Monday, September 25, 2006

From the AP via (with H/T to

Food trailers peddling $1 tacos are a thing of the past in Gwinnett County after a crackdown on street vendors.


The new rules, which apply countywide, have "done away with some of the gypsy mentality that had become the norm," Commissioner Bert Nasuti said.

Commissioners also didn't want mobile food stands to siphon customers from businesses leasing space in shopping centers, Nasuti said. "I'm all for capitalism," he said. "But there's a right way and a wrong way."

Bureaucrats enacting anti-competitive measures on behalf of struggling food-court franchises is not surprising. After all, who can resist the siren song (La Cucaracha) of the roach coach? What caught my eye was the name selected by the County Council for their War on Tacos.

The move is part of a larger effort called Operation Fixing Broken Windows, aimed at creating a cleaner environment and spurring commerce.

I spit coffee onto the desk when I read this. I imagined some wise-ass suggesting "Broken Windows" and chuckling himself to sleep every night. Then, it occurred to me that the name was "Fixing Broken Windows", which makes the operation just as hysterical and ironic. Apparently, the "right way" to clean up the county is to snatch the entrepreneur's livelihood out from under him.

Hubris, irony, technocracy, nepotism - this short story's got it all! Too bad the humor comes at the expense of a bunch of little guys and gals who were pulling themselves up by the bootstraps.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Ron Paul's 9/7/06 Address to Congress

Wow. This is required reading. I'll get a link to the video as soon as I can find it.

Think what a different age we'd be living in if we would have been smart enough to make him the President.

Dear Foreign Businessmen:

We will kidnap you if you step foot in our country. David Carruthers was just the first in what is apparently a long list of law-abiders the feds have in their sights.

(VIA Hit & Run)

LONDON/NEW YORK, Sept 7 (Reuters) - The United States has arrested a second Internet gaming executive, adding to fears it is cracking down on the lucrative industry and sparking share price falls on Thursday that wiped over $1.5 billion off the market value of the sector.

Online bookmaker Sportingbet Plc said its chairman, Peter Dicks, had been detained by U.S. authorities, mirroring the detention in July of another online gaming CEO on racketeering charges.

Dicks was arrested on Internet gambling charges as part of an ongoing investigation into, said Senior Trooper Dwight Robinette of the Louisiana State Police.

Robinette said the arrest warrant was issued for Dicks and others in May. The arrest warrants are sealed and there are no indictments, he said.

Let me point out (again) that Peter Dicks is the Chairman of a publically-traded company. Note (again) that Peter Dicks does not do anything that is illegal in the countries in which he does them. Observe (again) that both Carruthers and Dicks seem to be guilty of nothing more than changing planes - the last I heard it was just a pain in the butt, not necessarily illegal.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

This Real Estate Market is Killing Me!

This post earns $2.50 for the American Red Cross!

Everything - and by that I mean the all-inclusive every-damn-thing - here is selling at a $20,000 premium. The comps say X, the actives are all at X + $20,000, and the asks are getting hit faster than I can figure out a way to make a reasonable offer! How the heck are these folks getting appraisals? If there's any truth to the bubble bursting, I'm gonna clean up after these quick-draws. If not, well, I'll still be a dirt-poor investor.

Dad bought a nice place in Arizona. His wife pressured him into an emotion-fueled HIGH price, while he could do nothing but complain to me how Scottsdale real estate was tanking.

At least they've got a nice pool.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Washington Appeals Court Finds a Constitutional Limit on Taxable Income

Bruce Bartlett examines a district appeals court decision in the Washington Times:

In the case, a woman named Marrita Murphy was awarded a legal settlement that included compensation for physical injury and emotional distress. The former has always been tax-exempt, just as insurance settlements are. Obviously, it makes no sense to tax as income the payment for a loss that only makes one whole again. One is not made better off, so there is no income. But under current law, compensation for nonphysical injuries are taxed.

Ms. Murphy argued that just as compensation for physical injuries only makes one whole after a loss, the same is true of awards for emotional distress. In short, it is not income within the meaning of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. The appeals court agreed and ruled her award for emotional distress is not income and therefore not taxable.

Bartlett shows that the ruling overturns the accepted definition of "income" posited by Robert Haig and Henry Simons - consumption plus change in net wealth over a period of time - on its ear. He (rightly, I believe) focuses on the possible implications this ruling could have on the interest income that is permissably taxed per the Constitution.

Given the logic of the Murphy decision, it is quite possible the risk-free, inflation-adjusted rate of interest could also be excluded from taxation on constitutional grounds.

Bartlett uses John Stuart Mill's idea that interest is the payment for forgoing immediate consumption. Certainly, it can be shown that we suffer a real loss by forgoing immediate consumption. Therefore, interest just makes the receiver whole - under the appeals court ruling, it doesn't meet the definition of taxable income. Bartlett stops short, however, of showing the effect of this ruling on individuals and businesses beyond simple interest.

