Monday, December 31, 2018

Read this if you made more than $128,400 in 2018

In 2018, once your income subject to Social Security tax hit $128,400 (this is usually higher than your income subject to Federal tax, due to various exclusions such as 401k contributions that are subject to SS tax but not income tax) they stopped taking Social Security tax out of your paycheck.

This results in, sometime late in the year (the more you make the sooner it happens) a de facto 6.2% raise in your paycheck (which is effectively tax free). Many people don't notice it. Others notice it, but don't realize what it is.

The important thing to know is:

Beginning in January they start taking it out again.
So goodbye to that raise!

Realizing what's happening and managing it can help avoid a fiscal shock in January (just when the holiday bills are coming due as well). I advise my clients in this income range to pay attention to this and use the money "off-budget". Meaning to save it, invest it, or use for one-time expenditures like a vacation or a home remodel.

People unconsciously raise their standard of living as their income increases. Understanding how this happens and taking conscious control of it is one of the keys to financial success. This example is just one area where it matters.

Take control.
Understand your income and expenditures.
Be aware of "found" money like this.

And understand that you are about to take a "pay cut."

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Climate Change is Unsolveable by Government

I find it interesting that people focus on the economic costs of climate change discussed in recent reports but consistently ignore the economic costs of proposed solutions. "Science" almost universally identifies that the costs of any successful solution would actual exceed the costs of climate change itself.

This does not mean that we should ignore climate change, since economics is only one of many factors to consider.

I point this out because the climate change argument (particularly at the politician/pundit/powerful level) has turned into another typical blue/red bullshit fest of dishonesty and selective reporting.
Almost nothing you read about climate change now is an accurate reflection of both sides of the issue.

Politicians are using climate change, like every other issue, to polarize their voters, distract people from their corruption, expand the power of government, get re-elected and make themselves and their cronies rich.

At the individual level, I consistently see people call for massive, government led changes to force people to change their behaviors while taking only the smallest, most painless steps in their own lives. I still consider the massive lines of parents dropping their kids at school in their idling cars (or worse, waiting at the bus stop in an idling car so they can drive their kid two blocks from the bus stop to their homes) as the perfect example. I'm sure they all have varying levels of "good" reasons, but if climate change was truly the end of the world as we know it, I'd see a lot more walking happening.

There is no big one-size-fits-all solution to climate change. The solution involves partisans looking at solutions from both sides. Conservatives need to embrace expansion of renewable resources and potentially a market based tax on carbon. Liberals need to get over their fear of nuclear power. Both sides need to hold their politicians accountable for the unholy alliance between corporations and government.  The fucking ethanol lie is the poster child for this. There is nothing positive about ethanol unless you are a corn farmer, politician or corporation. Climate change is not helped by the ethanol lobby.

Climate change is NOT a partisan issue! If you keep listening to CNN, FOX news, The Democrats and the Republicans then we are screwed. The solution to climate change is not going to come from government, unless people stop being sheepish slaves to their parties.

Climate change is possibly the best argument for never voting for a Democrat or a Republican that can ever be made. The planet is literally at stake and people just keep voting for the same charlatans over and over. D's and R's will NEVER fix something that they can use to get votes. NEVER!

Wake up!


Saturday, December 1, 2018

November Charleston Restaurant Visits

Name Loc Rank Beer Sel Rating
Husk DT 5 2
Short Grain Var 5
Sorghum and Salt DT 5 2
Wine and Company DT 5 4
Azul Park 4 2
Chez Nous DT 4 1
Edmund's Oast Brewing  NK 4 3
Famulari's WA 4 3
Gillie's Soul Food WA 4 0
One Broad DT 4 2
Rita's WA 4 2
The Brew Cellar Park 4 4
The Establishment DT 4 2
Tradd's DT 4 2
Benny Palmetto's MP 3 2
Dispensary DT 3 2
Grace and Grit MP 3 2
Grit Counter MP 3 2
Krystyna's Polish Food Var 3 0
Maple St. Biscuit Co. WA 3 0
Two Blokes Brewery MP 3 3
Westbrook Brewing MP 3 2

Here's a link to the Master Restaurant Spreadsheet

Columns are Restaurant, Location, Rating and Beer Selection Rating.

Locations: Park - Park Circle, DT - Downtown, NK - North of 17 Downtown, Var - multiple locations, MP - Mount Pleasant.

Rating - 1 to 5 scale (5 being best (gotta be perfect to get a 5))

Beer rating:
0   No beer or little good beer (or a bad brewery)
1   Below Average (or a mediocre brewery)
2   Some locals and other good brews (or an OK brewery)
3   Excellent (or a good brewery)
4   Best (or a great brewery)

