Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Austin's Plane-Bomber

There is a sign at my place of work which reads, "Nothing is too difficult to those who have the will." It's a commonly used phrase, and essentially a rewrite of its more popular version, which is, "If you truly put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything."

This is positively ridiculous, of course. Some things simply are not achievable. Hillary Clinton, for example, wanted to win the presidency more than anyone. No one can doubt she won the primary, and the overall election, in terms of sheer willpower. But willpower wasn't enough. Something was too difficult for her, even though she truly put her mind to it. She ran at the wrong time, and against the one opponent who could have upended her. It was too difficult for she who had the will.

Yet there is a certain wisdom in the saying which oughtn't be overlooked: If one believes that one's venture will not succeed, one won't engage in the venture. Hence, nothing will be achieved, and that benefits no one. So, the expression is used that those who have the will to do it can achieve anything, and those who believe it will be venturesome. In some of those cases, there will be success, and the successful tend to benefit everyone. So there is a certain reason behind using the phrase, even though it is patently false. A blatant lie, if believed, can produce some good.

Now, I bring this up only to point out that in another recent case, a lie has produced some benefit for us all. Joe Stack, the man who flew his plane into an IRS building in Austin, TX, was one who believed such a lie, and then acted upon it. He felt, as he indicated in his online suicide note, that if he sacrificed himself, or "added to the body count" as he put it, that things would finally begin to change. He acted on a silly dream, hoping that he could achieve it, if only he had enough willpower.

We now know why he lashed out at the IRS the way he did. Essentially, there had been an alteration in the IRS tax structure concerning software engineers which was intended to be a back-door tax break for Microsoft. Essentially (and I don't know all the details), the tax code forced software engineers to be unable to start up their own businesses, forcing them to work for big companies like Microsoft, and they, in turn, could hire the best talent at rock-bottom prices. The fact that this ultimately failed to truly benefit Apple and Microsoft all that much, and caused considerable hardship within the tech industry, led lawmakers to begin process to repeal the provision in the tax code. But, as often happens in the legislative process, the effort got upended in committee. So, even though the very sponsors of the failed tax code provision felt it was a mistake, the detriment went on anyway.

For one software engineer, the barricade to his own ability to fend for himself and his family became too much. He went postal.

Now, we're all left with a horrible dilemma: How can we repeal this obviously bad tax law without sending the profoundly evil message that terrorism works?

The sad truth is that, in fact, terrorism does sometimes work. Terrorism has successfully reduced Europe to a mass of nervous jellyfish over offending Muslims within its media. Terrorism in the Norse countries successfully stopped the Nazis from completing a nuclear bomb. But that being the case, we still don't want to send the message of its occasional success. After all, terrorism failed religious nutballs like Timothy McVeigh. Terrorism has largely failed with regards to Shin Fein and the Irish Republican Army. Terrorism has failed to effectively stop Israel for 65 years, which, you'd think, might tell the Palastinians something.

Alas, sometimes people believe things like that damned sign on the wall I see at work. They believe all things are possible to those with the will -- such as successfully changing things through terrorism.

Repealing this tax provision may make Joe Stack look like the hero he's not. But we might all remember that there are hundreds of thousands of software engineers who DIDN'T fly planes into IRS buildings when they had damned good cause to do so! We should immediately repeal this tax error and hail all those people as the true heroes. And the true villains are those in the legislature who are willing to throw its citizens to the dogs just to give companies which are already too big an undeserved break.


1 comment:

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