Thursday, April 19, 2018

It: Movie Review

Okay, so I finally saw it.

I know it should not have taken me, a big fan of Stephen King, quite as long as it did to finally see this movie, especially when there was so much buzz about it back in late summer or early autumn, when it came out in the movies. In my defense, my girlfriend never has any interest in watching horror movies, and I figured my son is still a bit young for that kind of thing, and those are the two main people that I spend most time with and do the most with.

That meant that I had to wait for it had to come out on DVD, and I waited until it became available at my local library in Hillsborough. Finally, just by chance, I saw it there for the first time yesterday, and decided to go ahead and borrow it for a few days.

Five hours after that, I had finally watched it, after taking a walk and eating dinner. My girlfriend, however, absolutely refused, asked me several times to lower the sound, and actually closed the bedroom door and watched her rom-com, while I watched my horror flick.

Typical Friday night, eh?

So, what are my thoughts? Well, first of all, it makes me want to read the book again, because I could have sworn that a lot of scenes in the movie were not in the book, or were very different. Some things, though, they got a little bit more accurately than the first movie, such as when Henry carves the first letter of his name onto Ben's belly. Also, the deadlights, which were an intriguing scene, and they got that more right than the original movie, as well. Finally, "They all float" is explained a lot better in this movie than in the original.

By and large, though, this was just a darker, far more sinister version of the original movie, which probably got a little too comical at times with the clown. This clown is far more sinister and, yes, far scarier, and that's what you want in a horror movie, right?

But It is more than just Pennywise the Clown. It only appears as a clown at times, when it suits it's needs. In fact, it takes different forms, and we see a bit of that in the movie.

This movie stays truer to the book, I feel, than the original movie, in terms of scares, if not outright literally. There were certain scenes, like seeing It doing evil and going after the viewer/reader of books on Derry's town history.

All in all, a decent movie, and a fun one for fans of horror and/or Stephen King. Admittedly, it was not as scary as I thought ti might be, although then again, I am in my forties now. Certainly, I was not about to let my son watch this, which might speak well of it's credentials as a horror flick.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Things Americans Should Avoid When Traveling

Many years ago, I had a coworker who kind of fascinated me. He was considerably older than me, yet he was different than most guys his age. For one, he was an artist. A professional artist, and he had interests that, generally, tended to be the domain of younger guys, such as concerts for all sorts of alternative acts and such. In short, it seemed like he was an interesting guy, and generally speaking, I enjoyed working with him.

However, there was one time when I was almost shocked by how close-minded he was, and how he was hearing what he wanted to hear, and not what was actually being said.

He knew that I had dual nationality, and that my other nationality was French, so maybe that had something to do with it. After all, this came just as French bashing was beginning to be extremely fashionable, right around 2002. 

Somehow, we got on the topic of how Americans are perceived in the rest of the world, and I said something that I thought was pretty straightforward, and would not be so controversial with a man who, again, seemed more open-minded than most.

Boy, was I wrong!

What I said was this: at least nine times out of ten, when you go overseas and hear some very loud tourists, you can bet that those tourists are American. 

What he heard was that nine out of ten Americans, if not more, are loud and obnoxious every time that they go overseas. 

While both statements can be seen as extremely judgmental, the fact of the matter is that it has been my experience that this is true. Americans famously take enormous pride in their nationality, and I know of no other nationality that basically claims superiority over all others. Think about it: we Americans believe in "American exceptionalism" politically. We feel that this is God's country, we chant "USA Number One!" at some public events. Many times, we hear the exact same expression done in a more refined way, something to the tune of this being the greatest country in the world. Our politicians, and many others who separate form the world of politics, often will say, "God Bless America," and no matter who is sitting in the Oval Office, or what party they are from, almost every major speech ends with "God Bless America." Our kids pledge their allegiance to the flag of the United States before every school day. 

And let's face it, there is no other country that goes quite as far as Americans tend to do to pat themselves on the back regarding their own exceptionalism and greatness.

In short, we stand out by believing so much in how we stand out. Lately, of course, we seem to loudly stand out for all of the wrong reasons, but that is a conversation for another day. To some degree, that was kind of the case back then, and would be so even more over the months and years to come, as the momentum for an invasion of Iraq and our precious "regime change" for a sovereign nation came to cause tremendous friction with much of the rest of the world. Remember, the vast majority of the world was opposed to any war with Iraq, and barely a year after September 11th, when the rest of the world sympathized with Americans, we became the most reviled and least trusted nation in the world, as our president assured us that he knew Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD's) that, in fact, were not discovered anywhere, yet which were relentlessly used as justification for urgent action. We all know what happened next.

Indeed, much of the rest of the world stood vehemently opposed to the invasion of Iraq. This was especially true of the Middle East, although that was neither surprising, nor of any serious consequence to most Americans. Most of them would just shrug at this, and either say that of course they would be opposed to it, or maybe might outright liken Muslims in general to terrorism. That seemed to be the flavor of the day.

