Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Clearing up some misconceptions

I was cruising around the blogosphere earlier today and stumbled across a proponent of Intelligent Design. During the course of his attack on evolution, he averred that the Second Law of Thermodynamics was proof positive that the theory of evolution was false. So what is the second law? I sure as hell didn't know. I'm a Classics major and a law student, not a physicist!!! So I did what any freethinking person would do; I went looking for the answer to my question. This is what I found. The article actually addresses five misconceptions about what evolution does and does not say. One of those five things is that the Second Law is inconsistent with evolution. Long story short, it's not. If you want the whole defense, you should read the article. In pursuit of my goal to keep my posts shot, I will leave you with the Second Law. Think about it for a bit and then read the Talk.Origins article.

"No process is possible in which the sole result is the transfer of energy from a cooler to a hotter body."

It is sometimes phrased like this:
"The entropy of a closed system cannot decrease."

Lost is Great

Another great episode, although the additional piece of filmstrip was anticlimactic.

No Basis Increase for Inflation????

Apparently not. So here's the problem: Say you buy some property in 1950 for $50,000. In 2005 you want to sell the property for its current fair market value of $250,000. If you sell the property you will be taxed on the gain (sale price - basis), which is $200,000. However, although it looks like the value of the property has increased $200,000, inflation has increased dramatically over the past 55 years. The consumer price index in 1950 was 23.5. In 2005 the index was 190.7. Assuming that I'm not mistaken about how the CPI works, this means that the initial $50,000 is equivalent to over $400,000 in today's dollars. Thus you will actually realize a $200,000 loss on the transaction. Yet in addition to your massive loss, you will also have to cut a check to the IRS for the tax on your $200,000 "gain." Clearly this is the wrong treatment, But its the law.

Says William Andrews in Basic Federal Income Taxation: "The House of Representatives once passed a general basis indexing provision, but none has yet found its way into the law." Write your Congressman today.

Practicing Photoshop

My father in law gave me photoshop, but I haven't really had a chance to use it until today. This picture is nothing special and wasn't intended to be. All I did was throw some random colors and then applied some filters. Oh how I love the filters.

Simpsons Quote

Lisa: "America has its grandeur and its follies, but mostly its where all are stuff is."

Atheism Sucks!!!

If you hate atheists as much as I do, you're going to want to check out this blog: Atheism Sucks. Damn Atheists.

Intron and Exons

PZ gives a good spiel on introns and exons in DNA sequences. He does a good job, but not as good as Panda, who tried to explain them to me a couple weeks ago.

The Blood of Another Silverfish... on my hands. Nell spotted it near the ceiling in the hallway. With sandal in hand I confronted the hideous beast. The battle was well and truly joined as my foe parried left, its hundreds of feet flailing, undulating. I jumped back, momentarily dazed by the creature's other-worldly speed. I regained my composure and launched another attack. The many-legged demon tried to scurry left, but its efforts were in vain. As I brought the sole of the sandal to rest atop his lanky frame, the soul of the Silverfish left its body, descending back into Hell whence it came. Though I was relieved to have been victorious in battle, I was left with a deep respect for my adversary. Despite his small stature, his heart had shown itself to be far larger than the mortal frame which carried it. And as I wiped his guts off of my Birkenstock, I began to feel the pangs of loss for a worthy foe. A pain only a warrior in battle can understand.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Nell's Deviousness

When Nell and I were in Denver for Thanksgiving, she and my mom went shopping for a B-Day present for Nell. My mom wrapped the presents (very pretty wrapping) and gave Nell instructions not to open them until her B-Day. For the record, today is November 29. Nell's B-Day is December 2. I think you see where I'm going. Earlier this evening, Nell opened her presents! For shame Nell. For shame. Now everyone understands why I require Nell to call me every hour on the hour to check in. She is not to be trusted.

Blogger Monkey

I am a monkey who cen tipe. FishFrog will no longer speek for me.

More Than He Can Chew

I think this guy bit off more than he can chew in this post.

Family Circus and the NLRA

Today’s Family Circus cartoon brings up some interesting issues of bargaining power in the modern American workplace. That, and its absolutely heart-warming. The scene is thus: Jeffy stands with hands on hips and a serious look on his face. Jeffy’s dad is bending down to be nearly face-to-face with Jeffy. Jeffy says, “After how many days can I renegotiate my allowance?” I’ll give you a second to take in the scene.

Jeffy clearly represents the American unionized worker. Bill, Jeffy’s father, represents the American industrial interests. This much is clear to anyone reading the funny pages. However, I believe the constrictive circular panel represents the framework of the National Labor Relations Act and collective bargaining agreements, whereby the employer is forced into negotiations with the employees over wages (and other topics). Bill’s posture tells us all we need to know about the efficacy of the NLRA in today’s society. Jeffy’s father (take note of the paternalistic imagery) is bending down to Jeffy’s level, condescending to negotiate with his “son.” Knowing that his full stature towers over little Jeffy, Bill only humors Jeffy's request for entrepreneurial imput. Furthermore, Bill is only partially in the frame, a nod to the economic reality that Bill has power outside of the NLRA. In contrast, Jeffy is entirely enveloped by the frame, suggesting that collective bargaining is his only option to try to even the inequality in bargaining power.

Hats off to Bil Keane for highlighting the absurdly unequal bargaining position of modern American workers. Many choose not to face the harsh reality that faces America's working class. Not so Mr. Keane. Bravo.

Note: I tried to find the comic online to link to but was unsuccessful. Sorry.

