Tuesday, November 24, 2009

David Blatt's open letter to RNC

Dear RNC:
I was once a Republican but George W. Bush and his immoral war in Iraq cured me of that malady. Last year, when faced with the awful choices of John McCain and Barack Obama, I opted, along with 188,000 Americans to support the insurgent candidacy of Chuck Baldwin for the presidency. I don't regret that decision even as I disagree with Pastor Baldwin on many key issues.

He is right on several important questions of our day such as defending US sovereignty, controlling all forms of immigration into our land, and the insanity of free trade. In short, he puts America First!
This country is the only major industralized nation on the planet without Universal Healthcare. It is high time for this to end. President Obama's plan while imperfect is an important step in the right direction. To that extent, the conduct of the Republican Congressional delegation,on the healthcare question, has in my estimation constituted a major assault upon the integrity of our Republic and the liberties we all hold dear. The hysteria generated by some borders on the irrational and the wholescale GOP opposition to any meaningful reform of our healthcare system is nothing more than treasonous obstructionism.
Sometimes, as Clement Atlee would tell you, government has to reach for the Commanding Heights. Republicans had no trouble finding them when it came to sending American servicepersons to bleed in a reprehensible conflict in Iraq. If they have any decency left within them, they will find these heights again and support the President's UHC legislation.
David L. Blatt
3104 W Birchwood Av
Chicago IL 60645e

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Young Professionals count your blessings

Tougher entry standards are now in place for Heritage events. If new tougher standards stick, fights in the velvet rope line in front of Heritage congregation might be a thing of the past.

I hope that old people did take a good count of their blessing when all Heritage sold-out events were still open to them. While the line "..for Young Professional" qualification has been attached to events in the past, enforcement has been very lax to say the least. Now, however, stricter enforcement of age limits will be in place. Heritage Times blog have received anonymous tips that people that were careless enough to make it passed the 40 year old mark have been turned away from participating in the recent Suka Party. This should be a lesson for Succos for them, count your blessings.

So what they missed, other than paying a cover charge? For starters, a nice dinner catered from Taboun. They also missed two general purpose speeches about Succos. Then there was some dancing (young professionals love dancing hora). There was also some wine and some deserts which was nice. Well I don’t want to rub it in to these old people who no longer qualify for these fun events.

But, as a saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. For the old people of Heritage this silver lining will be the fact that they will not be alone standing in the cold peeking through windows at all the fun stuff happening inside of Heritage headquarters. They will be joined there by Unprofessionals. Losers who's job does not require qualification or education. Enforcement of this entry criteria has yet to be formalized, but once it is, losers beware. Who knows, you could be required to brandish a diploma at the door next time around.

Make sure you keep your professional credentials and age under control, unless you want to join the Old and Unprofessional.
Gut Yir everybody and count your blessings, knowing that there is someone out there who is wither old or not-professional or Chas ve Sholom both at the same time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is this a time to rethink our Progressive Tax System?

I wrote this essay as a final paper for English 104 class in 2009.

In this essay I want address a belief amongst many Americans that progressive tax system is unfair for high earners and corporations. It has also been argued that progressive tax is a net detractor from economic growth. Words like socialism and Marxism have made a comeback in the media due in no small part to emergence of the new national hero - "Joe the Plumber." Joe has secured his place in history when he stood up to "tax and spend" and "income redistribution" ideas of Barack Obama by confronting him in a televised moment on the campaign trail. Simply put Joe claimed that small business owners will fire people and reduce investment if new administration chooses to dial back lofty tax breaks introduces during Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. While some might dismiss him as an aberration, and a tool of the conservatives, I have personally witnessed many members of the lower and middle middle-class accepting and sharing his views that business and high earners must pay less in taxes than they pay themselves. Logic and philosophy of progressive tax system deserves further exploration because many members of the middle class, who suffer from loopholes in our current tax policy that allows rich to pay as little as 15% in taxes, readily join "Joe the plumber" in condemning progressive tax system. Common earners' strong support of Joe's ideas should make any proponent of the Progressive Tax system to pause and question his or her beliefs.

The best way to facilitate a discussion of the progressive tax system would be to address two main topics: supply side economics and general fairness or unfairness of the progressive tax system.

Supply side economics is a school of thought that promotes a theory that the best economic growth occurs when suppliers are given incentives in the form of cuts to income and capital gains taxes. Supply-siders consider suppliers and high income earners to be the driving force of the economy, hence leaving greater amount of money in their pockets would encourage various forms of spending which would stimulate the economy.

