Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Kids And Russia Both On A Rampage?

A kid in rural Ohio shot and killed a handful of family members and then himself on his own graduation day. A nine year old stabbed an eleven year old to death in New York City, with a steak knife. (What, she didn't have her first gun yet, you ask?) A couple kids in Florida beat a homeless guy to death because they were "bored". Why does this happen? Should we be outraged? Well, yes and no. Yes, we should certainly be upset at the loss of life, and try to figure out if it could have been more easily prevented. No, it's not any sort of cosmic evil. It's a few cases of screwed up families that clearly did not bother to teach their kids not to kill people. You can't blame that on politics or anything else besides that and be taken seriously. Take these same kids and raise them in your house, and they would be fine. This stuff happened in the 50's too. Most of my readers and I were just not around back then to remember it now.

Oh yes, Russia, at the rate your society is going, all of the other former Soviet states, the rest of Eastern Europe, and maybe even Africa and the Middle East will be modern democracies before you will. In other words, it will be centuries, if ever. You're lucky you can even get McDonald's to invest in you at this rate. Your business climate is a total mess. As soon as someone is successful and anti-Putin, whoops, you're guilty of...ummm, tax evasion, yeah that's it! See you in a couple more election cycles! *wave* Putin, you make ole' red-nose, Boris Yeltsin look like Abe Lincoln by comparison. Congratulations on setting your country back a couple decades.

Putin, barely avoiding a much-needed kick in the groin.

Various News, Personal Happenings And Otherwise

Neither my wife nor I have much family in the area, so for a few hours of Memorial Day, we went to a wine tasting at the Tarara Winery. Our company's summer picnic was held there last year, and it was a fun time, so she wanted to see it for herself. I'm not really a great judge of wine. In fact, I'm undoubtedly a pretty poor judge of wine, since I tend to simply like the sweeter types, but I am getting better at it, slowly. Chris is a very good judge of wine already. We brought a picnic lunch, and after we ate that we did a tasting. I thought it was mostly pretty decent, especially the dessert wines of course. Chris was less impressed, but still found a few that she liked. They were out of the "Vidal Blanc", the dessert wine I liked best and bought a bottle of from last year. We got something similar though that is good with chocolate. They actually give you a Hershey's Kiss when they pour that wine for tasting, so you can see how the wine complements it. Nice touch. Anyway, we bought four bottles of wine, including the "Wild River Red" dessert wine that I mentioned. They also had some jellies made of various wines too, which were definitely interesting to say the least, but not interesting enough to buy.

This Saturday, my sister (and only sibling), is getting married, near where she lives in Jensen Beach, Florida. I'll be flying down to West Palm Beach from Washington-Dulles Airport on Friday morning. I'm sure a good time will be had by all. Interestingly, she is 27, the same age I was when I got married. It will be nice to see everyone. I haven't seen my parents since Christmas, and I haven't seen my sister since Christmas 2002, about two and a half years! I was told by a co-worker that I should never let that happen again. She's right, and it won't. She's marrying a guy named Kristoffer, who goes by "Kris". He seems like a very good guy, though I will be meeting him in person for the first time this weekend. This means my parents will likely be permanently having to distinguish between my Chris and Katie's Kris when talking about our spouses. Lucky them.

The weekend after this one, my parents will be coming up to our house for a long weekend. We'll be seeing a baseball game on Friday night between the Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners. That should be fun! It will be only the second major league baseball game my wife and I have ever seen, and the first for my parents! I have always felt that my parents sacrificed a lot in order to raise my sister and I, so it's the least I can do to introduce them to some new experiences. They will leave from our house to Ithaca, New York, where my grampa Grow will be having his 90th birthday party at his house. It's definitely a big event, even though in my family people routinely live into their 80's. (I merely lived through the 80's so far.) My grampa has an older sister that is 95 now I believe, and still volunteers at a retirement home.

I finalized my European travel plans last week. Here they are:
August 27 - Overnight flight from Washington-Dulles to Munich, with a brief transfer at London-Heathrow.
August 28 - Arrive in Munich, Germany just after noon, sightseeing and sleeping
August 29 - All day in Munich
August 30 - Train from Munich to Salzburg, Austria, sightseeing in Salzburg
August 31 - Train from Salzburg to Vienna, sightseeing in Vienna
September 1 - All day in Vienna
September 2 - Train from Vienna to Hechingen, Germany (south of Stuttgart), to my cousin Jordan, his wife, and stepdaughter's house
September 3 - All day in Hechingen
September 4 - Train from Hechingen to Munich for the direct flight home taking off mid-afternoon and arriving back home the same day

Sound like a plan? This random person has some nice pics of what I will see in Hechingen.