Other countries, including some hugely influential nations, stood opposed. That included both China and Russia. But again, most Americans hardly recognized this as a big deal, because traditionally, these were rival nations, as well. So again, of course they are going to stand opposed. 

But the nations that irked Americans the most were the western European nations who opposed any American invasion of Iraq. I remember many voicing extreme displeasure at the haughtiness and arrogance of these wanna be sophisticated Europeans, sitting in their cafes and denouncing all Americans. 

However, one nation bothered Americans more than all others with their staunch opposition, and received tremendous amounts of public hatred as a result.

Of course, I am talking about France. Americans acted in outrage that "the French" were surely acting out again, showing how much they despised Americans. All that France had done was oppose the Bush administration's desire to invade Iraq, which the overwhelming majority of the rest of the world was also opposed to. Yet somehow, since it was France, Americans took it personally in a way that they did not quite do with anyone else. French fries and French toast, as well as other things, were renamed, with "French" being censored with - irony of all ironies - the word "freedom." French win was poured down into the gutters, and there was a de facto boycott of all French good. Late night comedians - even those who were critical of the Bush administration's proposed invasion - had long lists of nasty jokes and criticism directed towards France and the French.

So, for that guy, I became the Frenchie guy who was complaining about Americans, and who was stereotyping all Americans.

I repeated what I said, and asked him to listen closer, because it was not what he thought I had said. He heard that 90 percent of Americans are obnoxious when they go overseas, as opposed to what I had actually said, which is that when you hear loud and/or obnoxious tourists in foreign countries, there is a 90 percent (or greater) chance that they will wind up being Americans.

It went on like that, back and forth, with him growing ever more outraged each time he heard what he thought he heard, until at some point, I stopped him for the umteenth time and told him that this was not at all what I was saying. Not sure why he snapped out of it then, specifically, but at some point, he finally did hear what I was saying, and then calmed down instantly. He conceded that, indeed, it was entirely possible that nine times out of ten, if you hear loud tourists in other countries, it would wind up being Americans, and he then said that he felt that he himself had shown that side of being an "ugly American" during that conversation, hearing what he wanted to hear, and not what was actually being said.

The thing is, right now, Americans are not at their most popular around the world. Only a decade and a half has passed since that ridiculous invasion of Iraq, and the vehement hatred towards certain people (Muslims and French in particular) that Americans showed towards people then opposed to their actions. Now, it is possibly even worse, because let's face it: many around the world cannot understand how Americans would elect a complete jackass into the Oval Office to represent them for at least four years. Trump represents the ugliest side of Americans, and for them to elect him into their highest office (millions quite enthusiastically) does not generally sit well with most people around the world. And the one country where they seem somewhat happy about it, the Russians, are now also being targeted by another group of Americans opposed to Trump. These Americans seem almost intent on restarting another Cold War, albeit one without the strong ideological differences of the first one. I do not know the extent to which Russia - or rather Russians, because there is a difference - interfered with the last American election. However, I do not embrace this all too quick tendency to jump on the worst stereotypes and essentially hate another nation or nationality. Russians are not the bad guy, although they are perennially seen and portrayed as such in American media. That was the case decades ago, and it seems to be coming back in fashion these days, as well, unfortunately.

Much of this is not being ignored around the world. Everything that happens here in the United States seems to happen more loudly then when similar things like this happen in other countries. You might here a news story or two, or read a headline or two, when another eccentric billionaire - say, Silvio Berlusconi - rises to power in another country. But the headlines coming from America bombard the rest of the world. The news stories are relentless, and many people have grown tired of hearing about it all.

That is why it would probably be wise for Americans, specifically, to try and learn some ways not to stand out quite as much when they travel overseas. Because even though some Americans truly seem to travel with a chip on their shoulders, believing that if they are there and spending their hard-earned money, that the people there had better bend over backwards to accommodate them. Many times, that translates to a desire for these people in other countries to learn English, and to kiss the boots of all Americans, tourists or not, simply because they are Americans.

However, the world is not waiting for Americans to bless their lands with their presence, and to throw roses before sacred American feet, anymore than Americans are willing to do that when foreign tourists come to the United States and spend their hard-earned money here.

So, if you are an American, and have plans to travel somewhere, here is a link to some of the big don'ts that you probably should make every point of avoiding, lest you contribute in some small way to the tensions and the general ugliness that exists presently between Americans and many people around the world. 

Accidentally Rude Things Americans Do When Traveling You're not in Kansas anymore...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Brief History of Taxes

It's that day again. Yes, even though the deadline for filing taxes traditionally comes on April 15th, it has been pushed back because this date has fallen on weekends and holidays over the past couple of years or so. So it was this year, as well, as it fell on April 17th, which happens to be today.

I posted this particular entry a couple of years ago, back in 2013.

