Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A challenge, or maybe not

I had a comment posted in Gene Weingarten's chat today. If you can correctly identify it, perhaps we can discuss it.


Justin S. said...

To answer the question that is obviously the one you posted, Derek Jeter is neither a God or a Demi-God.

To answer another random question on there, I think tax fraud is really bad as well, but most people don't think it's as bad because there's no direct immediate impact, as there is with murder, rape, armed robbery, etc.

dara said...

I said nothing about Derek Jeter.

I agree about tax fraud. I also think that knowingly and purposefully cheating on your taxes is really just one manifestation of a larger character flaw -- perhaps a propensity for dishonesty, a feeling of entitlement, or a feeling of smug superiority.

Joe Grossberg said...


You're wrong on so many levels.

Let's start with the fact that taxes represent the government forcibly taking money you have earned.

The fact you used "entitled" says it all, about how you've been brainwashed to think taxes are good.

You want to take care of veterans or the elderly? Then donate to a freaking charity!

dara said...

Joe: Once again, you miss my point altogether. Whether or not taxes are a net good or a net evil, paying taxes is the law. Most people comply with the law. The people that purposefully don't are cheaters and/or liars by nature, and they do so because they think they are entitled to something the rest of us are not, or because they think they are smarter than everybody else.

Do I think that taxes are good? Sometimes -- like when they pay for schools and roads and hospitals and keeping our soldiers in kevlar and bullets so that they don't get killed. Do I think the government is right about how it allocates tax dollars? No. Do I think charities do a better job? Sometimes. Would I like to pay less in taxes? Absofrigginlutely.

dara said...

Let me clarify one thing: Knowing what I know about 501(c) status (and the granting and revocation thereof), I don't really think charities are much better than the government at helping people. But it happens. It also happens that they can be manipulated (an example).

Bo, Shae and Brinson said...

Dara, though a "free-hand" conservative, I do agree with you on tax fraud and the use of taxes in certain areas.

Let me give my argument though for why I think charity giving is better than government giving (and I am sure there are a lot of dishonest charities out there, but so too are politicians). With taxes, I really have no say on how my money is used (outside of one vote among many). So, if I am against the Iraq war and see my taxes going for that, then I am not happy, but there's not much I can do about it.

If I give money to a charity however, I can choose how my money helps society. If I do not see my money going to good use and cannot read the financial statements, then I will give it to some one else. I would love my money to go to some other program than All Children Left Behind, but it won't while my taxes go to the Bush administration (which there would be some issue for all of government). Instead of waiting 2 years for elections, I can immediately put my money to where the best ways to help people are.

So, an argument for charity over government - though life would be better (and possibly taxes lower) if people would just honestly pay their freakin' taxes (while taking every legal deduction possible!).

dara said...

Bo: Indeed, that is the one way that charities are better than the government -- you can decide what to support.

And yes, as all tax lawyers know, it is perfectly legal and acceptable behavior to structure your affairs so as to pay the least amount of tax possible. I fully support such behavior, even if I don't quite practice it.

Justin S. said...

Taxes have their purpose. Government is often inefficient, sure. I hate government waste just as much as libertarians. But not all government is waste, and corporations can be just as wasteful, and often are.

Market forces are a good thing, but market failures exist. Taking care of the veterans and the elderly is a perfect example. It's not about me as an individual wanting to take care of them. There is a consensus throughout society that they should be taken care of. Yet it would never happen adequately if everyone was left on their own to donate to charity. Most people would selfishly keep their money to themselves. And even if others picked up the slack, the burden would be unfairly shared.

dara said...

Justin: Exactly. And I think that's why we identify with the same political party. :)

The idea of charity is great and noble but it doesn't entirely make up for the failures in the market. Moreover, even with charities, people act in their own best interest -- i.e. people donating to a cancer charity because someone they know has cancer, or because some celebrity wore a t-shirt.

But, back to the main point at hand: There is no perfect solution and taxes are a compromise. Part of that compromise -- the social contract, if you will -- is that you are expected -- nay, required -- to pay your "fair" (in this context, proportional) share. If you don't, you're cheating, and deserve to be punished.

Joe Grossberg said...

I break laws all the time. I jaywalk. I drive over the speed limit. I smoke pot every now and then. I download copyrighted media. I have given and received (heterosexual) oral sex in the state of Virginia, which is still on the books as a felony.

Does that make me despicable, like tax evaders, murderers and rapists?

dara said...

Joe: None of those are crimes of dishonesty. Well, except for the downloading. :P

Caroline said...

Back to the original challenge, I think I have it narrowed down to ten. If it weren't so late (Steve's influence, clearly) I'd go back and look again to narrow it down. But here are my picks. . .if one of them is right, then I'll try to narrow the list.
Pontific, ation
Prank Wars
Fashi, on
Arlington (about beige bras)
Baron. . .
Intemperate . . .
More Sports !
Hypothetic, AL
Urban dictionary
Arlington, Virginia (about taxes and husbands)

dara said...

