Saturday, December 31, 2005
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Nell and I were in Colorado for six days, starting on the 22nd and returning home on the 28th. As loyal readers will know, Nell and I have two rabbits and a cat, whixh we dearly love, and so when we go out of town we recruit friends to look after them in return for a free dinner and cheesy souvenirs (by the way Panda, I still have to give you your souvenir). Scarlet Panda, Warm Fuzzy, and Matt are our go-to pet sitters. They are all also members of the much-vaunted band, "Tessalation Monkey Head." And so for the past week the three have had unlimited access to our apartment and, apparently, my four-track recorder.
When Matt picked Nell and me up from the airport yesterday, he mentioned that he had recorded some stuff on the four-track. It was not until tonight that I got a chance to listen to it.
The first recording is just Matt, playing acoustic guitar, percussion, bass, and singing. I don't know the song, but it is fantastic. I have known many people in my life (well over forty of them) and Matt is by far the most creativly gifted. The song kicks ass! What is that song Matt?
The second song is entitled "I'll fly away," which is a song off the "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou," soundtrack. The tune feature someone (either Matt of Panda) on keyboards and Panda and Fuzzy on vocals. Despite the fact that the tune is clearly lacking a Mandolin part (which would have been played by yours truly) it was still fantastic. The sisters' singing is like honey in yogurt.
The third tune I discovered was, strangely enough, Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song, featuring Matt on electric guitar and Panda and Fuzzy on vocals. One word: awesome. The reason the song is a strange pick is because the Sisters (Panda and Fuzzy) are Catholic (or Papists, if you prefer) and Matt is an atheist. Why they chose to cover a Jewish-themed song I may never know. But I'm glad they did.
I anticipate spending some time tomorrow converting the songs from tape to MP3. That having been done, I will share the songs with the world, via my blog.
To keep you interested, here's a picture of the partial band (minus Nell and Fuzzy) before X-mas. In case you're wondering, I'm on bass guitar.
Some Dog Pictures
As promised here are some pictures of the dogs I got to share X-Mas with.
All Three Dogs
Parents' Dog "Odin"
Uncle and Aunt's Dog "Buddy"
Uncle and Aunt's Dog "Buffy"
While three dogs in one house may seem like a lot to most people, it's actually just the right number. It was some fun times.
Home Sweet Home
Fuzzy commented under my last post and pointed out something I didn't know: I have never before gone this long without posting. I was a little suprised and quite pleased with myself that prior to this vacation I had never gone four days without a post. That's not to say that I haven't gone more than four days without a substantive post; I have. In fact, I usually go out three or four weeks between posts that are actually worth reading. But regardless, I owe my four or five loyal readers an apology. I'm sorry. I let you down this Christmas. It won't happen again.
On an unrelated note, the home coming is a little bittersweet. You see, my parents have a fairly large flat screen TV with high definition service. All we have here is a 27" with somewhat fuzzy cable. It's quite sad.
Anyway, we're back and I have very little to do to fill my days, so more frequent posts are inevitable. I'll even throw some holiday pictures up on the blog a little later.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
The cost to me is, of course, mandatory church attendence. I'm not pleased about it, but it's worth it for the multiple gift-opening sessions (and also for the pleasure of being married to Nell (:) . Church is tomorrow morning. I will keep my loyal readers updated on the nuances of a Catholic mass. It's all very foreign to me, as I enter a church once a year, so it should be exciting.
Friday, December 23, 2005
The problem, though, is that a lot of people around me (Nell and my mom particularly) don't like to argue and don't really like arguments at all. It's a problem. What to do? Keep my big fat mouth shut when an oppotunity to argue arises? Not after three glasses of wine I won't!
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Safe and Sound
There are three dogs at the house, so brace yourselves for some dog pictures!
It's time for bed now though. Good night.
Taking the Blog on the Road
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
The Band is Back
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
I’ve gotten numerous emails from readers asking for my opinion on the capital gains tax. As I am an obliging individual, here it is:
First, some background. The tax rates on capital gains are set out in the somewhat complex 1(h). The bottom line is that most capital gains are taxed at 15% and the maximum rate on capital gains is 30%. These are incredibly favorable rates. Most taxpayers who have capital gains are in the highest tax bracket, which has a tax rate of about 39%. That is, if those capital gains were taxed as ordinary income (as I think they should), they would be taxed at 39% instead of 15%. And it bears repeating that the overwhelming majority of taxpayers who have capital assets (stocks, bonds, and some real property not used in a trade or business) are in the wealthiest quintile of American society.
