Re: And yet even more seriously

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It's really fucking odd and more than a fair bit creepy. Motherfucking "Christian" army with all the good nukes and delivery systems? Jesus Screaming Christ on a Cruise Missile!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-18-09 11:53 PM
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Remember the Mother of All Bombs? Interesting acronym.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-18-09 11:54 PM
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2: It is expected that the weapon will have a substantial psychological effect on those who witness its use.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-18-09 11:58 PM
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I see that the MOAB contains RDX which reminds of one fundamental task that God's Army was not ordered to undertake while rushing to the photo-ops of Baghdad, which was to secure facilities like Al Qa'qaa where copious amounts of RDX and HMX were stored under UN seal. As was well known to the IAEA, and which that organization had offered to help secure, but which God's Big Dick and his Rummy Cunt refused to do since it would given a modicum of government blessing to the agencies and their inspectors. But at least those explosives weren't looted and used in very powerful bombs to kill coalition soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Because that would have been bad, and those who acted in such an arrogantly evil manner would probably not find favor in the Lord's eye.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:14 AM
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seemed, you know, not like total dumbshits

Wait, what?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:07 AM
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What CharleyCarp said. They seemed exactly like total dumbshits.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:22 AM
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5. Quod dixit Carolus.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:25 AM
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5. Quod dixit Carolus.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:26 AM
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(On the ObWi thread, I asked why they didn't have a slide on GTMO quoting Acts 25:16. Is it because in addition to being dumbshits, they don't actually believe in their religion?)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:34 AM
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You know, obviously this isn't as big a thing as torture, but there's something connected about the mindset. There are simple, easy rules of thumb that will keep you out of trouble; don't hurt helpless people in your power; don't start wars in the name of your bloodthirsty conception of God. And these people had to figure out exactly where they thought the line was, and stand right on it, rather than keeping well clear of it like decent people.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:54 AM
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They probably believe in their own religion. But you shouldn't assume that their religion is Christianity as anybody else understands it. See Slacktivist, passim.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 5:05 AM
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But you shouldn't assume that their religion is Christianity as anybody else understands it.

It's not Christianity as everybody else understands it, sure. Everyone understands things differently. But anybody? Even at the end, Bush's approval rating was 22 percent. That's about 60 million or so Americans.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 5:14 AM
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12. Yeah, but the point is that there's this peculiar heresy, largely endemic to the United States, such that Charlie's question about Acts 25:16 would make sense to the Pope, the Patriarch of Alexandria, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, any URC congregation or Quaker meeting house, but not to them.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 5:27 AM
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10,13: I think there's an intersection of evangelical christianity and militant free market capitalism that naturally produces the kind of attitudes you are talking about. In my poorly informed opinion it goes back to Calvinism, which leads naturally to both authoritarianism and acquisitiveness. The corporatist mindset is all about pushing the rules to the very limits in the pursuit of money, restrained only by fear of punishment. The Calvinist mindset is all about arbitrary rules backed by vicious punishment. When a person who lives at the intersection of those two mindsets becomes an authority figure you inevitably are going to see abuses, but they are not understood as abuses by the authority figure or his followers.

Calling out the abuses of an authority figure who comes from that worldview isn't just a challenge to a person, it's a challenge to the entire organizing principle of his followers' lives. It's asking people to affirm that up is down.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 6:01 AM
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14: Calvinism? If we're to believe Weber, the distinctive feature of Calvinism was their theological aversion to conspicuous consumption. They acquire money, but they don't spend it--it just sits there in a grand, capital-creating pile. That doesn't match up very well with the lavish ostentation of the Bush years. The historical crony capitalism of the south is a much better fit for the republican party.

Calvinism is much more of a northeastern thing. Remember the Rockefeller Republicans? If anyone in American politics deserved the label Calvinist, it was them.


Posted by: salacious | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 6:22 AM
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I am completely uninformed about Calvinism, but 14 sounds completely plausible to me.

And 14.2 gets to why it's almost impossible to have a rational discussion if you're coming from outside that worldview -- you seem like a loonie to them, while to you, they seem to be off on their own plane of reality.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 6:26 AM
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5, 6: I agree with Stanley on this. It's all good fun to yak it up about how dumb and fucking stupid folks like Douglas Feith are (and surely I've done it) but in the end it is intellectually lazy and elides far too much. It is the liberal equivalent of the "Saddam was a madman" trope. I realize that it is to some extent just playing with the looseness of words like dumb and stupid* being applied from everything from diminished cognitive functioning to lack of judgment or foresight. In the end it is a "dumb" result brought about by the flawed actions and words of reasonably intelligent human beings.

*However, this is is not as bad as people who routinely use "illiterate" to describe people who can read and write but do not otherwise rise to some desired level of verbal sophistication. Rank stuff, that.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 7:13 AM
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"to everything from". My illiteracy knows no bounds.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 7:15 AM
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15: Prosperity theology has roots in Calvinism (among other things). Modern evangelicals aren't Calvinists per se, but they most certainly have roots that can be traced back to Calvin (again, among other sources). Some of them are explicitly predestinist, and even those who are not tend to buy into the "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" line. What I'm ascribing to Calvinist influences are ideological rigidity, authoritarianism, and a concern with demonstrating one is among the elect. Not all evangelicals have these traits, but the core of the right wing christianist movement has a large share of those who do.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 7:31 AM
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I am completely uninformed about Calvinism, but 14 sounds completely plausible to me.

Correlation!


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 7:34 AM
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||

So, Chicago meetup. I'd definitely be in if I knew when and where we'd all settled on. Josh?

|>


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 7:34 AM
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The best briefing story is the one about Cap Weinberger's famous early 80s presentation to Reagan about the need to increase the defense budget. It featured a posterboard with pictures of a BIG MENACING soldier in red brandishing an AK-47, next to a SMALL COWERING soldier in camouflage green. There were numbers next to them purporting to demonstrate that this was a visual representation of U.S. vs. Soviet defense spending.

I agree with JP that these guys are not dumb. Politics in general is dumb, but they aren't. Calling the other side "dumb" not only blinds you to the ways they are clever, it tends to distract you from your own stupidities.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 7:35 AM
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When a person who lives at the intersection of those two mindsets becomes an authority figure you inevitably are going to see abuses, but they are not understood as abuses by the authority figure or his followers.

the thing is, this type is really afraid of chaos and anarchy. (And this can be legitimately scary). Liberals are weak people who simply don't understand the need for strong action to keep chaos at bay.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 7:38 AM
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It's definitely in the New American Standard translation of the Bible that Jesus died for your aspiring upper middle class lifestyle and all your worldly prejudices.

I don't find the use of Bible quotes stupid, just abhorrent.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 7:49 AM
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19: Prosperity theology has roots in Calvinism (among other things)

In kind of a half assed way. PT says that if you are pious and, usually, generous in your tithing, God will reward you materially. Calvinism says that if you are elect, God will reward you, but there's fuck all you can do about it.

Modern evangelicals aren't Calvinists per se, but they most certainly have roots that can be traced back to Calvin

In much the same way as they both have roots in the Catholic church. The pronounced dogmatism of the Reformed church has a much to do with late 18th century dutch politics as it does with anything Calvin said. Google Arminianism.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 7:52 AM
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I'm sure there are plenty of verses that might have had a salutary effect.
Jeremiah 14:14


And the LORD said to me, "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 7:59 AM
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The military and a number of other parts of the government have been captured by the worst kind of Christians. Smart, conservative, but irreligious types pursue careers in business. Smart liberals do whatever you people here on Unfogged do. This leaves the military, with its uncool patriotism, wide open; it helps that white Southerners traditionally make up a big chunk of the officer corps. These slides are utterly unsurprising.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard "Have a blessed day" or other forms of casual Evangelical nonsense in my aerospace-industry job in DC, I could build my own MOAB. I can only imagine what it's like on actual military bases.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:05 AM
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I'm surprised no one has mentioned or posted on the recent study that found religious people favor torture more than the non-religious .

Specific numbers:

62 percent of Evangelical Protestants feel torture of suspected terrorists can always or sometimes be justified, vs. 40 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.

54 percent of people who attend religious services weekly feel torture can always or sometimes be justified, vs. 42 percent of those who rarely or never attend.

This is totally unsurprising, given that a lot of what church does is remind you constantly that God will torture you endlessly for even minor disobedience.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:05 AM
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I really doubt that's a fair statement of the attitudes of religious people worldwide, rather than an artifact of both regular church attendance and support of torture being strongly associated with right wing politics in the US.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:09 AM
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26: I'm surprised they didn't go with 1 John 4:6:

We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us.

That's my standby for big client presentations.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:10 AM
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29: perhaps so, but isn't Christianity itself theologically bound up with the notion of torture, specifically through the concept of Hell? There seems to be a very clear belief that God is a torturer.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:14 AM
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I like that one over a slide of the Blues Brothers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:14 AM
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28: those numbers are useless without some contect. Are they talking about the War on Terror, or just generally? I'm religious, and I certainly don't think we should be torturing enemy combatants. But I do think torture is justified for people who design websites that play loud sounds without warning. For example. So that could have been what they were getting at.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:16 AM
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"Always be justified"!?

Also, Christian churches themselves have a long history of using torture on Jews and heretics, and the Bible itself is full of divinely justified war crimes.

Really, the popular idea that torture is inherently immoral is fairly new in human history. It is really in a category with the idea that slavery is inherently immoral that way. You should expect these ideas to me more prominent in forward looking groups, like secularists and splinter sects (unitarians, quakers) rather than big establishment churches.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:16 AM
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Opposition to torture and slavery also goes along with believe in universal human rights and democracy. These are basically enlightenment ideas.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:19 AM
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31: afaik, most Christians believe that eternity without God is torture (or, for the even-less literal: that life without God is torture), and that non-believers therefore experience torture by rejecting God. Not that God deliberately inflicts such torment. Some subsets believe this spiritual torture is accompanied by all manner of physical torture--but even that's influcted by the devil, not by God, who I think all Christians believe does not personally torture and would vastly prefer that no one be tortured.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:20 AM
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36: That's the line from a lot of Church fathers, like Augustine.

In Dante all the rivers of shit and boiling oil were explicitly meant as metaphors for distance from God.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:23 AM
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I'm with LB on this. The best interpretation of that data, IMO, is that political identity has become--or always has been--more fundamental than religious identity. People with rightwing inclinations join evangelical churches because that's what rightwingers do, rather than evangelicals adopting rightwing politics because that's what evangelicals do. That's why many evangelical denominations are nothing more than rightwing variants of the American civic religion, with a thin coating of Jesus smeared over them.

I really do think religion is a red herring in the story of the modern conservative movement. To the extent churches did play a role, it was as social meeting grounds rather than purveyors of religious ideology.


Posted by: salacious | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:23 AM
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34: The Spanish Inquistion? I dislike popery as much as the next guy, but it wasn't as bad as it's made out to be. It's an artifact of the Reconquista, and was really more of a Spanish policy than a Christian one. And it actually introduced one of the modern (continental) Europe's first conceptions of the "rights of the accused". The Roman inquistion was even more political.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:25 AM
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36: of course, the problem of hell is just a stronger version of the problem of evil, so all of the same criticisms apply, but stronger given the postulated eternity of hell.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:26 AM
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The Roman inquisition, then. I'm just saying the history of Christianity is loaded with inquisitions, purges and crusades. I don't want to single out Christianity, though. Really this is just human history.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:27 AM
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38: Somewhat. As Becks noted the other day, some of the shift (every election being about the abortion of little babies as the only relevant Christian social concern) is within the past 15-20 years. I am related to people who think that I couldn't possibly be Christian because I voted for Obama. (I probably don't count as Christian for a host of other reasons, but voting for a Democrat doesn't seem to be one of them.) That is deeply fucked up.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:30 AM
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40: sure.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:30 AM
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The Spanish Inquistion? I dislike popery as much as the next guy, but it wasn't as bad as it's made out to be.

ummm, uh, yes it was.

those numbers are useless without some contect. Are they talking about the War on Terror, or just generally?

