Although this site has been created primarily for my students, everyone is welcome. In these pages you'll find many sources of information.
The Online Resources section below has numerous links that are of current interest. For more links to material on just about any topic you're looking for, use the E-Links button above. Linked off of that page are pages containing hundreds of links to sites covering a number of topics.
Visit often ... I update frequently! Hope you enjoy the site!
Quote of the Month
"There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him."
~Robert A. Heinlein
Numbers of the Month
According to the Tax Foundation, the US tax code is approaching nearly 10.1 million words. This includes about 2.41 million words of federal internal revenue code and a whopping 7.66 million words of tax regulation. With the average novel averaging 64,000 words, the US tax code could fill up more than 157 novels. The tax code was only 1.4 million words in length in 1955. In other words, an average of 144,500 words have been added to the tax code every year since 1955.
Having more than 10 million words in tax law means the instructions on how to prepare your taxes are pretty long as well. The PDF download from the IRS that details the instructions to complete Form 1040, the simplest tax form that federal taxpayers prepare, is 105 pages long. It's no wonder a Pew Research Center poll found that 72% of Americans surveyed believe the federal tax code is too complex. According to data from the IRS, Congress handed down nearly 5,000 changes to the US tax code between 2001 and 2012.
Taxpayers are spending a lot of time complying with federal income tax laws. A recent estimation from the IRS suggested taxpayers would spend an aggregate of 8.9 billion hours complying with federal income taxes in 2016. That's nearly the equivalent of 13,000 lifetimes. In dollar terms, the IRS estimated an expense of $409 billion, including $99 billion in individual income tax compliance costs and $147 billion in business income tax compliance annually. Most Americans qualify for free assistance in preparing their taxes. Based on a survey conducted by the United Way this past January, 72% of working Americans who were making below the $62,000 threshold required to access free online tax software found on the IRS's website were unaware that they could qualify for free tax filing and counseling. Low-income and elderly taxpayers are two groups that can, in particular, benefit from free preparation assistance.
One thing to never, ever do is complete your taxes by hand using a paper return. According to statistics from the IRS, the error rate for e-filed tax returns is a minuscule 0.5% compared to an error rate of paper returns of 21%. That's a 41 times greater likelihood of an error by filing a paper return. Calculating errors and indecipherable handwriting are just two reasons your paper return could be flagged.
If you're a working American, there's a better chance than not that you'll be netting a federal refund from Uncle Sam come tax time. 77.5 million American households had zero taxable income or a negative tax rate, resulting in an estimated 45.3% of American households not having to a pay red cent in taxes. According to an annual survey released by the National Retail Federation, 66% of all taxpayers are expected to receive a refund check. Half of all refund recipients plan to use their refund to bolster their savings accounts.
According to research from the Tax Policy Center, the top 20% of earners in the US pays 69% of all federal taxes, with the top 1% paying more than 43%. Comparatively, the bottom 60% of earners pays an aggregate of 12% of federal taxes. Of course, it's also worth pointing out that the top 20% of earners receives 51% of all major tax breaks, too. The current progressive tax system has seven brackets ranging from a low of 10% to a peak of 39.6%. While 39.6% might seem like a lot for the wealthy to pay on peak income, it's nowhere near the peak of what they used to pay. In 1986, the peak marginal tax rate was 50%. In 1980, it stood at 70%, and in 1944-1945 it was an eye-popping 94%. The next time you complain about your marginal tax rate, be thrilled that you aren't paying 94%.
There's also quite a bit of cheating associated with tax time. Earlier this year, the IRS released data showing that tax evasion cost the federal government an average of $458 billion per year. Of this $458 billion, just $52 billion is expected to be recovered each year. If there is a silver lining here, the IRS also found that 81.7% of taxes owed make it to the IRS on time. In their disdain for the IRS and the tax preparation process, most Americans probably overlook just how incredibly efficient the IRS is as an organization. In 2015, for every $100 that the agency collected in federal taxes, it spent just $0.35. That's even more efficient than the Social Security Administration, where expenditures typically run around 0.7% of total revenue collected.