Husk and Husk Bar continue to be outstanding. The food menu at the bar is like the Greatest Hits of Husk, with the burger, the fried chicken and the wings starring.
Short Grain is a popup that can be found most Tuesdays at Edmund's Oast Brewing Company. Not a food truck, they take over the kitchen for some Asian inspired delights.
Sorghum and Salt is a small place between Cannon and Morris that has a great casual feel, super friendly staff and delicious food.
Wine and Company is the best wine bar in Charleston AND has a sneaky good beer selection and awesome charcuterie plates. You can buy bottles (or a dozen bottles) of wine to go with really great advice from the super staff.
Azul is the new Mexican place near Park Circle. Second visit was outstanding. They have a HUGE combo plate (can't remember the name) but it would be perfect for 2 people.
Chez Nous is a cute little French place with just TWO entrees and TWO appetizers on the menu each day - but they are VERY good. I think this would be a great place for a date night.
Edmund's Oast Brewing Company: A great brewery with a good kitchen. Awesome beers on tap and some cans to go.
Famulari's has really good pizza and also brews really good beer. A great craft beer/pizza combo for those West of the Ashley.
Gillie's Soul Food is a very casual southern restaurant with really good food. They were putting a bunch of beer taps in when we went there so the beer future looks good.
One Broad is a cool bar/restaurant in a great location but casual setting. You can watch most of your food being prepared.
Rita's is a casual bar with a good food menu near Folly Beach. The fried shrimp was quite good.
The Brew Cellar is a tiny retail store with almost a dozen taps and a cooler of beer to drink on premises. Very casual place for beer lovers.
Dispensary is basically a college bar with a really good happy hour - almost every local beer on tap or in cans is super cheap then.
The Establishment is a nice and cool looking new seafood restaurant with a large chef's counter.
Tradd's opened up in the old Cypress location and they have a couple really cool bars and a nice dining area.
Benny Palmetto's has HUGE slices of pizza and decent beers in a small space with booths to sit at. They also do takeout.
Grace and Grit and The Grit Counter share a kitchen. Grace and Grit is the sit down and be waited on casual restaurant while The Grit Counter is fast casual. I think I would do the counter over the restauarant.
Krystina's Polish Food is a food truck that can be found around town, at breweries and Container Bar.
Maple Street Biscuit Company is a southern chain with decent breakfast type food.
Two Blokes Brewery is a cool spot to have some really good beer. They often have food trucks.
Westbrook is another brewery that usually has a really big tap list and some cool (though expensive) bottles from past years. No significant food.

You may wonder why nobody got a score below 3. There's an explanation on the spreadsheet. In fact, there's a ton of information on the spreadsheet. But to answer the question, we go places we expect to be great. I'm not here to confirm that a mediocre restaurant is actually mediocre. So 2's will be rare, and 1's will be a catastrophic failure in planning.

CHM 110 Useful Stuff

This is old and none of the links work anymore. The Stoichiometry stuff is still good in the body of the post.

I'm taking CHM 110 at Trident Technical College, and I'm uploading documents to share with my fellow students and including useful stuff. This is purely for my college class. I'm going to keep bumping it to the top to make it easy to find.

Unit 2 Test Prep:

This is the first run of my test notes. I will update with atomic structure stuff once I figure out how to explain it (after figuring it out myself). You should review the powerpoint linked below under "More Stoichiometry" as well.

The Krazy Kombo Kany Kompany Part I

CHM-110L Lab Report Template

This is a link to my Lab 4 Lab Report. You might find it useful as a template. I do the tables in Excel so it can calculate for me and then cut and paste to the report. I just change the page numbers in the procedure for that section. Remember to only do ONE example calculation of each type in the calculations section. Then I just print out the cover sheet and staple it to the report. I assume everyone is done with their lab report for 4, BUT, if not - this is for use as a TEMPLATE, not to copy for Lab 4!

More Stoichiometry:

I made a 2 page powerpoint with some simplified Molar ratio stuff:


Stoichiometry is made more complicated than it needs to be for three reasons. First, the name. Stoichiometry just SOUNDS complicated. Easy solution, don't worry about what it's called. Second and third are harder and are actually the reason it exists at all. Stoichiometry involves things that are too small to see, and too numerous to count. If we could see and count atoms and molecules, stoichiometry would seem as easy as legos, probably even easier (most times your not trying to build the Millenium Falcon and often your just building with two or three different bricks - not so much in bio-chem - but this is 110!)

If I could grab a Chlorine atom and a Sodium atom and smash them together to make salt. Stoichiometry would seem like child's play. I think the key to UNDERSTANDING stoichiometry is to connect it to something you can see. I'm working on a comprehensive example of that which I will publish later. Right now, I'm just going to lay out some simple points to help you grasp what's going on.

First, the grab an atom of Sodium and grab an atom of Chlorine example, while simplistic, is pretty much how it works. To make salt, you need one Chloride atom and one Sodium atom. Na + Cl = NaCl. To make Barium Fluoride, you need 2 Fluorine atoms for every Barium atom. Ba + 2F = BaF2. It's really that simple, except that we need billions upon billions of atoms to make any appreciable amount of a substance.

So, since we can't see the atoms, scientists had to come up with a way to "count" the atoms. They needed some system that could convert something easy to measure into a number of atoms. They came up with a "mole". You can weigh a pure atomic substance, and based on what it is, know exactly how many atoms are in it (or close enough for chemical work - since atoms are so small and you can't see them - a few stray atoms here and there are usually not a big deal).

Scientists know that (using round numbers) 12 grams of Carbon will contain 6.02 x 10^23 atoms. They know this just as we know that 756 grams of large eggs will be 12 eggs or 156 grams of paperclips will be 144 paper clips (I checked). 12 eggs is a "dozen" eggs and 144 paper clips is a "gross" of paper clips. The "mole" is just a way of referring to a specific quantity of something, like a dozen eggs, or a gross of paper clips and using weight to "count" them. A mole is a term referring to a specific number, just like a dozen and a gross. With a little extra work, we can count things using their weight. It's not really useful for eggs in the kitchen, but if I needed to count 1000 eggs, or 10,000 paper clips, knowing that 144 paper clips weighed 156 grams is hugely important. With atoms, it's impossible to count them, so we have the mole.

We use moles for different substances, so we have different weights that equal a mole of them, just like a gross of different items would weigh a different amount.

One "gross" of paperclips would be 144 paper clips and would weigh 156 grams.
One "gross" of eggs would be 144 eggs and would weigh 9072 grams.
One "mole" of eggs would be 6.02 x 10^23 eggs and would weigh 3.79 x 10^25 grams.

So think of moles as kind of like bags of atoms or molecules. A bag of  Carbon atoms with 6.02 x 10^23 atoms in it weighs 12 grams. EVERY bag of atoms or molecules will ALWAYS have 6.02 x 10^23 of them in it, so all we need to know is how much a bag of all the substances weighs.

It's critical to be able to take an atom or a molecule and figure out its molecular or formula weight. That's simply figuring out how much a "bag" of the atoms weighs (our bag being a mole). For an atom, it's the atomic weight of the atom from the periodic table.

