Monthly Archives: May 2009

Day 7, Sick like dog

I woke up today feeling pretty bad. Actually, I was hoping that I could just get this over with and die quickly instead of suffering it out. My head didn’t hurt, my stomach didn’t hurt, my eyes didn’t hurt, my ass didn’t even burn when I expelled what seemed to be gallons of butt-pee. Nothing specific hurt. Just my whole me hurt. Like deep inside. It sucked horribly. It exacerbated all of the little soreness and tightness and tiny pains I had built up over the week.

This was miserable.

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Me, feverish and feeling horrible.

I had only planned to do a forearm workout today and box if I felt up to it… well, boxing was certainly out of the question and going to the gym would have been an exercise in bowel control that I would rather not try. I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything until about 13:00, and when I did I ate very little…

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One cheeseburger and a McFlurry. That’s it for today.

One meal was all I could deal with today.

I spend the whole day laying around feeling pretty miserable. I was very angry about getting sick, angry at missing workouts, angry that I couldn’t eat, angry that every time I felt angry I had to spray McSoup out of my ass… this whole day just sucked serious balls. And I was alternately burning up with an average 38.8 C (101.84 F) fever and suddenly sweating my ass off. Not very fun.

I wasn’t giving up on the experiment just yet, though I did have to violate one of my rules because of my extreme sweating. I had lost so much fluid and electrolyte content through sweating and assplosion that I seriously needed replacement of both. I permitted myself to drink Pocari Sweat, a fluid replacement drink produced by a medical company here in Japan. Its very light, contains almost no calories per liter and has a pretty even mix of salts. This is my favorite sports drink, actually, though I don’t usually drink any sports drinks because they are usually designed and marketed with the general public’s palate in mind, not for the strict benefit of actual athletes (look what’s happened to Gatorade). Pocari Sweat does not taste very good unless you actually need it, though it tastes a world better than ORS which is notorious for tasting like lightly salted ass unless you are in dire need of salts.

About 15 minutes or so after drinking about 500ml I felt a world of difference. None of my symptoms went away, but my dehydration headache which had become constant regardless how much water I put down suddenly vanished as did about half of my feeling of fatigue.

I still feel like a big bag of crap, though… Not a happy face day.

Day 6, Feeling… Unwell…

I have been feeling a bit more sluggish than the usual fatigued feeling I should be having since yesterday morning. Not sure exactly what it is, but its definitely not a part of routine workout fatigue. I decided to go ahead and go on my planned run but at a much slower pace than usual. So far I’ve been running 4 km right at 20 minutes, which for me is a decent cardio rate, but not close to anything speedy (this is a precise 8-minute mile or 5-minute kilometer). Its interesting that I find myself consistently running that speed despite running steep hills, as it is the exact pace I was taught to run long-distance at when I was in the military.

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Not looking forward to this run…

Even though my hamstrings were completely useless and I really felt as though I was running a 9 or even 10 minute mile, the run wound up being 21:16. Significantly slower, but not as slow as it felt. I think I just felt slow… in general. Everything about me felt slow and sort of nasty today.

After my run I felt marginally hungry, so I decided to head over for some more 朝マック, though its the last thing I wanted to put in my mouth. What I really felt like was eating a few cheeseburgers or something, but they don’t serve that stuff until lunchtime… Of course the breakfast burritos they serve in Texas would be awesome (and I’m sure a huge seller in Okinawa), but they don’t have those on the menu here, either, dammit.

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Frustrated with my feelings of physical un-wellness, I decided to take it out on my food
I’d had enough by the 5th frame and called it quits

I was really starting to feel sort of unusually bad by the end of breakfast, but I’d resolved to at least go through with my weightlifting plan, even if I had to call off boxing for the day. My hamstrings were so tight that I wouldn’t be able to kick at all anyway so there wouldn’t be much point in heading to the boxing gym in any case.

Weight training today focused on arms — specifically, biceps and triceps. Some people don’t like to work out this way, but it works very well for me. But today I noticed that other than just feeling like crap in general my triceps were already pretty burnt out from the week of boxing. That shouldn’t have surprised me in retrospect, but whatever. First week on a new workout plan and funny things happen.