Tax Tuesday

Note: I am not an attorney and none of the following should be interpreted as legal advice.
If you sell your primary residence, which has been your primary residence for at least two years out of the past five years, the gain you realize on the sale (i.e. the excess of the sale price over the purchase price (the purchase price being adjusted downward for any depreciation deductions)) is excluded from your gross income to the tune of $250,000. Taxpayers can make use of this deduction once every two years. Contrary to what I represented to my mom the other day, there is no requirement that you reinvest the proceeds into new housing. Thus you can sell your house and use the profits to pay off debts, fly to Hawaii, or by massive amounts of bourbon. I advise any reader interested to check out the actual language of IRC Section 121.

On a personal note, I think this exemption is totally bogus. A better approach, it seems to me, would be to allow a nonrecognition of profits to the extent that the profits are reinvested (or used) into housing. This is the approach taken by sections 1031 and 1033 for exchanges (forced exchanges in the case of 1033) of like-kind property. The benefit (revenue-wise) is that the government still has a chance to collect taxes on the capital appreciation at the time the gain is severed from use for housing. There is no good tax reason to allow home-owners tax free consumption via their $250,000 real estate profit.

Monday, November 28, 2005


I'm in the library studying employees' dignitary interests. Sort of boring. Finals start next week. Sort of nervous. More later.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

He Needs Your Help

Now is your chance to contribute to Pete Hendrickson's "Legal Offense Fund." He is personally taking on the IRS for levying an illegal, unconstitutional, direct tax on the income of hard-working Americans. He plans to use the Legal Offense Fund to support legal action, including "suits, motions, and other legal action," on behalf of the victims of the Treasury Department's unlawful, immoral confiscations. And for what individual, you may ask, will the Legal Offense Fund advocate initially? You guessed it. Your PayPal donations will be supporting Pete's personal legal actions against the Feds. That's just good sense.

Back in the MidWest

Nell and I are home after a harrowing plane flight followed by a long wait for a parking shuttle in the pouring rain. But we're home. A big thanks go out to Matt and Panda for looking out for the cat and rabbits while we were away. As promised, you will receive cheesy souvenirs from Colorado in addition to a free dinner at the (affordable) restaurant of your choice.

Nell was very pleased with the turkey drawings.

Monkey Blogging

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Went to Boulder Yesterday

Nell and I got to drive up to Boulder yesterday to visit some friends. It was a nice visit and on the drive back Nell said something that bears repeating. "We're very fortunate," she said. "Where ever we go, we end up with more friends than we had when we got there." And good friends at that. I'm not a sentimental guy, as some of you know, but as we drove home from Boulder, I got a little nostalgic. Seeing my former roommates was bittersweet. I was reminded of the great times we had, from our first year in the dorms, to our last year, when we were living outside of Boulder. We had some good times there and met some good people. But we've met some good people in the midwest, too. We're pretty lucky. Good times indeed.

Response to ID

This is a very funny post. Scroll down a bit to get to a hypothetical conversation between God and God's good friend Stan regarding God's greatest creation. Very amusing.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

In Agreement with my Brother?

When he's right, he's right. The punishment of the offending CU students should be very public. In fact, inasmuch as one believes that deterence is a major purpose of punishment, all punishments should be public. Students should know that they are adults now, and as such, their behavior has consequences. Poor public behavior injures the University by giving University opponents in the legislature more ammunition with which to justify funding cuts in public education.

Knee-jerk Reactionary

It's true, I'm a knee-jerk reactionary. If you read my previous post that much will become clear. I have known some (more like one or two) business school grads who were not total drunkards, and they should be allowed to attend CU football games.

Sad Day for CU

For those of you who didn't watch the CU game yesterday, you missed a sad, embarassing day for CU alums. Not only did our highly favored Buffs get destroyed by Nebraska, but members of the student body made total asses of themselves. In the fourth quarter, a few students began throwing stuff (bottles and such) onto the field. It got to the point where the refs had security clear out an ENTIRE SECTION. Everyone in the section was made to leave. Alas, if only this were a one-time experience. When Nell and I were students at CU, not a season went by when the student section was not warned about throwing stuff onto the field. In at least one game every season (and sometimes a couple of games) the football team would be penalized for the acts of the student section.
So what can be done? I have a couple of suggestions.
First: Don't allow business-school students to buy season-tickets. As my dad has told me on multiple occasions, a business degree is the only degree you can get while drunk the whole time. If you were fortunate enough to attend my college graduation, you would have seen the business school grads drunk, semi-nude, and boisterous. Proud day for the B-School.
Second: Raise tuition of state schools. The University of Colorado is a state school, and as such has state-subsidized tuition. This makes tuition far too affordable. Incoming students aren't serious about college. Increased tuition (coupled with increased scholarships and loan forgiveness to respectable students) would scare off less serious students and reduce embarassing occurences like yesterday's game.

It is important to point out that it is an extreme minority of students who are ruining the reputation of the school. The bulk of students are respectful and intelligent, and make me proud to be an alum.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Last Night's Dream

So I had a dream last night that I was taking a final. CDawg was there and so was my brother (for some reason). The exam was proctored by Stephen Colbert and seemed to resemble an Evidence final. However, I distinctly remember that the class was taught by my first year Contracts professor (of whom I'm not fond). The test itself seemed to revolve around FRE 4, 5, and 6. These numbers, however, do not in reality correspond to any Federal Rules of Evidence. I remember feeling totally unprepared and I was freaking out a little. My anxiety was compounded by the fact that the exam room was incredibly loud. Colbert would occasionally interject a witticism or two from his show. I ended up having to reread the first paragraph of the exam eight times. Then I stood up and yelled at the whole room. They seemed unconcerned that I had just read the same paragraph eight times.

What really sticks with me after the dream is the feeling of panic and hopelessness at being totally unprepared for the test. And as the real exams are a little over a week away, this seems like a bad omen. There was a bright spot in the dream, though, when I found out that Prof. Bowtie (not Tax bowtie; Evidence and Jurisprudence bowtie) had linked to my blog on his personal website. He did not link to the name "Fish Frog Monkey Man," however. Instead he linked to my blog as "Beavis Theodore." Weird.