"torture of suspected terrorists", so war on terror.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:31 AM
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41: Yeah. It seems that people like to torture, crusade, and inquisit. It also seems that it's fairly easy to justify this stuff in terms of religion, but if that's not available, ideology works well too.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:32 AM
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That's why many evangelical denominations are nothing more than rightwing variants of the American civic religion, with a thin coating of Jesus smeared over them.

I don't think this is right. It's how we outsiders experience many evangelical denominations because we only pay attention when they're making noise about politics. But if you actually go to their worship services there's a shit-ton of Jesus, loads of singing, praise, catharsis, plus some politics every once in a while, especially around election time.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:34 AM
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C'mon, people. Everything about the Christian church is tied up with the fetishization of torture (cf, the Stations of the Cross). Half of the Christian art prior to the 20th century looks like a scene from Saw III.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:35 AM
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If I had a nickel for every time I heard "Have a blessed day" or other forms of casual Evangelical nonsense in my aerospace-industry job in DC

Bave has an aerospace job in DC? First circle of Hell right there.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:36 AM
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Yeah, but I'd bet good money that who somebody votes for correlates better with their opinion on abortion than their professed religious affiliation. Otherwise you wouldn't see so many pro-choice Catholics. (Actually, does anyone have data like this? It would be ridiculously interesting.)

Just because someone articulates their opinion in religious terms doesn't mean religion is the best way to explain why they believe what they do.


Posted by: salacious | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:37 AM
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Damn those Calvinists for introducing the Stations of the Cross.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:37 AM
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It's definitely in the New American Standard translation of the Bible that Jesus died for your aspiring upper middle class lifestyle and all your worldly prejudices.

This made me laugh.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:38 AM
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48: Had.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:38 AM
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47: That's fetishization of torture as a bad thing 'they' do to 'us' (see also all the grisly martyr stories) not as a good thing we do to them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:41 AM
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If I had a nickel for every time I heard "Have a blessed day" or other forms of casual Evangelical nonsense in my aerospace-industry job in DC, I could build my own MOAB.

I've heard that in DC a lot too, but it came mostly from older African-American women. I found it odd at first, but then I found it sort of charming just like their use of Mr. and Miss.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:41 AM
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46: There is the case of the guy who tried to remove politics from his ministry and had half of his congregation walk out. By and large, I think you're correct. What's pernicious is that the predominant Christian influence in politics is limited to cultural identification with the worst of the GOP.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:42 AM
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Come to think of it, distaste for martyrdom-related art (aka Popery) shows a lot of Calvinist influence.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:43 AM
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That's fetishization of torture as a bad thing 'they' do to 'us'

"Suffering is a gift from God." - Mother Teresa


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:43 AM
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This is totally unsurprising, given that a lot of what church does is remind you constantly that God will torture you endlessly for even minor disobedience.

Okay, No. My church doesn't do this, and it's only moderately liberal. The church that Rumsfeld worshipped at in DC which is mixed Republican and Democrat doesn't do this. Now it's true that Episcopalians are a tiny minority in the U.S., but world-wide, Anglicans are a pretty large communion. (The Lutherans might be gaining on us.) It's true that the African bishops are very conservative, but I donn't think that they say this sort of thing. Mostyly they're obsessed about homosexuality and seem to misunderstand the regional nature of episcopacy, but so does Dr. carey and the C of E, what with their flying bishops.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:46 AM
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57: That's not generally stretched to cover "and so inflicting suffering is doing God's work."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:47 AM
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What the Bible says about torture.

I know people get offended when anybody points it out, but Christianity's relationship to violence is long, deep, and profoundly fucked up. Every bit Islam's equal in that regard.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:48 AM
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34.last: This is what tempers my liberalism with a hefty dose of incrementalism. I think we are currently living in a historical anomaly in which non-hideous attitudes towards other people have far more popularity that they ever have before. Burn it down and start over, even in part, seems to me an invitation for regression towards the historical mean, which is torture, slavery, tribalism, feudalism, and related frightfulnesses.

38: ...a thin coating of Jesus smeared over them. Well that's the thing about Jesus: Just a dab'll do ya.

I think the analysis of 38 is close to the truth, but there's more back and forth than that. The evangelical-conservative fusion we've seen over the past 30+ years has involved each side adjusting to accommodate the other to some extent. Time was that concerns about poverty were much higher on the evangelical agenda. Now they barely mention it. They've homed in on the politically effective issues and turned away from issues that might alienate other parts of the coalition, like economic justice and peacemaking.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:49 AM
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That's not generally stretched to cover "and so inflicting suffering is doing God's work."

Historically, it most certainly has been.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:52 AM
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62: That's not what's preached today by most Christians. I understand PGD's point to be referring to contemporary Christians.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:54 AM
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[quote]It's how we outsiders experience many evangelical denominations because we only pay attention when they're making noise about politics. But if you actually go to their worship services there's a shit-ton of Jesus, loads of singing, praise, catharsis, plus some politics every once in a while, especially around election time.[/quote]

I don't doubt that the lived experience of these religions is chock full of jesus. But the deep structure of these people's belief system is a fairly standard American conservatism. You could explain almost all of their opinions, preferences, choices, etc without referencing Christianity once. All the Christianity does is change how they articulate these beliefs--the outward representation, but not the inward content.
GWB was a master of these outward trappings. He invoked all the little code words and shibboleths that say "I am a Christian." Doesn't matter that his actions and beliefs were probably less Christian than me--and I'm an atheist. If Jesus was around today, these people would hate him. for being a dirty fucking hippy democrat.


Posted by: salacious | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:54 AM
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53
47: That's fetishization of torture as a bad thing 'they' do to 'us' (see also all the grisly martyr stories) not as a good thing we do to them.

But it worked out OK for the martyrs, so it can't be all that bad.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:55 AM
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The Spanish Inquistion . . .wasn't as bad as it's made out to be.

ummm, uh, yes it was.

I'm not saying it wasn't a bad evil thing, just that it coincided with the first mass propaganda effort in history on the part of their ideological enemies. All said and done, wiki says they killed about ~3000. That's one 9/11 over four hundred years. And, unless you were rich, you had to go out of your way to get burned. Speaking ex recto, I am of the opinion that it stunted, or at least perverted Spanish intellectual life for about three hundred years, and to this day Spain is the most racist country I've visited (and I've been to Bakersfield). This line of argument is often called The Black Legend if you want to look it up, although the chief proponents tend to be a bit more revisionist than I'd like.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:55 AM
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I mean,
ummm, uh, yes it was.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:56 AM
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63: Yes, it is.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:57 AM
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61: I get a sense that among Catholics this is breaking down a little bit, because if you cared about making abortion illegal, that hasn't happened, and if you cared about other social justice issues, the right's track record makes it worse.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:58 AM
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68: Worldwide, you say?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:58 AM
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Apo is rocking this thread.

36 is the best theological answer, but I think it's pretty clear that Christianity has a long and troubled relationship historically with the idea of torture and punishment as a means of doing the Lord's work. As Rob says in 34.last, this has a lot to do with getting ideologically entangled with accepted pre-Enlightenment practices, but that entanglement worked its way into theology and into the words of the Bible. For better and worse, religion is a major way that pre-Enlightenment beliefs and practices keep a grip on the culture.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:58 AM
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Hell might be empty, I hear.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:01 AM
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||
I just want to bitch somewhere very briefly that the award I got on Friday, the most prestigious my department offers, which paid out $4000 to my petite amie a year ago, has now apparently depreciated to $1000. I had been envisioning taking a vacation, or, you know, cutting back my fucking courseload in the fall so I could actually write a dissertation.

I don't want to seem ungrateful. $1000 is still $1000. But $1000 isn't even rent for a month. I would ask if it's rude to email my department chair about this, asking if some mistake had been made, but I already did.
|>


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:01 AM
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60: the striking thing about these instances of torture (along with slavery and the genocide in 1 Samuel 15) is how casually they are mentioned. But this is just because all these things were the norm in the ancient near east.

I'm very strong on the progress of human history today. I think I'm finally going to be able to see the new Star Trek movie this weekend, so I'm all about the shiny future.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:02 AM
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I would ask if it's rude to email my department chair about this, asking if some mistake had been made, but I already did.

Not rude! That's very disappointing.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:09 AM
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68:
"It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'


Posted by: OPINIONATED JESUS | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:12 AM
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"The analysis of this essay has demonstrated the extent to which presuppositions of violence and overt violence are inherently a part of classic Christian theology. We have also observed that the abstract and ahistorical character of the classic formulas of atonement and Christology mean that they do not challenge injustice in the social order. This combination of intrinsically violent elements and lack of challenge to injustice in the social order mean that it has been possible throughout much of Christian history for Christians to profess allegiance to Jesus and to claim salvation as depicted in classic Christology and atonement, while simultaneously pursuing the violence prohibited by Jesus' teaching and life.

"If Christians are uncomfortable with Christianity as a violent religion, the first step is to recognize the extent to which formulas of classic theology have contributed to violence both overt and systemic. This essay provided data for that acknowledgement. The second step away from Christianity as a violent religion would be to construct theology that specifically reflects the nonviolence of its namesake, Jesus Christ. As a suggestion in that direction, I offer narrative Christus Victor as both nonviolent atonement and narrative Christology. Finally, step three would be to live out the theology of its nonviolent namesake. That commitment is a call to every Christian."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:20 AM
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73: Not rude at all, and if you maintain that the higher amount can plausibly help you accomplish significant academic progress, and the lower amount really can't, they are likely to feel some pressure to at least meet you in the middle.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:23 AM
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78: It may be that the award was funded from a set of endowed funds, and they don't have the assets from which to draw $4,000 this year.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:25 AM
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73: IMO you are correct to inquire about the amount of the award. A 75% drop is a big deal.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:29 AM
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75, 78: Thanks for the encouragement. I felt like a total douche writing the email. But it's been this way throughout my progress in the program. I came in a year too early for the big fellowships that got invented. I applied a year too late for the big dissertation year awards. It's hard not to take it a bit personally. I can see cutting back to $3000 or something if they're short on funds, but reducing the prize by 75% seems a pretty shitty thing to do without letting me know. The department chair heard me tell someone it was $4000 and I guess didn't want to burst my bubble. I just wish he'd done so before I spent all weekend fantasizing about not teaching 3 classes in the fall and planning my resignation letter from one of my adjunct jobs.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:31 AM
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That totally sucks, AWB. Sorry to hear it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:33 AM
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OTOH, maybe I shouldn't have joked so loudly that I could get a really nice hooker for $4000...


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:33 AM
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You can still get a fairly nice hooker for $1000, AWB.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:34 AM
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If Jesus was around today, these people would hate him. for being a dirty fucking hippy democrat.

Shane Claiborne seems to have come to a similar assessment of Jesus. I've been interested in him since I saw a review of his book Irresistible Revolution and picked it up. He lives in a co-op in Philadelphia and has a very personally demanding ideology about living in peace and poverty so long as poverty exists.

His type of work is the best path I see to moving evangelical beliefs. He is genuinely a Christian insider (theology college and everything), so I hope they listen to him.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:38 AM
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84: Or ten crappy hookers!