I decided to focus on biceps and hit those first, but go a bit light with it because I just wasn’t feeling very good. Here is how the workout wound up:

Outie Preacher Curls:
[Note: “Outie”s are performed on an EZ-bar with the wrist rotated as far to the outside as possible, instead of rotated to the inside as is usually seen. It makes you feel a lot more wimpy by removing the forearm muscles from the lift. Lots of lifters hate these and never do them.]

12 reps @ 20kgs
10 reps @ 25kgs
8 reps @ 30kgs
6 reps @ 35kgs
12 reps @ 25kgs

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Concentration curls (dumbell, seated)

10 reps @ 16kgs, 3 sets

21’s (standing curls with barbell)

7 half-up, 7 half-down, 7 full range of motio @ 20kgs, 3 sets

Dumbell Tricep Extensions (seated)

10 reps @ 16kgs, 3 sets

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After working out I felt better than before I went, but something just wasn’t right. I couldn’t put my finger on it because I had a lot of factors influencing my body at the moment, including diet, my workout plan, my lack of conditioning coming into this, and… the feeling that I might be getting sick.

I’m the type of person who doesn’t usually have time to get sick, so I just don’t.

Normally.

This thought crossed my mind as I went to McDonald’s, but decided to get take-out because I was beginning to feel a little weird already.

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After eating my evening meal, I started feeling increasingly weird until it finally happened: ‘Splode-ass. I had contracted the horrid ‘splode-ass from somewhere. Usually kids get that and I haven’t had a lot of contact with kids since I was a teacher years ago, so this surprised me… but there it was, undeniably boiling in my guts… I didn’t have a stomach ache, no headache, nothing like that. Just some explosive butt-soup. Dammit! How can this happen to me one single week into this experiment?!? I have some seriously crap luck (literally).

 

Classaction lawsuits in a troubled climate

Since the first hint of recessionary pressures banks, bankers and financial institutions of all types have suddenly become the favored scapegoat/bogeyman to pin all blame on. I don’t usually concern myself too much with this sort of thing — it merely illustrates the simpleness of the public — until I find myself in a theater watching an entire movie based on such a flimsy premise, and then only concern myself as far as to write a short, meaningless post about it.

But this time is a little different. I have accounts at an online stock brokerage called TD Ameritrade (originally Ameritrade, then they merged with TD Waterhouse and rebranded themselves as banks so often do). I get email from them including their newsletter, any filing information I am required to see, shareholder’s meeting and voting information and so on. Its pretty typical stuff. I just received an unusual notice today of a classaction lawsuit against TD Ameritrade concerning spam emails. The basic argument is that TD Ameritrade somehow (directly or indirectly, it is not clear at this point) leaked some (or all?) account email addresses to stock spammers, resulting in unsolicted and deliberately false stock advice.

I have 8 email accounts which I use on a daily or at least weekly basis. I check them all regularly. I receive spam, including deliberately (and obviously) misleading stock advice in most of them. TD Ameritrade is aware of only one of those email addresses, yet I have received the same spam mail in several different addresses at once.

While it is entirely possible that TD Ameritrade could have leaked email addresses unintentionally given the technical sophistication of some of the more skilled spam cartels, that TD Ameritrade would ever intentionally sell or give out email or other personal information on account holders is highly unlikely. TD Ameritrade is a technology and information trading company at its root. It buys and sells information as the core of its business. As such a business it is intimately aware of the legal implications of violating intellectual property, privacy and information trade rights. It would be directly counterproductive for such a company to suddenly decide to sell or otherwise lose control of any personal account holder information in violation of its posted privacy policy. Their business is based upon trust and the long-term implications of violating that trust versus the short-term and relatively minor profit to be gained from the sale of account holder contact information simply weigh very strongly in favor of retaining the trust of their paying client base.