The problem, then, is vertical equity, and it is two-fold. First, the very nature of capital assets (think stocks) is to allow the owner to choose the time when the appreciation is realized. That is the stock owner can choose the year in which he wants to pay taxes on the appreciation of the stock by selling it. It is not until the taxpayer sells the stock that he will be taxed on the increase in value over his initial investment. This is a luxury that a low income taxpayer does not have.
Secondly, when the taxpayer does sell the stock and realizes his gain, he doesn’t have to pay the ordinary rate. Instead, as described above, this portion of his income is taxed at the incredibly low rate of 15%. The low income taxpayer, on the other hand, will be taxed on every penny of his taxable income, usually at a rate above 15%.
So with this obvious inequity, why have special treatment for capital gains? The argument usually advanced is that lower capital gains rates prevent the capital lock-in effect, whereby the owner of highly appreciated property holds on to that property even when it would be economically more efficient to transfer that property to someone else who could use it more efficiently. The taxpayer holds on to the property to avoid paying tax on the appreciation.
But I say, get rid of the special treatment of capital gains. Tax the gains as ordinary income at the taxpayer’s highest marginal rate. And what about capital lock-in? Well the only reason capital lock-in would be a problem with no favorable gains rate is because of section 1014 (see Haiku below). But 1014 is a travesty itself, one of the most vertically inequitable sections in the code. My solution is to eliminate 1014 as well as 1(h). I wouldn’t even allow transfer basis at death. Treat death as a realizing event and you’ve solved this massive inequity.
This post is quite long but I still have a lot more to say. Well, more later.
"Although proponents of [ID] occasionally suggest that the designer
could be a space alien or a time-traveling cell biologist, no serious alternative to
God as the designer has been proposed by members of [the ID community] , including
Defendants’ expert witnesses." p.25 (emphasis added)
Time-travelling cell biologists? I like that idea actually. For the text of the Judge's opinion, click on the "Dover Panda Trial" link on the side.
Monday, December 19, 2005
We Will Soon be Outnumbered, Vastly
So to any "conservatives" who are worried about the demise of Christmas or widespread acceptance of gay marriage, take heart. The longer you persevere and the more kids you have, the more you guarantee a future of your making. Time is on your side. Its inevitable and scary.
My Dentist Appointment
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Bush Preempts Family Guy
When Death claims your soul,
Fair market value basis
to your devisees.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Annie on Atrios
Creationist Word Games
The point is that you do have to quibble over semantics, as unsatisfying as it may be, because if you concede the definitions to the creationists, they will define us right out of the argument. Confusion and intellectual dishonesty are their most potent (and only) weapons.
Very Amusing Site
Friday, December 16, 2005
Done With Finals!
But for now, it's time to celebrate the end of the semester with some beer and fun.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Daily Show Tonight
Enough of That
Curiosity Scared the FishFrog
So I clicked on her profile, and was a bit suprised. Then I read her blog and was even more suprised. I encourage everyone to check it out and let me know what you think. Is her blog meant to be satire? Or does she really believe the things she posts? I can't decide which is the case.
If you don't want to read her whole blog (as I did), here are some highlight:
On Immigration (She recants here and here)
On the Cause of Gangs in America
Now I give my religious friends a bit a grief every now and then (or maybe all the time) but I just want you all to know how fortunate I feel to have such great friends who are tolerant and fun. What scares about Annie's blog is not that she's religious, but that she seems to be intolerant (I know, so am I) and she seems to be a bigot (which I am not). I was going to end with this quote from her profile: "Reincarnaiton is a myth created by the Hindus so they wouldn't have to bathe," but she has removed it from her profile. Luckily, I still have it cached on my hard drive. But instead I'll leave you all with this thought:
Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. (Paraphrased from Einstein)
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Confused; Need help
Monday, December 12, 2005
In current events, Tookie Williams is scheduled to be killed by the government in about two hours. I've watched some cable news commentary on the issue over the past couple of days and I have to admit, I just don't see the point of the death penalty. Many commentators used the rationalization that when Tookie took the life of another(s), he forfeited the right to his own. I guess I just don't follow the logic of that. If the loss of the victims' lives was a bad thing, how does taking another life have any effect on that. The cable news channels also had numerous clips from family of Tookie's alleged victims saying something to the effect of: "Tookie didn't show any mercy to my family member, so why should we show any mercy to him." This point, it seems to me, is that we should show mercy because we (as a country (or state)) are not twenty year old impovershed black men constantly shunned by mainstream society.