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:40 AM
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I don't know why I'd spend so long arguing the intellectual history of a Church I haven't attended in eight years. I guess it just seems like, "These awful Christians are torturing people" is a convenient alternative to, "These awful Americans are torturing people."

Shorter Christianity: "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine. "


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:43 AM
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Heard back. The award is $2500 this year, which still fucks with my expectations tremendously, but not as bad as $1000.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:44 AM
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Did you get an explanation for either the drop from 4K to 2.5K, or why you were told that it was only 1K yesterday? Your department sounds very confused.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:46 AM
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I felt like a total douche writing the email.

Whee! I was going to talk about Southern Baptists! Anyways, you aren't a total douche, or even a half-empty one; they could have bothered to tell you in advance.

max
['I think you should tell them they should kiss you first next time.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:48 AM
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and to this day Spain is the most racist country I've visited (and I've been to Bakersfield).

In its special way, yeah, like the persistant problem they have with football crowds making monkey noises at black players on the opposing team (& the people who argue that Barça isn't really Spanish at all), the equations of national identity with white Catholicism, the way they treat gypsies & immigrants in the classroom (ie. ignore them and openly say there's no point in teaching them.)

And that reconquista obsession over racial purity.


Posted by: J Sligh | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:50 AM
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88: AWB - Good thing you asked, and congratulations on your award. And I agree with LB re your department.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:50 AM
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I wonder if you can get them not to report it to the IRS. $2500 tax-free is quite similar to $4000 minus taxes. I'd guess you have no control over that, though.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:54 AM
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89: All the department awards are less this year, as they come from a soft-money pool that changes from year to year. As for why the department secretary told me it was $1000, I have no clue, except that she hates me and wants me to have a heart attack. You know how it really really helps to make friends with the department secretary? Well, I have apparently failed to charm this one and she's been pulling shit like this on me for two years now. "I'm sorry, AWB, but you can't take your oral exams tomorrow. Tell your committee to reschedule for two months from now." "I'm sorry, AWB, but your paperwork to advance to candidacy can't be submitted unless you get it to me two weeks before the deadline and the deadline is tomorrow." Etc. None of these things end up being true; I think she just likes to see me cry.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:55 AM
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90: I am a Southern Baptist!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:55 AM
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Yeah, all of our endowment-related funds have a toggle of some sort - normally they pay out 4.25% into budgets, but once they go negative like everything has it automatically drops to 1%.

However, nice of a department to let folks know about such things. And there's often $ to be found even when it's gone - my old school cancelled several of its fellowship contests with much fanfare about the downturn, and then reinstated them at the last minute.


Posted by: adam | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:56 AM
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94: Sounds like the department sec could use some tequila.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:15 AM
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93: Don't cheat on your taxes. It's sleazy. If that's not enough, consider the possibility of getting caught, with the attendant hassles.

Seriously, people. I'm constantly getting accused of being a bad liberal for failing to adhere to every point of the current orthodoxy. Then you get folks who want to expand the social safety net while simultaneously shirking their own responsibilities to pay for it. Fuck that. If you have some sort of rationalization about paying for the war machine or whatever - go for it. Opt out. Live your beliefs. The half-assed approach of principled opposition only when it's personally beneficial and compliance when the cost of principles is more than the price of a latte is bullshit. Cowardice, dishonesty, hypocrisy. Be better than that.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:17 AM
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"If Jesus was around today, these people would hate him. for being a dirty fucking hippy democrat"

Are you familiar with The Grand Inquisitor section of The Brothers Karamazov?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:20 AM
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Taxes are for rich people. This is a convenient belief for me to hold.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:25 AM
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100: Not coincidentally, rich people think taxes are for poor people.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:33 AM
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Our award stipends came with big disclaimers that they would not be reported to the IRS -- that was our responsibility. They were large-ish and nothing was withheld from them, so the tax hit for folks not used to having to pay out come tax time was noticeable. There wasn't even a line on the tax form on which to enter them, but if you dug around in the instructions you would discover that the full amount was to be written next to the instructions for another line. It was kind of ridiculous and we all under reported them -- in fact a fair number of folks didn't report them at all. Stipends were not, I think, taxable until sometime in the 80s under Reagan when the tax burden was shifted to where it ought to be -- grad students.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:36 AM
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Bave has an aerospace job in DC? First circle of Hell right there.

I don't think working for the Smithsonian would be that bad.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:50 AM
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They probably don't report it to the IRS; the burden is on the grad student for things like scholarships and awards.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:51 AM
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Seriously, people. I'm constantly getting accused of being a bad liberal for failing to adhere to every point of the current orthodoxy. Then you get folks who want to expand the social safety net while simultaneously shirking their own responsibilities to pay for it.

Matthew 22:21 -- "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." Suitable for IRS Enforcement briefing sheets.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:53 AM
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102: Yeah, I've been boned by that sort of stupidity, too. Pain in the ass, it was. I also know people who took the "don't report" option only to have the IRS catch on some years later. Others got away with it. It's a roll of the dice as far as legal consequences go.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:54 AM
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I think it's hard to ascribe such-and-such a belief to "Christianity" when Christianity has meant so many things to different people and over the ages. Like other religions that have attempted to be culturally all-encompassing, it can back almost any purpose. (Get your Jesus in four great flavors: furious-thunderer, peace-and-love, commie, or cult-leader!)

I suspect without knowledge that the same can be said on a smaller scale of Calvinism - do Presbyterians today spend their Sundays being assailed with visions of predestination and eternal tortures, like the Puritans did?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:54 AM
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A heartfelt amen to 98. But then you all knew how I felt.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:59 AM
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Come on, didn't that Derek Dye the Abstinence Clown thing get under your taxpayerly skin a little bit? I know it's unreasonable to bitch about such small individual stupid uses of taxes, and one still has to pay them, or else it would be reasonable for other jackasses to refuse to pay taxes if the government prosecutes, say, sexuality-based discrimination. (Most of my income is from the government, too, so I am very aware that refusing to pay Derek Dye's salary is also refusing to pay my own. I just really feel tax-use bitching, about war, about anti-science, anti-health programs, is reasonable.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:05 AM
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unreasonable, reasonable. I apparently go back and forth. I need some fresh air.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:06 AM
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AWB: 90: I am a Southern Baptist!

Thought so; however, I was saying I was going to say less than nice things about the SBC. Should I not?

I also have to second togolosh. Getting the stuff you are legitamately entitled to by law and/or not paying more taxes than are required: OK. Cheating and lying: WRONG.

max
['I feel so doctrinaire.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:07 AM
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I need some fresh air.

Terry Gross had John Doe today. I found it a bit underwhelming.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:08 AM
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111: Go ahead. The SBC, as an organization, should not exist. Doctrinally, they should be dissolved. They've done nothing but politicize and poison and infantilize the mission of the Baptist church, which was founded on the principles of absolute protestantism from any kind of vertical hierarchy. What I find so funny about the whole current Baptist message is that, traditionally, Baptists are not only fervent advocates of the separation between church and state; they also reject "family" as a meaningful concept. (When I became a Christian, my father informed me that he was no longer my father. We were now just fellow Christians.) What the fuck are Baptists doing trying to create a theocracy based on a near-Mormon obsession with nuclear American white suburban middle-class heterosexual families? Baptists fucking invented abandoning your family.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:16 AM
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Baptists fucking invented abandoning your family.

OK, not literally. But they made it really goddamn cool. The point is, a Baptist believes when you become a Christian, you are no longer required to act as a citizen of the state nor as a member of a family. You obey no priest, no lawmaker, no teacher, unless any of these accord with God's will.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:20 AM
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Doctrinally, they should be dissolved.

Indeed, there is no longer anything recognizably Baptist about the SBC.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:26 AM
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Except, I guess, baptisms.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:27 AM
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107: The always-charming Ross Douthat's latest column seems relevant here -- http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/19/opinion/19douthat.html?ref=opinion

Ross writes, "You can have Jesus or Dan Brown. But you can't have both." But he's wrong -- you can have Jesus and Dan Brown (and Deepak Chopra, if you like). Everybody gets to make up their own Jesus, and people a have been doing this for two thousand years.



Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:28 AM
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111: Go ahead. The SBC, as an organization, should not exist.

AWESOME!

What the fuck are Baptists doing trying to create a theocracy based on a near-Mormon obsession with nuclear American white suburban middle-class heterosexual families? Baptists fucking invented abandoning your family.

I, myself, am trying to figure that out. (Well, OK, right at the moment I am trying to find the evidence... {talk to self} Sheesh, stupid, 1845. Not going to find anything before that. Should be looking at JCC's religious beliefs...right. {stops talking to self} ... um, YEAH!) There's some very strange stuff in there, which I Did Not Know.

max
['Very ...culty... crowd.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:28 AM
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You obey no priest, no lawmaker, no teacher, unless any of these accord with God's will.

Of course, lawmakers have other ideas about whom you should obey, and when—so it seems like common sense that you should get laws passed that accord with God's will.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:30 AM
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I just really feel tax-use bitching, about war, about anti-science, anti-health programs, is reasonable.

109: For the record, I support bitching about stupid things. If nothing else, it helps spread awareness, and lets face it - bitching can be deeply therapeutic. I am objectively pro-bitching.

113: The church/state issue was a huge sore point for my Dad when Reagan came to power. He was old-school baptist, with the skepticism towards authority and a strong commitment to hands-on social justice (A Jimmy Carter Baptist, essentially). I have no idea what the modern SBC stands for, though I'm pretty sure they are opposed to a bunch of stuff I like. Consider this my bitching about the SBC.

I'm thinking maybe I should set up some gewgaws like Tibetan prayer wheels, only for bitching. People could walk by and spin them to bitch about things without boring their friends with the same damn bitching over and over again. There will most assuredly be a "WTF happened to the Baptists?" bitch wheel.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:31 AM
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SBC sounds like a the name of a gang.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:34 AM
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You obey no priest, no lawmaker, no teacher, unless any of these accord with God's will.

Nevertheless, I still think you should report all taxable income to the IRS, AWB.

Everybody gets to make up their own Jesus

In the words of Stephen Colbert (I'm paraphrasing here, so may not have it exactly): "Catholics with options? Catholics with options are called Protestants."


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:35 AM
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Everybody gets to make up their own Jesus

I did!


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:37 AM
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123: And you are my Saviour!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:39 AM
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98.2: Yes, pay your taxes, if not for Wall Street CEOs, then for my family.

You know what would be a good system? As soon as you apply for food stamps, as long as there's some evidence that you qualify (and I'd think last year's taxes should count), they give you some fucking stamps. If they determine that you're not eligible, then you have to pay them back. WhyTF do I have to wait 4+ weeks to start getting the benefits? So I can get in even worse financial shape?

You know, obviously, we've been getting by, but the thought that, in just a few weeks, I'll be getting this big benefit, but in the meantime we're scraping, is kind of maddening.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:39 AM
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I have no idea what the modern SBC stands for

Hating fags, mostly. When I was a kid, there were three liberal Baptist churches in the Triangle: Pullen in Raleigh, Binkley in Chapel Hill, and Watts Street in Durham (where I was a member). After the SBC got taken over by the wackos, they expelled Pullen and Binkley for allowing gay members. Watts saw the writing on the wall and left before we got expelled.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:40 AM
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I like the idea of Tibetan Bitching Wheels.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:46 AM
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People could walk by and spin them to bitch about things without boring their friends with the same damn bitching over and over again

It's called the Tuesday Hatred, a weekly feature of The Weblog for several years now.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:49 AM
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Less solipsistically, when I committed to becoming a genuine Big Government Liberal, I resolved never to bitch about taxes (except for bureaucratic hassles of the sort typical of any large org) or, within reason, about gov't programs. If I think something is bad policy - such as abstinence-only - then that's something to talk about, but generalized bitching of the form "my tax dollars shouldn't pay for X" just supports a view of the social compact that I can't abide.

