Tuesday, June 29, 2010


The air-conditioning in my car died horribly this weekend somewhere
around Needles. There are worse places to loose ones a/c, but not very many.

The air-conditioning at the house also decided to take this weekend
to go Tango Uniform. The a/c guy should be here this afternoon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Spock Quote

"He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking"
Spock -Wrath of Khan

I was thinking about this quote earlier. It's the perfect embodiment of President Obama. He's smart, but he has no clue what he's doing. He knows that more Government is the solution, even when it's painfully obvious that more government simply makes things worse.

If Jimmy Carter proved anything, it's that smart people can be really bad presidents. Carter's problem is he couldn't delegate, so couldn't actually get anything done. Obama's problem is he's surrounded himself with the echo chamber. even if he had any advisers that actually knew anything, he wouldn't listen.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

P. J. O’Rourke on Education

Hat tip to Kevin over at The Smallest Minority for the link.

An excerpt:
"Here’s my proposal: Close all the public schools. Send the kids home. Fire the teachers. Sell the buildings. Raze the U.S. Department of Education, leaving not one brick standing upon another and plow the land where it stood with salt."

Read the whole article HERE.

I suspect my homeschooling friends would approve...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mortgage deduction

Several folks are already talking about this, including Aretae and dispatches from TJICistan, but apparently the Obama folks are working to end the Mortgage Tax deduction.

EDIT: looks like it has hit Volokh as well.

A Libertarian is naturally conflicted: any way to get out of taxes is good, but any government enforced distortion of the marketplace is bad.

My first instinct is to say anything to get out of taxes = good. My second instinct is to say we need to completely reform the system and remove any and all social engineering from the taxation system.

So going on the Blind Pigs and Acorns theory, I'm going to go along with the administration on this one. (for naturally completely different reasons)

The reason is it is horribly distortive. It forms an incentive to stay in debt, rather than pay off ones property, and was a contributing factor to the housing bubble.

The Mortgage Deduction originally started out as a deduction on all interest. At some point (under Reagan?) it became a deduction only for mortgage interest.

The reason I say that it's horribly distortive and encourages people to stay in debt is that in order to take advantage of the deduction, you have to have a lot of mortgage debt. Consider, for the past 10 years rates have been consistently under 7%, currently they are under 5%. (a 15 year was 4.2% this morning)

You can only take the deduction if you itemize. It's only worth itemizing if your itemized deductions exceed your standard deduction. The standard deduction is around $14K. Thus the only people for whom it is even worth it to itemize are those who have borrowed a quarter million plus, or those who have another reason to itemize such as huge medical bills.

Say you are in the 30% bracket with a note at 6%. Borrowing $233,000 gives you zero additional deduction. Borrowing $350,000 would give you a savings of $2100 over your standard deduction.

Nevertheless, I constantly run into people who think it's a good idea to send the bank $21,000 to save $2100. As far as I am concerned that means that you have failed math forever.

I think I took the deduction once, and only in the first year of my mortgage, when you can also deduct the fees. After that, my standard deduction was higher, so it wasn't worth it.

As for tax schemes in general, the huge problem with any sort of consumption or "fair" tax is that it is tremendously inflationary. Anyone who has any sort of savings or investments is going to get taxed a second time. My cynical side says that this means it's inevitable as it is a great way for the government to double tax all those investment accounts out there.

Ideally I'd like to see a flat income tax, no withholding. No goofy "rebates". No withholding. withholding makes it too easy to ignore. I want everyone to feel the pain of writing that check every year. And if it's too painful...

If that is undoable politically (the flat say 15% on all income) I'd be willing to compromise. The compromise would be flat tax on everything above $XX, where XX is the federal poverty level.

Besides, There's small profit, in robbing the poor...

Tucson Folk Shop

I was down in Tucson this morning on business. Since I got done early I hit the standard shops before heading back to Phoenix metro.

While down at The Folk Shop, they guys told me to take a look at the Gibson they just got in. Ok I'm game, but not normally a fan of the "Gibson Sound".

Takes me a little while to figure out how to open the case. Guitar is in pretty good shape, some soundboard wear, but not bad. It's an L-00.

