Tax-Deductible Invasions

by Walter Brasch

 

          Millions of Americans gave George W. Bush unquestioned support when he diverted personnel and resources from the war against al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden to invade Iraq.

           Several million fewer opposed the invasion, stating that the primary mission was to destroy the enemy hiding in Afghanistan that destroyed a part of America and not to expand the war. At first, President Bush claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, capable of destroying Israel and, if placed aboard cargo vessels, could be launched at the east coast of the U.S. When that explanation fizzled, Bush said the invasion was to remove a dictator. Soon, “Regime Change” was the buzz phrase of the month.

           Flash forward eight years. Different president. Different country. Same kind of dictatorship. This time, the conservatives have loudly cried that Barack Obama should not have launched missiles at Libya. And many liberals, while protesting expansion of war, were now facing other liberals who supported President Obama’s mini-war of helping oppressed people. The Iraq war has now cost American taxpayers more than $ 780 billion. The two-week (so far) war against Libya has now cost almost $750 million, most of it for Tomahawk missiles.

           What’s a president to do? The president’s party spends millions of dollars on polls, none of which are reliable. The president is then forced to put his finger into the wind to see what the voters want—and then does what he wants to do anyway.

          Whatever he does will be met by hostility on one side and near-blind support on the other. However, there is a solution. Tax checkoff.

          No, that’s not like a distant cousin of the Russian short story writer. It’s a way for the President and the taxpayers to get the biggest bang for their buck.

           Let’s say that a president decides he wants to invade some hostile foreign country—Canada, for example. Instead of going into the War Room with his military leadership and plotting how best to meet the strategic, tactical, and political goals of an invasion, he stops for two weeks.

           During the first week, all Americans would be sent an email, asking them if they support the invasion of the country that sends Arctic Clippers to the U.S. during Spring. At the end of that week, voting stops. Now, let’s say that 40 percent of Americans think invading Canada is important and the prudent thing to do, but 43 percent oppose it. (The other 17 percent would still be trying to find out why their computers crashed.)

           Normally, the president would say that most Americans don’t want to invade Canada and might listen to them. But, the 40 percent are vigorous in their beliefs. No problem.

           On the next paycheck will be a question. “Do you support committing American troops to invade Canada, and stopping Arctic Clippers?” Those who answer “yes” will then be assessed a proportion for the costs of that invasion, putting their wallets and purses where their mouths are. If 60 million Americans want war, and the cost is a mere $300 million a week, then each supporter would have about $5 per week deducted from his or her paycheck. It’d hardly be noticeable. Of course, there might be a $5 surcharge for the cost of burying the dead, treating the wounded, and long-term physical and mental rehabilitation. But, hey, even at $10 a week, war is rather cheap. And, most important, all of it is tax-deductible.

           Those who don’t support the war wouldn’t have the money deducted. They could decide to support another war later, or pay a “fair share” for more vigorous environmental regulation and enforcement, or even a few dollars a month to allow members of Congress to have junkets. Whatever is raised for junkets would be the total pool available, and would have to be split equally among the 535 members and several thousand critical staffers who, we all know, are the ones who do the work anyhow.

           The Tax Checkoff System has one final advantage. With Americans deciding what to support and committing their personal fortunes or anemic savings accounts to the cause, we could wipe out the national debt and war at the same time.

  

          [Walter Brasch probably won’t be deciding to have deductions for war taken from his pay check. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a journalistic novel that looks at the integration of war, peace, oil, and nuclear energy, all within the context of social justice. The book is available, on pre-order, from amazon.com.]

 

         

 

 

Of Football Teams, Fraternities, and Other Important Intellectual Concerns

 

                                   by Walter Brasch

 

            The $50 million Burton Family Football Complex at the University of Connecticut may be nameless soon. Robert G. Burton, who had donated about $3 million to help fund the stadium, wants his money back and his family's name erased from UConn football. He also informed UConn he will cancel his $50,000 a season suite in the stadium.