While the crux of the theory was formed by two economist friends on the back of a napkin, full understanding of the theory requires serious academic undertaking. Fortunately, Arthur B. Laffer, one of the scholars who formulated the theory has published an article "The Laffer Curve: Past, Present, and Future." In this article published in 2004 at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, he explains the inner workings of the theory in layman's terms as follows:

The basic idea behind the relationship between tax rates and tax revenues is that changes in tax rates have two effects on revenues: the arithmetic effect and the economic effect. The arithmetic effect is simply that if tax rates are lowered, tax revenues (per dollar of tax base) will be lowered by the amount of the decrease in the rate. The reverse is true for an increase in tax rates. The economic effect, however, recognizes the positive impact that lower tax rates have on work, output, and employment--and thereby the tax base--by providing incentives to increase these activities. Raising tax rates has the opposite economic effect by penalizing participation in the taxed activities. The arithmetic effect always works in the opposite direction from the economic effect. Therefore, when the economic and the arithmetic effects of tax-rate changes are combined, the consequences of the change in tax rates on total tax revenues are no longer quite so obvious (Laffer).

What this basically says is that government net tax receipts will rise despite lowered tax rate due to stimulative effect that tax cuts have on investment and economy as a whole.


An opposing strategy applied in all civilized countries including United States advocates for a Progressive Tax system, which increases effective tax rates as incomes rise. Current U.S. tax system however provides high earners with ways to tame and elude the progressive nature our tax code by giving them great latitude in how to recognize profit and income. The loopholes are so effective that some billionaires get away with paying as little as 15% effective tax rate on their income. The issue of inequality in taxation has been brought to the forefront in the recent US Presidential race. Barack Obama, a winning candidate in the US presidential elections of 2008, has been labeled a socialist and "tax and spend" democrat for promoting a more progressive tax plan that would lessen the spread in taxes paid by the rich and the middle class.

Rich Karlgaarld, an editor of Forbes magazine wrote the following passage that illustrates the classical supply-side argument: "The most effective tax cuts are those that encourage investment and production--the supply side of the economy. These tax cuts would be on individual and corporate income, capital gains and dividends. Such cuts would lift spirits immediately and the economy soon after" (Karlgaarld 37). Karlgaarld proceeds to quote his boss Steve Forbes as saying "Reduce taxes on production and you get more production. More production means that more goods and services must compete for your dollars. That's how prices go down, not up. This is not hard to figure out! It is simple supply and demand. If you want prices to go down, increase supply. Incentivize the suppliers" (37). While it is true that tax incentives to producers contribute somewhat to the amount of production and investment into business, it does not necessarily follow that this is the most effective policy for sustained economic growth. John Kenneth Galbraith, a respected economist writes that "The poor and those of average income spend reliably from that they earn; the rich do not. Thus, progressive taxation has a stabilizing role in helping ensure that what is received as income is returned to the market as demand for good produced" (Galbraith 30). What follows is that making our tax system more progressive will encourage spending and demand. Galbraith also discredits attempts to increase after-tax income of the rich in order to encourage economically productive effort as "carrying the case the case too far" (30).

I agree wholeheartedly with Galbraith's arguments and also want to make a case that nothing encourages production and investment into business as robust demand. You don't have to incentivize Apple to produce iPods or iPhones. Toyota can manage to produce popular and quality vehicles without relying on handouts from American taxpayers. Gifting tax gifts to businesses to encourage growth is a form of reverse Darwinism that is a bad investment for our government. It unnecessarily increases incomes at the top of the corporate structures at the expense of government tax receipts.

Our businesses would be in a very bad shape if tax gifts would be sole source for economic growth and investment. Fortunately, we have a great and flexible financial products market. Businesses can obtain financing for expansion as long as they can prove, by conducting a prudent analysis of the opportunity, that it will be beneficial to their bottom line. Expansion for the sake of expansion does not result in sustainable growth and is actually something that can result in demise and destruction of a company. One needs to look no further than United Airlines, Ford, Kmart, Circuit City, to see how expansion in core business or via acquisition can bring a company to a bankruptcy.

