How NOT to Write a Tax Bill

TaxBill
From Senator Markey via Twitter

 

The recent tax bill passed by the US Senate is just under 500 pages long. Many of the changes are handwritten and not legible. The senators were given the draft a few hours before voting.

This is not the way to pass legislation that meets the needs of the people of the United States. This is the way to payoff campaign donors.

Tax Bill and Churches

National Cathedral
National Cathedral, Washington DC, (public domain)

 

In a nod to the religious right, the tax package repeals the Johnson Amendment that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations – including tax-exempt churches, trusts and charities – from endorsing or opposing political candidates. What’s Included in the GOP Tax Bill May Surprise You Nov. 30, 2017 by Katelyn Newman

What is the Johnson Amendment?

The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the U.S. tax code, since 1954, that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Section 501(c)(3) organizations are the most common type of nonprofit organization in the United States, ranging from charitable foundations to universities and churches. The amendment is named for then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, who introduced it in a preliminary draft of the law in July 1954. Wikipedia

Banana Republic

Banana_Peel
(cc) Max Ronnersjö

In the recent past many pundits thought that the United States was heading toward joining the ranks of banana republics. Today the writing is on the wall, we now have what has been missing, a tinhorn dictator.

Like other tinhorn dictators, Trump has no use for the essentials of democracy. He openly attacks a free press and has a house press of his own, Fox News, and soon, quite possibly, Time Inc., the acquisition of which has been partially financed by the Koch brothers. More, there are allegations that he may using the levers of government to punish his press opponents, using the Justice Department’s antitrust suit against the proposed AT&T purchase of Time Warner to try to force the divestment of CNN. “America the Banana Republic” November 29, 2017 by Neal Gabler.

The article, “America the Banana Republic”, provides a refresher course about the meaning of banana republic. It’s a good read.

Annie Proulx’s National Book Awards Speech Is Worth Reading

November 20, 2017 by

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

Author Annie Proulx was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 68th National Book Awards last week. Her acceptance speech can best be described as a hopeful lament; a literary salve for our fraught times. Proulx, 82, is the author of a number of books including Postcards, The Shipping News, Bird Cloud: A Memoir of Place and the short story “Brokeback Mountain,” which was made into the movie. As Proulx took the mic to accept the lifetime achievement award she noted that she had not even begun to write novels until the age of 58. Whether in the arts or in life, her message is: Get going — it may not be too late.

You can watch her speech (starting at about the 40-minute mark) or read the full transcript below.

TRANSCRIPT

Although this award is for lifetime achievement, I didn’t start writing until I was 58, so if you’ve been thinking about it and putting it off, well…

[applause]

Thank you.

I thank the National Book Award Foundation, the committees and the judges for this medal. I was surprised when I learned of it and I’m grateful and honored to receive it and to be here tonight, and I thank my editor Nan Graham, for it is her medal too.

[applause]

We don’t live in the best of all possible worlds. This is a Kafkaesque time. The television sparkles with images of despicable political louts and sexual harassment reports. We cannot look away from the pictures of furious elements, hurricanes and fires, from the repetitive crowd murders by gunmen burning with rage. We are made more anxious by flickering threats of nuclear war. We observe social media’s manipulation of a credulous population, a population dividing into bitter tribal cultures.

We are living through a massive shift from representative democracy to something called viral direct democracy, now cascading over us in a garbage-laden tsunami of raw data.

[applause]

Everything is situational, seesawing between gut-response “likes” or vicious confrontations. For some this is a heady time of brilliant technological innovation that is bringing us into an exciting new world. For others it is the opening of a savagely difficult book without a happy ending.

To me the most distressing circumstance of the new order is the accelerated destruction of the natural world and the dreadful belief that only the human species has the inalienable right to life and God-given permission to take anything it wants from nature, whether mountaintops, wetlands or oil.

[applause]

The ferocious business of stripping the earth of its flora and fauna, of drowning the land in pesticides again may have brought us to a place where no technology can save us. I personally have found an amelioration in becoming involved in citizen science projects. This is something everyone can do. Every state has marvelous projects of all kinds, from working with fish, with plants, with animals, with landscapes, with shore erosion, with water situations.

