Buffet nails it

A Minimum Tax for the Wealthy – NYTimes.com:

This outrage points to the necessity for more than a simple revision in upper-end tax rates, though that’s the place to start. I support President Obama’s proposal to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for high-income taxpayers. However, I prefer a cutoff point somewhat above $250,000 — maybe $500,000 or so.

Additionally, we need Congress, right now, to enact a minimum tax on high incomes. I would suggest 30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that. A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultrarich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours. Only a minimum tax on very high incomes will prevent the stated tax rate from being eviscerated by these warriors for the wealthy.

Above all, we should not postpone these changes in the name of “reforming” the tax code. True, changes are badly needed. We need to get rid of arrangements like “carried interest” that enable income from labor to be magically converted into capital gains. And it’s sickening that a Cayman Islands mail drop can be central to tax maneuvering by wealthy individuals and corporations.

But the reform of such complexities should not promote delay in our correcting simple and expensive inequities. We can’t let those who want to protect the privileged get away with insisting that we do nothing until we can do everything.

[I agree with everything he said in this piece.]

Problems with e-education

Thoughts on Amazon Whispercast:

Essentially, the eBook problem comes down to: you, the publisher, want me to buy everyone a brand new copy of the book. I’m happy to do that, but you want £9.99 per copy. We’re more used to paying £9.99 and giving it to 10 children over the course of years. Make your eBook £1 per copy and we can talk.

On the other hand, I’ll buy 30 copies at £9.99 but I need to be able to reallocate those books next year.

Is there a way to square this circle? Maybe.

Whispercast, like the iTunes Store, requires that each Kindle have a separate Amazon account associated with it. Unlike the iTunes Store, Whispercast can bulk-create these accounts for you, which is handy.

Perhaps the model is this: create 20 generic “First Grade” accounts (e.g. fg01@example.edu through fg20@example.edu) and buy 20 copies of the First Grade reading list. Have the students use that account for a year. When they move on, give the account and password to the next set of pupils coming in.

This is harder to do in the Apple world because the use of AppleID/iCloud is so pervasive across the system. With the Kindle system (at least on the e-Ink Kindles, if not the Fire), it would potentially be easier as there’s less actual data being stored in the user’s account. The pupil logging into the account the next year would – I presume – find the last owner’s book locations, highlights and notes in there but that’s hardly different to the common experience of getting someone else’s used textbook.

Such a deployment model might work in primary education – where everyone is in the same class, likely reading the same class novel at the same time. It doesn’t really work for secondary education unless you buy all the books for every account because the pupil using the account next year is unlikely to be taking the same mix of classes as the last pupil.

I don’t know whether Apple or Amazon is going to get this right first but the company who finally cracks it stands to win a lot of business the education market.

[Yet another mess to fix.]

Source: Fraser Speirs

Road Built Around House, Family Refuses to Leave

Road Built Around House, Family Refuses to Leave:

house in middle of road luo baogen Road Built Around House, Family Refuses to Leave

Luo Baogen and his wife refuse to leave their home in Wenling, Zhejiang, China because they believe that the relocation compensation offered by the government is not enough money for them to rebuild.

See more photos on Enpundit

Source: Design You Trust

[I wouldn’t want to live there, but I give them credit for not giving in. I also give folks credit for building the road anyway, although I think they could have done a prettier, safer job of it. Just because you’re stubborn doesn’t mean you can’t find an answer.]

Feeling grateful yet? Teenage poultry farmer dishes straight talk – The Denver Post

Feeling grateful yet? Teenage poultry farmer dishes straight talk – The Denver Post:

Last thing: Farming is very hard work. I don’t make a lot of money doing it, and people do not support what you are doing. I live out in the country. As new folks move in, they complain about the name of your farm, smells, mooing cows, bleating sheep and crowing roosters, even though these things were there before they built a million-dollar house and moved in. I do not plan on farming in the future.

If you want sustainable, wholesome, pasture-raised organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free food, you have to support it. You can not get these things by talking about it and not paying for it.