One bag (mole) of Sodium (Na) atoms contains 6.02 x 10^23 atoms (this number never changes - just like a gross of paper clips will always contain 144 paper clips) and weighs 23 grams (just like that gross of paper clips weighs 156 grams). It's a property of the substance and never changes.

One bag (mole) of NaCl molecules, contains 6.02 x 10^23 NaCl molecules and weighs about 58.5 grams (The atomic weight of Na (23) plus the atomic weight of Cl (35.5).)

The Atomic Weight or Formula Weight can be written as a ratio 1 mole Na / 23 grams Na, just like we can write for paper clips, 1 gross paper clips / 156 grams paper clips. These can be written upside down as needed to convert grams to moles or moles to grams, just like if I know how many paperclips I have I can use the ratio to figure out what they weigh, or if I know how much they weigh, I can figure out how many I have.

For formulas, the numbers in front of the molecules tell you how many bags (moles) of each you need for each of the ingredients, and how many bags (moles) of the various products you get.

Ba + 2F = BaF2 tells me that I need 2 bags of F for every bag of Ba and when I smush them together I get a bag of BaF2. Each of those bags has 6.02 x 10^23 atoms or molecules in it, and I can figure out how much each one weighs by figuring out their Formula Weights from the periodic table.

For calculation problems, convert grams or atoms to moles (always go through moles) and ratio them according to the numbers from the equation. Thinking of them as bags will help you remember that the term mole isn't magic, it just makes sure you have 2 atoms of F for every atom of Ba in the above formula. You are just using moles because there are a shit ton of atoms involved. I honestly believe that if we made the term "shit-ton" refer to 6.02 x 10^23 of something, and applied it to Chemistry, that everyone would find this a lot easier.

So this probably didn't teach you HOW to do Stoichiometry, but hopefully, it demystified it a little bit.

Keep checking back for updated information and suggestions.
Also feel free to use the Amazon link (the black and white tax book picture) to buy things from Amazon (from which I get a cut) or to buy my tax books.

Unit 1 Test Prep:

Click here for my Test Prep Notes
Click here for the marked up Periodic Table

Keep checking back for updated information and suggestions.
Also feel free to use the Amazon link (the black and white tax book picture) to buy things from Amazon (from which I get a cut) or to buy my tax books.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Stupid Anti Communism/Islam/Socialism Meme

Image may contain: 4 people, text

I've been seeing this one a lot...and I have something to say about it:

It is not Communism, Islam or Socialism that binds these threads together, it is the quest for power and control over more and more people by megalomaniacal dictators. Communism, Socialism and Islam are simply the chosen methods of these particular evil people...Protestantism, Catholicism, Christianity, Democracy, and virtually every other "ism" has been used for the same ends with proportionally similar death tolls.

This is a warning against government power more than a warning against any particular "ism".

The natural progression of government is to take more and more power (always with the best of intentions). Eventually, this power will be abused, and people will be killed to defend that power. Don't think it can't happen in America, and don't think millions of guns are a sure prevention of it - those guns could just as easily be used in support of a revolt that ends up with an even worse dictator in power. Right now they are simply a deterrent against the worst abuses by our current government.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Singapore Trip Lessons

I slapped this together to send to someone I met in a bar who was going to Singapore soon. Not exhaustive, but useful if you need some good places to eat, stay and do fun stuff:

Where to Stay:
            Orchard Road Area, with close walk to either the Orchard or Somerset MRT Station
            We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Orchard Rd.

Orchard Rd Area:
            TONS of shopping above and below ground.
            EAT:   Ya Kun Kaya Toast is a must do (only eat Kaya Toast from Ya Kun)
                        Food Court in basement of Paragon Building has a good food court with a Ya Kun Kaya Toast, So Pho So Good, a Dutch Baby Place, Din Tai Fung which are all good food choices.
                        JiBiru across the street has a great beer selection and good food.

Must Do:
            River Cruise – Catch at Clarke Quay. There is a Thirsty Beer Shop in the Liang Shopping Center which is just outside of the Clark Quay Shopping Area (Clark Quay has two walkways that cross in the middle. If you take a left in the middle as you walk away from the river it lead to the Liang Shopping Center across a street. Cross the bridge to Boat Quay and walk along the river for some cool food places
URA Center Model
            Chinatown – Might want to set aside at least two days if you are going to be in Singapore for a while. Make sure to see the Buddha Tooth Relic, Heritage Center, Food Street, Maxwell Food Center (best hawker stand), Sri Mirraman Temple, Chinatown Center, URA Center (Singapore City Gallery with huge scale models of the city). Chinatown is the best place to get large volume, really cheap, cool but crappy gifts for people you need to get something for, but don’t want to spend a lot of money on.

            Little India – Quick in and out – try eating at a hole in the wall.
Coud Forest Waterfall
            Cloud Forest – this is actually in a huge area with giant fake trees, air-conditioned rain forests with water falls and other really cool stuff.
            Botanical Gardens – Mainly for the Orchid Gardens
            Night Safari – Book ahead and consider a tour. This is one of the few places you need a taxi or bus to get to. They have a pretty cool buffet dinner there.
            Explore and don’t be afraid to just wander in some random place for food.

Other things:
            Sentosa Island
            River Safari
            Singapore Museum
            Arab Street
            Japanese Gardens
            Chinese Gardens
            Mt. Faber
            Harbour Front
Haw Par Village – almost made this a must do but it’s very weird but huge. It’s basically a crappy statues history of Chinese Myths. The 10 hells exhibit is disturbing and hilarious. It’s very close to an MRT station so you can do it quickly.

