Time to open up my Big Vat of Miscellany:
- Catholics approve of torture somewhat more than Protestants and Evangelicals, while “secular” people are more likely to think it’s never justified. Sometimes I think they like those crosses a little too much.
- Howell Jackson takes a look at The Structure of Federal Spending and determines that a lot of what gets spent, and a lot of what the government has committed to spend, never seems to get reflected in the budget. So not only is federal spending soaring, but a lot of it is hidden or deferred, so that, as the USA Today put it last week: “Taxpayers owe more than a half-million dollars per household for financial promises made by government.”
- A few more details about the long distance telephone excise tax refunds that’ll be coming up next year: “Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he plans to act as soon as possible to move legislation eliminating the [local telephone service] remainder of the tax.… The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the government expected to collect $52 billion over a decade from telephone excise taxes, including charges on local and long-distance calling. ¶ Individuals can use one of two methods next year for calculating a refund. Those who have records of the taxes they’ve paid can add them up and request their money back. ¶ Those who did not retain their records can use a simplified method under development by the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service, which will be announced later. ¶ The IRS will also develop a special form to deliver the refund to individuals who do not have to file a tax return.”
- Susan Pace Hamill, a law professor at the University of Alabama, has spent a lot of time trying to persuade people that Jesus (yes, the Jesus) had a strong opinion about tax policy that just happens to coincide for the most part with the sentiments of liberal Democrats. Seriously. Check this out:
I… provide a complete theological framework that can be applied to any tax policy structure.… I prove that tax policy structures meeting the moral principles of Judeo-Christian ethics must raise adequate revenues that not only cover the needs of the minimum state but also ensure that all citizens have a reasonable opportunity to reach their potential. Among other things, reasonable opportunity requires adequate education, healthcare, job training and housing.… I also establish that flat and consumption tax regimes which shift a large part of the burden to the middle classes are immoral. Consequently, Judeo-Christian based tax policy requires the tax burden to be allocated under a moderately progressive regime. I discuss the difficulties of defining that precisely and also conclude that confiscatory tax policy approaching a socialistic framework are also immoral.
- Inspired perhaps by the mighty guffaw that Hamill’s scholarship gave me, I decided to take another look at what Jesus actually said about tax policy. I wasn’t able to find the verse where he says “give unto Cæsar what Cæsar needs to provide job training and housing to those of his subjects in Judaea who need an opportunity to reach their potential” but I’m no biblical scholar.
- In in Bolivia, a Jehovah’s Witness named Alfredo Díaz Bustos was drafted into the military and attempted to avoid military service as a conscientious objector. The authorities, recognizing no conscientious objector exemption, granted him an exemption certificate that classified him as unqualified for service, but demanded a special “military tax required of persons declared exempt from military service.” He asked to be released from this requirement for the same reasons of conscience that did not allow him to serve the military directly. This was denied. Bustos then appealed to international law, in this case the American Convention on Human Rights. Incredibly, it worked! The government of Bolivia backed down and released Bustos from any obligation either to serve in the military or to pay the exemption tax. Furthermore, the government agreed to formally recognize the right to conscientious objection to military service.
- Brigitte Schön asks us to step back in time and imagine a world in which the internet was the opiate of the activists: “Instead of hundreds of thousands of East Germans chanting ‘We are the people!’ every single day for weeks against the leaders of their People’s Republic (hence the chant), they launch a massive e-mail-campaign demanding freedom and liberties hitherto not granted in East Germany from their Politburo. Your best bet: Would the Berlin Wall have come down as a result?”
- With that in mind, I noted a handful of confrontational real-world protests that seem to be reaching for new tactics and new targets, and which seem worth keeping an eye on:
- Students, Activists Bike to Bechtel International Headquarters, Shut Down Building for 45 Minutes
- Peace protesters win battle against arms firm
- Many, including McGovern and Sheehan, now holding Rumsfeld’s house under siege
- Report from Silent Vigil protest at the home of John Negroponte
- Blocking Military Ports (in Olympia, Washington)
- And finally, a historical note about one of the first tax rebellions in the United States: Libertarians, Socialists, and the Whiskey Rebellion.