Just a quick reminder that CU plays Nebraska at 1:30pm (mst) today. That's 2:30pm for my central time zone readers. It is a great rivalry and the game always turns out to be very entertaining. It is being broadcast nationally on ABC. Go Buffs!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thirsty Thursday

This week's drink is the Evita, a favorite of Scarlet Panda, Fuzzy, and Nell.

1oz Vodka
1oz Midori melon liquer
2oz orange juice
(optional): 1oz gomme syrup

Shake and serve in a martini glass. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bunny Pictures

If you like bunny pictures, you should check this out. Incidently, I have a bit of a connection to the House Rabbit Society. I adopted one of my rabbits, Titan, from the Denver branch. The HRS is a great organization and they manage to help an incredible number of bunnies. Everyone should think about making a donation to support the cause. You can also volunteer to foster older rabbits. And, of course, I highly recommend adopted a pair. But beware, they can be destructive at times.

Cat Food in Fridge

Nell wanted me to tell anyone whose interested that there is an open can of cat food in the fridge. If you happen to be feeding our cat, feel free to use the open can.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Some Personal Thoughts on Blogging

Blogging is not easy. There is a lot of pressure to post only interesting material, and after you've posted, you constantly second guess everything, from whether you spelled everything right to whether you have inadvertently offended someone you like. As a blogger, I understand these difficulties. That is why I want to take this opportunity to suggest to everyone that they check out Warm Fuzzy's blog. Fuzzy consistently has entertaining and engaging posts (unlike myself; my posts tend to occupy the span between arrogant and useless). The Scarlet Panda and I were discussing this fact earlier today. We both agreed that Fuzzy is setting the post for midwestern general purpose blogs. So to you Fuzzy, I say thank you.

Tax Tuesday

Its no secret I enjoy income tax. And here's a quick example of why.
Section 172(a) provides for the carryover and carryback of net operating losses. Net operating losses are defined in 172(b) the excess of deductions over gross income. It gets interesting (or more interesting) in the second sentence of 172(b) which says:

"Such excess shall be computed with the modifications specified in subsection (d)."

So naturally we read 172(d). The first modification under subsection (d) says (and I'm not joking here):

"No net operating loss deduction shall be allowed." (172(d)(1))

Wow. I'll just let that sink in for a minute....
To the untrained eye, this seems out of place in a section devoted to allowing taxpayers to reap the benefit of deductions for net operating losses in years when they have taxable income which to offset. But right in the middle of the section we have a rather straight-forward statement that no operating loss deduction shall be allowed. And when the IRS says "shall," they mean business.
My explanation is that 172(d)(1) as applied to the defintion of net operating losses simply says that no deduction will be allowed for the year in which the net operating loss deductions would exceed taxable income. This seems to work, but my copy of The Statute doesn't have any Treasury Regulations relating to 172 (none may exist) with which I might check my answer.
Regardless of what 172(d)(1) actually means, it adds to the overall aesthetic of The Statute, a tome without peer.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Islam in Russia

Apparently there is an surge in Islam in Russia. Russia has responded by keeping tabs on all Muslims not worshipping in state-sanctioned mosques. But check out this blurb from the NY Times:

Mr. Golayev, 36, said the Islam he observes is opposed to violence, but he warned that the mistreatment of believers was driving men like him to desperation.
"They will pressure me enough," he said, "and then I will blow somebody's head off."

In Mr. Golayev's defense, he has been detained four times in recent weeks. But still, for a religion "opposed to violence," he is awful quick to fall back on blowing someone's head off.

How I Predict the Weather

I take a little bit of heat for this, but when I am deciding what to wear in the morning I don't turn on the weather. Instead, I think about what the weather was like on the previous day and assume that today will be the same. After all, how much can temperature really change in a single day? It's not a perfect system, but I'm never more than one day behind a cold front.


If you weren't fortunate enough to have lunch with the gang this afternoon, you missed a spirited discussion about Walmart. I'm not going to rehash the whole debate here, but I do want to address a single point raised by Matt. His point was (basically) as follows:

Why does everyone rag on Walmart? It is doing the same stuff as any other large business in America. We only focus on Walmart because they are so large. WalMart is not the devil and it is not single handedly destroying America.

This is a huge oversimplification of what he was saying, but I was doing a sudoku so I didn't catch everything. Here is my response:
Even if every business in the country is carrying out the same practices as WalMart, and perhaps there are many more aggregious offenders, and even if what they are doing is not illegal, it still makes sense to focus on WalMart. For those of us (not including myself) who believe in helping people when we think they are being treated poorly by the free market, it makes sense that we would want to use our resources to help as many people as possible. Because WalMart is the largest private employer in the country, it would be stupid for us NOT to focus on WalMart. If we can get WalMart to change their labor practices, a huge number of people would be benefited. It is simply an efficient use of our activist resources.

As a personal note to Matt, if you could correct my paraphrase of your position I would appreciate it. (Incidently, Matt is sitting right next to me, but we're in class and so cannot discuss the matter)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Late Nights/Morality Monday

Why is it that when I'm sitting at school reading about OSHA an Workers' Comp I can fall asleep sitting up, but as soon as I get home to my warm bed and extra-cuddly wife I am wide awake? Well, my late-night blog readers are the benficiaries (though I'm fairly sure I don't have any late-night blog readers). You will be treated to some ramblings. Of course, they will remain on my blog so there is no real benefit to reading them now. But I digress.

