Unmistakable Marks

Warranted Genuine Snarks

Nobody Here But Us Rich Folk

The Wall Street Journal, analyzing the effects of Kerry’s tax plan, obviously believes its readers are doing pretty well for themselves:

What would your taxes look like if the Kerry plan were enacted? Tax specialists at Deloitte & Touche calculated how five high-income taxpayers might be affected if the Kerry plan were in effect for this year, compared to current law. High-income taxpayers — particularly those with substantial dividends and capital gains — would be especially hard hit.

A hypothetical married couple earning $1 million, including $27,000 in dividend income and $250,000 in capital gains, would pay $34,850 more under a Kerry administration than under the current one, according to Deloitte. A single taxpayer with $275,000 in income, including $5,000 in dividend income and capital gains of $20,000, would pay only $2,500 more under Sen. Kerry’s plan.

No further profiles are offered. Presumably, they figure that their readers fall somewhere between those two extremes — from the top .01% of households all the way down to those merely at the top 1%.

Preposterous focus on the super-wealthy aside, it’s actually (like most non-editorial WSJ articles) a solid piece, doing the kind of substantive issue analysis that most mainstream media never bother with. It also validates two facts that Republicans are doing their best to obscure: That Kerry’s plan only affects the very well-off and that tax hikes are inevitable.

Deloitte analysts estimate that Sen. Kerry would raise taxes for married couples filing jointly with adjusted gross incomes of about $225,000 or higher, and for single taxpayers with an income of $185,000 or higher. These estimates are based on representative taxpayers with typical itemized deductions. ...

No matter who wins, though, some strategists say higher taxes are inevitable in coming years. “Higher-income people are going to be paying more in the way of taxes at some point, because the deficits can’t go on forever,” says Len Burman, co-director of the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, and a former Clinton Treasury official. “In some ways, Kerry is just accelerating the day of reckoning.”

Comments | August 26, 2004

I Deeply Resent etc.

I’m as critical of Bush as the next guy, but the one criticism I’ve never been able to really take seriously is that he and the Republican Party are working toward the near-term abolition of democracy. I mean, yes, they totally cheated their asses off in a lot of well-documented ways in 2000, but that was just opportunism flowing into a confused void. It’s not like they’d actually plan things in such a way that it’d be easy for them to steal a vote in a crucial swing state.


Comments | August 25, 2004

A Liberal By Thirty

As a jumping-off point for a rant about airlines, Chad Orzel remarks that contrary to the supposedly normal political evolution, he’s finding himself getting increasingly liberal as he ages. Me too; I was one of those teenage libertarians he mentions, and now I'm... well, center-left, so not exactly a raving socialist, but still way left of where I was. In my case, the change is largely because:

  1. My childhood faith in "equality of opportunity" was given a good knock upside the head by going to college and meeting unequal people -- if you live in a rural town where damn near everybody works at the paper mill or the sausage factory, the "rich" people have desk jobs at the paper mill and sausage factory, and “private school” means St. Mary’s, one can believe that we live in a classless society; when you start talking to people who attended fancy East Coast prep schools and keep koala bears in their greenhouse/atrium, not so much.
  2. I find myself insensibly creeping up income brackets, and am therefore no longer able to take the plight of the top tax bracket seriously. Back when I made $5.50 an hour, tax bitching struck me as reasonable: I barely paid any taxes at all (only Social Security, really), and I resented every goddamn penny of it. Seeing $20 a week taken out of my paycheck pissed me off to no end, so how much more (I figured) must it piss off those who see thousands of dollars taken from their paycheck? Now, while I’m nowhere near the top tax bracket, I still make enough money that a few hundred dollars here and there isn’t a big deal. Me bitching about taxes would be silly. People making four times what I make bitching about taxes is just preposterous.
  3. My fondness for cleanly elegant theoretical systems has been dampened by a greater appreciation for the messiness of reality. Sure, clean and elegant stuff is still cool — I like my board games to have simple mechanics, and I like my code to be pretty — but it’s not worth babies dying in the streets (a rhetorical bullet I was perfectly willing to bite, back then).
  4. I’m slightly less of an asshole now. I’ve remarked before that 90% of the time, libertarianism is just intellectual cover for assholery. I still believe it to be true (with the proviso that any libertarian readers I have are certainly in that other ten percent).

