Saturday, July 4, 2020

Taxes Without a Taxpayer







                                   
        Sound ridiculous? A tax that no one has to pay? Well, don't laugh just yet. It's been proposed and is being seriously considered by people who should know better. 
        Apparently, the idea is that carbon taxes will be collected on everything made with carbon, which is pretty much everything, but everyone hates taxes and so these taxes will be refunded to taxpayers at the end of the year. In other words, we will have a carbon tax which will control climate change but it won't cost anything. 
        "Hi. I was interested in buying a car. Actually I had my eye on that red one over there but when I was in last month the price was only $15,000. I see that now you're asking $25,000. I don't think I can afford that. Looks like no new car for me."
        "Just a minute, sir. Not a problem. The extra $10,000 is the refundable carbon tax. You just have to lay out $15,000. We'll lend you the extra $10.000 with no interest. You get the money from the gov't at the end of the year and just give it to us. It's a loan guaranteed by the gov't so we're not worried and you get the car for what you wanted to pay in the first place. We do this for lots of our customers."
       "Okay, sounds good. I'll take it."
        Of course the refund is supposed to only go to the poorest taxpayers. The whole tax is paid by the rich who get back...nothing. Maybe keep in mind that the income tax was originally only supposed to apply to the top 2% of income earners. Hey, good news. You might be richer than you  thought.

        [Psst, want a good buy on a slightly used bridge or maybe a constitutional income tax amendment?]

Monday, September 16, 2019

"Well, But It Was Their Money"

        In 2015, President Obama and the other permanent members of the UN Security Council negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear agreement, which, in a "triumph of diplomacy", gave Iran approximately 150 billion dollars to spend as it wished.
        In return, Iran agreed to limitations on its nuclear facilities for 10 to 15 years after which time it would be free to conduct unrestricted nuclear research and development including manufacture of nuclear bombs.
         During the 15 years that the deal is in effect, Iran is still allowed to engage in missile research and development and continue terrorist activities as before. This is a nuclear  deal. It does not apply to non nuclear activities.
         The point has been raised that Iran is really just getting its own money back, that the funds in question consist of assets belonging to Iran but frozen in foreign banks as part of a program of economic sanctions to pressure Iran into giving up its nuclear ambitions.   
        Well, yes but suppose you had a neighbor who wanted to kill you and that he is always telling you that if he ever gets a gun, he is going to kill you. And suppose one day he gets a gun and suppose that somehow you get his gun. Maybe your wives are still friends and she brings it over to crack some walnuts and forgets to take it home. Or maybe his kid brings it over and leaves it in your back yard. Whatever. Anyway, do you give it back? It's his gun. He paid for it with his own money.
                                                                             ***
        "Oh, what lovely hors doevres. Death to the Jews! Kill all the Americans! I think I'll have one of those little ones with the avocado on top."

        In Iran, 'white noise' is planning for everyone you're going to kill. When that changes, we should think about giving them back their billions, and their guns and....their walnuts. Until then, maybe stick with, "No soup for you"...no matter who paid for what.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Stormy Weather



        Suppose the President of the United States was alleged to have slept with two ladies, neither being his wife, paid them for their silence and then lied about the whole thing, denying that it had ever taken place. Who's the bad guy (gal) here?
        Well, if you generally divide your day between watching CNN and MSNBC, the answer is obvious, i.e. ' President Trump, of course,' as it would be the answer to most any other question you might have, i.e.,  Who is responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs? Who caused the Ice Age? Who stole Captain Queeg's strawberries from the captain's locker on the USS Caine? etc.
        But even if the whole story is true, why is the President the fall guy here, the one who deserves to be condemned while the women have almost become folk heroes? After all, who went public with this whole story and caused Melania Trump such untold humiliation?
        Aren't women supposed to stick together and watch out for each other? Isn't that what all those women's marches and demonstrations right after Trump's election were supposed to be about? Well, what happened this time?
        Oh, right, they were just doing it for the good of the country, to save the Republic. This was just friendly fire, collateral damage. And that guy in the corner over there, 'Mr. Skin?' just call me 'Shark.' He's running for president in 2020 for the same reason. People are so good sometimes.   
       And let's not forget, there was another person involved here too, a smaller and somewhat younger person. You think he doesn't know what happened, thanks to these two folk heroes? And you think his friends, classmates and anyone who can recognize him isn't doing a number on his head? Kids, as anyone who has had or has ever encountered one will tell you, can be cruel, sometimes very cruel.
        But, oh well, if things don't work out, just to follow the advice or our millenial philosopher kings, "Not to worry."               
        Time to head for Central Park, light a few candles, do the wave, sing some songs about poverty and what have you and go get a graduate degree in bullying so you can go out and really, "Make a difference."

Saturday, August 25, 2018

To Keep and Bear...What?


