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February 24th, 2003:

The methods of King George’s madness

David Pinto points to this Rob Neyer column in which Neyer defends George Steinbrenner from some recent carping. The Yankees’ busy winter, along with the Boss’ criticisms of Derek Jeter and Joe Torre, have brought out the nattering nabobs, some of whom have implied that the return of a high-profile Steinbrenner could lead to tough times for the Yankees. Neyer demurs, pointing out that the high-turmoil period of 1976-1981 was quite a successful one for the Bombers, while the team’s low point from 1989-1992 partly coincided with Steinbrenner’s forced absence from the game.

As a lifetime Yankee fan, I’m a bit conflicted here. It’s certainly true that the good times were turbulent. There were days when you were afraid to read the sports section for fear of hearing about another fight, pissing contest, personality conflict, and so on. The only thing that allowed you to keep your dignity in the face of snarky Mets fans was the winning. Once that stopped, and the Yankee wurlizter careened out of control amidst disposable pitching coaches and free agent flameouts, it was nearly enough to make you start following the professional bowling tour.

But through it all, you always knew that what Steinbrenner wanted more than anything was to win. So while I view his recent rumblings with more than a tad of trepidation, I’m still comforted by that thought. And let’s face it, his latest statements are downright calm compared to some of his prior outbursts. He hasn’t fired any coaches, he hasn’t personally sent any prospects back to the bush leagues, and he hasn’t tried to blackmail a star player. All in all, he seems to have mellowed a bit.

I wish I could have illustrated this piece with a picture of General Von Steingrabber, the caricature drawn by Bill Gallo of the Daily News, but my Googling failed to turn up a picture. I did get this nice feature article about Gallo and the General, which at least gives you a taste of it.

Let’s not be hasty here

Whatever else you may say about this op-ed piece in the Chron that comes to the shocking conclusion that the recent perjury prosecution of Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford may have been a waste of time and/or politically biased, you can’t say they rushed to their judgment, since the trial ended a month ago. It mostly recapitulates the points that have been noted here and elsewhere (the best reporting on the case comes from this Houston Press article), though it does contain one nugget to file away the next time you hear an assistant DA insist that they “had” to take this case to trial:

Very few cases of disputed testimony between two or more witnesses testifying under oath in an evidentiary hearing end with a grand jury indictment for perjury, even when those witnesses have completely opposite versions of the facts. For example, a judge referred Anna Nicole Smith to the Harris County district attorney for allegedly lying on the witness stand in the will contest of deceased oil tycoon, E. Pierce Marshall’s estate, but the district attorney has not taken any action.

I’d love to hear Chuck Rosenthal’s answer to that assertion. Perhaps they didn’t want to appear to be grandstanding.

Anyway, the next sounds you’ll hear from this case will be when Captain Aguirre goes to trial in a few months.

Why Tiffany rocks

Jack points me to this article about how to get away with reading the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue without getting your wife or girlfriend mad at you. Well, I have an even better way: Find a wife or girlfriend who’ll buy you the subscription in the first place. Thanks, Tiffany!

BTW, the most amazing picture in this issue is that of Debbie Clemens, wife of Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens. She’s in her late 30s (I presume, since he’s turning 41 this year), has four kids, and appears to be in better shape than pretty much all of the featured professional models.

And of course, the funniest thing written about the whole thing is by Gregg Easterbrook, who estimates how much the swimsuits cost on a per-pound basis.

It’s tax scam season again

As April 15 draws near, you will inevitably hear about all kinds of hare-brained tax avoidance schemes. Many of them, like those mentioned in this article, are scams being proffered by con artists. Quite a few of them rest on ridiculous and long-discredited legal arguments. I wish this article had spent a bit more time on that, but since it didn’t I will.

I’ve already discussed one particular case (see here, here, here, and here), and it bears examining because it’s representative of many such schemes. Basically, someone comes up with a convoluted argument that says that the federal income tax is illegal, or only applies to “federal” citizens, or is voluntary, or whatever, and for a small but reasonable fee the person peddling this scheme will tell you the secrets of how you, too, can legally not pay your taxes. I highly recommend you read the Tax Protesters FAQ for a thorough discussion of these arguments and what can happen to the poor souls who try using them.

One of the ironies of the tax-avoidance industry is that the people who hold the biggest grudges against the government for its policies are often the easiest marks for this sort of thing, almost always by people who claim to be one of them. For example, the so-called “Patriot” movement of the 1990s was quickly followed by the “Pure Trust” scam, in which supposed “Patriot” sympathizers preyed on the true faithful who really wanted to believe that they could stop paying taxes.

A horse of a different color is the anti-war movement, which has long railed about the percentage of taxes that goes to the military. They continue to advocate partial or complete nonpayment of income taxes as a protest against it. They do at least seem to realize that there are potential legal consequences to this, and I respect them for that. It’s still quixotic, but at least it’s not a plan to separate some fool from his money.

Finally, a more recent but clearly popular idea is that there’s a tax credit for slavery reparations. As with the “Pure Trust” scheme, the scammers target members of their own communities, banking on the trust that people give to friends and neighbors:

Noting that the promoters appear to be targeting church congregations, the IRS has urged churches in the African-American community to be on the alert for the scam. “Good people are getting caught up in this scam,” [IRS Commissioner Charles O.] Rossotti said.

Perhaps some of the legal victories that the feds have won against these scammers will help to shut them down, though I doubt it.

Forewarned is forearmed, people. Now get to work on those 1040s.