More on this and other subjects later today. Column delayed on ‘ account of . . . sleepiness.

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OK – I’m up. And technically, by posting this before midnight (even earlier, in Guam), it’s still ‘later today.’

THEY HAD TELEPHONES IN 1898?

I learn so much from writing this column. Turns out, the tax from the Spanish American War is a lot more specific than I realized when I answered Mike yesterday. Here is how the Libertarian Party explains it:

A hundred and seven years ago, in 1898, the federal government began levying a temporary 3 percent excise tax on telephones, ostensibly to fund the Spanish-American War.

Flash forward to 2005 – and every American with a telephone is still paying this “temporary” tax. The war was over after just a few months, but the tax has been in effect for over a century. On top of that, the tax does not go for any specific purpose. Rather, the funds are simply added to the general fund.

Congress attempted to repeal the tax in 2000. Both the House and the Senate passed legislation to eliminate the tax — it was a 420-2 vote in the House — but then-President Bill Clinton vetoed the bill when it reached his desk.

Once again, the House has been presented with a bill — H.R. 1898 — that would repeal the tax on telephone and other communications services. The bill was introduced in late April by Rep. Gary G. Miller of California, and has been cosponsored by 39 other congressmen. It currently sits in the House Committee on Ways and Means.

The outrage?

This tax should have been repealed more than a century ago . . .

If you’re tired of paying to support a war that ended 107 years ago, click here to join the Libertarian Party, which is working with other friends of the American taxpayer to eliminate this type of governmental lunacy.

☞ Click if you want to, but don’t you think this is silly? Why don’t we just rename it the ‘Iraq War’ tax? Or the ‘Katrina’ tax? Or the ‘We’re Running Half Trillion Dollar Deficits Each Year And It’s No Time To Cut Taxes’ tax? If we eliminate this tax, we’ll just have to cook up another tax . . . or fall that much further into debt.

And speaking of taxes . . .

THE ESTATE TAX

Jeremy Feilmeyer: ‘I thought Mike Wallin had a good point about double taxation. So, I went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered lunch. When it came there was an extra 51 cent tax on the bill. I explained to the clerk that I did not need to pay that, because I had already paid taxes when I got my paycheck. The clerk was quite insistent.’

Dennis Gallagher: ‘Much of the money subject to the estate tax was never taxed initially, since it was in the form of stock or real estate that continually grew in value and was never subjected to the capital gains tax since it was never sold.’

Paul Grade: ‘One of the best responses I’ve seen to the ‘Paris Hilton Relief Act’ is Michael Kinsley’s ‘Death-the Ultimate Free Lunch.’ It’s from 5 years ago, but still valid.’

☞ No one does it better than Kinsley – ever.

(Note that since he wrote that, the annual exemption per person per recipient has risen from $10,000 to $11,000. So a couple can give their 2 kids, 2 kids-in-law, and 4 grandkids $176,000 a year without even beginning to use the lifetime exemption – let alone pay any tax.)

And now back to the Spanish American War:

HAWAII

George Ehlers: ‘The U.S. received a lot of things from the Spanish-American war: Guam, Puerto Rico, and most of all the Philippines – but Hawaii wasn’t one of the prizes. The revolution which overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy (with U.S. military help) occurred in 1893. Formal annexation of Hawaii by the U.S. occurred in 1898, but was part of a process that began well before the Spanish-American War.’

☞ Hey, all I know about Hawaii is that you should try to get to Hanauma Bay before ten if you want good snorkeling. My history came from the timeline of the Library of Congress (see July 7 and July 8). But I clearly blew it. (Ah, but the snorkeling! Do not miss this.)

And speaking of timelines:

THE CATASTROPHE

Here is a timeline that shows Governor Blanco declaring a state of emergency the Friday before Monday’s storm . . . asking President Bush to declare a federal state of emergency the Saturday before the storm (‘I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives’) . . . and the White House issuing such a declaration, authorizing FEMA ‘to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures…” And it goes downhill from there.

SEE FOR YOURSELF

Brad: “Today, I ‘flew’ down to New Orleans on Google maps. They now have pictures of ‘before’ and ‘after,’ which lets you see right into the flooded areas. Toggle back and forth between ‘Satellite’ and ‘Katrina’ views to compare.”

IT WASN’T AN ELECTION YEAR

Don’t read this. It will just make you angry at me if you’re a Bush fan – and angry at Bush if you’re not.

CORRECTION

Craig Wiener: “It turns out that the report Laura Rozen linked you to Monday was based on an inaccurate translation. I’m no supporter of the president or the administration’s response to Katrina but I think it only fair to be accurate in any criticism.”

☞ Me, too. Thanks for the correction.

MARRIAGE

The California legislature passed a bill Tuesday giving gays and lesbians equal marriage rights. Arnold plans to veto it. “Any girlie man could veto this legislation,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. But it would take a governor with some cojones to sign it.

A spokesperson explained Schwarzenegger believes the bill thwarts the efforts of voters who five years ago passed Prop 22, defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. Prompting the LA Times to ask: “Does he not believe in the American system of representative democracy?” And the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to ask, “How the heck did he think this bill came to be in the first place? Lawmakers – elected ones – passed it.”

FINALLY, FOR YOUR SUNDAY READING . . .

Here is Bill Moyers, speaking at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he and his wife received the seminary’s highest award for their contributions to faith and reason in America:

At the Central Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas, where I was baptized in the faith, we believed in a free church in a free state. I still do.

My spiritual forbears did not take kindly to living under theocrats who embraced religious liberty for themselves but denied it to others. “Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils,” thundered the dissenter Roger Williams as he was banished from Massachusetts for denying Puritan authority over his conscience. . . .

Such revolutionary ideas made the new nation with its Constitution and Bill of Rights “a haven for the cause of conscience.” No longer could magistrates order citizens to support churches they did not attend and recite creeds that they did not believe. No longer would “the loathsome combination of church and state” – as Thomas Jefferson described it – be the settled order. Unlike the Old World that had been wracked with religious wars and persecution, the government of America would take no sides in the religious free-for-all that liberty would make possible and politics would make inevitable. The First Amendment neither inculcates religion nor inoculates against it. Americans could be loyal to the Constitution without being hostile to God, or they could pay no heed to God without fear of being mugged by an official God Squad. It has been a remarkable arrangement that guaranteed “soul freedom.”

It is at risk now . . .

I know. This is a lot for one weekend. You probably wish I had stayed asleep. Have a great weekend.

 

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