What I suspect is that someone — or a few someones — made plays based upon spammy, false email stock advice and lost some money. It may have been all fun and games in the mid 00’s, but now that people are scared of the economy and bankers have replaced George Bush as the national scapegoat its just not funny anymore. It looks like someone lost out and wants to take it out on someone… anyone who is a good and reasonable target and this particular tack makes sense from that perspective. Once a classaction lawsuit is properly baked by skillful lawyers it is a simple matter to get everyone to hop on the bandwagon hoping to claim fabulous cash prizes for doing nothing other than signing their name on a line somewhere. It is even easier to substantiate and grow (which in this case amount to the same thing) such a frivolous lawsuit when the court orders that the defendant, TD Ameritrade, contact every person potentially affected by email to notify them of the lawsuit.

Its a bit sad. I’ve received tens of thousands of spam emails purporting to be solid stock advice. I’ve received a few thousand, at least, at the address that TD Ameritrade has knowledge of. I have absolutely no reason or inclination to join such a ridiclous lawsuit, however, because it misrepresents the situation present across the internet today and tries to place blame — to the tune of lots of money — on what is essentially an information company who knows very well the importance of protecting its client’s trust and the chances of being caught in violation of that trust if it took any actions counter to the interests of its clientelle.

If this lawsuit plays out in favor of the weak, frightened or opportunistic sheep who join in then it could precipitate a host of similar actions against similar companies. This is just one way that the financial sector is being bled in the current environment. Not a happy time to be a banker… whether individual companies’ and individuals’ financial mistakes and problems are the fault of the banks or not.

Day 5, Fatigue

Its day 5 of the process and I’m feeling pretty worn out. I’ve felt this way before, though, during physically demanding courses or training up for competitions in the past. That indicates that this has a lot less to do with McDonald’s than it does my physical condition going into this. If this wacky diet is not to blame then I should feel a bit better next Thursday (a week from now) than I do today.

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This is the closest thing to a happy face I can work up right now

Some folks would say that my routine to this point has been too intense and some would say it has been too lax. Most of those people either are niche atheletes who are focused on strength, size, speed or endurance and not combining all three and throwing hundreds of kicks and punches every day, or have never taken part in a serious training and conditioning program of their own and are simply repeating factoids they read somewhere in Men’s Health (or other gayware magazines full of advertising hype) or the internet about the “perfect” workout.

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Talking with my boxing trainer yesterday

I’ve got time to write today because its a lifting only day. I’m doing shoulders in about an hour and its a realatively easy day. I’m glad it is too, because as I mentioned above, I feel pretty worn out. I’m not tired in any specific place and I’m not really sore right now — my trainup over the last two weeks generally took care of that — I’m just tired in the middle. That is to say, I feel tired in the diaphragm when I breath, my ribs feel like they are tired, I taste acid when I exhale when I’m resting. I’m that sort of tired. That’s a sign that I need a rest day anyway, at least a day of rest from heavy cardio output.

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Feeling tired in the corner before sparring yesterday

I may be pushing it a little bit too hard to suddenly on cardio by essentially doing two cardio workouts a day in addition to weight lifting. Time will tell. When I trained up for jiu-jitsu tournments a long time ago I used to do cardio (running or biking), then lift weights, then roll — every day. It may be that Muay Thai is either something I’m simply not accustomed to so its whipping my ass or that boxing is generally more cardio oriented than ground fighting is in general.

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…and its all powered by this…

Evening Workout

I shut the inner wimp up and went to the gym for shoulders despite the feeling that I should either curl up in a ball and die or give it a pass. I shouldn’t give it a pass and I know that, though running and boxing are a safe no-go today. I had a good workout in that it felt good and afterwards I felt refreshed and like a new person. That’s the best thing about going to the gym when I’m feeling sluggish. I seriously need to organise my workout data for presentation. I only did three exercises today: shrugs, upright row and overhead press, but it makes all the difference to do something rather than fart around being lazy.