Many commentators also belittled the fact that Tookie wrote childrens' books and worked toward meliorating the gang-culture that he helped start. The commentators suggested that these acts in no way make up for the taking of a number of human lives. Well, personally, I don't know how you measure stuff like that. But I do know that the past can't be changed. As much as I'd like to go back and right some wrongs I've carried out, I can't. No one can. But I do know that if someone is making positive contributions to society, no matter how small, those contributions are enough to justify keeping him alive. Especially if the only ends served by killing him are to appease the instincts of revenge in his victims' families.
From the perspective of the infallible cost-benefit analysis, the costs of executing Tookie are losing his contributions to the fight to keep kids out of gangs, and his ability to negotiate the end to gang wars. The benefit of his execution is to satisfy his victims' families' need for revenge. The benefit of keeping him alive is that society gets the continued benefit of his work to end gang violence. The cost of keeping him alive is that a dozen people feel betrayed by a system that promised them "justice." To me, and to any reasonable-thinking person (I hope), this is a no-brainer. From a disinterested economic standpoint, we should not only keep Tookie alive, but eliminate the death penalty altogether.
But maybe it's just me. Anyway, sorry about the paucity of posts.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
So my proposed solution is to have a tiered system of citizenship. With each increasing tier, the citizen would be entitled to more benefits. At Tier 10, for instance, you would be entitled to two votes in every election and an increased retirement payments under social security. Tier 1 gives you the right to vote. Tier 5 let's you run for public office. Tier 3 gives you full constitutional protections. I haven't worked out all the levels, so feel free to post some suggestions. Here's my basic framework of the requirements for each level:
Tier 10: Serve in the military for four years
5: Perform more than 50 hours of public service every year
3: Pay your taxes on time every year for five years
2: Born to parents Tier 5 or higher
1: Born in the United States
As you see there are some gaps, but with a little thinking and your help, we should be able to fill it in.
Weekend Studying: Day 2
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Bill O'Reilly on the ACLU
"If you don't know by now that the ACLU is an anti-American organization you'll never know. Nevertheless, I'll list its agenda again. The ACLU opposes virtually every aspect of the Patriot Act. The ACLU wants more photos from Abu Ghraib released. The organization is suing the CIA, opposing the Defense Department over detainees at Guantanamo, and objects to coerced interrogation of high-ranking terrorists. The ACLU has filed lawsuits against the Boy Scouts, a variety of Christmas displays, and attempts to stop children from accessing porn at public libraries. The ACLU opposes parental notification in abortion cases involving their underage daughters, opposes restrictions on late term abortions, and opposes doctors informing police about possible statutory rape in abortion cases. The ACLU opposes the Minutemen on the border, exposition of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, and is against 'no fly lists' to discourage terrorists from boarding airlines."
To read the whole bit, check out his web site.
It's just bizarre that I was not outraged by a single thing on the list. I mean, the whole purpose of the list is to show how outrageous the policies of the ACLU are, and yet here I am, supporting every single one. I'm starting to think O'Reilly and I don't see eye to eye on everything.
I'm studying for Evidence this weekend because I plan on taking the final on Monday morning. After that it's nothing but sweet, sweet tax. If anyone wants to stop by and say Hi, I'm on the second floor in a corral (sp?) on the other side of the bookshelves from the study rooms. Or drop me an email. Either way.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Exam Day Routine
I got to school at about 9am today and put my jacket and hat in my locker (yes we have lockers at law school). I then headed upstairs to the student commons to read the paper and relax for a little while. I find the Sudoku particularly relaxing. I thought I'd just work on it for a few minutes and then head to the library for some last minute studying, but I was wrong. It was a five star Sudoku, and it deserved every star. For the next forty-five minutes I battled the Sudoku, and I was eventually victorious. Now I'm in the library, just giving the blogs a quick peek. Then its time to review implied-in-fact employment contract and decifer the differences between "good cause" and "just cause." Wish me luck. You should also wish Scarlet Panda and CDawg luck.
Note: The cat is not my cat. This is just a random picture that was around the net a while ago. I like it quite a bit.
Employment Law Final Today
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Update: Video posted here under heading "Secular Central."