Democrats and election-nearing Republicans have recently launched a new offensive against the war in Iraq. Some are even demanding the immediate withdrawal of American troops. As some people may know (particularly my undergrad roommates), I opposed the war during the lead-up period. I even went so far as to man a table in the student commons at CU-Boulder during lunch. I was sitting next to a large cardboard sign I had made with my roommate Greg and his then-girlfriend (I can't remember her name) the previous night. I had come up with the theme for the sign. In bold letters across the top of the cardboard read, "IRAQ HAS NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION!!!" At the time, I meant it as a joke. Kind of flying in the face of everything we were hearing. It turns out the phrase was true.

Interestingly enough, by the time we had found out that Iraq really didn't have WMDs, I had changed my tune on the war. By the time we invaded, I was (somewhat) solidly behind the war. I include the parenthetical because I'm never entirely sure about any position I have at any given time. The given reasons for war did not interest me. I don't care if they had WMDs (which they didn't), if they were somehow working with Al Quaeda (which no one thought or thinks they were), or if they gassed the Kurds (which they did). I don't care.

The reason I support the war is somewhat hard to articulate. I just had/have this feeling that the middle east is a bad place and in need of something drastic. The region is controlled by dictators, theocrats, and warlords. The massive amounts of wealth diverted to the region by virtue of its position above massive oil reserves have not catapulted the various countries to the pinnacle of technological developement. Instead the money has flown into the pockets of the dictators, theocrats, and warlords to fund their personal consumption. This corruptive effect is fueled by the presence of Islamic extremists, who have no desire to enter the 21st century (or even the 19th century). Instead, the prevalent religion has placated the population. As long as the government stones those who question the religious dogma and sanctions the gang rape of adulterors the masses consent to the rule of the corrupt overlords.

Islamic fundamentalism (and all religious fundamentalism for that matter) endangers every being on the planet that considers survival on this plane of existence a good thing. When you have massive populations who believe in their hearts that the only thing standing in the way of eternal happiness is their mortal shackles, we are all in danger of being forced to take the journey to the afterlife (or nothingness) with them (via some sort of bomb, no doubt).
I support the Iraq war because it is a first step in the long road to end religious fundamentalism. We have many more steps to take, and some of the most difficult will be against extremists in our home country. It doesn't matter whether extremism is cloaked in the auspices of religion or in economics (those who support unrestrained free markets on the one hand and communists on the other). Battling extremism is a cause I support, and inasmuch as I see the Iraq war as furthering my personal agenda on this front, I whole-heartedly support it and oppose any troop withdrawal or reduction until we squelch the causes of extremism there.

Clearly I have said some things to which many people will object. As always, I am willing for my mind to be changed. Even though I am posting this on Sunday, please consider it the Morality Monday topic. I welcome disagreement. Goodnight.

FishFrog's Superhero Challenge

If you could pick one of the two options from each of the following three pairings, which would you choose?
1. Super speed or super strength?
2. Super hearing or super vision (does not include x-ray vision or heat vision)?
3. Super hair growth or super fingernail/toenail growth?

My personal choices are as follows: Super speed, hearing, and hair growth. Post your answers... if you dare.

Friday, November 18, 2005

New Harry Potter Movie

Just saw the new movie with some friends. It was fantastic. I highly recommend it. And that's coming from someone who hasn't read the books.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Announcing the winner

The winner of the invasion contest is CDawg. Congratulations! Your bag of Mega M&Ms will be available tomorrow. For everyone to inspect, here is CDawg's list and rationale:
Saudi Arabia
"I am sick of invading countries and then sending them a lot of money for the next 7 billion years. Lets invade some countries that are doing pretty well and help ourselves out."

Although I was not a big fan of England or Germany being on the list, CDawg recieved extra points for Saudi Arabia. His was the only list to include the Saudis, my personal arch enemy.
A close second was Xeno, whose list was quite good:
5)Japan(we need the cool gadgets)
4)Canada(bountiful cheese/Hocky!)
3)Mexico(Manifest destany/cheap labor)
2)Vietnam(they'll never see it commin)
1)China(we have lost focus on the dirty commies!)

Vietnam, I felt, was a genius inclusion. And as many people know, I feel China is in need of a good invasion. Weighing against Xeno is the fact that he lives in a different state and I would have to pay postage to send him the M&Ms.
On a personal note, I am concerned with the number of entries that included Canada, our gentle neighbor to the north. I have a deep respect for Canadians and respect their right to an autonomous existance. Conversely, I am pleased no one include France, another country I greatly enjoy, and one which I thought may end up on many lists. Thanks everyone for playing.

One hour left

Only one more hour to join in the competition. Post your invasion/annexation list ASAP. There is a bag of Mega M&Ms on the line (disappointing though they may be).

Contest Reminder

I have not yet received ANY submissions for five countries to invade (scroll down for contest). Need I remind you there is a PRIZE for the winner. It closes at 7:30pm tonight!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I don't want to watch Invasion

I want another episode of Lost, not some crazy alien show!

P.S. That was a great episode of Lost.

Some Good News

All charges against me have been dropped! I'm no longer under indictment for voter fraud. Just in time, for I stumbled across the requirements for running for U.S. House of Representatives. The campaign for Scarlet Panda (re)begins today. Our most immediate concern is raising $100 to get Panda on the primary ballot.

Wednesday Contingency

Given Squishy Burritto's sickness (which CDawg erroneously claims I caused), she is not hosting interactive Wednesday today. So here is some interactivity for you. I am soliciting suggestions, based on my previous week of postings, for countries we should invade. So submit you list of five countries, ranked in order from (1) most important to invade to (5) less important. The list that I, FishFrog, deem the best, will receive some sort of prize. So submit your lists! Contest ends tomorrow night.

Good Micro-Evolution Post

Warm Fuzzy hits it out of the park. She has a very interesting post about phenotypic selection against tusks in African elephants. Elephants born with tusks are being poached, thus preventing them from passing on their tusk gene(s). Thus a gene (or set of genes), once rare, which prevents (or doesn't cause) elephants from growing tusks is becoming more prevalent.
The cause, of course, is poaching. This major problem is another in a series of problems that can be solved by American invasion and usurpation of foreign powers, who are doing an insufficient job at protecting the planet's very valuable resources.