However, given the significance of this day as the deadline to file taxes (in the United States), it seemed particularly appropriate to publish it once again.

Here, in brief, is a history of taxes, originally published two years ago here:


So, today is the day. The infamous tax deadline. April 15th. A day that most people seem to dread.

If you are an American, and have not filed your taxes by now, then what the hell are you reading this for? Go file your taxes online, go to the post office and after completing the forms and send it off, or pay a visit to your local accountant. if you have to wait for any of these things because they are overcrowded, then you hopefully will learn from this, and make sure to do them earlier next year!

Not that I am one to talk, necessarily. I just finished filing my taxes this past Friday, the 12th of April. That hardly left any wiggle room. But this was done because, well, I owe money. Quite a bit of money, as it turns out. So, why hurry to file taxes when it's going to be like that? What's the incentive? If there was some kind of discount that I knew about, or some kind of reward, then okay. Why not? But when there is not, then let them wait. So long as it gets done on time, then so be it.

I think next year, I will do much more work on my taxes earlier, get it to the point (hopefully) of almost completing it, and then file it within that final week before the deadline.

The thing is, some years ago, when I used to get money back (sometimes fairly substantial amounts, too!), I would try to get it done early. But when you owe, somehow the motivation to do it early seems to wither away, and taxes become merely a pain in one's ass. Not that they are fun to do ever, even when you are owed money. But when you are getting money back, it becomes a job, almost like anything else. You plow through it, do what you need to do, and get it done, so you can get paid, right?

But when you owe? Fuggeddabouddit!

Still, I wanted to use this day for something that could be more positive (at least I hope). I was listening to Little Steven's Underground Garage earlier, and he shared a brief history of taxes throughout history. And just like that, a lightbulb went off in my head - ding!

I thought to myself, "Now, why don't I do a history of taxes on the blog?"

So, here it is. A lot of information on taxes, although most of it is directly from the source, with little to no narration from my end. The links are attached to each, to show the source from which I got these. Many of these are interesting, and they are all informative. Enjoy!

These first three (all in green) are histories of taxation around the world, from three different sources. The links to the webpages where they can be found are in blue.


During the various reins of the Egyptian Pharaohs tax collectors were known as scribes. During one period the scribes imposed a tax on cooking oil. To insure that citizens were not avoiding the cooking oil tax scribes would audit households to insure that appropriate amounts of cooking oil were consumed and that citizens were not using leavings generated by other cooking processes as a substitute for the taxed oil.
In times of war the Athenians imposed a tax referred to as eisphora. No one was exempt from the tax which was used to pay for special wartime expenditures. The Greeks are one of the few societies that were able to rescind the tax once the emergency was over. When additional resources were gained by the war effort the resources were used to refund the tax.
Athenians imposed a monthly poll tax on foreigners, people who did not have both an Athenian Mother and Father, of one drachma for men and a half drachma for women. The tax was referred to as metoikion
The earliest taxes in Rome were customs duties on imports and exports called portoria.1
Caesar Augustus was consider by many to be the most brilliant tax strategist of the Roman Empire. During his reign as "First Citizen" the publicani were virtually eliminated as tax collectors for the central government. During this period cities were given the responsibility for collecting taxes. Caesar Augustus instituted an inheritance tax to provide retirement funds for the military. The tax was 5 percent on all inheritances except gifts to children and spouses. The English and Dutch referred to the inheritance tax of Augustus in developing their own inheritance taxes.
During the time of Julius Caesar a 1 percent sales tax was imposed. During the time of Caesar Augustus the sales tax was 4 percent for slaves and 1 percent for everything else.1
Saint Matthew was a publican (tax collector) from Capernaum during Caesar Augustus reign. He was not of the old publicani but hired by the local government to collect taxes.
In 60 A.D. Boadicea, queen of East Anglia led a revolt that can be attributed to corrupt tax collectors in the British Isles. Her revolt allegedly killed all Roman soldiers within 100 miles; seized London; and it is said that over 80,000 people were killed during the revolt. The Queen was able to raise an army of 230,000. The revolt was crushed by Emperor Nero and resulted in the appointment of new administrators for the British Isles.1
The first tax assessed in England was during occupation by the Roman Empire.

Lady Godiva
Lady Godiva was an Anglo-Saxon woman who lived in England during the 11th century. According to legend, Lady Godiva's husband Leofric, Earl of Mercia, promised to reduce the high taxes he levied on the residents of Coventry when she agreed to ride naked through the streets of the town.