Discussion of the tax policy towards business can be a civilized academic exercise, but nothing can match the heat and excitement when conversation turns to personal income taxation. Galbraith writes that "it is held that there is a moral entitlement: the man or woman in question has the right to receive what he or she earns or, more precisely, what he or she receives. This can be asserted with emphasis, on occasion with asperity and often with righteous indignation" (Galbraith 61). But how do you counter such assertion? Doesn't person have a right to hold tight to all of his/her earnings? Why does it matter what their income level is? The idea of entitlement to our compensations and view of taxation as an evil force is very hard to counter. However, Galbraith brilliantly explains that "Much income and wealth comes with slight or no social justification, little or no economic service on the part of the recipient. Inheritance is an obvious case. So also the endowments, accidents and perversions of the financial world" (61). A good modern day example of Galbraith's perversions can be seen in recent headlines when Lehman's CEO made out with millions in bonuses and options over his years of service that led to demise of the company. Freddy Mac, WaMu, and many other companies were led by executives that received astronomical compensation while being accomplices to policies that nearly destroyed American economy. Wall Street Journal article claims that "Freddie Mac's departing chief, Richard Syron, could walk away with an exit package totaling as much as $14.9" (Scannell A.21). At the same time many dedicated teachers, social workers, and regular working Americans are having hard time making the ends meet. These are the perversions and accidents of the economy that are unacceptable to a reasonable person. While higher taxation of executives would not help prevent the current economic crisis, it should cool any argument based on great utility of these minds to the overall economic growth.

Galbraith quotes Federal Reserve with the following statistics as of 1989: top 1% of American households owned nearly 40% of the nation's wealth in 1989, the top 20% more than 80%. The lowest-earning 20% of Americans had 5.7% of all after tax income. Despite the great economic growth experienced in the fifteen years that passed since, the divide has not changed. Article in 2004 Business Week states that "The top 1% of households owns nearly 40% of total household wealth -- more than the bottom 90% of households combined -- and earns half of all capital income. Income and wealth are more unevenly distributed among Americans than at any time since the Jazz Age of the 1920s. On measures of income and wealth inequality, the U.S. tops the charts among the advanced industrial nations" (Tyson 32). We can not continue the business as usual rewarding very few at the top, while increasing our national deficit to a double digit trillion amount, with a big portion of the borrowing coming from Social Security and Medicaid trusts.

A key to America's economic recovery is resurgence of demand for goods and services. This demand must be broad-based and sustainable. An effective progressive tax system is an important component in ensuring broad-based stimulative participation in economy by most citizens. While simplicity of Joe's (the Plumber) approach to taxation is appealing, we must be careful to not put the interests of the few over sustainability of the whole financial system.


Galbraith, John Kenneth. The Good Society - The Humane Agenda. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996.

Karlgaarld, Rich. "Stagflation's Supply-Side Cure." Forbes 181.6 24 March 2008: 37.

Laffer, Arthur B. The Laffer Curve: Past, Present, and Future. 1 June 2004. 2 November 2008 <http://www.heritage.org/research/taxes/bg1765.cfm>.

Scannell, Kara and Dvorak, Phred. "The Fannie/Freddie Takeover: Pay Packages for CEOs Likely to Spur Scrutiny." Wall Street Journal [New York, N.Y.] 9 September 2008: A.21.

Tyson, Laura D'Andrea. "How Bush Widened The Wealth Gap." Business Week November 2004: 32.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Little help with C++

This is for IT people only. Basically it is a post looking for tutoring help in C++ for windows. Person won a contract for teaching a 5 day class on C++ in Singapore. He does not happen to know programming in C++ on windows and is asking for someone to get him up to speed. What is funny is that specific areas in windows C++ he is looking for help in are enough for a good 5 years of intensive study, what is also remarkable is a special blessing he perceives in getting the gig.

I am withholding the name, if you want to help contact me for contact info.


Blessed be the Lord God, from Whom all blessings come, and Who has
caused me to win the bid on a contract to deliver a class in Singapore
between July 27 and July 31. Those of you on this mailing list who
are salaried employees may be unfamiliar with the feeling, but those
of us who are independent contractors, who are employed some weeks and
unemployed other weeks, are filled with joy when we land a contract
during the first ten days of Av, because it gives us a hetter to
shower. If we're working during those days, then we may shower,
because we cannot allow our non-Jewish workplace associates to be
offended by the odor of acrid sweat emanating from our persons. If
we're not working during those days, then we have no hetter to shower,
and this causes me great distress, more distress than the fast, which
hardly bothers me at all.

