Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

No income tax for Mass residents?

It’s a wild idea that I’ve been giving serious consideration to: abolishing income tax for Massachusetts residents. My friend Michael posted a link this morning to the article from the New York Times outlining both sides of the proposal. In my opinion, the journalist seemed to favor voting “no,” however, emphasizing the negative responses from the people he interviewed.

Those who are against the proposal fear the loss of income to the state would worsen our financial crisis.

Those who support the proposal seem to view their vote as mostly symbolic, expressing their anger at government waste.

How would saving “the average taxpayer about $3,600 a year” a loss of about $12.5 billion a year, “roughly 45 percent of the state’s budget of about $28 billion” actually affect Massachusetts? Would schools suddenly shut down, hospitals and police crumble? Or would those things that make our state function–unnecessary jobs and wasteful goods–be organically pared away?

My only caveat about this proposal–“Question 1″ on the ballot–is the possibility of higher property taxes. Depressing.

Funny thing that I didn’t realize is that seven states do not impose income tax, among them New Hampshire. Makes you wonder, if these states can manage without individual income tax, why can’t Massachusetts?

Filed under: government, Massachusetts, politics, , ,

Are you a Jew? Perhaps you should consider The Great Schlep

she's got good advice for a better America

Listen to Silverman: she's got good advice for a better America

This is absolutely hilarious. Sarah Silverman is one of those wild performers who combines shock with wit. In this brief video, she cajoles all you Jews to make “The Great Schlep” to see your retired, vote-eligible nanas and poppies in Florida and to talk them into voting for Obama. It’s a great idea–plus you’ll get a free vacation in the meantime.

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.

It’s admirable that you’re voting for Obama, but what about all your friends and neighbors?

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , ,

Colbert & Stewart take on the fist-bump

Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert may just be the funniest guys on TV

Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert may just be the funniest guys on TV

How meta can you get? On this week’s cover of Entertainment Weekly, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert recreate the controversial cover depicting a militant Angela Davis-type caricature of Michelle Obama and an Islamic militant Barack Obama giving each other a fist bump in the Oval Office. Pure genius.

Another hilarious article by Colbert, if you didn’t catch it, is this article he wrote for Esquire this past summer, entitled “Stephen Colbert’s Guide to White Male Oppression.”

Filed under: politics, pop culture, , , ,

What is White Privilege? And what’s Sarah Palin got to do with it?

The cover art for Francine Prose's seminal anti-racist novel A Changed Man

The cover art for Francine Prose's seminal anti-racist novel A Changed Man


There are many truthful–yet not easy to digest–points made on the viral essay called This is Your Nation on White Privilege, going around the Web and written by Tim Wise, an anti-racism scholar. Some of the facts that I did not know: John McCain has referred to Vietnamese as “gooks” and “will always hate them”; Sarah Palin attended four colleges over six years (after failing out of one of them); Palin’s husband belongs to an extremist organization that wants to secede from the United States; Cindy McCain obtained drugs illegally (actually, I did know this fact because there’s a great profile in The New Yorker this week explaining how McCain forged the signature of the doctor who worked for her charitable organization–and this little tidbit has been buried by the media in comparison to the media frenzy from Obama smoking some pot in college).

White Privilege is a challenging notion to grasp, but I like Wise’s approach. And the opposition to his views have been downright nasty.

It’s always interesting to me to flip the idea of racism on its head and focus not on how people of color are oppressed, but rather on how whites receive invisible benefits.

On a somewhat related note, Francine Prose wrote a great novel last year called A Changed Man. I absolutely loved Prose’s novel (almost as much as the National Book Award finalist The Blue Angel). A Changed Man is about a racist skinhead who has done a 180, after being released from prison, and then seeks to work for an Elie Wiesel-type figure who survived the holocaust. Good satire, great storytelling.

Filed under: politics, racism, , , , ,

Why it’s hard to keep quiet about Palin

Many of us have been quietly observing the way in which media pundits and bloggers (even celebs like Matt Damon and Margaret Cho) have questioned the credentials of the Republican VP candidate, Sarah Palin. I’m a person who likes to give others the benefit of the doubt; when I’m teaching, I’m constantly asking my students to question their own beliefs, to play Devil’s Advocate, to spin the Rubik’s Cube around to find a new angle on the subject. Same with Palin: benefit of the doubt.

Margaret Cho is only the latest public figure to speak out against Palin

Margaret Cho is only the latest public figure to speak out against Palin

In the past couple days, however, I’ve learned several facts that worry me about our potential second-in-command, namely:

    1. Palin obtained her U.S. passport in 2007. This fact means she ventured outside the United States for the first time only one year ago. I want a leader–a Vice President, nonetheless–who has more global experience than me.
      Palin inquired about banning certain anti-religious books at the Wasila Public Library, and threatened to fire the librarian who disagreed with her. These actions seem to me outside the purview of an elected official, completely self-serving, and veer on abuse of power.
      Palin’s church promotes a “conversion therapy” camp for gays and lesbians to become straight. From this, I can’t say that Palin herself holds the same faulty view, but her past veto attempt against gay rights in Alaska lead me to assume she holds the same anti-gay views as her congregation.
  • This last point is the most troubling. One of my students in Ghana this summer asked me if I could ever live there. There were many things I admired about the country–its welcoming people, the developing economy, the potential for seriously making an impact with my skill set. However, the deal-breaker for me was that homosexuality is against the law in Ghana. This part of who I am–not the only part, of course, but an absolutely incontrovertible part of my identity–is illegal. I could never voluntarily choose to live where I’m not welcome. Not to mention a criminal.

    Same goes for those who represent me. In the same way that I couldn’t live in a country that does not affirm me (in Massachusetts, the law validates my right to marry the person that I love), I can’t elect a person whose beliefs, at their core, invalidate so much of who I am.

    Filed under: politics,

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    BIOGRAPHY

    WORK
    » "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
    » "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
    » "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
    » "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
    » "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
    » "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
    » "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
    » "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
    » "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
    » "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
    » "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
    » "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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    Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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