Metro-East News

Here’s what congressional shooter from Belleville asked the Answer Man

Congressional shooter named as 66-year-old man from Belleville

Belleville News-Democrat reporter Kelsey Landis was outside the Belleville home of James T. Hodgkinson, the shooter in the congressional shooting in Alexandria, Virginia. Hodgkinson, 66, lived with his wife on Rolling Hills Lane. President Donald
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Belleville News-Democrat reporter Kelsey Landis was outside the Belleville home of James T. Hodgkinson, the shooter in the congressional shooting in Alexandria, Virginia. Hodgkinson, 66, lived with his wife on Rolling Hills Lane. President Donald

James T. Hodgkinson, the Belleville man accused of shooting at congressmen and aides during practice for a congressional baseball game Wednesday, wrote a number of questions to Belleville News-Democrat’s Answer Man Roger Schlueter. Hodgkinson went by several names including James Thomas Hodgkinson, Thomas Hodgkinson, Tom Hodgkinson and Jim Hodgkinson.

The following are Hodgkinson’s questions:

Aug. 23, 2010

Q: In 1938, the U.S. tax code had 33 different tax brackets ranging from 4 percent from those earning up to $4,000 up to 79 percent for those earning $5 million or more. I’m trying to design a fair 9-bracket system that would bring in the same amount of revenue the Internal Revenue Service does now. Can you tell me what the 1938 dollar amounts would translate to now? How much income tax does the IRS collect? What would it bring in with the 1938 brackets?

Tom Hodgkinson, of Belleville

A: Don’t know whether your work will merit a call from Tim Geithner, but, according to at least three of Mr. Peabody’s Inflation WABAC (Wayback) Machines, it would take $15 today to buy what just one buck could in 1938.

So, multiply all those dollar amounts by 15 and you’ll have your answer - i.e., the top bracket of 79 percent now would affect those earning over $75 million.

During fiscal year 2009, the IRS collected a trifle less than $1.2 trillion from individual taxpayers, down from $1.4 trillion (a 16 percent drop) from 2008. Remember this: Estimates indicate that for decades we have only reported 85 percent of our actual income, which effectively gypped the government out of more than $200 billion last year. So when people are looking for someone to blame for the growing deficit, I suppose we have to look, in part, in the mirror.

Your final question, however, is just too taxing. The IRS no longer breaks down income into those 33 brackets so I can’t tell you what such a system would produce today. But here’s an interesting fact: According to a 1938 IRS analysis I found, those in the 79 percent bracket actually paid an average of only 30 percent after deductions, etc. So apparently it wasn’t nearly as confiscatory as it is usually made out to be.

Oct. 12, 2009

Q: Ever since you answered a question about women umpires in pro baseball, a friend of mine has been trying to convince me that there have been women referees in the National Basketball Association. I’m not a basketball fan. Is he on the level?

Tom Hodgkinson, of Belleville

A: Like most of Michael Jordan’s patented fadeaway jumpers, your friend was right on target.

On Halloween 1997, it was no costume Violet Palmer put on when she became the first woman to officiate a regular-season, all-male pro sports game — a contest between the Vancouver Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks. She has been on the NBA hardwoods ever since.

As you might imagine, it wasn’t easy at first for the 5-foot-8 Palmer as she tried to wield her authority in this land of the giants. NBA star Charles Barkley was once quoted as saying, “I don’t think women should be in the Army, and I don’t think they should be NBA refs.”

Even with the experience of officiating an NCAA Division 1 men’s tournament in 1996, she was anxious, too.

“I will never, ever forget the moment I put that jacket on and walked onto that floor, “ she was quoted later of that first night. “It was like, ‘Wow, you’re telling me I’m going to do this every single night?’ It was more than nervous. I was going to pee in my pants.”

But by her fourth year, she said, she was finally accepted as just another ref doing her job. By then, she once told USA Today, the only question she heard consistently from players was, “Damn, you smell good. What’s that perfume you’re wearing?” Even Barkley made amends: “Violet, I was wrong about you. I apologize. You’re all right with me.”

Palmer, who briefly coached high school basketball but couldn’t take the stress, was certainly all right with the NBA and her officiating colleagues. On April 25, 2006, she put on her No. 12 to became the first woman to officiate an NBA playoff game. A few months later, she took part in ejecting 10 players in a memorable Dec. 16 brawlgame between Denver and New York.

