Burger King Looks To The Great White North.

Burger King is looking to merge with Canada’s Tim Horton’s. I say good for them. I’ve always liked Burger King’s burgers, the vegetables on their burgers always seemed fresher than at other fast food places. And I’ve been in a few Tim Horton’s and those stores always seemed nice. I hope this merger allows both brands to grow.

However, some folks don’t see it this way. Sen. Bernie Sanders sees the merger as a tax dodge while MoveOn.org is threatening a boycott. And that’s a shame because it looks like this merger has nothing at all to do with a tax inversion.

Tax and business planning attorney Paul Gilman of Chicago-based law firm Aronberg Goldgehn Davis & Garmisa expects that Burger King’s U.S. tax rate won’t change much “because they derive most of their income from franchisees, and those in the U.S. are still going to be subject to tax,” he said.

via Burger King, Tim Hortons merge into whopper-size firm.

The sad part is that most Burger King Restaurants are franchises, mostly mom & pop businesses that employee a lot of low wage workers. During the “Great Recession” I saw a number of these close down due to the drop in business. A boycott is going to hurt the franchisees much worse than the corporation and for what looks like just a knee jerk reaction by some very irrational people.

Look, even if Burger King is looking to this merger for tax relief that ought to tell you something about our tax burden on corporations if a company thinks Canada will give them a better tax deal.

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Colorado lawmaker seeks marijuana tax review amid disappointing sales

Colorado is disappointed in their actual tax receipts for recreational marijuana. The projected a tax income of $33.5 million for combined marijuana taxes but actually only took in a little more than $12 million. They are blaming it on the lower tax on medical marijuana.

“I think our original assumption about the cannibalization was wrong,” Colorado Legislative Council economist Larson Silbaugh said at Tuesday’s committee meeting.

The result, suggested David Blake of the Colorado attorney general’s office, is that the resilience of the medical-marijuana market “is being driven by avoidance of that tax.”

via Colorado lawmaker seeks marijuana tax review amid disappointing sales – The Denver Post.

Ya reckon? A look at tax receipts in border towns where one state has a substantially higher tax than its bordering state should have told them this.

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Civilians in Abandoned McDonald’s Seize Control of Wandering Space Satellite

It sounds like the premise for a “B” movie but this if for real. A crowd-sourced group of researchers has turned an old abandoned McDonald’s into a command center for taking control of an abandoned NASA satellite. The satellite has a dead battery but is still 98% operable through its solar panels. Even though it has been abandoned for over twenty years signals from the satellite can still be picked up.

The challenge is not in receiving the signals but in talking back to it:

Since the satellite went offline, the team had retired, the documentation was lost and the equipment was outdated. They could still hear the satellite out there talking, but they’d need to build the equipment to talk back.

via Civilians in Abandoned McDonald’s Seize Control of Wandering Space Satellite | | Betabeat.

I feel their pain. I have had to work with automation systems in the past that had been installed and worked flawlessly for so long that no one knew where the documentation was or how it was configured. Trying ti figure out how to integrate new equipment in with it was a nightmare.

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We Build Cities For Cars, Not People

Dan posted the quote, “We build cities for cars, not people,” yesterday as a set up for his punch line, “which means we already serve robot masters, but not hyper intelligent ones.” However the quote intrigued me enough to google it and find what might have been the original source:

We build cities for cars, not people. This means that we spread out much more than we have to, and consequently end up paying more for transportation than we do for housing. Our grandparents could afford higher quality houses than we can because they spent so much less on transportation.

via Houston’s also living in post-Katrina time – Houston Chronicle.

Reading that quote in context got me thinking about how much we spend because of transportation cost imposed on us by the way we plan and build our communities. We end up compromising other areas in our lives because we put so much of our personal resources into our transportation needs.

The entire article is well worth the read.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

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How Cable TV Illustrates the Pitfalls of Pure Libertarianism

My wife shared this on Facebook last week and I meant to comment on it then but never got around to it. Then yesterday Dan shared the same article on Flutterby and I started to comment on it there but this all ties in together with a connected concern I have.

Business Insider has an article titled “City In Tennessee Has The Big Cable Companies Terrified” that talks about how my home town of Chattanooga has invested in Internet infrastructure without the help of the big name ISPs. I think this article perfectly illustrates why I can’t be a libertarian purist.

