Commentary from a practical perspective
page includes posts from the site's twelfth week, March 24-30, 2002 in the usual reverse
order. Each week's postings are perma-linked to these pages.
March 30, 2002
Thanks for stopping by!
There will be no essays posted here for a day or two. In the meantime, if you haven't visited in a while, or ever, click on over to the Table of Essays and browse around.
Poltergeist at the Beach
Residing year-round near a resort town such as Rehoboth Beach has its unique features.
Depending on the time of year, the rhythms of life follow two very separate paths.
In the off-season, the three-mile ride downtown to Rehoboth Avenue and the Boardwalk takes a little more than 5 minutes. Parking is always available on the beach block. There are no impediments to taking a nice quiet walk along the boards, with only the sound of the surf or the occasional squawk of a seagull to interrupt a pleasant conversation. Its a Christmas Day tradition for us, in fact.
Shopping for the weeks groceries or a pair of pants at the Rehoboth Outlets can be done anytime. The clerks come to know the other locals, simply because they see you and few others in December or February, or because your kids are on the same Little League team.
Beach life in August, on the other hand, is a whole different story. The best time to buy the weeks groceries is after dinner on Tuesdays, when the clerks have had a chance to catch their breath and restock from the weekend hordes. A rainy day will flood the outlet stores with customers, searching for bargains and an escape from cramped cottages. Plan on at least a 30-minute ride to reach the city limits, and parking spaces are at a premium.
Eastertime now gives us an early sign of the upcoming summer shift in our way of life.
My younger daughter and I drove into town early this afternoon to buy Easter candy at Ibachs. The usual route to reach Rehoboth Avenue was clogged with cars, so we took one of the locally known alternatives. We eventually found a parking spot three streets over from the main street. A small, intimate crowd of about 2-3,000 was milling about on the Boardwalk and the first block of Rehoboth Avenue.
The experience prompted a memory of the time my wife went grocery shopping one early May weekend. Two gentlemen were in line in front of her at the cash register, complaining about the quality of the radicchio or some other produce.
As they left, the cashier looked at my wife and the clerk standing at the next register and simply said, "Theyre he-ere."
All of the locals understood.
Click here for this weeks golf column, if youre interested.
The hostages must turn over their captors, or suffer the consequences
I write this piece with some hesitancy, because I make no claims to expertise in military or foreign affairs.
I feel the need to write this anyway.
I join millions of others in denouncing the Passover massacre of innocents. Apparently the Hamas group is claiming responsibility for this latest act of war.
The continued and celebrated use of suicidal Palestinians to murder Israelis sickens me. The decades-long demonization and subhumanization of Israelis by the Palestinian Authority and its terrorist elements such as Hamas created a deeply perverse mindset among the general population of Palestinians.
I support the continued existence of the state of Israel. I also support the creation of a separate Palestinian state, if it were possible, but only if the creation of that state did not lead inevitably to the dissolution of Israel.
Arafat, Hamas, and the other Palestinian terror leaders, to my way of thinking, used their own people as hostages to their evil schemes for the elimination of the Jewish state. Their efforts seem to have produced a kind of Stockholm syndrome among far too many of their fellow Palestinians.
The current Palestinian leadership shows no sign of ever accepting the reality of Israeli existence. They chose a path that led to suicide bombings by those they entrapped into their own evil ways.
In essence, the Palestinian leadership are laying siege to Israel, and catapulting human bombs inside the Israeli castle.
There is no dealing with those who do not accept your right to exist. There can always be dealing with those who accept your right to exist.
Sometimes the only option to change a bodys way of thinking is to replace the leaders of that body. Sometimes the only way to replace those leaders is to create conditions where their followers understand they need to change those in charge. Sometimes this means that others must impose cruel choices on those followers in order to make them understand and accept the necessity for urgent action.
Its time to force the Palestinian hostages to turn over their captors and end the siege of Israel, or face the consequences.
It also appears that traditional military responses alone will not be sufficient to alter the mindset of the Palestinians, as long as their current leadership is still in place. Hamas and others hide among their own people, who dont yet understand or accept that they can no longer tolerate their leaders continued existence.
I believe the following options may be necessary for the Israelis:
This blockade or siege requires actions beyond the normal military maneuvers.
If ones every efforts are aimed at finding food and water, perhaps there will be less time to gird ones mind toward being used by ones leaders as a human bomb.
If the Israelis provide constant reminders of what needs to be done to restore access to water, food, and emergency treatment, perhaps some of the hostages will finally turn on their captors and end the madness.
