Wednesday, 10 October 2012

08:15 – Beginning 1 January, the Catholic church loses its tax exemption in Italy. It’s about time for something similar to happen here in the US, not just to the Catholic church, but to all churches and non-profits. There’s no good reason why churches and non-profits shouldn’t be paying property taxes and other taxes just like the rest of us. The problem, of course, is our First Amendment. Here’s the relevant portion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

That’s all it says. The first clause refers to “established” (official, state-supported) religions. The Founders meant that Congress could not force states to give up their state-supported religions, if they had one, nor could Congress establish a state-supported religion at the federal level. The second clause meant that Congress must allow people to worship (or not worship) as they chose. That’s it.

Now, strict separationists might argue that the power to tax is the power to destroy, and they have a point. But the reality is that making churches subject to the same property and other taxes that we all pay, at the same levels that we all pay, in no way violates the Constitution. I could even argue that the tax-exempt status of churches forces me to subsidize them through my property taxes, which is a clear violation of the Constitution. Why should I have to pay higher property taxes to provide them with government services that they should be paying for themselves? Why should churches get a free ride?


09:57 – Interesting article on CNN: Are we throwing away ‘expired’ medications too soon?

The short answer is yes. Much too soon. Pharma companies would argue that they have no way of controlling storage conditions and that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Of course, what they’re really doing is covering their collective asses. The reality is that most drugs stored at room temperature out of direct sunlight are probably still perfectly good after at least five to ten times the shelf life on the label. Storing them in the refrigerator or freezer increases the shelf life of most drugs dramatically.

The rule of thumb in chemistry is that a 10C change in temperature doubles or halves the reaction rate. In comparison to typical room temperature of 20C, most home freezers operate at about -30C. Call it five doublings, or a factor of 32. So, a bottle of, say, amoxicillin tablets that has a one-year expiration date should in fact be good for at least 32 years if stored in the freezer. When you consider that that amoxicillin stored at room temperature would probably maintain the vast majority of its potency for more like five to ten years, that means storing it in the freezer extends its shelf life to something on the order of 150 to 300 years.

In the interests of avoiding the monetary and other costs of discarding perfectly good drugs, it seems reasonable to me that manufacturers should extend their published shelf-lives to something more reasonable. Obviously, there’s an issue here: the only certain way to determine actual shelf lives is to wait and see. You can do accelerated aging tests at elevated temperatures, but those are not perfect substitutes for waiting one year per year at normal storage temperatures. You can also do tightly-controlled drug assays at reduced temperatures. For example, store numerous very accurately-weighed specimens at -30C and then assay a statistically-significant sample of those specimens every six months for five years. That should give a reasonably reliable trend line, although again it’s not a perfect substitute for wait-and-see.

But one way or another, we should do something about this problem. Many drugs are in short supply, some of them critically so. It’s sickening to think of how much of many of those drugs has been discarded due simply to an arbitrary use-by date on the labels. Nor am I happy about the amount of antibiotics that end up in our waste water and environment. If you want bacteria to develop resistance to an antibiotic, there’s no better way than to have that antibiotic present pervasively at low levels in the environment.

Now, obviously, there are exceptions. Some drugs can’t be frozen at all, and the slopes of the reaction rate line will differ from drug to drug. But for the vast majority of drugs, refrigerating or freezing them in storage is a good solution. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to use amoxicillin that had been frozen for 20 years or more. In fact, I’ve done it. I have a bunch of it as well as other antibiotics in the downstairs freezer. The expiration dates on most of them are in 2013, which means they’ll really expire in about 2113. But pharmacies don’t have to go to that extreme. They should install freezers for drug storage. The drug companies can continue to label their drugs with one-year expiration dates, but the regulations that govern pharmacies should explicitly permit them to store drugs frozen for at least five to ten times the nominal expiration data, unless the drug manufacturer explicitly lists a particular drug as not being suitable for freezing to extend its shelf life. And the drugs companies should have to show credible evidence that this is the case.


16:54 – Among other things, I’m making up a lot of stains for the biology kits. My vote for the stainiest of these is crystal violet. The kits include Hucker’s Crystal Violet, which is essentially a 1% (0.01) aqueous solution of crystal violet with 0.8% m/v of ammonium oxalate. That solution is nearly opaque in a one-liter soda bottle. I’d guess that it would impart a noticeable violet cast to water at a concentration of 0.0000001 or less. Fortunately, the stuff really is water soluble, and it pretty much washes off my skin with just soap and water. It’d probably even wash out of clothing.


19:14 – I was just walking Colin when I saw/heard something I don’t see/hear every day. A full-blown race car driving down our street. At first, I thought it was the replica I mentioned here. But it wasn’t. That one was bright yellow and mostly enclosed. The one I saw tonight was a much more open frame vehicle. I don’t pay much attention to car racing but it reminded me of an Indy car.

It certainly wasn’t the car I saw parked on our street a year or so ago. That one was a replica Can-Am car with a 2-liter 4-cylinder Honda engine. The one tonight had a serious engine. I heard it coming a block away, even though it was cruising very slowly. The headlights were bright, so I couldn’t see the car itself until it came flush with me. I thought it was a Corvette until it passed me slowly. The frame was pretty open, although there were headlights and taillights mounted. I couldn’t see if there was a license plate or not, but from the lights I assume it was street legal. The exhaust tone, even at near-idle was very deep and loud, and it wasn’t because the guy had a bad muffler.

Granted, we’re in the middle of NASCAR/Winston Cup territory, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a NASCAR racecar on a flatbed in the neighborhood. But I can’t figure out why I keep seeing different types of race cars on our street. I’m expecting to see a Stanley Steamer any day now. It did, after all, hold the speed record for steamers until a couple years ago.

32 thoughts on “Wednesday, 10 October 2012”

  1. It’s about time for something similar to happen here in the
    US

    Preach it, Brother!

  2. I think that just because non-profit organizations are exempt from income taxes doesn’t mean they should be exempt from other taxes like property taxes. I think we need to have a consistent policy though. Should we require all non-profit organizations to pay property taxes, or just the non charitable ones? If we are going to remove the property tax exemption of churches, we should do the same thing to secular charitable organizations.

  3. Yes. Churches and all other non-profits should pay the same taxes as anyone else. Nor should charitable contributions be tax-deductible, which is simply another subsidy. Nor should churches and charities get a pass on the Do Not Call regulations (pollsters and politicians should also be subject to that).

  4. What does Merkel say about the Greek Orthodox church? I read that the salaries of the clergy are paid by the state. German tax deutschmarks at work?

  5. Germans who are members of the Roman Catholic church pay a tax to support the church. It’s not optional, and amounts to something like $5 billion a year. The only way of getting out of paying the tax is to leave the church, which an increasing number of Germans are doing. The RC church retaliates by refusing sacraments to anyone who cannot prove that he is a paid-up member.

  6. That, incidentally, is an actual tax, collected by the government as a surcharge on income taxes.

  7. Hold onto yer hats; I agree. Tax one, then tax them all. And I’m a Roman Catholic who *hates* taxes. But fair is fair.

    I can, however, envision State functionaries and stooges engaging in predatory and punitive tactics to persecute the Church while favored organizations skate. They do it now with secular groups. And I can see where they will continue to allow the big cheaters to skate and come down with hammer and tongs and the wrath of God on small-timers like us when we screw up, make honest makes, or for that matter cheat, ourselves.

    If we’re gonna tax the churches and other nonprofits, then we need to do a massive overhaul of the current system.

  8. I’m trying to think of even one secular group that has been shown favoritism by a local taxing authority, while even non-church groups with religious connections (e.g., the Boy Scouts) are often shown favoritism. Crap, there are even examples of atheist groups that have been forbidden to hold public meetings in libraries and other government facilities.

    This issue is starting to get big around here, because our two biggest employers are NC Baptist Hospital and Forsyth Medical Center, both of which are tax-exempt. Both hospitals have boatloads of property throughout the county, and the rest of us are paying higher property taxes to make up for what they don’t pay. They even get preferential treatment on stuff like running special bus routes to and from their doors.

  9. I don’t have the stories at my fingertips right now, but the tax favoritism has come up often here in the Northeast; certain groups make out real well and others are slammed. Been going on for decades.

    Here in Vermont the Catholic diocese has had to sell off various nice properties to pay for the lawsuits that have been rolling in for a while now, usually allegations of this or that abuse by clergy now anciently retired or dead and events that may or may not have occurred half a century ago. We note that the lawyers seem to make out quite well with these, but that’s a whole other story.

    Your situation there in NC certainly does cry out for equitable solutions; it seems that the Baptist churches may be in roughly the same position with tax status and property ownership as the Catholic churches are up here.

    If it came to a vote, I’d vote to tax the churches and nonprofits but I’d first wanna see a drastic overhaul of the present system. And I’d fear certain parties taking the opportunity to really screw the churches and ordinary parishioners who’ve suffered enough from what somebody else did or did not do decades ago.

  10. Everybody is taxed in Germany for church–RC or Evangelical (Lutheran to us in the US). You can get exempted, but the assumption is that you belong to one or the other and are taxed accordingly. If you belong to a more obscure sect, giving directly and getting a receipt, you could be credited for what you gave. Lots of paperwork. Very messy. Really good deal for the churches.

  11. Dave, you can’t compare civil lawsuits with government taxation.

    I do have to admit that with the strong support for separation of church and state, I was kind of surprised that the RCC didn’t get a free pass on child-raping here in the US. Not just in terms of civil liability, but in terms of criminal liability for raping priests. Oh, wait. There haven’t been a lot of priests tossed into prison for child raping, have there? And I guess that they didn’t escape civil liability because it’s been established pretty conclusively in many different trials that the RCC hierarchy not just condoned but actively helped cover up the activities of these bastard priests.

  12. Jesus H. Christ.

    I knew Obama wasn’t very bright, but how stupid does he have to be to do this?

  13. Not stupid, evil. After all, The American People won’t want to change
    Presidents when we’re in the middle of a shooting war, will we?

    (Afghanistan and Iraq aren’t shooting wars, or any kind of war. They’re
    nation building efforts. And anyway they were begun under Bushhitler so
    they don’t count.)

  14. As for all the bastard clergy who committed child rape, I would have executed them and been done with it. And we need to acknowledge that they represent a tiny, tiny minority of the clergy alleged to be involved with sexual misconduct; the vast majority of it was more or less consensual between clergy and adolescent males, i.e. gay. But we can’t mention that because that would be homophobic and discriminatory so let’s just keep saying that ALL the clergy who committed sexual offenses committed them against little children. Sort of like the muslims alleging that Jews drink the blood of children; repeat it often enough and all the rubes and bumpkins fall in line and grab the torches and pitchforks.

    There were and are also clergy who live in illicit common-law marriage relationships with females and who have children, but this again is rarely mentioned. Easier just to scream that all the bastard RC priests were raping babies.

    For the tiny, tiny minority of clergy who abused children, I’d advocate capital sentences and kick the chair out from under them myself, along with the bishops who enabled them. Meanwhile the vast, vast majority of clergy do not commit these offenses, and there are hundreds of thousands of them, serving over a billion parishioners around the world.

    In other good nooz for some folks here, the Protestants are no longer the majority denomination in this country.

    SteveF has it right; Nosferatu II and the Heroine of Tripoli and their stooges are busy cooking up a nice hot war in the Sandbox this month so he can look all warrior-like and hardcore and once it gets going, what with Israeli strikes on Iran, Lord knows what in Lebanon and a burgeoning disaster on the Syrian-Turkish border, the dopey voters will tend to stick with the emperor already in place. Jordan is an intel and strategic ally and the current regime is friendly to us, but man, their top guys are playing a wicked dangerous game right now.

  15. Oh, come on, Dave. Many, many of the incidents were between priests and pre-pubescent children, of both sexes. And even those that occurred between priests and young teenagers, there’s the color-of-authority issue. It’s pretty hard to turn down someone you believe can send you to hell.

    Nor do I believe that it was a “tiny” minority. Probably a minority of priests actually had sex with children, although I don’t know that even that is true. But all or nearly all priests, bishops, and the rest knew full well what was going on. Not only did they do nothing to stop it, they actively covered it up. I have zero respect for any priest of the RCC. They knew children were being raped over the course of decades, and they allowed it to continue. They lied, both by omission and by commission. What kind of miserable excuses for human beings are these people?

  16. “Probably a minority of priests [any sort of clergy or secular “authorities”] actually had sex with children, although I don’t know that even that is true. But all or nearly all priests, bishops [ministers, rabbis, imams, teachers], and the rest knew full well what was going on. Not only did they do nothing to stop it, they actively covered it up. I have zero respect for any priest of the RCC [or ministers, rabbis, imams, teachers and other secular authorities]. They knew children were being raped over the course of decades, and they allowed it to continue. They lied, both by omission and by commission. What kind of miserable excuses for human beings are these people?

    Again, this went on in other denominations and in the publik skool systems but all the sturm und drang went onto the RC Church, which is the only organization paying off settlements, suits, and taking concrete steps to ensure that a tiny minority does not ever again stain the rest of us. A tiny minority, and the media went hog-wild with the stories and now everyone thinks that only RC clergy ever did any of this stuff. Anti-Catholic bigotry and hate is alive and well in the Anglo-American sphere.

    Here in Vermont maybe three or four teachers have been bagged over the years for this kind of thing; now is that just the tip of the iceberg? Did the vast majority if not all other teachers and administrators know it was going on and continue to overlook it or otherwise enable these guys? Does this mean that all Vermont teachers are pedophile rapists? After all, it can be difficult to resist an authority figure who can determine whether you move on in the system.

    Like I said, I’d whack the actual perps AND the higher-ups who let it happen; and it would probably take me all of an afternoon to finish the job, at most. The other hundreds of thousands are innocent both of the acts themselves or any knowledge thereof. Hell, some priests have been de facto married-with-children for decades with no one in the parish any the wiser. This whole thing was an aberration and it is being dealt with; anything made to seem much larger than it is was a total media creation and unfortunately too may folks swallowed it all, hook, line and sinker.

  17. It was not systemic in the other organizations you mention. Sure, there have been child rapists who were protestant ministers, jewish rabbis, and secular teachers, cops, and so on. It happens in every category. But again, so what? When a teacher or a cop is caught raping a child, that teacher or cop is reported to the authorities–by other teachers and cops. When an RCC priest is caught raping a child by another priest or other member of the RCC hierarchy, that priest is not reported to the police. That’s been the actual *policy* of the RCC. Point out one other organization with such a policy.

    The RCC is responsible for institutionalized child rape. Period. The RCC is a criminal organization, and should have been prosecuted under RICO.

  18. Even as a protestant, I would like to see the RCC drop the celibacy requirement for priests. There is no biblical basis for this requirement.

    I am on the fence whether or not churches should pay property taxes. Definitely non-profits should pay property taxes as there are all kinds of shenanigans going on out there for property tax avoidance.

    Churches and non-profits are already paying payroll taxes (medicare, social security, FUTA). Or at they are supposed to be. Many church preachers are considered to be self-employed though for some weird reason.