Start fingerpicking...

WOW... Easy to play, lots of sustain and overtones, none of the typical Gibson "thunk". Really , really pretty sounding guitar.

Oh it was made in 1937.

Also way outside my price range, but whoever buys it will be getting a really nice instrument.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Heading to Tucson tomorow morning (early) on business. Hopefully I can get to Lucky Wishbone.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why abortion is hard plus bonus Democide

There are several disparate groups of folks who are what we call "single issue voters".

The folks steeped in RKBA (Right to Keep and Bear Arms) folks are often single issue voters. If the guy is for gun control, of any type, I'm against him, no matter how many other fine redeeming qualities or stances he may have. L. Neil Smith calls a politicians stance on Gun Control, the Vulcan Mind Meld, because it tells you exactly what he thinks about you.

If you have not read the article it's HERE.

So gun control is easy. Anyone who is for gun control is by definition a Statist, and thus is a priori someone who hates and distrusts individuals. And of course that way lies genocide, because, history has proven that it always ends in genocide.

Sorry, make that Democide

The other big single issue is abortion.

When people get into heated arguments about abortion they think that they are arguing about a medical procedure, in actuality they are arguing a question of epistemology. It's a matter of what do we know, and how.

The question is, when does a human being become a human being. That is THE question. If it's a human, than killing it (other than in self defense) is wrong. If it's not a human then killing it is no different that having a wart removed.

Most folks are going to say that it's a human sometime before birth. Go ask a noticeably pregnant woman "so how's the fetus doing today?" Actually, you better not, probably not healthy for you.

On the other end of the scale, a 10 minute old blastocyst can't be considered human by any rational means. Religious yes, which is why I said it's an epistemological question. A blastocyst hasn't even implanted itself yet, and if it fails to do so (which many do naturally) it's never going to even have an opportunity to be a person.

After implantation it becomes an embryo. Those of certain religious persuasions will say it's a human; those of us who are more secular in outlook will say that at most it is a "potential human".

Now here is the question for the "pro-choice" folks. When does it cease to be a "potential" person and become a person? Yeah. I don't know either.

And that is why abortion is hard. If you can not even agree on definitions you can't have a meaningful conversation. You can talk around the edges perhaps, but at some point it comes down to arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Ok, that one is 42. (duh)

Libertarians vs. Liberals

Thought of the day:

Liberals only see the "good" that can result from proposed legislation, and discount bad or unintended consequences.

Libertarians see only the "bad" results, and discount the good or intended consequences.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Post Oil Haiku

The Scalzi is running a Contest.

To wit, write a haiku about life in a post-oil world to win a copy of METAtropolis.

My entry:

Oil has run dry
Engines of commerce abide
Powered by atoms


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Martin has Landed

The BBToH (Big Brown Truck of Happiness) showed up while I was at work today. Let's see what it left me

What's this? Some sort of Dreadnaught?


That's good. My Larrivees (save the 12) are all OM and smaller, I could use a good strummer.

Maybe we better look closer:


Ohh, my first Martin.

Wonder what it is? Let's look at the back.


Oooh, I know what that is...

Two thoroughbreds:


I still need to swap in some fresh strings, but I got some pictures first. Hazy overcast this afternoon, so the colors are a bit washed out.

My first Martin, and a D-35 too boot. The D-35 was created in 1965 when Martin was trying to figure out a method of using smaller pieces of Brazilian rosewood. Brazil had just passed a "semi-embargo" on the wood. One could buy the wood, but it had to be cut/milled in Brazil. This was not really easy for Martin to do, and they switched over to Indian RW in 1970, but the 3-piece back of the D-35 remains to this day.

Also, Martin got clever. They added some additional binding, thus moving the design "upscale", so that they could charge more for a guitar made from 3 small pieces of wood than for one made from two larger ones. Clever them capitalists.

The D-35 has since it's inception been the Singer-Songwriter Guitar. It's got slightly thinner top braces than the D-28, Martin's Flagship "Country Western" guitar. Jim Croce played a D-35, so did Elvis and Johny Cash.

I better get tuning.