Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Paying bills is getting to be less EZ.

Anyone use PayTrust from Intuit? Intuit continues to screw the pooch. I've been a PayTrust user for a dozen years, but their new 2-step security for login is going to lose me. It requires that I take a phone call and enter a code with each and every login. Great security, but sucks if your phone system requires an extension code or is in some other way incompatible with their automated system, or if you do not want or cannot take a phone call.

Prior to this, I had been very well satisfied with their services. Never had them make a mistake, live and courteous telephone help 24/7 in English. Cheaper than stamps to mail the bills.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Paying the debt is not EZ.

Unintended, but inescapable consequences. When a nation borrows more than it can possibly ever repay, and "buys" its own debt in huge volumes (otherwise known as 'printing more money', which the US has been doing now for years) there really is no other possibility, the value of the currency falls sure as gravity. This starts a spiral. Since the money is now worth less, the nation has to borrow more, which makes the money worth less. The citizens suffer the results of rampant inflation and productivity nosedives. Rinse, lather, repeat until total currency failure. Read history. This has happened repeatedly in many nations that incur crushing government debt and control their own currency. There have been no exceptions. Does anyone really believe that our poor, ill, and vulnerable will be better off as our financial markets collapse from the weight of the debt? The alternatives include measures like controlling our own government debt (reduced spending AND higher taxes-but we don't yet have a Congress willing to do that) or turning our economy over to a global entity like the World Bank and letting them tell us how to arrange our spending as has happened in the past to other countries.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Even critiques aren't EZ

A family member shared the article linked above. I have given it a great deal of thought. After first reading, it left me with a very uncomfortable, nagging feeling. It took some time and several readings before I could understand why. Here is my analysis, written at least partially because I needed to dissect things until I understood why I felt the way I did about the article. Beginning with the sixth sentence of the second paragraph ("When a Christian..."), it is an extremely well written, thoughtful article with tremendous value. Before that sixth sentence of the second paragraph, well...

The first paragraph is simply descriptive and sets the scene for the discussion. In the beginning of the second paragraph the author gracefully dives off the board of discourse into the deep end of fallacy for the sake of supporting his world view. Note that this is a common type of error which is clearly not unique to this author. It is also the type of error that you simply would have never seen in print before the internet era; in the era when "authors" had editors and editors had experience and printing was expensive.

What the author so egregiously does in those first two sentences is to presume to know another's motivation based solely on his interpretation of the other's actions. Were those actions offensive to the author? Apparently so. Does the author own the privilege of being offended? Certainly. Can the author possibly know the motivation of the person identified as hiding behind the veneer? I offer that he cannot possibly know that. He can observe, interpret, and report, but when he reports his interpretation it behooves him to identify that interpretation as what it is: his opinion and nothing more. An author increases the value to the reader of his opinion by being clear about what is observed and what is made up. I would accept his statement without question had he said, "I felt like the guy was out to ruin my day." This knowing full well that even what we observe is, at some level, made up.

What bothers me about the above is this: The bulk of this article is so well written, so articulate, so thoughtful, that I have a hard time believing that the author stumbled into this as an error. It seems much more likely that this was written as it was on purpose, to manipulate the reader and not to inform the reader. I believe it also exposes the author's prejudices in his call for overcoming prejudices  as he assumes hate while admitting the pamphlet was handed to him with a smile. In those words he calls on all, especially those who share his world view, to assume Christian hate where it may or may not exist--preaching to the choir, as it were. Certainly there are Christian haters, and, since prejudices come from somewhere, he's probably had to suffer a lot of unfavorable actions perpetrated by those who call themselves Christians. But to wedge all into the same box is as wrong as assuming that all gay people are permissive and predatory. The sad truth is that hateful actions may be perpetrated by people who actually have noble and loving motives, but are ignorant or misled. Most people who can muster any semblance of an open mind are probably somewhere on the curve between ignorance and understanding  Ignorance can be cured and that cure can lead to understanding  but first, the misled have to be willing to listen, and you don't get them there by assuming the worst of them. 