There's plenty of completely worthy gov't spending out there - just tell yourself that they only use your tax dollars for that stuff, then attack the bad policy through political means*. But don't give aid and comfort to Grover Norquist and his ilk by supporting the idea that taxes are optional or selective.

[Jeez, sorry to be so humorless. Is there a cock joke thread?]

* IOW, talk about it on Unfogged


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:49 AM
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The tax discussion is interesting. I've been wondering for a while whether I'm approaching (or even: at) an income level at which it's unethical for me to steal bacon from the cafeteria at work. Technically, I could certainly afford it. But at this point it's mostly habit anyway, so I usually don't even think about it at the time.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:51 AM
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129: so I can't complain about the defense budget? No deal.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:53 AM
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I suppose I should have read the thread. Your tax dollars at work!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:54 AM
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129: my conservative father never fails to remind me that it's not the taxes to which he objects, it's the waste. (NB: it's the taxes.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:55 AM
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it's not stealing bacon, it's saving lives.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:58 AM
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never fails to remind me that it's not the taxes to which he objects, it's the waste. (NB: it's the taxes.)

cf "When people say 'It's not the money, it's the principle of the thing', they mean 'It's the money'".


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 11:59 AM
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117: Douthat makes a lot of sense: "The Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- jealous, demanding, apocalyptic -- may not be congenial to contemporary sensibilities, but he's the only historically-plausible Jesus there is." When I was at ND, Father Hesburgh made this point by saying that Jesus must have been a very tough character to make an impression on the fishermen he first recruited as disciples. For us callow youth who assumed that Jesus just relied on a few artfully-deployed miracles (water into wine! more loaves, more fishes!) to build a following, Hesburgh's insistence that Jesus be viewed as a historically-plausible man was a breath of fresh air, especially coming from a priest. I haven't heard it from too many other priests.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:01 PM
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130: Yes, and you need to quit masturbating on company time. Its just like stealing from the company.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:02 PM
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True fact: The United States is the only OECD country without any form of mandated worker masturbation breaks.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:06 PM
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137: Luckily there's no such thing as "company time" in my line of work--there's only client time. And I'm sure clients don't mind paying for my masturbation, as long as I'm thinking strictly legal thoughts. (It's called "brainstorming".)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:08 PM
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Jesus must have been a very tough character to make an impression on the fishermen he first recruited as disciples.

And those leprechauns must have been flashy little fellows to get noticed by a people as habitually drunk as the Irish.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:09 PM
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And I'm sure clients don't mind paying for my masturbation, as long as I'm thinking strictly legal thoughts

Caprice and arbitrariness get me hot, but I move for a change of venue to someplace more private.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:09 PM
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Then you get folks who want to expand the social safety net while simultaneously shirking their own responsibilities to pay for it.

I'd be very interested to hear the kind of standards people hold themselves to with regards to write-offs. Presidential anonymity and harsh judgmentalism encouraged. It's the sort of thing you don't talk about with friends much, at least in my set (though we're mostly standard deduction people). So I don't really have a good community context for my ethical formulations.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:13 PM
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136: Eh...how would we know what would impress a bunch of Palestinean fishermen 2000 years ago?

Anyway, theologians figured out that it was a Christian belief that people that died fighting for their country went straight to heaven automatically. Compared to that Jesus and Dan Brown are basically indistinguishable.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:22 PM
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Conservatives frequently underestimate the modern sensibility possessed by many of the U.S. Founding Fathers. Conservatives assume that the Constitution must support, say, proclaiming the U.S. a Christian nation and whatnot, because they figure the founders, having lived so long ago, must be pretty primitive.

On the other hand, conservatives are right about the New Testament - it really is a relic of a more barbaric time. One of the big theological innovations of the New Testament, after all, is the invention of Hell as a place of eternal torture. Jesus had his mellow side, but if you cross him, it's the Lake of Fire for you, bub. The fundamentalists aren't making that stuff up.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:23 PM
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126: There's a Baptist church here in Mpls that's basically Communist. Like, the Baptist version of Catholic Workers or something like that. They seem nice enough, but it must be pretty lonely.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:26 PM
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And I'm sure clients don't mind paying for my masturbation, as long as I'm thinking strictly legal thoughts.

Lucky you're not involved in Constitutional law, or it'd be no more masturbating for you.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:28 PM
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what would impress a bunch of Palestinean fishermen 2000 years ago?

Walking on water is pretty impressive in any time or place. Too bad Jesus won't be able to do it when he returns.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:28 PM
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I'd be very interested to hear the kind of standards people hold themselves to with regards to write-offs.

I recently started having my taxes done professionally. The most noticeable change appears to be that my tax guy has a good idea about what level of charitable contributions will be blindly accepted, and as a result I have "donated a laptop" for the past three years.

This seems blatantly dishonest, and makes me a bit uncomfortable. On the other hand, a completely trivial tax planning mistake made three years ago caused me to pay a couple hundred thousand dollars more in income tax, so I guess it balances out.

I think I'm going to vote No on all of the California budget measures, in an effort to heighten the contradictions.


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:30 PM
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147: the image of Jesus glumly sinking into the water as little spouts of water come up through his feet is pretty much awesome. Thanks!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:30 PM
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From Douthat:

But if you want to sell a 100 million, you need to preach as well as entertain -- to present a fiction that can be read as fact, and that promises to unlock the secrets of history, the universe and God along the way.
Yeah, like The Hobbit and The Catcher in the Rye. But if you want to get a job as the Times' rightwing columnist, you have to get things wrong as well as irritate. The "You can have Jesus or Dan Brown. But you can't have both" line is just idiotic. Christ, what an asshole.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:34 PM
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a completely trivial tax planning mistake made three years ago caused me to pay a couple hundred thousand dollars more in income tax

*boggle*


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:36 PM
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149: That is a lovely image, but I'm thinking a little Mighty Putty would solve the problem, and JC would be back to walking on water in no time.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:37 PM
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Crap, I forgot to vote.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:37 PM
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I followed Kevin Drum's advice and didn't vote.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:38 PM
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I'm going to let my three-year-old vote for me today. Thanks to touch-screen voting, it won't be difficult.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:42 PM
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154: are you registered in City of L.A.? The local races could use you.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:43 PM
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151: Yeah...I think I'm not going to worry too much about how thoroughly I discussed my screenwriting career at every one of those meals.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:44 PM
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The first two Google hits for Kevin Drum point to the Washington Monthly. Although after clicking through on Mother Jones, he seems to support the ballot measures that let the state spend money currently earmarked for preschool and mental care on other things. Good enough for me.


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:45 PM
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156: nope.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:45 PM
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147: As a winemaker, I'd guess he knows about corks. But ouch!

We've also had ours taxes done professionally for the last few years, and any doubts about certain write-offs (like not taking off a percentage of our DSL payments to account for commenting on Unfogged) are balanced by expenses I remember only after we've filed, plus substantial overpayments from previous years.

Crap, I forgot to vote.

Whoa, thanks for the reminder. We still have time to drop off our ballots.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:48 PM
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141
Caprice ... [gets] me hot,

You and Mickey Kaus, apparently.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:50 PM
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162

152 reminds me of an old joke (as long as I'm blaspheming).

A local hardware company called Tompkins have a new line of nails, so they hire a local advertising agency to help promote it. After a couple of weeks, the salesman calls a meeting with the board of directors from Tompkins to show them the proposed billboard. The salesman pulls away the covers revealing a poster of Jesus nailed to a cross, and across the bottom in big letters: "For the toughest jobs, use Tompkins Nails."

The directors are predictably horrified. They tell the ad man that this campaign would absolutely drive away business and tell him to come up with something more appropriate. A week later the salesman returns with his new poster, this time showing Jesus crumpled at the foot of the cross, with the caption: "Should have used Tompkins Nails!"


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:52 PM
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WhyTF do I have to wait 4+ weeks to start getting the benefits?

Because the norm in this country is to be more concerned about ineligible people getting benefits than about eligible people not getting the benefits they're entitled to. Welfare Queens, all that jazz. Not that you're really asking.

Presumptive eligibility similar to what you mention has actually been a standard lefty proposal for a while now, but it never goes anywhere. Not that it would do any good if funding wasn't bumped up at the same time, since the pool of people receiving benefits is always quite a bit smaller than the number who are statutorily eligible for them.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:54 PM
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My friend told me that INRI stands for "I'm Nailed Right In."


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 12:59 PM
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Another high income lawyer. At a firm so I can't mess around with reporting income. I don't fake my deductions but I am not going to keep track of every friggin internet and mail order purchase all year long just for the pleasure of reporting and paying the state sales tax. It probably costs my state a few hundred or so a year, which in turn would be partly deductible on the federal return. Also I don't report or pay social security, unemployment, etc. for the part-time college student babysitter, even though her earnings technically qualify, because it would cost her more than it costs me and it's also a filing hassle.


Posted by: Millard Fillmore | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:14 PM
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This seems blatantly dishonest, and makes me a bit uncomfortable which of course it is, which is why it's tax fraud and is a felony. On the other hand, a completely trivial tax planning mistake made three years ago caused me to pay a couple hundred thousand dollars more in income tax, so I guess it balances out. wait, there is no other hand.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:15 PM
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I am not going to keep track of every friggin internet and mail order purchase

No kidding. Every time I get to that place on my tax return, I start laughing. You betcha, NC Department of Revenue, right after I make sure my pot dealer is affixing the proper tax stamps to my bags.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:18 PM
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I haven't read the entire thread yet (sorry), but I just wanted to say: last night I watched Jesus Camp and then read about torture and other Bush shit -- and now, I guess, Obama shit -- until 4am. There's not enough alcohol in the world, and my weed dealer won't message me back. I feel like the only decent thing to do is become a full-time surfer like Jesse Ventura. Didn't Socrates say something about finding shelter behind a wall during a sandstorm?


Posted by: Currence | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:18 PM
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but I am not going to keep track of every friggin internet and mail order purchase all year long just for the pleasure of reporting and paying the state sales tax.

We'll be keeping track of that for you pretty soon now, no worries.


Posted by: The Taxman | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:19 PM
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160: Little known fact: Jesus actually invented the Stelvin closure.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:20 PM
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167: People who work in state tax departments crack up when you mention that line too. They're not really expecting much from it.

(As a fascinating note in human psychology, you know who pays that? People who use TurboTax. A noticeable percentage of people who had been merrily ignoring the line on paper forms for their whole lives start filing online and have their PC ask them how much they spent out of state, and go "Oh, golly, I'm supposed to pay taxes on that?" and then they pay.)


Posted by: The Taxman | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:22 PM
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because it would cost her more than it costs me

What's that supposed to mean? You would have to pay her more??

It is a huge filing hassle, granted.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:26 PM
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a near-Mormon obsession with nuclear American white suburban middle-class heterosexual families

To give the Mormons their due, nuclear American brown suburban middle-class heterosexual families are also cool with them. Maybe even non-American and/or non-suburban.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:26 PM
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A noticeable percentage of people who had been merrily ignoring the line on paper forms

Probably in that case "not fully understanding" rather than "merrily ignoring", right? The Turbotax instructions are about 1000x more clear than the IRS instructions on the paper forms.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:28 PM
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Jesus actually invented the Stelvin closure

Crown cap, actually. The original thorny version didn't go over too well.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:29 PM
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brown suburban middle-class heterosexual families are also cool with them

That's a very recent development.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:32 PM
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176: Sure, but so's the whole Mormon thing, and they get points for adaptability. Still nuts, of course, but mostly nice people IME. Or at least they'd rather convert you than condemn you to hell, which counts for something.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:40 PM
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mostly nice people IME

My experience as well. However, a God that doesn't allow caffeine seems even less appealing than a God who doesn't allow pork chops. Talk about torture.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:44 PM
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Eh...how would we know what would impress a bunch of Palestinean fishermen 2000 years ago?