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I totally didn’t feel like doing anything right then… neither did the (useless) dog…

My workout looked about like this:

Barbell shrugs

20 reps * 2 sets @ 70kgs
10 reps * 2 sets @ 110kgs
20 reps * 2 sets @ 70kgs

Upright row (barbell)

20 reps @ 20kgs
12 reps @ 25kgs
10 reps @ 30kgs
8 reps @ 35kgs
6 reps @ 40kgs
12 reps @ 30kgs

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Shoulders Day = Funny Faces Day… Ha ha ha!

Overhead press (barbell)

12 reps @ 20kgs
10 reps @ 30kgs
8 reps @ 40kgs
6 reps @ 40kgs
12 reps @ 30kgs

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More unintended facial comedy…

As you can see, I didn’t try to kill myself at all today. My shoulders are pretty worn out from throwing however many thousands of punches I’ve thrown this week and I just didn’t have the confidence to try tossing 60kgs over my head without an experienced spotter to back me up. That being said, this workout felt pretty nice, I was able to execute everything in good form with a decent level of difficulty and I ended my workout feeling on top of the world. Yay me.

Then I cleaned up and went to McDonald’s to nom nom nom…

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…nom nom nom nom nom… ugggghhhh…

End of Day 3, Time Issues

Its the end of day 3 and I am feeling just fine. Tired, but I always feel tired after boxing and not sleeping quite enough. That is my fault, not McDonald’s. As far as that goes I feel exactly the same way I felt two weeks ago when I was eating normal food. I had imagined that I would feel at least a little different by now.

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Yummy, lunch…

As things are the only thing I wish I could change is how many hours there are in a day. Living a relatively normal life with typical daily responsibilities and engaging as fully as I do in an exercise hobby fills my day pretty completely. What I had not anticipated was that it fills it so completely that there is no way I can even screen each day’s video, much less notate and edit any of it.

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I am going to nom this…

That being said, on the technical front I have to report that the Sony HDR-CX12 camera I’m using is a pretty amazing gadget, but on the downside the video compression used is highly proprietary and there are few tools out there with which to edit most of this in a timely manner. I have found a partial solution, and probably the one I’m going to stick with for the short term. Because this is a video production which will never see the big screen and which will likely never make me any money, I am satisfied with using the tools included with Ubuntu Studio (on, of course, Ubuntu) and Kdenlive (on either Ubuntu or Fedora) to do batch transcoding from the proprietary MTS/M2TS AVCHD format that the camera spits out to a far lower res, but easier to edit format. Since this will primarily be viewed inside of Flash movie player frames tucked inside whatever part of thesite I build to house all the other data that comes out of this project I don’t think the general public will be missing much. I’ve heard a lot about Cinelerra and that its a great movie editing suite, but I just haven’t had the time to mess with it yet.

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Offense/Defense practice at the gym… Yay!

Hopefully when shooting is over and I can start eating normal food again I’ll have the time to start editing this thing for release here. The worst part of that will be distilling it down from the enormous pile of footage I will have on my hands to extract the most pertinent scenes to show the audience. In the interest of completeness I might offer the whole shebang for people to download just in case there are any questions as to the vailidity of my experiences (be warned, full verification of my McDonald’s eatingness would entail viewing 30+ hours of just me eating burgers and even more hours than that of me in the gym, running or boxing… pretty dry).

I wish I had the time to write a diary about this every day, but I do not see that happening unless I find a way to schedule it in, which would mean arriving at the gym for my evening session at least an hour or two earlier than I am now.

Filming starts today

After almost a full month of unexpected complications which have set back my starting date for the McDonald’s experiment I am finally starting filming today. That is actually not entirely accurate, I started filming Day 0 yesterday because I had to get blood tests and a health consultation on film before I start eating nothing but McDonald’s. Additionally we took some practice shots in the locations I will be frequenting over the next month because we don’t know what we’re doing yet, and they might work their way into a finished piece as background information. So to be perfectly accurate, today is the first day of eating McDonald’s. I had an amazing meal last night at a place I’d never been to and it made me sad to know that I will be missing out on such excellent food for a full month!