    Houston and Harris County are having a war of words right now about them paying property taxes to each other. And we are talking about a LOT of money since this included the Football stadium and other large properties. The new Houston property flood tax is being litigated over this very issue.

  19. I wonder who will fall on their sword for Sir Hillary’s embassy debacle. Her face hasn’t been in the news lately. I don’t think Rice will give it up. It needs to be somebody high up in State to make it viable. Some minion won’t be believable. This could eat Obummer’s lunch in the next debate. Loose cannons and such.

    Maybe this disgrace of sending sacrificial troops to Jordan is just a distraction until after the election. I wonder if they got a basic load when they deployed. Probably soft caps and a promise of lunch with Obummer.

  20. My son got an IRR (individual ready reserve) official call-up letter from the Marine Corps last weekend and I said, oh blank-blank. Turns out they are calling him in for a four hour end of IRR debriefing on the Saturday before the election. Although, his IRR commitment does not end until May 2013 so I am wondering why they are doing this so early.

    Most people do not know that when you sign up for the Marine Corps, it is for eight years minimum, 4 years active duty and 4 years inactive reserve.

  21. I had four years active Air Force and two years inactive reserve in the early 70s. Then active Army reserve for two years.

    Keep close tabs on what the Marines are doing in regard to this, Lynn, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell ya.

  22. Turns out they are calling him in for a four hour end of IRR debriefing on the Saturday before the election. Although, his IRR commitment does not end until May 2013 so I am wondering why they are doing this so early.

    Probably to get him off the books in some way. A coworker has a son that is an Army IED hunter in Afghanistan. He’s been told he won’t be able to reenlist at the end of his 4 years, as the Army is going to be downsizing.

  23. The RC requirement for celibacy is simply evil. There’s no requirement in scripture and everyone knows that it’s abused. Back in the Middle Ages some towns would demand that new priests bring a “housekeeper” so t hat he didn’t bother the local women. Just easier to let priests marry. Priests back then had many “nieces” and “nephews” but everyone knew the *real* relationship.

  24. Indy cars have open exposed wheels and no headlights, so if it had headlights, at least it was modified. Engines used in Indy cars are custom-built 3.5-liter, 650hp non-turbo-charged Ethanol-fueled V-8 Honda’s that are leased-only at a cost of about $1 million/year. What a car like that would be doing on the street is baffling.

    Those engines cannot idle well at all, so going slow is very, very difficult, and explains why one so often hears them being revved to an extreme, then the rpm’s let fall, then rev again before the engine dies. That will usually work on a standard car engine when things are out-of-kilter and it tends to die. Of course, revving any engine without a load is not good for the engine—especially sustained revs when the engine is cold, like I hear so many people doing who have a hard time starting their engine in cold weather, and think revving it high on the cold engine somehow blows it out. What it does is score the cylinder walls, as engines need to be at operating temperature before being revved high or having a heavy load put on them. I had a mechanic friend who so loved his motorcycle, that he put airplane cylinder head temperature gauges on it, and would sit on the bike idling it, until the cylinder head temperature reached normal, before he would drive the bike.

  25. Y’all are right: Americans don’t like to change presidents in the middle of a shooting war. I originally figures Obama would attack Iran over the summer, but maybe even he realized that being actively engaged in three countries at once is a little bit much. We’ll just have to wait and see if he cook something up in Jordan or elsewhere.

    The Catholic church has seriously screwed itself (ahem) with the kiddie stuff, and continues to do so. Just a couple of months ago, Swiss TV interviewed some local Bishop or other who flat out said that he figured kiddie sex was a minor little offense that should be handled internally by the church. He just didn’t understand the uproar, I mean, why should anyone be so upset? Now, maybe he is an individual idiot, but that the church hierarchy would allow him to present his views on national television? This shows that the message still hasn’t hit home, and the upper-level church officials are still defending, indeed supporting, child abuse.

  26. I think people who abuse young kids should get an appointment with a surgeon, at the very least. That might cure them.

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