Showing posts with label California. Show all posts
Showing posts with label California. Show all posts

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Live Oaks Homes of Rivermark

On a recent and brief (mostly business) trip back to California, I was able to stop by my old community and take a photo of the Live Oaks homes within Rivermark.  I think these homes are iconic, representing a well  planned group of neighborhoods at the heart of Silicon Valley.


Many more great photos may be found on Flickr in the Rivermark group.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Is state sales tax on interstate commerce allowed?

Did you know that individual States cannot tax interstate commerce, as a general rule? There are some very specific exceptions, and California (and other States) have been trying to exploit extremely loose interpretations of those exceptions.

Interstate commerce is any transaction, transit or business that is conducted across State borders. This includes mail order, Internet, and physically going to another State to purchase an item to bring back to your home State. Many States have taxes on their books that attempt to circumvent this law. Recently, States have been trying to exploit what they think is a loophole in the Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (91-0194), 504 U.S. 298 (1992) Supreme Court ruling that solidified the limitations on taxation by States. In this ruling, the Supreme Court declares that States may only attempt to levy an interstate commerce tax against businesses that have a presence within their State, known as a substantial nexus. Leave it to judges to come up with a term like that. It basically means a business must have a physical presence within the State in order for its transactions to be taxed by that State.

California is now ready to pass a law that will try to specifically impose the collection of taxes from consumers on sales by online retailers, even when the retailer has no physical presence within the State. They are trying to expand on a similar law passed by New York recently. The idea behind the bill is that marketing itself counts as some sort of physical presence. If that doesn’t scare everyone, I don’t know what will. It basically means that anyone with a website that is accessible within California’s territory (i.e., any website on the Internet) is subject to California taxes and law, even if they’ve never set foot in the State. This substantially contradicts the body of Quill v ND, but hey, it’s a taxation party right now!

Now, the common mistake is to assume “oh, the States are just strapped for cash and are trying to find ways to soak us dry.” That might be true if politicians actual wrote the bills that become laws. As a general rule, they do not. You know who does, as a general rule? Corporate lawyers of companies that lobby our legislative bodies. Hmmm, what corporate lawyers would be in favor of raising taxes on businesses? The corporate lawyers that work for companies who would not be substantially hurt by those taxes, but whose competitors would be. Let this excerpt from a recent letter from Amazon.com tell the story.



For well over a decade, the Amazon Associates Program has worked with thousands of California residents. Unfortunately, a potential new law that may be signed by Governor Brown compels us to terminate this program for California-based
participants. It specifically imposes the collection of taxes from consumers on
sales by online retailers – including but not limited to those referred by
California-based marketing affiliates like you – even if those retailers have no
physical presence in the state.

We oppose this bill because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It is supported by big-box retailers, most of which are based outside California, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors. Similar legislation in other states has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue.

Big-box retailers are companies like Target and Walmart. According to Amazon.com, companies like these seek to protect their businesses by fooling State governments into thinking the State will increase revenue with expanded scope on their sales taxes. Instead, this new tax (like any other tax) has a negative impact on the economy. I’m not against all taxation, but I am against any laws (taxes or otherwise) where one industry attempts to screw over another without providing any new benefit to the consumer.

My website is just like any other. It does generate an extremely small amount of income from referrals (upon which I already pay income tax) via affiliate links with Amazon (please see the FTC 16 CRF Part 255 notice in the right column). Now, this law wouldn’t require me to pay any more taxes direclty, but as a customer of Amazon and other online sites, I would be forced to pay sales tax from a law that is probably unconstitutional. Laws that see to “tax the Internet” erode everyone’s rights, and threaten to hold anyone with a website accountable to the individual laws of over six thousand different taxing jurisdictions in America, according the Quill v ND ruling (linked above).

Oddly enough, I no longer live in California. But, how long will it be before more States try to pass similar laws? Congress needs to act on this issue soon to prevent this economic nighmare from growing any further. I’m not making this a call to action because each person much act on their own. As such, I am going to be contacting my *new* Congress representitives about this issue very shortly.

