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Bad News Before Vacation
There's so much I want to blog about, and so little time to do it. I want to write about emergencies again. I want to write about the recent Social Security reform proposals. I want to write about the Chinese currency peg (Greenspan and Snow were talking with a Senate committee about it on Thursday.) I want to write about the Supreme Court failing to uphold property rights.
But I'm out of time. I'm taking a vacation, and doubt I'll be blogging during it. I'll be out of touch until after Independence Day.
I got some bad news today. Over the past few months I've been writing a lot about my search for a new car. Today I got an e-mail from my salesman. Over four weeks after I placed my order, I've learned there's been a snag:
This is going to take a little longer than I thought. :(
Lifetime Savings Accounts
One of the items on President Bush's tax agenda deserves more widespread discussion, and prompt action from Congress to enact. Politically, it ought to be a much easier fight than Social Security reform, making his tax cuts permanent, or an overhaul of the whole tax system. I'm talking about Lifetime Savings Accounts.
The idea has been languishing in the sidelines for several years and has undergone a few modifications during that time. This press release from early 2004 has a good description of LSA features:
The key bullet is the fourth one. Read it literally. All distributions are excluded from gross income. There are no penalties of any kind. These accounts can be used for any purpose, not just for retirement savings.
This amounts to a repeal of all savings and investment taxes for the majority of American households. This is something to celebrate, get enacted into law, and celebrate again. (Household median income is around $43,500, so if a household has two people, it could save $10,000 annually in LSAs — over 20% of its total income; much more than is realistic.)
This tax cut removes a disincentive to save. It's important and noteworthy that with LSAs, the government is not playing nanny by telling you how or when to spend your savings. It's up to you. You get to spend it on your own priorities, not someone else's. This is what the "ownership society" should really be about: Individual empowerment through ownership.
The fact that anyone can contribute to anyone else's LSA is a powerful feature. For example, an LSA could be established for a child's college education fund. Many relatives and friends could all contribute to it.
I can already anticipate the backlash: "People might spend their LSAs on stupid things like fancy cars or big televisions!" Yes, they might. And it's their right to do so. It's their money. The solution to financial stupidity is advice and education, not forcibly limited options. (For this reason I would prefer to see Roth IRAs eliminated and LSA contribution limits correspondingly increased.)
Bush's proposal would also rename and improve Roth IRAs. They would now be known as Retirement Savings Accounts (RSAs), would have a $5,000 contribution limit, and would not be phased out for high-income people.
Continuing in the spirit of renaming and consolidation, Employer Retirement Savings Accounts (ERSAs) would replace 401(k) and similar plans. The rules are 401(k)-like, and include the option of Roth-like contributions as I wrote about previously. The contribution limit would be $15,000.
A dedicated saver could use all three — LSA, RSA and ERSA — to save $25,000 annually and never pay any taxes on any of the earnings. (And, all the contribution limits are inflation-indexed.) This is such a huge quantity of money that only people with very high incomes would still be subject to any investment taxes.
On purely economic grounds, I prefer tax cuts for the wealthy over tax cuts for the poor … and I suppose I should write about why, next … but LSAs are still a great idea. Besides, in the long run they might pave the way for a total elimination of all investment taxes. Camel's nose and all that.
I love this plan! I'm excited to be a part of it! Let's do it!
(You may wonder why I didn't mention Bush's other proposal, Individual Development Accounts. I haven't made up my mind yet on these.)
Wow. This BusinessWeek Online article, "I Want My Safety Net" is the most concentratedly biased thing I have ever read from a nominally-"Business"-oriented publication. I'm not very familiar with BusinessWeek, though, so it's possible they already had a reputation for this sort of thing. If not… well, they do now.
Let's see what we've got:
I wish it were different, but the Ownership Society is only meekly about actual private ownership. Bush's proposed Social Security reform, for example, falls far short of true ownership. But leaving aside the accuracy of the comparison, I've also had a brush with the Ownership Society, and it's been working out much more profitably for me (e.g. most recently, +7.6% in 50 days.) Did they even look for someone who's turned a profit in the stock market?
A political independent who distrusts markets and favors socialized medicine? Hmm, I wonder if they looked for a political independent who favors markets and distrusts socialized medicine?
The piece wouldn't be complete without the White-House-out-of-touch angle, delicately pitched with the word "may", disguising suggestion as opinion.
