Daily Update: Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

04-15 - Tax Day and Yom haShoah

With no Saints to honor today, we note that today is Tax Day, being the day when tax returns for the  previous year (statements about income taxes) are due to the federal government from U.S. citizens, resident aliens, and certain nonresident aliens. Today is also the birthday of Richard’s niece Jenny, one of the daughters of his sister Susan in Iowa. At sunset tonight begins Yom haShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Today is the last day on which federal tax returns for 2014 can be mailed (as postmarked) to avoid penalties, with some exceptions. Federal income tax was introduced with the Revenue Act of 1861 to help fund the Civil War. That Act stipulated that income tax “shall be due and payable on or before the thirtieth day of June”. There is an unsubstantiated claim that the first income tax was paid only by the very wealthy, and that they tended to spend their summers vacationing. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue is said to have argued, “The collection of taxes would be much easier if an earlier assessment was made, before they leave town.” The case of Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co. challenged the constitutionality of the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act of 1894 which taxed incomes over $4,000 at the rate of two percent. The case was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1895; they decided that the Act’s unapportioned income taxes on interest, dividends, and rents were effectively direct taxes, and that the Act was therefore unconstitutional because it violated the Constitution’s rule that direct taxes be apportioned. In 1913, eighteen years later, the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. This Amendment gave the United States Congress the legal authority to tax all incomes without regard to the apportionment requirement. The filing deadline for individuals was March 1 in 1913 and was changed to March 15 in 1918 and again to April 15 in 1955. Today the filing deadline for U.S. federal income tax returns for individuals remains April 15th or, in the event that the 15th falls on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, the first succeeding day that is not a Saturday, Sunday or holiday. Today is also the birthday of Richard’s niece Jenny, one of the daughters of his sister Susan in Iowa. And today at sunset begins Yom haShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Shoah, meaning “calamity”, is the standard Hebrew term for the Holocaust.) It was inaugurated on 1953, anchored by a law signed by the Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion and the President of Israel Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. The original proposal was to hold Yom haShoah on the 14th of Nisan, the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising (April 19, 1943), but this was problematic because the 14th of Nisan is the day immediately before Pesach (Passover). The date was moved to the 27th of Nisan, which is eight days before Yom Ha’atzma’ut, or Israeli Independence Day unless the 27th would be adjacent to Shabbat, in which case the date is shifted by a day. Yom haShoah opens in Israel at sundown in a state ceremony held in Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Authority in Jerusalem. During the ceremony the national flag is lowered to half mast, the President and the Prime Minister both deliver speeches, Holocaust survivors light six torches symbolizing the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and the Chief Rabbis recite prayers.

With the best will in the world I had set my alarms on my clock and on my phone to 8:00 am; however, I did not wake up until 1:00 pm. I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, started my laundry, read the morning paper, and started working on reconciling our bank statement (which arrived in the mail today).

When I got to a good stopping point on the bank statement, Richard and I left the house at 2:00 pm. We first ate Chinese for lunch at Peking, then went to Wal-Mart to get groceries. At the Hit-n-Run I purchased my Powerball and Louisiana Lotto lottery tickets for tonight’s drawing, then we stopped at Bertrand’s Office Supplies to see if they had check registers, as the ones we got from our bank were inferior (they did not have any). Once we arrived home at 3:00 pm, I finished reconciling the bank statement to our checking account. I then went to Checks Unlimited online and purchased check registers; to make sure I was not eaten up with shipping and handling, I also ordered address labels. I then canceled my hold at the Lafayette Public Library for The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman, and got the book on my Nook. I then started the Weekly Computer Maintenance. At 4:30 pm I watched Jeopardy! I continued with the Weekly Computer Maintenance, and ate my dinner of barbecued chicken breast, baked sweet potato, and baked beans. I stopped the Weekly Computer Maintenance halfway through so that I could free up my browser, and at 8:00 pm I took the Jeopardy! Adult Online Test. (I have no idea how I did; presumably, if I did well, I will be notified.) Our #2 ranked LSU Baseball team beat Lamar by the score of 11 to 3 (our Tigers will next play the first game of a three-game away series with Georgia on April 17th). Richard and I watched CSI: Cyber at 9:00 pm, and our New Orleans Pelicans won their game with the San Antonio Spurs by the score of 108 to 103. The Pelicans thus finished the regular season with 45 wins and 37 losses; more to the point, they are now in the NBA Playoffs, and are tentatively scheduled to face the Golden State Warriors on April 18th. Richard has gone on to bed, and once I finish this Daily Update I will be joining him. And I can report that my ear infection in my left ear is definitely clearing up; I did not even feel the need to dose it with hydrogen peroxide.

Tomorrow Yom haShoah continues, and tomorrow is the Optional Memorial of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, Religious. I will try to get up at a reasonable time (like before noon), finish my laundry, iron my Casino pants, aprons, and shirts, finish the Weekly Computer Maintenance, put together the monthly package to Liz Ellen, mail the monthly package to Liz Ellen, get my lunch supplies, and make my lunch salads for Friday and Sunday.

Our Parting Quote on this Wednesday evening comes to us from John Houbolt, American aerospace engineer. Born in 1919 in Altoona, Iowa, he spent the latter part of his childhood in Joliet, Illinois, where he attended high school and Joliet Junior College. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, earning a Bachelors Degree in 1940 and a Masters degree in 1942 in civil engineering. Houbolt began his career at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1942, and stayed on after it was renamed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958; in the meantime he received a PhD in Technical Sciences in 1957 from ETH Zurich. By 1961 NASA was deep in discussions on how to sent astronauts to the moon and how to get them safely back to earth. Lunar orbit rendezvous (LOR) was first proposed in 1916 by Ukrainian rocket theoretician Yuri Kondratyuk as the most economical way of landing humans on the Moon. When NASA began actual work in 1961 on President John F. Kennedy’s goal to achieve the first such landing by the end of the 1960s, LOR was proposed by Tom Dolan and championed by Houbolt, but was considered controversial, impractical, and possibly dangerous, because space rendezvous had never been done. Houbolt would not let the advantages of LOR be ignored. As a member of Lunar Mission Steering Group, Houbolt had been studying various technical aspects of space rendezvous since 1959 and was convinced, like several others at Langley Research Center, that LOR was not only the most feasible way to make it to the Moon before the decade was out, it was the only way. He had reported his findings to NASA on various occasions but felt strongly that the internal task forces (to which he made presentations) were following arbitrarily established “ground rules.” According to Houbolt, these ground rules were constraining NASA’s thinking about the lunar mission, and causing LOR to be ruled out before it was fairly considered. In November 1961, Houbolt took the bold step of skipping proper channels and writing a private letter, nine pages long, directly to Robert C. Seamans, the associate administrator. “Somewhat as a voice in the wilderness, I would like to pass on a few thoughts.” Houbolt protested LOR’s exclusion. “Do we want to go to the Moon or not?” the Langley engineer asked. “Why is Nova [the alternative], with its ponderous size simply just accepted, and why is a much less grandiose scheme involving rendezvous ostracized or put on the defensive? I fully realize that contacting you in this manner is somewhat unorthodox,” Houbolt admitted, “but the issues at stake are crucial enough to us all that an unusual course is warranted.” It took two weeks for Seamans to reply to Houbolt’s extraordinary letter. The associate administrator agreed that “it would be extremely harmful to our organization and to the country if our qualified staff were unduly limited by restrictive guidelines.” He assured Houbolt that NASA would in the future be paying more attention to LOR than it had up to this time. In the following months, NASA did just that, and to the surprise of many both inside and outside the agency, the dark horse candidate, LOR, quickly became the front runner. Several factors decided the issue in its favor. First, there was growing disenchantment with the idea of direct ascent due to the time and money it was going to take to develop the huge Nova rocket. Second, there was increasing technical apprehension over how the relatively large spacecraft demanded even by Earth-orbit rendezvous would be able to maneuver to a soft landing on the Moon. Administrator James E. Webb publicly announced in July 1962 that Apollo would utilize this method. Even then, Kennedy’s Science Advisor Jerome Wiesner remained opposed to the method, and publicly criticized Webb. As history has shown, the method worked, and allowed NASA to use only one Saturn V per lunar landing mission, something other landing options did not offer. Houbolt was awarded the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1963, and was a guest at Mission control for the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969. He retired from NASA in 1985. In the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, Houbolt was played by Reed Birney. In 2005 he was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his papers were deposited in the University of Illinois Archives. In the city of Joliet the street fronting Joliet Junior College, which he attended, was renamed Houbolt Road, a mural in Joliet Union Station includes a Lunar Module, in reference to his work for NASA, and a wing of the Joliet Area Historical Museum became a permanent exhibit to celebrate his achievements (died 2014): “I grew up on the farm, working 16 hours a day, milking cows in the morning under 20 below zero and everything, and to me – to know that I’ve been involved with one of our greatest achievements of mankind, I feel rather special about that.”

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