The next time you shop at a farmers market, think about what it cost me to grow it. Don’t ask me to take less and then tell me you can get it cheaper at a big-box store. I know you can — but it will not be as fresh or as good as what I have, and you won’t make me cry.

[Well that’s as straight up as any discussion on this topic is going to get.]

“Over the Top: The new war for TV”

“Over the Top: The new war for TV”:

As it is, I’ve been without cable/satellite for two years now, and I mostly don’t miss it, but I have very little interest in live sports. I’ve realized one big problem with the Apple TV approach, though. An application-centered interface paradigm is fine for a smartphone or tablet, but a television wants a content-centered interface. An icon for every service is passable (although not ideal) for replicating the channel surfing experience, but I want a screen which shows me all my subscriptions and favorites across every service on the device. If I want to answer the question “Are there any new episodes of ‘Castle’” I shouldn’t have to first answer “am I getting ‘Castle’ through iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, or the ABC app”.

[So filled with promise, so less than compelling. ]

Source: Coyote Tracks

Please design me a dog house

Please design me a dog house:

In June of 1956, Frank Lloyd Wright — a man posthumously recognised as “the greatest American architect of all time” by the AIA — received an unusual letter from 12-year-old Jim Berger, a boy looking to commission the design of a home for his dog, Eddie, by the same architect who designed his father’s house 6 years previous. Incredibly, Frank Lloyd Wright agreed and, as seen below, supplied a full set of drawings for “Eddie’s House” the next year. Construction was eventually completed by Jim’s father in 1963.

Eddie hated his new home. It was demolished in 1973.

The full exchange can be found below, along with a photo of the completed dog house. It was the smallest structure ever designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and possibly the least used.


Source: Letters of Note

The Average Place on Earth

The Average Place on Earth:

Projections for the year 2050 predict that most of the 8 billion people on the planet will live in megacities, with populations over 30 million. And these megacity clusters will form a network made up of smaller cities over 1 million in population. But these incredibly dense clusters will weave through a countryside that is emptying. It is already common to find entire villages in China, India, and South America abandoned by its inhabitants who fled to the swelling cities, leaving behind a few old folks, or often, no one at all.

This is the pattern on Earth. Extremely dense and vast populations in a network of megacities connected to each other with nerves of roads and wires, woven over an empty landscape of wild land, marginal pastures, and lightly populated farms.

By 2050 and beyond, Earth will be a urban planet, while the average place on the planet will be nearly wild.

[Averages are tricky.]

Source: The Technium

What does tech in the “new office” look like?

Little, Big:

Part of me rebels against this observation, for “people like me” form a terribly skewed sample. We do a lot of things with our hardware that the Median User does not do—like install software. (If the majority of applications on your phone, pad or even computer didn’t come with it, you aren’t a Median User.) For people who want to have an iPad as an adjunct to their laptop, the Mini may be near perfect. For people who want to have an iPad as their one portable device, though—something that they really can do Serious Work on—the Mini may not be the right thing.

Yet I can’t shake the notion that I run into a paradox with that premise. Most “Power Users” wouldn’t want to replace their laptops with iPads, yet I suspect it’s only the Power Users (and a subset of them) who would look at an iPad and wonder if they could replace their laptop with it in the first place. The best way to use an iPad is not as a laptop replacement. It’s as an iPad. It’s quite possible that millions of people would rather have an iPad instead of a laptop. And it’s quite possible that many of those would, given a choice, rather have a smaller, lighter iPad, just like many of us who want an iPad and a laptop would.

So what does this mean for non-iPad tablets? If the iPad Mini is the better size, then all those other tablets were onto something, right? Yes, but the original iPad sells more than all other competitors combined. Either buyers vastly prefer 10″ tablets, or buyers vastly prefer iPads. Given that other 10″ tablets have been about as popular as a vegan activist at a Texas chili cookoff, I know which one of those I’d put money on.