Eloquence, presence, a vision of a better world (maybe not our version of a better world), and organizing skill are pretty impressive in most eras in most places. The Sermon on The Mount probably was change that the ancient Palestineans could believe in, even if later Christians turned it on its head. No water-walking or other supernatural feats needed, although the New Testament has plenty of those, too. A pesky detail is: what, if any, part of this actually happened?

A local Presbyterian minister told me about one of his classes at Princeton Theological Seminary. The prof said on the first day that the most important figure in the New Testament is Paul, not Jesus. The prof's point was that Paul is the historical figure with the most verifiable influence on what's in the New Testament. This made some of the more conservative students extremely nervous.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:45 PM
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wait, there is no other hand.

Sure there is. Legal weight and moral weight are clearly different. Without a doubt, lying on one's taxes exposes you to legal danger. The question is - is it immoral to cheat on one's taxes, and if so, does the amount and motivation manner?

Hell, I actually buy shit in stores because I feel bad about depriving my local governments of sales tax revenue. I'm also supposed to feel bad that I'm too lazy to hire a seriously good tax professional to reduce the amount that I pay these various governments tens of thousands of dollars, and in compensation I sign whatever my merely OK tax guy puts in front of me?


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:46 PM
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And on topic, my non-presidential confession: I try to pay the right amount of taxes, and I don't mind erring in the government's favor a bit now and then, but I'm not all that rigorous about recordkeeping and I might occasionally use a close-enough approximation when figuring out the exact number would be a huge pain in the ass.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:48 PM
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178: Well, yeah. Although my Mormon b-i-l and at least one or two of his kids enjoy the occasional Coke.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:50 PM
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179: Is there any reason to believe that Jesus was all that popular during his lifetime? Is there anything at all to suggest Jesus had "organizing skills"?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:52 PM
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The question is - is it immoral to cheat on one's taxes, and if so, does the amount and motivation manner?

Do you find these to be difficult questions? On the latter, I'd say "yes", but a rich person commiting fraud in order to save a few hundred bucks isn't a sympathetic situation. And I don't think "but there are probably legal ways I could save even more, if I bothered to use them" is in any way exculpatory.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:56 PM
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he most important figure in the New Testament is Paul, not Jesus

Absolutely. This article by Robert Wright in last month's Atlantic was very interesting.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:56 PM
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I'm also supposed to feel bad that I'm too lazy to hire a seriously good tax professional ... and in compensation I sign whatever my merely OK tax guy puts in front of me?

I don't think it works that way, that seems like it implies that the proper ethical burden is "pay what you feel like as long as it's somewhere between the most you could legally have to pay and what you believe is the least you could legally half to pay."

If nothing else, I would say that you would need to be very sure that the methods that the good tax professional would use to reduce your tax burden by "tens of thousands of dollars" are both legally and ethically impeccable before you can use that scenario as ethical cover.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:57 PM
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When I was just out of college and self-employed, living hand-to-mouth, I tried to keep my income low enough so as to miss the self-employment tax. It was kind of wild when I first had a salaried job and taxes were just, you know, taken care of.

A good friend who's a freelance writer told me that, when he started using an accountant, she found enough deductions to save them thousands a year in taxes. I don't know if that means that I'm being stupid, or if she's being semi-ethical (I suspect it's both, but I wonder where the split is). I have no doubt that I pay my fair share; I just don't know how much extra I'm paying (and yes, obviously I should just get my own damn accountant).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 1:58 PM
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125: So you got the benefits? Yay!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:00 PM
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Hmm. OK, and if I receive actual legal advice to claim a deduction, from someone who (as I understand it) is signing their name to the document also, and is on the hook for any penalties, but that seems shady, I am required to tell him "hey, what's this?"

Even if the face of a tax code that is severely arbitrary and capricious? Remember, a completely trivial mistake, on the order of a sign error, with no compensating benefits, resulted in a several hundred thousand dollar increase in tax payments to the federal government.

Compare to not paying social security taxes for child care as noted above.

Also, every time I've hired someone to work on my house, they try to talk me into doing it without permits. In every case, I've insisted on permits. Hundreds of dollars to the city.


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:04 PM
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172: social security taxes are nominally paid by both employer and employee, so if I report and pay my share I am also legally required to deduct the same amount from her salary and turn it over to the government. Also, then I would probably have to deduct income tax and she would have to pay that (her income might be too low, but it depends on whether she has other jobs). Of course it would be possible to raise her salary to make her after tax equal to the amount it would be absent the taxes (assuming I didn't reduce her hours). If I offered to do that, she'd point out that we would both be better off if I raised her salary by slightly less than that amount, and still left the government out of it.


Posted by: Millard Fillmore | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:13 PM
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I thought that this "very short introduction" book did a good job on Paul:

http://www.amazon.com/Paul-Very-Short-Introduction-Introductions/dp/0192854518

turbotax is pretty good about prompting you about deductions.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:14 PM
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I'm very curious about the trivial mistake, Polk. Is there a way to describe it, without blowing your anonimity?

"The order of a sign error" is pretty insignifcant. I assume it wasn't a mistake on a return, or you'd have filed an amended return. Perhaps a mistake in merging assets of two personal business entities--a forward merger instead of a reverse? I'm grasping at straws, really.

The donated laptop thing is odd, though, since you seem to be scrupulous otherwise (insisting on permits). You're obviously quite wealthy (or were for one tax year, at least): does cheating your way into a few hundred bucks actually make you feel that much better about the situation? If not, why do it?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:15 PM
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190: I'm familiar with the rules. When she points out that you'd both be better off if you raised her salary by slightly less than that amount, and still left the government out of it, you should point out to her that's tax fraud.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:17 PM
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189: The thing is, James, this:

The most noticeable change appears to be that my tax guy has a good idea about what level of charitable contributions will be blindly accepted, and as a result I have "donated a laptop" for the past three years

sounds as if you're filing your taxes on the basis of a fact claim (that you donated a laptop) that you know to be untrue. Saying that your lawyer advised you to lie doesn't clear you of responsibility for lying.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:22 PM
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The fact that there's even employment at all for tax accountants for individuals is obscene, IMO. Having to hire someone in order to pay your personal taxes (or risk JKP's misfortune) is just wrong. Get rid of all specialized deductions (all the giveaways to connected interests, leaving only the personal deduction), eliminate distinctions between types of income, and the longest tax form will be within the abilities of nearly anyone to fill out correctly.

It's tempting to use the tax code as an instrument of social policy (mortgage interest deduction, f'rex), but once you start doing that you open the door to using it to hand out favors to allies and supporters. That's the kind of bullshit that leaves us with a tax code so complicated literally nobody understands all of it, and so riddled with loopholes that billionaires pay a lower percentage of income in taxes than Bear will on her award.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:22 PM
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164: I always heard it was Initiate Nail Removal Immediately.


Posted by: shpx.ohfu | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:24 PM
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Is there a way to describe it, without blowing your anonimity?The rules for when income from ISOs become capital gains rather than ordinary income are somewhat complex. The difference in tax rates is very large. If grant and vesting dates differ by two days, you can think you waited for the relevant one, but be wrong. There are other ways to get easily tripped up.

If not, why do it?

I don't want to argue with my tax guy, especially in a way that accuses him of being dishonest. Laziness and conflict avoidance. Pathetic, huh?


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:25 PM
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195: "Eliminating all deductions" isn't as easy as it sounds. Someone like JRoth, who's in business for himself, can't possibly pay taxes on his revenue without deducting expenses -- every non-incorporated small business in the country would be out of business immediately. Our tax code is a horrible mess, but there is a point beyond which it can't be simplified -- doing it right would still involve a certain amount of deductions and such.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:26 PM
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Even if the face of a tax code that is severely arbitrary and capricious?

That question was the subject of the thread that Witt linked in 108.

I think the conclusion was that there's nothing unethical about claiming any legal deduction, but there is something unethical about lying.

Then the question is whether you can split the difference by saying that you believe that the number you're lying about is less than some unspecified and unknown legal deduction would be,

I'm not at all happy with that logic, and I think it makes a poor general rule, because it rewards people who are deluded in their beliefs about what they could claim, but never have to check their beliefs because they just lie instead.

As a practical matter I don't think it's the worst thing in the world, but it definitely seems like it isn't grounded in any ethical principles, but just some internal sense of, "I'm not cheating too much."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:26 PM
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sounds as if you're filing your taxes on the basis of a fact claim (that you donated a laptop) that you know to be untrue. Saying that your lawyer advised you to lie doesn't clear you of responsibility for lying.

Sure. Hence my efforts to pay enough taxes that the lie is not harmful to anything other than my conscience.


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:28 PM
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197: I don't want to argue with my tax guy, especially in a way that accuses him of being dishonest. Laziness and conflict avoidance. Pathetic, huh?

I am not your attorney and this is not legal advice. That said, fire this guy now and find someone who isn't telling you to lie about stuff. If you don't have the attention span to be on top of all the details yourself, having someone who's demonstrably dishonest handling them for you is a terrible, terrible idea; you just don't know how deep he's going to get you. You sound like someone who's in for a world of hurt. (You also sound as if you're talking about enough money that you need someone seriously competent, not just honest.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:29 PM
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Eh, if your income is salary plus a bit of interest/investment income, it isn't particularly hard to do your own return even under the current code. It's the small business/self-employed folks who have it tough, and that's because figuring out the income of a business enterprise is a non-trivial undertaking however you tax it. Which is not to say that doing an enhanced version of the base-broadening bits of the 1986 act wouldn't be a very good thing.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:31 PM
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That's especially true if, as you say you are, you're reluctant to push the guy. Buck owns a small business, and the accountant, a lovely person and a friend, has made efforts to push the limits of literal exactitude on the taxes. And Buck, with me standing there going "No, no, I'm sure everyone does it, but what if I wanted to run for office one day?" has pushed back. The accountant thinks we're tightasses and suckers, in an affectionate kind of way, but he's not going to do anything surprising we haven't consented to.

You do not sound as if you have that level of control over the relationship. This is a recipe for disaster.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:33 PM
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198: I assume small business would be taxed on profit, not income.

The real problem with my preferred system is that the stakeholders in the current horrible mess are too powerful.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:34 PM
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That said, fire this guy now and find someone who isn't telling you to lie about stuff.

This is getting really close to the bounds of presidential anonymity here. But you know how they recommend against hiring the close relative of a close friend for professional services?

Yeah.

I was not pleased when I found out that the referral was not just "my tax guy".


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:34 PM
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204: But that's what 'deductions' are -- figuring out how much of your revenue should be thought of as profit. There's no way to simplify that beyond a certain point.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:35 PM
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197: eh, they're bright-line rules. They're highly technical and complex, yes, but that's more or less unavoidable. When in doubt, talk to an adviser, especially when there's real money on the line. (And if the adviser gets it wrong, look to them for recompense.) I mean, that really sucks for you, and I'm sure it was extremely frustrating, but I don't know about your "arbitrary and capricious" claims.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:35 PM
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202 to 195.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:35 PM
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205: Oy. That's bad. If you absolutely can't fire him for personal reasons, my advice (which is not legal advice as set forth above) is to ride really close herd on him. But mostly I'd fire him anyway -- how important is the possible offense compared to the possibility of serious legal liability?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:39 PM
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When in doubt, talk to an adviser, especially when there's real money on the line.