Castle Hohenzollern

Hechingen Market Square

Friday, May 27, 2005

What If Tomorrow The One True Religion Was Revealed?

So tomorrow morning, everyone wakes up from their slumber. For some, it's been a rough night. Some are hung over. Some are up and ready to face the day very early. Others are up around noon. They all have one thing in common though. Just as they are waking up, they realize something. They all know what the one true religion is. Of the thousands of religions and sects of religions in the world, they suddenly know which one is correct (or maybe it's a mixture of existing beliefs, or brand new ones). They know which side of every issue the deity or dieties fall on.

1. Would people around the world get along better? Would there be less violence?

2. At the very most, only about ten percent of the world's population would have already "gotten it right" without this divine intervention. Do you think that some might be upset with their spiritual leaders for having not led them down the proper path? What would happen within cults?

3. Do you think that with a lot of these basic underlying issues "out of the way", that more human energy would be put to use in solving the more concrete problems facing us, or would we simply find something else to fight about and thus still cancel each other's efforts out?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Of Fingers And Burgers

Here is proof (if any was still needed), that some people are in serious need of a good screw:

The ad, which has been running in major markets since last week, has drawn the ire of television watchdogs, including the Parents Television Council. "This commercial is basically soft-core porn," said Melissa Caldwell, research director for the PTC. "The way she moves, the way she puts her finger in her mouth -- it's very suggestive and very titillating."

You can't make up that kind of comedy! Putting her finger in her mouth is probably as "suggestive" of bulemia as it is anything else. As an aside, I really don't even think Paris Hilton is incredibly hot. What hotness there is, is at least partially negated by her incredible stupidity.

OK so as I write this, it's currently 51 degrees, and it's going up to a whopping 57. That's depressing. Paris might need to cover up a little more in this weather. Don't do it on my account though, miss "heiress (moroness?) of the Hilton fortune".

It looks like the stem cell research bill passed the House handily, garnering dozens of Republican votes along with almost all Democrats. 238-194 was the final tally, a comfortable majority as with public opinion, but it won't be enough for an override. Oh well, guess the abortions won't go for any useful purpose after all. They'll just go out with the rest of the medical waste.

By the way, regarding my post yesterday, it seems many conservatives are incensed at the compromise, because they wanted a fight. Like I said, careful what you wish for. You're better off with what you got, trust me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Cooler Heads Prevail On The "Nuclear Option"

It's about time some centrists got together and bucked the leadership on something. I'm getting tired of the all or nothing attitudes of some people. Yes, I know some people on both sides, conservatives especially I imagine, will be upset that there was a compromise made. You should be careful what you wish for. I think your centrist brethren saved you a few seats in the next Congress. The people we should all be thanking are the following:

Robert Byrd (West Virginia)
Daniel Inouye (Hawaii)
Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)
Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut)
Ben Nelson (Nebraska)
Mark Pryor (Arkansas)
Ken Salazar (Colorado)

Lincoln Chafee (Rhode Island)
Susan Collins (Maine)
Mike DeWine (Ohio)
Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)
John McCain (Arizona)
John Warner (Virginia)
Olympia Snowe (Maine)

Oh and by the way the Republican establishment is so stupid for not wanting McCain to get the Republican nomination. He's the best you've got, and he would beat Hillary easily if that's what you're really concerned about.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Embryonic Stem Cell Research Proves Naysayers Incorrect Already

Of course, this breakthrough was not made here in the US. Without the federal funding that is normally procured for potentially life-saving types of research, we are lagging behind other countries in this area. It's South Korea that "got there first" this time, with something that many fundamentalists that were against this research said could never be done. On a side note, I also find that interesting. On these issues that involve medicine, conservatives will trot out these same conservative doctors to repeat the party line on why it shouldn't happen or can't happen. Then the other 98% of doctors will say it can be done, but are less flashy about it because they rightly don't care about the politics of it so much. Then conservatives can say, "Well, doctors disagree..." It's very convenient for them. While some segments of America try to turn back the clock on science, other countries are simply going to take up the slack. We're already seeing that. Basically every other country in the world is snickering at our silliness. I hope that twenty years from now "other countries" are not where all medical progress comes from, and we aren't stuck in America learning about how the Earth is actually flat, six thousand years old, and all life was intelligently designed by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

It looks like there may be enough votes though in Congress to overturn Dubyah this time, which would be nice to see for once. This is an issue that deeply divides Republicans, but that Democrats are in favor of pretty much across the board. There may be enough of a coalition there to even override a promised veto. We shall see. What is that saying? "The life you save, may be your own." Well put.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Flying On September 11, 2005

It looks like I may be doing just that because of a friend's wedding. I don't really care that I may be doing it either. Would you fly on that date, given a reasonable option, or would you avoid it?

