Sunday, March 22, 2015

Judges 3

I picked Ehud, rather than Gideon, Samson or Deborah, as the chapter to post of Judges. For those unclear on the book, Judges were a string of leaders who appointed themselves to clean up Israel. which they each did, for a while, but then it backslid, due to violation of the rule laid down in Deuteronomy : When taking someone's land, be merciless.

Judges 3 New International Version (NIV)
These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses.
The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.


The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the Lord burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. 11 So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died.


12 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and because they did this evil the Lord gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. 13 Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms. 14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.
15 Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab. 16 Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a cubit long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. 17 He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. 18 After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way those who had carried it. 19 But on reaching the stone images near Gilgal he himself went back to Eglon and said, “Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you.”
The king said to his attendants, “Leave us!” And they all left.
20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat, 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. 22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. 23 Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.
24 After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, “He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the palace.” 25 They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.
26 While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the stone images and escaped to Seirah. 27 When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them.
28 “Follow me,” he ordered, “for the Lord has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.” So they followed him down and took possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab; they allowed no one to cross over. 29 At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not one escaped. 30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.


31 After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Exodus 21

Exodus is a great story, maybe the best in the Bible. Everybody knows the main parts. You've seen the Charlton Heston version, but also a lot of others. All those Star Trek episodes about ultra-powerful aliens that are really just angry children? Yep, that's Exodus.

 After the preliminaries of getting the characters introduced and setting up the plot, there's a scene in that's rather famous:

21 The Lord said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”
24 At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. 26 So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)

The LORD loves the plagues. He had 10 planned and wasn't taking Yes for an answer. But he really, really hates foreskin.
And you know the next parts, where GOD makes an excuse to slaughter babies, Egyptians, and frogs. A brief musical number, and they're on their way into the desert. There, they wander around acting crazy until the locals get concerned.

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Moses as 12th man. Sure, why not?

After all that the story starts to drag. 40 years of wandering around, somehow not losing agricultural skills in 2 generations of living off manna in the desert. The next 20 chapters read like the Internal Revenue Code. So, at last, today's chapter:

Exodus 21 New International Version (NIV)
21 “These are the laws you are to set before them:

Hebrew Servants

“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.
“But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges.[a] He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
“If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself,[b] he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

Personal Injuries

12 “Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. 13 However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. 14 But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.
15 “Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.
16 “Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession.
17 “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.
18 “If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, 19 the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.
20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.
22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
26 “An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. 27 And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.
28 “If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. 29 If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death. 30 However, if payment is demanded, the owner may redeem his life by the payment of whatever is demanded. 31 This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter. 32 If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.
33 “If anyone uncovers a pit or digs one and fails to cover it and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the one who opened the pit must pay the owner for the loss and take the dead animal in exchange.
35 “If anyone’s bull injures someone else’s bull and it dies, the two parties are to sell the live one and divide both the money and the dead animal equally. 36 However, if it was known that the bull had the habit of goring, yet the owner did not keep it penned up, the owner must pay, animal for animal, and take the dead animal in exchange.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Online Chess, for Free

Once upon a time I was a good chessplayer. The USCF remembers. If I was to enter a tournament, my rating would start about 3 classes above my current playing strength. I'd do better playing golf

except I haven't learned to walk a fairway in 4 inch heels.

After quitting tournaments, I hung out for a while in the Square. Playing outside, with real people & smelly basset hounds was pretty good. A long time ago I discovered free online chess. Why is there free online chess? Because that's the going rate.

The first site was Microsoft Gaming Zone. Well designed, good graphics, and you could play it on a modem. Don't think it's there anymore.

So I moved on to Excite. The graphics were a bit off, but it worked pretty well. Then they turned all their games over to Pogo. Pogo tried to monetize the game with advertising. It sucked.

The next step down was Yahoo. Yahoo started the trend of really lazy programming. For years and years, they never fixed obvious problems. People would leave boards open. Lots of boards. 95% of open boards, looking for a player, would actually be unattended. You could offer a draw when not on move. Finishing off a jerk, but in a bit of time trouble? They hit you with 15 draw offers. You have to clear them & can't move. Yahoo dropped chess without fixing it.

So, now there's a primitive form on Facebook.

