The Professor's Notes

Where my thoughts and your eyes (and now ears!) collide

Archive for the ‘government’ Category

Taxing “Because they do it” is Insanity

Posted by Steve Brady On April - 15 - 20142 COMMENTS

Many say that PA needs to follow the lead of other Natural Gas producing states, and have a severance tax on natural gas. That we “need” the tax revenues. That we are the “laughing stock” of these states because we don’t tax that production.  This article lays out what the tax burdens are, by state.

So here you go. PA (at least in FY2011) was ranked as the 10th highest tax burden. That’s the top 20%. The states with the lower tax burden? The very natural gas/oil taxing states they say are laughing at us. (Texas, OK, and others) I bet they are laughing!

I have said all along–I support emulating those states, so long as we emulate their full tax picture. No, or low, state income tax. No state sales tax on many things. etc. Sadly, each state really is different with different dynamics, different political and social pressures and needs. I get that. So we can’t be “like Texas” or like Fl, or NH, and have no state income tax. I get that–but then don’t say we should be like them with Natural Gas taxes either. Let’s decide for ourselves if this is a good decision or not, not simply becaus
State Tax Burden


e “they do it.”

Let “Washington” Pay For It (Really?)

Posted by Steve Brady On October - 2 - 20131 COMMENT

A good friend posted an article on Facebook that purports to explain why the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) scares the Republicans. The article posits that the GOP is scared, because ACA will work, and people will realize that they can now “afford” healthcare.  What should really scare all of us is that it isn’t about some being able to afford it now, it’s that it quite simply is a redistribution of wealth (generally) and in the long term is a shifting the burden of paying for  healthcare from us, to our creditors, and then ultimately to succeeding generations.

I recommend reading the full article, but in the set-up to the argument there is this one, very interesting line:  ”Washington would pay the extra cost entirely for three years and pick up 90 percent of the bill thereafter.”

Attribution: Some rights reserved by Cooperweb

If only this was true, that “Washington” would pick up the costs. But that’s the fallacy. We fall into a line of thought that says “we” aren’t paying for this–’Washington’ is” and then we as “who do they represent?”

The reality SHOULD be, the whole nation pays, not Washington, because the whole nation sends money for Washington to spend. Sadly, that isn’t the reality. We as a nation prefer spending over taxing, and thus we are spending Chinese money (and any other holder of the debt instruments we use to finance our debt.) The extended reality of who pays is “our grandchildren” when those debts come due.

But let’s come to grips with another reality. We are the grandchildren of the spending ways of our grandparents, and our parents. We are currently spending $220B on interest each year, with that number projected to go t o $1T (Yes, TRILLION) by 2020. And that’s only 7 years away. (http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/11/19/how-the-nations-interest-spending-stacks-up)

Subsidies aren’t free. Defense isn’t free. Highways aren’t free. Decisions made today not only impact our immediate paychecks, but those we hope to earn, and those our children earn, and our children’s children.

As with everything the decisions are about trade-offs. But we cannot be informed decision makers if we let the rhetorical use of “Washington” paying for things continue.

WE are paying–and we all deserve to know the impacts, and true costs, as well as benefits, of the decisions for which we pay.

So what do you consider “private”?

Posted by Steve Brady On May - 22 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

About 15 years ago I was part of an ongoing public discussion concerning privacy.  The discussion at the time was about street cameras placed by the police around the neighborhoods.  Was this somehow a violation of privacy?  Should they be able to track, “Person of Interest” style, your comings and going?  And more importantly, why should you care?  Quite unremarkably the counter argument was simply “if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t worry.”

It seemed that the discussion has all but disappeared from public discourse–in fact it has as far as the cameras go.  We even let them issue traffic violations (and I say “them” since the process is fully automated and, if my brother-in-law’s experience is any indication, human involvement only makes matters worse.) Read the rest of this entry »

Once again I am befuddled at the complete lack of ability of the local media. In this case, the Centre Daily Times in State College, PA.  In reporting crime for the past week they have two stories that just serve to literally “beg the question.”

Story 1: Alleged Kidnappers Surrender to Police.  In this story 3 men (without description) are said to have lured a 21 y.o. woman into their van and sexually assaulted her.  While the report was filed after 2 AM, there is no hint as to when the abduction and assault occurred.  Oh–and the three men apparently surrendered to police on their own.

Is anyone surprised that the comment section is rife with people challenging every aspect of the story?  Someone was lured (not abducted forcibly) into a van, and the story failed to include any description of the perpetrators.  Not their estimated ages, race, height, or even accents.  And while the report was early morning (2 AM) no indication of the time of the abduction makes things even more “sketch” as the youth today say. Read the rest of this entry »

Last night over on Facebook  we had a rather good and amicable discussion about Obama, and the trend in government to rule the people rather than be ruled by the people. I made a claim that Obama is seeking to undermine the authority of the Supreme Court. Several (correctly) pointed out that many conservatives have argued for years that the Supreme Court should not be “activist” and should not “legislate” from the bench.

The argument generally falls on the view that the Court should follow the “strict constructionist” view–that is, it is there to assess the constitutionality of laws, not create new rights or laws. And this is where Obama’s criticism, and the criticism from the right, diverge. President Obama said he was: Read the rest of this entry »

Dictator, Caesar, or Emperor Palpatine?

Posted by Steve Brady On April - 30 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Another Venture into politics… This one is really REALLY heartfelt…

Here’s what scares me about Obama.  On New Years Eve he signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which, among other things, allows the President to authorize the indefinite detention, in secret, and without legal counsel, of US Citizens.  At the time, he expressed his concerns about the language but promised that his administration would never use it.

