
I’ve also finally updated this blog with a few modernizations.  The most notable of which is the commenting system, which no longer has my ridiculous cheapo-capcha.  Instead you can login with your Facebook, Google, Windows Live, Twitter or AOL account.

auth

I’ve also added better support for Google Buzz and Facebook Like button support.  If you use those services, be sure to click those buttons!

And finally, I’ve hooked up my facebook, buzz, and blog together so that my posts should show up on those services too.  It will look like I’m back on facebook.  Even though, I’m not…  (Err- well – I haven’t tested it yet until I post this message.  Cross your fingers!)

Who Wins With Prop 13?

This article about effects of Prop 13 has been getting sent around.  It’s worth reading and highlights a case which most people think is unfair.  I agree, Prop 13 is completely unfair.  But would I change it?  Absolutely not!

The premise underlying the article is that somehow California has a top-line problem – not enough revenues.  But California is the single largest taxing state – generating $98B annually from taxes for a mere 37million inhabitants.  On a per-capita basis, California isn’t the most taxing (ranking #10), but our large size should offer economies of scale for infrastructure, right.  Unfortunately, California is so mismanaged that it offers no such efficiencies.

So I’m thankful for Prop 13.  We need more laws which prevent the state from taking money it doesn’t need.   The crisis in California is not caused by failure to tax enough.  Forbes ranks California as the most taxing state second only to Hawaii (is it a surprise that it costs more to live in a tiny, tropical state hundreds of miles off the coast from any other state?).  But while Hawaii gets the "highest bracket” award, that only kicks in when you make $200K/yr.  California taxes any earner making more than $47K at 9.55%.  If we ranked states on highest income tax for those making $50K/yr, California is far-and-away #1.

And I haven’t even mentioned California’s business-unfriendly tax rates.  Just trying to start a business in California costs thousands of dollars.  Why?  Don’t we want more business and jobs here?  It’s insane.

Bottom line:  Fix the California spending problem, not the California income problem.  Cut all spending, across the board, by 60%.  Would anything bad really happen?  I don’t think so.

Tax Software for 2009

Tax season is coming up.  I started looking at my oh-so-fun-tax software purchase decision.  (Why are our laws so complex that I have to buy a new version each year?)

turbotax Intuit did a great thing this year – they simply sent out the install CD in the mail without my ever purchasing it (Intuit learns from AOL)!  I put it into my computer and almost installed.  But when I saw the price for TurboTax Deluxe 2009 Fed + State was $59.95, that seemed a little high.  So I decided to look online, and it was a good thing I did!

I was pleasantly surprised to find Amazon carrying the exact same product (TurboTax Deluxe 2009 Federal + State) for only $46.54, with an electronic download.  That’s a quick $13 savings if I just install from the net instead of the CD they sent me.  I almost bought that too…

taxcutBut then I thought I should check H&R Block’s TaxCut price.  I’ve used TaxCut before and find it nearly identical to TurboTax.  The H&R Block website sells TaxCut for a little less than TurboTax, at $44.95.  That’s not enough cheaper than Amazon to be significant.  So, I decided to check Amazon again.

And wow! TaxCut Deluxe (Federal + State + eFile) is selling for only $23.75 if you download online!  Clearly this is a winner – less than half the cost of Intuit TurboTax.

As I wrote this, I bought and installed TaxCut.  So far, so good.

Any Suckers In California Paying Sales Tax?

This holiday season, I’m not going to pay any California State Sales Tax.  The blood suckers in Sacramento have raised taxes to a wallet-thinning 9.25% here.  I can ship my goods from New York to here for less than that!

Instead there are countless online e-tailers that I can purchase everything I want from.  It hardly takes any effort at all.

I know it is just a matter of time before California (and other states) close the inter-state loophole, but until then – screw ‘em.

And when they do, they’ll just be fuelling to push online e-tailers off shore.  How long will it take before amazon.mx replaces amazon.com?  And you can’t tax that!  Ha!

Arrington and Scams

I don’t usually agree with TechCrunch, but lately I’ve been pretty impressed with Michael Arrington’s pursuit of the online scammers.  This is a problem which a lot of people have been involved with, but it took Arrington’s ScamVille writeup before anyone took action.  As a direct result of Arrington’s article, most of the participants took action.  OfferPal replaced it’s CEO, while  Zynga, RockYou, MySpace, and others all took a chance to tighten their anti-scam policies.  As Arrington notes, it is likely just a matter of time before new scams re-emerge – there is too much money on the table.  But I still think Arrington deserves tremendous credit for rooting this out.

His latest article calls out Video Professor as a scam, and I think he’s right on target again.  If you don’t put your prices on your website, you’re a scam.  Video Professor sucks.  Go Mike!