Job Hunt

As some of you know, I'm in the process of looking for a job for next summer. In pursuit of that goal I just made my first phone call in response to a coverletter and resume I sent out. It was nerve-racking (sp?). Of course, the person I needed to contact was busy so I left a message on her machine. I hate that. I can't help thinking that I stuttered or left something out or gave the wrong phone number. This is hell.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Matt's B-Day Party

I know a lot of Matt's friends live outside of the area, and others in the area simply weren't able to attend. So here's a picture of the party you missed. Matt's on the left. Some major names in the blogosphere were in attendance. See if you can pick out the Scarlet Panda, Warm Fuzzy, or the WashRambler. I was of course in attendance, but had to take the picture.

One Thing About Adam's Post

I will say one thing that PZ doesn't address directly. Adams focuses entirely on the fossil record as proof for evolution. But as Dawkins explains in The Ancestor's Tale, even without any fossils at all we would still have an airtight case for evolution relying entirely on genetic evidence. That being said, if we had only the fossil record and no genetic evidence, the case for evolution would also be quite strong. What we have in reality is both the fossil record and the genetic evidence! That makes for quite a strong theory.

Dilbert and Evolution

If you like Dilbert and are interested in learning about evolution, read this post on Scott Adams's blog. After you read that, then read PZ Miers dissect it in this post. And then go back and read Adams's reply to PZ. It's clear that while Adams clearly knows office humor, he does not know science. Not only that, but he's incredibly lazy. To frame the argument as he does in his first post blows my mind. I was able to deconstruct just about everything he wrote before I read PZ's response, and I majored in Classics! I'm not going to go over it point by point, because that's what PZ did. Check it out. Fun read. Notice that at no time did PZ misrepresent Adams.

Happy B-Day Matt

Hey everyone, Matt turns thirty today! Happy birthday Matt.

Tax Tuesday

Just a quick one today. How do people feel about a head tax? That is, a tax whereby the expenditures of the government are added up and divided by the population. Every citizen of the United States becomes liable for the same amount. The benefit is ease of application and a certain fairness. Everyone is equal in the eyes of the IRS. The detriment is that the poorer you are, the larger a burden you bear in terms of percentage of your income. To me, it seems the positives do not outweigh the negatives. Clearly this kind of tax would never fly politically in the U.S., but maybe it should. I don't like it, but it would make tax time less irritating. No complicated paperwork. Just cut your check.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Habeas Corpus

I posted a week or so ago about journalists who have been detained at GitMo. Well, my FIL emailed me this editorial from the Denver Post. It is a must read, made especially relevant by Sen. Lindsay Graham's (R-SC) proposed amendment to the Defense Spending bill which would prohibit federal courts from hearing Habeas Corpus petitions from GitMo detainees. The relevant language is here:

"(e) No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to consider -
(1) An application for a writ of habeas corpus based on policies established by the Secretary of Defense under Section 1071 (a) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 filed by an alien who is detained by the Secretary of Defense, or
(2) any other action, challenging any aspect of the detention of an alien who is detained by the Secretary of Defense as an enemy combatant."

The Writ of Habeas Corpus has been around since the Magna Carta. That's right, even marry olde England thinks the right to know what you're charged with is important. But beware, this is just the starting point. Republican senators want to pass legislation that would prohibit the Supreme Court from hearing habeas writs from death row inmates! Presumably the Graham amendment could not apply to American citizens labeled "enemy combatants," but I'm not positive on that. Regardless, the Graham amendment is a travesty, compounded by the fact that its being tacked on to an appropriation bill, which means it gets to bypass committee and allows for very limited debate.

Cat and Rabbit

Conserve Out of Spite

This is a letter to the editor that appeared in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I found it thorough;y amusing.

"I'm not one to conserve on anything, but the gas and oil companies pushed greed too far this time. Ever since gas prices hit $3 per gallon... I have slowed down and have coordinated and curtailed my driving. According to some people, I am in the group that is conserving just for spite. If more drivers would do the same, we would have the oil companies begging for our business." Don Davinroy, Collinsville

Chess Update

It's true. I beat WashRambler at chess today. Like most superpowers (and he is a chess superpower), he was brought down by his own hubris, in the form of an unwise queen move. He was gracious in defeat and I applaud him.

Morality Monday

My apologies for the lateness of the post, but I've been quite sick today. Without further ado, here's the question:

Is it right for America to invade and overturn Islamic theocracies? Is it something we should do more often?

My answer is yes. When a country or dictator is oppressing its people, especially its women, the United States has an obligation as the world's sole remaining superpower to make sure people aren't being tortured and killed across the globe. In Saudi Arabia (and many other mideastern countries) women are imprisoned and stoned to death for crimes from adultery to being in public without a male escort. My problem with these dictatorships and theocracies is mainly their treatment of women. Obviously America can't legislate its own morality with an iron fist, invading any country with different cultures than us, but there are things about which reasonable people cannot disagree. One of those things is the right of women to an equal place in society.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Stock Updates

As of the close of business Friday:

32.6 shares of Ethan Allen valued at $33.53 per share = $1093.78

11.2 shares of Genentech valued at $94.74 per share=$1061.09

17.6 shares of Reebok valued at $57.35 per share=$1009.36

6.9 shares of Halliburton valued at $56.06
5.3 shares of Exxon valued at $56.52
76.5 shares of Sun MicroSystems valued at $3.7
Total assets=$969.42

So I guess its good news for the market that only one of us lost money over the past two weeks. As the sole loser, though, that comes as very slight consolation. So much for diversification. Congrats to CDawg (previously Cster) for the insightful investments.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Dawkins on the Moral Majority

As some of you know, I am currently reading The Ancestor's Tale, by Richard Dawkins. Well, I got to the part where we meet up with our common ancestor with gibbons. Apparently, gibbons mate for life, unlike chimps and gorillas with whom we share a more recent common ancestor. Dawkins takes this opportunity to expound on America's "Moral Majority." I found the passage entertaining, and hopefully so will you.