Food Names to Look For:
            Seng Fa Bak Kut Teh (Seng Fa is the chain, Bak Kut Teh is the food (pork rib soup))
            Fish and Chips
            Lassa (a drink)
            Nasi Lemak
            Kopi (Malaysian coffee with sweetened condensed milk)
Chicken and Rice
This is where you get Chicken and Rice at the Maxwell Food Center

Kaya Toast (very soft boiled eggs that you mix with soy and pepper and did toast in)
Chili Crab
Consider pre-booking a day trip to Johor Bahru in Malaysia. You will want to book ahead. It’s cool for cheap stuff, batik, weird food and the drive across the causeway.

Thursday, November 8, 2018


I have a lot to say on this subject but haven't organized my thoughts well. I have notes below the *****, but you should ignore those. I'm just going to use this post as a catch-all for gun thoughts.

My current policy beliefs (only minimal justification here - more later):
1. The Federal government's activities on guns should be limited to preventing states from infringing on the Constitutional right to a gun.
2. I believe the Constitutional right to a gun includes the right of any law abiding citizen to own any gun that is available to the police and National Guard of the State they are a resident. I believe this is the principle behind the "well-regulated militia" and enshrines the right of defense against a tyrannical government as well as self-defense. I think this extends to safely carrying your gun from one state to another in which it is legal, across states where it is not with ZERO risk of prosecution (so long as the gun is safely stored and locked and no more than a few days are spent in the state it isn't legal.)
3. Deprivation of this right beyond a few days prior to initial licensing requires due process. You can't take a gun away without the gun owner having a chance to respond before a proper, impartial authority and doing so must only be for the minimum time needed. Some of this would vary from state to state, but the basic due process idea stands across all of them.

The rest of the list would be at a state level - different states can do different things - and these suggestions would be for my state. Federal assistance would be provided when sales cross state lines or with background checks.

3. We need to find a way to allow solid background checks without unduly restricting the ability of one citizen to sell to another.
4. Concealed carry licenses should enshrine a large amount of training, but be available to most people willing to put in the effort.
5. I have thoughts about a "super" concealed carry where someone who is willing to subject themselves to extensive and intrusive background checks and a ton of training would be allowed to carry their weapon into traditionally "gun-free" zones.
6. Licensing fees should be reasonable and accessible to most people. In principle, if a government assists poor people with access to things like food and healthcare, there should be some process to reduce fees for gun access to poor people (this is a little fuzzy because if you're poor, a gun should be low on the list of "necessities" but who am I to judge a person's priorities.)

Everything below this line is just shorthand notes to think more about.

What is Effective Gun Control?

Same guns as cops and NG
Defending against tyranny
Army won't fight us (illegal as well)
States can restrict guns by restricting their police

Enforcing current laws

Keeping guns out of the wrong hands

Preventing mass shootings - what can we do, will it be effective, is it worth the cost.

What would it take to make America a gun-free or low gun society? What would the cost be?

What would it take to eliminate gun violence

Respect for rights

What do we do about idiots with guns (that aren't clinically diagnosable as such)

We glorify violence - even movies and stories with "pacifists" ultimately require them to fight to win out over "evil" or save someone. Peaceful means never work.

Private sales

No fly lists and other protections must have due process

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

October 2018 Charleston Restaurant and Bar Visits

Azul Park 3
Coda del Pesce MP 5 1
Container Bar NK 4 2
Daps NK 4 2
Edmunds Oast NK 5 4
EVO Park 5 3
FIG DT 4 1
Kickin Chicken Var 3 2
Orange Spot Park 4
Papi's Taqueria MP 4 2
Park Café NK 4
Sunflower Café MP 3
The Brew Cellar Park 4 4
The Codfather Park 4 2

Columns are Restaurant, Location, Rating and Beer Selection Rating.

Locations: Park - Park Circle, DT - Downtown, NK - North of 17 Downtown, Var - multiple locations, MP - Mount Pleasant.

Rating - 1 to 5 scale (5 being best (gotta be perfect to get a 5))

Beer rating:
0    No beer or little good beer (or a bad brewery)
1    Below Average (or a mediocre brewery)
2    Some locals and other good brews (or an OK brewery)
3    Excellent (or a good brewery)
4    Best (or a great brewery)

Container Bar is a cool bar that brings in food trucks. All the great things about food trucks with none of the issues with them.
The new Kickin' Chicken on Dorchester is having growing pains, so we gave them a bit of a mulligan.
Daps is great for breakfast type meals and great drinks.
Coda Del Pesce is still the place to go on IOP
Azul has some really good, inspired Mexican
The Brew Cellar is still the place to go for beer variety in Park Circle (sorry Commonhouse)
EVO still the best pizza and beer combination in town (Love Pork Trifecta - take some home and have it for breakfast with a fried egg on it!)
Edmunds Oast might be the best beer+food combo in town, or possibly the best restaurant period (try to sit at the chef's counter).
Orange Spot has a great Thai Tea
FIG was still really good, but the ribeye was just not that great this time, hence a downgrade from 5 to 4.
Papi's is the IOP place to go if you want faster and less expensive, but still great.
Park Cafe has awesome brunches.
Sunflower cafe was good, but not special.

Didn't get everywhere we wanted due to a great visit to Iceland. Might post about those restaurants.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

20181101 Election Predictions

20181128 FINAL UPDATE:

With the Mississippi runoff in the books, I nailed the Senate prediction at 53 R's. I was one off on the governors - so within my error band.

The House will either be 234 or 235 D's, so either 1 or 2 outside of my error band.

Not too bad.


It might be a little early, but I have pretty much settled on the content and methodology of my predictions, so there's really no reason to wait. I obviously reserve the right to revise should there be major events or polling changes between now and the election.

The governor elections are little more than a guess, but the Senate and House I study to a pretty in-depth level. The Senate gets more individual detail simply based upon the number of races to analyze.

I don't pick individual races (though that's almost what you have to do in the Senate). Instead, I predict the makeup of the Senate, House and the number of governors from each party. Independents are included with the party they caucus with or their basic ideology.

Here are the predictions:

Senate: 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats (+/- 1)
House: 207 Republicans and 228 Democrats (+/-5)
Governors: 26 Republicans (+/-1)

We'll see how I do...