It wasn't clear that there was going to be serious money on the line, otherwise I would have double-checked my chain of logic, and found the mistake. When serious money came into the picture, I figured I got over my general suspicion of financial advisers. And apparently ended up with someone who tells me to cheat on my taxes.


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:39 PM
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207 before I saw all the stuff that came before it. Sounds like a shitty situation all around. I'm still not sure why/how in your mind it justifies the fraud.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:39 PM
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Sounds like a shitty situation all around. I'm still not sure why/how in your mind it justifies the fraud.

I read James correctly. At this point he is saying that, while the fraud may not be justified, his reasons for engaging in it are primarily non-monetary, and that's why he is cultivating a sense of other monetary "offsets."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:42 PM
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I'm still not sure why/how in your mind it justifies the fraud.

The fraud was literally 0.1% of my tax bill. Absent a Superman III/Office Space thing to accumulate massive wealth in tiny increments, it seems like there's a pragmatic argument that it doesn't matter.


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:43 PM
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202 also pwned by 198. 0-2.

But that's what 'deductions' are -- figuring out how much of your revenue should be thought of as profit.

Except that personal deductions--mortgage interest and the like--really are about subsidizing particular sorts of expenses or behaviors, which invites this sort of confusion.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:43 PM
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It wasn't clear that there was going to be serious money on the line, otherwise I would have double-checked my chain of logic, and found the mistake.

I'm not sure what this means. If this mistake cost you "hundreds of thousands", the total amount you were cashing in must have been a half-million or so, minimum, right? That's serious money on the line. Obviously you may not have realized you were playing close to a line that might have tripped a significantly higher tax rate, but you certainly realized you were playing with real money.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:43 PM
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213: well, I imagine it only matters to you, as it could be the trigger for audits or worse.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:44 PM
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social security taxes are nominally paid by both employer and employee, so if I report and pay my share I am also legally required to deduct the same amount from her salary and turn it over to the government. Also, then I would probably have to deduct income tax and she would have to pay that

IANATaxL, but my understanding is the employer can pay both its own and the employees share of the taxes; the amount paid on behalf of the employee is then taxable income to the employee. You do not have to withhold taxes for a household employee unless you both want to do it that way.

The IRS has a nice pamphlet on household employees. You should look it over. Hell, it might even clarify that the babysitter doesn't meet the definition of a household employee, depending on the terms of the employment relationship.

I think Brock and I both bitched vocally here about what a pain in the ass it is a tax season or so ago, but seriously, do it right.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:45 PM
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I also wouldn't fib about donating something I didn't donate, but if the bottom-line number on the return is at least the amount owed (i.e., the phony deduction is balanced out by overpayment elsewhere on the return), I'm not sure there's any civil or criminal liability for the phony deduction.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:46 PM
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The fraud was literally 0.1% of my tax bill.

Maybe I wasn't clear before: this was why I didn't understand it. (I do actually, now, if it's a family member you're afraid to confront.) If it were a meaningful percentage of your tax bill, it would make sense for financial reasons in its own right.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:47 PM
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218: Not sure, but I think you can be prosecuted for criminal fraud even if you didn't actually succeed.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:47 PM
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213, 216: Mmm. As a litigator, I'm professionally paranoid -- I usually don't see a situation until everything that could possibly have gone wrong has. That said, the chain of events I see is: (1) Bozo the accountant does something shady with your taxes that nets you a substantial amount of money without telling you it's shady; he just wants you to be pleased with how smart he is, and he's a demonstrably shady guy; (2) You get audited, and the IRS asks questions about everything -- they find out about the piddling fraud you knew about, and about the serious fraud you didn't; (3) they take your admission that you knew about some of the fraud as evidence that you knew about all of it, and suddenly you're facing prosecution.

This probably isn't terribly likely, but as a professional paranoid, it's the first thing I thought of.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:49 PM
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215: I suspect, if it was stock options, what might not be clear when you're buying the options is what the price is likely to be when you're able to sell them, no?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:49 PM
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I'm not sure what this means.

IRS section 83(b), attempting to early exercise half the options so as to hedge between company failure and company success, and exercising the wrong half of the options.


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:49 PM
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Yeah, I suspected it was something like 223. We ran into a similar situation when my company got bought, and everything vested, but we couldn't sell the exercised options for a year.

Cleverly, I completely failed to act, which meant that when the company that bought us lost 97% of its value in that year, I wasn't way underwater like some people.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:51 PM
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To be clear, the chance that an individual will be audited absent obvious fraud or gross irregularity is infinitesimal.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:51 PM
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This probably isn't terribly likely, but as a professional paranoid, it's the first thing I thought of.

Yeah, this is exactly my concern. Crap.


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:51 PM
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220: Not sure either, but a lot of the nasty stuff in the Code is triggered by underpaying tax in a particular way, so you're OK if there's no underpayment. Fraud may be different, and I'm too lazy to do the research now that I don't have the Code and regs sitting on my desk any more.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:52 PM
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224: Yup. I mean, I know enough to not get screwed by the AMT on ISOs, etc.

I really should find another tax guy and ask him some questions.


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:53 PM
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I will say that I don't know anything at all about the risk of audit, either in a vacuum or what factors would affect it -- that's not an area I've ever dealt with. I might be being much more paranoid than is justified by the situation. But I'd still fire him.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:53 PM
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223 misunderstands 215, which was making a far more pedestrian point. (Although I understand what happened now, I think.) I don't follow 222 at all.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:53 PM
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230 me.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:54 PM
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I don't follow 222 at all.

Me either. Let's just forget it ever happened.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:55 PM
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This thread was a lot more entertaining when we were mocking the Lord.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:56 PM
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206: In my mind there's a distinction between rules governing how profit/loss is calculated and tax deductions. Taxes are what you do after you know what your profits are, and figuring out which things are legitimate expenses is different issue entirely. I realize that's not how it works in practice, but in Togotopia we do things differently.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 2:58 PM
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120: I have no idea what the modern SBC stands for, though I'm pretty sure they are opposed to a bunch of stuff I like.

I don't think they differ much from the way they used to be:

[...]Slavery was the most critical issue among Baptists. Early Baptist and Methodist evangelicals in the South before the Revolution [1776] had promoted the view of the common man's equality before God, which embraced African Americans. They challenged the hierarchies of class and race, and urged planters to abolish slavery. [...] Baptists struggled to gain a foothold in the South. The next generation of Baptist preachers accommodated themselves to the society. Rather than challenging the gentry on slavery, they began to interpret the Bible as supporting its practice. In the two decades after the Revolution, preachers abandoned their pleas that slaves be freed by their owners (manumission). Many Baptist preachers even wanted to preserve the rights of ministers themselves to be slaveholders. The Triennial Convention and the Home Mission Society reaffirmed their neutrality concerning slavery.
The increasing tensions and discontent of Baptists from the South regarding national criticism of slavery led to their withdrawal from the national Baptist organizations. They met at the First Baptist Church of Augusta, in May 1845. At this historic meeting they formed a new convention, naming it the Southern Baptist Convention. [...]
Residual effects of the decision to separate from other Baptists in defense of white supremacy and the institution of slavery have been long lived. A survey by SBC's Home Mission Board in 1968 showed that only eleven percent of Southern Baptist churches would admit Americans of African descent. African Americans gathered to develop their own churches early on, including some before the American Revolution, to practice their distinct form of American Christianity away from attempts by whites at control. Within the Baptist denomination, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, African Americans established separate associations. During the conservative resurgence, the Southern Baptist Convention of 1995 voted to adopt a resolution renouncing its racist roots and apologizing for its past defense of slavery. The resolution repenting racism marked the denomination's first formal acknowledgment that racism played a role in its early history. Today there are increasing numbers of ethnically diverse churches within the convention. Baptist numerical strength in the US remains greatest in the former slave-holding states.
16 million Baptists in the SBC. 5+% of the population, so 5+% of the voting population. That's just the SBC, not any of their fellow travelers. And then we get the conservative resurgence:
A spokesman for the leadership of the SBC, Dr. Morris Chapman, claims that the root of the controversy has been about theology. He maintains that the controversy has "returned the Southern Baptist Convention to its historic commitments." Speaking as president of the "new" SBC's Executive Committee, Chapman cites as examples the Conservative Resurgency's claims that
* Baptist colleges and seminaries were producing more and more liberalism in writing, proclamation, and publication
* The adoption of a hermeneutic of suspicion which elevates human reason above the clear statements of the Bible
* The continued influence of many teachers and leaders who did not hold to a high view of Scripture.
While takeover architect Paige Patterson believes the controversy has achieved its objective of returning the SBC from an alleged "leftward drift" to a more conservative stance, he admits to having some regrets.
And the exact theological issue is:
The 1979 SBC meeting in Houston, Texas, produced two important developments: First, Southern Baptists applied a new word, "inerrancy," to their understanding of Scripture. Since 1650 the adjective most used by Baptists to describe their view of the Bible had been "infallible"; however, the term "inerrancy" had been implied in the 1833 New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith ("truth without any mixture of error") in wording that, by this time, had already been incorporated into the 1925 and 1963 editions of the Baptist Faith and Message. Some Reformed theologians in Europe had utilized the term "inerrancy" in the same way that North American theologians used "infallibility." Many conservative leaders championed the word "inerrancy" in this phase of the ongoing controversy--a phase that would later become known as the "inerrancy controversy."[...]
That is, every goddamn word of the Bible is literally true.

While I think it's true that the issue inside the SBC was overtly about theology, the real issue is that the SBC (and the southern Methodists too!) have the antebellum social order of the South wired into their cultural DNA. So the original unwritten interpretation of the 'literally true' Bible was built on the view of the world from the South circa 1850; to revert back to 'the historical misson' is to revert back to the Confederacy.

Oh, and you can go to this page and find Calvinism, A Review wherein the author reports on a 'bipartisan' symposium held to discuss the issue of whether Baptists are (or should be) Calvinists. There's a pretty strong split, apparently, with the Calvinists gaining ground.

max
['The hard part is linking the theology to the party line on economics in the South, since the Bible has quite a mixed opinion on the topic, but the bulk of the South doesn't.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 3:00 PM
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I don't follow 222 at all.

If you exercise an ISO, you end up with some stock and an AMT tax liability for 28% of the amount of the gain.

If you are wise, you sell the stock immediately, and end up with a bunch of cash and a tax liability for much less than the amount of cash.

If you are greedy or naïve, you think "I will exercise my ISO, and hold the stock for a year, and will then pay 15% capital gains tax instead of 39% income tax."

In the latter case, the stock will invariably drop by 97%, so instead of keeping $61 and paying the feds $39, you have $3 and owe the feds $28. But you get to write off the $28, at a maximum rate of $3000 a year.

If instead of $28 it was $28,000, you can see why this sucks. If instead of $28 it was $280,000, you can see why it sucks even more.


Posted by: James K. Polk | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 3:00 PM
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they began to interpret the Bible as supporting its practice.

That doesn't take any interpretation. The Bible's chock full of rules about slavery, not one of them inhibitory.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 3:05 PM
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206: In my mind there's a distinction between rules governing how profit/loss is calculated and tax deductions. Taxes are what you do after you know what your profits are, and figuring out which things are legitimate expenses is different issue entirely. I realize that's not how it works in practice, but in Togotopia we do things differently.