Perhaps the good old-fashioned family values of the gibbons, and the pious hope that our evolutionary ancestors once shared them, should be drawn to the attention of the right-wing "moral majority," whose ignorant and single-minded opposition to the teaching of evolution endangers the educational standards in several backward North American States. Of course, to draw any moral would be to commit the "naturalistic fallacy," but fallacies are what these people do best. (The Ancestor's Tale, p.121)

Ouch, that cat's got claws.

News from FishFrog

I just found out, mere minutes ago, that I will soon become, for the second time, an uncle. This time, of a niece. Nell and I are quite excited.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thirsty Thursday

Today's drink is the Harper's Cranberry (note, this may not be the actual name, the Panda has my bartenders guide so I can't double check):

2oz bourbon
4oz cranberry juice

At first glance, this looks like a terrible mix. But somehow, it turns into the most perfect drink to touch a human's tongue. I suggest using Labrot & Graham Woodford Reserve bourbon. It costs a little more but its worth it. For my non-alcoholic readers, try mixing a tablespoon of fresh peat with the cranberry juice.

Tonight's Plans

In case you're wondering, Nell and I are watching Futurama, the greatest show ever. Far better than the Simpsons. Don't you wish you were here? We're half way through volume 2 of the DVD set. Sweet Zombie Jesus this show is great.


ikearnagr vjsdarjkadfaa.aav,asvbalszbfwaoeewobuft4aerr45yhnsgr igjaeriqhj49gn agrg

Monkeys Typing

this post requires the following assumptions,
a monkey can be taught to hit the individual keys on a keyboard
a monkey would have no preference toward any specific key on the keyboard, either because of its location, the symbol on the key, or the taste of the key
the monkey’s keyboard has only the letter keys, the number keys, the space bar, and the period and comma keys.

given these assumptions, there is a 1 in 1.336 times ten to the power of eight hundred thirty four chance that a monkey could have randomly typed this post.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Senate Actions Today

For those of you not watching CSPAN2 this morning, I thought I'd give you an update on some of the amendments being offered on the defense spending bill:
1. An amendment that would prohibit federal courts from hearing cases challenging prayer in the military.
2. An amendment requiring children (under 18) of military personnel living on military installations seeking abortions to get parental consent.
3. An amendment prohibiting people convicted of capital crimes from being buried in military cemetaries.
Just a reminder, all of these are amendments to a SPENDING BILL!!

Interactive Wednesday at Squishy Burrito

Learn about your fellow man (and woman) at Squishy Burrito today.

Congrats Cster and Matt

Despite their best intentions, Cster and Matt managed to advance to the next round in the moot court competition. Congratulations, the hope and dreams of this blog are on your shoulders. Good luck and godspeed.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Kansas School Board's Interesting Timing

Check out this post and the article Matt links to. It is interesting to note that the case went to the judge (bench trial) on Friday in the Dover Panda Trial. Is the Kansas school board trying to present a united front behind Michael Behe and the Discovery Institute in preparation of receiving some bad new from the Dover judge?
Even my theistic readers would have to admit that expanding the defintition of "science" to include supernatural explanations to natural phenomena is a bad idea. I'm not saying science has all the answers; it clearly doesn't. When we reach the end of scientific explanation (first causes, for instance) religion has a place. Faith, after all, requires a leap. If we could prove the existence of god, there would be no place for faith, and I don't think any of my theistic readers want that.
There's no reason to fear evolution. Pope JPII acknowledged that evolution is "more than a hypothesis." Admitting that evolution has some strong evidence in its favor is not admitting that God doesn't exist. Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins may be atheists, but many scientists, even geneticists and evolutionists are religious. My college physical athropology professor was a methodist. The Scarlet Panda is both a geneticists and a catholic. It is possible to both acknowledge the importance of science in the world and to keep your faith. Even Michael Behe accepts 99% of scientific evolution, taking exception only where he thinks feature are irreducibly complex (baterial flagellum, blood clotting, and the immune system).
Anyway, that's my rant. I'm going to bed now. Thank you for reading to the end.

Dr. B Explains the Situation

For those of you interested in the previous post about blogs as public fora, the blogger explains herself here.

Evolution, Succinctly

So you are all familiar with my four word summation of evolution, and you know my dad’s response to it. To recap, his response was “Survival of the fittest.” Well, in the November issue of Natural History magazine, esteemed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins chimes in with his own succinct phrase: Evolution is “nonrandom survival of randomly varying hereditary instructions for building embryos.” As you may notice, Dawkin’s phrase is strikingly similar to: “Fish frog monkey man,” and I don’t even have a scientific background!

Blogs as Public Fora?

One of my fellow citizens of the blogosphere may be outed from her anonymous position. Check out the story via Pharyngula. This raises the interesting question (not really that interesting) of what free speech rights one has online. Do you have a first Amendment right to post a coment on my blog? Provided it is a privately owned blog, the answer is clearly “no.” It is my understanding that Dr. B’s blog is not on a government financed server. So what exactly is this guy doing? A believe this is a good case for Rule 11 sanctions.