20181107 UPDATE

Still waiting on 3 Senate Races and 12 House Races.
Could be dead on in the Senate but looks like Dems did better in the House than I predicted, but I still have a chance of staying in my margin of error.

20181108 UPDATE

No movement on House and Senate - gonna be a while.
For the House, the final number will be between 223 and 236.  I need 3 of 5 toss-ups to go the R way if I am to stay in the margin of error.
Senate is looking like a 53 - exact match! But it's still plus or minus 3. I can afford one race not going the way it's leaning.
Governors races will be either 26 or 27 Republicans so I got that one within the margin of error (the remaining one will likely go red and make it 27 - so not exact.

On Corporate Accountability (or lack thereof)

“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” …


In the Corporate world, the responsibility is theoretically there, but to whom and to what end? What’s really missing is accountability. After all, as another adage goes, this one from economics: people respond to incentives. Absent proper incentives, no amount of responsibility overcomes a lack of accountability. True negative incentives do not exist in the Corporate world. CEO’s, CFO’s and Board Members never face any real, personal punishment for their actions. Absent this, normal incentives produce poor behavior in the pursuit of profits. This should not be surprising. Until the decision makers in Corporations face personal accountability, Corporations will place profits over responsibility.

First a little history: The introduction of Limited Liability is one of the great inventions in the world of business. As Deirdre McCloskey discusses in Volume 2 of her seminal work on economic history: Bourgeois Dignity, it is one of the ideas that changed the world. The ability to shield your personal assets from forfeiture due to a business failure was one of the critical factors in the massive expansion of business innovation and revolution that resulted in millions worldwide being lifted out of abject poverty (137). But slowly, over decades, a problem emerged. The Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision essentially bestowed the rights of a person onto Corporations (Collins). We can debate if the decision was right or wrong, but the idea of Corporate “personhood” highlights the great missing piece: you cannot hold a Corporation accountable in the same way you can a person. Certainly, you can fine them both, but try putting a Corporation in prison and the problem becomes clear, as Smith and Howat point out in Justice Inc: “companies have no soul to be damned, no body to kick.” (110).

Corporations have shareholders – being a Corporation encompasses the LEGAL duty to the shareholder to maximize profits and increase the value of the stock. Even with the most ethical of Corporations this requires a short-sighted approach. They are required every quarter to report on the past year’s profit, and then make projections towards the future. Investors and reporters follow these projections with all the fervor of sports scores and election results – and the stock price responds. Corporations respond to incentives – and shareholders are a BIG one. So influential, in fact, that the temptation to cheat becomes almost impossible to ignore. Absent any real repercussions, the inevitable happens – Corporations begin skirting the rules, and then breaking them. The term “Paper Tiger” was coined to describe this: “Developments in the law are making the corporate form more opaque and allowing the agents who animate it to escape individual accountability for their actions.” (Nelson). 

A few years ago, a judge did try to hold a Corporation accountable for egregious actions, though in a Quixotic way: He sentenced the Corporation to jail time. As discussed in the article by Farber, “The Judge resorted to this extraordinary sentence, he said, because he didn’t know how else to impose a meaningful punishment on a corporation that could easily afford to pay the maximum fine.” (18). Obviously, the Corporation spent no actual time in prison, despite engaging in a price fixing scheme between Pepsi and Coke resulting in over $1,000,000 in illegal revenues way back in 1988.

One significant recent example: UBER. Not the bad press about a poor culture with regard to employee treatment – though that’s pretty bad as well. What happened was they got hacked. In early 2016, hackers accessed the personal data of over 600,000 drivers and 57 million customers and demanded $100,000 from UBER to delete the data. UBER paid the money, and waited more than a year and a half to inform their drivers of the breach. Now they will pay a settlement of $148,000,000 to all 50 states and the District of Columbia (Bloomberg). This is in addition to past settlements involving misleading advertising for drivers and illegal use of texting. One estimate is that they’ve been sued 433 times. But they keep skirting the law. No Corporate officer went to jail or received a personal fine.

Then there are the banks. Bank of America has been fined 20 times for over 57.9 BILLION dollars. Wells Fargo has been fined 39 times! (Smith and Howat 112) Governments respond to incentives as well. Putting a Corporate officer in jail gets headlines, but fining a company puts money directly into the pockets of government agencies charged with regulating these entities. As Smith and Howat put it: “Public authorities have become addicted to revenues from corporate fines.” In essence, as they further discuss, fines effectively act as a Corporate “get out of jail card.” (112). One can easily see how this leads to MORE bad behavior and not less.

The solution remains as obvious as it is difficult to implement: Hold Corporate officers and boards personally accountable for the actions of their companies. Fine them, jail them or file injunctions against them serving as officers and/or board members. Politics, working out the details and piercing the veil of “plausible deniability” all stand in the way of a successful policy being implemented. Then, once the policy exists, high powered lawyers and political connections will further stand in the way of justice. But there’s no question that the system as it exists now fails to serve the average American.

Corporations and the concept of Limited Liability are the foundations upon which the modern world economy has been built. Billions of people have escaped poverty and First World citizens can access hundreds of modern wonders unimaginable in the past. That makes it important that we not screw the current system up while trying to fix it. Clearly though, the ability of any American to list a dozen Corporate criminals, all of whom escaped real justice, and many of whom are serial offenders makes it obvious that something is very wrong. Until the true decision makers in the Corporate world face PERSONAL repercussions, shareholders will always win over customers and employees.

