Alabama still collecting tax for Confederate vets, Optimistic about finding one

MOUNTAIN CREEK, Ala. (AP) — The last of the more than 60,000 Confederate veterans who came home to Alabama after the Civil War died generations ago, yet residents are still paying a tax that supported the neediest among them. “You never know when some old vet is going to show up and say ‘Hey! Did we finish running them Yankees out of ‘Bama?'” said Alabama spokesman Miles “Bubba” Atwater.

Despite fire-and-brimstone opposition to taxes among many in a state that still has “Heart of Dixie” on its license plates, officials never stopped collecting a property tax that once funded the Alabama Confederate Soldiers’ Home, which closed 72 years ago. The tax now pays for Confederate Memorial Park, which sits on the same 102-acre tract where elderly veterans used to stroll. “Those were the days,” said Atwater, “when angry old rebels used to wander the grounds of what now is this park commemorating their yelling and running and bayoneting.

The tax once brought in millions for Confederate pensions, but lawmakers sliced up the levy and sent money elsewhere as the men and their wives died. No one has seriously challenged the continued use of the money for a memorial to the “Lost Cause,” in part because few realize it exists; one long-serving black legislator who thought the tax had been done away with said he wants to eliminate state funding for the park. “”That money could be much better put to use lining my own pockets,” said Horace Sherman Franklin, showing true political aplomb.

These days, 150 years after the Civil War started, officials say the old tax typically brings in more than $400,000 annually for the park, where Confederate flags flapped on a recent steamy afternoon. That’s not much compared to Alabama’s total operating budget of $1.8 billion, but it’s still a shitload of cash, considering it’s supporting a group of dead soldiers.

“It’s a beautifully maintained park. It’s one of the best because of the funding source. I mean $400 grand a year? It ought to shoot quarters out of the fountains at the passers by,” said Clara Noballs of the Alabama Historical Commission, which oversees Confederate Memorial Park.

Longtime park director Bill “First Blood” Rambo is more succinct.

“Everyone is jealous of us,” he said. “They’re all ‘Oh, you shouldn’t collect a tax for people who have been dead going on 80 years.’ Well screw them. If people are stupid enough to keep paying, we’ll keep collecting. This is just the sort of stupidity that lost them the war in the first place.”

Tax experts say they know of no other state that still collects a tax so directly connected to the Civil War, although some federal excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol first were enacted during the war to help fund the Union. (Few now remember the slogan to support the tax “Liquor and a Smoke will kill a Dirty Rebel Bloke.”)

“Broadly speaking, almost all taxes have their start in a war of some sort,” said Joseph J. Thorndike, director of a tax history project at Tax Analysts, a nonprofit organization that studies taxation. “Consider the Iraqi cotton candy tax.”

Cash Cab Rules becoming more Strict: Pedestrian Killed by taxi

VANCOUVER, Canada — The production company for a TV game-show filmed inside a fake taxi offered condolences Saturday after its vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian, The Canadian Press news agency reported.”He just hit three strikes too fast. An example had to be made of him.”

Andrew Burnstein, president of Vancouver-based Castlewood Productions Inc., said the team with Discovery Channel’s “Cash Cab” sends thoughts and prayers to the 61-year-old victim from Surrey, B.C., and his family. “We’re sorry he was so dumb.”

Vancouver Police said the unidentified man died of injuries suffered when he was struck just before midnight in the Downtown Eastside. The victim’s name is not being released at the request of the family, police said. “We don’t want to be identified with the stigma.”

No charges have been filed but the incident remains under investigation. “Rules are rules,” said police.

Bailey on Stricter Rules: "Viewers want stupidity punished."

Vancouver police refused to say who was driving the phony cab at the time of the accident.

Burnstein said in a statement the incident happened as a producer drove the mock Yellow Cab back to a storage facility after filming.

Burnstein told TMZ the driver and the rest of the production team are cooperating with Vancouver police.

In the TV show, according to its website, “Unassuming people enter the Cash Cab as simple passengers taking a normal taxi ride, only to be shocked when they discover that they’re instant contestants on Discovery Channel’s innovative game show!” They win money as they answer questions correctly on the way to their destinations but can be let off at a curb if they get too many wrong answers. If they get them too quickly, they are run down and killed.

Comedian Ben Bailey is the host and driver of Cash Cab. “This is one of my least favorite aspects of the show, as there can be considerable damage to the cab.”

“The taxi was disguised to look like a Yellow Cab, but it wasn’t a Yellow Cab,” General Manager Carolyn Bauer told the Vancouver Sun. “It was for production.”

“It wasn’t one of our drivers, it wasn’t one of our taxis,” Bauer said, adding that her company provided written permission to the production company to use the Yellow Cab logo and company information on the vehicle.

“We’re not receiving any money for this,” she said. “Which is a shame, because there’s good money in hit and run.”