When Rome fell, the Saxon kings imposed taxes, referred to as Danegeld, on land and property. The kings also imposed substantial customs duties.
The 100 years War (the conflict between England and France) began in 1337 and ended in 1453. One of the key factors that renewed fighting in 1369 was the rebellion of the nobles of Aquitaine over the oppressive tax policies of Edward, The Black Prince.
Taxes during 14th century were very progressive; The 1377 Poll tax noted that the tax on the Duke of Lancaster was 520 times the tax on the common peasant.
Under the earliest taxing schemes an income tax was imposed on the wealthy, office holders, and the clergy. A tax on movable property was imposed on merchants. The poor paid little or no taxes.
Charles I was ultimately charged with treason and beheaded. However, his problems with Parliament came about because of a disagreement in 1629 about the rights of taxation afforded the King and the rights of taxation afforded the Parliament.
The King's Writ stated that individuals should be taxed according to status and means. Hence the idea of a progressive tax on those with the ability to pay was developed very early.
Other prominent taxes imposed during this period were taxes on land and various excise taxes. To pay for the army commanded by Oliver Cromwell, Parliament, in 1643, imposed excise taxes on essential commodities (grain, meat, etc.). The taxes imposed by Parliament extracted even more funds than taxes imposed by Charles I, especially from the poor. The excise tax was very regressive, increasing the tax on the poor so much that the Smithfield riots occurred in 1647. The riots occurred because the new taxes lowered rural laborers ability to buy wheat to the point where a family of four would starve. In addition to the excise tax, the common lands used for hunting by the peasant class were enclosed and peasant hunting was banned (hooray for Robin Hood).
A precursor to the modern income tax we know today was invented by the British in 1800 to finance their engagement in the war with Napoleon. The tax was repealed in 1816 and opponents of the tax, who thought it should only be used to finance wars, wanted all records of the tax destroyed along with its repeal. Records were publicly burned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer but copies were retained in the basement of the tax court.4

Colonists were paying taxes under the Molasses Act which was modified in 1764 to include import duties on foreign molasses, sugar, wine and other commodities. The new act was known as the Sugar Act.Because the Sugar Act did not raise substantial revenue amounts, the Stamp Act was added in 1765. The Stamp Act imposed a direct tax on all newspapers printed in the colonies and most commercial and legal documents.

In 1794 Settlers west of the Alleghenies, in opposition to Alexander Hamilton's excise tax of 1791, started what is now known as the "Whiskey Rebellion" The excise tax was considered discriminatory and the settlers rioted against the tax collectors . President Washington eventually sent troops to quell the riots. Although two settlers were eventually convicted of treason, the President granted each a pardon.
In 1798 Congress enacted the Federal Property Tax to pay for the expansion of the Army and Navy in the event of possible war with France. In the same year, John Fries began what is referred to as the "Fries Rebellion," in opposition to the new tax. No one was injured or killed in the insurrection and Fries was arrested for treason but eventually pardoned by President Adams in 1800. Surprisingly, Fries was the leader of a militia unit called out to suppress the "Whiskey Rebellion."2
The first income tax suggested in the United States was during the War of 1812. The tax was based on the British Tax Act of 1798 and applied progressive rates to income. The rates were .08% on income above £60 and 10 percent on income above £200. The tax was developed in 1814 but was never imposed because the treaty of Ghent was signed in 1815 ending hostilities and the need for additional revenue.
The Tax Act of 1861 proposed that "there shall be levied, collected, and paid, upon annual income of every person residing in the U.S. whether derived from any kind of property, or from any professional trade, employment, or vocation carried on in the United States or elsewhere, or from any source whatever.
The 1861 Tax Act was passed but never put in force. Rates under the Act were 3% on income above $800 and 5% on income of individuals living outside the U.S.
The Tax Act of 1862 was passed and signed by President Lincoln July 1 1862. The rates were 3% on income above $600 and 5% on income above $10,000. The rent or rental value of your home could be deducted from income in determining the tax liability. The Commissioner of Revenue stated "The people of this country have accepted it with cheerfulness, to meet a temporary exigency, and it has excited no serious complaint in its administration." This acceptance was primarily due to the need for revenue to finance the Civil War.
Although the people cheerfully accepted the tax, compliance was not high. Figures released after the Civil War indicated that 276,661 people actually filed tax returns in 1870 (the year of the highest returns filed) when the country's population was approximately 38 million.
The Tax Act of 1864 was passed to raise additional revenue to support the Civil War.
Senator Garret Davis, in discussing the guiding principle of taxation, stated "a recognition of the idea that taxes shall be paid according to the abilities of a person to pay."
Taxes rates for the Tax Act of 1864 were 5% for income between $600 and $5000; 7.5% for income between $5001 and $10,000; 10% on income above $10,000. The deduction for rent or rental value was limited to $200. A deduction for repairs was allowed.
With the end of the Civil War the public's accepted cheerfulness with regard to taxation waned. The Tax Act of 1864 was modified after the war. The rates were changed to a flat 5 percent with the exemption amount raised to $1,000. Several attempts to make the tax permanent were tried but by 1869 " no businessman could pass the day without suffering from those burdens" The Times. From 1870 to 1872 the rate was a flat 2.5 percent and the exemption amount was raised to $2,000.
The tax was repealed in 1872 and in its place was installed significant tariff restrictions that served as the major revenue source for the United States until 1913. In 1913 the 16th Amendment was passed, which allowed Congress authority to tax the citizenry on income from whatever source derived.
It should be noted that the Tax Act of 1864 was challenged several times. The Supreme Court unanimously supported the tax. After the war the tax was declared unconstitutional by the same court because it represented direct taxation on the citizenry which was not allowed under the constitution.
During the 1930's federal individual income taxes were never more than 1.4 percent of GNP. Corporate taxes were never more than 1.6 percent of GNP. In 1990 those same taxes as a percent of GNP were 8.77 and 1.99 respectively.3
Social Security Tax Changes
Here is some interesting information about the changes in the FICA taxes since 1937. Thanks to Harold Eyer for pointing out this site.

