Searching For A New Desktop PC

As a result of being gainfully employed in the computing sector, I have access to a fair number of tools and a lot of opportunity to develop my coding skills.  Unfortunately, most of the tools I use at work are Windows-based and do not have Linux analogues (such as the latest version of CodeSmith, for example), so I am now in the market for a new PC.  I’m looking at building one for myself so that I can program at home and become a bit more efficient at work.  I figure that I won’t purchase such a computer for another couple of months, as my probation ends in just under two months and I would like to have that job security ensured before blowing lots of money…

Close In Florida

As of right now, Mitt Romney and John McCain are neck-and-neck in Florida.  If Romney is able to win, it will be an upset considering that McCain gained a lot of establishment support in that state.  But if McCain is able to pull it off, the road looks more difficult for Romney considering the number of delegates available on Super Tuesday.  Mike Huckabee is liable to siphon off a lot of southern delagates and if Rudy Giuliani decides to bow out, McCain becomes the favorite in several states like New York, California, and Connecticut.

In that case, one of two things is liable to happen:  either anti-McCain conservatives dump Huckabee and Giuliani and rally around Romney or anti-McCain conservatives have to decide whether their “I won’t vote for John McCain” statements (including, uh, mine) are cheap talk when it comes down to McCain versus Clinton or Obama.

In any event, I’m rooting for Romney to gut it out…

Little To Do About Energy Independence

From an e-mail to The Corner’s Peter Robinson:

A guy in his 20’s asked Fred [Thompson], “What will you do about energy independence?” Fred: “Probably not much. Two terms isn’t long enough.”

Thompson’s absolutely right. Given the way things stand, “energy independence” is a present-daychimera.

Before I get into my full point, I have to make the standard economist’s remark and say that the urge for energy independence is a classical desire for autarky, and the notion of “energy independence” makes no more sense than “food independence” or “electronics independence” or any other type of goods or services “independence.” If it is cheaper to buy certain foodstuffs from Belgium, then buy from Belgian suppliers and use the savings to satisfy better your other needs. Such “independence” makes about as much sense on the national level as on the personal level: even farmers are not “food independent,” as they sell their crops and purchase other foodstuffs. And the notion of subsistance farming has never exactly been a boon for individuals. People trade because it is mutually advantageous, and it doesn’t really matter whether the other person is from across the street or across the world.

That said, I’ll move on to Thompson’s statement. The usual reason for desiring “energy independence” is, aside from autarkic notions, made on national security grounds. Big players in the global oil market also happen to fund radical Islam. Meanwhile, because oil is a fungible good, one subset of the entire oil-purchasing clientele (Americans) cannot prevent a particular group of suppliers from receiving payment. If we don’t pay the Saudis, then some other group of oil consumers will. Thus, because of the futility of that method, moving global production to a non-oil-based system would deprive the radical Islamists of a great portion of their funds, thereby limiting the efficacy of their attacks. For the sake of argument, let us suppose that this is true and that there would be no unintended consequences resulting from this course of action.* How close are we to realizing this goal?

The answer, as Thompson says, is “not very.” One of the most disappointing aspects of both sets of presidential debates is all of this talk about “energy independence” or, better put, “shifting away from oil.” Only two of the candidates** have effectively said that it’s not going to happen short-term: Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson. Romney, in a couple of debates, has made it a point of his not to promise anything extravagant, but rather to “put ourselves on the road to energy independence.” He understands that we aren’t there and aren’t even close to it. Thompson, meanwhile, just out-and-out said that there’s not much that any president can do.