Draconian Irony

People frequently use the word “draconian” to refer to something unnecessarily harsh. Well I’m here to set the record straight. First, some history. Draco was an early king of Athens (I believe it was Athens but it could have been another city-state, Matt?). It was passed down through history that Draco’s laws were “written in blood,” meaning that they were harsh and unforgiving. However, the one and only law that we know for a fact Draco authored was his law on murder. It provided that anyone who committed murder in Athens would be exiled from the city, never to return. However, anyone who committed murder in retaliation for a previous murder was sentenced to death. The purpose of the law seems to have been to stop the common occurrence of retaliation murders spiraling out of control and wiping out whole families. To me, this seems to be a fairly tame and well reasoned law, especially by ancient standards. Thus providing us the delicious irony that Draco’s own laws, as we know them, were not particularly draconian.

Tax Tuesday!

Last week we looked at a modified flat tax. This week let’s look at a regressive tax system.

The idea is this: Eliminate payroll and income tax. Instead raises sales taxes. The effect is taxing only what one consumes. It is regressive in the sense that there is a limit to what a human being can consume. Someone making $2.7 million a year can’t possibly consume at that rate year after year. Someone making $20,000 a year, however, ends up spending almost all their income on consumption, especially if they have a family. The result is that lower income earners are effectively taxed on every dollar they earn. Higher earners are taxed on only a part of their income. The highest income earners (think Bill Gates) are taxed on a tiny fraction of their income.

The shortcomings of this system are pretty clear: the government is run on the backs of the proletariat(sp?). As much of my readership is liberal, I want to take a second to outline the positives of the system.
1. Administratively ease: no more filing individual tax returns every year. Taxes are collected from the individual when they go shopping. The government recovers the tax from the merchants. Fewer audits, smaller IRS.
2. Encourages savings: If you don’t spend it, it isn’t taxed. This is a strong incentive to reduce consumption and save for old age.
3. Encourage economic growth: By encouraging saving, we increase capital investment. More small business’s, faster technological development.
4. Fairness: There is a strange fairness about the system in that it taxes what you take out of the system by taxing what you consume.

I may have left off some benefits, so if you see something positive about the sales tax system that I haven’t mentioned, let me know. Otherwise, I think this is an interesting approach worthy of some discussion, even if it turns out to be flawed in the final analysis.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Oral Arguments

I just wanted to take this opportunity to let everyone know what a commendable job the Cster and Matt did in arguments this evening. Did they win... no. But is that really what oral arguments are about? ...Yes. But still, they did a hell of I lot better than I would have done. Three cheers for Cster and Matt.
N.B. I also did a commendable job keeping time if I do say so myself.

The Answer to Morality Monday

I bet you didn't think there was a correct answer. You obviously don't watch the Mclaughlin Group on PBS. Well, I do watch the McLaughlin group, and the answer is:
The vaccination program should be mandatory with a choice to opt out for those parents who don't wish their children to be vaccinated.

Morality Monday

Recently, a vaccine for the sexually transmitted disease HPV (human Papilloma virus) has been approved for use on humans. HPV is one of the most widespread STDs in the United States and a major cause of cervical cancer in women. Women who get cervical cancer face major invasive surgery including hysterectomy. Cervical cancer also has a significant mortality rate. The vaccine is 100% effective at preventing HPV and a plan has been suggested to inoculate all women around the time of puberty. This inoculation would have the effect of stopping the spread of HPV dead in its tracks in the U.S., causing a severe drop in the occurrence of cervical cancer and reducing the number of women who die and become infertile as a result of the virus.
However, there are some groups in this country who are concerned that inoculating preteens will encourage promiscuous behavior and may cause an increase in the occurrence in other STDs, an increase in abortions, and an increase in generally immoral behavior. The benefits of inoculation could be far outweighed by its negative impact on the behavior of our youths. Hormone pumping teens hardly need an excuse to be less responsible. And that is exactly what the vaccine does: it relieves people of facing the consequences of their actions. It encourages irresponsible behavior.
So the discussion question for Morality Monday is this: Is it moral (however you might define that) to force the inoculation? Is it moral to withhold the vaccine?
Now, some guidelines for discussion on this blog: Please do not drop names of philosophers to try to give your point more gravitas. I don’t mind if you espouse their ideas, but please don’t credit them for those ideas. No one is going to accuse you of stealing ideas, and ideas are all we are interested in here. Not the big names behind them. Also, don’t belittle someone else’s ideas or attack anyone personally. Discussion without civility should have no place in our society, and it has no place on Fish Frog Monkey Man (with the occasional exception of a grumpy post by me every now and then). Within those guidelines, please discuss. Feel free to post early and often, and don’t worry about how silly your position might sound. It can’t possibly be as dumb as the majority of stuff that comes out of my mouth and at times ends up on this blog. If you believe it, get it out there! As for me, I will probably be arguing whichever side seems to have fewer supporters. Enjoy.

More details on Mega M&Ms

As the Burrito pointed out in the comment section of the previous post, the new Megas are different colors than the traditionals. There is a very pretty maroon and the turquois, which I enjoy very much. However, there is also a taupe color which is very boring and lame. Taste-wise, the Megas have a slightly thicker candy shell which tends to linger in the mouth longer than desired. If you found that the old M&Ms melted too quickly, you may enjoy the gumption of the Megas. Final verdict: They are OK, but are not better than traditional M&Ms.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

"Mega" M&M Review

For those of you wondering exactly how "mega" the new Mega M&Ms are, behold! There are not a whole lot bigger than the old M&Ms. I'd say they are roughly 1.5-2 times larger than traditional M&Ms. I hope I am not alone in feeling underwhelmed.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Why I Blog

For you! My dear and beloved reader, I blog for you. Not to feed my ego by constantly checking my statcounter, but for you. To entertain you, to bring some glimmer of joy into your otherwise bleak life, to allow you an alternative to working on whatever project may be due in the next few days. I blog for you.