This site is sponsored by the Tax Analysts group. The selections include "The Price of Civilization" which provides pictures and documents of tax policy during significant years of our history and "Presidential Tax Returns". A recommended site.

New Internationalist Magazine

A short history of TAXATION

Published on October 1, 2008

Beards, boots, beehives, candles, nuts, hats, horses, chimneys, water – Tsar Peter taxed them all. But he is still styled ‘The Great’ in modern histories of Russia, perhaps because of the mighty works his taxes produced. This is the eternal fate of taxation: to be the abused or abusive means towards noble or ignoble ends, never quite able to escape its association with extortion and war.

In the beginning

The word ‘tax’ first appeared in the English language only in the 14th century. It derives from the Latin taxare which means ‘to assess’. Before that, English used the related word ‘task’, derived from Old French. For a while, ‘task’ and ‘tax’ were both in common use, the first requiring labour, the second money. ‘Tax’ then developed its meaning to imply something wearisome or challenging. So words like ‘duty’ were used to suggest a more appealing purpose. Political spin has just as long a history as taxation, and neither has been detained unduly by the meaning of words.

The written record

China has one of the longest of all written records, and we know that taxes were levied here some 3,000 years ago as the Empire was being established. Powers (usually military) that were able to impose taxes created the first bureaucracies to collect and administer them. Under the Egyptian Pharaohs ‘scribes’ were charged with raising funds in any way practicable, including a tax on household cooking oil. Regular audits were conducted to ensure that oil was not recycled – perhaps the first historical record of ‘avoidance’. The ‘Book of Genesis’ in The Bible suggests that a fifth of all crops should be given to the Pharaoh. The city states of Ancient Greece imposed eishpora to pay for wars, which were numerous; but once a war was over any surplus had to be refunded. Athens imposed a monthly poll tax on foreigners. Imperial Rome used tribute extracted from colonized peoples to multiply the bounty of empire. Julius Caesar imposed a one-per-cent sales tax; Augustus instituted an inheritance tax to provide retirement funds for the military. However, human bondage remained the most lucrative form of tribute for both Greece and Rome.

The price of faith

With the decline of Rome in Europe, ‘spiritual’ and ‘temporal’ powers were not always easy to distinguish. Religious institutions rivalled – and sometimes surpassed – political ones in their material power. To secure this, they imposed forms of taxation. For Christians it was a ‘tithe’, or a tenth of what the faithful produced, usually paid to the Church in kind. Tithe barns for the receipt and storage of such payments were lesser in size only to churches in villages and towns. The expansion of Islam was accompanied by the ‘Islamic Tax’, the khums, or ‘one twentieth’ – more modest by half than the tithe. There are direct references to it in the Qu’ran, which requires its use for specified purposes, such as the relief of the poor. In India, Islamic rulers imposed a tax called jizya in the 11th century. In Latin America the Aztec, Olmec, Maya and Inca cultures all seem to have raised forms of taxation, usually in association with ritual observance. Both Hindus and Buddhists sustained their temples and monasteries with contributions of time, skill and resources from the faithful.


Land was the basic commodity of feudal Europe and service (military or labour) its currency. Aspiring monarchs had little access to revenues in cash, though ‘scutage’ was sometimes accepted in lieu of military service. Then the Vikings, sailing from Scandinavia, started demanding protection money. In 845 they extorted six tons of silver in return for not sacking Paris; in 994 a similar amount from London. Though the Viking threat subsided, ‘Dangeld’ (restyled ‘carucage’ in England) was still collected by rulers. After the invasion of England in 1066 by the Normans (themselves descended from Vikings), William the Conqueror commissioned the Doomsday Book, a land survey to assess his new kingdom’s tax potential.

Imperial measures

More modern systems of taxation followed the expansion of imperial Europe, together with towns and cities, where tribute in kind was less useful – cash was the currency here. The monarchies of Spain and Portugal, however, still transposed feudal structures, and an obsession with gold – which was portable – to their occupation of Latin America. Others followed the example of the city states of Italy, particularly Venice, which had grown rich on trade with the East; taxes on trade were relatively easy to raise. France, the Netherlands and Britain in particular began to establish commercial outposts, and then military control, across Africa and Asia. Traditions of tribute through human bondage revived, however, with the triangular slave trade between Africa, Europe and the Americas. In Britain, a disagreement on the rights of taxation between Parliament and King Charles I in 1629 led to civil war.