            What upset Burton, who had donated about $7 million to UConn, mostly for its football program, was that the selection committee for a new football coach didn't take his suggestion. Not long after Burton's tirade, the chairman of the Board of Trustees reached out to "mend fences" to keep money where it belongs—in the football program.

            While athletics drives many universities, a few consider sports as supplemental to the academic mission. I believe this is how a conversation went at one college located somewhere in America, where the accreditors were questioning the president.

            "How did your football team do this year?" asked the chairman of the accrediting team.

            "We were 3-and-6, and very proud of our team," said a beaming president.

            "This is serious. What steps have you taken to replace your coach?"

            "We hadn't thought about it," said the president, mystified by the inquiry. "Coach Samuels is one of the nation's most respected organic chemists, teaches a full load of courses, then works out the team an hour or two in the evenings."

            "An hour or two?" said the accreditor, mockingly. "No wonder your school has such a dismal record! Most colleges have twice-a-day drills for two or three hours at a time. The students don't even go to class in the Fall. Your coaching staff must be lazy."

            "We have only two assistant coaches. One teaches sociology, the other is a speech pathologist."

            "Most colleges have a dozen coaches," said the accreditor. "How can you not have assistant coaches for ends, backs, and nose guards?"

            "We have a good staff in our anatomy and physiology labs," said the president, adding that with additional assistant directors in Music and Theatre, the college  produces some professional-class musical comedies.

            "Who cares? How many of your athletes went on to professional NFL careers?"  The president diverted the question, and excitedly told the accreditor about alumni who went into the creative arts, others who are leaders in social work and environmental science, and of graduates who are among the nation's leaders in almost every field of scientific research.

            "Business!" roared the Chairman. "How many of your graduates are in high paying business jobs!"

            The president thought hard, but could think of only three of his recent graduates who went into corporate business, and then only because they couldn't get any other job. "Of course," said the president, "a few dozen of our graduates enter law and med school every year."

            The accreditor's face finally lit up. "Oh, so you do have wealthy alumni! Why didn't you say so!"

            The president shook his head. "Most of our alumni lawyers are into consumer law, and our med school graduates usually become family physicians or work with the poor."

            "Not a good sign. Not a good sign at all." Also not a good sign was the social atmosphere on campus. "I didn't see any fraternity or sorority houses on campus. In fact, hardly anyone even knows where the nightly parties are."

            "I guess that isn't helping our cause for reaccreditation, is it?" asked the president. He didn't have to ask since the accreditor was now writing furiously.

            "Your building fund? Any new recreation or student union buildings?"

            "We're planning a new building to house our community service programs." The accreditor hardly looked up he was so disgusted. "We had two Rhodes Scholars and one Danforth fellowship last year! One of our profs just won a Pulitzer. Ninety percent of our faculty hold the doctorate!"

            "Any of them all-Americans?"

            "Our Intercollegiate Debate Team was national champion last year! The Student Social Welfare Club led the fight against conversion of apartments into condos!"

            "Redeem yourself with committees," shouted the accreditor. "Do you have more committees than scholarships?"

            "We believe most committees are wastes of time that encourage their members to act in irrational and arrogant manners."

            The accreditor's aide calmed him down long enough so he could ask a final question. "How much of your budget is spent on sending your administrators and faculty to phony academic conferences to pat each other's behinds?"

            "None," wept the president, "most of our budget keeps students and faculty current in their fields."

            The accreditor slammed his notebook shut and walked away. The president called after him, "When will we know whether we have been reaccredited?"

            The accreditor stopped a moment, turned around, and shouted back, "When you become a real educational institution."

 

            [You may contact Walter Brasch, recently paroled from a long term confinement as a university professor, at walterbrasch@gmail.com]

 

 

 

Breaking China--Legally

 

by Walter Brasch

 

        Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States this past week has been met by both praise and political posturing. Hu, an intellectual with a strong sense of culture, hopes he is leading what he wishes to be "a Harmonious Society" with peaceful development. To that end, Hu said his government was prepared to “engage in dialogue and exchanges with the United States on the basis of mutual respect and the principle of noninterference in each other's internal affairs” on human rights questions. Although it seems as if Hu is saying that he wants each nation to continue to conduct its business without interference, he also acknowledged that “A lot still needs to be done in China in terms of human rights."