Manufactured Majorities Fall Flat

Check out this post, from The Carpetbagger Report, one of my favorite political blogs. It's about a movement to control the government of a single state by moving massive amounts of like-minded individuals into that state, thus creating a massive voting block that can mold the government to their liking. It is a very interesting idea and embraces the concepts of federalism, of the individual states as laboratories, and it has been wildly unsuccessful in practice. Two separate groups have attempted to carry this plan to fruition: Libertarians in New Hampshire and Fundamentalist Christians in South Carolina. The Daily Show did a story on the christian movement some months back. It was quite amusing, and if you haven't seen it, I suggest scouring the internet for it. The most amusing part of the story is when the correspondent spoke via telephone to the founder of the movement. Three years into the movement, the founder still lived in California! Some one hundred of his followers had obeyed his orders and migrated from their homes around the country, left their middle- and upper-middle-class jobs, uprooted their families, and moved to South Carolina. All because they hoped to live in a Christian Paradise, free from gay-marriage, evolution, secular humanists, and HPV immunization. And their leader couldn't even find time to join them.
I think the idea of moving huge populations of like-minded individuals into states so they can live only among their own kind is a little dangerous. There is nothing like bouncing bad ideas into an echo chamber, increasing their volume as they bounce back and forth between clones until they become so loud that they spill out into mainstream America as immutable truths. That is a recipe for disaster, if you ask me (which you impliedly did by coming to my blog and reading all the way to the end of the blog). Comments, as always, are welcomed and encouraged.

Saturday Plant Blogging

Pretty plant for a pretty girl (or boy).

Friday, November 04, 2005

Many Apologies

Many apologies to my loyal readership for my paucity of posts today. As you know, it is a Friday, and Fridays are my Saturdays. Incidently, Saturdays are also my Saturdays, so I guess I have two. The point is, the longer I take between posts the more interesting and appreciated my posts become. Also, I am a little drained from the two intellectually heavy posts that have drawn extended comments. I hope to be refreshed tomorrow and dazzle my readership with clever topics. Until then, bye bye.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Thirsty Thursday

The drink of the week is the Monkey Gland:

2oz gin
1oz orange juice
1/2oz Pernod
Dash grenadine

Shake ingredients and pour.

Despite the name, the Monkey Gland is a pleasant, if unique, drink, good for the early sunsets of Fall. Non-drinkers can eliminate the gin and replace the Pernod with a licorice-flavored beverage (I don't know that any exist, but there must be one). Enjoy.

N.B. Contrary to rumor, American-sold Pernod contains no wormwood (alas!) and is therefore distinct from absinthe. Absinthe has been banned in the US since the early twentieth century and it seems likely that the ban will continue indefinitely:(.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tax Policy Wednesday

Starting today, this blog will act as a forum for discussion about federal tax policy in the U.S. every Wednesday. Feel free to chime in with comments, questions, or criticisms of the tax system. I will start us off with a topic, but feel free to discuss anything about tax that interests you. Only two requirements: discussion is to be American-focused; and (I can't stress this enough) NO STATE TAX posts.
So here's an idea that Scarlet Panda has been throwing around: No more marginal tax rates. Set the tax rate at 30-40% (a historical low rate, even at 40%) across the board and provide for a stadard deduction for the first $75,000 of income. It's a regressive system, but the poor and middle class take home every penny of income (not counting state taxes).
So what do you think? I know tax policy is quite popular with my readership, so if the comment section on this post gets to full, I'll put another thread up. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Note on previous post

The previous post is meant to spur thoughtful discussion on the issues contained within. It may or may not represent my actual position, as my position is in constant flux. Furthermore, tobacco companies are not as evil as Hitler. No one is as evil as Hitler. But hyperbole is a good way to stir people's passions and incite debate. With that in mind, thank you for your time.

Morally Culpable Tobacco Harvesters

An anonymous comment on the previous post suggested that agricultural workers harvesting tobacco should find other jobs in less despicable industries. This comment made me think, and I will pose the question to everyone: do employees bear culpability for the products they help produce? Should the conduct of the company be imputed to its employees?
I suspect anonymous would answer both these questions in the affirmative. When I read the comment my first reaction was, “crazy bleeding-heart liberal.” But then I thought about it.
In the case of the agricultural worker: the average worker is a recent immigrant (or illegal immigrant), comes from a low socioeconomic class, and is uneducated. As a practical matter, this worker does not have a whole lot of options for work. And one of the few jobs they can get is exempted from the Fair Labor Standards Act. Should the most vulnerable among be held morally culpable for the work they help perform?
Yes. We are all human beings (except for robots, who are not humans at all), capable of making rational choices (robots may be capable of rational decision making also). Now these choices are going to be influenced by outside factors (our upbringing, family situation, dire need of money). There may be strong forces in your live pushing you toward taking a job which directly or indirectly aids the commission of what you may consider moral wrongs. When you decide to aid the tobacco companies, for instance, by selling your labor to them, you are making a judgment that your monetary needs outweigh your belief that tobacco is harmful and tobacco companies are evil. You are choosing yourself over society.
Likewise, if your law firm chooses to represent swiss banks in lawsuits against holocaust survivors, and if you think nazis are bad and stealing money from minorities when they are being slaughtered on a massive scale, you have a choice to make. Either you believe that your well-being outweighs the interests of those who miraculously surived torment at the hands of the Nazis and feel like they should be compensated for their trouble. Your choice to represent a Nazi enabler must reflect on you as a person.
Now, if you are like me and don't believe in right and wrong, this is not a problem. In fact, it would be silly to alter any of your conduct based on socially prevailing norms. However, most people are not like me. If you believe something is wrong, you should not provide aid to the cause through sale of your labor. Furthermore, you should not support extending protectionist legislation to those who work in evil industries. So in this sense, I think anonymous is absolutely right. You can behave in a morally reprehensible way if you want, but I will not sympathize with your plight when you complain that the Nazi's are not compensating you in line with federal law.