Nation states

Resentment of tax fuelled the French Revolution between 1789 and 1799. Thereafter, Napoleon centralized the tax system and employed private collectors who could keep a proportion of their takings. Revolt against taxation – levied from imperial Britain – also fuelled the formation of the United States, though an independent Congress soon enacted the Federal Property Tax in 1798. By now, no aspiring nation, in Europe or elsewhere, could dispense with the machinery of a state or the taxes to pay for it. At the same time, the principle of ‘no taxation without representation’ was becoming more firmly established – though representation was still largely limited to the wealthy.

Promises, promises

As the power of monarchies declined and of industrial capitalism increased, a new settlement was required. This was pioneered in Britain. Income tax was first imposed on personal wealth in Britain in 1798, to pay for the wars with Napoleon. It was billed as a ‘temporary’ measure, renewable annually by Parliament – and has remained so ever since (it still expires on 5 April every year). A year after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 it was repealed. In the general election of 1841 Sir Robert Peel opposed income tax, but once elected he reimposed it, reducing customs duties at the same time. Tax ‘commissioners’ (who came from the landed gentry) were transformed into the Board of Inland Revenue in 1849 to produce an efficient bureaucracy. In the general election of 1871, both Gladstone and Disraeli opposed income tax. Disraeli won, but the tax stayed. In 1908, Lloyd George as Chancellor introduced non-contributory old-age pensions, and – in the ‘People’s Budget’ of 1909 – plans for a super-tax on the rich. The rejection of this by the House of Lords led to the 1911 Parliament Act which removed the Lords’ power of veto. As taxation increased, so the right to vote and the principle of democratic consent were extended, culminating in universal adult suffrage.

Taxes to beat the Axis

At the start of World War One in 1914, the standard rate of income tax in Britian was 6 per cent; by the end of the war in 1918 it was 30 per cent. An Excess Profits Tax was levied on companies benefiting from war production. The total tax ‘take’ was 17 times higher than it had been in 1905. This continued after the war, when government was expected to provide homes and public services in ‘a land fit for heroes’. Government borrowing soared. In the US, the ‘New Deal’ in response to mass unemployment during the Great Depression of the 1930s relied heavily on the Federal Government’s ability to borrow against future tax revenues. It was only after Pearl Harbor, and the US entry into World War Two, that the Revenue Act of 1942 subjected millions of new taxpayers to income tax and gave rise to a whole new taxpaying culture. The Federal Government launched an all-out campaign to market the changes, including Disney animated shorts featuring Donald Duck touting the importance of ‘taxes to beat the Axis!’ Asked in February 1944 whether they considered the amount of income tax they paid to be ‘fair’, 90 per cent answered ‘yes’.

Cold war

Great expectations also followed World War Two. Worldwide liberation movements made ‘nation building’ (and the state machinery to go with it) an urgent priority for newly independent states in Africa and Asia. However, the Cold War between the ‘West’ and the Soviet Union ensured that vast military machines continued to operate at public expense, and ‘defence’ loomed large in the finances of the new states right from the outset. Meanwhile, demand for public services gave rise to such things as the National Health Service in Britain and new forms of taxation to pay for them. Scandinavia led the way as the proportion of national wealth devoted to public expenditure and services rose towards a half. The use of taxation to redistribute wealth and even out the inequalities of capitalism in the West became an ideological weapon in the Cold War.

Global consensus

As the Cold War came to an end, triumphant free-market orthodoxy demanded ‘small’ government, privatization and cuts in taxes on the wealth of private individuals and corporations. Corporate globalization was, in any event, making it more difficult for nation states to exercise control (or collect taxes), rather than compete with each other to offer the most favourable rates. In Russia, the tax rap became a nationalist tool against oligarchs and foreign businesses. Everywhere, the ‘neoliberal’ process has continued, but its outcome is increasingly uncertain. Public expenditure as a proportion of national wealth has not fallen in rich countries. Private or corporate wealth still relies on governments to provide (or, more often, finance) a vast range of services – including ‘bail-outs’ when free-market orthodoxy turns out to be flawed, as in the recent ‘credit crunch’. Military expenditures have still not been reduced significantly. In poor countries, revenues for desperately needed public services remain minimal. A ‘global consensus’ agrees, as the saying goes, that ‘only the little people pay tax’.