Works Cited
Bloomberg. 12 April 2018. 4 October 2018. <>.
Collins, Robert. SCOTUS Blog. 9 July 2013. Blog. 5 October 2018. <>.
Farber, Daniel. "Corporate Punishment." New Republic 26 December 1988: 16-18.
Lee, Stan. Amazing Fantasy #15. New York City: Marvel Comics, 1962. Comic Book.
McCloskey, Deirdre. Bourgeios Dignity: why economics can't explain the modern world. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010. E-Pub.
Nelson, J.S. "Paper Dragon Thieves." Georgetown University Law Center (2017): 871-941.
Smith, Alexander and James Howat. "Justice Inc: Examining the Criminalization of Corporate Conduct." Harvard Kennedy School Review 16 (2016): 109-115.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Double IPA Blind Taste Test All-Star Tasting

By coincidence, I found myself with 6 of the 7 currently available top tier beers from our ongoing (three years now), highly unscientific Double IPA Blind Taste Testing. Previous results HERE.

We had five tasters trying 6 beers (not ideal for accuracy) but it's all for fun anyway. All beers were fresh (canned within the last month) except the Viridi Rex which was about 2 months old.  Here were the results:

Burlington Brewing Company It's Complicated Being a Wizard was a runaway winner.

Prairie Phantasmagoria, Alaskan Hopothermia, and Edmund's Oast Viridi Rex were effectively tied for second.

Fiddlehead Second Fiddle barely beat out Coast Boyking at the end of the rankings.

We found this surprising since Coast and Fiddlehead have been consistent winners in our ongoing tests (we always try to include one of the top tier beers in every session for comparison purposes).

Either way, this test was neither scientific nor fair, but it sure was fun!

Watching TV Makes You Smarter and Television is an Evil

This was a journal entry for an English class - but really just a chance to bitch about Magnum PI:

I watched the new Magnum P.I. series premier shortly after reading “Television Makes You Smarter” by Steven Johnson. The producers of the show either never read the article, or were actively attempting to prove his thesis wrong. The show had one major theme, totally spoon fed every bit of information, had literally NO complex themes and was ABSOLUTELY worse intellectually than the original – and that is a HIGH bar. The only part that made me think was the beginning, where Magnum is jumping out of a space capsule. The thought went, “Is this show really going to do this? Is it going to be that ridiculous?” Turns out it was an author’s rendition of one of his past misadventures, dramatized for the book. Then the rest of the show went full vapid and lame, making you wonder which was worse, the fake book or the real TV show.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

I almost missed that you had assigned both “Television is an Evil” by Theodore Dalrymple and the above discussed article. Nice contrast. I went ahead and re-read them together. My first time through “Television is an Evil” I really started wondering if it was satire. It went seriously over the top blaming TV for almost all of society’s ills. Not that this is far from the truth, but TV has brought a lot of good with the bad. How else are we going to find out how truly awful everyone we elect is?

I loved the quote the author laid out at the end describing TV people as awful, though I disagree that they are worse than politicians. Yesterday at lunch, the bartender was a former TV producer, and he was amazingly frank, charming and helpful. Of course, he was bartending because he had to leave TV in order to get sober and is now working towards a degree in Social Work, so he might not be the best example. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Having A Skeptical Mind

Most people believe that they have a skeptical, critical mind. Some because they constantly question the arguments and ideas of people that they disagree with. Others because they adhere to some alternate, non-mainstream concept such as atheism, alternate medicine or even Flat Earth Theory. Most simply assume the existence of their skeptical mind because they’ve never actually challenged themselves on it and it makes them feel smart. The fact is, very few people think critically about the world around them, and even those that do, fall prey to the usual prejudices and biases. In our hyper-partisan world, a critical mind is vital to not getting sucked into the tribalism currently tearing our country apart. You need to humanize opposing viewpoints as the first step to tolerance. Not only that, but failing to think analytically and questioning your beliefs makes you less smart.

The first step to developing a skeptical mind begins with recognizing that most of what you read and hear is either wrong, misleading or incomplete. Find an article in a mainstream news publication on a subject for which you are an expert or very knowledgeable. Read it. Is it accurate? Chances are incorrect or imperfect information permeates the article. Completely wrong might also accurately describe it. Odds are that if you do this often enough, you will start wondering, “If every article I read that I’m knowledgeable of is so awful, what about the ones I know nothing about?” Now you are on the right track. From this point questions will start to flow every time you read something.

Next you start asking questions about things you just assume to be true. Start with minimum wage for an example. If you oppose it, ask yourself questions like: “How is someone with no skills supposed to support themselves without an adequate wage?”, or “If minimum wage earners had more money, would that stimulate the economy?”, or “Would raising the minimum wage reduce the costs of social welfare programs?” You could ask numerous other questions. If you can’t think of any, google it. Literally: “What questions should you ask if you oppose the minimum wage?” For balance, if you support the minimum wage, you might ask, “How does someone without the skills to provide the value of the minimum wage to an employer get a job?”, or “Won’t raising the minimum wage make things cost more?”, or “Won’t employers replace people with machines if we raise the minimum wage?”

Just the act of asking the questions will add to your skepticism, but that’s not enough. Now you need to answer them. Answer them honestly and with as much effort as possible. Here’s the hard part: answer them in a way that directly opposes your current belief. You don’t need a bunch of researching for this part (that comes later) you simply try to use logic. Follow a train of thought that leads away from your current belief. Every time you find yourself drifting towards your original idea, take the fork that leads away from it. You don’t have to agree with the points, just accept that they exist.

Now a true challenge. Take a repugnant or ridiculous belief. Racism, sexism, eugenics, anti-vax, flat earth. Try to figure out WHY someone would believe it. Don’t just assume they are unforgivably evil or stupid people. Very few people are actually bad people – selfish, ignorant and self-involved sure – but not evil. Try to think of a person you know who is both nice, and racist. Put yourself in their shoes. Recognize that calling them a racist is probably not the best way to change their mind. Knowing their motivations, biases and background makes a huge difference when it comes time to change their attitudes.

