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TygrBright

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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 17,531

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Talking Taxes

Why is this post in Democratic Primaries?

Because most if not all of our candidates have proposed ideas and policy changes that will have tax implications. And the tax implications of any proposal are likely to be used by both primary opponents and the Massive Lie Machine (MLM) as an oppositional strategy.

And because Americans have been very effectively trained to place a strong negative filter over the very concept of taxation, and equally effectively trained to swallow misleading-- to use the kindest term-- information on the topic of taxes.

To be fair, that training wasn't all that difficult because taxation can be (and, in America, IS) an enormously-- and probably needlessly-- complex topic. With that in mind, I'll start with a disclaimer: I'm not going to try and talk comprehensively about taxation and the implications of any specific proposal from any specific candidate.

But I DO encourage DUers, especially any/all of us who will be involved in campaigning, discussing policy issues, refuting bullshit from the MLM, etc., to learn as much as possible about taxation as an issue area, and here's a pretty decent starting place with a lot of good, accessible, readily-understandable discussion and analysis: Tax Policy Center.

With that out of the way, let's go straight for belling the cat:

Yes, taxes will go up.

This is actually a good thing, for all of us, even those of us who will end up "paying more taxes". But that's a damn' hard thing to convince people of.

And the admission: Yes, we'll experience some hardship.

Almost everything we will need more tax revenue for will, ultimately, pay us back for that hardship, and then some. Both conceptually and in real, pragmatic, quality-of-life terms. (And yes, that does include everyone up to the top 1/10th of the top 1%, who will indeed experience benefits but won't notice because their wealth has insulated them from the costs of living in a decaying infrastructure and devolving commons, and they no longer have the capacity to value 'living in a better society' in personal terms. Fuck 'em anyway.)

Start by yanking the clown mask off the holy doctrine of the Vaunted Private Sector as the best method getting a bigger bang for the public buck:

* Because private sector business is such a paragon of efficiency and responsiveness to market conditions, right? Excuse me while I bust a gut laughing. 'nuff said, really. No, really... Do your own damn' homework.

* Because the private sector can do things so much cheaper than the government, with all those regulations and public employee unions, right? Carefully restrain your laughter and point out that cheap-assing the labor force only works if you don't ALSO have to build in big fat executive salaries and a constant quarter-over-quarter dividend growth for your shareholders. And a cheap-assed labor force ultimately costs the taxpayer MORE than a well-trained, well-compensated public sector workforce, in public safety net benefits.

* Because Big Government as a provider of large institutional services is historically a sewer of procurement corruption, featherbedding, nepotism and other costly administrative work practices, and the Vaunted Private Sector runs a lean, mean, efficient machine with no tolerance for that crap. Again, let's try hard not to bust a gut laughing, and point out any of the wonderful "privatized" institutions that are doing such a great job, like the privatized prisons, the mercenary auxiliaries replacing various military functions, the unblemished stellar record of charter schools and for-profit higher education... well, the list goes on and on.

Essentially, we're talking about rebuilding the kind of public-private partnerships that electrified rural America between the wars, built the Interstate Highway system, sent astronauts to the moon, protected consumers from exploitation and recklessness in the financial industry, sparked the development of the Internet and dozens of other amazing advances that took us to the top of the world's lists relating to things like life expectancy, infant mortality, etc. Until we tossed it all over to the Vaunted Private Sector and started the downward slide under Ronald Reagan.

So, yeah, that's gonna take tax revenue. Under Democratic leadership, the methods of taxation will be designed as progressive. That's not an ideological term in tax lingo. In taxation terms, "progressive" taxation is simply designed to distribute the burden of taxation on equitable, rather than equal, terms.

Wait, what? "Equitable rather than equal?"



Flat-taxers talk about how "fair" it is that "everyone pays the same".

Progressive-taxes talk about how the effects of taxation are proportional for all.

Democrats tend to be progressive taxers, which means that the actual effects of "higher taxes" will be distributed so that someone at the most financially vulnerable and needy end of the spectrum may not perceive any additional burden, someone in the middle might have to save longer to buy a new vehicle or economize on entertainment and clothing, and someone at the upper end of the spectrum might have to settle for a thirty-foot yacht instead of a sixty-foot yacht.

Personally, I don't much care for the several years-- maybe a decade or more-- of belt-tightening that higher taxes will impose on me. We're thinking of retiring, and that will complicate things as well.

BUT....