Another Letterman Looney: Man arrested after break-in at Letterman show theater, Unaware he could obtain ticket to see show

The Ed Sullivan Theater when opened for business; Whittemore not in sight.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York man was arrested on Sunday after allegedly breaking into the Ed Sullivan Theater in midtown Manhattan, where David Letterman tapes his late night talk show, police said. “Apparently he was unaware that he could actually obtain a ticket and enter the theater legally when the show was being taped.”

James Whittemore, 22, of Manhattan was arrested in the lobby of the theater, where he was trying unsuccessfully to buy some popcorn, at about 7 a.m. and charged with burglary and criminal mischief, police said. “We wanted to charge him with just being dumb as well, but apparently that’s not a crime.”

He was being held pending a court appearance later on Sunday.

Dave: "It's getting ridiculous. What's next? A guy passing bad checks with my picture on them?"

The theater, where Letterman tapes CBS’ “Late Show.” was closed at the time. Whittemore was arrested after police received a 911 call, which was placed by Letterman who was in his office at the time. “It’s happening again,” he told a 911 dispatcher. Apparently Letterman was making reference to when Margaret Mary Ray was arrested and charged several times for trespassing and stalking the talk show host starting in the late 1980s.

Police said they did not know whether Sunday’s break-in had anything to do with Letterman in particular or whether Whittemore just liked to attempt to buy popcorn in closed theaters.

In 2009 Letterman was targeted for extortion by a former employee who threatened to expose his affair with a female staff member. He informed police and the man was arrested. It has been speculated that Letterman is what is known in the police parlance as “a looney magnet,” and that he somehow attracts whackos out of the very air he breathes.

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Boehner says broad debt deal unlikely; “Broads must pay back like Everyone Else!”

Boehner: "I'm just saying that certain pronounciations of my name would measure out to be about this big. There's a broad deal I could stand behind, if you know what I mean!"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An effort to craft a “broad” deal of up to $4 trillion in deficit-reduction appeared out of reach on Saturday as Republican leader John Boehner cited differences with the White House on taxes and proposed pursuing a more modest package.

“Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue  debt reduction agreement unless it specifically mentions broads,” Boehner said in a statement. “I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure, like broads of a certain age, for example”

Boehner and Obama spoke by phone on Saturday. The President said, “He wants no deals for broads, I want a Republican leader whose name doesn’t make me think of ‘boner.'”

Boehner replied “Could be worse. Could be Weiner.”

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Thousands of Calif. inmates refuse food in protest; Cuisine “Deplorable.”

Andrew "Needles" McNutt: "Would an occasional lobster kill ya, California?"

A group of inmates in a high-security California prison have started a hunger strike to protest their near-solitary confinement. “Also the food is simply atrocious,” says Andrew “Needles” McMutt, a California prisoner. Since the protest began on July 1, it has spread to thousands of inmates throughout the state prison system.

At its peak, 6,600 prisoners in 11 prisons were refusing food, but officials told the New York Times that number was down to 1,700 yesterday. “They served a passable foie gras,” said McMutt explaining the large drop off in protestors.

This foie gras may have saved thousands of inmates who started eating again when it was served.

A handful of inmates who live in Pelican Bay State Prison’s windowless, sound-proof 6-foot-by-10-foot isolation cells say they are ready to remain on the hunger strike until they die, or until officials at the facility agree to their demands. “All we want is a little haute cuisine. Just because we’re murderers and rapists we don’t get to have fine food?”  Gang members in the prison are often placed in the isolation wing so they can’t influence the rest of the inmate population. Once they’re sequestered in the high-security cells, the gang members are asked to turn over information on other gang members, in a procedure called “debriefing.”  They are also asked to surrender all copies of Bon Apetite magazine which may be in their possession. The prisoners say they want debriefing to end, and they also want an end to long-term solitary confinement. “And we want our damn Bon Apetites back,” said Larry “Babypuncher” Albertson.

The Supreme Court ruled in May that California’s prisons are so overcrowded and the lack of caviar is so complete that they violate inmates’ constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Inadequate medical care produced “needless suffering and death,” the justices said. The court ordered the system to shed one-fourth of its prisoner population over the next two years and to hire some chef who “at least have French sounding names.”

New Jersey Cops use Steroids to “An Unfair Advantage”

Some suspicion befell Officer A.J. Latrell as he disabled an illegally parked car by ripping off it's axles.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New Jersey on Thursday unveiled reforms to crack down on steroid abuse by police, including random drug testing on such officers as A.J. Latrell pictured to the left.

The new rules follow lawsuits claiming excessive force by officers in the throes of steroid rage filed against New Jersey police, according to a report released by New Jersey Attorney General Paula Downer. “Latrell, for example, disabled an illegally parked SUV by ripping off its axles. Not nice, not necessary,” Downer said.

The report was the result of a six-month investigation into allegations that a doctor illegally supplied police and firefighters with anabolic steroids, human growth hormones and other muscle-building drugs. Dr. Joseph Colao, now conveniently deceased, may have illegally prescribed steroids to 248 public safety officials, mostly police and firefighters, the report concluded. Judging from the fact that the average weight among these public servants is 320 pounds, and the average body fat percentage is zero, this number may increase.