Yet somehow the old discredited values and longings persist. We still have tender feelings for such outmoded notions as truth, respect for others, personal honor, justice, equitable sharing. We still hope for a happy ending. We still believe that we can save ourselves and our damaged earth — an indescribably difficult task as we discover that the web of life is far more mysteriously complex than we thought and subtly entangled with factors we cannot even recognize. But we keep on trying, because there’s nothing else to do.

The happy ending still beckons, and it is in hope of grasping it that we go on. The poet Wisława Szymborska caught the writer’s dilemma of choosing between hard realities and the longing for the happy ending. She called it “Consolation.”

Darwin.
They say he read novels to relax,
But only certain kinds:
nothing that ended unhappily.
If he happened on something like that,
enraged, he flung the book into the fire.

True or not,
I’m ready to believe it.

Scanning in his mind so many times and places,
he’d had enough with dying species,
the triumphs of the strong over the weak,
the endless struggle to survive,
all doomed sooner or later.
He’d earned the right to happy endings,
at least in fiction
with its micro-scales.

Hence the indispensable
silver lining,
the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,
the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,
fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,
stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,
good names restored, greed daunted,
old maids married off to worthy parsons,
troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,
forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,
seducers scurrying to the altar,
orphans sheltered, widows comforted,
pride humbled, wounds healed,
prodigal sons summoned home,
cups of sorrow thrown into the ocean,
hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,
general merriment and celebration,
and the dog Fido,
gone astray in the first chapter,
turns up barking gladly
in the last.

Thank you.

What’s New in Fonts?

fonts

Today, the 109-year old company is freeing itself from the cold, modernist cliché and replacing Helvetica with a new corporate typeface called IBM Plex. A font update may seem like a small matter to outsiders, but the creation of IBM Plex—its first ever “bespoke” font—is a major milestone in IBM’s storied design legacy and will have ramifications throughout the company and its products. The typeface will be used in its software, websites, signage, PowerPoint presentations, business forms, and marketing initiatives. IBM Plex will be available in 110 languages, in serif and sans serif versions, and in eight weights. IBM has freed itself from the tyranny of Helvetica Yahoo! Finance, Nov. 10, 2017, by Anne Quito.

The IBM Plex font is available for free HERE. Often the capital R, S, and/or T can help distinguish one font from another. The last font example above is BF Tiny Hand. This font was created by Mark Davis at the request of BuzzFeed News (Tiny Hand Will Be Your New Comic Sans). The font is based on the handwriting of D. Trump (aka The Twit).

Disaster Fatigue

2017 fires
(cc) 2017 Dicklyon Aerial view of smoke from the 2017 fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties, California, viewed from near the south end of Lake Berryessa, nearest to the Atlas fire and looking toward the Nuns fire. Point Reyes is visible in the distance.

Fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, rolling back the Clean Air Act, Harvey, Irma, Maria, defunding the EPA, Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, California, climate change denial becomes policy, sexual harassment, World War III, floods, droughts: If you follow the news you have heard about all of these incidents. It gets to be overwhelming. In this country alone hundreds of thousands of people are being worn down by the constant barrage of bad news. This country has been through this to some extent before, for example during the Depression and during the late 1960s and the Viet Nam War. However, today people are plugged in and it takes effort to avoid the news. We don’t have to wait for the delivery of the morning newspaper. We can follow “the news” constantly online.

Grist has an article about “disaster fatigue/compassion fatigue/secondary trauma syndrome” (After the disaster comes disaster fatigue. Here’s how to fight it. October, 2017 by Ask Umbra).

Humans aren’t made to process an unlimited amount of trauma. In fact, we’re wired to protect ourselves against it. . . . seeing so much destruction and feeling incapable of doing anything leads to a kind of moral distress.

We all need to take a step back, breathe deeply, and take a break. Taking care of ourselves is a priority in times like these. Let’s make it a habit.