At present, there are no real technologies which could eliminate oil as a vital part of any economy. Nuclear energy is quite under-used in the US, but even if Democrats had a major change of heart and accepted the widespread building of nuclear power plants, that doesn’t change the fact that cars, trucks, boats, planes, and trains all run on some form of oil, and that oil is the cheapest way of making these cars, trucks, boats, planes, and trains go, as well as being useful in lubricants, plastics, detergents, fertilizers and pesticides, and so on. In other words, moving away from oil would require finding cheaper ways of producing a wide variety of goods. We’re nowhere near that point yet, and there is pretty much nothing that any president can do about it, especially without being harmful in some other way (such as increased CAFE standards making cars smaller and more deadly for passengers, as well as introducing SUV-sized loopholes such as, well, the one which made SUVs popular).

* – Naturally, there always are, but I don’t want to spend all day writing this thing…

** – Well, I wrote this before Fred Thompson dropped out of the race, so we’re down to one candidate…

The Royal Rumble! – updated with the surprise winner! (I was wrong :( )

Tomorrow (well, today) marks the 25th Royal Rumble (or something, I don’t feel like looking it up). For those who do not know, the winner of said Rumble gets a title match at Wrestlemania for whichever title they like. It has made the careers of some men, taking mid carders and vaulting them to the upper card (see Batista) and making upper carders into legends (HBK and Austin). A list of Rumble winners reads as a who’s who of WWE stardom; apart from “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, the rest are all legitimate Hall of Famers. The WWE tries its best to fool people into thinking “anyone” has a chance, to the point that this year a midget named Hornswaggle, who is apparently Vince McMahon’s illegitimate bastard son (they always use both, as opposed to the legitimate bastard son), is competing. Although the 2004 Rumble never happened (thanks to He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named winning it), it is a great example of a huge underdog winning it all. It pales in comparison to Rey Mysterio winning it in 2006, but it’s a big deal. That’s what I’m trying to get across here.

As usual, there are about a half dozen legitimate contenders. Being really big is hardly a guarantee; lots of big guys get chucked over the top rope. In reverse order, here are the six men I think have the best chance at winning the Rumble.

6. Batista – He’s won it before (2005), and he’s a multi-time champion. He’s hugely over with the fans, but the direction of the WWE suggests that Undertaker will face Edge at Wrestlemania for the World Heavyweight Championship. Some think Big Dave will jump to RAW after the Rumble to set up an Evolution Reunion triple threat for the WWE title (along with Orton and HHH), but if Hardy wins the title, they’d need a heel to take the spot; Batista doesn’t have a good heel run in him.

5. Ken Kennedy – He’s been given huge opportunities twice, both of which he lost due to injury or idiocy. First, he won Money in the Bank 2007. He lost it to Edge because he was hurt. Second, he was supposed to be the real payoff to the “Who is Vince’s son?” angle; he screamed about morons using steroids and then promptly got suspended himself. He’s got the tools and the skills on the mike, but I don’t know if he’ll get a third chance without paying his dues. I think he’ll eventually get the IC belt, if Hardy ever loses it, and he’ll run with it for a few months.

4. HBK – Shawn won the rumble twice, in 1995 and 1996, including doing from no. 1. He’s one of the best at Wrestlemania, and he’s held the title before. I just don’t see another title run in HBK; there’s already too many face challengers on RAW and I don’t see him leaving HHH and going to Smackdown (unless they both do). HBK’s just not credible as a heel anymore. Five or six years ago, sure, but not now.

3. HHH – There was a lot of rigamarole to get him in the Rumble in the first place; he won it 2002 and was almost not in this year’s Rumble at all. However, he’s the marquee player on RAW until Cena gets back and it’s highly probable he’ll get a title shot at Mania. He could easily turn heel again, and he’s got an opportunity to relive a feud with Jeff Hardy, which would launch Hardy into the stratosphere. As a face, he’d be a good match for Orton if he retained. He’s the only real two way player on this list. Why isn’t he higher? I think they plan on putting the belt on Cena as soon as he’s healthy again, and that means the only way a face could get the belt is if he lost it to a heel shortly after wards. I don’t think Triple H is ready for another heel run (he’s too popular and has too much pull to change if he doesn’t want to). He really doesn’t need the Rumble, and the Rumble honestly didn’t need him. For all the “obstacles”, it was pretty easy for him to get in.