           But, some politicians, apparently feeling a need to make sure their home base knows they aren't weak on Communism, have called him a dictator, gangster, and emperor. Very few have spoken out about American-owned companies downsizing and outsourcing everything to China from toys and clothing to book printing and building materials.

           Although China is the world's second largest economic power behind the U.S. and this country's largest creditor, there is no need to fear either its economy or its military power. It has already sown the seeds of its own destruction.

           In 1996, there were almost no lawyers in China. By 2000, there were 110,000. There are now almost 200,000.

           With a society of lawyers, China is likely to collapse. Let's take an example. Ling Chou is riding his bicycle on Chairman Mao Boulevard. He starts to turn left, but is hit by a bicycle being ridden by Chang Liu. Under the principles of Confucianism, before there were lawyers, the two would see if each other was hurt, help out if necessary, and apologize profusely. If a bicycle was dented, the other person would fix it. If there weren't injuries or dents, they would shake hands and go their own ways. With lawyers, you don't do that. Ling grabs his lawyers; Chang grabs his own lawyers. It takes six inches of paperwork, a preliminary hearing before a magistrate, and two, maybe three continuances before the case comes before a judge. Then there are the bailiffs, marshals, clerks, typists, stenographers, and court reporters. After a three-day trial—during which three doctors from each side testify, and get paid very well for their conflicting opinions about back injuries and mental trauma—the judge decides the case. The whole thing takes a year. Maybe two.

           Now, let's look at the criminal side of law. In the past, Chinese citizens could walk down any street late at night and wouldn't even worry about a "Boo!" Now, with lawyers, you have to have criminals. So, the crime statistics go up. More lawyers show up. Some to prosecute. Some to defend. Before lawyers, China had work camps. Now there will be guards and wardens and rehabilitative counselors and parole boards and committees for prisoner rights, followed by committees for victim rights.

           With everyone suing, defending themselves from criminals, or being criminals, the Chinese won't have time to sew cheap coats or launch any wars.

           However, in the past couple of years, President Hu's government has gotten wise to the proliferation of lawyers. The licensing tests have become harder—only about one-fifth of the applicants pass them; and the annual fees have increased significantly.

           This has caused even greater problems. When lawyers get tired of being lawyers, they become politicians, just as in the U.S. And, as in the U.S., it isn't scientists, social workers, teachers, and other decent people who are running our government. Imagine what will happen when the lawyers finally take over the Chinese government. In a country with four times America's population there will be four times as many mortgage crises scandals, four times as many morals scandals, and four times the number of self-serving statements that they weren't responsible for whatever it was that went wrong in the country.

           More important, there will no longer be just one Communist Party, but at least two, each one screaming at the other one, fighting meaningless battles, and filling radio, television, and the Internet with equally meaningless blather. It'll only be a short time until the lawyer-led political system paralyzes a 4,000-year-old civilization that has given us great literature, music, sculpture, fashion, architecture, cuisine, and the use of martial arts for peaceful reasons.

           With the rise of lawyers and political parties, even America's corporations wouldn't outsource their products to a nation like that—not for all the tea (parties) in China.

 

[Walter Brasch is a multiple award-winning humor and general/politics columnist in competition sponsored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Society of Professional Journalists, National Federation of Press Women, Pennsylvania Press Club, and Pennsylvania Women's Press Association. social issues columnist and He is the author of 17 books, most of which are available through amazon.com. You may contact him at walterbrasch@gmail.com]

 

 

The Irreverent Frog

 

 

                                                              by Walter Brasch

 

             The First Sometimes United Church decided last week not to ordain any frogs. To find out why, I visited the Rev. Matthew Mark Johnson.

            I approached him as he finished blessing the ceremonial offerings plate. "Rev. Johnson," I asked, "the frogs-rights groups are upset with your Board's decision. What are your reasons?"

            "The Bible tells us that frogs are nothing but problems."