I have lots of other things in the hopper for my blog soon, but I was too busy today to fully do any of them justice.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Could New Orleans Have Been Our Hong Kong?

As I have mentioned recently, I just finished watching The History Channel's "The War of 1812". I never knew much about that war except that the White House and a few other federal buildings were burned to the ground. I had forgotten that we actually invaded Canada too! The war started when the British started to take our sailors and force them to serve in the British Navy. This was called "impressment". It went on because they needed men in their battles against Napoleon. The French were the dominant force in Europe at the time, and so they saw it as justified.

There were only three decent-sized battles in the entire war though. First was DC, where we were thoroughly beaten, mostly in terms of an unorganized retreat as much as actual casualties. It would have been worse and the city would have had more damage from fire too if a very strong hurricane hadn't come right after the British took the city (no Weather Channel yet). That put out the fires and caused many British casualties actually. They then pulled out of the city. Then there was Baltimore, and the still-famous Fort McHenry attack, where Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner". That attack was an American victory, though it was more of a "holding our ground" kind of victory.

The third was the Battle of New Orleans. By the time this battle started, Great Britain had shipped thousands of extra troops overseas to fight, since they had just finished beating Napoleon at Waterloo in 1814. As troops massed outside New Orleans on both sides, a peace treaty had already been signed in Belgium, but of course it still took a few weeks for a ship to cross the ocean for anyone in North America to find out (no phones or even telegraphs yet). We were vastly outnumbered by a far better trained and equipped army, but won one of the most lopsided victories in military history! Some scholars believe that if the British had taken over New Orleans at the time that the peace treaty was ratified by Congress, that the treaty would have indicated that Britain could retain control over it. Thus Britain could have owned a significant city at the mouth of the Mississippi for a long time to come, kind of like with Hong Kong in China. Can you imagine if New Orleans had just become an American city in the year 2000 like Hong Kong?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Our Amazing Memory, And Some Movie Reviews

It's interesting how memory works. It seems that our memory works very much like a computer, or at least more like a computer than one would think. The major difference is that our memory is a lot more fragile and volatile. Bits get misplaced all the time. It's like a Google search where infrequently searched items are eventually inacessible or lost, and different types of information on the same topic can get disassociated.

Think of someone that you know, and think of the info about them in your head as audio files, video files, jpegs, text, and so on, or even as a database full of these things. After awhile, these parts can get jumbled, and cause us to forget. This is where you can place a name but not a face, or recall a person and an event very well, but forget the name. You probably used to have all of them together, and once your memory is jogged, you will again. The wild card with memory though is that our own experiences that we had previously will color our perception of a specific memory, and can cause us to categorize it completely differently. Computers don't really do this because to them, previous data doesn't affect storage of new information, but it does with people. This is just something to keep in mind. A pretty good (if heavily simplified), explanation of how it works is in this movie, believe it or not. It's an interesting indie film that I saw a couple weeks ago. Sure it's a movie, but it has a great deal of natural science in it, and some famous scientists speaking for long periods in between the acted parts. There is of course plenty of other more scholarly research on it on the net, which you can easily find with a Google search of your own.

Oh, and by the way, "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is not all that great. It's not horrible, but it is also not particularly memorable. Unless you are a big fan of the book, catch it on video maybe.

A movie that's just plain not all that good is "Birth". Sure, Nicole Kidman is nice, but it's not nearly enough to carry this movie. It had some great potential too. It was an interesting subject, but poorly done I think.

I just finished watching: "The History Channel Presents: The War of 1812" as my "while exercising material" once I finished Ken Burns' epic "The Civil War" series. I have some observations about The War of 1812 that I never knew at all until recently. It had a lot more significance to our history than you probably think!