I will be working over the next four weeks to get the editing, page format decisions, sound, extra information, and all other elements organized into a coherent package that will accurately express what I will do and what will happen to me over the next month. That is going to be pretty tricky because I’m aiming to express what will happen in a 24 hour period in a series of roughly 10 minute clips for every day of the experiment. I’ve never made so much as a home video before so I’ll likely have to spend a lot more time thinking and re-editing/sequencing my videos than I spend actually doing meaningful edits.

So today is Day 1. I’ll print a timeline and build a new part of this website to house the goings on of the McDonald’s experiment. I’m trying to think of a good name for the series also… maybe since I’m primarily following a boxing/jiu-jitsu/MMA workout regimen something along the lines of “Fast Food Fighter” would be alliteratively appealing. Ideas are welcome.

“Anti-Outsourcing” – A policy of unreality

The public is still collectively shitting its pants about the economy and swine flu, two issues that do not have a long-term negative outcome for the US. One way the Obama administration is responding to this is to resurrect a common Democratic Party campaign theme: Anti-Outsourcing. There are several fundamental reasons why anti-outsourcing will never work over the long term, here I will examine a few of them.

The concept of “outsourcing” is an interesting one. It has always been true that any economic activity that is labor intensive carries a high cost, because the cost of paying all the hands that do the work generally greatly outweighs the other costs of business. This is part of why slavery has, until very recently, been the worldwide norm for dangerous, menial or massive labor efforts. Even slavery is not without its costs, however. Humans are highly intelligent and difficult to control unless they choose to be controlled. If given untenable survival conditions or even continual emotional distress slaves tend to revolt, and this is expensive and socially dangerous. This means that slave owners have always had to invest in long-term plans, plans at least as long-term as the bondage is to last, which puts them in a very difficult situation if their dependent markets take a dive or the environment within which they operate comes under threat (see the American Civil War, various Roman slave revolts, the history of Carthage, etc.). Suffice to say, slavery is not a safe or socially responsible option given a fluid economic environment — and this is even totally ignoring the humanitarian side of things.

So what is a better option? The hiring and firing of workers. Workers take care of their own survival, their own families, their own living conditions, buy or find their own food, etc. Their only connection to their employer is either entirely defined by a time-for-pay relationship or an effort-for-pay relationship. The employer is entirely freed from any domestic responsibilities over the employee, and the employee is freed from the social control that domestic responsibility entails. (An interesting hybrid to this is modern military and para-military systems.)

Problems arise, however, when human nature and collective reasoning get involved. It is always to the short-term benefit of the employee to try to get as much as he can for as little effort or time as possible, thereby increasing the received (but not actual) value of his work. It is always in the interest of a company over the long-term to try to give as little as possible for as much effort or time from each employee. There are various ways of looking at this situation, and whether a company aiming to retain highly skilled, experienced or ideologically tuned employees by paying more than the industry standard or takes the view that manpower can always be replaced and is satisfied with high employee turnover is irrelevant. In the end both styles of thought are essentially financial and profit-oriented decisions.

As a nation improves its situation the salaries and cost of living in that country tends to rise relative to other countries. At some key point it becomes cheaper to train new, otherwise unskilled and inexperienced employees in another country for a specific job than to hire domestically educated and relatively skilled labor to do the same job. When the labor in question produces a service then it will almost always be much easier to maintain domestic employment because the market and the labor must be in the same place. When the labor produces a product which can be easily shipped (cars, bags, cocaine) or a service that can be communicated (software, remote IT services, call-center services, audio-visual pornography) then the location of the labor in relation to the market is of little importance. In such situations companies will quickly move the locations of their labor centers away from their domestic markets where people have money to spend — and therefore demand more money for each unit of work — to foreign places where people have no money to spend — and therefore demand very little money for each unit of work. Over time this creates a phenomenon where 1st world nations tend to be service-oriented economies, 2nd world nations tend to be manufacturing and export oriented economies, and 3rd world nations remain nasty and chaotic enough that the cost of business outweighs the benefits of cheap labor.

