Wednesday, September 10, 2003

What if responsible tax reform was proposed, and nobody voted for it?

Well, Bob Riley tried. He did his level best to reform tax policy in Alabama, cover the deficit, make life easier for middle and lower-class residents and improve education. But that apaprently didn't matter to the voters as his proposal was overwhelmingly defeated. With a flat income tax of only 3% with a tax-free amount of only $4,600 and a nominal property tax, the current tax structure overwhelmingly favors the large landowners and high income citizens. Riley proposed raising the income threshold to $20,000 over four years and increasing top income and property taxes rates. So it was no surprise that the wealthy elements came agaist it, since their predecessors created the current tax policy. What was incomprehensible was that the low-income voters also turned against it, even thought it benefited them. A pastor in Montgomery "I don't think raising taxes will help us be accountable. People are tired of paying taxes." Which is all well and good. I happen to agree with him. But he would've been paying less! I agree that taxes should be lower. But you have to have a fair system in place before you lower the rates, otherwise you just preserve the inequity in the system. So now Alabama will continue to have the worst education system in the nation and will have to cut government services well below dangerous levels. But at least the landowners and elite rich will have their low taxes.

If this doesn't work, we'll starting killing kids on buses...oh, we did that?

The Israel/Palestine situation continues to deteriorate (if that's possible) as Hamas has now sworn to target Israeli residences in "occupied Palestine." This means all of Israel. And why this new direction in policy? Because an Israeli F-16 dropped a bomb on the residence of the leader of Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar. And while he survived, his son and a bodyguard died while his wife and daughter were placed in intensive care. Now, since Israel announced over two weeks ago that they were targeting senior Hamas officials, you'd think that maybe Zahar would've sent his family away. But more importantly, this would never had happened if Hamas hadn't blown up that bus on August 19th, killing a score of children and wounding dozens. There will never be peace in the region until the Palestinian Authority stands up to Hamas and the others and removes their capacity to intitiate and execute terrorist bombings. The PA replies that they are afraid of "civil war." So it's better to keep this long-term attrition and blood-letting to continue? Sometimes battles have to be fought to acheive a better future. It's time for the PA to be a real government and remove the terrorist element from their midst.

Warrants? We don't need no stinking warrants!

Coverage of Ashcroft's assault on the Constitution continues in Slate's 4-part series on The Patriot Act. Today we learn about secret courts and secret searches. And no-knock warrants. All we need now is a patsy to burn down the Reichstag. The details of the Patriot Act just get more and more disturbing. Ashcroft and Co. are taking some legitimate tools used to combat foreign intelligence agents and twisting them into far-ranging police powers. Basically, all a government prosecutor has to say is "Terrorism!" and a secret court will give them a secret warrant which will allow a secret search that you don't have to be notified about until almost a year later. It should be no secret that this is a horrible idea and basically makes the Fourth Amendment worthless. We are basically allowing fear to trump our rights, and that cannot be allowed to happen.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Your new name is THX 1138

Just a quick note as I try to get back into the swing of things. Head on over to Slate to get the low-down on the brave new world of John Ashcroft. They are running a four-part series on The Patriot Act and its successor, the Victory Act. It's frightening, not for what it does, but for the groundwork it lays down. The government pulling library reading lists isn't that Orwellian in and of itself. But it diminishes, ever so slightly, the privacy and liberty we have come to expect as Americans. Thomas Jefferson famously said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." Some people use this as a justification of the Patriot Act. But what it really says to us is that we, the citizenry, must defend our rights and responsibilities at all times. We have been given a precious commodity: freedom. We enjoy some of the most far-reaching liberties the world has ever known. But we seem to have forgotten that those liberties must be watched and guarded over at all times. The public has become apathetic and, as a result, you have items like the Patriot Act passing Congress with little debate. The citizenry must become more active in politics once again, and I don't accept the excuse that Big Money makes it a pointless endeavor. The difference has been education. We have had a whole generation being educated without civics classes and with history books that highlight our national failures and discard our numerous achievements. With that kind of viewpoint, is it any wonder that fewer and fewer people vote, and that nascent dranconian laws are passed? But while we try to correct that educational failure, it's up to those of us now of voting age to stand up and defend what so many have died to protect. Vigilance is as much about preserving our rights as it is about defending our shores.

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