Around twenty years ago Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board (EPB), an electric utility owned  by the City of Chattanooga, looked at the current state of they way they read their power meters and looked at the future of electrical power meters and saw that they needed to invest heavily in upgrading their power grid in ways that would give them a more efficient method of collecting power data and controlling their grid.

There were a couple of technologies coming online at that time that created the perfect environment for forward thinking individuals at the EPB to decide that connecting their power meters back to the business office with fiber optics was the perfect technology to use to create their SmartGrid network. Someone also had the wherewithal to recognize that pulling a dozen fiber to each meter was no more expensive than pulling two and that someone might one day want to use that extra fiber to connect to the Internet or the phone network.

It’s a good thing they did too, because even though they faced a lot of pushback from people who felt that the City of Chattanooga should not be using tax dollars to compete with private companies like Comcast or BellSouth (now AT&T) fast Internet would have been a long, long way off in Chattanooga without this competition that EPB offered.

Comcast put off plans to outfit southeastern Tennessee with high-speed internet, essentially forcing the city to look for internet solutions elsewhere, Motherboard reports. This is actually a trend. Though Chattanooga’s internet is notable for its blinding speed, many small communities around the country are similarly taking on high-speed internet without the help of big-name ISPs.

via Chattanooga Tennessee Big Internet Companies Terrified – Business Insider.

Why should Comcast invest in offering fast Internet if there was no competition? Fast Internet competes with television programming delivery and opens up options to cable subscribers that could entice them to abandon expensive cable TV in favor of rabbit ears and streaming video from Netflix and Hulu and others.

I could feel for the Cable companies on this if it wasn’t for the fact that we now live in a time that fast Internet is essential to compete in the business world and withholding affordable fast Internet options from home users puts the self-employed and independent contractors at a huge competitive disadvantage. Fast Internet is essential for the economic prosperity of a community.

Competition is good for the consumer but not so much for a single business entity like Comcast or AT&T. Most businesses have to adapt to competition from new technologies and that competition is not only good for consumer but also for an industry overall. Broadcast TV faced new competition from the cable companies and cable networks much like the cable companies and cable networks are facing from Internet TV. However, broadcast TV adapted and found ways to compete with the cable networks.

Around ten years ago the cable company lobbies got laws passed in numerous states preventing municipalities from selling services that rely on publicly owned infrastructures. The reasoning behind these laws had some merit but they also put communities at the whim of private companies for receiving necessary services that weren’t being delivered in a timely manner from private entities.

Around twenty states still have such laws on their books. The FCC has begun helping communities not receiving the services they need to get around these laws. Earlier this month, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) proposed an amendment that would make the FCC’s move illegal.

This is where I see pure libertarianism fail. If a community wants a service that private enterprise will not supply that community with it must be an option for that community to supply that service to itself. Using government intervention to prevent the community from receiving the service and to enhance the profits of the private company is a use of force against the community that libertarian philosophy rejects as much or more so as taxpayer dollars being used to compete against private enterprises.

It is equally troubling that the cable companies are attempting to use government to reduce retransmission fees being paid from cable companies to local broadcast TV companies. What cable companies are actually wanting is to be able to buy programming directly from the broadcast networks in order to cut the local broadcasters out of the local advertising revenue.

A couple of months ago I got tired of paying well over $100 a month for TV programming that I mostly didn’t like. I attached a pair of rabbit ears to the TV in my bedroom and discovered that I was getting 80% of what I was watching for free. I quickly decided the other 20% was not worth the price it would take to receive it and cut out my cable TV service while keeping my broadband connection with my cable company, Charter Cable.

Charter will sell you Internet alone at a price that’s less than Internet/TV service. I understand Comcast won’t.

Broadcast TV is an essential community service in my opinion. It is how local news is quickly disseminated to the community, it is how we are kept aware of local issues and how government is addressing those issues. If the cable companies succeed in getting the retransmission rates dropped then the revenue used to produce those local news shows will dry up. This is something we can not allow to happen.

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The More You Know The Safer You Are

The NRA put out this YouTube video that was designed to start a conversation, “What if we wrote national gun policy to protect access to guns?” Billy Johnson, the commentator in this video, presents an interesting idea.