Which brings us to politics. Chances are, either you or someone you know reflexively disagrees with everything that one party does, and agrees with the other (unless something “bipartisan” is going on). The simple, obvious unanswered question is: “How is it possible that one group of politicians is always right and the other group is always wrong?” I’ll give you a hint…no I won’t, you get it. Take the party you identify with and list ten things they do that are wrong. Take the party you oppose and list ten things they do that are right. Here’s the catch: you can’t use “bipartisan” ideas – the other party must be opposed to the things you select. If you can’t do this, go back and re-read this whole essay and try again. Still not there?

Research. Crank up your Google-Fu and start searching. Read articles that oppose your viewpoint. Go beyond the normal news sources (we already figured out how wrong they were several paragraphs ago). Find academic blogs – professors LOVE to write, especially economics and legal professors. Do NOT make arguments against the points being made while you read. I know that you might find this hard, but try to think about why they might be RIGHT. You don’t have to conclude they’re right, just expose yourself to their ideas. Buy a book from someone you disagree with, preferably someone with a good bibliography. Ralph Nader writes excellent ones for you to try if you are a Republican and Ann Coulter is a good choice if you are a Democrat. I recommend them not because they are brilliant or accurate, but because of their bibliographies – a chance for you to see where their ideas come from.

Having a skeptical mind doesn’t mean changing your mind to another belief. The point is accepting that the other belief exists, and that while the arguments you hear may be wrong, they have at least some merit. Especially important is knowing that a person or group who doesn’t see things your way does so not because they are bad people, or ignorant, but instead they form opinions rooted in valid belief systems. You also might find out that you are wrong about some things, and being less wrong is the foundation of both human and individual progress.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

My Changing Attitudes Towards War

One of the things that I often say about myself is that there has been one constant in my life, and that is that five years ago I was a moron. I strongly suspect that this is not going to change going forward. It has lead to a strong tendency to temper the fervency with which I advocate my opinion, and to cause me to be far more willing than most people to change my opinion. One area in which this has affected my life is in my attitude towards war. Early in my life I was unashamedly, unconsciously pro-war. Later I became a much more measured advocate towards war, but still saw it as an extremely valid and useful tool for world politics. Now, I wouldn’t say am totally against war, but my standard for when it is justified is extremely high. It was the BBC television series Doctor Who which finally pushed my teetering attitude over the edge to my current stance. More on that later.

Like most children, I loved playing war. I always knew I would end up in the military, and, when I was finally allowed to join (The Navy, not the Marines as I wanted – stupid parents) my biggest regret was that we weren’t at war, and it looked like we never would be. I didn’t count the Cold War because it was only proxies doing the shooting, and not Americans. I also was unhappy because as a Submariner, only a big war with a major opponent would get me into any action. I told you I was a moron.

Fast forward to 1991 and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. I was stoked. To be clear, my attitude had changed a little bit. Now I was only in favor of war for “good” reasons, though this was a pretty broad definition. The Iraq war was the perfect war. Unprovoked aggression by an evil country against a good country. Yeah, I thought Kuwait was totally innocent. Did I mention I was a moron? Back then, I was gung ho, all go, all in! Best of all, my submarine was tasked with a short notice, high speed sortie to protect our troop transports from the inevitable attacks by Libyan submarines from that devil Quadaffi! My biggest regret back then was that we didn’t get to launch any cruise missiles. The Kuwait war went splendidly – quick, easy and an absolute victory. All my beliefs about war were validated.

Then 9/11 happened and I was pissed, and not just because of the attack. I was on SHORE duty, teaching, surrounded by students who would soon transfer to combat submarines and carriers and maybe get a chance to take part in what would certainly be a quick and decisive war with Afghanistan. Even when we went after Iraq I was still sure it would be over quickly, and I would miss out. I was just a little bit off on that one. As the war dragged on for more than a decade, and I exposed myself to new and different sources of information, my attitudes started to shift.

Fast forward ten years and two submarines later and now I’m a civilian. All the same people are making all the same arguments for and against war. The wars are still going on, and I’m paying more attention to the collateral damage. I’m watching the rise of ISIS, the Syrian civil war and the refugees. I can’t tell you exactly when I said, “Fuck This!”, but I can tell you it was while watching the Doctor Who episode called The Zygon Inversion. The Doctor was trying to talk entrenched factions out of going to war and he said: “When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die. You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn, how many hearts will be broken, how many lives shattered, how much blood will be spilled until everybody does what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning: sit down and TALK!” Somehow this coalesced the arguments, highlighting the endless war, and the endless repercussions and the feeling that, something just isn’t right into a concrete understanding that it’s just not working. Innocent people get hurt in war, and sometimes that has to be accepted for the higher ends. But for how long, and how many? For what ends?

Nowadays I find myself arguing about endless war a lot on Social Media. I see all the same things said and the same arguments made. Most of them are still cogent, well thought out arguments about deterrence, and self-defense and defense of others. Someone will inevitably ask me how I can’t understand how important it is to end this and that bit of injustice. They’ll talk about how tyrants have to be confronted or they just get bolder and do worse. I tell them, “I would have said the exact same thing as you, SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO WHEN THE WAR STARTED! Talk to me again when the war is over and we’ve actually accomplished all those high and mighty goals.” Thanks Doctor, for helping to straighten me out. Now I just have to figure out the other things I’m still a moron about…

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Double IPA Blind Taste Test Post Summer 2018 Update

This endeavor has grown since it's inception, so I stopped posting individual test results about a year and a half ago (you can still find some of them on the original post HERE).

Now I'm just updating the rankings as groups of taste tests are completed. A few things to note:

1. Within categories, the beers are not really ranked (though I do kinda put them in order based on latest results).
2. A beer doesn't leap to the top until it has been tested at least twice, usually much more often.
3. As often as possible, I try to include an established beer in a tasting with new or new-ish beers as a benchmark. Sometimes this is a huge help, other times it messes everything up.
4. I won't test a beer unless I or a friend I trust really like it, or it has a great reputation. Merely appearing on this list means a beer is good.
5. Taste tests are generally 3 to 4 beers, with at least 4 testers. Testers vary, except I always participate. Occasionally I will do 5 beers, and I will only do more for a "fun" test - I have 6 of the top ten and plan on doing an "all-star" tasting.

