Fact or Fancy TM

Copyright © 2004 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.



Charity Begins With Someone Else's Money

Pretty magnanimous. Find a bunch of struggling people that really need a car, and give them a new one. Oprah Winfrey did that. In a blare of publicity and hoopla.

So, Oprah has received a ton of favorable publicity for helping these folks out. We hope that Pontiac has also received some favorable publicity, because they are the ones who actually gave the cars away - didn't cost our trusty host a nickel.

Great idea. Great publicity. Everyone is ecstatic. Till the other shoe drops.

There are still costs to consider: state and local tax; licensing fees; federal tax.

The cars are considered regular income by the IRS, so the recipients will have to pay tax on the MSRP of the vehicle. Could be as much as $7K. Which none of these folks have, or they wouldn't have been selected to receive the cars in the first place, right?

So, what are these poor folks to do? Well, the total tax bill for the 276 cars will be less than $200,000 - chump change for a billionaire like Oprah - so, she'll probably pay the tax for these folks out of her own pocket so they can keep the cars Pontiac gave them, right? Probably. My wife thinks so. And Oprah could garner another gazillion dollars worth of publicity for less than the price of a sandwich shop.

Pontiac agreed to pay for most local charges - state sales tax and licensing fees. Harpo productions (that's Oprah spelled backwards) agreed to pay squat.

When presented with the dilemma, a Harpo spokesperson said that the lucky recipients have three choices: keep the car and pay the tax; sell the car and pay the tax with the profit; or forfeit the car.

Celebrity largesse only goes so far.

Score: Oprah - a gazillion publicity points and counting;
Score: Pontiac - honorable mention;
Score: Car "winners" - the jury's still out.


Singing For Someone's Supper

The Coalation of Northwest Endangered Songbirds(CONES) has filed a class-action lawsuit against the TV station REKS, Channel 1 in Seattle, Washington.

Miyagami Cabeza de Verduna-Jones, host of the afternoon TV show, "Music of the Electric Cat", invited a thousand northwest songbirds to a "singing flyover", and promised each bird a year's supply of birdseed for participating.

"We came in good faith, some of us flying in from as far away as Alaska, and sang our hearts out while we flew over the REKS soundstage," according to Ima Warbler, spokesperson for CONES, "and then Cabeza-Jones and REKS went back on their word."

"We didn't go back on our word," Vera Ramblin, spokesperson for REKS countered. "There were more than six tons of birdseed piled in the middle of our soundstage. More than enough to feed all of those birds and their families for a year."

"Yeah, right!" Ms. Warbler replied. "Six tons in a great big pile, and no bags anywhere! How were we suposed to carry it back to our nests?"

"I can't help it if they didn't come prepared," Ramblin said. "We did our part by donating the bird feed, as promised. The rest was up to them."

"What about the 500 electric cats you had sitting all around the pile," Ms. Warbler asked, "how were we supposed to get past them without getting eaten ourselves?"

"You knew the Electric Cats were the stars of our show when you were invited! You didn't have to come, you know!"

And on and on. The Washington Supreme Court will eventually have to decide who is right and who is wrong.

Meanwhile, malnourished birds are raining from the skies all over the Northwest.

Copyright © 2004 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.