The point is that the Togotopia version is just wrong, in that it fails to deal with a very large part of what the income tax system does (i.e., compute business income according to a set of accounting rules that differ from the rules used for financial reporting purposes). And the reason the wrongness matters is that it gives aid and comfort to the sneaky bastards who are trying to convince people that their taxes would be way simpler if people making a million dollars a year paid the same marginal rates as people making 25K.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 3:08 PM
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Paige Patterson [...] admits to having some regrets

Paige Patterson is an asshole of the highest order.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 3:21 PM
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My friend told me that INRI stands for "I'm Nailed Right In."

The version "Iron Nails Ran In" is in someone's internal monologue in Ulysses I think.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 3:31 PM
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I did once fail to pay social security tax on a payment as a contractor (temporary secretary). I had already spent the very small amount of money on food and rent. I didn't actually file that year, partly, because I moved between two jurisdictions. They could go after me, because I never filed, and if they do, I'd be glad to pay up. I just don't have good enough records.

I'm glad that this thread has turned to legal questions, because I have a legal hypothetical. I am not asking for legal advice. No attorney/client relationship yada yada yada, but I'd be grateful for advice from lawyers. Here goes:

HYPOTHETICAL

College A hires Collection Agency B to collect loan from Student C. College A still holds the loan. B violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. C goes to College A and wants to pay A directly.

Administrator at College A (who is herself misinformed by Collection Agency B) as well as ignorant of the laws governing her area of expertise is lied to by B. (This detail isn't really relevant. I just felt like adding it in.)

College A administrator says that A can't take payment directly, because it would violate A's contract with B.

1.) Could one say that B had already breached the contract by breaking the law related to the action specified by the contract?

2.) How likely is it that Collection Agency B would actually sue College A if College A did break the contract?

3.) As a practical matter, does your answer to (2.) change at all if there are already numerous complaints filed against them?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 3:49 PM
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238: It's not clear to me why this:
compute business income according to a set of accounting rules that differ from the rules used for financial reporting purposes
is a good thing and why this:
people making a million dollars a year paid the same marginal rates as people making 25K
is a bad thing if there is a substantial deduction for self/household. As is there are numerous instances where a person making a million dollars a year pays a lower overall rate than someone making 25K, and the root cause of that is a tax code riddled with loopholes.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 3:59 PM
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241.1: Were I drafting or reviewing such a contract, I'd make sure that there was language in there requiring the collection agency to comply with applicable law, which would make noncompliance a breach. Not sure absent specific language.

241.2: Probably they'd just tell College that College has to pay them their fees even if College collected the money directly. Probably not likely that they'd sue unless College refused to pay a substantial amount they thought they were owed. But would need to see the contract between College and collection agency to get a better idea of likelihood. (If College is public, you might be able to get a copy via state public-records law.)

242.3: Not really, unless it's to the point where collection agency makes itself unemployable and has nothing to lose by suing its clients.

(Not your lawyer, not legal advice, etc., etc.)


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:00 PM
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Rrrr. I hate to be unhelpful, but I'm coming up with (1) Maybe -- depends on the contract. Do you know if the college still owns the debt at all? If they sold it outright to the collection agency, they really can't collect it. (2) & (3) Beats me. I wouldn't think it would be terribly likely, but I don't know.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:00 PM
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Sometimes collection agencies just buy the debt outright - someone owes the college $1000, the college figures they have no chance of collecting it, so the collection agency pays the college $100 for the right to collect as much as they can. In that case, I'd imagine that the college can't take the money.

No idea about the specific laws surrounding collections though.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:05 PM
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Do you know if the college still owns the debt at all?

College A still owns the debt. I should have bolded that in my hypo.

NPH,

(1.) So B isn't less likely to sue if there's already documented evidence of a pattern of illegal activity?

(2.) You say, "Absent specific language." You don't think that this would be implicit?

(3.) I would like to see the contract, since I am not sure which state's law governs it? College A is a state school in California. Collection Agency B is in Iowa.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:09 PM
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242.1: Because financial accounting rules are more worried about people over-reporting income and tax accounting rules are more worried about under-reporting.

242.2: You need to get a whole lot more precise than "loopholes." I can think of two major ways that high-income taxpayers pay lower rates: (1) lower rates for capital gains than ordinary income, and (2) Social Security tax only applies to the first $100K or thereabout. Itemized deductions have some impact on the margins, but that's not why Warren Buffett is paying a lower marginal rate than his secretary.

I don't think there need to be a whole lot of rates, but it makes sense to have different rates for income up to basic subsistence (0%), income from basic subsistence up into lower-upper middle class, and one or two rates for upper middle class on up into the outer reaches of obscenity. But however you want to carve up the brackets, the point is that the number of brackets has zero effect on the complexity of figuring out how much tax you owe.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:10 PM
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246.1: Maybe, maybe not, depending on a lot of things that aren't in hypo. One loan isn't going to make or break the relationship or cause a lawsuit, but we really don't have enough facts to develop a decent sense of what the agency's cost-benefit analysis for a lawsuit might look like.

246.2: It might. There might even be something in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. I just don't know, and I'm coming at this from the perspective of someone who spends more time on the front end of contracts than the back.

246.3: California Public Records Act. On a very quick scan, looks like you might be entitled to access, but I didn't read all the exceptions very closely.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:23 PM
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Thanks NPH. Yes, the CPR does apply. It doesn't say to whom one should direct the request but campus counsel will answer questions if I call.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:29 PM
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California has devised a way to make me tax evader:

http://www.ftb.ca.gov/professionals/taxnews/2009/0109/0109_1.shtml



Posted by: john quincy adams | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:31 PM
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Coming in late to say that although employers and employees both have been known to want to avoid paying Social Security for domestic help, it's a particularly miserable situation to be 50+ years old and have worked off the books for a long time, and then have something happen and not be able to show SS your years in the labor market. You can only file three years of back taxes, generally.

If you've been doing housecleaning or nannying or private-duty care, and then your back gives out or you destroy your knee in an accident or whatnot, you're really up the creek.

It's relatively small potatoes to an employer to pay the taxes. For an employee, it may feel like you'll be "better off" in the short term to skip out on paying them, but in the longer term the consequences can be pretty painful. More so if you have dependents.

Shorter me: It was flat-out racism that domestic workers got left out of Social Security to begin with. Don't be like the Dixiecrats.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 4:45 PM
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The version "Iron Nails Ran In" is in someone's internal monologue in Ulysses I think.

Bloom's.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 5:00 PM
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(Leopold)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 5:00 PM
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OT: This bugs the shit out of me. NYT, you really believe that the credit card industry, out of the goodness of its heart, has been giving its better-off customers a free ride at the expense of the late payers and balance-carriers? It's been a long time since Econ 101, but as I recall businesses aren't classically thought to be in the habit of charging Customer B less because they're making a lot from Customer A.

(Yes, I'm sure that a changed regulatory landscape will have some impact on the availability of goodies, but suggesting that the industry is going to make up for whatever it loses by charging more elsewhere is just idiotic propaganda. A big chunk of this is coming out of the industry's hide. That's why they're lobbying so hard against it.)


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 5:04 PM
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The fact that there's even employment at all for tax accountants for individuals is obscene, IMO. Having to hire someone in order to pay your personal taxes

It cost me nearly $5k to get (3 person-years worth) my taxes retroactively and currently sorted out because of cross border issues. It took me escalating until $400/hr ish accountants before I could find one who could say things about the relevant tax treaties that I didn't already know to be wrong.

They did save me $2k or so that I probably wouldn't have found for myself. So it cost me something like $2500 to be able to say "look, I really tried to do the right thing". That an d paying a pretty ridiculous marginal rate (via not claiming deductions that might theoretically be ok).

What is really annoying about this was when I pointed out to a merely $200/hr guy how he was wrong about something he was professing to advise me about, it didn't faze him at all.


Posted by: John F. Kennedy | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 5:12 PM
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Paying game. Torry and Alexander last year. Polygamy. His wife will put the stopper on that. Where was that ad some Birmingham irm the luminous cruciix. Our Saviour. Wake up in the dead of night and see him on the wall, hanging. Pepper's ghost idea. Iron nails ran in.
..."Laestrygonians"
He saw the priest stow the communion cup away, well in, and kneel an instant before it, showing a large grey bootsole from under the lace afair he had on. Suppose he lost the pin of his. He wouldn't know what to do to. Bald spot behind. Letters on his back: I.N.R.I? No: I.H.S. Molly told me one time I asked her. I have sinned: or no: I have suffered, it is. And the other one? Iron nails ran in.
..."Hades"
Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 5:15 PM
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254: Yeah. Had I but known I was getting a free ride I'd have voluntarily paid more to those altruistic credit card companies. As it is, I'm just going to shred all but the Amex card and keep one other for the places that don't take Amex.

Shorter version: Fuck 'em.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 5:28 PM
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Re the 2nd "Hades" paragraph in 256

If you can read something into the text, Jimmy already has.

We have an image of a bare-assed priest and "In This Sign" Could be a mooning or could be nastier. Makes Bloom think of Molly. (The next paragraph is a fantasy of Bloom's epistolary girlfriend and a guy who murders his family, ending in guilty feelings.)


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 5:32 PM
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It's complete propagandistic bullshit to say the credit card issuers have been holding off on milking some customers out of the goodness of their heart, but are only now going to do it because another revenue source has been cut off by new restrictions.

What the credit card people ARE going to do is go hog wild raising everybody's rates during the 9-12 months before this legislation actually goes into effect.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 5:36 PM
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256: I feel as though I've obtained an important clue regarding the inspiration for bob's writing style.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 5:43 PM
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258:Ain't "Hades" I'm lost in Ulysses.

260:People don't think with subordinate clauses. Ain't natural. Grammar dehumanizes.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 5:52 PM
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My mind subordinates like hell.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 6:18 PM
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247.1 Thank you for this. In the 10+ years I've been talking to people about this yours is the first clear and coherent explanation I've encountered. The constitution of Togotopia will be amended accordingly.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 6:43 PM
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263 is me.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 6:44 PM
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The 2nd paragraph is from "Lotus-Eaters." Just a little further on:

Molly was in fine voice that day, the Stabat Mater of Rossini. Father Bernard Vaughan's sermon first. Christ or Pilate? Christ, but don't keep us all night over it. Music they wanted. Footdrill stopped. Could hear a pin drop. I told her to pitch her voice against that corner. I could feel the thrill in the air, the full, the people looking up:

Quis est homo.

Some of that old sacred music splendid. Mercadante: seven last words. Mozart's twelth mass: Gloria in that. Those old popes keen on music, on art and statues and pictures of all kinds. Palestrina for example too.

So we have a lifelong resident of Dublin who knows Mercadante and Palestrina but doesn't know what I.H.S. stands for? And what is with the paragraph breaks and italics for the Rossini aria? My feeling is that Bloom fills with loveremembrance for Molly in p1 and than runs away from those feelings in p2. "" may represent his re-hearing the aria in pasttimeplace thoughtlessly.

And it also probably an authorial intrusion.

Not only do we have (supposedly) a representation of Bloom's consciousness but also, indirectly and very importantly, Bloom's unconscious and the filtered environment. But the more I read, the more Joyce and the less representation I saw.

Ceci n'est pas une pipe


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 6:46 PM
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holding off on milking some customers out of the goodness of their heart, but are only now going to do it because another revenue source has been cut off by new restrictions.