Anyhow, try it out.
One thing never changes - Your opponent is probably a 13 year old boy with bad skin and a worse attitude.

If you're serious about chess there are a lot of really great sites to study, do problems, and find events.
But the gameplay seems to have been designed by Barbie.

Alas, my girl has been let down again . Computer Engineer? As if. Even for basic coding, she had to turn to boys. If the suits at Mattel can't even be bothered to protect their meal ticket, I dunno. I weep. Maybe Hello Kitty can become a role model.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sad news from Edgar

Barbie has fallen on tough times. According to the last 10-Q, Barbie sales are down 15% this year. Mattel is doing pretty poorly except for American Girl. Sure, we can all agree to hate Fisher-Price. But this is just sad:
So get out there and buy a Barbie. Don't have a small girl in the household? No Problem! Barbie has thousands of uses.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Made for TV Spectaculars!

What to do when the day is rained out, the family is on the road, and your back is sore?

Watch TeeVee & blog, of course. Time for the 200th post in this joint.

I miss the old time Made for TV movie. Sure, if you look at any kind of serious list of the best ever, there are a bunch of artsy cable flicks, and they're still making those.  On different fronts, SyFy has plumbed ever deeper veins in the cheese mines. Hallmark has perfected instant product  :  tune into any of their movies, at any point, and you know exactly what's going on & how it will turn out.


I miss Lindsay Wagner heart tuggers, Barbara Eden pepfests, Robert Vaughn villainy, and Christmas Specials, most of all.

2 of the greatest ever were Chritmas specials!

Silent Night, Lonely Night was about 2 middle aged strangers hooking up at Christmas, and....
And nothing, really. They filled up the time taking long taxi rides from the bus station to the hotel a few yards away, and talking about their marriages. Just the perfect holiday movie!

Lloyd looks slightly more appalled than I remember.

Sunshine Christmas is even better. A Texan whose wife died (In Sunshine : this is a sequel) comes home from Canada for Christmas and maunders about whether to stay & hitch up with Barbara Hershey. I remembered how good the young Kirstie Alley looked in this, until I looked it up & found out it was Meg Foster. Oh well.

Another great one was Single Bars & Single Women. I thought this was about Earl Holliman & the meat market bar scene of the 1970s, until a woman explained it to me : She'd had the same jacket that Shelley Hack wore in the show.

Alas, I can't find it, but there is this classic clip:

There you have it America! For the Glorious 4th - moral decay, corporate soullessness & a deep nostalgia for that which never was.

(I note that this long dormant ghost of a blog has now passed 140,000 page views. 2% humans? Maybe)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

100,000 views, Lincoln, & Concern Trolls

The strange popularity of this blog among the robot set (500 views a day & no real comments) has pushed it over 100,000 page views.

To celebrate without illusions, it's convenient that I've been reading The Coming Fury, and found a passage about Lincoln's secretaries answering letters during the campaign. Per Catton, Lincoln, asked to soothe Southerners sincerely disturbed by the tone of the campaign, replied "There are no such men".

Or, in a more modern - Linkable! version -

The president understood the dangers that any public pronouncement would entail. Shortly after the 1860 presidential election, Mr. Lincoln talked to one visitor about yielding to the worries of Southerners: "It is the trick by which the South breaks down every northern man. I would go to Washington without the support of the men who supported me and were my friends before election. I would be as powerless as a block of buckeye wood. The honest man (you are talking of honest men) will look at our platform and what I have said. There they will find everything I could now say or which they would ask me to say. All I could say would be but repetition. Having told them all these things ten times already, would they believe the eleventh declaration? Let us be practical. There are many general terms afloat, such as 'conservatism,' 'enforcement of the irrepressible conflict at the point of the bayonet,' 'hostility to the South,' and so forth - all of which mean nothing without definition. What then could I say to allay their fears, if they will not define what particular act or acts they fear from me or my friends?"

Which is, of course, a bit different than Catton's version. Such are quotes from the pre-tape recorder era. "Modern quotes are 100% accurate" - Albert Camus.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Doing pretty well for a dead blog

I have nearly 9000 page views in the last month. Mostly, because an old post happened to mention the Ukraine & the IRS.

Of course, I get that this is robots.