Some of these factors are unique to me, but most of them are broadly applicable; and Chad and I certainly aren’t the only people I know who’ve become more liberal with age. So, what’s the deal? Is the traditional liberal-to-conservative progression switching? Are Chad and I still too young, and we’ll be crusty old Republicans by the time we’re 50? Tune in twenty years from now to find out the thrilling answer!

Comments | August 19, 2004

The Joys of Web Interfaces

In theory, Web interfaces should totally suck. In practice, they frequently do. But good Web UIs — and bad desktop-app ones — occasionally remind me just why Web applications, despite their bad rap, are still hugely popular. Take media players for instance.

I use Microsoft’s pretty-good Windows Media Player 9 to rip and organize all my CDs, and for that it works well. But for playing back music, it’s just not good enough. The interface, despite its richness, doesn’t have the flexibility I want. Neither does Apple’s iTunes (which also won’t play my music without converting it into an Apple-proprietary format, and doesn’t behave nicely with Windows). The open-source foobar2000 has the flexibility I want, but it has all the spit and polish you’d expect out of a program named foobar2000, which ain’t much.

So I’m sitting here getting irritated that I can’t find a good media player. “Damn it,” I say to nobody in particular, “why can’t I find a media player that’s at least as easy-to-use as the web UI for the Squeezebox?” And then I stop, because I am hit by a late-striking flash of brilliance: Yes, the SlimServer software is made to control the Squeezebox, but thanks to a nifty little Java applet, it can actually work as a purely stand-alone media player with the same great SlimServer web UI.

And after trying that out, sure enough, it’s great. So here’s the part of this blog where I do the delighted-customer-turned-evangelist thing: SlimServer is free in every sense, it runs on any platform, and it plays every music format under the sun from the hyper-open ones like Ogg and FLAC to the hyper-proprietary ones like Apple Lossless (though, as of yet, not any DRMed stuff — but you’re not wading into that foul swamp anyway, right?). If you play music on your computer, download it and give it a whirl.

(Yes, that's "beta" in that URL; there is a stable version 5.2.1, but the 5.3 beta appears to be about as stable as the latest stable release, and it's easier to get set up for standalone usage, thanks to inclusion of the SoftSqueeze player.)

Download, install with the friendly installer, start up with the little SlimServer icon, click on the “SoftSqueeze” link, and you’re good to go. You can control the music through SoftSqueeze (which is a software emulator of the Squeezebox device and remote), but it’ll be easier to just minimize SoftSqueeze and control everything through the Web UI.

Tips: If you don’t set the SlimServer to start up automatically on boot (which you may want to do, but probably not if you’re just trying it out), you’ll need to start it up the first time with the SlimServer icon; but after that, it’s probably best to close that window and just point your favorite browser at http://localhost:9000 (unless you really like IE). Also, if you want the SoftSqueeze window to look nicer, select the Excession skin in the preferences for a vaguely Winampish sort of look.

And just to finish up my salesman-evangelist bit, I feel obliged to add that if you like SlimServer and also think it’d be handy to be able to listen to music on your actual stereo system, boy howdy, are you in luck. I bought a Squeezebox a few months back, and while I said good things about it then, my opinion of it has gone up further in the intervening months — and not only because Slim’s been busy making it better with frequent improvements in SlimServer. Mostly, it’s because I’ve had more time to use it, and the more I use it, the more I like it. Lousy products tend to irritate upon greater familiarity, as their initial flashiness is forgotten and their shortcomings become more apparent, but quality products grow on you as you come to appreciate all the little details that add up to a superior experience. The Squeezebox is quality.

Comments | August 17, 2004

Taking Arms Against Geek Sanctimony

Eric Sink nails it. Programmers like to imagine that they’re a uniquely special class of people whose every whim should be catered to by their employers; but prima donnas — even if they are really good — are almost never worth the hassle.

Being a professional developer often means working on dull projects with lousy tools in sub-optimal environments. This isn’t always fun; that’s why they pay us.

Comments | August 5, 2004

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