The "out of the goodness of their hearts" bit is nonsense (did the Times really suggest this, btw?), but haven't the credit card companies been threatening to raise the rates (and cancel the rewards) for their better-off (able to pay off the balance each month) customers for months now? As propaganda, I think the idea is to create resentment against/opposition to regulation by pitting one group of customers against another.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 6:48 PM
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266: of course they'll threaten to do that, but as it will be even more so in their interest to have everybody using credit cards as much as possible (since they'll make more of their money off of merchant fees), they aren't going to actually do it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 6:56 PM
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236 is a marvel to me!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 6:59 PM
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riverrun where would you guess?
Finnegans Wake is a mess.
"Would you help me get even?"
said left-over Stephen
yes i said yes i will yes


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 7:29 PM
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profcrush!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 7:30 PM
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So, from the link in 254:

Banks are expected to look at [...] charging interest immediately on a purchase instead of allowing a grace period of weeks

Oh my. If this is the case, what 257 said. I certainly don't need to use a credit card except occasionally.

The merchant fees Sifu mentions in 267 are significant, and this whole game would be funny if it weren't so sick.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 7:44 PM
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but as it will be even more so in their interest to have everybody using credit cards as much as possible (since they'll make more of their money off of merchant fees), they aren't going to actually do it.

Right. The credit card industry's complaint against customers who pay their balance in full is that the industry doesn't make any money off them. But this is patently false, given the merchant fees. What the industry means is that it doesn't make enough money off those who pay in full and on time, with "enough" referring to grotesque sums of money extracted in the form of interest and late fees.

For Citibank et al, the "ideal" customer is someone who keeps a running balance, someone who slowly but surely (or maybe not so slowly, but surely) gets in over her head, and starts making only the minimum payment each month (here comes the interest), and then eventually (and predictably) starts missing a payment or two (here come the late fees, on top of the interest), but who won't default altogether or declare bankruptcy. I used to be that "ideal" customer, and that's one reason why I do have some sympathy for the credit crunch guy (I know all about that curious, and self-defeating, mixture of false optimism ["magical thinking"] and fatalistic despair ['what's another charge to your card when you're in so deep you can't even imagine ever getting out?'], oh yes, I know it all too well).

Well I was an idiot, of course, and it was my own damn fault. But to this day, I feel no love for the bastards at Citibank.

And then I wised up. Cut up the cards, learned how to live without Visa and Mastercard (I used a debit card that also worked as a Mastercard [for all but car rentals, I think], but the money came directly and immediately out of a chequing account, so it really wasn't a credit card), paid off all balances in full (which took several years). I now have a couple of credit cards that I don't often use (but when I do, I pay the bill in full the day it arrives, with an almost superstitious haste, almost as though they might find an extra fee to charge me or something if the payment came in before the due date but not as early as it might have), and I now have (perhaps even an exaggerated ) horror of credit card interest.

If the credit card industry brings back annual fees and starts charging interest from the time of purchase, I will stop using credit cards altogether. I learned how to do that, the hard way.


Posted by: Zoé Lafontaine, l'épouse de Wilfrid Laurier | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:00 PM
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But error or fraud leading to a bogus credit card charge is the bank's problem until it is sorted out. Error or fraud leading to a bogus debit card charge is the bearer's problem, and after the fraud is reported and acknowledged, any bounced check fees are still your problem.

I have a small collection of 8 reales coins that circulated in China (silver:gold ratio higher there than elsewhere, so silver flowed in). Chinese merchants would take a little shaped punch ( four or five stroke character or symbol ) to mark the coin as having been weighed by them. Dozens of little marks, one for each transaction. Probably things won't break that direction, people will keep bank accounts the way they keep email accounts.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:14 PM
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I ran up about $4000 on a credit card for the first time last year, and paid it off this February, just in time before they started pulling this shit. Ridiculous.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:15 PM
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If the credit card industry brings back annual fees and starts charging interest from the time of purchase, I will stop using credit cards altogethe

Exactly.


Posted by: di kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:19 PM
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"They aren't charities. They have shareholders to report to," he said, referring to banks and credit card companies. "Whatever is left in the model to work from, they will start to maneuver."

I feel sorry for the big credit card companies. So timid and meek at the hands of dictatorial shareholders always demanding more more more. So unable to exercise even the slightest bit of control over the course of their own lives. Cowering in fear of a government bent on destroying every bit of the hard-earned wealth that their brilliance and talent was able to generate despite all of the obstacles placed so capriciously in their way, they have been forced to come to Washington, forced to pay out millions in tribute to venal politicians who care only for narrow self-interest, forced to attend receptions and luncheons and dinners and beg. Too bad they're not charities, or I would gladly contribute an annual donation in support of their higher causes.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:26 PM
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My BF does pay a small fee for his card, but he uses it to rack up Air Canada aeroplan miles. He pays for almost everything on it, always paying it off in full. He's got two flights for Christmas already.

I kind of wonder about the annual fee thing. I never liked to pay them, but were you better off if you got your MasterCard from Cambridge Trust than from Citibank or Chase?

Back in the day American Express was a great brand, and I think that they served their customers. I wasn't around in the 60's, but even in the 80's their travelers' checks had a better reputation thaan Visa's. Plus they had offices everywhere. I wonder whether something like that could come back.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:30 PM
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I'm glad you paid it off, AWB, and never again, right? ABD grad students are an "at-risk" population when it comes to credit card debt, I think (they're expected to travel, to do research and to attend conferences and such, and they're expected to attire themselves according to a certain standard and etc, but they often don't actually have the cash on hand to do so, and everything is oriented toward the hope, if not the expectation, of future income [the loan shark's ideal, and also the ideal of the bastards at Citibank], and anyway it can be surprisingly expensive to lead a life of shabby gentility). I speak from personal experience.


Posted by: Zoé Lafontaine, l'épouse de Wilfrid Laurier | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:32 PM
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Some of the comments on the story linked in 254 are not bad. Several people suggesting debit cards, and praising credit unions.

Using a credit union does help to align the incentives so they're working for you, instead of against you. That quotation about how credit-card companies "aren't charities," although obnoxious, is of course perfectly true.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:35 PM
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What is really annoying about this was when I pointed out to a merely $200/hr guy how he was wrong about something he was professing to advise me about, it didn't faze him at all.

Surely you didn't pay his bill, did you?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 8:37 PM
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I really doubt the credit-card companies will follow through on things like charging interest from the date of purchase. They're just posturing.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:03 PM
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281: I doubt it too, though they do that on cash advances.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:11 PM
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That quotation about how credit-card companies "aren't charities," although obnoxious, is of course perfectly true.

I'm hoping it was included to make readers angry. It's so obviously true there's no reason to say it except to irritate.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:21 PM
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205

This is getting really close to the bounds of presidential anonymity here. But you know how they recommend against hiring the close relative of a close friend for professional services?

Albert Pirro went to jail after having his cokehead brother do his taxes.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:27 PM
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269: God, the Irish. So maudlin. So metaphysical.

I give and bequeath unto my wife Ann [Gallaghan] the wool of the sheep annually during the term of her natural life. The same to be given her by my said son Michael and I make this bequest a charge upon the lands hereinbefore devised to my heir, my said son Michael.
-- Francis (Frank) My Last Name, born Co. Leitrim about 1812, died 7 Jan 1888, Fitzroy Township, Carleton County, Ontario, Canada. Probate of will and inventory of possessions 27 Oct 1888.

There, that's better. Direct, and directly material.

'I've an eye on queer Behan and old Kate and the butter, trust me.'

But if you think it's just about the butter or the wool, well I guess that's where you'd be wrong, maybe.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:28 PM
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221

This probably isn't terribly likely, but as a professional paranoid, it's the first thing I thought of.

I think a likelier scenario is bozo the accountant gets in trouble for something else and tries to save himself by throwing all his clients under the bus.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:30 PM
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286 sounds right to me.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:32 PM
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bozo the accountant

Heh.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:50 PM
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282: cash advances are a different deal, as they (1) aren't making extra fees as they are on regular transactions and (2) people generally don't have recourse to another method of getting that cash, as they presumably do on most (well, or many) credit card purchases.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:51 PM
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Not sure, but I think you can be prosecuted for criminal fraud even if you didn't actually succeed

This defense didn't work for Leona Helmsley but apparently (somewhat to my surprise) it is possible at least regards tax evasion. See here .


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 9:54 PM
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Eh, if your income is salary plus a bit of interest/investment income, it isn't particularly hard to do your own return even under the current code. ...

This isn't really true at least if you don't use a program. I still do my own and it could be made much easier.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:10 PM
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Sadly I must in all honestly deny any implicit claims to authorship of the limerick in 269.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:10 PM
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190

... If I offered to do that, she'd point out that we would both be better off if I raised her salary by slightly less than that amount, and still left the government out of it.

For what it is worth I know someone over 65 who is ineligible for medicare because they don't have 40 quarters for which they paid employment taxes.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:13 PM
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It's tempting to use the tax code as an instrument of social policy (mortgage interest deduction, f'rex ...

If you are going to tax interest received it makes a certain amount of sense to allow you to deduct interest paid.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:16 PM
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I assume small business would be taxed on profit, not income.

But defining profit (much less computing it) is inherently complicated.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:20 PM
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OT: This bugs the shit out of me. NYT, you really believe that the credit card industry, out of the goodness of its heart, has been giving its better-off customers a free ride at the expense of the late payers and balance-carriers? It's been a long time since Econ 101, but as I recall businesses aren't classically thought to be in the habit of charging Customer B less because they're making a lot from Customer A.

They might if they can't easily distinguish A from B in advance. For example they offer type A bad terms and type B good terms on the theory that most people think they are B's but are really A's. If the law restricts their ability to screw over A's this might raise B's rates. I don't know if this is particularly likely but it is possible.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-19-09 10:27 PM
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294: Yeah, there's a good argument that it makes more sense for all interest, rather than just mortgage interest, to be deductible. It's that way for businesses, and it used to be that way for individuals.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 4:12 AM
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294: Shit. So, you have to pay 40 quarters or be a surviving spouse? I'm sure that my grandmother didn't work for 10 years.

How does this work for people who got disability early in life?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:10 AM
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Further to 294: My Mom hasn't worked for a full ten years. If she and my Dad got divorced would she be eligible?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 5:14 AM
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297: There are a lot of things that could be justified as deductions, but choosing to complicate the tax code is not without its costs. My point is that complexity itself is disempowering, and no account is taken of the costs associated with creating barriers to economic activity by forcing people to hire professionals to handle their interaction with the government or risk unpleasant consequences if they fuck up trying to do it themselves. Each individual deduction or special category of income may itself be attractive, but a sufficient number of special cases creates a qualitative shift at a threshold that differs from person to person. Where that threshold lies is very class dependent, so a complex tax code selectively disempowers people who do not have UMC backgrounds.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:08 AM
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My Mom hasn't worked for a full ten years. If she and my Dad got divorced would she be eligible?

Yes, as long as the marriage lasted longer than 10 years and she doesn't remarry.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:32 AM
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298: Disability is handled with a different set of rules.

You have to have forty eligible quarters, but that's not necessarily equivalent to ten years. I know this because of sponsorship obligations to the government on behalf of shiv, which end after 40 quarters of qualifying income acrrued by him. Which can be five years (both of us working, married, after 20 quarters) or something longer (if we divorce, none of my quarters count for him any more.)

But what Matt F says; spouses can piggyback on spouses' income under some circumstances.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 8:39 AM
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297: I have a vague recollection of the argument, but I don't remember its being very good. Businesses pay interest as a cost of doing business, which is and should be deductible. Individuals pay interest as a cost of consumption (or of consuming sooner rather than later), which generally isn't and shouldn't be deductible.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-20-09 9:41 AM
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