2. CM Punk – Now, Punk is a major dark horse. He just lost the ECW title; he’s not in the match officially, but it’s safe to say he’ll make an appearance. Punk is the best thing on ECW right now, and Chavo is little more than a transitional champ (Mysterio to ECW?) in his career. They’re building a rivalry with Edge already, and I could see Punk winning the Rumble, becoming a megastar, and challenging Edge for the title. He’s got nothing left to do on ECW; it’s inevitable he’ll end up on Smackdown. He is a long shot though, and I think it makes too much sense, storyline and show wise, to make the following man Rumble winner (again)…

1. The Undertaker – Yes, he’s still around, Dan. He won the Rumble last year, and it felt like a huge deal; he’d been gone for a couple of months, and the battle with HBK was epic before he finally tossed Michaels over. The Undertaker will be a part of Wrestlemania until he loses, and he won’t lose until he’s ready to retire. Edge is the perfect heel champion on Smackdown; only MVP would be better, and he isn’t ready yet. Taker and Edge have unfinished business since Edge screwed him out of the title at Survivor Series. Undertaker won’t be an afterthought at Mania; if he isn’t going after the title, there has to be another big time heel for him to face to make it mean something, and the only person who would qualify would be a heel HHH. (That would be an awesome match; Trips has always been better as a heel and the atmosphere would be electric.) The only reason Taker wouldn’t win the Rumble is if Edge loses the title, and I doubt he will; he’s got to have at least one decent title reign.

UPDATE — How’d my guys do? Kennedy, HHH, and Batista made it to the final five. As soon as the Rumble started and I heard the gong for Taker’s music, I knew he wasn’t going to win. Ditto HBK, who came in at no. 2. CM Punk made a strong showing and hung around for a while, but wasn’t really dominant enough to convince me he had a shot. Khali was eliminated way too quickly; I think he’s going from “unstoppable badass” to “ultra jobber like the Big Show used to be.” The best part of the Rumble, apart from the surprise no. 30 entrant (biggest pop in a while, since RVD came back to RAW), was Taker going apeshit on Snitsky when he was eliminated. Final four: HHH, Batista, Kane, and the winner of the Rumble (and second in a row to win from no. 30)…
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There’s A Reason Foreigners Don’t Vote In American Elections

Europeans, every once in a while, get the stupid notion in their heads that they should have a right to vote in American elections. Not content with having screwed up their own countries, they also want to screw up the US in order to make their pathetic crapholes look a little less bad in comparison to the greatest nation on Earth.

In reality, things should go the other way around: Americans should be the only ones voting, and they should do it for every country. We have the best place on the planet, so obviously we must be doing something right, and it would be a benefit to spread our greatness to those zany foreigner people. To show how awesome my idea is, I shall engage in a bit of point-counterpoint with myself.

Point: Taking away voting rights from foreigners would be undemocratic.
Counterpoint: Foreigners, for the most part, don’t really care for democracy anyhow. They aren’t used to it and try at every junction to give however much of it away as they can. Take, for example, the EU. The EU is a big, democracy-crushing bureaucracy in which the parts with power are unelected and the elected parts screw around in Strassbourg and occasionally pass bills to give themselves raises. So it’s not like Europeans have much of a voice now.

Point: Americans don’t really care about American elections; why would they care about foreign elections?
Counterpoint: Really, they wouldn’t. On the plus side, though, we’ll end up occasionally with some very interesting results, such as Jesse “The Body” Ventura being elected President of Trinidad and Tobago on a platform of forming a bobsledding team which will finally beat the Jamacian juggernaut.