The class is a 5-day class in "Developing Applications Using 64-Bit
Technology" in C and C++. Now, although I have won the bid to be
presented to the customer, the customer has not yet signed the
contract, and I must still convince the customer that I can deliver
the class. The class is supposed to cover both Linux, which I know
well, and Microsoft Windows, which I know less well. Here are the
Windows-specific topics that the customer will want me to address:

> * Active Directory DC
> * Virtualization
> * Terminal Services
> * Exchange Server
> * 64-bit Server Hardware/Computing Infrastructure Optimization
> o Migrating to Windows Vista: Should you go with 64-bit?
> o Give your system memory a boost with x64
> o 64-bit Windows -- help or hype?
> o When and how to migrate to a 64-bit platform
> o Virtualization and 64-bit: A match made in Windows heaven
> o Resources from Intel
> * WoW64 (Windows-on-Windows 64-bit)
> o x86 emulator
> o Performance and Memory Consumption
> o WOW64 Implementation Details
> o Registry Redirector
> o File System Redirector
> o Memory Management
> o Processor Affinity
> o Interprocess Communication
> o Application Installation
> o Debugging WOW64
> * Migrating/Accessing DLLs from 32-bit to 64-bit
> o The conflict: 64-bit versus 32-bit
> o The solution: a surrogate process
> o Distributed COM (DCOM), as an IPC mechanism
> o Implications
> * 64-Bit Migration to Windows
> o 64-Bit Programming Models
> o Technical Choices
> o Evaluation Criteria
> o Portability
> o Interoperability with 32-Bit Systems and other 64-Bit Systems
> o Standards
> o Performance Characteristics
> o Transition
> o Intel CC
> o Open64 Compilers
> o Secure Programming Lint
> o Source OS Tools
> o Endianism Role
> o Steps to Portability
> * Writing code that takes advantage of new instructions
> * Optimization using 64-bit programming
> o Three Levels of Optimization
> * Effective use of big memory while avoiding the pitfalls
> * Memory Usage Decrease
> * Issues & Problems of testing 64-bit applications

(I notice, parenthetically and with astonishment, that the above
document speaks of going to 64-bit when migrating to Windows Vista.
Can it really be true that Microsoft did not support 64-bit
programming prior to Windows Vista? I wrote and taught a class more
than 9 years ago on migrating from Solaris 2.6 to Solaris 8, and about
half of the class was devoted to issues of 64-bit migration. Is
Microsoft that far behind the civilized world?)

To fulfill this contract, and, very likely, even to get the customer
to finalize this contract, I must display greater proficiency in the
above topics than I can currently command. If you can teach me what I
need to know, I will pay you $50 an hour for our private tutoring
sessions. Moreover, I will probably err on the side of requesting
more tutoring than I need, rather than risk obtaining less tutoring
than I need. I know that we have some mean coders on this mailing
list, hopefully there will be those among you who can strengthen my
mastery of the above topics, particularly WoW64, of which I am
especially ignorant.

If I succeed, with your help, in winning the customer's final approval
for this job, expect a subsequent inquiry on this mailing list
concerning on what day one should observe Shabbat in Singapore.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Kids First or Keep your hands away from my cake

What is an appropriate way to triage limited resources between children and adults. This posting is in response to a particular situation that arouse in my shul. It had prompted me to think about the subject from various perspectives. The subject discussed here is what would be an appropriate priority given to kids' request when accessing resources.

Here is what happened to me this last Shabbos. As I was making rounds in almost empty shul I noticed some remnants of a raspberry filled cake @ one of the tables in women's section. Few women including my wife sat there some with their children. Excited I went to the kitchen to get some hot tea to go with the cake. I was fantasizing about consuming the cake with tea on the way back from the kitchen. As soon as I arrived to the table and was about to sit down, a mother of one of the kids asked for some cake for her child. Feeling entitled to "my" raspberry slice I took the plate with cakes and removed the slices that I was interested in, before passing it to the mother to pass to the child.

My gesture was not appreciated by most mothers at the table. The sound of jaws hitting the table as they dropped made me feel that my action was misunderstood. Seeing the gap in understanding I explained, that I do give priority to adults in most anything given that all things are equal. I am not sure that the answer resonated with the mothers and later discussed the incident with my wife who is very used to me acting in unusual ways.

To consider what is appropriate I wanted to think up a few contexts where decisions do go without saying and see how and why these reasons would or would not work for my situation with raspberry cake. So here are some situations:
  • Children occupying a last available seat on public transportation.
  • Children occupying last remaining seats in a synagogue when adults will have to stand.
  • Children interrupting adults when speaking or speaking before adults.
  • Children getting challa and wine before parents and/or guests during kiddush.
And finally my situation
  • Children getting last slices of Raspberry Cake before adults.
There are some exceptions of course when child's needs are urgent, life-threatening, etc...
My hypothesis is that the Russian "??? ??????? ?????" (All best things for children) has been taken a little too far and accepted without question by new parents. I think in my family we have largely broken away with that tradition; I enjoy seeing my kids play with less than latest toys and games that inspire more interesting play when objects are reused in creative ways. They know that just because so and so has an iPod that does not entitle them to one. At the same time some parents could go as far as shouting on one's spouse for turning the movie off for a child that is glued to a device, showing disrespect for the spouse right in front of a child.