            "The Bible tells you that?" I asked suspiciously.

            "Right there in Exodus. God said he'd smite all of Egypt with frogs if the Pharaoh didn't let the Jews be free. It proves that God was so ticked off he had to find the most loathsome creature he could to punish the Pharaoh. Do you know how bad it must be to be smited by, of all things, frogs?"

            "But God used the frogs to help the Jews. It's not that the frogs did anything God didn't want to be done."

            "Bad is bad," said the Rev. Mr. Johnson. "Turn to Revelations," he commanded. "John says that he saw three unclean spirits that looked like frogs come from the mouth of the dragon. That proves it! Not only are frogs loathsome creatures, they're also unclean." I tried to interrupt, but the anti-frog minister wasn't about to let another view meddle in his logic. "Even Shakespeare hated frogs. Right there in Macbeth. The witches brewed the most horrible concoction they could. What do you think was in it?! Eye of newt and toe of frog!"

            "This is ridiculous," I said. "Are you sure there's nothing deeper to your decision to ban frogs from the ministry?"

            The Rev. Mr. Johnson cleared his throat, looked at me carefully, then somberly explained—"They're green."

            "They're green?" I asked incredulously. "That's it? Because they're green!"

            "Green conflicts with our basic color scheme. It's not as if we're the only religion not to like color. For the longest time, a lot of churches didn't allow anyone who's black to be ordained, let alone be a member, so I guess that green is just as good a reason as any." He thought a moment, and then added, "Of course, I guess there might be another reason."

            "I thought so!" I said, now writing furiously in my note pad.

            "Frogs also have webbed feet. It's against the laws of God for ordained ministers to have webbed feet."

            I stopped writing. "Let me get this straight. You don't want to ordain frogs because they're green and they have webbed feet?"

            "That's right. Webbed feet is not God's wish for humanity. Webbed feet is a sign of breaking with God's world of five-toed feet. It's a sign of willful rebellion. It results from living in a sinful world."

            "Shouldn't the Church recognize that even frogs have faith?" I asked.

            "The Bible tells us to love all creatures, and that we are all part of the Lord. But, nowhere does it say that frogs should be ordained."

            "But what about their knowledge of Scripture or whether frogs have the ability to lead people? Shouldn't that count for something?"

            "You think that frogs can lead people? Have you ever seen a frog walk? There's no one who's going to hop to church on Sunday mornings."

 

            "But, most frogs seem to be so much more respectful and honest than many of your own parishioners," I pleaded in the frogs' defense.

            "I agree," said the minister, "and the ministry should offer models of integrity, morality, and honesty—if at all possible. And, I do admit that some ministers do stray from the paths of righteousness on occasion. But, at least they're not green, they don't have webbed feet, and they never smited anyone!" He thought a moment, and then suggested, "Maybe instead of trying to ruin the ministry, he could join the military. They have amphibious vehicles and a whole darn SEAL team."

            "You know dang well the military doesn't allow frogs."

            "Not my problem."

            Forgetting my role as an objective reporter and lapsing into an impassion plea, I cried out, "Frogs are wonderful creatures who should be given a chance to preach the will of God!"

            The Rev. Matthew Mark Johnson looked at me sharply. "You ain't a frog in disguise are you, boy? You ain't trying to take over this here church, are you?"

            "Oh, no sir!" I said. "I'm just trying to find out why frogs can't be ordained if they have every other ability."

            "You're trying to cause us serious trouble," said the Rev. Mr. Johnson, "and I don't care to discuss this issue any more. Now, if you'll leave me alone, I have to go watch an important television show. Never miss it. Even better in re-runs than first time I saw it."

            "What show is that?" I asked.

            "The Muppets."

 

            (Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist, and the author of 16 books, the most recent one Sex and the Single Beer Can, a look at the media and popular culture.)

 

The Irreverent Frog

 

 

                                                              by Walter Brasch

 

             The First Sometimes United Church decided last week not to ordain any frogs. To find out why, I visited the Rev. Matthew Mark Johnson.