(and this is a BIG but...)

I am really looking forward to what will happen to my quality of life-- and even more, to my daughter's and my grandson's quality of life-- as the investments in higher taxation begin to pay off.

Yes, a better health care system that involves a public payer source will be costly. But it will ultimately return so much of the money I'm currently paying on insurance, co-pays, out-of-pocket for medications, inflated prices to keep health-sector investors and venture capitalists getting their dividends, inflated prices that fund the marketing and advertising and executive salaries costs of the Vaunted Private Sector providers that I'm confident I'll end up with more money in my bank account. I'll enjoy better access and better quality of services in most of the essentials, and maybe experience a little aggro or some waiting occasionally.

I'll take that.

Yes, a better criminal justice system that returns the full spectrum of services to the public sector will be costly. But once we remove the incentives to lock up millions for minor and nonviolent offenses, so that private prison providers can make a profit, I expect costs to go down substantially. Yes, we'll have to invest, first.

And those investment successes will be replicated across dozens of institutional sectors and services as we return to ensuring clean, safe drinking water, sustainable and safe food production, efficient and environmentally-friendly transportation and communications grids, clean power generation, and so much more. Those "investment dividends" will be distributed to me and you and ALL of us, as the investors through our taxes. And CREATE GOOD JOBS DOING IT.

We will end up living in a cleaner, safer, happier society with better opportunities for our children and grandchildren.

Yes, we'll be "paying more taxes". But we WON'T MISS THE MONEY, because we won't have to be constantly plugging holes and preparing for disasters without a safety net and trying to save for investments in the future that will be built in for us and our children- dignified retirement, affordable higher education, available health care.

Yes, we'll have to invest our higher taxes and they won't pay off immediately. But they will pay off quickly, if we hang in there and keep building for our children's future.

So no, I'm not afraid of higher taxes, and you shouldn't be either. No one should be.

Except the people who've been getting obscenely wealthy stealing our well-being from us all along, of course.

helpfully,
Bright



The future: Party on my lawn, kids...

When I was in primary school and junior high, I would occasionally do the math and reflect on how very, very OLD I would be when the year 2000 rolled around.

And I would wonder what it would be like then. Would we have a "Jetsons" world, with flying cars? Would there be colonies on other real estate in the solar system? Would we have picture phones where we'd watch the person we were talking with in a teevee-type monitor and see their faces while we talked? We would certainly have solved the problem of poverty, right? And probably cured cancer, too.

As I got a little older I wondered if my doddering sunset years would be spent in a "Star Trek" world where doors get out of your way, and the doctor waves a little device over you and tells you what's wrong, and then you lay yourself down under a big weird-looking machine with pulsing lights and get up cured. And would there be a "Prime Directive" we all believed in, that would institutionalize values like respecting differences and balancing values among individuals and groups with the well-being of the whole society?

We have some doors that get out of the way. We have video calling that no one bothers to use because no one talks on phones anymore- they just send texts.

And I wish, oh how I wish, that we could put certain things from the past in a time machine and bring them here, now.

Don't get me wrong. I know that a lot of the things I'm nostalgic for were only possible because our society accepted appalling levels of racism, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression. I don't want to bring back little suburban crackerbox castles with white picket fences, or assumptions about which side of the tracks people should stay on, or ignorant ideas about how 'playing by the rules' will work for anyone.

And I know that an awful lot of "do the right thing" acculturation was pushed by the religious authorities representing a patriarchal judeo-christian worldview, and the whole 'do as you would be done by' notion really only applied to People Like Us. (See: "Church of Latter Day Saints", philosophies of commerce, among a myriad of examples.) And the quaint idea that it's better to be a good person than a rich person was misused to keep the proles in their places (didn't make it a bad idea, though).

All the same, I'm nostalgic for my memories of a society that tried to teach children that sportsmanship was more important than winning. I have fond and probably illusory reminiscences of learning that all humans are part of the same family and we are all one another's keepers. And that we all do better when everyone does well. I definitely remember being taught that sacrificing stuff I "want" so that others can have what they NEED isn't particularly meritorious, it's just an expected part of being a decent person.

And I remember when the people who wanted my parents' vote didn't promise that people like me would be rewarded and people who were different were bad and responsible for everything we didn't like and should be denied the benefits we enjoy. Don't get me wrong, the people who wanted my parents' (and, for a short while, my) vote pandered plenty, but not in that particular way.