If Palestinian hostages die during the Israeli siege before the eventual removal of their terrorist captors from the West Bank and Gaza, that is certainly regrettable, but it is a choice the hostages themselves would be making.
If Palestinians conclude that suicide while under siege is their only option, then at least their deaths will not also include the murder of innocent others who cannot otherwise eliminate the terrorist threat to their own existence.
New sin tax suggestions
An Associated Press story describes the potential for expanding the states' revenue derived from "sin taxes":
Naturally, some of those directly affected by the proposed increases are not so keen on the idea:
The concept of finding new vices to tax is admittedly intriguing.
Nonetheless, the fact is that there are no new sins.
There are only variations on the original seven deadly varieties: Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, and, bringing up the rear as always, Sloth.
While the tobacco and alcohol industries have always been handy sources for tax money, it must be said that there are vast untapped resources for additional revenue based on traditional human weaknesses.
Here are some suggestions:
I know Ill have to pay additional taxes if some of these ideas are enacted into law.
Im ready to do my part.
March 26, 2002
Several American bloggers I read just about every day express a wide range of religious opinions.
Among the best features of all this commentary is the fact that these writers have thus far refrained from the kinds of flamethrowing to which religious discussions are often at risk.
Some have come close. For example, I read a quote in Suliks blog as challenging Catholic doctrine about Purgatory by declaring the Protestant view on what constitutes the correct compilation of the books of the Bible.
I dont wish to denigrate the fact that many serious people with deeply held religious principles sincerely believe there is a single path to God.
Im also fully aware that others take that approach with less than perfect motives.
On the other hand, lets not forget that all Americans, of whatever religious persuasion, if any, are now at serious risk from those who simply dont care one whit about the nagging eschatological differences among us.
They want us all dead, and our mangy little dogs, too.
Personally, I thank God we can discuss our religious differences. I support our governments efforts to make sure we will carry on these religious dialogues in the future, by eliminating these risks with extreme prejudice.
Digging deep for dollars--or not
A Washington Post article discussed the effect of the repeal of the federal estate tax on state tax revenues.
Its not a happy story, at least from one perspective.
One primary reason for the drop in revenue is that the inheritance/estate tax laws of most states piggyback, as it were, onto the federal law.
The WaPo reporter, Craig Timberg, described the basic features of this tax and its local effects:
In a relatively rare case of the proper application of descriptive terms, the story included this comment:
The Delaware inheritance/estate tax experience is apparently typical. The First States tax scheme is coupled to the Federal estate tax. Its most recent economic forecasts show a steep drop in projected revenues.
Delaware collected $41.2 million in FY01, but the finance folks estimate a drop in FY02 down to $25 million, down 39.3%. The FY03 estimate is for $23.9 million, a drop of 4.4%, while the FY04 estimate is set at only $15.7 million, a 34.3 percent reduction.
The official explanation simply states, "Federal Tax Cut Legislation Reduces Out-Year Revenues."
According to Timberg, many states are taking different approaches to the issue, including "de-coupling" from the federal law or otherwise trying to hold onto the death tax revenue stream as long as possible.
Those who worked to repeal the federal death tax look to be gearing up for a similar fight in the statehouses.
Ansell has a valid point. Perhaps the federal experience will force the states to revisit some long-held assumptions about tax incidence and tax policy. Maybe, just maybe, the drop in revenue will also cause some to question whether restoring death taxes to their formerly prominent place in their states total tax scheme is in fact appropriate.
If the death tax issue receives a very public airing in many states, a growing number of citizens may even challenge the notion that extremism in the defense of progressivity in tax legislation is no vice.
Ill enjoy watching that debate.
Note: Dave Tepper posted another view on this issue. I don't necessarily agree with his proposed solution, but he does present a cogent commentary explaining some of the problems this tax creates.
An unfortunate choice of phrasing
A Washington Times story today concerning the Catholic Churchs abuse scandals quoted the Reverend Richard John Neuhaus of the Institute on Religion and Public Life:
This comment was followed by an unfortunate choice of colloquial expression:
My wife and I love movies. We have the T-shirts from all of the Rehoboth Independent Film Festivals to prove it.
Here are my Oscar® picks among the nominated movies I saw this past year:
Official small print disclaimer: This is, after all, a personal web site. Any opinions or comments I express here are my own, and don't necessarily reflect the official position of my work as a government attorney or any of my clients.
That fact may become obvious later on, but it needs to be said here anyway.
© Frederick H. Schranck 2002