Point: That’s not really a good thing! Foreign countries have their own sets of issues and farces like that would be entirely unhelpful.
Counterpoint: Considering the idiots, fools, kleptocrats, and power-hungry fiends already in charge of most of these places, we would be doing a lot of these places a favor. Imagine if Hulk Hogan were elected King of Zimbabwe; could he possibly do a worse job than Mugabe? Of course not! The Hulkster would be a clear improvement, even with the occasional war with Macho Man Randy Savage’s Indonesia.

Point: So basically, we’re going to elect a bunch of ex-professional wrestlers to run these countries?
Counterpoint: Pretty much. Except for Australia, which will be run by that one guy from Crocodile Dundee. Oh, and Libertarianistan (formerly Maldova), which will have Ron Paul as Maker of Suggestions Which You Need Not Follow Because There Isn’t Really A Government As Such But More Of An Advisory Board Which Meets Every Once In A While And Talks About How Super Awesome Murray Rothbard Was.

Point: Ron Paul’s business cards must be pretty big.
Counterpoint: Actually, he uses a really small point font and begins relatively high up on the card so that he is still able to get everything on the front of one card.

Point: Well, you have me convinced! This is a wonderful idea and could not possibly fail on any level!

Breaking The World Irony Record

At a Hamas rally, they find a guy with four kilos of TNT in his backpack.

Hamas is clearly perpetuating a vicious circle and should give in entirely to the demands of the person with the backpack in order to stop this cycle of violence. They should give peace a chance and not oppress this guy with the backpack. Furthermore, they should all exit the region because it actually belongs to the guy with the backpack and they are illegal occupants of Backpackistan.

Romney’s Tax Plan

[Note:  I actually wrote this before Fred Thompson bowed out and I decided to go with Romney.]

I love it, I love it, I love it. It warms the libertarian cockles of my heart and is even somewhat possible with the current Congress (well…okay, getting any kind of tax cut past Democrats is tough, but compared to other plans, it could work).

Here’s the upshot of the plan:

  1. Dropping the lowest tax bracket from 10% to 7.5%, retroactive to 2007
  2. Permanently eliminate payroll taxes (for Social Security) for workers over 65
  3. 100% expensing for new equipment purchases for 2008 and 2009
  4. Permanently reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%
  5. Permanently eliminating capital gains taxes on households under $200K a year

#1 is kind of a sop to make it look like it isn’t “for the rich.” Very few households actually end up in the 10% income bracket now, so it wouldn’t be that big of a cut for most. I, being in favor of tax cuts of any sort at any time, support this, but the effect will be small.

#2 will have a nice effect for working seniors, basically acting as a 15% wage increase (because the 7.5% that the employer pays for FICA is an indirect tax on employee wages). That will give an incentive for seniors to work longer, thus making it a little bit easier to phase out Social Security rather than having it sputter and die.

#3 will be good for starting up new businesses and allowing some to expand, thus attempting to counteract partially the negative part of the business cycle which a lot of people are anticipating. #4, though, is the nicest one for me. Ireland and a few other countries have moved to very low corporate tax rates (12.5% for Ireland, for example), and at this point in time, the top US corporate bracket is 35%, which is very high compared to other countries. Of the 58 countries on that list, only 4 have higher rates and 23 have rates of 25% or lower. This puts the US at a relative disadvantage for owning corporations, so a drop in the top level to 20% would instantly make the US an even more favorable location. That would make it easier to do business, with the net effect of increasing competition, employment, and wages.

Finally, I also really like #5. There is going to be a major economic problem when the baby boomers retire en masse, as government obligations will explode. There are two ways around this: either fix the amount of the obligations and outgrow them or eliminate some to all of the obligations. #5 will increase the amount of savings by making investment a better-looking option. By eliminating entirely capital gains taxes, that can save 5-15% for most people. It’s not tremendous, but it isn’t chump change either.

All in all, it’s hard for me not to like Romney’s plan. His cuts would be permanent (and thus truly effective), deep, and meaningful. Mix that with a cut in federal spending and you have the makings of a great plan.