Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina links

The disaster of Hurricane Katrina is still unfolding, but already there are amazing satellite pictures, provocative posts, and interesting retrospectives. Here are just a few I found interesting:

Sat pix animated
Before and afters
More sat pix (not animated)
The Big One
Should we rebuild?
"Nature's revenge"

Updated (Sept 1, 10:30pm)
CNN before and after sat pix

Defining Income Still Makes a Flat Tax Tough

One CPA I spoke to about the concept of a flat tax mentioned that the hardest thing in the tax code isn't figuring out the percentage that should be paid or the amount that should be deducted. It is figuring out what "income" is. While I'm not even close to an expert, that makes sense to me.

If I'm a fat-cat CEO it may be a lot easier to get the company to provide "benefits" that don't get counted as income. Do you count the value of your health coverage as income? What about a company car that you get to use? What about a company jet? Would a flat tax eliminate the difference between pre-tax and post-tax money that currently exists?

If we're trying to figure out what defines corporate income, I think it is probably even more difficult. Is income defined the same as revenue? profit? I suppose that is it probably somewhere in between those two. That means that income is really hard to define. So hard that there will always be thick books for accountants to peruse to figure it out.

How hard is it really for me as an individual to figure out my income tax right now? Pretty easy. I just punch my information into the software and it spits out the right answers. I can read the income figures right off my W-2. No problem. The difficulty in the tax code has always been and will probably continue to be with the people or entities that can't define their income with a simple W-2 or 1099.

This post was inspired by a post at Dynamic Range.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Utah and Iraq deaths

There's a lot of buzz around the blogosphere today about Daily Kos' suggestion that areas that voted for Kerry have more military deaths than areas that voted for Bush. There are a myriad of things wrong with his maps and his conclusion that are explained here and here, but one thing in particular caught my attention: Utah has suffered the least amount of Iraq deaths per 100,000 residents.

Statistically, I don't quite know what that means. Does Utah have fewer people in Iraq or in the armed forces? I didn't think so, but maybe.

Friday, August 19, 2005

DDT: Good or bad?

I read an article similar to this one awhile back that claimed that DDT was unfairly maligned and could save millions of lives by killing mosquitoes. Then I read this article refuting many of the more convincing points--saying basically that DDT isn't the magic bullet some claim it is. Which to believe? I don't know.

UPDATE 22 May 2007: I'm still no expert on DDT, but the topic seems to be growing in popularity again as we approach the 100th birthday of Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring. Opinion Journal has a piece that looks disapprovingly on the unintended consequences of banning DDT. We now use more, less-potent pesticides with less effect.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Nuclear North Korea

Orson Scott Card has written a wonderfully brief and provocative piece about nuclear proliferation. What happens when North Korea has the bomb? Thanks to Provo Pulse for the link.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Bashing Hillary Shows Poor Taste

I'm not a big fan of Hillary Clinton, but I am really not a fan of a book by Ed Klein called "The Truth About Hillary." I read the first 30 pages or so and was totally turned off. This is not a fact filled, hard hitting book. It is a gossip column and doesn't deserve to be read by people serious about politics and government. I actually find myself agreeing with Al Franken. He did an interview (along with a few friends in gang up fashion) with Ed Klein which is available if you subscribe (for free) to his podcast with iTunes (4.9 or better). I can't find a way to link to it directly.