~The Motley Fool, 12/11/2016
Then and Now
April is National Poetry Month.
April is Cancer Control Month.
April is Confederate History Month.
April is ASPCA month.
04/01/1933 - Nazi Germany began persecuting Jews with a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses.
04/01/1960 - The first weather satellite, TIROS I, was launched from Cape Canaveral.
04/01/1970 - President Nixon signed a measure banning cigarette advertising on radio and television.
04/01/2017 - April Fools’ Day
04/02/1513 - Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed in Florida.
04/02/1792 - Congress passed the Coinage Act, which authorized establishment of the US Mint.
04/02/1846 - President James Polk appointed Nathaniel Hawthorne surveyor of the Custom House, a position that provided the fodder for his irreverent preface to The Scarlet Letter.
04/02/1917 - President Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany, saying, "The world must be made safe for democracy."
04/02/1982 - Several thousand troops in Argentina seized the disputed Falkland Islands, located in the south Atlantic, from Britain.
04/02/2005 - Pope John Paul II died.
04/03/1860 - The Pony Express began service between St. Joseph MO and Sacramento CA.
04/03/1882 - Jesse James was shot to death in St. Joseph MO.
04/03/1948 - President Truman signed The Marshall Plan, which allocated more than $5 billion in aid for 16 European countries.
04/03/1968 - The day before he was assassinated, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "mountain" speech to a rally of striking sanitation workers.
04/03/1996 - Unabomber Ted Kaczynski was arrested.
04/04/1818 - Congress decided the flag of the US would consist of 13 red and white stripes and 20 stars, with a new star added for every new state of the Union.
04/04/1850 - The city of Los Angeles was incorporated.
04/04/1949 - Twelve nations, including the US, signed the North Atlantic Treaty.
04/04/1968 - Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. There had already been two attempts on King's life and, just the day before he had said, "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life, but I'm not concerned about that now."
04/04/1969 - The original Star Trek was cancelled. It lives for eternity, however, in reruns.
04/04/2017 - Equal Pay Day ... This is the day when women's wages catch up to men's wages from the year before.
04/05/1614 - Pocahontas married English colonist John Rolfe in Virginia.
04/05/1621 - The Mayflower sailed from Plymouth MA on a return trip to England.
04/05/1792 - President Washington cast the first presidential veto.
04/05/1887 - British historian Lord Acton wrote, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
04/05/2017 - Ram Navami – Hinduism
04/06/1830 - Joseph Smith organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fayette NY.
04/06/1896 - The first modern Olympic Games formally opened in Athens.
04/06/1909 - Robert Peary and Matthew Henson became the first men to reach the North Pole.
04/06/1917 - Congress approved a declaration of war against Germany.
04/07/1862 - The Battle of Shiloh ended.
04/07/1948 - The World Health Organization was founded.
04/07/1966 - The US recovered a hydrogen bomb it had lost off the coast of Spain.
04/07/1969 - The Supreme Court unanimously struck down laws prohibiting private possession of obscene material.
04/07/2017 - World Health Day
04/08/1513 - Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain.
04/08/1946 - The League of Nations assembled in Geneva for the last time.
04/08/2017 - Hanamatsuri (Flower Festival) – Buddhism
04/09/1682 - French explorer Robert La Salle reached the Mississippi River.
04/09/1895 - Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.
04/09/1963 - British statesman Winston Churchill became an honorary US citizen.
04/09/1996 - President Clinton signed a line-item veto bill into law.
04/09/2017 - Palm Sunday – Christian
04/10/1866 - The American SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) was incorporated.
04/10/1912 - The RMS Titanic Set sail from Southampton, England, on its ill-fated maiden voyage.
04/10/1925 - F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby was first published.
04/10/1974 - Golda Meir announced her resignation as prime minister of Israel.
04/10/2017 - Pesach / Passover begins at sunset (through the 18th) – Judaism
04/11/1846 - Smith County was founded as a county in Texas.
04/11/1921 - Iowa became the first state to impose a cigarette tax.
04/11/1945 - During WWII, American soldiers liberated the notorious Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald in Germany.
