Massachusetts has given new meaning to the word amnesty. More than 100,000 people paid more than a total of $40 million in delinquent state taxes under a special one-week amnesty program. The idea was hailed as a model for other states. But now, the other shoe has dropped. Massachusetts, often called "Tax-achusetts," has given the names of everyone who took part in the program to the Internal Revenue Service—an entity not generally known for granting amnesty.
Ollie Watson, a 71-year-old widow, occasionally supplements her meager Social Security income by placing small bets for her neighbors unable to get to the Tampa Dog Track. She makes about $10 a day in commissions from her friends. So naturally she was arrested on bookmaking charges and had to spend a night in jail because she couldn't post the $100 bail. When she was arrested, the high-rolling grandmother had collected a whopping $17 in bets. Way to go, Vice Squad!
The US Navy spent $46,000 to build a 23-by-23-foot doghouse at the Brunswick, Maine, Naval Air Base. The structure, complete with grooming and food-preparation areas, outside lighting, and a security fence, houses two dogs trained to sniff out marijuana and explosives. Eighty-seven dollars a square foot for living quarters? The sailors should have it so good. Someone belongs in the doghouse for this extravagance, but it isn't the dogs.
Nebraska State Sen. James Pappas has introduced a bill that will not intend anything, define anything, provide any powers or duties, or provide for fees or penalties. His "do-nothing" bill will not declare any emergencies, or cost any funds. "People say we introduce too many bills, we don't help anybody, and we manage to screw up everything we try to do," the freshman legislator says. In that spirit, his bill has no provisions for the creation of a do-nothing agency because "there are already too many boards and governing bodies which are fulfilling those requirements." Any action taken under the do-nothing bill will violate the letter as well as the spirit of the bill. But in keeping with Pappas's intent, "the bill will do nothing to violators."
About 15 years ago, two teenagers were scuba diving in Lake Champlain, New York, when they found two bronze cannons that were used during the French and Indian War. The youths arranged to have the 246-year-old, 1,000 pound weapons raised, and stored them until they decided to sell last year. "We were told that New York State planned to claim the cannons," said Michael Davidson, one of the divers. "We didn't hear anything for 14 years. After that period of time, we really felt we were the owners." Not according to a judge who ruled that the state is entitled to historical items found on its lands. The two divers had sold the cannons to a historical association for $68,000, but the judge's ruling nullified the sale and the cannons were turned over to the state. What we'd like to know is who's going to salvage the concept of property rights?
It's easier to cut weeds than red tape, but Boy Scouts in Pennsylvania were stopped from doing either. The Scouts were trimming weeds on a vacant lot beside Interstate 83 for a "civic duty" merit badge when a state trooper told them they needed a $25 permit. They applied and were turned down by the state Department of Transportation. "It was kind of a shock," says 14-year-old Boy Scout Joe Lauver. "You think you're giving somebody help and then they stop you."
Mildred Combs spent three hours in jail recently in Highland Park, Michigan. Her crime? Well, she went to court to fight a traffic case, but she wasn't thrown into the slammer for going through a red light or anything like that. No, sir. Her offense was really heinous—she refused a judge's demand that she remove a campaign button. Was the button lewd, gigantic, or inflammatory? Nope. It just supported the candidacy of the judge's long-time political rival.
You wouldn't think there'd be a problem with keeping chickens in Bondurant, Iowa. But Mike and Pat Tilley's four clucking pets are ruffling a few feathers. Someone complained about the noisy clucks, and the town council voted to enforce the city's leash law, which says no one shall have "swine, cattle, sheep, poultry, dogs, cats, snakes or other domestic animals," except on leashes. The penalty is a $15 fine and a $5-per-day fee for each animal. "If we have to get rid of our chickens, other people in town will have to get rid of their dogs and cats," vows Mike Tilley. He denies that the hens are loud. "I sleep within 60 feet of them, and I never hear them."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".