Thank you, robots. Bet you don't even realize this is really Reese & Joaquin. Heh.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

This blog is defunct, but the mission continues

Pretty much everything I tried to say last year about excessive cost in higher ed was said much better by Thomas Frank, last year in Harpers & this year in The Baffler

I don't have much of anything to add to his prescription:

What ought to happen is that everything I’ve described so far should be put in reverse. College should become free or very cheap. It should be heavily subsidized by the states, and robust competition from excellent state U’s should in turn bring down the price of college across the board. Pointless money-drains like a vast administration, a preening president, and a quasi-professional football team should all be plugged up. Accrediting agencies should come down like a hammer on universities that use too many adjuncts and part-time teachers.

Or, alas, to his expectation:

What actually will happen to higher ed, when the breaking point comes, will be an extension of what has already happened, what money wants to see happen. Another market-driven disaster will be understood as a disaster of socialism, requiring an ever deeper penetration of the university by market rationality. Trustees and presidents will redouble their efforts to achieve some ineffable “excellence” they associate with tech and architecture and corporate sponsorships. There will be more standardized tests, and more desperate test-prep. The curriculum will be brought into a tighter orbit around the needs of business, just like Thomas Friedman wants it to be. Professors will continue to plummet in status and power, replaced by adjuncts in more and more situations. An all-celebrity system, made possible by online courses or some other scheme, will finally bring about a mass faculty extinction—a cataclysm that will miraculously spare university administrations. And a quality education in the humanities will once again become a rich kid’s prerogative. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Is this thing on, or what? So long, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

This is my 2nd post this year. There have been 2800 page views in the last 3 days.

Robots, please announce yourselves. Kaiju are coming!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Retirement hasn't slowed down the page views

The busiest time ever for this blog was, according to page views, late January. Some robot had focused in on the not particularly exciting, and instantly dated, summary I did of the tax issues open just before Congress closed them.

So, not coming out of retirement, but I had to note that The Rolled Up Newspaper is now over 40,000 page views.

And that Ohlemacher still has no clue, or pretends not to.

The IRS called people up and asked them if they cheat. Shockingly,

When asked how much, if any, is an acceptable amount to cheat on your income taxes, 87 percent of respondents said, "not at all." Only 11 percent said, "a little here and there" or "as much as possible."

You can believe me, or read for yourself: He never mentions the weirdness of the survey design. "Sure, and I spend my weekends knocking over banks."

Monday, February 04, 2013

Not everybody knows

I quit blogging 5 weeks ago. From the massive lack of response, the universe was not upset. To hell with the universe! I'm the old generation, & I've got something to say.

There are many things in life that are so bleeding obvious you assume that everybody knows them. Pause to consider..
One thing that I thought was obvious is that guns are offensive weapons. You get shot - anybody gets shot - that's that. No chance for retribution or reaction - you die. Stats bear this out. If you have a gun in the house, the chance that it's involved in the death of a household member are at least 22 times the chance it gets put to any productive use. Obvious, right?

Well, apparently not. Way too many people seem to have absorbed the idiocy of Stephen Cannell and all his even less talented successors that HEROES never get shot. How is this possible? Damnfino, but it seems to be received wisdom among the usual 27%.

A second thing that everyone should know in their bones is that money is a promise. Money, in and of itself, is not, and never has been, something that will feed you, keep you warm & healthy, or make you happy. It exists only in the promise that you can turn it into other stuff that will have those nice effects. Apparently, all the Libertarians, Goldbugs, Austrians & Objectivists in the world missed that lesson. They seem to think that Au is handed down from GOD as a miracle of stored value.

Whether this is more objectionable theologically or witless pragmatically I leave as an exercise for the reader. In any event, one thing you can get for money is a bikini wax.

Oh, Yeah.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Better living from the IRS

The Ukraine has a long history of getting stomped on, abused, and put through unspeakable suffering. How are they doing these days?

Those spice blue eyes of the original human Barbie - now on her way to a mall opening near you (or not )-  hold more misery than the director's cut of Dune.

Which reminds me of a song - a song that poses the eternal question : Whiny or pretentious?

Sorry for the Polish subtitles - I couldn't find a Ukrainian, or even a Hungarian Horntail. But the Ukraine is hardly the only part of the world with suffering. The real question today is : How do we deal with the suffering of others?