Where is the right place to draw the line and why.
So we have a sliding scale of what is appropriate in different families: "All chocolate belongs to Tatti", "No, no, no, ok fine you can have it", "Children always 1st in line for everything"
Please substantiate your suggestions and be serious.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Yeshiva education + Rockmill brings down the house

It has been a while since I heard a good racial joke. I was starting to get concerned about our society forgetting the art of humor designed to demean black people. My worries have been put to rest few months ago when some Telshe Yeshiva students asked me giggling if I watched presidential inauguration. I could not get the joke, until they repeated it few times, until I finally understood that they were saying in-nigeration.

I was somehow comforted but still worried that this kind of attitudes are only found amongst the students but are no longer promoted by Rabbis at the higher echelons of Jewish education. That was until I heard Rabbi Rockmill of Ohr Somayach speak in our shul on Shabbos. In his speech he talked about failures of all systems of government including Socialism, Communism, and now Capitalism succombing to socialism. In the end he sealed his case for imminence of world destruction and arrival of Machiach by mentioning that now "we have one of them, you know, what do you call them - basketball players in the white house."

Dear Rabbi, I honestly think the world you were looking for was "shwartze" or worse. It would be difficult to persuade me that our president's choice of a sport of basketball was what you were after. That what you really meant was that polo-playing presidents are much better. It is striking and disappointing that you interpret election of a black man for US highest office as a sign of impending doom and not as America setting aside bigotries that have permeated minds of most and still permeate the minds of many.

There were many people predicting impending coming of Mashiach and now you, through trashing our social structures and ideologies. Mashiach predictors have one thing in common and that uniting thing throughout the centuries have been how wrong they were. It is convenient to be dismissive about what other people are doing, kvetching about how politicians are selling you out and making all the wrong choices, wrap it with a sincere smile of a wise-looking rav with a white beard and you have a great package of contempt for pretty much everything non-chareidi. Thank you for your productive input and uplifting speech, we will be patiently waiting for complete destruction of the world as predicted by you.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Accelerating Geula in Hard Times + Technology

"The Zohar indicates that the mitzvah of shiluach hakain is instrumental in bringing about the ultimate geulah. When a mother bird is pained by being chased away from its nest, the angel in charge of the birds intercedes on its behalf and asks hashem to have pity on it. As a result, hashem has pity on his “nest”(Yerushalayim) that was destroyed, and his “children”(klal yisrael) who were exiled" or indicted on a number of charges and denied bail like Sholom Rubashkin.

There is some disagreement about an appropriate way to do this mitzva. Some say that it must be done regardless of one's desire to eat eggs some say the opposite. Perhaps this was a motivation that caused Sholom Rubashkin to have two birdhouses (see picture), so he could be Yotzi b-kol schitas and secure speedy release from federal authorities.

I downloaded the picture from an article on the shturem site that calls for Monday 01/26/2009 to be a day filled with tefila and tehilim on behalf of Sholom Rubashkin. This popular Lubavicth site proclaims 01/26/2009 as a day of fasting and tefila. This proclamation is concrete step to alliviate a shortage of celebrated dates in Chabad organization. The storm of heavens is supposed to start in NY at the Rabbi's Ohel. Sholom Rubashkin has done an outstanding service to Jewish Community alledgedly not letting even American Law to stand in the way of helping Jews to achieve greater financial independece.

Some of the persecution arguments for denying bail have been a focus of criticism. Specifically
Israel's "Law of Return" that gives citizenship to any Jew making aliya was sited as a reason to deny bail. If this argument stands than all Jews would become a subject to a tougher bail requirements in US. On the other hand, a couple of Rubashkin's partners have already fled to Israel to avoid persecution in US because of the dubious extradition rules in Israel. Persecutors also alledge that Rubashkin was "ready to flee" when apprehended, which they gathered from the fact that Rubashkins had $17,000 in cash on hand and family documents and heirlooms packaged in a bag. While situation is complicated, it is unfortunate that the father of 10 is kept away from his family during preparation for the trial.

Not to finish on the sad note, technology desk of shturem reports new advances in remote farbrengen that are poised to open up new telecommuting opportunities for Rabbis and Jews across the globe. Virtual farbrengen is here to save the day. One on one with a bottle of mashke can make for a depressing evening; not so when you can join thousands of like-minded Lubavitchers around the world.

This post is dedicated to the Zchus and Aliya of neshama of Benjamin (Bugsy) Seagal zt"l whos untimely passing did not allow him to see creation and development of the thriving Las Vegas jewish community.