For additional reading, please see The Problems of State Taxation of Interstate Commerce and Why Congress Should Act

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Cross-country trip - day 1

Given the fact that I'm still in my thirties (very late thirties), my bucket list is still fairly long and under developed. One item on the list is to drive across the USA. It seems this item would only be fulfilled if I ever had a reason to do this, otherwise I'd just fly and get to where I want to be much faster. Well, I now have a reason. That reason will not be discussed right now; maybe it will be at a later date. Bottom line, I'm driving across the great country of America!

My first day started off right on schedule at 7:00AM from Silicon Valley in the South San Francisco Bay Area. The time was important because the destination was Salt Lake City before sundown. The drive took me through Reno, NV. I've been there before, so I decided to just eat an early lunch (or Second Breakfast, as the Hobbits might call it) and refuel my car. No stopping for sightseeing.

The landscape drastically changed as I drove. As I travelled through California, the landscape slowly morphed from the tan colored hills and flat agricultural land to the forested mountains of the Tahoe area. In Nevada, that all gave way to the bush covered desert. The color of the earth changed from brown to an ever changing mix of red and light tan. The vegetation changed from greenish to mauvish and a mix of many other colors. I briefly stopped in Elko, NV for another fast-food meal and refueling.


I didn't really stop for sightseeing until I crossed the Utah border. There was a rest area in the middle of nowhere (where most rest areas can be found). By this time, the land was very flat and bare. The rest stop had an observation deck. The ramp up to the deck appeared to be handicap accessible, but any person in a wheelchair would be hard pressed to make it up the ramp. Anyway, I took a picture of myself in front on the vast empty landscape. The mountains in the distance offered an interesting contrast to the flat land of the desert. Later on, the land next to the freeway was under water, in what appears to be semi-permenant shallow lakes. Some of the lakes appeared on my TomTom map, and some did not. One funny item was that many of the lakes had miles of fence posts embedded within the water of the lake. Seriouly, what's the point of that?

Wow, I travelled across three Western states in one day! I arrived in Salt Lake City in time to relax in the hotel. I saved the sightseeing for the next day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 Silicon Valley International Auto Show and Traffic school


Allie went to traffic school this past Saturday for a ticket she earned during the Thanksgiving holiday. In the past, the real life edition of traffic school was a preferable over the online edition. However, she reported to me this time was no picnic. The class of more strict that before. She then told me several tales about her 1 day adventure in dealing with many different kinds of strange people. How do people fit that much annoying interaction into a lousy 8 hours?

So, on Sunday, I planned an in-town day trip to downtown Campbell for lunch, and also the 2011 Silicon Valley International Auto Show in downtown San Jose. This trip is notable for one very strange fact. We were actually able to take local light-rail public transit to each of our destinations. Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area are notorious for poor public transportation options. The fact that we were able to go to two enjoyable locations using light-rail is amazing.

Anyway, there were some cool vehicles this year. Here's some pictures from the show.









Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ocean's Edge

Sun sprinkles below
Waves' crests and pitches dancing
Cliffs glorious view

Sunday, July 25, 2010

California Nature (final version/republished)

Your journey roads herald adventure,
Impelling me to climb your cloven heights,
And romp carelessly,
as aureate poppy fields beckon.

Sun-kissed waters bounce along your shoreline.
They entice me to surf the crashing calm waves.

Canopy-enveloped valleys thrive with floral scents
That draw my ingression, but I forestall.

Instead I caper like Racetrack Playa’s sailing stones,
Which tickle your basin by some unseen will.

I endeavor to hike your proud hills,
And find places to gaze lostly into lakes full with sky.

Vineyard nectar overflows like sweet sweat,
To spur my soul’s arousal as I partake.
Your boundless attributes gratify my wanderlust,
And allure me to appease your nature.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

California Nature (Rev. B)

Your journey roads herald adventure,
Impelling me to climb your cloven heights,
And romp carelessly,
as aureate poppy fields beckon.

Sun-kissed waters bounce along your shoreline.
They entice me to surf the crashing calm waves.

Canopy-enveloped valleys thrive with floral scents
That draw my ingression, but I forestall.

Instead I caper like Death Valley’s mysterious-moving-rocks,
Which tickle your basin by some unseen will.