War on Christmas part 3
It's Freezing in Here
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
My Take on the Soloman Amendment
First: As Panda pointed out in a comment on my last post, we are dealing with a substantial amount of money here. If a couple of snoody law professors want to make a moral stand against the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the U.S. military, they should feel free to... with their own money. The federal dollars that are being pumped into our medical school save lives, help create new doctors (who we lawyers can sue when they amputate the wrong limb), and create a net social benefit. To eliminate these important funds for some ineffectual and misguided political statement, is, as Panda says, stupid.
Second: As a liberal ans a supporter of a large centralized government, I believe Congress has the constitutional right to attach conditions to their appropriations. As a potential future charitable-giver, I would expect no less from organizations to which I might donate millions of dollars. I don't want my grant of $200,000, which I gave to establish a school newspaper in Oswego High to be used to publish a monthly porno mag. Its the government's money (yes I know its our tax money, but if you vote, then you consent to be ruled by the federal government and abide by the decisions they make) and they can spend it as they like.
Third: The military's stance on gays is not as absurd as one might think. I used to be rabidly against the military's exclusionary policies until my brother convinced me otherwise. There are major practical problems that come along with allowing gays into every branch of the military. The barracks problem alone creates far more costs than losing a few hundred gay soldiers every year. Now I acknowledge there may be some middle ground to be reached; perhaps letting gays serve in particular roles in the military. But there are real and legitimate considerations that have convinced me that allowing gays to serve in the front line is a completely untenable suggestion (I don't want to list the considerations here, but perhaps my elder and wiser brother can contribute to the comment section on this topic). That being said, recruiting military lawyers is probably one area in which we could allow gays in the military.
With all that being said, let the debate begin. Comment early and often.
Rumsfeld v. FAIR
The case centers around the Soloman Amendment, which says that any college that receives funds from the federal government must allow military recruiters on the campus under the same conditions that the college would let any employer onto the campus. My law school (and many others) have objected to allowing the military into the school because of the school's policy that it will only allow employers to interview in the school if they don't have any discriminatory hiring practices. The military, as we all know, does not hire gays. So for the past few years (I really don't know how long the policy has been in effect, but they've had it since I've been here) military recruiters who want to interview law students have conducted those interviews in the building next door. Well, this isn't good enough under the Amendment, which states that the recruiters must have the same access given to other employers. Because other employers are permitted to conduct interviews in the law school proper, the federal government argues, the Soloman mandates that military recruiters be allowed to do the same.
The plot thickens, though, because if a college does not allow recruiters the same access, the government can withhold funds from the entire school. The situation at my midwestern college is that our medical school get MASSIVE amounts of federal funding, and if the law school doesn't shape up, the government is threatening to pull all funding for the university.
So those are the stakes. Stay tuned for my personal opinion on the situation. Feel free to offer yours at any time.
Tax Tuesday Postponed
The Expanding War on Christmas
They don't have to say "Merry Christmas" in China, OK? They can say whatever they say in China, "Happy Winter." All right? "We like pandas." Say whatever you want.
Indeed, I agree with O'Reilly that when you enter a Beijing Walmart, the greeter should say, "We like Pandas." Maybe I'm being a overly sensitive here, but I think I'm picking up hints of racism, mixed in with some condescention, topped off with a smug sense of cultural superiority.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Funny Headline, Sad Story
So today's question is, should a pharmacist be able to refuse to distribute medication to people because of moral qualms with the medication?
My answer is no. When you become a parmacist, you are entering a field that promotes health. Because the profession supports public health, it seems bizarre to allow non-medical personal opinions to influence your distribution of medications. In effect, the pharmacist is second-guessing a medical doctor's prognosis. "Even though your doctor says you need this medicine, I'm not giving it to you because I think you're a bad person."
In terms of the morning-after pill specifically, the pharmacists decision not to fill prescriptions shows such a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the drug that I question their fitness to be pharmacists at all. They are clearly under the impression that the pill is an abortion pill, which it IS NOT! The pill simply prevents ovulation and thus prevents the egg from being fertilized. It is true that in a small fraction of cases, the pill can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting into the wall of the uterus, but in this respect the morning-after pill is no different from regular birth-control pills, pills which these pharmacists regularly distributed.
I recognize that there is a principled position that is opposed to both the morning-after pill and regular birth control, and though I disagree with the position, I respect it as a consitent position based on the opinion that life begins at conception. However, I have no respect for these pharmacists who are betraying their own ignorance by opposing just one and not the other. We should be very concerned that these people have any role in our public health system.
Comments welcomed and encouraged.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Panda is in second with 11.2 shares of Genentech at $98.80 per share comes to $1106.56.
