A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for January, 2019

Totally Not Socialism™

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her pals within the Democratic Party are touting their Green New Deal, which is their vision for a massive wealth redistribution scheme. Of course they’re not calling it a wealth redistribution scheme because that sounds like socialism and if there’s one thing Americans won’t stand for it’s anything that calls itself socialism. But Americans will stand (with their hand over their heart no less) for socialism so long as it’s wrapped up in Totally Not Socialism™ packaging. So to claim that their Green New Deal is Totally Not Socialism™ the advocates of this Green New Deal are calling it an economic stimulus package. One ritual required for wrapping a socialist program in Totally Not Socialism™ packaging is explaining how the programming will be funded by using traditional American methods (because, you see, America has always been anti-socialist so if something was done in the past it obviously can’t be socialist).

Ocasio-Cortez are performing this crucial ritual by pointing out that income tax rates between World War II and Regan’s presidency seldom dipped below 70 percent and even reached as high as 90 percent for the “wealthiest” Americans. So funding this stimulus package doesn’t require socialism, it merely requires going back to America’s (totally not socialist) halcyon days! Needless to say their supporters are lapping up their bullshit and eagerly asking for more because they’re ignorant about the difference between statutory and effective tax rates:

Yet this historical narrative is both simplistic and wrong. It relies upon a confusion between the statutory tax rate (i.e., the number that’s on the statute books) and the effective tax rate (i.e., the percentage of income that people actually pay once exemptions, deductions, and other tax-code incentives are accounted for).

Although statutory rates were extremely high between World War II and the Reagan-era tax cuts, practically nobody actually paid the taxman’s full sticker price on their earnings. Instead, a plethora of intentional tax exemptions, deductions, and legal income shelters ensured that wealthy individuals paid a much lower effective tax rate.

How much lower are we talking about exactly? Let’s take an example from 1963, the last year that top rates exceeded the 90 percent high water mark. A single filer in the $1 million bracket ($8.2 million today) faced a rate of 91 percent for every dollar earned over $200,000. While the statutory rate dropped for earnings below $200,000, it did not drop much. The 72 percent rate’s threshold kicked in at $44,000 (about $360,000 today). A 50 percent rate applied to single-filer earnings above $16,000 (about $130,000 today), with several other rate jumps as you attained higher income thresholds in between.

Finding a person who can obtain power without being corrupted is almost impossible. Finding a person who is willing to tell their benefactor to fuck off is even harder.

Those wealthy Americans that Ocasio-Cortez and her pals are claiming they’re going to soak? It turns out that they’re the ones who pay their biggest campaign contributions, the lobbyists who host their lavish dinners, and the human resource personnel who offer them absurd salaries to become lobbyists after they become bored with politics. So there’s no way that Ocasio-Cortez or almost any other politician is going to fuck them over.

The difference between the statutory and effective income tax rates is the key to how politicians keep their base supporters and benefactors happy. They promise their base supporters that they’ll soak the rich and redistribute the seized money to them. Since their gullible base supporters are ignorant of how taxes actually work for the wealthy, they fall for it hook, line, and sinker. Meanwhile, their benefactors are happy because the same politicians who passed the higher statutory income tax rate also created a large number of tax-incentives that allow anybody who falls into the new higher rate category to avoid paying the published rate.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 8th, 2019 at 10:30 am

Corporate Euphemisms

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Apple’s quest to make its products thinner at any cost is once again making some customers unhappy. There have been reports of iPad Pros arriving bent out of the box. I would be unhappy even if a $100 table arrived bent out of the box so it shouldn’t be surprising that I’d be unhappy if an $800+ tablet arrived bent out of the box. But now that Apple is positioning itself as a luxury products company, it’s striving to provide the same level of customer satisfaction as, say, Patek Philippe, right? After all, if you purchased a new Patek Philippe watch and it had any defect whatsoever, the company would likely bend over backwards to remedy the situation since it knows that, as a luxury products company, it lives an dies by its reputation for customer satisfaction. If you believed that, you would be incorrect.

Instead of addressing the issue of bent iPad Pros, Apple has taken the route of using corporate euphemisms to explain why bent iPad Pros are something with which customers will just have to live:

These precision manufacturing techniques and a rigorous inspection process ensure that these new iPad Pro models meet an even tighter specification for flatness than previous generations. This flatness specification allows for no more than 400 microns of deviation across the length of any side — less than the thickness of four sheets of paper. The new straight edges and the presence of the antenna splits may make subtle deviations in flatness more visible only from certain viewing angles that are imperceptible during normal use. These small variances do not affect the strength of the enclosure or the function of the product and will not change over time through normal use.