Oh sure, I also think it's "a good idea" to guarantee health care for all U.S. citizens. I'm also in favor of kittens, babies, and world peace. But the trouble with desires is that they don't specify an implementation. If guaranteeing health care means socialization, I'm resolutely opposed. If guaranteeing health care means abolishing licensing and trashing regulations, I'll be first in line.
Gotta love the last sentence. It reeks of groupthink.
The mention of Canada is rich. The Canadian health care system does not provide universal health care, at least according to the Canadian Supreme Court, which recently struck down a Quebec ban on private health insurance, saying "… delays in the public health-care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care".
Will a free-market approach to health care guarantee unlimited health care? Of course not. But it would do a lot better than a socialist system.
"Big swings" ≠ "big declines". Some people have done very well. Is it impolite for me to point out that the authors are only drawing attention to the negative side of this?
Republicans do not want to reverse the New Deal. I want to reverse the New Deal. Don't give that compliment to the Republicans; they certainly haven't earned it.
Am I the only person who views defined-contribution plans as less risky than defined-benefit plans? I don't want to worry about the government doing something stupid and putting my employer out of business, or worry about my employer doing something stupid all by itself. The PBGC — which shouldn't exist in the first place — doesn't pick up the whole tab. And it's certainly not free.
Golly gee! Prominent New Democratic Thinkers! Yessiree, I want some of those prominent thinker types taking care of me, because I can't do it all by myself. I'm glad they're taking care of me and my siblings Joe and Jane Average, because we're too unsophisticated to think about this stuff.
I know what "market-based" means, but I don't know what "modern" means — yet I'm oddly certain it means precisely "not market-based". I wonder why that is? Do you suppose I'm right?
A stunning reversal from the real world, where the Democrats are totally AWOL with their own proposals to fix Social Security. Oh, that's right — there's no crisis so there's nothing to fix. I forgot. (Unless you're my age and you're staring directly at a 30% benefit cut under current law!)
He's losing! He's losing! People will believe this if we keep saying it!!
Oh, here we go. This is the good news. I wonder why it's buried in the middle of the article, instead of earlier to provide balance against the talk of houses in hock and rising bankruptcies?
It's well known (at least among economists) that when you subsidize something, you get more of it. If you provide a safety net, people will use it. If you make it stronger, people will use it more. When you're giving away something essentially for free, you shouldn't be surprised to discover that demand is essentially infinite.
And the "cost shift to workers" is, of course, something I'm totally in favor of. The authors should realize that it's misleading to call it a cost shift, though. The cost of an employee to an employer includes both benefits and wages. The benefits were never free — they were at the expense of wages. And as benefits decrease, wages will rise. I prefer wages because I can spend them on my priorities, rather than the priorities of whatever meddler-in-other-peoples'-lives decided the benefits should be.
Doom! Gloom! Aieeee!
If you can believe it, this particular example of the ritualistic bringing-up of Bush's silver spoon history fills the literary role of a segue. By its presence, I assume that the authors thought a politically charged segue was better than a bland one, or none at all.
I'm getting tired of being offended at the suggestion that people who voted for Bush are stupid. The hints are too frequent. I'm sick of elitism hiding behind the mask of "just providing information". How "slightly" less educated are they? So slightly that it's not worth mentioning, perhaps? How untactful.
Oh goodie, I was waiting for the mention of Karl Rove. Is anyone else getting bored by the predictability? And I simply don't believe their poll comment.
Heh. :) What "excesses"? I want the government to stop shielding me from capitalism!
Groan. Okay, I'm getting tired so I'm not going to finish fisking this. I think I've made my point already.
Worst Phishing Scam Ever
I just had an interesting telephone call. Two calls, actually. (I hung up on them and they immediately called back!) They pretended to be calling from a mortgage company, collecting information to have someone call me back later to make a refinancing offer. They called me "Markley", apparently unaware that I had a first name.
There were two things that made this special.
The first was that when I told the lady I didn't believe her company could give me a better rate than 5%, she kept asking for my information anyway and said "you're breaking my heart" several times. I couldn't help but think of Eric Cartman's sales line "you're breakin' my balls". Hint: Legitimate salespeople will go away peacefully when they realize they won't be able to make a competitive offer. This lady thought she'd have no problem giving me a better than 5% rate on a fixed mortgage. I know better.