04/11/1968 - President Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1968, one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
04/11/2017 - Hanuman Jayanti – Hinduism
04/11/2017 - Theravada New Year – Buddhism
04/12/1606 - England adopted as its flag the original version of the Union Jack.
04/12/1861 - The American Civil War began as Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina.
04/12/1961 - Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to fly in space, orbiting the earth once before making a safe landing.
04/12/1992 - Euro Disneyland opened in France.
04/13/1598 - King Henry IV of France endorsed the Edict of Nantes, which granted rights to the Protestant Huguenots. The edict was abrogated in 1685 by King Louis XIV who declared France entirely Catholic again.
04/13/1742 - Handel's Messiah was first performed publicly in Dublin.
04/13/1943 - President Roosevelt dedicated the Jefferson Memorial.
04/13/1964 - Sidney Poitier became the first black performer in a leading role to win an Academy Award for Lilies of the Field.
04/13/2017 - Thomas Jefferson’s birthday
04/13/2017 - Vaisakhi (New Year) – Sikh
04/14/2017 - Bun Pi Mai (through the 16th) – Buddhism
04/14/1828 - The first edition of Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language was published.
04/14/1865 - John Wilkes Booth shot and mortally wounded President Lincoln while attending a play at Ford's Theater.
04/14/1939 - John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath was first published.
04/14/2017 - Good Friday – Christian
04/15/1865 - President Lincoln died several hours after the shooting by John Wilkes Booth.
04/15/1912 - The Titanic sank in the North Atlantic less than three hours after striking an iceberg. About 1500 people died.
04/15/2017 - Rubber Eraser Day
04/15/2017 - National Theft Day (Income taxes are due.)
04/16/1862 - A bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia became law.
04/16/2001 - Israel launched an air strike against a strategic Syrian radar station in Lebanon.
04/16/2017 - Easter – Christian
04/17/1492 - Spain's King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella gave Columbus a commission to seek a westward passage to Asia.
04/17/1521 - Martin Luther went before the Diet of Worms to face charges stemming from his religious writings.
04/17/1961 - About 1500 CIA-trained Cuban exiles launched the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in a failed attempt to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro.
04/17/1975 - Phnom Penh fell to communist insurgents, ending Cambodia's five-year war.
04/18/1775 - Paul Revere began his famous ride from Charlestown to Lexington, Massachusetts, warning American colonists that the British were coming.
04/18/1946 - The League of Nations went out of business.
04/18/1978 - The US Senate voted 68 to 32 to turn the Panama Canal over to Panamanian control on December 31, 1999.
04/18/2017 - Paul Revere Day
04/18/2017 - Last Day of Passover – Jewish
04/19/1775 - The American Revolutionary War began with the battles of Lexington and Concord.
04/19/1933 - The US went off the Gold Standard.
04/19/1993 - The 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco TX ended as a fire destroyed the structure after federal agents began smashing their way in.
04/19/1995 - A truck bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
04/20/1971 - The Supreme Court upheld the use of busing to achieve racial desegregation in schools.
04/20/1999 - The Columbine High School massacre took place in Littleton CO.
04/20/2017 - Feast of Ridvan (through May 1st) – Baha’i
04/21/1836 - An army of Texans led by Sam Houston defeated the Mexican army at San Jacinto, assuring Texas independence.
04/21/1910 - At the age of 75, Mark Twain died in Redding, Connecticut, on the reappearance of Haley's Comet ... which had last appeared in the year he was born.
04/21/2017 - San Jacinto Day (Texas)
04/21/2017 - The Annual Aggie Muster (The Aggie Muster began on June 26, 1883. By 1902, it had evolved into a celebration of Texas’ Independence on San Jacinto Day and the two became officially linked in 1922.)
04/22/1590 - Henry VIII took over the throne of England after the death of his father, Henry VII.
04/22/1864 - Congress authorized the use of the phrase "In God We Trust" on US coins.
04/22/1952 - An atomic test conducted in Nevada became the first nuclear explosion shown on live network TV.