The World History of Taxation

by Roni Deutch

Egyptian Taxes
The first known taxation system was in ancient Egypt. The Pharaoh would collect taxes twice a year from the Egyptians. One of the most commonly taxed items in the ancient world was cooking oil, which was actually taxed throughout Egyptian history because of shortages. Egyptian taxes eventually became so widely known that they were even mentioned in the bible, "when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh."
Athens, Greece
To the Athenians in Greece, war was a lifestyle, and a pricey one at that. As such, Athenians taxed their citizens for war costs with a tax they called "eisphora." The most historic factor of this tax was that it exempted no one, which many consider the first democratic taxation system, as after the wars the money was often refunded to the people. There is also some documentation of a tax put on foreigners (or any individual without an Athenian mother and father), called "metoikion."
Salt Tax in India
Salt has been taxed in India for centuries. However, in 1835 the British East India Company raised the import taxes drastically after they began to impose rule over Indian provinces. The salt tax was raised and lowered by multiple leaders and events, and was not repealed until 1946.
Rome and Caesar
Taxes called "portoria" were first levied in Rome on imports and exports to the city. Caesar Augustus, who is now considered a genius tax strategist of his time, gave individual cities the job of collecting taxes. He also raised sales taxes on slaves from 1% to 4%, and created a tax to raise retirement funds for soldiers of the army.
Great Britain
The occupation of the Roman Empire may have sparked the flame for first taxes in England. During the 11th century Lady Godiva's husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, said he would lower taxes were she to ride through the streets naked on a horse. Lady Godiva made the now famous ride and lowered taxes for her people.
The French Revolution
Before the French Revolution, civil unrest laid heavily on the shoulders of high taxes for lower classes. While clergymen and nobles were exempt to taxes, peasants and regular wage earning workers were not. The tax gap also left lower class citizens unable to pay court fees, making justice unaffordable except by those wealthy enough to afford it. While the true cause of the French Revolution is still being debated today, many Historians feel these high and unfair taxes were a large contributing factor to the civil unrest.
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Article Source:

Here's another interesting site that gives some strange and unusual facts about taxes throughout history, and judging by the website, it appears to be an actual, official tax website:

Another site on the history of taxation that seems fairly extensive and interesting is from none other than the Encyclopedia Brittanica. You can find it at this site:

American Tax History

Here is an interesting site that seems to be at least parts of an actual book (online), essentially, titled "A World History of Tax Rebellions", by David F. Burg. I will admit to perusing it, and not really exploring it more in depth. It is long and, frankly, a history of tax rebellions might sound interesting, but for the purposes of this one blog, on this one day, was a bit too extensive for me to actually explore further. Still, if you are interested, here is the link (and it's free, evidently!):

Far Too Many Americans Are Shocking Ignorant of the Holocaust

These numbers are truly shameful!

Recent polls suggested that far too many Americans are ignorant about a very important chapter in history.

Indeed, according to these polls, fully 41 percent of Americans were not aware of what Auschwitz was, and a similar number could not name a single death camp. 

Worse than that, perhaps - 31 percent of Americans believed that fewer than two million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. 

The numbers revealing this astonishing ignorance are more than a little alarming. 37 percent of Americans were not aware that Poland was a country where the Holocaust took place. Some 22 percent of American millennials, and  11 percent of all Americans overall, had either not heard of, or otherwise were not sure of what the Holocaust was. More than half of Americans polled believed that Hitler had come to power using force, and were not aware that he was, in fact, democratically elected. 

These rather alarming numbers evidenced by a recent poll come at a time when hate crimes have spiked upwards, as has a resurgence of generally xenophobic sentiments. President Trump has repeatedly targeted minority groups, entrenching a certain hatred of immigrants, of Muslims, and of blacks and other minorities. He had repeatedly tried to set a ban on Muslims from entering the country, and even desired setting up a registry of Muslims within the United States, although that idea did not hold up to the standards of the Constitution. Many people feel that Trump and his supporters have been far more divisive than unifying, and the wave of hatred that the Trump era has unleashed has been a frightening force for many people.

Many comparisons between Trump and Hitler have been made, and certainly for now, I personally do not think that such comparisons are warranted. We must remember that Hitler and the Nazis are rightly seen as the low bar standard for human behavior in a modern society. Never before had humanity seen anything like the organized, bureaucratic brutality and systematic killing of millions of people because of their religion, or their nationality, or their political beliefs, or their sexual orientation. So far, Nazi Germany remains the only nation in history to have built huge camps with the specific intent of killing mass numbers of them, of trying to literally exterminate a whole race of people out of existence. Never before had horrible people been given such free rein to make the lives of people completely miserable. I remember seeing horrendous images of a scientist bending and torturing a child, and most of us have heard horror stories of some of the other experiments that supposed scientists conducted in these camps. Also, let us remember that Hitler invaded and brutally occupied several nations. He built a war machine, and unleashed it upon the world, starting a war that would kill tens of millions of people.

So while I think that Trump is generally a horrendous person and a dangerous man to have at the helm, Hitler he is not.