            I approached him as he finished blessing the ceremonial offerings plate. "Rev. Johnson," I asked, "the frogs-rights groups are upset with your Board's decision. What are your reasons?"

            "The Bible tells us that frogs are nothing but problems."

            "The Bible tells you that?" I asked suspiciously.

            "Right there in Exodus. God said he'd smite all of Egypt with frogs if the Pharaoh didn't let the Jews be free. It proves that God was so ticked off he had to find the most loathsome creature he could to punish the Pharaoh. Do you know how bad it must be to be smited by, of all things, frogs?"

            "But God used the frogs to help the Jews. It's not that the frogs did anything God didn't want to be done."

            "Bad is bad," said the Rev. Mr. Johnson. "Turn to Revelations," he commanded. "John says that he saw three unclean spirits that looked like frogs come from the mouth of the dragon. That proves it! Not only are frogs loathsome creatures, they're also unclean." I tried to interrupt, but the anti-frog minister wasn't about to let another view meddle in his logic. "Even Shakespeare hated frogs. Right there in Macbeth. The witches brewed the most horrible concoction they could. What do you think was in it?! Eye of newt and toe of frog!"

            "This is ridiculous," I said. "Are you sure there's nothing deeper to your decision to ban frogs from the ministry?"

            The Rev. Mr. Johnson cleared his throat, looked at me carefully, then somberly explained—"They're green."

            "They're green?" I asked incredulously. "That's it? Because they're green!"

            "Green conflicts with our basic color scheme. It's not as if we're the only religion not to like color. For the longest time, a lot of churches didn't allow anyone who's black to be ordained, let alone be a member, so I guess that green is just as good a reason as any." He thought a moment, and then added, "Of course, I guess there might be another reason."

            "I thought so!" I said, now writing furiously in my note pad.

            "Frogs also have webbed feet. It's against the laws of God for ordained ministers to have webbed feet."

            I stopped writing. "Let me get this straight. You don't want to ordain frogs because they're green and they have webbed feet?"

            "That's right. Webbed feet is not God's wish for humanity. Webbed feet is a sign of breaking with God's world of five-toed feet. It's a sign of willful rebellion. It results from living in a sinful world."

            "Shouldn't the Church recognize that even frogs have faith?" I asked.

            "The Bible tells us to love all creatures, and that we are all part of the Lord. But, nowhere does it say that frogs should be ordained."

            "But what about their knowledge of Scripture or whether frogs have the ability to lead people? Shouldn't that count for something?"

            "You think that frogs can lead people? Have you ever seen a frog walk? There's no one who's going to hop to church on Sunday mornings."

 

            "But, most frogs seem to be so much more respectful and honest than many of your own parishioners," I pleaded in the frogs' defense.

            "I agree," said the minister, "and the ministry should offer models of integrity, morality, and honesty—if at all possible. And, I do admit that some ministers do stray from the paths of righteousness on occasion. But, at least they're not green, they don't have webbed feet, and they never smited anyone!" He thought a moment, and then suggested, "Maybe instead of trying to ruin the ministry, he could join the military. They have amphibious vehicles and a whole darn SEAL team."

            "You know dang well the military doesn't allow frogs."

            "Not my problem."

            Forgetting my role as an objective reporter and lapsing into an impassion plea, I cried out, "Frogs are wonderful creatures who should be given a chance to preach the will of God!"

            The Rev. Matthew Mark Johnson looked at me sharply. "You ain't a frog in disguise are you, boy? You ain't trying to take over this here church, are you?"

            "Oh, no sir!" I said. "I'm just trying to find out why frogs can't be ordained if they have every other ability."

            "You're trying to cause us serious trouble," said the Rev. Mr. Johnson, "and I don't care to discuss this issue any more. Now, if you'll leave me alone, I have to go watch an important television show. Never miss it. Even better in re-runs than first time I saw it."

            "What show is that?" I asked.

            "The Muppets."

 

            (Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist, and the author of 16 books, the most recent one Sex and the Single Beer Can, a look at the media and popular culture.)

 

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