 
 
        The Second Amendment says that the people shall have the right to keep and bear arms. It doesn't say that the people can only keep and bear arms if they're in a militia.
        Nevertheless, there are those who make exactly this claim, i.e. that because we no longer need to raise a militia, the right to keep and bear arms is really outdated and should be abolished. How come nobody ever makes this sort of argument about all our other freedoms? [Not yet, anyway.]
        Freedom of the Press is guaranteed by the First Amendment. Clearly the reason for this amendment was the Founders' belief that a free and open press would be the best way to assure the existence of a well informed citizenry. But since the media is now overwhelmingly the captive of one  point of view,
        "I'd punch that guy right in his nose." Yeah, Yeah. "You know I'd like to go right out and burn the White House right down to the ground." Yeah. Yeah. "Don't let them have a moment's peace in the restaurants, in the stores, in their homes, when they go to buy gas." Yeah, yeah. and since the opposing views have almost no chance of any meaningful exposure anyway, what's the point?
        Might as well let the press and the rest of the media give up once and for all the pretense of educating the masses and go back to spending all of their time doing what they do best, selling advertising.
        Freedom of Speech? If you can say it, it's probably been said already and, if it hasn't, who really wants to hear it anyway?
        Freedom of Religion? The opiate of the masses. So...so...so...deplorable?
              Remember when freedom was a good thing just because it was...freedom? A  person could build a whole country on an idea like that.

                                          " Wasn't that a time, wasn't that a time? ' 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Give Me a 'C'

         "C"
         "Give me an 'I'."
         "I"
         "Give me an 'A'.."
         "A"
         "Now, what have you got?"
         "Eh, well, I'm not exactly sure. Hmm, a C and an I and an A. Sounds familiar... Wait a minute! I think I remember. That sounds like the group that told Kennedy that if he got a bunch of guys together and landed in Cuba, Bay of Porcupines, I think they called it..."
         "Bay of Pigs."
         "Right, Bay of Pigs. Anyway they told him if he landed a small army there, the whole population of the country would rise up and they'd be rid of Castro once and for all.
         "And weren't those the same guys who were always telling us how we had to stop the Commies in Vietnam or next thing they'd be landing in San Francisco?"
         "Who knew they'd be coming from Beverly Hills and Bel Air and Malibu and...?"
         "Hey, you get bored making 40 million bucks for six month's work. Got to think of something to do with your time."
         "And then they figured out that Sadam Hussein was making all those WMD's so we better get busy destroying all those power plants and water treatment plants and hospitals and..."
         "Well, now wait a minute. That's not fair. Everybody in the world thought he was making those things and that we better get busy wiping them, and him, out."
        "Now you wait a minute, wait a minute.It's their job to figure out all the things the rest of the world thinks is going on. Otherwise, what do we need those guys for?"
         "By the way, who are we talking about here anyway?"
         "I'll give you a hint, 'Too many cooks spoil the broth.'"
         "The Culinary Institute of America?"

*Note: A second opinion is pretty much always a good idea, whether it's from your chef or your doctor or even your intelligence service. Getting one doesn't make you a 'traitor.' Not ever.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Is Torture Unconstitutional?

  
        The only mention the Constitution actually makes of behavior resembling torture is found in the 8th Amendment  which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment." That's it, cruel and unusual punishment. It's the only form of torture that the Constitution specifically prohibits.
        And 'punishment' has a specific meaning. It means retribution or penalty for some act that's already been committed,
        In other words, the Constitution prohibits torture when it's used as a form of punishment but, if you know where that bomb is hidden or where those kidnappers are hanging out, or we think you might know, trying to get some information from you is not 'punishment' and the Constitution is silent on what we can do to you.
        Severe pain, electric shocks, waterboarding, whatever. Think it's immoral or unethical to do that kind of stuff? Well, ok. Think what you like but the Constitution doesn't prohibit it no matter what you've been told. It's almost as though the Constitution was written by folks who were thinking about what they would do if their own kids were taken or there was evidence that a bomb was going to be planted in their behinds.

        And finally, while it is nevertheless true that virtually all international treaties continue to prohibit all forms of torture, it is also true that we can withdraw from these treaties a lot more easily than we can amend the Constitution. Maybe something to sit down...and think about some time..

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A pirogi for me. A pirogi for you.


        From time to time or, occasionally, at random, someone, or some group of someones decides that it's time to find out if the Europeans really like us and so they do a survey. Maybe the new American president is a rocker, and the Europeans usually like that. Or maybe he's a 'blondes have more fun kind of a guy' and the Europeans, don't, well, seem to like that, not so much.
        Anyway, after the survey is finished, a lot of people get very happy or maybe very not so happy about the results, but why? Why should any American care whether Europeans like us or not?
                                                            ***
        "Vladimir, the Latvians are releasing the reindeer. We have to cancel the missiles we were going to drop on New York or we'll all be gored to death."
                                                              ***
        Makes sense, right? According to the NATO charter it's one for all and all for one. America gets attacked by the Russians and we'll be saved by the Latvians, the Lithuanians, the Slovenians, the...No, it doesn't make any sense, no sense at all. The only country that can provide an existential threat to America is Russia, although it makes no sense to think they would want to do such a thing, and all the rest of Europe combined can not counter a threat like that.
        Europe is of no real military value to the United States whether they like us or not. The only thing they can do if we're ever attacked is sew on one of those snappy NATO arm patches, slip into one of those super cool  NATO caps, grab a few escargots and ....run.
        The only country that can provide real military security to the United States is...the United States. No country in Europe, or anywhere else for that matter, can even come close to countering the Russian nuclear forces.
        And it's the same thing with 'economic security.'
        Any company in any country that can make a buck by selling or buying something here will keep doing it, whether they like us or our president or not. And if they can't, they won't. And if you don't believe that, well, you should.
        So, next time you read that only 28% of Germans or Frenchmen or women, or residents of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick or wherever still respect America or its president maybe keep in mind that it may not be 'fake news' but it's definitely inconsequential news. Doesn't affect us at all. Have another pirogi and Fuggedaboutit.