I'm pleased to announce that I have moved into second with the following assets:
6.9 shares of Halliburton at $65.83; 5.3 shares of Exxon at $59.07; and 76.5 shares of Sun Microsystems at $3.95; the grand total of my diverse portfolio is $1069.48.
Burrito has taken my spot at the bottom with 17.6 shares of Reebok at $57.74 per share comes to $1016.22.
So how is Intelligent Design faring?
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Was Saturday Night Live Ever Funny?
The War on Christmas
Bill O'Reilly believes that pressure from un-American secularists are responsible for the initial move away from Christmas-specific advertising and that a resurgence of traditional christian values is responsible for the change back. The ACLU and other anti-Americans have bullied retailers into changing their ways. Luckily, various religious groups have persuaded the retailers to embrace their heritage. No matter how unpopular the decision, these retailers are recognizing the existence of Christmas. This proves, he says, that we are beating back the liberals in the war against christmas.
I have an alternate explanation. Perhaps the initial shift away from "Christmas"-themed advertising toward "holiday"-themed advertising was an attempt by retailers to, I don't know, MAKE MORE MONEY by appealing to a larger audience. And maybe the "embrace" of traditional christmas values was a response to the fact that the initial shift DID NOT MAKE MONEY. Instead of attributing Lowe's decision to change "Holiday Trees" back to "Christmas Trees" has to do with the fact that they sell more product under the latter than the former and nothing at all to do with the fact that they respect the Christian majority. Is it possible, Mr. O'Reilly, that what retailers really care about is PROFIT, and not their immortal souls? Maybe we should think about that for a second or two.
Scientology Crop Circles
I was watching CNN Headline News today and they had a story about some massive circles etched on the ground in New Mexico. Apparently they are on a massive acreage owned by the Church of Scientology. A former member of the Church said in the interview that the circles were a sign to aliens of the location of a vault containing L. Ron Hubbard's super secret technology. Interestingly enough there is a huge house on the compound built into the side of a hill. Very vault-esque if you ask me. Church leaders say that the vault is a repository for Church writings. Here's a story from the Washington Post about the circles. I was going to post a picture of the compound, but I could not find one. The Church is notoriously protective of its pictures anyway, so it's probably best I couldn't find one.
Friday, December 02, 2005
More Conservative Judges
On race relations: "I would not date a black girl. I would not take one home, my mother would kill me. I wouldn't mistreat one. I would not want my children to marry a black or an Asian or a Chinese or a Puerto Rican. I would not want them to."
Charming. So who is to blame for the disproportiate share that African-Americans make of our prison population? Here's what the judge thinks:
"And it's not all of it their fault [referring to confined African-Americans]. It's the fault of their mothers and their daddies and their ancestors." (Emphasis added)
That's right. The honorable judge is blaming their ancestors. You remember the ones. As I recall, they were snatched from their homes and sold into the slave trade. Yep, it's thier fault. But, wait! The judge is about to show his enlightened side by suggesting that we whites are partially to blame:
"And our fault. We have been too good to them."
That last sentence should be lingered on. And people think we need more conservative judges?
Source: Regulation of Lawyers, by Stephen Gillers, p.530.
Happy Birthday Nell!
Thursday, December 01, 2005
1 1/2 oz. Jim Beam
Pour into a shot glass and drink.
For my non-drinking readers, combine 1oz of fresh potting soil and 1 tsp sugar. Add 1/2oz of water, stir, and drink. Yep, that's what you're missing. Enjoy.
For Those of You Without Cable
A Thought About Basis Inflation
This may offer a partial explanation for Congress's inaction. Someone holding property for a long enough time that inflation would produce unjust taxation is usually going to be older. The negative implication of tax forgiveness at death as a substitute for an inflation indexed basis provision is increased capital lock-in (i.e. someone holding property will be less willing to part with it than they would under economically neutral conditions). Economic neutrality should be the underlying goal of any tax system (according to some), and the failure to provide inflation adjusted basis is a major violation of that goal.
Last Tax Class of the Semester
Anyway, classes are over for the semester and that only leaves finals. The two most unpleasent weeks of the year.
That's me with the infamous host of Hardball, Chris Matthews. This happened about a year ago when the University hosted the Presidential debates. He was very willing to pose with me and seemed like a nice guy. Good sense of humor.
I know, I know. I post a lot of pictures of my rabbits. But here they are again, Lily on the left, Titan on the right. I would advise you not to attempt to pet Titan. He will snort at you.