I endeavor to hike your proud hills,
And find places to gaze lostly into lakes full with sky.

Vineyard nectar overflows like sweet sweat,
To spur my soul’s arousal as I partake.
Your boundless attributes gratify my wanderlust,
And allure me to appease your nature.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

California Nature (rewrite of Your Nature)

Your journey roads herald adventure,
Impelling me to climb your cloven heights,
And romp carelessly,
as aureate poppy fields beckon.

Sun-kissed waters bounce along your shoreline joggle,
Enticing me to surf the crashing calm waves.
Canopy-enveloped valleys thrive with floral scents,
Drawing my ingression, but I forestall.

Instead I caper like the mysterious-moving-desert-rocks,
Which tickle your basin by some unseen will.
I endeavor to hike your proud hills,
And find a place to gaze lostly into lakes, filled with sky.

Vineyard nectar overflows like sweet sweat,
To spur my arousal as I partake.
Your boundless attributes gratify my wanderlust,
Alluring me to appease your nature.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

49er's Stadium: What does Cedar Fair really want?

Perhaps there is some legitimate concern for proper bureaucratic process over at Cedar Fair, owners of California's Great American theme park. Why else would they file a lawsuit against the City of Santa Clara complaining about how paperwork was recently handled in the process to approve the new 49ers stadium? (Santa Clara County Superior Court Case number 109CV158836.) Well, maybe they seek to take advantage of the delicate phase in the planning of the new stadium?

Given the lack of enthusiasm for the new stadium previously expressed by Cedar Fair, I'm guessing this is more of a ploy to legally extort conditions and concessions from the City of Santa Clara. Cedar Fair may feel it needs more money from the city simply because the new stadium site is a direct neighbor to the theme park. Here's the funny part. Even though Cedar Fair does own Great American, the City of Santa Clara actually owns the land upon which Great America rests. The City of Santa Clara is the landlord to Cedar Fair. Santa Clara has already bent over backwards to make Cedar Fair feel at home. Cedar Fair now seems to be abusing their position as our guest and interfering in our business. Is there a San Francisco connection, as SF City Hall tries to buy yet even more time in their uber-pathetic effort to keep the 49er's in San Francisco? They've already had over 1.5 decades to do something.

Frankly, there could also be a Sac connection, since some big names in our state and even the Federal government are against the 49er's moving to another city in the Bay Area. Again, there is another funny part to this. If the 49er's do not find a new home in the Bay Area, they have suggested that the will leave the area completely. So, all this effort to pin the 49er's down in San Francisco could backfire by slingshotting our team to another state altogether! How embarrassing would that be?

And now a new wrinkle. Cedar Fair was just bought by a private firm that has yet to comment on their position. My hope is that they do not interfere with local economic endeavors, and instead help boost the local economy by supporting the new 49ers stadium.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday Two: City bruizin'


Tuesday Two


GocycleThe eco-friendly Gocycle is a hybrid electric bike that weighs a mere 16.2 kg due to its special composite material. This folding bike is designed for city living. It converts from human power (peddle power!) to electric with the push of a button. Will it save the world from eventual doom? Only time will tell.

A drop of waterI know whenever I here the word "Nanotube", my ears perk up. Imagine how excited I am to see a recent article about vibrated nanotubes used to filter water so well that anything larger than a water molecule is removed! Imagine how fresh and tasty such pure water would be. Wait...technically, humans cannot taste water, right?

Epoch-Fail


So far, Epoch-Fail awards have gone to particular unsuccessful ventures. Today, I'm handing an Epoch-Fail award to something that does seem to be successful. Why? Because I dislike the trend. This week's Epoch-Fail award goes to every city council that is banning plastic bags from the grocery stores! Aren't we destroying enough trees? Need we bring back the stone age paper bag and pretend it is from a renewable resource; when the reality is that the resource is not being renewed? Sure, plastic clog our bogs, and choke our rivers, but hey, they are more reusable than paper bags! And what of reusable canvas bags? Heh. Guess what. You have to buy them. They get very unsanitary very quickly. Wanna guess how many patrons are not washing them regularly? There are reasons behind our strict food handling guidelines, and canvas bags now represent a very weak link in food safety.