Update: My wife and I watched "Sideways" last night. It was OK, but not as good as the hype. Anyone watching "Revenge of the Sith" this weekend? Movies have been disappointing me recently. I want to see a good one!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Some Members Of The Flock Are More Equal Than Others

There have been two stories in the past week or so of people being denied membership or the full benefit of a church based not on their personal behavior as it relates to religion, but their views on the behavior of others. Lines are being crossed all over the place on church/state issues recently. (Only the second of these examples here has to do with politics directly, but there are other battles such as teaching ID, and so on of course.) You might be surprised to know that it's fine with me to an extent, only because I see a silver lining. The more this kind of thing goes on, the more independents will start to find this special kind of ultra-conservatism more frightening, and thus their Republican party benefactors as well.

The more recent one was from yesterday, about Catholics wearing rainbow sashes to show support for gays and lesbians in the church. They are being denied communion because of their show of support for a change in doctrine. They aren't even violating any church law. They are just expressing their opinion that they would like a change, and for that they are denied communion. Nice.

Then there is the genius minister of a church in North Carolina that decided to kick nine people out of their church because they didn't support Bush. My favorite part of the story: "Chandler could not be reached for comment today, but says his actions weren't politically motivated." Now that is comedy!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A Blinding Realization

I'm beginning to think that arguing with social conservatives is just a complete waste of time. No, I never expect to make any significant difference in what they think. What really became clear to me today on Rightwingsparkle's blog yesterday was some of the parts outlined in my comments. See below.

First someone made a comment about how there was "shameless hucksters" on the conservative side of the issue, making hay for political gain on the TS issue. RWS replied in part:
I remember people like you who called the white civil rights workers in the south in the '60's 'hucksters." I hope you are proud to be in their company Dirk. Pathetic.

TS was "disabled"? Be serious. RWS, I'm not necessarily a fan of Dirk's arguing style, but for you to compare him to racists because he doesn't agree with you about TS is just plain insulting, and to use your words, "PATHETIC" or "SICK" or "SAD", just like trying to compare your cause to that of civil rights workers. I try hard to be polite, but that is beyond what I can stomach politely.

Erik, sorry, but that is how I feel. I saw injustice in the south and people who thought they were perfectly right in opposing civil rights.I see the life issues the same way. This is INJUSTICE. And I stand against anyone who feels it is ok to take innocent life. From the womb to the tomb.

I've been commenting here long enough to understand your positions well. That isn't what irritated me. Maybe it shouldn't. I know what to expect from conservatives in terms of their views. It just jolted me back to the reality that underneath the generally reasoned discourse, you believe that many of my beliefs are quite literally aligned with evil. It makes me wonder why I even bother to discuss things with social conservatives at all, when they see me and essentially all other Democrats this way.

Me again, after another Democrat commenter responded to my last comment, bold was added just now to part of it for emphasis:
Worrywart, well, call me naive, but I really sort of believed that some social conservatives could see past the culture war in their opinions of others, but it seems no matter how it's packaged, it's really the same. I'm beginning to think that the only reason some are even civil is because they hope that Satan's little helpers, so to speak, will convert to their side. In their minds, we are all agents of evil whether this is spoken or not, sugarcoated in "we hate the ideas but not the person" rhetoric. This whole thread has really hit me like a ton of bricks. It's seriously very depressing.

It's still depressing, but I'll get over it. I may need to re-evaluate what is or is not worth the effort.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A (Very) Brief Overview Of Evolution

Since there seem to many misconceptions about what evolutionary theory is or is not, and what has and has not been found so far, I feel like now is the time to explain it. There are more complete explanations than mine, but this is meant as an overview to answer some of the misconceptions.

First, evolution refers to change over time, generally millions of years to speciate (evolve from one species to another genetically incompatible species). Start in your head with one species spread out over a large area. In any population, selection pressure is present for more desirable genetic traits, in humans too, but when times are good and most of the population is able to reproduce, there is little reason for small differences caused by mutations to become the norm in the gene pool. The mutations are just folded into the normal population and you can have all kinds of variance. For long periods, there will be no evolutionary reason to change. Then there will be a physical barrier that will impede the exchange of genes across the entire population. We see this sort of thing all over the world today. Marsupials are almost entirely confined to Australia for instance. They happened to go in that evolutionary direction based on pressures found on that continent, whereas elsewhere it did not happen. The barrier can also be distance. If the range for a species is extremely wide, the same effect can occur.