04/22/2017 - Earth Day
04/22/2017 - Lailat al Miraj (The Prophet's Night Journey to Jerusalem and Ascension) begins at sunset – Muslim
04/23/1564 - The supposed birthday and, 52 years later, the date of death for William Shakespeare.
04/23/1985 - Coca-Cola announced it was changing the secret formula for Coke.
04/23/1992 - McDonald's opened its first fast food restaurant in Beijing.
04/23/2017 - St. George's Day
04/23/2017 - Yom HaSho’ah begins at sunset – Judaism
04/24/1800 - Congress approved a bill establishing the Library of Congress.
04/24/1877 - Federal troops left New Orleans, ending the North's post-Civil War rule in the South.
04/24/1898 - Spain declared war on the US after rejecting America's ultimatum to withdraw from Cuba.
04/24/1970 - China launched its first satellite, which kept transmitting a song, The East is Red.
04/24/1980 - The US launched an abortive attempt to free the American hostages in Iran, a mission that resulted in the deaths of 8 US servicemen.
04/24/2017 - Tax Freedom Day … the day on which Americans have earned enough money to pay this year's tax obligations at the federal, state and local levels, meaning the average American will work 114 of 365 days this year just to pay their varied taxes.
04/24/2017 - Isra and Mi'raj – Muslim
04/25/1859 - Ground was broken for the Suez Canal.
04/25/1945 - Delegates from some 50 countries met in San Francisco to organize the United Nations.
04/25/1990 - The space shuttle Discovery deployed the Hubble Space Telescope.
04/25/2017 - World Penguin Day
04/26/1607 - An expedition of English colonists, including Captain John Smith, went ashore at Cape Henry, Virginia, to establish the first permanent English settlement in the Western Hemisphere.
04/26/1964 - The African nations of Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form Tanzania.
04/26/1986 - The world's worst nuclear accident occurred at the Chernobyl plant in the Soviet Union.
04/26/2017 - Administrative Professionals Day
04/27/1805 - A force led by US Marines captured the North African city of Derna on the shores of Tripoli.
04/27/1937 - The nation's first Social Security checks were distributed. And, we've been increasingly more dependent since then!
04/27/2017 - Dan Wè Zo, alias St Louis Cleimeille – Voudon
04/28/1789 - There was a mutiny on the HMS Bounty as the crew of the British ship set Captain William Bligh and 18 sailors adrift in a launch in the South Pacific.
04/28/1926 - Harper Lee was born in Monroeville AL. She would soon befriend Truman Capote, her model for Dill in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.
04/28/1945 - Italian partisans executed Dictator Benito Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, as they attempted to flee the country.
04/28/1952 - War with Japan officially ended as a treaty signed by the US and 47 other nations took effect.
04/28/2017 - Arbor Day
04/29/1429 - Joan of Arc entered the city of Orleans to lead a victory over the English.
04/29/1862 - New Orleans fell to Union forces during the Civil War.
04/29/1945 - Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun.
04/29/2017 - Cassé Canari ou Wèt mô nan d'lo – Voudon
04/29/2017 - Ninth day of Ridvan – Baha’i
04/30/1789 - George Washington took office in NY as the first president of the US.
04/30/1803 - The US purchased the Louisiana Territory from France for about $15 million.
04/30/1975 - The South Vietnamese capital of Saigon fell to Communist forces.
04/30/2017 - Mangé les Morts – Voudon
Online Resource Links
What ISIS Really Wants - The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy — and for how to stop it | ISIS Claims Responsibility, Calling Paris Attacks First of the Storm | Syria Iraq: The Islamic State Militant Group | Isis: The Inside Story | Frontline: The Rise of ISIS | Council on Foreign Relations: A Primer on ISIS Iraq | Cracks in ISIS Are Becoming More Clear | How ISIS’ Attacks Harm the Middle East
Check out Today's Front Pages. Each day, you can see the front pages of more than 800 newspapers from around the world in their original, unedited form.
Whether or not you noticed, the earth's population passed 7 billion a while back. You might enjoy NPR's wonderful video, Visualizing How a Population Grows to 7 Billion.
Check out the St. Louis Fed's presentation The Financial Crisis: What Happened?. The original video is no longer available but you can view the power point presentation.