I remember thinking that all the boringness and timidity of politicians trying to show responsibility, respect the legal aspects of government, achieve a sense of gravitas, work within a flawed system and exercise what seemed like endless caution even when I urgently wanted the government to change BIG THINGS RIGHT NOW was a terrible, terrible thing. Boy, am I nostalgic for what I disliked back then.

But I'm coming to terms with the reality that even were my memories and perception of those good things of the past one hundred percent accurate, we cannot... and SHOULD NOT... restore some mythical 'better time' of the past.

We are living through a terrible geopolitical cataclysm that has upended the moral, economic, and cultural assumptions of the past. It hurts. It feels awful. It feels like the end of everything.

It isn't, though. Humanity has survived such cataclysms multiple times. Humanity has even survived, in pre-historic eras, apocalyptic climate changes. How, we can only theorize, because the historical record lies only in silent witnesses like archaeological relics and DNA revealing migration patterns.

We can't go back.

But we can go on.

The past has value in respect to what we have learned. Those who have studied history understand that "learning" is not an unmediated process. We interpret, we tell stories, we attach associations, we share our experiences and analysis with one another.

One person might learn from an experience "Someone Not Like Me was present when something bad happened to me. People Not Like Me are not to be trusted."

Another person might learn from the same experience "Someone Not Like Me was present when something bad happened to me. Bad things happen to all of us. We should strive to keep bad things from happening to each other."

The differences in who learns what are affected by mediators, trusted voices who help us analyze and process our experiences. Parents, teachers, leaders, friends, media.

I don't know what kind of world my daughter and my grandson will live in when I'm gone. It will be different. I have faith that it remains possible to make those differences good ones. To build on what we are learning now, and avoid the mistakes that brought us such collective pain.

And I believe that the way forward is more important than the way back. That when we have finished debriding the wounds wrought by the structural flaws in our shared community, we will have a chance to heal and grow in new and better directions.

But to do so, we must respect the qualitative difference between learning from the past and trying to restore the past. Demanding responsibility and holding those who fail us accountable, that is learning from the past. Trying to recreate models of accountability and responsibility that may have functioned in the past isn't learning. Learning must reveal new directions as conditions and values change.

That's your task, kids. I'll help if I can, but my solutions are necessarily Old Thinking. There's probably some good stuff there, but it'll only be useful if it can inform and improve New Thinking. You're welcome to it, but I don't demand you use it. Just... do your best. Build for tomorrow. Build for a tomorrow where YOU have the things YOU value for YOUR children and grandchildren.

It won't look familiar to me. I probably won't like it. I'll still talk about the Good Old Days.

But it's my lawn, and I want y'all to party there, anyway. Because it'll be your lawn soon enough.

hopefully,
Bright

Dear Fourth Estate: How About This Tactic to Fulfill Your Actual Responsibility...?

Dear Actual News Media of All Types (Online, print, cable, radio, podcast, broadcast... allayez):

It has come to my attention that, in spite of including the words "There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden" in various coverage of President Windrip's exposure as a blatant racketeer and extortionist, many Americans continue to believe there is a "there" there.

This is probably a combination of simple lazy "no smoke without fire" thinking and sheer bloody-minded denial. But regardless, it IS your responsibility, as the Fourth Estate, to ensure that factual refutation of such an obvious politically-motivated fiction reaches the widest possible audience.

To that end, I have a suggestion to offer:

Pick a three-day period sometime in the next two weeks.

Make a commitment that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU, at some point during that period, will make "There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden" your LEAD story or article.

Every newspaper. Every news show, cable, broadcast television, or radio. Every news website. Every news podcast.

For three days.

"There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden"

It will not convince QAnon, of course, nor the hardest-core MAGAts.

But it might go some distance toward restoring the confidence of America in the ability of our Fourth Estate to promote fact-based news coverage.

That is all.

Thank you for your consideration of the radical notion of doing your jobs.

impatiently,
Bright

The Abyss is Gazing Back

"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster; for if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back into you."

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 1886


And so it begins.

In this cloven America, both sides have been fighting monsters, gazing into the abyss.

Each side believes the monsters they battle are the real monsters, as opposed to the strawmen and chimeras the other side rages against.

Science validates these monsters. God validates those monsters.

On each side, we swing the mallets of righteous rage and fraught rhetoric against the humanity of those on the other side, seeing them only in the context of the monsters in the abyss.

And we, of course, know we are the ones on the side of Light.