The second, and more amusing, aspect of this phishing expedition is that after I hung up and she called back and I asked to be put on their Do Not Call list, a man came on the line and started insulting me and swearing at me after saying that he would not put me on the Do Not Call list. The best part was that he used Indian insults, e.g. calling me a "choot" (which you can look up if you want to).
I asked him "is this a real business?" and he responded "no, it's a dance club." I let a dramatic pause elapse and said, "I don't hear any music." From the background noises I could hear, it did in fact sound like a call center. Judging from the time of the call and the thick accents, the call probably did originate from a call center in India. Is this how bored or unhappy employees are passing the time nowadays?
The telephone call ended when he told me to hang up and I said "no, you hang up." Eventually he did.
I do believe this was more sinister than prank. Several weeks ago I believe I was contacted by a much calmer person in the same group. He couldn't understand that I wasn't willing to give him my Social Security number over the telephone and wouldn't take "no" for an answer. I had to hang up on him, too, but there was no call-back and no stream of insults. Both times, the people were very interested in my information.
I wanted to use Call Trace (*57) to report these choads scammers, but after a quick search online I was unable to determine how much it would cost me. (It's not free, to discourage frivolous use.) I wrote an e-mail to Verizon customer support encouraging them to publish the fee on their website. I will not, on principle, use a feature if I'm unable to determine its cost.
Ethics: Emergencies and Obligations - Part 7 - Force in Emergencies
I'm finally returning to the series on emergency ethics I started in January. It's been several months since the last time I wrote about this; if you'd like to review, here are the previous installments:
Ordinarily, I condemn the initiation of physical force. This condemnation is rooted in Ayn Rand's argument that reason is man's fundamental tool for living and that force is imposed in order to circumvent the victim's exercise of reason. If I engage my mind toward an act of production, and you steal my product, you disrupt my ability to survive by the use of reason. This is fundamentally anti-human. And since human life is the standard of value, this use of force (i.e., to steal) is evil.
The standard caveat: Not all force is evil. Self-defense is fine. Recovering stolen property is fine. It's the initiation of force that's problematic.
The unusual nature of emergencies (see especially Part 2) creates exceptions to the non-initiation-of-force principle. This occurs because the ordinary conditions of existence that lead to the NIFP are dissimilar to the conditions of emergency situations.
Let's imagine I have a misanthropic neighbor, the sort of person who yells "get off my land!" while waving a shotgun menacingly when kids run through his yard. He's told me in very clear terms that he wants me to leave him and his property alone at all times. Now let's say one day he has a heart attack and collapses in his front yard. He falls suddenly, making no indication that help is requested.
Do I trespass, against his explicit instructions, in order to attempt to save his life? (Maybe I know CPR or have a defibrillator.) Is this an unacceptable initiation of force? Clearly not. It would be perverse to adhere to the NIFP — which bars violence against my neighbor in order to protect his life — in a context where adherence to the NIFP would virtually guarantee his death.
Life is primary. Nonaggression is derivative, it emerges from context. It is useful and remarkable that the NIFP applies so well to almost all situations — it makes everyday ethics a manageable business — but it's important to realize that it doesn't apply to all situations.
"Okay," you're thinking, "I see your point about life-or-death situations. But what about emergencies that aren't so dire?" Let's modify the misanthropic neighbor example. Let's say there's a small fire starting in his house while no one is there. (He accidentally left the stove on and Fluffy jumped up on the counter… poor Fluffy…) Let's also say that I'm a professional firefighter, I hear the cat scream, and notice the situation.
The fire is still very small. I'm an expert and have the right equipment — I can easily save his house by breaking into it. (I'm purposely ignoring the angle that the fire is an objective threat to my own safety and property; assume my house is far enough away that it's not a risk.) Would saving his house be aggression and forbidden as breaking-and-entering, or is this acceptable?
It's acceptable. In ordinary situations, aggression against property is forbidden because it takes value away from its rightful owner — value that plays a role in maintaining and enhancing the owner's life. In the context of this emergency situation, my action preserves the value of my neighbor's property to my neighbor. Yes, I am initiating force and damaging property by breaking into his house — but the damage would have been far worse if I had done nothing. This initiation of force should not be condemned.
Here's the interesting question: In this situation, should I be entitled to bill my neighbor for my firefighting services, and have the law on my side if he declines to pay? That will be the subject of my next installment.