Our society has done this, too, assuming hate and prejudice because of disagreement or, God forbid, honest expression of opinion. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of hate and prejudice out there which we should work to eliminate through caring education. But acting in disagreement with another's choices, actions, or opinions does not, prima facie, prove hate or prejudice  Further, to increase a penalty for unlawful behavior based on the race, color, creed, or orientation of the victim as our society is currently doing, is, itself prejudicial and I believe both wrong and unconstitutional  A crime is a crime. A "hate crime" is just a crime. Crimes should be dealt with appropriately in our justice system which is supposed to be blind to race, color, creed, or orientation. Singling out certain victims or classes of victims only serves to perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices  We also commit this error by NOT forcefully prosecuting "black on black" or "Hispanic on Hispanic  or "gay on gay" violent crimes, thus shortchanging the victims. Note that "Repent or Burn" is not a refrain reserved for gays, but also handed to adulterers, addicts, drinkers, and smokers and those exercising a host of other unapproved behaviors.

As a member of a belief system that has been the target of smear campaigns and pamphlet-wielding fundamentalists (who I believe for the most have honest motives but are simply misled) I know what it feels like to be accosted on the street by a crowd with signs and shouts that attack what I am. Many years ago, my wife and I were shoved to the curb while leaving an LDS musical performance at San Antonio's Majestic Theater that had been targeted by a Westboro-like group. It was late and dark and the crowd of protesters was loud and menacing. That was scary. During the San Antonio Temple open house, we met the protesters on the street and politely offered them shade, bottled water, and access to restrooms at a nearby LDS chapel. Our leaders had taught us to not assume hateful motives but to turn away wrath with a soft voice. No wars may have been won that day, but any hate that might have been there was certainly defused. 

Rather than inform the reader in a way that may lead to introspection, thought, acceptance, and change, I believe the leading sentences serve only to further alienate people of differing beliefs. Of all the things we need, in society and at home, that is not on the list. I think it is a shame the author could not bring himself to rise above the level of those that accosted him.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Unemployment: A paradox, and not EZ to deal with.

 A friend posted to Facebook that businesses are to blame for unemployment, saying there's plenty of work to be done, implying that it was only the greed of businesses that caused suffering. He went on to lay blame on the Conservative portion of our Congress.

Here's my reply to him:

Let me fully agree with you that our Congress, both houses, both parties, are not supporting and protecting our society and our freedoms. As a business owner, I agree with you that it is not easy to start a business. Raising capital is a huge challenge but the need for capital varies greatly based on the type of business--I have friends who are free-lance technical or "knowledge-based" workers in their own businesses who were able to start with near nothing, but, then, again, they did stay in school, off drugs, and out of jail; life skills that seem to elude a lot of people. Another huge challenge that many seem to not recognize is the near-crushing load of government regulations that a business owner must meet; our tax code(s) are indecipherable and a violation there carries the threat of government force or punishment for non-compliance, even though IRS "experts" often disagree on how a business should comply. Department of Labor rules often make it difficult to hire workers to meet a legitimate need unless you have the revenue flow to make them "full time" and eligible for vacation, holiday, and medical benefits. Sure, workers should have those things (and we do provide them)--but here's the catch: If you don't have the revenue to pay for those things you cannot provide them--and if you don't have the workers on board, you can't get the revenue. It's a deck that is severely stacked by our (I hope) well-meaning government against the startup and the small business, and that's one key fact that lets "big business" like WalMart overwhelm the mom and pop stores -- Walmart can afford to comply or to fight, Mom and Pop can't. Our small business (28 employees) keeps THREE of those 28 people busy 40-hours a week dealing solely with tax, licensing, and regulatory issues AND we hire consultants to help with state and Federal HR rules; a law firm to help with other compliance issues; and an accounting firm to deal with taxes. Complying with Federal rules consumes around 20% of our total revenue *not including* the local, state, and Federal taxes we actually remit to the government. Another point often missed is that no business ever pays any taxes--businesses simply collect the taxes and pass them along to the government(s). The businesses' customers (people) PAY all the taxes--unlike the government, businesses cannot just print money. As the government's powers all rightly derive only from the powers held in nature by the people, so all resources the government uses are taken from the people. In an orderly society we the people, through the actions of our elected representatives, choose to voluntarily allow the government to collect funds from us to be used for the greater good. Governments choose to use businesses as their proxy in tax collection so as to hide the true cost of government from its own people. We could carry this discussion on ad infinitum, but this is probably not the best venue for that. One final note: as a private citizen consumer, I'd MUCH rather have a self-checkout lane than have to deal with what many of the stores offer me in their "clerks." I go to Lowes because they offer self-checkout vs. the closer Home Depot because they don't offer a self-checkout lane.