That’s a lot of words to say your brand new $800+ iPad Pro may arrive at your doorstep bent.

This issue reminds me a lot of the issue with the iPhone 4 where holding it in your left hand could cause cellular signal degradation (and thus drop your call). Instead of addressing the issue right away, Steve Jobs tried to argue that the solution was to hold the phone “correctly.” Eventually Apple opted for the half-assed solution of providing a free case, which was at least better than publishing an official page that used a lot of words to try to hand wave the problem away.

Between this and the high failure rate of the MacBook butterfly switch keyboards, Apple is having a rough start to its transition from a consumer electronics company into a luxury products company.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 8th, 2019 at 10:00 am

One Weird Trick to Avoid Not Receiving a Refund

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in its quest to make the federal government “shutdown” as painful as possible, has announced that while it will continue to take your money, it won’t return your refund:

During a shutdown, the IRS typically doesn’t perform audits, pay refunds or offer assistance to taxpayers if they have questions, especially outside of the filing season. And while some of the lights may still be on in the building, the agency is currently operating with only 12.5 percent of its workforce, or fewer than 10,000 federal employees.

A lot of people are upset about this but I’ve got one weird trick to avoid not receiving your refund: don’t overpay. If you receive a refund on your taxes, it means you gave the government an interest free loan that it is returning to you. If you adjust your withholdings properly, you won’t overpay and therefore won’t need to worry about a refund.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 7th, 2019 at 10:30 am

Monday Metal: Carnival of Disgust by Falconer

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Written by Christopher Burg

January 7th, 2019 at 10:00 am

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Grammar Matters

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People are often surprised by what constituted a “classical” education. Education in ancient Rome was heavily focused on grammar. Why? Because the highest aspiration of an educated Roman was to make convincing arguments to get his (sorry ladies, the ancient Romans weren’t into gender equality) clients off the hook for whatever crimes they were accused of perpetrating (much like the decisions of the legal system here in the modern United States, the decisions of Rome’s legal system were more dependent on the ability of lawyers to spin a good yarn than what the evidence indicated).

A brief conversation with the average person will quickly prove that modern education isn’t terribly concerned with grammar. But I urge people to study grammar. While the highest aspiration of an educated person today may not be to impress a judge or jury with impeccable storytelling, the proper use of grammar can still pay dividends:

A pair of student drug dealers have been spared jail after a judge was impressed by the ‘spelling and grammar’ of the texts they sent advertising their product.

[…]

A court heard police examined their mobile phones to find text messages relating to their drug deals composed using perfect spelling and punctuation.

Judge David Hale said the ‘grammar and punctuation’ in the messages was of a much higher standard than normally seen from dealers and indicated a higher level of education.

The bar is set sufficiently low that the appropriate use of a single comma or period qualifies as a “much higher standard than normally seen.” But that’s good news for anybody who “don’t write so good.” They don’t have to study for long to become better than average.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 4th, 2019 at 10:30 am

The Shutdown That Isn’t

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Did you know that the federal government is shutdown? If you didn’t, look at these eight situations created by the shutdown that will impact your life in terrible ways!

The first takeaway from that article is that those eight things are the scariest things the writer could find. Of those eight things only one, Native American not receiving payment for lands “purchased” by the federal government decades ago, stands to impact anybody in any meaningful way. But Native Americans being screwed over by the federal government has been the status quo since its founding so the shutdown really isn’t changing anything in that regard.

The second takeaway is the answer to the question, how can that list of terrible shutdown consequences fail to provide anything truly frightening:

The partial shutdown means about 25% of the US federal government has no funding.

It turns out that this “shutdown” is leaving 75% of the federal government with funding. While you might not be able to watch a live stream of the pandas at the National Zoo (which, ironically, is just a camera running a feed and therefore doesn’t need any funding to continue operating), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives can still afford to kick down your door and shoot your dog because the 16 inch barrel on your AR-15 looks suspiciously like 15.9 inches.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 4th, 2019 at 10:00 am

Watching the Facade Chip Away

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There are many parallels that can be drawn between the United States and pretty much every other major empire throughout history. One of the most common parallels to make, and one I myself often like to make, is the commonality that the United States shares with ancient Rome (which makes sense since the United States was established with Rome in mind).

Early Roman politicians were the quintessential holier than thou characters. Almost everything they did was meant to create an image that they were pious, entirely dedicated to Roman law, and only had the best interests of Rome in mind. As Rome rose in prominence the facade those politicians built began to chip away. The most obvious illustration of this breakdown, in my opinion, was the fate of Tiberius Gracchus. Gracchus fought for and eventually managed to pass legislation that would redistribute much of the public land that was being monopolized but Rome’s rich and powerful to the underdogs. While he used every dirty trick in the book to get his land reforms passed, he did follow the letter of the law more or less (his opponents consider his actions illegal but Roman law, like United States law, had a lot of gray area). But redistributing public land wasn’t a popular idea with the senators who were, not necessarily legally mind you, holding it so they decided to set aside their masks of dedication to Roman Law and publicly clubbed Tiberius to death. What made this assassination a real turning point was that it didn’t appear to be a career killer for most of the involved senators. The facade of political piety to Roman law was torn down and few of the demolition crew suffered any real consequences.

Like politicians in ancient Rome, politicians here in the United States have built a facade of piousness (to the religion of the State more than any other), dedication to United States law, and having the best interests of Americans in mind. Part of that facade is foregoing violence, whether direct or indirect, and instead resolving matters through debates. However, in recent decades and especially in the last decade that facade is beginning to chip away. Although direct violence hasn’t been taken (by the politicians themselves), it’s being spoken of more frequently:

“She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding,” Alexandra Pelosi bluntly told CNN in an interview Wednesday morning. “That’s all you need to know about her.”

Pelosi was asked about her mother’s approach to meetings, ahead of a highly anticipated briefing with President Trump and other top congressional leaders scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in the White House Situation Room. The meeting comes a day before Democrats reclaim the House majority, with Nancy Pelosi expected to ascend once again to speaker.

Admittedly it’s difficult to know that you’re bleeding when you no longer have a head but I digress.

The written records we have from ancient Rome are incomplete (an understatement) so I can’t say whether a similar process precede the senators clubbing Gracchus to death but I’m left to believe it did. I imagine Rome’s descent into political violence began with the clientes of one or two senators talking about how badass their patronus was and, failing to be reprimanded for implying that their senators would ever stoop to violence, inspired others to talk up their senators’ badass nature. I imagine that that tough talk eventually inspired a handful of senators themselves to begin making violent comments and, failing to be reprimanded, that inspired senators to finally set aside the bullshit and just club that annoyance Gracchus to death.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an act of politician on politician violence in the coming years. We’re already at the point where talking about violence is, if not acceptable, not something that results in serious reprimand. Given how device politics is today, it wouldn’t be difficult for a politician to justify to themselves an act of violence as being in the best interests of the American people. And, unlike the days of Aaron Burr, I wouldn’t be surprised if the act of violence didn’t end their political career.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 3rd, 2019 at 10:30 am

Dream Job

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Yesterday news broke that “Mean” Gene Okerlund died. Okerlund had one of my dream jobs. In the absurdity that is professional wrestling he played the straight man. If a coked out man in a flamboyant costume said something batshit insane he wouldn’t bat and eye and would continue his interview as if he were interviewing the CEO of a company. I’d say he managed to do what many people don’t, he lived an interesting and entertaining life.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 3rd, 2019 at 10:00 am

Ten Years

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It’s hard to believe that I started my blog almost 10 years ago (it came online January of 2009). In that time I’ve written 7,878 posts on a lot of different topics.

Looking back at my decade of blogging I can say that it has been a good use of time. Writing, like all other activities, is improved with practice and regularly blogging gives a lot of writing practice. Moreover, writing about topics requires more thinking than one might otherwise do. It’s also interesting for me to look back at how my interests and beliefs have changed over the last decade.

While I find that blogging has been greatly beneficial to me it has also be time consuming. In order to focus on other projects, I’m planning to do quite a bit less blogging in the coming years. I don’t plan to stop completely but I can’t keep up this pace while also keeping up with everything else. You’ll see new content here in 2019 but not as much. When the other projects I’m focusing on are further along, I’ll post about them here.

Anyways, here’s another the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. Hopefully the new year ends up being as absurd as the last year (I would hate to be bored in 2019).

Written by Christopher Burg

January 1st, 2019 at 10:00 am

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