Love a Nerd
I can't let the nerds make better lovers story pass without comment.
Do you like what you're reading? Your humble pirate nerd author is currently unattached and accepting applications. Even if you already have a nerd, consider an upgrade! (Does your nerd "know a lot about computers"? Well, this one puts debug features into microprocessors. A higher plane of nerdhood.)
If you date me, all of your wildest dreams will come true.
You know you want to write me. You should just listen to your heart. That's what I do.
Wise Words From Greenspan
Alan Greenspan, testifying before congress, 06/09/2005 11:58am ET:
Investing: Roth 401k or Traditional 401k?
Have you heard the news? Starting in 2006, a Roth-like option for 401(k) plans will be introduced. They'll probably be known as either a "Roth 401(k)" or a "Roth ERSA". They're created by 26USC§402A and so might logically be called "402A" plans, just as 26USC§401(k) created the "401(k)". (Note that it's §402A, not §402(a), which is something different.)
I haven't thoroughly immersed myself in the details. If you want to, go ahead — you'll find them in the laws cited above, and in IRS REG-152354-04. (Have I mentioned lately that I love the Internet?) The basic idea is simple. With a 401(k), contributions are tax-deductible but when you retire, your distributions will be taxed as ordinary income. With a 402A, contributions aren't tax-deductible but when you retire, your distributions will be tax-free. For both, income within the account is not taxed.
The question of whether the 401(k) or 402A is superior is fundamentally the same question of whether a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA is superior. The answer, of course, is "it depends". It depends on taxes, because the fundamental difference between the options is when they're taxed — when you put money in, or when you take money out.
The 401(k)/402A contribution limit for 2006 will be $15,000. For a typical person with a combined income tax rate of 34% (25% Federal + 9% Oregon state), a maxed-out 402A contribution will cost $22,727.27 out of their pocket — 34% taxes on $22,727.27 are $7,727.27, leaving $15,000 for the account. Given the same starting funds of $22,727.27, a maxed-out 401(k) contribution will be $15,000, with the remaining $7,727.27 taxed at 34%, leaving $5,100 for regular non-tax-advantaged investment.
As if you couldn't sense it coming, yes, it's time to play with a spreadsheet! It's also time for the obligatory disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor or planner or consultant or <insert adjective here>… but I do play one on the internet. :)
The spreadsheet is configured for a 20-year investment period over which to compare the 401(k) and 402A options. There's also a section for saving exclusively in a non-tax-advantaged account. For simplicity, the spreadsheet assumes the rate of return from investments is fixed, and that taxes on non-tax-advantaged investments are also fixed. The 401(k)/402A contribution limit is allowed to vary over time for expected inflation, and income tax rates may also be varied over time.
The default values in the spreadsheet have unchanging income taxes. Look at the results. After 20 years, and assuming that by then you're old enough to be eligible to take distributions, the Roth-like 402A wins. (I'll address the Required Minimum Distribution in a minute — patience!) It's important to see that the entire advantage is due to the taxes on the non-tax-advantaged accounts. If you ignore those taxes (set cell B5 to 0), all three options have equal returns!
A brief side note: You can minimize taxes on the non-tax-advantaged account by adopting a very-long-run buy-and-hold strategy. Prefer capital gains to dividends, because they can compound without being taxed. This mimics the benefits of the tax-advantaged accounts. (The spreadsheet doesn't model this.) Of course, it's tough to maintain a balanced portfolio with this approach. It's not practical to never sell anything. Being a totally passive investor just for the tax benefit is not a good idea. And it still wouldn't enable the non-advantaged account to match the 402A. Avoiding the taxation on the compounding doesn't avoid the eventual taxation on the gain. The 402A avoids taxation on both.
Set cell B5 back to 15%, and we'll continue.
Before you decide to put all your money in a 402A, we need to talk about the Required Minimum Distribution. Eventually the government requires you to withdraw funds from a 401(k) — they won't let you avoid taxes forever. There's a table that explains how much you'll be required to distribute from your 401(k).