Want to take a survey but not sure how many responses to collect? This Survey Calculator gives you the number for any given population size and desired confidence level. A reverse calculator lets you enter characteristics of an existing survey and gives the confidence interval (±X%) to apply to the results. The Survey System site, sponsored by a survey software company, also gives clear explanations of statistical significance, survey design and related concepts. Also check out 20 Questions a Journalist (and You, too!) Should Ask About Poll Results.
PBS's 30 Second Candidate allows you to view more political ads than you ever knew existed. Choose the Historical Timeline link to see how political ads have changed over the years. Start with the infamous Daisy Ad that Lyndon Johnson used against Barry Goldwater. Click on Watch Johnson ads. Then click on either the QuickTime link or the Real Video link next to Daisy.
Check out Political Compass. The site does a good job of explaining political ideologies (although with definitions different from those I use) and gives you a chance to discover your own political philosophy.
Law Library of Congress: North Korea -- Collection of links to websites on North Korean government, politics and law. Includes legal guides, country studies and links to constitutions and branches of government (where available). Council on Foreign Relations: North Korea -- Background, articles and opinion pieces about North Korea government and politics. Many of the articles focus on North Korea's nuclear program. From the Council on Foreign Relations, "an independent membership organization and a nonpartisan think tank and publisher."
State of the Union (SOTU) -- The site uses an interactive timeline to provide a visual representation of prominent words in presidential State of the Union addresses by displaying significant words as "determined by comparing how frequently the word occurs in the document to how frequently it appears throughout the entire body of SOTU addresses." The Appendices section describes the statistical methods used. Also includes the full text of addresses.
Small Town Papers -- This site provides access to scanned images of recent issues of dozens of small town newspapers from throughout the United States. Newspapers are updated periodically, 2-3 weeks after publication. The site also includes a searchable archive (of articles, photos and advertisements), which covers different periods for each paper, some as far back as the 1890s. Access to the archives requires free registration.
This website serves as a centralized location to learn about the Congressional Research Service and search for CRS reports that have been released to the public by members of Congress. (CRS Reports do not become public until a member of Congress releases the report.) Features a searchable database with more than 8,000 reports, a list of recently released reports, other collections of CRS reports and a FAQ about CRS.
Instances of the Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798 - 2004 -- This report lists hundreds of instances in which the United States has used its armed forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict or for other than normal peacetime purposes. It was compiled in part from various older lists and is intended primarily to provide a rough survey of past US military ventures abroad, without reference to the magnitude of the given instance noted.
Keeping the Shi'ites Straight -- Based on the opinion that no story has been more confusing for the Western news media to cover in postwar Iraq than the politics of the country's Shi'ite majority, this article provides a basic outline of Shi'ite religious history. Discusses the Sadr family (Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr, Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, and Muqtada as-Sadr), Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim and other figures.
This commercial site presents brief information about dozens of Black Inventors from the United States. Some entries include portraits and images. Also includes a searchable timeline covering 1721-1988. Does not include bibliographic information.
Annenberg Political Fact Check -- This site describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit, consumer advocate for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in US politics. The site provides original articles, with summaries and sources, analyzing factual accuracy in TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Searchable. From the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
White House Tapes: The President Calling -- Three of America's most compelling presidents -- Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon -- bugged their White House offices and tapped their telephones. In this documentary project, American Radio Works eavesdrops on presidential telephone calls to hear how each man used one-on-one politics to shape history. Includes audio, a transcript of the documentary and background information on each president and the tapes.
The State of State and Local Finances -- New studies afford a state-by-state or city-by-city analysis of fiscal well being. The Year of Living Dangerously -- While leaders in a growing number of states appear to believe they're serving the public good by squeezing government dry, there's little question that minimizing management carries a host of dangers that directly affect the lives of citizens.
Government Debt by Country Map -- Shows countries' general government gross debt as a percentage of GDP in 2012.
First Amendment Library -- Provides info on Supreme Court First Amendment jurisprudence, including rulings, arguments, briefs, historical material, commentary and press coverage.
If you need a presentation or workshop for your group,
or the link at the top of the page.