We have been gazing into the abyss for nearly three years, now.

Three years of staring down the monsters of fascism, greed, xenophobia and all forms of hatred.

What monsters have they been staring at, all this while?

I know the words they use to describe the monsters they see.

To me, the words morph into one meta-terror: Fear that every certainty they believed in, every familiar state of being that comforted them and gave them security, is being eaten away from them by the jaws of Change, driven by people Not Like Them.

Now our monsters, our abyss, are gazing back at us, eyes inflamed with that terror.

If we are to interrupt this seeming juggernaut of dissolution and devolution, this death-spiral of differences versus common humanity, what are our options?

To pander to that fear, by holding off with the lancet and the surgeon's knife, is one way of becoming a monster.

To ignore, or worse, to inflame that fear with triumphant claims against its reality and its effects on those so terrorized, that too is a way of becoming a monster.

There are important reasons to sanction, important reasons to let the painful consequences of folly provide learning for the fools. We cannot sweep evil under the rug and move on, in the name of "restoring normalcy" or attempts to create an illusory unity.

But it is also a good time for one more from Nietzsche:

“But thus I counsel you, my friends: Mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful."

Thus Spake Zarathustra


The challenge is at hand, our choices are to rise to it, or descend.

philosophically,
Bright

A very elaborate set-up, meticulously arranged. One small push, and...



I wonder why I thought of this today?

slyly,
Bright

The Ukraine as Stalking Horse

This is not a "new" development.

Former Lt. Colonel Putin of the KGB has a virtually endless playbook to run in maintaining and extending his control over the former Soviet Union.

Round One: Play capitalist to cozen the new class of Russian Oligarchs and either drag them under his thumb or run them out of business and confiscate their assets.

Round Two: Use the money to extend tentacles into foreign economies, and insert pro-Russian, anti-democracy code into their political software.

Round Three: Prepare a stalking horse to continue Round Two when the targets realize Russia is Not Their Good Buddy after all.

Ukraine is the stalking horse. Ukraine has always been a reliable frenemy to Russian oligarchy since the Cossacks allied with the Tsar in the 16th Century. It's a complicated place ethnically, politically, and historically, and has always had pro- and anti- Russian factions in its power structure.

Even after Ukraine declared independence in 1991 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union ratified their status as an independent nation, Russian influence remained strong in the nation's power structure, and the center of political gravity for their region continued to be Moscow.

But Putin allowed them their veneer of independence knowing the value of having a "not Russia" in the region that remained, essentially, a Russian front. For more than a decade the "not Russia" mask was cultivated, allowed, and encouraged.

Even after the post-Orange Revolution chaos revealed the extent of Russian influence in the nation, the appearance of conflict served to continue the "not Russia" illusion while Putin and his local puppets brought the governmental and economic structure ever more firmly under Putin's control.

It is the "not Russia" illusion that allows Ukraine to function as Putin's stalking horse.

America's current issues are with "not Russia", you see? They're with Ukraine!

Putin's hands are clean!

Don't believe it.

This is Putin's KGB, pardon me, "the GRU" running the long-range playbook through multiple iterations of Round Three.

One of the purposes of Round Three is to degrade the intelligence and counter-intelligence infrastructures of its targets (Western democracies) in order to keep them from either effectively countering Round Three or preparing for Round Four.

And they are succeeding magnificently using their current puppet regime in the United States.

wearily,
Bright

He dreams the dream of the proud...

Trump says homelessness hurting real estate prestige, will destroy cities

The homeless are living in "our best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to building," Trump said.

For the Invisibles:



"On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won't understand

"Don't accept that what's happening
Is just a case of others' suffering
Or you'll find that you're joining in
The turning away"

It's a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting it's shroud
Over all we have known

Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that we're all alone
In the dream of the proud

On the wings of the night
As the daytime is stirring
Where the speechless unite
In a silent accord

Using words you will find are strange
And mesmerized as they light the flame
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night

No more turning away
From the weak and the weary
No more turning away
From the coldness inside

Just a world that we all must share
It's not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there'll be
No more turning away?

Is it only a dream that there'll be no more turning away...?

sorrowfully,
Bright

How to remove Brett Kavanaugh without impeaching him

An excellent explainer from Vox:

The paper, “How To Remove a Federal Judge” by law professors Saikrishna Prakash and Steven D. Smith, lays out a road map for, well, how to remove a federal judge without resorting to the impeachment power. It argues that a provision of the Constitution stating that federal judges and justices “shall hold their offices during good behaviour” is widely misunderstood.