Caroline: One of the ten is correct. And I wish I wrote at least one of the other ten.

Seriously, these were some of the highest points of the discussion. You give me WAY too much credit.

Caroline said...

Dara, you elevate any discussion. Don't be so modest. Ok, top four (in order of appearance):
Pontific, ation
Fashi, on
More Sports !
Arlington, Virginia (taxes, not bras)
And I'm sure the one you wish you wrote is one of the other three I listed

dara said...

For those playing along at home, Caroline has correctly identified me as making one of these four comments:

Pontific, ation: Is there something screwy about my value system that I invariably always find tax fraud to be the most despicable of any of the "sins" you ask us to judge in your polls? I wouldn't presume to judge people in many instances with regards to how they deal with their relationships,and personal problems; I will judge someone for purposefully cheating everyone who depends on public money (for example, veterans in VA hospitals, elderly people on medicaid) of what they're entitled to.

Gene Weingarten: I think few people would agree with you, if only because people's perception is that you tax money, by and large, doesn't go to veterans or the elderly. I think the common perception is that it goes to buying the third tread on the left side of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Or to pay a portion of the salary of the deputy undersecretary of paper-product acquisitions in the department of departmental affairs.

I also regard tax fraud as serious, but not for the reason you do. I think it's sniveling -- a crime people think they can get away with, so they do. It's a crime for cowards and chiselers.


Fashi, ON: Gene, I trust you (and Liz of course) above all other sources.

When is it Skirts With Boots season?

I polished my boots last night and realized I missed the chat and would have to wait to ask.

I heart you and your excellent fashion sense.

washingtonpost.com: When temps drop to 60 degrees or under at noon.

Gene Weingarten: When you can no longer wear white shoes or beige bras.


More Sports !: Gene-

Do you like Fantasy Sports? Do you play 'em?

I've been playing for a few years, realizing that is completing poisoning my enjoyment of sports (well baseball, it has made me like football more)... and contemplating leaving it behind.


Gene Weingarten: I could never play fantasy sports because I am too much in the tank for one team. It would skew my judgment.


Arlington, Virginia: I have to respectfully disagree on the tax question. I think cheating on your taxes is repugnant. I also think that I would not turn in my husband while we were married, but not to protect him -- to protect ME. You know, credit ratings, ability to buy houses, etc.

Therefore, once we were legally divorced, my rationale for not turning him in would be removed. It's not about revenge at all.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting. But I would argue that under this circumstance you were complicit in his crime.

dara said...

And I wish I was smart or snarky enough to have thought of either of these:

Intemperate and Unfair...:... and vituperative. Let's not forget vituperative.

Gene Weingarten: I'll get you for this.


Hypothetic, AL: If you could name a disease after yourself, what would the symptoms be?

Gene Weingarten: Weingarten's Syndrome: Calcification and keratinization of the male genitalia.

Caroline said...

Ok, now I'm really nervous. Somehow a ranking makes being wrong more painful. Feel free to wait to respond to see if anyone else wants to take part in the fun.
1. Arlington
2. Fashion
3. Pontification
4. More Sports
Actually, the more I think about it, the more confident I am that you are Arlington. Mostly because I've identified "fatal flaws" in the other three.

dara said...

I'm intrigued about the fatal flaws. Feel free to explain your rationale.

Caroline said...

Hmm, I suspect I am wrong. But here I go, digging the hole deeper.

Pontification: "I wouldn't presume to judge people in many instances"
Flaw: I think you would presume to judge. As would I. No judgment there.

Fashion: "When is it Skirts With Boots season?"
Flaw: I don't think you would capitalize "Skirts With Boots" in this manner.
Fashion: "I heart you"
Flaw: I don't really see you "hearting" things.

More Sports !: "realizing that is completing poisoning my enjoyment of sports"
Flaws: What's up with the space between Sports and !? You wouldn't do that. Also, I don't think you would mistype "completely." And finally, I don't think you would go to Gene for this sort of advice. I could maybe see you submitting the question about the boots, but I think you are more likely to be a responder, not an initiator, anyway.

Arlington just sounds the most like you, respectfully disagreeing and using the word "repugnant."

I am a little afraid at how much thought I've put into this. Especially if I'm actually wrong.

dara said...


I judge, therefore I am.

I wouldn't capitalize "Skirts With Boots" without also capitalizing "Season," as if it were an actual holiday or the like. But then I'd realize it was pretentious and make it all lowercase.

I would not have the space, and I would have written into a sports chat -- not a humor chat -- with this particular question.

I love the word repugnant. And I often disagree respectfully. But mostly I have a keen sense of self-protection. If I found out my husband was a tax cheat, I would assume that it hides darker, more nefarious things. Plus, it could put my career and my financial well-being in jeopardy. So I'd confront him about it. If he didn't do something to fix the problem, I'd probably divorce him. And then turn him in.