Conscience Laureate

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The United States has won more Nobel Prizes than any other country

Last Monday the Chicago Tribune posted an editorial agreeing with a nationwide trend for high schools to eliminate class rankings and the position of valedictorian.   I find this decision preposterous.

The editorial said, “The ranking system inherently promotes a culture of unnecessary competition in an environment that's already duly competitive and overly focused on test scores and grades.”

What makes this editorial so ludicrous is that it appeared the week after the closing ceremonies of the Olympics where all the articles were about competition and what athlete won what medal.  I don’t understand why, if competition is encouraged for those with strong physical muscles, it is not encouraged for those with active brain muscles?

Why are children pushed to be competitive in the sports arena and not with academics?  When that formerly athletic child is 40 years old with a flabby belly, won’t they wish they had exercised their brain and not their brawn?

I love standardized testing because it is a level playing field for everyone.  In fact, I love tests so much, I still buy books with sample SAT questions to see if my most important muscle, my brain, is still functioning smartly.

I hate that people know the name Michael Phelps and don’t know the name Saul Perlmutter.  Perlmutter is part of the team that won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2011. 

Why is Perlmutter’s win so important? What his winning Laureate team discovered was probably what will be the final destiny of the Universe—the world will end in ice.  According to a press release issued by the Nobel Committee announcing the win, “The team studied several dozen exploding stars, called supernovae, and discovered that the Universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating rate. The discovery came as a complete surprise even to the Laureates themselves.”

If the world ends in ice, there will be no water for Michael Phelps to swim in.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


This is the first time I have written three blogs in a row on the same subject, but new information keeps coming up that compels me to update.  I promise this is the last blog on this subject!

The first blog, “Call me An Unpatriotic Scrooge," dealt with whether Olympic athletes should be exempt from paying federal and state taxes on the cash they receive for winning a medal.  The amounts athletes are given are: Gold─$25,000, Silver─$15,000, Bronze─$10,000.

I then posted, “Call me An Unpatriotic Scrooge Part 2,” when my friend, Roger Koeppen, questioned how many total athletes we were talking about.   I then wrote, “The United States won a total of 104 medals; 49 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze. According to the official Team USA web site. out of the 255 athletes who participated in the London Olympic games, 27 won more than one medal and 13 won multiple gold medals. I studied the entire list of Olympic medal winners and found only 16 American medal winners because athletes like Michael Phelps won six medals and Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt won 5 medals. That is why we only have 16 medalists out of 255 athletes.”

That statement caused a comment by my friend Andy Schnack who questioned my math on the number of athletes who won medals.  Andy wrote,” Being the anal editor that I am, this post peeked my interest because I immediately thought of the basketball and women’s soccer teams. According to the Team USA site you linked to, ‘Four team sports also won gold medals at the Games, including men’s and women’s basketball, women’s soccer and women’s water polo.’  There were also bronze medals for men’s and women’s rowing as well as others. Doing a quick copy of the list of medalists and pasting it into Excel, you come up with a total number of medal winners to 208.”

So I was wrong on the number of athletes who won medals and I needed to correct that.  That led me to wonder if a team wins one Gold Medal does each athlete get $25,000 or is it split by the team members?  To get an answer I went straight to the public relations people at the U.S. Olympic Committee and asked the question.  I was astonished to receive an answer within five minutes.  One would think they had more important e-mails to deal with than mine!

Olympic spokesperson Mark Jones (e-mail address available upon request) wrote me that each team member receives the full cash prize.  I have his e-mail to prove it so no one can question my being correct.

The Olympic games have ended and so has this story.  Good night Gracie.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


After posting my blog about how I did not think that Olympic medal winners should not be exempted from paying the required federal and state taxes on their winnings, my friend Roger Koeppen of Amata Corp. posed some interesting questions. First how many Olympians are we talking about here, how many people are working on the legislation and how many journalists are writing about it?

Because I love math so much, I was intrigued by his questions and decided to investigate.