However, the collective amnesia and, let's face it, general disinterest and indifference of far too many Americans towards all that is going on in the world, and the knowledge of what has happened in the past, is alarming when there is an increase in hatred and outright violence right here within the United States. No, Trump is not Hitler. Yet, his rise came simultaneously as a wave of violent xenophobic reactions, sentiments, and actions began to take hold within the country, and indeed, many people have connected the dots and feel that this was specifically caused by Trump and his hateful, manipulative, scapegoating rhetoric. Nazis were marching on American streets last year, white nationalists feel more emboldened than they have in many decades, and many are noticing that there is a disturbing trend of resegregation within the United States.

In short, at a time when we should be paying more attention, far too many Americans are showing the same old same old indifference and seeming immunity. These numbers concerning the Holocaust bear this out, and they are more than a little troubling.

After World War II, there was a sentiment that rang out. Many people - particularly those who survived the Holocaust, kept urging people to "Never again." They insisted that the crimes perpetrated on them by the Nazis should never again be allowed to happen again. To that end, they kept reiterating how important it was to learn our lessons from the past, and to never forget.

However, Holocausts of sorts have happened since. Maybe they do not have official titles like the Holocaust, but unspeakable horrors have been inflicted on massive numbers of people in the Soviet Union during the days of Stalin in the 1940's and early 1950's, following the end of World War II, and the "Great Leap Forward" and disastrous changes that Mao brought to China in the 1960's that killed potentially tens of millions. Additionally, there have been horrific incidents on an epic scale in Nigeria in the 1960's, and on Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970's, on Rwandans in the 1990's, in Karfur in the 2000's, and on Syrians and in Yemen in the present day. There have been episodes of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia shortly after the fall of communism there. 

So, it has happened again. Maybe not with the same bureaucratic precision and indifference seen in Germany in the 1940's, but that can happen again, too. When people forget the lessons of history, it makes it all the more plausible that something like that could indeed happen once again. And with the wave of anger and hatred, including hate crimes, that we have seen in the United States since the rise of Trump, we might want to pay a bit closer attention, lest we see an escalation in that kind of hatred and violence that could make such horrific chapters possible in the future, as well. 

These are the links to the following articles which I used in writing this particular blog entry:

Why we’re forgetting the Holocaust by Karol Markowicz April 15, 2018:

Survey: Holocaust Is Fading From American Memory 3:52 Download Transcript April 15, 20184:50 PM ET Heard on All Things Considered

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, a reminder that we're forgetting the world's worst genocide Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY Published 3:16 p.m. ET April 12, 2018

Some Americans haven't heard of the Holocaust; how do Australians compare?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Washington, D.C. Celebrates Emancipation Day

The tax deadline for 2018 was April 17th, not April 15th. In part, this was because the 15th fell over a weekend, but also, because it is a holiday today specific to Washington, D.C..

According to the DC Emancipation Day website, what is honored on this day is:

The DC Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 ended slavery in Washington, DC, freed 3,100 individuals, reimbursed those who had legally owned them and offered the newly freed women and men money to emigrate. It is this legislation, and the courage and struggle of those who fought to make it a reality, that we commemorate every April 16, DC Emancipation Day.

It was on this day in 1862 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Act, effectively legally ending slavery in the United States, and this is what Washington, D.C. is honoring today.

Plus, it is an extra day extension regarding the tax deadline.

Trump Will Not Seek to Shut Down Legalized Marijuana Programs in Individual States

The news has been pretty consist since Donald Trump was inaugurated. Yes, it has been a steady stream of bad news, often bad enough to make many people cringe.

Well, here is a rare bit of good news.

President Trump has agreed not to get involved in states that have legalized the recreational sales of marijuana. Some officials in the Trump administration, most notably Attorney General Jeff Sessions, threatened to pursue action to crack down on this growing trend. 

However, making a deal with Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado. Gardner had been refusing to vote for any of President Trump's judicial nominees until the President promised not to get involved in Colorado's legal marijuana program. They finally hammered out a deal last week, and so marijuana sales will continue, and not be threatened, even through the Trump presidency, apparently.

This was a small bit of good news, an island of hope in that turbulent sea of despair which is known as the Trump White House years. Let's rejoice for a small victory, at least. People suffering medical conditions can rejoice, as can environmentalists, and likely scientists who wish to explore just what cannabis can do!

Trump agrees to leave state-legal marijuana programs alone Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY Published 3:20 p.m. ET April 13, 2018:

NFL Releases the Schedule for the 2018 Preseason

The NFL released the scheduled games for the upcoming preseason this summer. These games include, but are not restricted to, a nationally televised rematch of Super Bowl LII between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, to be played in Foxboro. 

The preseason will kick off with the traditional Hall of Fame game between the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens. Some of the other nationally televised games will feature the Jets visiting Washington, and Cincinnati at Buffalo.

Should be interesting. Let's see what happens!

NFL releases 65-game 2018 preseason schedule by Around The NFL staff, Published: April 11, 2018: