In defense of liberalism and taxation

On a mailing list with some local and not so local acquaintances of mine, we’ve been discussing politics recently, and because I’m as left wing as Rachel Maddow and some of the others are as right wing as Sean Hannity, it gets a little heated. So much so that I’d stopped reading it recently more than just quick skimming when I have a little spare time. But when I saw the quote below from a small business owner who makes about the same as the boss of Joe the Plumber, I was compelled to comment in a bit more depth.

"Even if I pay $1 more in taxes because of Obama, I can’t expect that the government will use it better than I can."

Really, sir? You can, and do, build roads and bridges, build schools, pay teachers and defend the security of the nation all our of your own pocket? Seems like a bit of a stretch on the meager profits your self-owned business provides you after all your expenses.

The fact is taxation is the dues we pay to live in America. Without them, we’d be no better off than folks in Somalia or Afghanistan. We live in a society where even the worst off is still doing better than most of the people in those countries, and that’s the direct result of liberal government policies that lift us ALL up rather than forcing everyone to fend for himself. You know why we working stiffs have weekends at all, rather than working seven days a week? Because of Unions. You know why the water that comes out of your tap is safe to drink? Because the government mandates that this be so.

If you’re really so sure you’d be better off keeping everything for yourself, I invite you to leave this land of plenty and set up shop in Afghanistan with your wife and kid. You’ll be able to keep everything that you make, and you won’t have to worry about liberals unfairly interfering in your livelihood. You won’t have safety, security, or possibly even electricity, either, but those should be a problem for a self-starter like you, should they?

Or you could cut the BS and admit that you benefit from living in this nation, that you’ve only achieved what you have because other people sacrificed to create the opportunity for you. That you’d be nothing without the infrastructure of the nation in which you live. The core of patriotism is caring about the other people who share society with you, and other people have been patriotic enough to provide an environment that allows you the opportunity to excel. Show some appreciation and quit being such an inconsiderate greedy douche bag for once in your pathetic life, willya?

I doubt you’ll take my advice. I expect you’ll continue to benefit from the advantages of being an American while shaking your tiny fist at the injustice of it all. Poor man, indeed.

Live Mesh for Windows Mobile works!

From the Live Mesh blog:

Thank you for using the Live Mesh for Mobile client! For users who saw a failure to add their mobile phone to their mesh, we have deployed an updated build of Live Mesh for Mobile. You will need to download the Mobile Installer from http://m.mesh.com/install/wm6/LiveMesh.cab again.  Once you have the new installer on your phone, run it and the installed client will be upgraded to the new version. The new Mobile Live Mesh Client is version number 0.9.3424.6 (check this through Menu -> About). Now you can start Live Mesh, sign in, and you should be good to go.

Sure enough, I installed it on my Treo this morning, was able to log in and start syncing folders. Synced folders can be on internal memory or the storage card, and open up in File Explorer when you click on them. Everything is editable just like anything else on your device. By default Live Mesh syncs your device with the mesh every 30 minutes, but you can change this if you need to.

My partner in crime on Maximum Geek wasn’t so lucky, though. He was told that there were a limited number of allowed users and was unable to register his device with the service. Now does that mean there’s a limited number of people who can connect at any one time, or that there’s a user cap on this beta? Let me know in the comments if you can get it working.

On the whole, very impressed so far. This is going to help enormously with NaNoWriMo, which starts tonight at the stroke of midnight!

It’s here! Or not.

Live Mesh for Windows Mobile is officially available. Only it doesn’t work. Maybe.

Since rolling out the latest Live Mesh release this afternoon, a number of customers have reported trouble installing the Live Mesh for Mobile software. We have identified the problem and are currently working on a new build. We don’t yet have an estimated time of availability, but we will post updates here, on the blog, as we know more.

In the meantime, please do not try to install the Live Mesh for Mobile software on your mobile phone because installation will fail in most cases.

So watch this space for more info. I’m going to install it anyway and see if I luck out, but I obviously don’t recommend this. Yet. I think.

Less than 3 days to NaNo

NaNoWriMo is just over 52 hours away as I write this. I’m incredibly excited. I’ve only done this once before, in 2006, and it was a blast. If you’ve never tried it, the point is to get as many people together around the world as possible to support each other as they each try to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. That’s only 1,668 words a day, 30 days in a row, doesn’t seem all that impossible.

It’s every bit as hard as it sounds. In ‘06 I started off strong, over 3,000 words the very first day, but I hit a wall about midway into week 2, completely blocked and miserable. I fought back, and squeaked in on the very last day, finishing with less than 51,000 words by midnight, November 30. It’s tough, but I’ve never had so much fun writing.

The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that you have to turn off all your internal filters. You just write, no time for second guessing or wondering if it’s good enough. Paradoxically, this often leads to amazing breakthroughs as your inner voice shines through without having all the magic wrung from it by your conscious filter. My ‘06 project was a Mars novel, and I wrote some amazing things that eventually I’d like to revisit and make into a publishable book (at the very least, add in all the punctuation I left out because I was typing too damn fast).

This year is Ghost Ronin, the final version of what my longtime readers have seen as In Shining Armor. I’ve changed a lot of the story, brought it kicking and screaming into the Post-Dubya 21st century, and I expect a wild ride. A nanotechnologically enhanced Army Ranger turned Zen assassin fighting to save the world. Yee ha.

And of course, because I can’t do anything the quiet, simple and easy way, in addition to making my daily word counts and holding down my day job, I’ll be blogging about the whole experience here. I don’t know if I’m going to have time to keep up the frequency of posts on technology and politics, my other two passions, but if writing’s your thing, I hope the pages of this blog will be both entertaining and instructive throughout November. And I invite you to join me. If you’ve ever thought about writing a novel, even if just to see if you can do it, this is your chance. Head on over to the official National Novel Writing Month website for all the deets, and I’ll see you back here to start the adventure in just a few days.

Yay! I voted!

For me, this election is essentially over. I dropped by one the early polling places (two, actually) yesterday and cast my vote for Barack Hussein Obama (and Joe Biden, Mark Udall for Colorado’s senate seat and Ed Perlmutter for my congressional district). I voted at the second polling station because the line at the first one was a good fifty meters long at least, most of that people two or three abreast. And this is early voting, a full week before election day.

Turnout is amazing this year. Looks very good for democracy. Normally I’d slide into a rant about how the Dems are all about voter turnout and the Republicans, in the last several elections, have done everything they can to suppress voter turnout, prevent the people from making their will known. But I’m in such a good mood, I’ll just give that a pass.

More dumbass white folks

Two ignorant crackers got themselves arrested today after planning to assassinate Barack Obama.

Law enforcement agents have broken up a plot by two neo-Nazi skinheads to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and shoot or decapitate 88 black people, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives said Monday.

Assassination plot targeting Obama disrupted – Yahoo! News

Frankly, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of this by now. I grew up in Texas, in a predominantly black neighborhood. Seriously, there were three white kids in my high school, one of the larger schools in Houston. Until I was ten or so, I thought I was just a really pale brother. But even so, I ran into enough bigoted rednecks to understand that the irrational roots of racism run deep in the south. It was only 40 years ago that the federal government had to intervene to guarantee the right of registration and voting to African Americans (which still doesn’t work that well, see Florida 2000, Ohio 2004).

There are still a lot of ignorant white people in the south who just can’t accept the idea of a black president of the United States. It is literally alien to their entire worldview. I think one of the few things the Republican party has done right this election cycle is keeping these wingnuts out of the news, sweeping real domestic terrorists like the Klu Klux Klan under the rug until the election is over. But those idiots are still down there, and they’ll still be there after November 4th. What do we do about them then?

Redistribution of wealth

I overheard a disturbing story at the office today. A woman went out to dinner over the weekend, and noticed that the waiter was wearing an Obama tie. She didn’t say anything throughout the meal, but when it came time to pay the bill, she struck up a conversation.

“So, you’re a big Obama fan?”

“Sure am,” the waiter said. “Pretty much believe in everything he stands for.”

“Well,” the woman said, “Obama’s all for the redistribution of wealth, did you know that?”

“Uh,” the waiter said, confused as to where this was going.

The woman pulled out a ten dollar bill. “This is ten dollars,” she said. “I was going to give you this as a tip. You earned this. But instead, I’m going to give it to that guy outside.” She pointed to a guy sitting on a bench outside the restaurant.

“That’s not fair!” the waiter said.

“Hey, I agree,” said the woman, “but you said you agree with Obama, and this is what he’s trying to do.” She got up, leaving exactly the price of the bill itself, walked out the door and handed the ten dollar bill to the man on the bench.

Why am I telling you this story? Because as usual, it shows how the Republicans have it wrong. They’re ticked off because Obama’s talking about raising taxes on the rich (and corporations, which despite what the law implies, aren’t really people) while cutting taxes for everyone else. They see this as unfairly taking money from them, money they earned. And from their perspective, I can see how they’d feel that way. They’ve been allowed to be greedy for so long they’ve come to see it as normal.

Let me tell you a secret. All taxation is redistribution of wealth. Every dime the government collects from citizens gets given to someone else, be that as entitlements like Social Security or as payment for goods or services. The Republicans aren’t really upset at the idea of redistribution of wealth (except the Ayn Rand libertarians who see all taxation as evil), they’re upset at the prospect of the money flowing from them rather than to them, as it has during most of the last 30 years.

What Obama’s really suggesting is everyone paying their fair share. Those who have benefitted the most from America can afford to give more back to help other Americans up the ladder of success. Fair share doesn’t mean a flat tax, either. A 10% income tax hits a schoolteacher making $25k/yr a lot harder than a CEO making $10M/year. The schoolteacher would have to get by on $22,500, while the CEO would still have 9 million dollars. Progressive taxation is about giving back to the society that made your success possible proportionately to how much success you were able to achieve.

Really successful people, guys like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, realize this. At the very least, the rich need to understand that if they end up with all the money, yay, they “win” but then there’s no one left that can afford to buy their goods. A strong middle class means the rich have a viable market to sell to.

But in the end, that’s not what this is about. I’m almost positive the woman in the story would actually see her taxes go down under Obama’s tax plan. She’d benefit from an Obama presidency, but she’s been duped by the noise machine of the super-wealthy into voting against her own best interests. She’s the real victim in the story. How many more Americans like her are out there? How many people have been fooled into thinking that the Republicans are looking out for them?