The United Sates won a total of 104 medals; 49 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze.  According to the official Team USA web site  out of the 255 athletes who participated in the London Olympic games, 27  won more than one medal and 13 won multiple gold medals.  I studied the entire list of Olympic medal winners and found only 16 American medal winners.  Because athletes like Michael Phelps won six  medals and Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt won 5 medals that is why we only have 16 medalists out of 255 athletes.

So all this brouhaha is only about 16 people in the whole country.  As I wrote in the earlier blog- this is special interest legislation!

I cannot find out the exact number of journalists writing about this topic, but if one puts the words, “tax on American Olympic medals” into Google they would find  234,000,000 hits.

The hundreds of politicians working on legislation is now  meaningless when compared to the number of people writing about the topic.

According to National Public Radio  there are  2,226,883 troops serving in the U.S. military  (including active duty National Guard. Air National Guard and reserves.)  According to the Washington Post   6,472 U.S. service members have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom since 2001.  Did their families get any kind of tax exemption because their loved one died in service for their country?  No.

Maybe I am not so unpatriotic being outraged that so much time and effort is being spent trying to help 16 athletes who ran or swam faster than someone else.  I know who my real heroes are.

Monday, August 13, 2012


I  have as much interest in sports as I do in the process to make head cheese. (FYI- head cheese is not a cheese but a terrine made with flesh from the head of a calf, pig or sheep that is set in aspic. The parts of the head that are sued vary, but the brain, eyes, and ears are usually removed. The tongue, and sometimes even the feet and heart, may be included.)  I know that head cheese exists, but I would rather not think about it. I know sports exist, but except for the importance of the exercise factor, I find competition boring and overrated.  Especially The Olympics.

A big deal is made about the sacrifices that Olympic athletes make to represent our country in the quad annual games.   I am more impressed when sacrifices are made by young people to get a good education because once an athletic hits their late 20’s their “career” is over.  Exercising the brain is what I respect.

I learned recently that American Olympic medal winners get an honorarium for winning.  The levels are: Gold─$25,000, Silver─$15,000, Bronze─$10,000. Both state and federal tax codes require that athletes add the honorariums to their regular income.  Since the winner of cash for a Nobel prize has to pay taxes, why shouldn’t Olympic athletes?

Recently, U.S. Representatives Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) and G. K. Butterfield (NC-1), who serve respectively as Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, introduced legislation exempting U.S. Olympic medalists from paying income taxes on these honorariums.

Bono Mack and Butterfield issued a joint statement that said, “Taxing the Olympic medals of U.S. athletes is like Scrooge putting a tax on Christmas presents. It’s just wrong. Our athletes work and sacrifice for years to reach the pinnacle of their sports and to proudly represent the United States of America in the Olympic Games. Only the U.S. tax code can turn the ‘thrill of victory’ into the agony of victory. We strongly urge our colleagues in Congress to join us in this effort to salute our U.S. Olympians. When they’re standing on the podium, they should be savoring the moment – not calculating their taxes. This is just one small way to say thank you to our Olympic medalists for their efforts and achievements.”

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2011 was divided, one half jointly to Bruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann "for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity" and the other half to Ralph M. Steinman "for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity".  I don’t know what that means, but I guarantee that is a lot more important to humanity as a whole than whatever American won a swimming gold medal.  These gentlemen had to pay taxes on their Nobel Prize, so athletes should pay taxes on their medals.

The Illinois Department of Revenue has said that they will follow the federal government’s lead on whether or not to tax Olympians.

Under legislation filed last week by Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross (HB 6208), Olympic medal winners who pay taxes in Illinois would be allowed to deduct any money they receive for winning a gold, silver or bronz. .Cross spokeswoman Sara Wocjicki Jimenez said, “The Olympians do the country a great service when they perform well and the world is able to see what our American athletes are capable of and in return we tax them for it.”

House Bill 6208-Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Illinois Income Tax Act. Creates a deduction in amount equal to any amount received by the taxpayer during the taxable year as an honorarium associated with competing in the Olympic or Paralympic Games. Effective immediately.

Talk about special interest legislation! When education costs become tax deductible, then maybe it won’t bother me as much that athletes are treated as heroes when they have done nothing more than swim or run faster than someone else.  They have discovered nothing new that will affect the world; athletes are basically meaningless to the continuation of life on the planet.