Here is the master list:

COAST Boyking
Fiddlehead 2nd Fiddle
Odell Myrcenary
Firestone Walker Double Jack (no longer available)
Edmund's Oast Viridi Rex
Burlington It's Complicated Being a Wizard
Prairie Phantasmagoria
Alaskan Hopothermia

AleSmith Double IPA
Evil Twin Lost Souls
Westbrook Two Claw
Maine Beer Company Dinner
Upper Pass Cloud Drop
Frost Beer Works Slush
Frost Beer Works Lush
Single Cut Softly Spoken Magic Spells

Russian River Pliny the Elder
Tree House Bright
Alchemist Heady Topper
Alchemist Focal Banger
Lawson's Sip of Sunshine
18th Street ZERO Discipline
Greater Good Greylock
Trillium Melcher Street
Clown Shoes Galactica
Maui Brewing Double Overhead
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe
New Belgium Rampant
Foley Brothers Prospect

Southern Barrel Slippery Slope 
Southern Tier 2xIPA
Trillium Vicinity
Stone Ruination 2.0
Second Fiddle Mastermind
Alchemist Crusher
Boulevard Brewing The Calling
Wicked weed Freak of Nature
Trout River Hangry Angler
Farnham B72
Banded Horn Daikaiju
Melvin Brewing 2 by 4
Lord Hobo Boom Sauce
Bear Republic Racer X Double IPA

BOTTOM DWELLERS (still good but not competitive):
Shmaltz She Brew
Clown Shoes Space Cake
Shmaltz Wishbone
Firestone Walker Leo vs. Ursus Fortem
Foley Brothers Fair Maiden
Foley Brothers Pieces of Eight
Benford Problem Solver
Westbrook Three Claw
Exhibit A Hair Raiser
Heavy Seas Double Cannon
Crooked Run Orbz

Thursday, September 13, 2018

How to Use r/wroteabook to Benefit Everyone Here

There are 4300 subscribers on this thread but it seems like there's not a lot of activity other than posting a book.  Not a lot of up-voting and not a lot of action. 

This is not taking advantage of what this thread could be.

Here's what I would like book posters to do:

1.  Find a book someone has posted that you might like
2.  Buy it or borrow it
3.  Read it
4.  If it's good, review it on Amazon and tell the author
5.  If it's not good, tell the author via the book's reddit thread to help them out
6.  Provide some useful feedback either way on the reddit thread for the book
7.  Repeat as often as you can.

If you post a book, you should do this at least once simply as a point of courtesy and with the hope that someone will return the favor.  It's hard to get quality reviews, so let's leverage this community to help each other out.

As an aside, Kindle Unlimited is $10 per month and you can read as many books as you want for free (assuming the author activates it, which most do).  You can have 10 books at a time. 

I also think people should add KU to their title if their book is available for free so we can read as many of those as possible.

Feel free to read and review my tax books (written for normal people):

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Impeaching Trump

So I'm reading and hearing lots of speculation on if Trump is going to be impeached. Lots of analysis of laws and precedents and who said and did what.
It's all bullshit.
The most important factor in whether Trump gets impeached is who wins the House in November. Whether he gets convicted: Who wins the Senate.
Laws don't matter. Truth doesn't matter. This is all typical Dem/Rep partisan fuckwaddery designed to keep you distracted and aligned with the proper tribe.
And if the Dems impeach Trump, the Reps will pull the same crap on the next Dem President if they own the House.
Sure, Trump is making it easier on them by giving them stuff to work with, but let's not pretend or be fooled into thinking that this has anything to do with anything other than control and consolidation of power.
Stop voting for D's and R's. None of this will stop until at least 15% of you wake up and smell the stench of the Big Bucket of Fuck they're feeding you out of.

Monday, June 25, 2018

I am NOT a Libertarian

Though I agree with them on many things, and vote for them often.

More to follow...

An Exercise in Not Being Hopelessly Partisan

List ten positive things about your favorite and least favorite politician.  List ten bad things about the same two people.  Get mad about all 20 bad things, give credit for all 20 good things.  If you can't do this, you are hopelessly partisan and are part of the problem.  You do not have to do this publicly.  If you can't think of them off the top of your head, spend some time researching.
It is simply impossible that your political opponents are wrong about everything.  It is absolutely possible that you think they are wrong about some things simply because they are your political opponent and that's what our government wants.
Who wins when a country is divided?
It's the people who want more power and control and less accountability.  I'll give you a hint: when you see their name in print they have a D or an R after their name.
Break the cycle of assuming a PARTY wants anything from you other than your vote, and will offer you anything more than a reason to hate the other party enough to keep you voting for them and not noticing that they never actually FIX anything they proclaim to be so badly broken that it is literally a TRAGEDY if it isn't fixed immediately.
Another exercise to help you to stop vilifying the PEOPLE (actual human beings) who don't vote the same way you do.  List ten GOOD reasons that someone might vote for the politician you hate.
Let's try to remember that PEOPLE are generally good, and want others live's to be better. 
Let's also remember that it is a pretty good time to be alive. 
Let's personally help others better their lives. 
Leave jealousy and anger behind. 
Make ONE person's day better today, and make NO person's day worse.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Double IPA Blind Taste Testing - Update

For the last couple of years, we have been doing blind taste tests of Double IPAs.  The original post is HERE (with the full rankings).

This summer we will be doing a bunch, always trying to include previously tested beers so we can roughly rank them.

Here's what we are doing this summer (at a minimum):

Wicked Weed Freak of Nature
Edmunds Oast Viridi Rex
Burlington Wizard (it's complicated)
Clown Shoes Galactica
Boulevard The Calling
Coast Boy King
Crooked Run Orbz
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe
Westbrook Two Claw
Fiddlehead Second Fiddle
Maui Double Overhead