Gun control activists, of course, want no part of this conversation that Billy is trying to start so they are starting their own meme about this video.

NRA Nanny State Poster

In fact, there has been a good bit of noise on Twitter stirred up by this video. I say noise because no one wants to talk about how requiring gun education in schools is one of the best ways of reducing gun violence, especially injuries and death to children caused by the accidental discharge of a firearm.

There is an estimated 300 million firearms in private hands in the U.S. Regardless of how successful gun control advocates become in restricting those numbers it will be a very long time before the exposure that kids have to firearms is reduced in any significant amount. If our goal is to reduce gun violence then education has to play part.

So, is your main interest in preventing children from being injured by guns or is your main interest fighting the NRA over removing guns from society? These are not the same thing. You can be an advocate for limiting the availability of guns in society and an advocate for gun safety education in our schools without contradicting yourself or becoming a hypocrite.

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Our Highways are Built To Be Deathtraps

WL003466An ocelot died on a South Texas highway a couple of weeks ago. Apparently the cat got caught on the highway and couldn’t escape across the concrete barrier meant to keep cars and trucks in the roadway. This is the fourth ocelot killed since the barrier was erected. Less than fifty ocelots remain in the wild in the U.S.

“We believe the concrete barrier is contributing to the increase in ocelot deaths by vehicles in this area” stated Laguna Atascosa Refuge Manager Boyd Blihovde. “Many animals will not, or cannot, jump them, get trapped on the road and pose a danger to drivers and themselves. We have been working with the Texas Department of Transportation on constructing wildlife crossings, but clearly more needs to be done”

via Fourth endangered Ocelot killed on State Highway 100 | KVEO News Center 23 | The Rio Grande Valley’s News and Weather.

Yes, clearly more does need to be done and not just to protect the ocelots but to also protect other animals and also humans from the trap that modern highway design creates. As a cyclists the delineation created by concrete curbs and barriers, so desired by highway designers, has often put me in a position where I couldn’t escape cars and other vehicles I thought were coming too close to me.

I can understand wanting to restrain cars and trucks from leaving a roadway but what about pedestrians, cyclists and wildlife? Design of these highways need to consider all eventualities. Give us a way to escape.

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This is yet another reason why proofreading is essential.

When a law is written it has to be specific and it has to be administered as written. If it isn’t you have people making things up about what the law really meant which eventually turns us into a nation of men (and women) and not a nation of laws.

A federal appeals court brought home the importance of proofreading those laws today by ruling 2-1 in Halbig v. Burwell that the premium subsidies given in the form of tax credits by the IRS are illegal in the thirty-six exchanges run by the Federal Government. Why is that? It’s because as the law is written “Section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code, enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or the Act), makes tax credits available as a form of subsidy to individuals who purchase health insurance through marketplaces—known as “American Health Benefit Exchanges,” or “Exchanges” for short—that are “established by the State under section 1311” of the Act. 26 U.S.C. § 36B(c)(2)(A)(i). On its face, this provision authorizes tax credits for insurance purchased on an Exchange established by one of the fifty states or the District of Columbia. See 42 U.S.C. § 18024(d). But the Internal Revenue Service has interpreted section 36B broadly to authorize the subsidy also for insurance purchased on an Exchange established by the federal government under section 1321 of the Act. See 26 C.F.R. § 1.36B-2(a)(1) (hereinafter “IRS Rule”).”

This decision will be appealed to the full 12 judge court and there is a good chance the full court will see things differently. ThinkProgress.com has taken exception to the ruling, as would be expected but the law as written does not specifically allow any exchange but those set up by the states to offer these tax credit subsidies.

The two Republicans’ decision rests on a glorified typo in the Affordable Care Act itself. Obamacare gives states a choice. They can either run their own health insurance exchange where their residents may buy health insurance, and receive subsidies to help them pay for that insurance if they qualify, or they can allow the federal government to run that exchange for them. Yet the plaintiffs’ in this case uncovered a drafting error in the statute where it appears to limit the subsidies to individuals who obtain insurance through “an Exchange established by the State.” Randolph and Griffith’s opinion concludes that this drafting error is the only thing that matters. In their words, “a federal Exchange is not an ‘Exchange established by the State,’” and that’s it. The upshot of this opinion is that 6.5 million Americans will lose their ability to afford health insurance, according to one estimate.

via BREAKING: Two Republican Judges Order Obamacare Defunded | ThinkProgress.