[Working hard to understand exactly thee feelings as they relate to the new office. How many folks really need a laptop? desktop? iPad (or pad of some sort, but for now it’s really only Apple’s stuff, we’ll see what time brings.) Even a Chromebook might work for some. It’s certainly inexpensive enough. WHat do you think the new office will look like from this perspective.]

Source: Coyote Tracks

politicos, hipocracy, and being judgmental

David Simon | Stray penises and politicos:

But for those who love throwing stones, is it too much to ask that their aim be true? That they limit the target to Darwinian compulsion, to ordinary, and yes, at times, unthinking human desire.  That they not equip themselves to judge the totality of a public servant’s entire career and works solely with the details of whatever sexual misadventure we happen to discover.  Roosevelt was a smart guy.  So was Eisenhower.  Clinton might be the smartest president of my generation.  And David Petraeus saw and spoke to the folly of Iraq before the rest of America was cheering the fall of Saddam’s statue.  And he stayed long after that folly was evident to work at a remedy for and an extrication from that tragic intervention.

If we can judge stupidity by solitary lapses, then Roger Simon, by dint of this recent column could rightly be judged a moron.  And if we’re going to free associate stupidity with the public discovery of sexual misadventure, such vacuous shit as Mr. Simon just offered up virtually requires him to be caught unawares in a Nuevo Laredo whorehouse with a fistful of fifties.

What I just wrote is unfair of course.  I’m sure Mr. Simon has had better and meaningful moments commenting on our body politic, just as the general has had other, more meaningful moments as a public servant.  But given that Petraeus himself doesn’t seem to have done anything criminal, or failed in his public performance, one can surmise that his decision to depart as CIA director is predicated on what he will now endure from our stunted media culture.

Allen Dulles screwed his way through dozens of women as director of the CIA.  Dulles, by every fair historical assessment, was a Georgetown player and backroom bullshitter who led the agency into some of the worst intelligence failures in American history, then created an alternate myth of success for the agency.   Shame on the American press corps of those years for buying into the professional myth, of course, but hey, at least those then covering the intelligence community hadn’t reduced themselves to a copse of dour-faced, suit-and-tie-wearing Hedda Hoppers.  They didn’t give a shit who Dulles slept with. But David Petraeus can expect no such quarter, or — as Mr. Simon’s commentary suggests — even the smallest sense of proportion.

Of course he quit.

[It was never easy, and it gets harder all the time.]

Petraeus: The Long Knives of November

Petraeus: The Long Knives of November:

Let’s end by putting ourselves in the ill-fitting shoes of General David Petraeus. Although he certainly earned some of his stars for valor at press manipulation and self-flattery, he also provided the following services to the Bush and Obama administrations: he served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan; he devised a cover strategy for Iraqi withdrawal that saw President Obama through his reelection campaign; in Afghanistan he kept the Taliban out of Kabul long enough to suggest that, during the voting, the administration could talk up peace with honor; as CIA director, he presumably had a hand in finding bin Laden and bringing his rubout to a campaign spot near you; and in the Benghazi firestorm, he lent his considerable credibility to the wobbly administration cover story that the attack was spontaneous and unavoidable—all in the service of reelection politics.

Despite these efforts for the Obama team, General Petraeus now gets to look at pictures of his mistress on the front page of the New York Times; to hear that having a girlfriend made him “vulnerable to blackmail,” and to see his reputation dragged through the mud of the Tidal Basin, as though he had jumped in with Congressman Wilbur Mills and the Argentine Firecracker. Nor, in the fashion of Soviet show trials, does he ever get to respond to any of the allegations before they are blithely published or aired on television. “From Cy Young to sayonara,” as Graig Nettles said of similar politics on the New York Yankees.

If that isn’t enough gall to swallow in one sitting, General Petraeus also gets to time his public disgrace so that it happens in the same week that President Obama is celebrated on front pages around the world for his election triumph, his historic mandate, his charming family, his professional team, his brilliant handling of Iraq and Afghanistan, his killing of bin Laden, and his leadership in the Arab Spring.


Source: NYTimes eXaminer