One of the potential benefits of a 401(k) is that you might be in a lower income tax bracket when you retire, especially if you have no significant income other than Social Security and your 401(k) distribution. By taking distributions as slowly as possible, you can try to stay in low tax brackets. The spreadsheet doesn't model this at all — it liquidates the 401(k) all at once. And even here it gets it wrong, because you certainly wouldn't qualify for the 25% federal tax bracket if you did that! The spreadsheet understates the taxes for a liquidation. But you wouldn't liquidate anyway — you'd take the minimum distribution allowed.
A person who is 70 (the first year distributions are required) must distribute 1/27.4th of their 401(k). From a balance of $773,839.96, this is $28,242.33. This is just under today's 25% federal income tax bracket. Assuming you'd have Social Security income also, you wouldn't be able to benefit from being in a lower tax bracket at retirement. (The table is configured so that the distributions are approximately equal each year.) Additionally, the spreadsheet only models 20 years of contributions. If you were an über-investor and contributed the maximum for 50 working years, you'd have $9.4 million and the minimum distribution alone would be over $340,000, putting you in today's maximum (35%) federal income tax bracket. In general, the more you invest in the 401(k), the more likely you won't be in a lower tax bracket when you start taking distributions.
While a 401(k) requires distributions, a 402A doesn't. For the long-lived, this is an advantage for the 402A because more earnings from compounding during old age will be sheltered from taxation. (The spreadsheet doesn't model this.)
Another factor to consider is your expectation of income tax rates in the future. It's difficult to predict decades into the future, of course, but personally I'm very comfortable estimating that income taxes will be higher in the future than they are today. Today's enormous budget deficits, and the future's spending for Social Security and especially Medicare, make me very pessimistic about future tax rates. Enter a 2% rate of tax increases into cell C3 and see what changes. The income tax rate after 20 years rises to 50%. The 401(k), if distributed all at once, is worse even than the non-tax-advantaged account! This occurs because all of the 401(k) money was taxed at 50%, but much of the non-tax-advantaged account was taxed in earlier years at lower rates. (Again, the spreadsheet isn't modeling 401(k) required minimum distributions, so this is a hasty comparison.)
At this point, you're probably ready to give up on your 401(k) and switch to a 402A as quickly as possible. Not so fast. The 401(k) has a saving grace: Different states have different income tax structures. You can move. Oregon has a high income tax but no sales tax. Washington has no income tax but a high sales tax. What if I move to Washington when I retire? Set cell C3 back to 0% and then set cell C29 to 25%. This goes back to unchanging tax rates and models a move from Oregon to Washington, decreasing my taxes 9%. Now the 401(k) has the edge over the 402A! This should also be intuitive — lower taxes in retirement favor the 401(k), lower taxes while contributing favor the 402A.
What am I personally planning to do? My hunches lean toward a 1% rate of increase in income taxes (cell C3) and a 10% tax differential between Oregon and Washington when I retire. With C29=C27-10%, the 401(k) is better by a slim margin. When I expand the spreadsheet for the correct number of years before I take distributions, the difference is less than 1%. It would probably be better to avoid the expense of moving to Washington. Plus, I'd feel safer in a 402A where I wouldn't need to worry about future tax rates. Further, using the 402A obviates the need to maintain a non-tax-advantaged account as with the 401(k), where my money would be vulnerable to increases in investment-related taxes.
Having made some numerical projections, I feel pretty good about the 402A. Now I'll have to check with my employer to see if they're planning to offer them at all. :)
Upon reflection it seems like the spreadsheet is under-done. I talked about several things that it doesn't model. But I'd rather not go through the effort to add them. Besides, if you want an analysis that gets all the details right, you ought to go to a professional anyway.
I found this on the Mises blog:
Brian Moore's comment (he also blogs) exposes the lie in CNN's headline ("Pennsylvania school privatization effort collapses"):
Indeed. The news article also mentions that Edison Schools is leaving "partly" because it hasn't been paid $4 million it's owed.
It's important for people to know that this was not privatization, despite how the media presents it.
Sometimes I'm a Little Slow
I can't stop chuckling. This is so ridiculous I have to write about it. I just spent about ten minutes trying to wrap my head around a very short e-mail.
At first I thought it was spam because I couldn't figure it out. But it referenced something on my blog, and I wasn't ready to believe spammers are that sophisticated yet. But if it's not spam… it should make sense!
Puzzled? I was.
My only clue was that the author's name seemed vaguely familiar. So I checked my old e-mail and, sure enough, this is a bona fide real person who I've corresponded with before (in January). Not a spammer. So the e-mail definitely should make sense.