[An interesting point of note: By the above reasoning there are slightly fewer 3rd world nations slightly more 2nd and 1st world nations in 2009 than in, say, 1969. This is the foundation of the idea that internationalization of trade is a good thing helps drive the advancement of humanity. “Advancement to what?” is an entirely different question.]

As stated above, companies make these labor moves to remain competitive, because other companies will do the same thing if they have a chance. The key idea behind the campaign pledge to enact “Anti-Outsourcing” legislation is that if Congress were to somehow restrict or outlaw such labor moves then no companies could do it and in isolated theory all companies would remain on the same footing to compete equally from the domestic labor pool.

The flaw in this reasoning is, of course, that Congressional laws only apply to US companies and individuals. Neither are Americans. It can become quickly profitable for a currently operating American company to cease operations in America, relocate entirely overseas to offices in, say, Singapore — a place which knows it will never domestically manufacture much due to mere geography and will therefore be eternally prone to support such overseas relocations — and continue to conduct precisely the same business as before, but this time as an exporting foreign entity with an American market and the exact same cheap overseas labor pool. In this scenario business not only moves overseas, but so do taxes, entirely. The American system would suffer a 100% loss to manufacturing in this case as opposed to maintaining a hand in directly administering the foreign labor market.

If Congress were to clamp down on this sort of practice by making it illegal for American citizens to either start foreign companies, become employed by foreign companies or otherwise be involved in overseas management then the American government would effectively be cutting itself off from its current main source of international business revenues (despite the current claims of massive tax evasion). If Congress were to alternately suddenly raise trade barriers and resurrect the old protective trade tariff structure that the entire global system has been working against for the last 60 years then the Americans will be guilty of firing some huge opening shots in the next global systemic struggle. None of these courses of action have good outcomes for the American system when taken to their logical conclusions.

It is also very important to consider that there are legitimate foreign companies out there who would love to buy away American expertise or develop their own expertise to compete directly with American manufacturers if Washington suddenly found it a good idea to slap a huge number of unsufferably expensive labor market restrictions on American business activity. Most, of not all, of these foreign companies could predictably be expected to locate themselves either in countries with a cheap domestic labor market or headquarter in a country which has very liberal business, tax and labor laws. Once again, the only available American reaction to this would be to enact trade barriers or tariffs against such companies to protect the American domestic market. This would, of course, come at the expense of a massive international political backlash and a cascade of increasingly high anti-American trade barriers and grind the American international trade machine to a complete halt. Trade barriers or no, however, American companies will come under swiftly growing pressure from increasingly sophisticated foreign competitors to streamline and evolve or suffer ultimate defeat and demise.

These are the basic mechanics of why it is unreasonable to expect the American government to ever seriously consider enacting real restrictions on the outsourcing of menial labor. There will always be a place in the domestic American labor market for skilled workers, location-specific service workers, and management personnel as well as a an increasingly large place for what amounts to professional thinkers such as engineers, scientists, etc. But the place of the lowly factory worker who presses a button for a living, runs a simple drill press or sews backpacks is no longer in America. America will increasingly either need to become a nation of management, education and technology centers which manage the broad overseas labor efforts of other, less expensive hands or suffer a competition gap crisis at some point.

Obama’s popularity is going to face some pretty stiff challenges as time moves on. He needs to push every populist button possible right now to try to keep his numbers up if he hopes to have another term in office. In a certain sense in this he is a prisoner of his own campaign success. It is difficult to promise a world of change when the only world we have to work with is the one we’ve already been living on and are familiar with. They key on this particular issue, however, is not that Obama has to somehow actually succeed at making an anti-outsourcing policy change. He knows that is entirely unrealistic and so does the rest of Congress. The idea is popular with the media and the largely uncontemplative public, however, so no politician is going to stand in front of a camera and explain everything I have just explained above because elective politics is about popularity and the difficult situation I have illustrated above is in no way a popular message. Obama must be perceived by the public as trying to get an anti-ousourcing initiative started, whether it fails or not. If it fails he can say “Congress blocked it, its not my fault” and if it succeeds then it will have to be written in such a way as to provide sufficient loopholes to permit business to effectively continue operating as it does now.