There are a lot of approaches. Think kindly thoughts, but only act when it's in your face is a common one, usually effective as far as it goes, which is about the end of your nose. Another is political action. You know how to do that, & it's not really so difficult, although it certainly has risks. Another is to decide what's important to you, and join in the effort.

Here, for once, there's an  answer.  The IRS will help you find people of like mind, in your area, who are doing something. There are over a million active organizations - and half a million whose exemption has been revoked for nonfiling, so you can probably find a ton within an easy walk. Or,you can go the other way. Hear about a likely organization - say Ducks Unlimited - well, the IRS will tell you where they're headquartered whether they have a valid exemption, and if it has been revoked. (If you're just looking to give to a charity, something like Charity Navigator is useful too, but not as good if you're looking to find the nearest monastic historical society where you can go to weekly meetings and wear hairshirts in public)

The IRS does not post the annual filings on its website, although they are public information. Still, not a problem. There are various databases that collect this stuff. One easy way is to go to the home state AG. In Massachusetts, for example, it would be easier if you have a TIFF viewer, since the AGs office has switched to that annoying file type. Ducks Unlimited raises money in the Commonwealth, so there are hundreds of pages of documents and audited financials that tell you how they take in $150,000,000 per year, and how they spend it.

Looking for something cosier? How about the Boylston Chess Club? Alas, they had their 501(c)(7) exemption revoked. The name search at the IRS looks for an any word match, so otter gives 406 results. Fortunately, the Sea Otter Foundation of Yarmouth, Maine is near the top, so we can close with a bit of squee -

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Survivors of 2012

It's been about 10 years since I first heard of Dead Pools. They seemed like a pretty safe wager (either you win, or your team lives) so I did some research & entered one. Happily, most years I've finished near the bottom. It's time to congratulate some of the mainstays over the years, people who beat diseases, turned their lives around, or just plain hung on through sheer cussedness.

Annette Funicello has had MS for 20 years. It started soon after she did ads for Skippy peanut butter. It's gotten worse, of course.

Correlation, causation - whatever. I stay away from Skippy.

Tommy Morrison is a former WBO heavyweight champion who retired after testing postive for HIV in 1996. Morrison was a BSer from an early age, as well as being absurdly tough. He made a comeback in boxing a few years ago, apparently after faking blood tests. He hangs on from when boxing was big & HIV meant death,  because BS backed by real toughness never goes out of style.

Jan Michael Vincent went from pretty boy to tough guy to Hollywood washout with more dedication than even Nick Nolte. After failing to kill himself with motorcycles, alcohol, and who knows what else, his roles ran out 10 years ago and he retired to Mississippi.

Michael Douglas is here to remind us never to believe anything we read in a paper, and certainly not in a blog like this.
Congratulations also to Michael J Fox, Ralphie May, Ethan Zohn, Muhammed Ali, Ted Johnson, Benny the Rat & Aretha Franklin. If you have any can't miss picks for 2013, please leave them in the comments, or stop by Hobies & join the fun. 6 days left to enter.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Keeping up with the Ohlemacher

There are good ways to use numbers to explain things. Tables*, charts and online calculators** are all well known. Changes in tax law need them.

Then there's the AP way : Throw a bunch of numbers in at random points in a narrative to make it confusing, like Stephen Ohlemacher did this weekend.

The basic story is fairly interesting : Since the IRS has been told repeatedly : Don't worry, things will change, they haven't sent out new withholding tables.

Social Security payroll taxes are set to increase on Jan. 1, so workers should immediately feel the squeeze of a 2 percent cut in their take-home pay. But as talks drag on over how to address other year-end tax increases, the Internal Revenue Service has delayed releasing income tax withholding tables for 2013.
As a result, employers are planning to withhold income taxes at the 2012 rates, at least for the first one or two paychecks of the year, said Michael O'Toole of the American Payroll Association.

Clear enough, yes? A side point that this means the Fiscal Cliff is an even gentler slope than you probably realized, and this would be a useful squib. Alas, however, it's a Big Story, which means 17 more paragraphs of increasing pointlessness.

The tax increases could be steep. If Congress fails to act, workers at every income level face significant tax increases next year as part of the year-end "fiscal cliff."
A taxpayer making between $50,000 and $75,000 would get an average tax increase of $2,400, according to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group. If the worker is paid every two weeks, that's about $92 a paycheck, on average.
Someone making between $75,000 and $100,000 would get a tax increase averaging nearly $3,700. If the worker is paid every two weeks, that's about $142 a paycheck.

Feeling stupider? It's working.

There's one fun bit along the way:

In addition, dozens of other tax breaks for businesses and individuals that are routinely renewed each year already expired at the end of 2011. Congress was expected to renew many of them by January, so taxpayers could still claim them on their 2012 tax returns.

Read it over a couple times, and it just gets crazier. This one we can't blame on Ohlemacher : He's clearly stated the actual situation. The year is likely to end, and tax law will be retroactively changed. The biggest provision is the annual AMT patch. Since it isn't indexed to inflation, there is $92,000,000,000 at stake for 2012.

*Forbes laid out the tables nicely last month
Scenario 1: Tax cuts under the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for all
RateSingle FilersMarried Joint FilersHead of Household Filers
10%$0 to $8,950$0 to $17,900$0 to $12,750
15%$8,950 to $36,250$17,900 to $72,500$12,750 to $48,600
25%$36,250 to $87,850$72,500 to $146,400$48,600 to $125,450
28%$87,850 to $183,250$146,400 to $223,050$125,450 to $203,150
33%$183,250 to $398,350$223,050 to $398,350$203,150 to $398,350
35%$398,350 and up$398,350 and up$398,350 and up
Scenario 2: Tax brackets under the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for all
RateSingle FilersMarried Joint FilersHead of Household Filers
15%$0 to $36,250$0 to $60,550$0 to $48,600
28%$36,250 to $87,850$60,550 to $146,400$48,600 to $125,450
31%$87,850 to $183,250$146,400 to $223,050$125,450 to $203,150
36%$183,250 to $398,350$223,050 to $398,350$203,150 to $398,350
39.60%$398,350and up
Which means a tax increase basically of $450+ 3% of your excess over the top of the 15% bracket, a bit more if you make over $200,000 taxable. There are also various credits, the AMT, the possible reversion of dividends to ordinary, the increase o fhte capital gain rate to 20%. the expansion of the Medicare tax.... Well, there's a lot of details.

**Bankrate has a simple calculator

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

We Can't Have Nice Things

Sure, US exceptionalism means we can't have security from violence, a low prison population, well fed children or universal health care, but what about physical projects?

In the 40 years since Apollo, what neat public stuff has the US built? I can't think of anything major. Sure, there are a lot of big projects (Aswan High Dam) that would have been better not getting started, but let's take a look at some good ones:

Bullet trains
Even India has them.

London Eye

(We have Coney Island & used to have the Jersey Shore)

Dubai City:

This is like a giant version of Las Vegas. Maybe not so great.

In any event, I'm just trying to point out a contradiction. The more we insist on Private Sector Rulez! Gummint fails, the less hope we have of doing anything really special.

And I want special, not more eyesores.

At last, a Church that GOD won't touch!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

If you have something nasty to say...

I need to hear it.

This is post #189 on this blog. Every now & then I produce a real lemon*.

Only twice has anybody mentioned this. Once I wrote a post about Them when it should have been about Us. Someone got upset. I don't know if the rewrite is good, but I'm damn sure it's better.  My last post was just a mess, and needed a straightforward cleanup.

So seriously : what other ones in this work need Edit: Stat??

*At least worse than usual. If it's time to just surrender, say so.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ohlemacher does Steno

On a day the Chronicle of Higher Education did a salary survey , finding 36 private (non-profit) college presidents making over a million last year, the Asspress excreted an atrocity that will have to bump it. Sorry, Bob Kerrey! Your $3 million pay will be the story another day.

Stephen Ohlemacher has done it again. Every easily refuted chestnut about tax hikes and small business you ever heard, taken down with a breathless stenography worthy of Paula Broadwell.

I could stop here, but why not sear your eyeballs with the gory details? Let's roll:

President Barack Obama's plan to increase taxes on top earners would have only a small impact on the nation's economy, according to congressional budget experts. But don't tell that to small business owners facing a tax hike.
Obama's proposal would hit about 940,000 people who report business income on their individual or household returns, says the Joint Committee on Taxation, the official scorekeeper for Congress. That's only 3.5 percent of the people who report business income, but those business owners are projected to earn 53 percent of the $1.3 trillion in business income that will be reported on individual returns next year.
That, Republicans in Congress argue, makes those business owners an important engine for economic growth and job creation.
They recite it as gospel: Paying higher taxes will reduce the amount of profits business owners would otherwise re-invest in their companies, making them less likely to expand and hire more workers. Many economists agree that tax increases in general limit economic growth. But there are big disagreements about magnitude - how much relatively small changes in the top two income tax rates would affect the economy and job creation.

First some stuff that, if read closely, confirms income concentration. Nice start, but the Secret Language of Newspapers is already getting in the way. Then he gets into "Many economists".
Strip out the he said/she said - as Ohlemacher doesn't even try - and you find that there is no evidence that a change in the top tax rate will affect anything. Nada, zip, squat. Ohlemacher more or less concedes this - with an estimate that the effect will be 1/14th  of the total if everything bounces back. A litttle later, Ohlemacher moves into the shallow end of tax policy:

Qualified dividends, which are now taxed at a top rate of 15 percent, would be taxed as ordinary income for top earners, or at a top rate of 39.6 percent.
That, some business owners complain, would leave them with less money to hire new workers or keep the ones they have.
"We're trying to encourage people to go out and hire and take risks," said Brian Reardon, executive director of the S Corporation Association. "If you are reducing the marginal value, you are reducing the incentives for folks to take that risk."
An S corporations is a common business structure in which profits flow directly to shareholders who report the income on their individual tax returns.
Business owners note that they often pay taxes on profits they don't necessarily receive. For example, if you borrow money to start or expand your business, you can use some of your profits to repay the loan, but only the interest portion of the loan payment is tax deductible.
When business owners use profits to buy new equipment or make other upgrades, it often takes several years to write off the cost of those upgrades, depending on depreciation rules.

This sounds like it follows smoothly, but actually takes some sharp bends. Dividend tax rates are utterly irrelevant to S-Corporations. Their distributive share is taxed based on the underlying income, and owner/officers are paid taxable/deductible salaries similar to other employees. One thing about S-Corps: They have a unique loophole in Medicare taxes. Unless it's paid in salary, the owners income is not subject to FICA or Medicare tax. There was some noise about this earlier this year when Newt Gingrich's tas returns came out. There have been several attempts to close this loophole, but it seems the S-Corpation Association is bulletproof. It even survived the new Medicare surtax untouched.

This stuff about startup expenses is 100% hooey. Sure, the expenses you incur before you start a business are amortized undet Sec. 197 over the first 15 years of the business. How are you going to earn over $400,000 in a business you haven't even started?

Now we get to the stenography.

Dan McGregor, chairman of McGregor Metalworking Companies in Springfield, Ohio, said he and the other six shareholders in the business are looking at a tax increase of $250,000 to $300,000 next year under Obama's plan.
Under Obama's plan to increase the top two income tax rates, a taxpayer would have to have an income of around $4 million - depending on how it's structured - to face a tax increase of $250,000.
McGregor's company, which has 365 employees at five locations, does about $80 million a year in sales, McGregor said. Each year, a portion of the profits are distributed to shareholders, along with money to pay taxes. The rest, he said, is invested back into the company.
If taxes go up, distributions to shareholders must go up to pay the higher taxes, leaving less money to reinvest in the business, McGregor said.
"I feel a $40,000 reduction is the loss of one job, so if it's a $200,000 tax increase, that's five jobs," McGregor said.

First, for an S-Corporation, 3% is the increase - we covered the Medicare surtax loophole already. So that tax increase implies profits of about $9,000,000, or $25,000 per employee. That's profits - because all the shareholders/officers salaries are deductions. So he's saying he could afford to give everybody in the company a $25,000 raise! But he won't, because it's more important that the McGregor family each gets their million bucks a head distribution. It's a very old company. If they need more capital to expand, they can raise or borrow it. Also, accelerated depreciation means that if they really were plowing everything back in, the deductions would pile up.

Is this one of those places where things are so expensive that a million bucks a year is just getting by?

In Springfield, the median house price is under $60,000.

We've all heard about these "typical small businessmen" who turn out to be spokesmen for some wingnut front group. Is Dan McGregor? Hard to tell right now. I will note that he seems to be in charge of something called "Christian Mentoring"

Not sure what that has to do with this other Christ, who said:

Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys."

(of the Hibbing Zimmermenschen. Heh indeedy)

Monday, December 10, 2012

30,000 Pageviews Ho-Hum

With a moderate amount of posting and a big step-up in marketing, the RuN has reached 30,000 pageviews a bit ahead of schedule.

Thanks as always to Kate Beckinsale, Balloon-Juice open threads, Roger Ailes, Susan of Texas, and those Krazy Kids on the University of California Board of Regents.

Let's review our missions:

Fighting the increase in University costs.
Preparing for the end of the cheap energy age.
Warning uselessly of environmental collapse.
Providing a few laughs & a lot of breasts.

Hokay...0.5 for 4.

soooo. Wonder Woman movie. Why?

Nice suit. But who is she in 2012?

Anyhow, I have a new candidate :

Sunday, December 09, 2012

AssDeans are Asses : Film at 11

One important thing to remember about having too many administrators : The more there are, the more time they have to do really stupid stuff.

UC has come up with a new logo for their system.

Not sure who stared at that annoyed loading circle, and instead of muttering profanity like everybody else thought : Let's steal this!

Opposition was immediate. A petition is up.

The reviews are in:

It looks like a flushing toilet.
The logo fails because its embodies an abstraction on top of an abstraction. One layer of abstraction is sufficient.

There are some efforts thrown in to explain the difference between a logo & a seal, and to note the the seal remains the same. They fail, because the logo sucks.
 I found a better one:

Anyhow, this all reminds me of when NBC pulled the same stunt.

That was 36 years ago, and the logo wasn't as bad. It just cost NBC $600,000 to develop & a million to buy off NETV. People still remember.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Dead Zones

One of the quiet nightmares of the last 50 years has been the growth of ocean dead zones as a result (mostly) of nutrient runoff. A cycle starts that ends up with rot on the bottom and no oxygen in the water.

You know where this is going : Michigan. Not the lakes - although the Great Lakes have more than their share of problems.

The cultural dead zone : The Suburbs .
How did Michigan, of all places, get to a point where the elected government could stage a coup against their people and institute right-to-work evil? Because so many of them know absolutely nothing of labor history. From the Pullman riots to the relative peace of 1945-1970 was a long, sometimes bloody struggle.

And the history of it was just vanished. The plutocrats stood aside for a generation, while pumping out reams of propaganda. The means of transmission of folk history vanished with the public spaces and places where teens could interact with elders. Places that were systematically excluded from the antiseptic residential monocultures planted in the Auto Age. By 1980, peoples heads had been emptied enough that the White Folks litany could be pumped into a vacuum. The Class War was on, in secret. Victory has been complete. Even 30 years ago, could someone as clueless & odious as Willard Mitt Romney, with his constant denigrating of most of the population, his history of corporate evil, and his sheer cluelessness been allowed anywhere near a nomination? Maybe, but the stories that he ran on - the moochers, dependent, winks, nods, dog whistles & fables - would have at least drawn derision. Now? we are cursed with Very Serious People, who appear to have been raised in jars & don't even have scruples to lose to become pundits.

Corporate profits as a share of national income in red, wages in blue. See any improvement since 2009? This chart is almost enough to turn an O-Bot into a Firebagger. In any event, it's a call to action:

Wake up, and start knitting, all you zombies out there!

Also, too : The rest of the country, walking quietly down the chute.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

5 Dead in Boston

There have been 5 people killed riding their bikes in Boston in 2012, all in the last 6 months.

The latest was today. A 23 year old was moving too fast to avoid a truck making a right turn from the left lane.

In November, a 28 year old was hit by a bus.
In September, a woman was hit by a truck.
A bit before her, an older man hit by a pickup truck was the only case this year where the driver has been charged.

A woman was hit by a bus in June :

They all seem to have come to Boston from far away - Taiwan, Ireland, Seattle. One of them - the oldest - never seems to appear in the story of his death. He has a name & an age, but nothing of his life was in the dozens of stories I searched.

Statistically, it's getting a bit safer to bike. More and more bikes, about the same number of accidents. If there is a point to this post, it's Slow Down.