Showing posts from April, 2011

Sports: Being an LA Sports Fan

Well, what can you say?

The Ducks and Kings were bounced from the NHL playoffs.

Of the six games the Kings and Sharks played, three went into OT indicating the two teams were pretty evenly matched. Not bad considering how the Kings had some late in the season injuries and pretty much limped to the finish line. Wait until next year!

Dodgers have been doing better on the field and perhaps with MLB trying to wrest control of the team from McCourt, things will get better off the field. Nonetheless, the Dodger brand has been badly tarnished.

Meanwhile, the Lakers could be nearing the end of their run with Kobe injured and the Lakers seemingly unable to summon the will to play a full 48 minutes against the upstart Hornets.

Politics: What are taxes for?

Taxes serve three purposes:
1) Raise revenue for government purposes
2) Subsidize activities the government believes (rightly or wrongly) to be beneficial for society
3) Redistribute wealth

Redistribute wealth
Current workers pay Social Security taxes to pay benefits to retired individuals.
Current workers pay Medicare taxes to fund health care for the elderly.
High income earners pay income taxes that funds various programs that may or may not benefit them directly.

Subsidize activities
Are homeowners considered a special interest group?
One deduction in the tax code is interest payments to service a home loan. Thus, the tax code is subsidizing this activity.
Are workers who get health insurance from their companies special interests?
Health insurance benefits from employers are not taxes as salary. Thus, the tax code is subsidizing this activity.
Are people who donate to charity a special interest group?
One can deduct donations to IRS recognized charities. Thus, the tax code i…

Politics: Do the rich pay "enough" taxes?

That is a question people often ask with the assumption the answer is, NO!

But the question does require two assumptions:
What is the definition of rich?
What is enough?

Thus, leaving aside "who is rich" and "what is enough" questions, what can we say about this taxing question?

This item suggests that the bulk (97.3%) of the income taxes are paid by those in the top 50% of the population. Looking at the other part of the bar graph, 58.7% of all income taxes are paid by just 5% of the population.

Thus, with regards to income tax, the rich do pay a large share of the taxes.

However, as any average working person knows, we also pay Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes.

Turns out Medicare tax is essentially a FLAT TAX on income for all employers/employees of 1.45% for employer and 1.45% for employee. Thus, the Medicare tax falls on all people equally.

However, the Social Security tax is a FLAT TAX on income up to $106,800 with 6.2% on employers and 6.2% on emplo…

Theology: Passover and Easter, When?

Saw this item today.

I knew that Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples prior to his death on Good Friday and Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

What I didn't know was that Matthew, Mark and Luke offered that description but that John stated that Jesus died on the day of preparation for the Passover (Friday) which results in a special Sabbath Saturday that was also a Passover remembrance.

Thus, it appears confusing and contradictory!

The article offers this explanation:
Humphreys' research suggests Jesus, and Matthew, Mark and Luke, were using the Pre-Exilic Calendar, which dated from the time of Moses and counted the first day of the new month from the end of the old lunar cycle, while John was referring to the official Jewish calendar of the day.
If the Passover meal and the Last Supper did take place on a Wednesday it would help explain how the large number of events that the Gospels record between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion were able to take place.


LA Scene: LA Phil's Importance of Being Earnest by Ades and Barry

The review from the professional (LA Times Mark Swed) was positive.

The reviews from the comment's section of Mark Swed's report were mixed.

The fact that the concert hall was no where near full meant that many had voted with their feet by either not showing up for their subscription concert, trading out of it or not buying this show in particular.

We went with some trepidation. But as a subscriber since 1999, I had been exposed to some contemporary musical programs and had more often than not enjoyed them. Thus, we went with an open mind to see the show.

It was awful.

Imagine the sound of singers trying to sound like roaring lions? Or was that cats coughing? Or dogs choking? Imagine watching two musicians cracking plates in garbage cans and cranking wind machines. I had to wonder what the singers and musicians thought when they first got the music score? Do they actually like to do these kinds of programs? Or do they figure, well its a paycheck?

Below is the letter I …

Non-profit of the month: May 2011 - KOCE

With KCET breaking away from the PBS network, PBS retains its presence in Southern California through KOCE. Thus, I go to 50.1 to get my PBS Newshour, Washington Week, Nova, Nature and American Experience.

Whether you think PBS should get Federal funds or not, go support your local PBS station if you watch it.

My feeling is that PBS Federal funding should be reduced and used to support stations in rural areas where the support base is smaller. In big metro areas, viewer support should be adequate to carry the weight to keep them on the air.

Non-profit of the month: April 2011 - KCET

Grew up watching KCET: Sesame Street, Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood and Nova.

As an adult, I enjoyed MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour, Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser, Washington Week in Review, American Experience documentaries and documentaries by Ken Burns.

Alas, KCET couldn't or wouldn't make a deal with PBS over financial issues so they have now become an independent station and lost access to a lot of the shows I enjoy on the PBS networks.

By all accounts, KCET is struggling financially even more so now.

Nonetheless, I still find my remote hitting 28.1 periodically because of Huell Howser and So Cal Connected and international news feeds on 28.4.

Therefore, I'll make a contribution to KCET.

Politics: Pick a number ... Rep. Ryan picked 20%

It isn't rocket science: one must balance spending with revenue.

Rep. Paul Ryan selected revenue as 20% of GDP and proposes that spending go down to 20% of GDP.

Of course, he and his plan is being attacked! Shocking, eh?

Would those who oppose his plan please pick a number?

UPDATE: Below is a screen grab from a CBO analysis of Rep. Ryan's plan.

Looks like Rep. Ryan split the difference ... spending is almost 24% GDP and revenue at 15% GDP. The middle ground would be 19-20% bringing down spending 4-5% and bringing up revenue 4-5%.

We need to decide how much government we want. If we want government to be 30% of GDP (baseline scenario - wonder if that is what happens if nothing is done to current policy? Alternative scenario has spending greater than 40%.) then we need to have revenue rise (double) to more than 30% GDP to begin to pay for it and begin to pay down the accumulated debt.

Will his critics come up with a number?

UPDATE: Cato weighs in on his proposal. The…

Politics: Just how much is $61 billion in cuts? Yet another view ...

Imagine the hot dog vendor charges $3.81 but then says, "Hey, I'll cut my prices and sell it to you for $3.75, would you buy it now?"

That is what cutting $61 billion dollars from the US Federal budget is equal to on a percentage basis at the food truck on the construction site.

Technology: The Challenges of Green Energy

The "PR" of Green Energy is very good: good jobs! clean energy! saves the US economy! saves the world!

Of course, most things are never quite as good as advertised.

Why would anyone want to throw cold water on Green Energy?

Well, the reality is that Green Energy bumps its head up against the laws of physics and it costs lots of greenbacks (dollars).

This item I found at the Cato web page is a reprint of an item in Forbes magazine.

green energy is diffuse ... the entire state of Connecticut (that is, if Connecticut were as windy as the southeastern Colorado plains) would need to be devoted to wind turbines to power the city of New York.

Sad to say, the land footprint of a traditional power plant is much smaller than a wind farm. And building wind farms out in the ocean is very challenging and expensive. I wonder how many acres of solar panels would one need to match one good old fashioned natural gas power plant?

it is unreliable. The wind doesn't always …