...

Barring a historic political realignment, in other words, there is virtually no chance that there will ever be 67 senators who will vote to remove Kavanaugh. But, if Prakash and Smith are right about the Constitution’s good behavior clause, there won’t necessarily have to be.

...

They quote future President John Adams, who said in a debate with a contemporary that a judge serving during good behavior may be removed after a “hearing and trial, and an opportunity to defend himself before a fuller board, knowing his accuser and accusation.” And, in what is probably their single most persuasive piece of evidence, they quote a 1790 act of Congress providing that judges convicted of taking bribes ”shall forever be disqualified to hold any office of honour, trust or profit under the United States,” even though no impeachment may have occurred.

...

Suppose that prosecutors showed that a justice perjured himself at his confirmation hearing — a crime that is, admittedly, very difficult to prove — and he is sentenced to some amount of time in prison. If he can only be removed via the impeachment process, that would mean that he would still be a member of the Supreme Court even as he serves out his sentence.


It's an interesting argument and one that, if Democrats decide cleaning up the judiciary is a worthy goal, could facilitate that process - over the long haul.

None of this is a quick fix.

The quickest fix I can think of is for the new Democratic President to decide that the Supreme Court needs only SEVEN justices to undertake its Constitutional responsibilities, and gets the support of Congress to reduce the number to seven.

Last added, first removed.

There are some excellent arguments to be advanced in favor of reducing the size of the Supreme Court- much more logical and adminstratively, legally and even judicially defensible than increasing the size of the Court.

Either way, making symbolic attempts to impeach an official who will not then be removed from office has its appeal- I'm fully aware of the power behind the argument that the process itself may tip a balance in favor of having enough of his colleagues decline to defend him, remove their support from him, and possibly negotiate a resignation by him. And the moral power of doing the right thing even if the net effect is zero.

But the judiciary, like the electoral process, has been seriously degraded, corrupted, and disorganized by the GOP. Cleaning it up system-wide is just as important a goal as cleaning up the electoral process.

thoughtfully,
Bright

No, it's NOT "just a stupid thing with a Sharpie"... and this is why:

Does anyone else remember last year's false missile alert in Hawaii?

For about half an hour, residents of Hawaii lived with the terror of believing ballistic missiles were headed their way. Motorists sought shelter in highway tunnels. Schools evacuated to shelters. The 9-1-1 system broke down in many areas from the call volumes. At least one heart attack was attributed to the incident.

NORAD issued a statement saying they saw no threat, but were investigating. US Pacific Command confirmed there was no threat. Hawaii's Congressional delgation demanded accountability.

Then the White House got into the action. A certain individual who shall be known as President Windrip loudly announced "They made a mistake." Various cabinet members called for investigations. Blame was suddenly flying thicker than oobleck.

Ultimately, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee responsible for the false alert lost their job. And the head of the HI-EMA resigned. The FCC made changes to the Emergency Alert System protocols to prevent such a thing ever happening again.

So that's how THAT incident of an irresponsible public source releasing false disaster alerts was handled.

Which seems a bit more methodical, mature, and productive than a bunch of media laffing it up about Sharpie memes. (Fair disclosure: Yes, I laughed. Quite a lot, actually. But that's not the point, and it shouldn't be.)

From the government itself? The response has been less than impressive, to say the least.

Something's wrong here.

Not that we didn't already know that.

disgustedly,
Bright

Oh, God, Here We Go Again: Dear Denmark

Dear Denmark-

I want to apologize, on behalf of all adult-Americans, for the childish and insulting behavior of the Occupant of the Oval Office toward your nation and its leaders.

Please believe that we ordinary Americans have great respect for you, and profound gratitude for your steadfast friendship and alliance in promoting past shared geopolitical principles of advancing world peace, justice, and social equity.

Please know that an actual majority of us STILL share those principles and goals, and are appreciative of your national examples of tolerance and progressive change and non-violent solutions to troubling issues around terrorism, economic inequity and world migration.

We are, for the moment, stuck with the Occupant and his sycophants, but we as ordinary citizens are doing all we can to hasten his departure in a manner consistent with the above-mentioned shared principles.

As you are aware from your educated appreciation of your own and world history, these profound errors cannot be rectified in a day.

We love you peeps, and are grateful for your forbearance.

embarrassedly,
Bright
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