To help girls (and boys) follow in her footsteps, she has established the Violet Palmer Officials Camp to train youngsters in the art of refereeing. Now 45, she currently finds her 13th pro season in limbo as the NBA hammers out a contract with its referees union. You can check out her stats at

Palmer wasn’t the only woman to shatter pro basketball’s glass backboard. Also in 1997, the NBA signed Dee Kantner, but she was released in 2002 for what the league called substandard work. She is now supervisor of officials for the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Aug. 25, 2002

Q: I remember about five or 10 years ago, a guy named Bob who had a TV show — probably on the Public Broadcasting Service — in the middle of the day on which he would do paintings with what looked to be regular house paintbrushes. I don’t remember much else, but I would like to buy copies of the shows.

Tom Hodgkinson, of Belleville

A: Your colorful clues seem to paint a portrait of Bob Ross, so easel on down the road to on the Internet and you’ll find everything you’ve been looking for.

For just $1,800, you can watch Ross’ “Joy of Painting” until your eyeballs glaze over. He has 31 series of his show available, each costing $59.95; each series includes three tapes containing 13 half-hour shows.

If you have money left over, you can also buy books, paints, brushes, palettes and canvases, too, to practice his wet-on-wet technique that promises great results even for those who have never painted before. His Web site also boasts tips, projects and quizzes.

And, if you don’t have access to a computer, just call toll-free (800) BOB-ROSS (262-7677).

May 26, 2002

Q: Can you tell me how much water is in the gasoline you buy at various stations? Someone told me that it can be as much as 20 percent to 25 percent and I find that my car runs better on some gas than others.

Tom Hodgkinson, of Belleville

A: Haven’t you ever heard that oil and water don’t mix? Well, the same is true for gasoline, which, of course, is refined from oil. So if your car seems to run better on some gas, it’s not because there’s less H2O in it.

“There is no water in gasoline, “ said Bill Hickman of the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, D.C. “The companies would try to keep water out.”

He’s curious how you or your friend ever arrived at that notion. Although there might be trace amounts, the vastly different intermolecular forces within each of the liquids prevent them from combining under normal conditions. See for yourself by pouring gasoline into a clear bottle and then adding water.

July 15, 2001

Q: At a recent trivia night, there was a question about the dog listening to the gramophone on the historic RCA “His Master’s Voice” trademark. They said the dog’s name was Nipper, but one of my teammates said the dog is Victor (as in RCA Victor) and that Nipper was the companion puppy introduced years later. Should we have pressed our case?

Tom Hodgkinson, of Belleville

A: It was good of you let sleeping — or, in this case, phonograph-listening — dogs lie because your teammate clearly was barking up the wrong tree.

A mix of bull and fox terrier, Nipper was born in Bristol, England, in 1884. When his owner died, he was claimed by Francis Barraud, who ran a photographic studio. While at the studio, Nipper would be mesmerized by the phonograph, a fact that inspired Barraud to paint his famous picture in 1895.

The story would have ended there had Barraud not been disatisfied with the painting. He thought it was too dark, so he went to the Gramophone Co. Ltd. in London to borrow a brass horn to liven things up.

While he was at it, he asked the company owner if he would be interested in his painting. The owner said sure — on the condition that Barraud would replace the Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph in the original painting with the company’s new disc gramophone.

Later, Emile Berlier, who had invented the disc gramophone, founded the company that became the Victor Talking Machine and registered “Nipper and the Gramophone” as its trademark. Then, in the 1980s, General Electric bought RCA Victor and sold the home entertainment division to Thompson Consumer Electronics in France. Thompson then introduced Chipper, Nipper’s young friend.

Aug. 17, 1997

Q: In a recent story, you said a million basketballs could fit into a room 8 feet on a side. Somehow, I don’t think that’s possible.

Tom Hodgkinson, of Belleville

A: What if they’re not inflated? Okay, seriously: Somewhere in the translation process between two computers, a zero was dropped — which is pretty much what I feel like for not catching the typo. A million basketballs represent a cube that is 100 balls on a side. Each ball is approximately 91/2 inches in diameter, making the room an 80-foot cube — and the analogy even more dramatic.

July 27, 1997

Q: A friend and I are wondering whether Smokey Robinson was ever a member of the Temptations? And, what relation is Smokey to a William Robinson?

Thomas Hodgkinson, of Belleville

A: Ooh, baby, baby: Smokey and William Robinson have the closest relationship you can possibly imagine — mainly, because they’re one and the same. America’s greatest living poet (according to Bob Dylan) was born William Robinson on Feb. 19, 1940, and was nicknamed “Smokey Joe” by his uncle when he was 2.

Smokey, of course, achieved his initial fame with the Miracles, who started as the Matadors in 1954. Smokey left amicably in 1972 to devote more time to his writing and work at Motown Records. He helped the Temptations stay in the spotlight by writing and arranging such hits as “My Girl” and “The Way You Do the Things You Do, “ but he left the singing to the group’s own talent, such as Eddie Kendricks.