And that is why proofreading is a necessity when it comes to writing legislation. The law may imply that Exchanges set up by the Federal Government rather than a state government are eligible for the subsidies but it says that only exchanges set up by state governments may offer these subsidies. We will have to wait and see whether or not the full court believes the implications are stronger than the literal reading of the law.

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Mickey D’s and Coke Are Both Slowing Their Pace

Two items in Forbes caught my eye this morning:

  1. The Golden Arches Lose Their Shine: McDonald’s Profit Falls As U.S. Sales Struggle.
  2. Coca-Cola Profits Slip As Too Few ‘Share A Coke’.

Now you would think that with those headlines it was all doom and gloom for both companies. The kicker, though, is that both companies are still growing, just not as fast as in the past. Coca Cola’s revenues are slightly down from last year but case sales are up.

Businesswise this is actually all good news. Healthwise, I’m not too sure.

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Michael Bloomberg Challenges NRA, Wants His Own Report Card

“We’re going to be very, very data-driven, metrics-driven, making sure that we identify the people who care about this issue,” Everytown’s political consultant Mitch Stewart told the Washington Post.

via Michael Bloomberg gun control group to counter NRA report cards – CBS News.

And will you use this data to push for laws the data shows that people actually want or will you just use the data to target donors? Polls have shown that people are actually pretty confused on what and how much gun control they want.

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Getting Back on My Bike

My shoulder is healed and summer’s half over. It’s time I get back on my bike before something takes my time or my health. A few minutes ago I drove up the road a bit to Bethlehem to map out a course for me to start riding that will be challenging enough for my level of fitness but not so challenging that I give up.

The course is 15 miles long with no more than 100′ change in elevation over the entire course. The reason I chose to ride in Bethlehem is due to the flatter terrain than I have around my house and the roads are generally not busy at all. I really need to make sure my bike handling abilities are where they need be before I venture back out in traffic around home.

I’ll prepare my road bike tonight and ride the course in the morning before church. Hopefully I can find someone to ride it again with me Tuesday night. I need to make sure I have a couple of usable water bottles to take with me also.

 

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Stop the cycle: If the pros can’t cycle safely on mountain roads, how can we? | Times Free Press

A week ago this past Monday, Memorial Day, Chattanooga hosted the 2014 Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional Championship Road Race. During the first descent down Lookout Mountain Taylor Phinney, Saturday’s Time Trials winner, and Lucas Euser were involved in an accident with the race marshall’s motorcycle resulting in Phinney breaking his leg and most likely ending his season. Euser ended up with a little road rash and a destroyed bicycle putting him out of the race. 

An anonymous editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press wasted no time in turning this unfortunate event for these two professional cyclist into fodder for his or her campaign to ban bicycles from Chattanooga’s streets. As always this call for banning bicycles is cast as being out of concern for the cyclist.

It’s just not safe to bicycle on steep mountain roads. It’s one thing for professional cyclists to do it while the roads are closed to traffic. And even then, the pros wreck. It’s an entirely different thing for amateur cyclists and the workaday people who have to drive those mountain roads to get to work and home.

via Stop the cycle: If the pros can’t cycle safely on mountain roads, how can we? | Times Free Press.

The actual motivation for banning bicycles is the inconvenience some motorists may have to endure of paying closer attention to their driving and possibly arriving at their destination five minutes later. I honestly don’t think that it’s asking motorist too much to drive as though their might be a hazard around every blind curve. I also don’t think that a five minute delay in their commute is a big enough inconvenience to ban all cyclist from the road, many of whom have only a bicycle for their transportation needs.

I was driving my car along a very rural section of road in Marion County many years ago when after negotiating an uphill turn in the road there is a toddler with a wagon in the middle of my lane. I was driving as I should have been and was able to avoid hitting the child. That taught me that I need to always approach a hilly, curvy road exactly as though that child might be playing right over the next hill or around the next corner.

Let’s stop this talk about banning bicycles and start looking at out own driving habits to see how we can make sharing the road safer for all of us. It may not be a cyclist around that next corner but a toddler instead.