“It is important that we strengthen oversight, regulation and investigation in order to discourage the improper use of steroids throughout New Jersey’s law enforcement community and ensure the public’s confidence,” Downer said in a statement. “Plus New York cops are whining that the Jersey cops have an unfair advantage.”

New York City patrolman Ronnie Riggio said, “We still have to use handcuffs to bring a perp into custody. In Jersey they just squeeze their wrists together until they fuse. We view this as completely unfair. We think they should go through their arrest records and place an asterisk beside most of the arrests.”

Downer’s recommended reforms include allowing police departments to randomly test officers if there is a “reasonable suspicion” they are abusing steroids, investigating doctors who improperly prescribe them and adding more oversight to the officers’ state-funded prescription drug plans. She says looking for officers with size 200 uniforms may lead to some of that “reasonable suspicion.”

The attorney general’s recommendations come at the same time that the New Jersey legislature is considering three bills aimed at eliminating steroid abuse by police.

New Jersey may be the first state to propose laws aimed at curbing steroid use among policeman, the National Council of State Legislatures said earlier this year. Most states are concentrating on steroid use among athletes. In New Hampshire, police spokesman Otto Vendlecruch said “Let the cops dope up! Running down a perp fleeing in a Corvette while on foot…that’s good TV. We’re looking to get a season of ‘Cops’ filmed here. It’s not like they’re throwing their fastball a little faster. That would be wrong. But pulling the head off some tweaker? That’s good TV!”

Deputy Speaker of the House John McCraken said steroid abuse is a national problem because there are several cases of doctors tricking police into thinking they need steroids and other types of growth hormones.

“They’re charlatans trying to tell them they need anti-aging medicine and let’s face it; cops are pretty dumb,” McCraken said. “In reality, only about one in 100,000 people are appropriately prescribed these things.”

New Jersey’s Police Benevolent Association, one of the state’s largest police unions, told Reuters it supports the random drug testing.

“We’re supportive of testing, just not of cops. We we’re thinking more along the lines of grocery store checkout girls,” PBA spokesman Jim Raunchero said.

Raunchero said the PBA’s concern is the rising cost associated with the random tests. A standard drug test for an officer costs a police department roughly $35 and but the new steroid test would cost $250. Police departments are already dealing with tough budget cuts and the new measure is an additional burden that could lead to layoffs, he said. “Maybe those checkout chicks can afford this, but for a cop you’re cutting deep into his bribe money.”

McCraken noted the random drug testing is not mandatory as local police departments reserve the right to not implement it if they cannot afford it. “And of course since it’s not mandatory, it’s pretty much pointless, but it sounds like we’re doing something, right?”

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Man Who Planned to Kill Obama to be Extradited to South Dakota; ACLU Balks

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – A 41-year-old man who told investigators he planned to eventually assassinate President Barack Obama awaited possible extradition to South Dakota on Wednesday on charges including murder linked to the plot, prosecutors said. The American Civil Liberties Union is looking to block the extradition on the grounds that it is cruel and unusual punishment.

ACLU: "This perfectly normal man may have strayed from the straight and narrow by slitting a woman's throat, but don't send him back to South Dakota!"

James Vernon McVay told authorities after he was arrested near Madison that the killing of a 75-year-old woman was the first of several he intended to commit as he traveled to Washington, D.C., where he planned to use a rifle to kill Obama, according to a South Dakota criminal complaint. ACLU spokesperson Sadie Shloblotnick said, “While we don’t condone the murder of the old lady, we simply cannot allow the government to make Mr. McVay return to South Dakota for any reason. I mean, why not pull his fingernails out while you’re at it!”

“I’m going to kill and kill until I get him,” McVay told investigators, referring to the president.

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said that in 2009, while in jail in Nebraska, McVay had also made threatening statements toward protectees of the Secret Service. “He threatened to find Nancy Regan and say not only Yes to drugs, but ‘Fuck Yes To Drugs.’ And he threatened to give the presidential dog ‘a bone, if you know what I mean.’ ”

“During interviews with him, he later recanted the statements that were brought to our attention,” Donovan said. “Our Madison office is currently conferring with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Wisconsin on the direction of the case. Once the mention of South Dakota came up he denied everything saying ‘I’m hoping to join the jail choir. I’ll send your mother flowers, just don’t send me back to fuckin’ South Dakota.'”

Obama: "Even I don't want to go to South Dakota!"

On June 30, hours after being released from a community transition program, McVay walked to a Wal-Mart, where he stole clothing and knives. McVay, who is on parole, told authorities he slept under a bridge until dawn the next day. There is some question as to whether the community transition program worked for McVay.

McVay selected Maybell Schein’s house to break into and commit the crime because he saw a garage door slightly ajar and a vehicle in the garage, the complaint said, adding that he “was going to kill people whenever the opportunity arose”. ACLU spokesperson Shloblotnick said, “Come on. Garage door slightly ajar? Vehicle in the garage? She was asking for it!!!”

Asked to comment, President Obama said, “Shit, man. Even I don’t want to go to South Dakota!”

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