Then he (at the beginning of the month) started a campaign to discredit the Supreme Court, attacking them as “unelected people” who should never consider overturning a law (Obamacare) that the majority supports. (Set aside, for just a moment, the thought that he isn’t interested in protecting the minority from the tyranny of the Majority)

He is now running the campaign against Congress, working to do things without them passing laws first. This he is calling “We can’t wait.”

What do you call a President who is actively working to discredit two branches of government that are in place to control the excesses of the other two? A President who is actively working to undermine the “Checks and Balances” protections that our constitution so brilliantly enacted.   A President who has convinced the “Law makers”  to give him the authority to detain and even kill at will?

I hate to say it–but I think the word is “Dictator.”

N.B.:  Now I hope my good friend over at A liberal Dose, and the other one at Pressing the Flesh may actually agree with me on this.   We as a nation must band together. And honestly, at this point, I am beginning to think our only answer will be Ron Paul.  And if you know me, you know I don’t really like that idea all that much.  But at least he isn’t part of the corrupt system.

30 Years Since the Falklands War

Posted by Steve Brady On April - 1 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

How many of you remember the Falklands War? Not only do I remember it (hey–I was in college!) but I later had a thesis student at the US Air Force’s graduate school who had as his close friend a real Argentinian hero. His heroic act? He sunk the Atlantic Conveyor. (Read more about that, here.)

As this story from the BBC notes, the UK remembers Falklands invasion.

War with Iran: Not Inevitable, but Language is Leading There

Posted by Steve Brady On February - 19 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Lesson #1 in learning about diplomacy: governments choose their words very carefully, so that messages are sent in the headlines, and the quotes.

In 1990 George H W Bush made the statement, as the Iraqi forces were still rolling in to Kuwait, that “This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.”

I heard these words on the radio as I was starting my leave from the USAF to go camping at Cass Lake in MN. I told my mother in law at the time that we were going to war. Why? These words were clear, and unequivocal. The implication: Leave–or we will make you leave.

So that takes me to where we are now, with Iran. It wasn’t Obama who made the statement, but close. In discussing the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, declared: “I think they need to know that — that if they take that step — that they’re going to get stopped.”

The link contains a more detailed review of the testimony, and it should be said their was much more nuance to the testimony that the declarative statement and the sabre-rattling headlines. But (and this is an important but) the SecDef has made it clear–here is the line in the sand.

Once politicians–and Governments–have drawn that line, it is nigh-impossible to back down without losing faith.

Things are going to get worse. I feel it.

Private Rights vs Public Good–who should win?

Posted by Steve Brady On January - 29 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Update:  The Citizen, Bobby Maguire, was given permission to use a 33′ right of way.  In exchange for his use (not ownership) of 1/2 an acre of land, he has voluntarily given to the state 1 full acre, and $15,000.  More than fair, I would say.

I enjoy, no LOVE, my place at Rose Valley Lake in PA. Perhaps you have seen some of my photographs that I have posted here ocassionally, or visited my  sets on Flickr (around Rose Valley Lake and  creeks and rivers)  The beauty remains despite reasonable and rational development.

I love it so much that I am, In fact, disappointed every time I have to leave here to return to “Civilization.” That said, I also understand that private citizens have a right to use their private property in ways that they see fit, so long as the proposed uses are in line with the general guidelines and zoning of the area.

The “Friends of Rose Valley Lake” are stepping beyond the bounds of good citizens, as they are now seeking to block an individual from using his property in accordance with the zoning laws of the area. They are asserting that by granting this man access to his property (through the State fish commission property) he will somehow be violating the law.

They write on their homepage that:

” The ‘intent’ for Rose Valley Lake, was to ‘prevent developments . . . and retain the area in generally primitive conditions,’”

They then are somehow complaining that this citizen is willing to “trade with the PFBC one acre of land (generally inaccessible to the public) and $15,000 in exchange for an expanded farm lane right-of-way through Rose Valley Lake.”

Apparently the fact that he isn’t asking for a flat trade of one acre for another, but rather giving the state the land, AND $15,000, isn’t sufficient. Also, apparently the statement that the one acre of land is “generally inaccessible to the public” is meant to imply that is somehow a negative. Interesting in that many believe that in order to meet the objective of maintaining land in “generally primitive conditions” we should keep people from going there. (Remember, the biggest enemy of National Parks tends to be visitors to those same parks….)

One final comment from them. They are argue that the proposed trade would be for an “expanded farm lane right-of-way through Rose Valley Lake public lands in order to facilitate private development.”

Note this citizen isn’t proposing to DEVELOP public lands. He is simply seeking access to his privately owned property, so that he can exercise his legal right to develop his property as he sees fit, in accordance with the local zoning ordinances.

I ask–who are the unreasonable ones?

Also, they are requesting people sign their petition, but there exists no comparable avenue to elicit support for the land owner.  I have created a form, and would appreciate your taking the time to respond.  And for the record, I am interested in learning about BOTH sides of this.

what is transparency?

Posted by Steve Brady On January - 9 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Transparency has been in the news not only with the occupy movement, but also with penn state following the big scandal.  But what is transparency?

Does transparency mean that you tell everyone everything you do and why do it?  bust you violate all levels of confidentiality?

It seems to me when people an organization promise transparency, they are acknowledging a problem and suggesting they can no longer continue doing things the way they have always been done.  I realize this is not always the case, in that sometimes we’re just promising to foster an environment of trust, but that trust is based on the concept of sharing information.

reach leads me to ask these questions is the reality of organizations promising transparency while then defending your actions as being consistent with how things have always been done. If things have always been done this way how is that being more transparent?  Or to put it another way, if you have always been transparent why promise transparency as if it is something new?

I welcome your thoughts on these questions.

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