Perhaps the greatest import to this ruling is to tax treatment of individual wages. An individual's time can be used in a variety of ways. If he chooses to use that time working for someone else, he suffers a loss, if no more than the opportunity cost of doing the next best thing. At least a portion of his wages is remuneration - making him whole again. The portion of his wages that is not income (and therefore not taxable) can most permissibly be determined by the treatment of his wages with respect to his employer. The taxable income of his employer is reduced by the whole of his wages; in other words, the whole cost of his labor is not only a necessary cost, but also just compensation for the work performed. To be consistent, therefore, all wages must be treated as non-taxable.

The next greatest import of this ruling concerns net income of businesses. Businesses are taxed on their revenues less allowable expenses (basically all inputs to production and sales). This net
profit or loss is the result of investing in capital, materials, and labor to produce their good or service. Continuing Bartlett's logic, only net income in excess of the risk-free, inflation-adjusted
rate of interest could constitutionally be taxed. Any other treatment of net income while excusing that rate would drive investment dollars to treasuries, ultimately tanking yields and scaring away international investment.

This ruling and its implications will certainly be one to watch.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

My Card Fetish

I've come to the inescapable conclusion that my lot in life is collecting business cards. If I ever feel the need to heat my home with a wood-burning stove, I won't have to split any logs for years. In fact, I could probably start a small electrical-generating plant with zero fuel costs for the first 90 or so days!

But, it's worse than that. I also have a fondness for creating business cards. As a never-sleeping seeker of the almighty dollar, I find myself wearing different hats several times a day. Sometimes, I'm the manager of an investment trust. Other times, a property manager. Add in corporate pilot, flight instructor, and aviation consultant, and you can see that carrying a fist full of different cards to describe my work is a must. I consider it one of life's little challenges to create the perfect business card to match each hat.

My business card is an advertisement for my services and nothing else - if I just wanted to give someone my number and e-mail address, I could whip out a pen and write it on their hand! Like any advertisement, it's a waste of time and money if it doesn't jar the recipient into specific action. I use every inch - front and back - to invite the reader to start a relationship with me (and invite their friends to play).

There are certain conventions for a business card. You can avoid making your new contact play hide-and-seek by following these tips about free business cards. But, once the expected information is in the design, it's time to start turning your business card into a tool instead of a tooth pick.

Colors: white or linen background, black text. Save the color for something really special. My favorite use of color is to highlight the job title. This requires striking a balance between size and weight to make sure that your name and job title flash into the reader's mind first and second when looking at the front of your card. Something like this:

Tom Jones

There is a very specific reason for highlighting your job title. That specific reason is to make the card recipient ask, "What the heck is a (your job title here)?" to which your only response can be, "I'm glad you asked. I help companies just like yours..." That's sooo much more profitable than "Nice to meet you." "Nice to meet you, too." If your job title doesn't make people ask what the heck it is, get a new job.

Font: pick one easy-to-read font and stick with it. If you are a party clown, sell it with the text not with the font. If you're not a party clown, don't make your biz card make you out to be one!

Logos: keep 'em small. Your business card is to advertise your services, not your company's. Unless you work for an internationally-recognized, publically-traded corporation, the brand recognition (if there is any) is worth zilch. Your company's logo is ONLY used to say, "Hey, we employ this guy." Anything bigger or flashier just detracts from the "do this now" message you are trying to convey.

Contact Info: only include it if it links the recipient DIRECTLY to you. Direct phone (even better if it's toll-free), fax, cell phone, e-mail. Strongly consider including your home phone. It's been my experience that NOBODY calls the home phone, but I know it gives folks a warm fuzzy (especially if you engage in personal services). Any web site addresses on your card should link to a business offer from YOU PERSONALLY without requiring any forward slashes. For example: - include it - forget it - are you kidding me?

Back of the card: prime real estate to advertise you and your services! An unscientific poll of the cards stacked on my desk reveals that about 10% of folks put some sort of message on the back of their card. Out of approximately one million cards I've collected in the last two years, though, only two have used this area somewhat effectively. One had a table with 16 coupons to various businesses printed on the back - the card looked expensive, and I'm sure it's retained more than most, but I would never give up the space on a card I'm paying for. The second had a copy of a form that I use daily for transmitting flight plans to the Flight Service Station, so it stays in my wallet at all times. Others list benefits of working with the company or regional office numbers. The all-time hall-of-fame example of the WORST use of the back of the card, however, has to go to the company that prints their mission statement on the back of their agents' cards. Worthless!

When you hand your business card to someone, make sure you hand it with the back up so they can see it. On that face, your introductory, every-one-can-benefit offer should be printed:

For a free copy of my e-book

Six Car-Shopping Tips that
Salesmen Don't Want You to Know

go to

Another good one is:


$500 Cash Referral Fee

go to for details

Designers: the free business card site linked above mentions using designers if you aren't very creative. I don't recommend using designers for logos or any other marketing reason because their goal is to make money making flashy things. Your goal is to sell your services. Those goals are rarely reconcilable.

As always, have fun making your cards and handing them out. I do!