So who would open an e-mail by telling me I'm full of shit? Poopie, of course! And she, by virtue of her pseudonym, can get away with it. So then I start laughing. But it gets even better!
The Lewis & Clark reference I understand; I had just written it. But I drew a blank on the ladybug reference. I checked google and discovered that I've never written the word "ladybug" on my blog (until now). So I re-read my own index page to see if I had made any oblique reference to anything ladybug-like.
I was ready to give up when I scrolled all the way to the bottom. And then I suddenly noticed my own site graphics. At the bottom, and on my banner, I have graphics of a tiny island. And a round red thing that could be (I suppose!) mistaken for a ladybug. At this point I laughed for about a minute and decided I absolutely had to blog about all this.
Poopie, that's not a ladybug. That's a wild pizza. You see, it's pizza shaped and has toppings… and the spear is how you know it's wild. (Domesticated pizzas don't have spears.) You should read the story (and then read the analysis so it all makes sense). The story was written a year before I started blogging, and is responsible for my piratey theme.
The bit about "a boat that would float" weirded me out because it sounded like something an old girlfriend of mine would have said. (Six years ago — sigh.) But no one could have known about that. It must have been a coincidence.
Anyway, Poopie — HI! Good to hear from you again. Pardon my rambling. :) Have fun on the piano this weekend. I think I'll be spending my time much the same way.
Love at Intel
This is not a fiery office romance story. (But the title got you thinking, didn't it?) I'll write one of those eventually, probably around the time electric blankets become popular in hell. And not Dante's version, mind you. If you'd like to read that sort of thing sooner, set me up with someone. :)
Rather, this is about NASA astronaut Dr. Stanley Love's visit to Intel. Why did he come to Intel? I'm still not sure. There were approximately three Intel employees in attendance at this event. Lots of schoolchildren were bussed in, though. (…hmmm, it's strange for me to use the word "bussed" in the transportation sense.)
Dr. Love was introduced by my Congressman, David Wu, who I voted against. My manager also attended (and brought his son!), and said the obligatory "woo-woo" (Wu-Wu) when I pointed to the Congressman. I don't think Wu held the attention of the students. He talked briefly about a committee he's on and used words like "obstruse" and "nascent" and "balkanized" — the kids didn't care.
After Wu's introduction, Dr. Love segued to a short video about space exploration. After the video he talked very briefly about exploration before going to Q&A. There was no speech! He basically said that we haven't been to the moon for 30 years, and that we're planning to go back as a stepping-stone to Mars. He mentioned that his current role is to consult on new spacecraft, and that's what I hoped he'd talk about, but right when I was getting interested we went to Q&A. I felt somewhat cheated, but this arrangement did maximize time for the Q&A, and maybe the interaction was the raison d'être for the event.
I was the only adult who asked a question. (But I look young!) See if you can spot which one was mine. The following are my hastily typed and paraphrased notes; I only got a handful of direct quotes. I was very happy to be able to use a laptop during this; there's no way I could have written things down quickly enough. Kids ask short questions, so there were lots of them. Dr. Love's responses were longer than the impression you'd get just from the below; I essentialized them.
That was the end of the Q&A. Wu concluded with some political remarks. He said that the political problem with space travel is getting consensus on paying for it. He said, "You all are the converted. You need to go out and convert others." He made a tie-in with the Lewis and Clark expedition, which was over-budget and late. "I'm not here to defend late federal projects or overspending…" instead to say that exploring the unknown has risks and takes courage.
I beg to differ with my Congressman. To recognize the value in space exploration, and to be an evangelist for government spending, are two very different things. I don't think the government has any business whatsoever in space exploration outside its military applications. If I were in charge, I'd immediately terminate government funding for a return to the moon or a mission to Mars.
I do not believe it is acceptable to steal from people (by taxation) in order to satisfy my intellectual curiosity. NASA has created wonderful scientific and engineering results, but its method of funding is immoral. Let people choose individually whether or not to support space exploration. Some would contribute eagerly. Others have different priorities, and they should be respected.
Why did this event occur at Intel? No reason was ever offered. I find it hard to believe we have the only large auditorium in the area. I more cynically expect that it was a political decision of Wu's, who is happy to be seen as a buddy of both technology and education. I don't know what Intel got out of hosting this.