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We Can’t Report On That! The Public Might Not Like What We Found Out.

Dan points out this FAIR article about the New York Time’s executive editor, Jill Abramson, is being replaced by their current managing editor, Dean Baquet. There seems to be a question as to whether or not Baquet will be supportive of investigative journalism.

Dan’s pull quote was about Baquet killing a story while he was at the LA Times about government monitoring of U.S. Internet traffic. What I read below that, however, was much more disturbing to me.

“Later, working at the New York Times, Baquet justified an ‘informal arrangement among several news organizations’ to comply with a government request to withhold from readers the fact that a US drone base was located in Saudi Arabia: ‘The Saudis might shut it down because the citizenry would be very upset,’ Baquet told Times public editor Margaret Sullivan FAIR Blog, 2/6/13. ‘We have to balance that concern with reporting the news.’”

Investigative reporting must be about reporting things that will upset the citizenry. What’s the use in investigating something that isn’t upsetting and what use is the 1st Amendment if newspapers are going to comply with government requests not to upset the citizenry?

UPDATE: Looking into this some more I found a possible reason for Abramson getting canned.

UPDATE: Several news sources reported Wednesday evening that the reason for Abramson’s departure was a pay dispute. Specifically, reports claim Abramson was reportedly upset to discover that she was being paid less than her male predecessor.

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Share Our Wealth

We hear a lot about income inequality these days and we are inundated with charts showing us just how much closer to poverty than wealth the middle class is today compared to days past. This obsession with wealthy people and believing they have more than they deserve isn’t new.

Listen to what Huey Long had to say about income inequality:

Huey Long speaks passionately about income inequality and the wealthy in the United States. December 1934.

In fact Huey Long created the “Share Our Wealth Society”. This progressive party proposed the following planks in their societies platform:

  • No person would be allowed to accumulate a personal net worth of more than 300 times the average family fortune, which would limit personal assets to between $5 million and $8 million. A graduated capital levy tax would be assessed on all persons with a net worth exceeding $1 million.
  • Annual incomes would be limited to $1 million and inheritances would be capped at $5 million.
  • Every family was to be furnished with a homestead allowance of not less than one-third the average family wealth of the country. Every family was to be guaranteed an annual family income of at least $2,000 to $2,500, or not less than one-third of the average annual family income in the United States. Yearly income, however, cannot exceed more than 300 times the size of the average family income.
  • An old-age pension would be made available for all persons over 60.
  • To balance agricultural production, the government would preserve/store surplus goods, abolishing the practice of destroying surplus food and other necessities due to lack of purchasing power.
  • Veterans would be paid what they were owed (a pension and healthcare benefits).
  • Free education and training for all students to have equal opportunities in all schools, colleges, universities, and other institutions for training in the professions and vocations of life.
  • The raising of revenue and taxes for the support of this program was to come from the reduction of swollen fortunes from the top, as well as for the support of public works to give employment whenever there may be any slackening necessary in private enterprise.

Not much different than what you hear today is it?

 

 

 

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New apartment complex coming to 700 block of Market Street in Chattanooga after false start | Times Free Press

Okay, I’m all for seeing development of affordable housing downtown. With more people living close to where they work the better the traffic situation is for everyone else and the more shopping is going to open up there.

I love the idea of people being able to walk and bike to work and to shop. The whole idea being that fewer cars leads to less congestion, pollution and reliance on foreign sources of fuel.

So why are we still encouraging cars and sticking the taxpayer with the cost of doing so?

The group’s $250,000 study of Chattanooga’s downtown instead tasks the city with building the needed parking garages downtown to support the district’s growing density, though that effort has yet to make any headway.

via New apartment complex coming to 700 block of Market Street in Chattanooga after false start | Times Free Press.

Downtown Chattanooga has enough parking garages. In fact I think Republic Parking has control of most of the real estate downtown and that’s real estate that could be used for retail shops, restaurants and more housing.

Expand MARTA into Red Bank and East Ridge and don’t worry about parking downtown. Use the rail line running from Lupton City to Moccasin Bend to get people to the North Shore and bus them from there all over downtown.

Quit making it so easy on people to use a car with taxpayer money.

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