Then, disaster strikes, as it does with regularity on Earth. An asteroid hits, the climate changes, a new predator moves in, or any number of other calamities, and the existing species or portion of a species must adapt or die out. Suddenly, the little differences aren't so little any more for at least one part of the population. The longer-legged creatures will run faster, and predators will eat the shorter-legged ones instead. The climate gets colder and suddenly longer fur is a real life-saving asset. Genes that were once scattered in the population are now heavily selected for, and the look and genetic makeup of the species can change quickly and dramatically. If there are enough genetic differences in the population over a long enough time, genes between the two of them become significantly different in length or structure. Fertility between the "old" and "new" forms suffers, and eventually they are so different that fertilization is impossible. We see the early stages of this in modern day horses and donkeys. They are similar enough to breed, but not enough to produce fertile offspring. There are other examples especially in birds where there are similar phenomena. Lions and tigers can breed, but the fertility rate is not the same as with the original species. We can see these various stages of speciation.

Speciation can result in many different outcomes based on what fossil evidence and genetic analysis tells us. Parts of the population could die out, leaving another part under different pressures unchanged. Two different species could result from one. One different species plus the original species could remain. The entire species could evolve into another. The whole species could die out and not be replaced. All of these scenarios can occur.

One logical fallacy that is often presented is that it is impossible to reproduce speciation in a lab environment. Yes, it is true that we do not yet have either a time travel machine or a time speeding machine where we can see what happens over millions of years in a bottle. We see all of the necessary phenomena that I have outlined in various stages of action, in the lab and in nature, but in terms of evolution, humans have only existed for about the blink of an eye, and you are asking for us to reproduce millions of years in a few decades. We aren't completely there yet, but it does not mean that it's "impossible". All of the individual building blocks necessary are there for speciation to happen, and observable. We just can't speed up time.

Another fallacy also presented is that there are no "missing links". Due to the selection pressures necessary to cause speciation, the "transition" period is pretty quick geologically speaking, about what would be expected from a quick extinction or adaptation to a (relatively) sudden change. The environment is generally similar for a long time, and a sudden shift makes the process accelerate. Without genetic material or any soft tissue at all for that matter, it is very difficult to prove beyond a doubt that something is a transitional form, but we do find these forms on a regular basis. Certainly for humans in this case we have more evidence than for many other animals. Cro-magnon man, Neanderthals, and other types all made an appearance, leading to where we are today. Cro-Magnon man especially were actually quite similar to us. Neanderthals quite a bit similar as well, but probably not enough to reproduce with modern humans. Even just yesterday another portion of a "missing link" was found.

This brings up the issue of "halves are useless". Evolutionary cul-de-sacs are everywhere. We still have an appendix. Ostriches still have wings. So do kiwi birds. Bulls don't need horns in order to survive any more, since they are domestic, but it doesn't mean they disappear. They are not selected against, so they continue. The eye is a frequently used example in the opposite direction. What good is half an eye? Not much. However, each form comes from the last form, so of course the more "advanced" form is heavily selected for, and the old form dies out. If the change is not a good one, it won't last long. People that throw out analogies like a watch randomly coming together from nothing are posing the question as if that is what evolution is. It is not. It goes from one functioning unit to the next. Those that do not function are selected against.

There is much, much more to this, and far more detail than I could possibly put in one post, but at least this is an overview. Post some of your objections if you would like and I would be happy to answer as best I can.

Update: Nicnerd IMed me from his conference and told me there were "truck-sized" holes in my post, and mentioned that there are shell fossils in the Himalayas. Interestingly, that particular fact is something touted by "Young Earth" proponents, which Nicnerd is not. I'm not sure where he got that info. His fact is correct. The Himalayas were formed around 25 million years ago when continental drift shoved the Indian plate into the Asian plate. The land portion of both of these plates were underwater at one time, when "shells ruled the Earth". This was from around 300 to around 450 million years ago, roughly. Shells in the Himalayas? We should expect nothing less!

Monday, May 09, 2005

What If Everything You "Knew" Changed Overnight?

What if tomorrow morning you woke up and just "knew". You somehow just knew there was no God, no heaven, no hell. What if your purpose on the planet was not defined by any external source other than your own environment, and it was up to you to define your goals in life and your method to reach those goals? In this scenario you would not have forgotten what you used to think or anything like that, or actually maybe it could? Maybe think about both possibilities! Maybe you would simply think differently at that point, or maybe you always thought it. It would not mean an absence of right or wrong either. It would just mean that humans and humans alone would decide what is acceptable behavior in society. Would it upset you? Would you be happier? How might your life be different? How would it affect your priorities in life? How do you think the world would be? What would be better, and what would be worse?

I already live my life with that assumption, though I am far from certain whether my assumptions are true or not. I usually don't give it a second thought, but I wonder how others would handle it.

Friday, May 06, 2005


Don't you just love internet jargon? So anyway, speaking of the internet, I thought this might be a good opportunity to let you in on some of my favorite sites, some of which I use all the time, some of which are just recent interesting discoveries of the moment.

First, a couple days ago I had got some excellent fudge that I ordered from Brigittine Monks that make it in Oregon. I got a pound of amaretto fudge and a pound of chocolate fudge royale with nuts. My wife and I watched something about them on Food Network a couple years ago, and I finally decided to actually give it a try.

Do you hate it when free sites require a ten minute sign-up so that you can gain access? Me too. This site solves that problem. Bookmark it or memorize it. It saves time and irritation, especially when trying to read the various news items that blogs link too.

This is a site I found through another blogger this week. It's damn funny! It's funny the way people that are on cell phones in a crowded city seem to be unaware that everyone can hear what they are saying, or maybe they don't care? Anyway, the site is here.

Having trouble with some phrase in German? Here is the place to go. I know that the "LEO" site is also popular, but this is what I have been using since I started practicing my German again a couple years ago. You can also curse me in German if you want. It'll be fun!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

You Gave Them An Inch, And Here Are The Miles

You see, until the social conservatives are finally shown that fewer people agree with them than they think, this is the kind of stuff that will happen.

First, it was the "droopy drawers" legislation is Virginia that was mercifully dropped.

Now it's "lewd cheerleading" in Texas, where football (and cheerleading), are a way of life, and the population is conservative enough that I can't imagine such a huge event isn't going to already be controlled anyway.

Even worse, some ignorant people in Kansas that wouldn't know the scientific method if it bit them on the nose, are trying to turn back the clock 80 years. My guess is that Kansas won't be pumping out very many biologists, if they manage to get them to not teach evolution as it is taught today.

What's funny is that even most of the conservative people that I know think these things are ridiculous, but because some conservatives are so convinced that the very far right is a majority, they are no trying to run roughshod over every institution they think that they can legislate. Hey, you asked for it. 2006 can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Estate Tax Complainers

Before I start, let me just tell you that there was frost on my car this morning. I live in northern Virginia and it's May 3rd. Stop the insanity, and turn up the heat. It's almost summer!

Interestingly, most of the people that complain about the Estate Tax are not wealthy enough to have to pay it. Opponents call it the "Death Tax". I try not to get hung up on semantics, so you can call it what you wish. I found a handy calculator on a financial planning site. Put in your info. Do you qualify for the estate tax at all? It's doubtful. I hope that one day I qualify for it, and if I do, I guarantee that I won't complain about it! I would undoubtedly be among the top percent or two of the best off people in the world! I can understand the small business and farm angle. Make the cap higher on those so that there is less of a tax burden on them, but don't simply reward wealth over work for individuals. It is very easy to make money with money as it is. Isn't this kind of "perpetual hereditary aristocracy" something that we have always tried to avoid perpetuating? (I just made that phrase up, but that's what it is.) Is it really too much to expect that the great-great grandchildren of today's upper class might have to actually work a little bit?

Here is a snippet from an article from a few weeks ago on the subject.

The House vote pitted repeal proponents, who held that a tax on inheritances is fundamentally unfair, against Democrats, who questioned how Congress could support a tax cut largely for the affluent that would cost $290 billion over 10 years, in the face of record budget deficits.

As an aside, isn't it funny how on this and certain other issues, many Republicans will say things like "fundamentally unfair" or "it's perfectly obvious", and "everyone knows that...". I get a lot of those sorts of comments from my Republican friends that post here too. They never lack for moral certainty, even when their case is very difficult to prove. Don't you want to know who is going to pay for this $290 billion with a "b" tax break, if it passes? No, it isn't businesses, or the wealthy who got the tax break in the first place. You and I pay, or our children, or grandchildren. Is this what passes for "fair" in your book? It does not in mine. "It's double taxation" you say? OK, fine, so how do you propose we pay for it then, aside from trying to cut waste that we should be trying to cut anyway? Is there a plan in place? It certainly doesn't seem like it, and it's this kind of continued short-sightedness on tax policy that will get us in trouble in the years to come.