URLs du Jour

2021-06-17

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  • More Like InAccuVote, Amirite? Certified smart person Andrew Appel looks at the Windham voting imbroglio, a readable and interesting account of what likely happened to screw up the reported election totals last November: New Hampshire Election Audit, part 1 and part 2. Basically: the AccuVote optical scanners used by many New Hampshire towns ain't that trustworthy if they aren't maintained. One of the more interesting recommendations Andrew makes, at the end of part 2:

    Adopt Risk-Limiting Audits statewide. All the [previous recommendations] above are reactive to the specific unforeseen problem that occurred last time. But what different problem will come up next time? The purpose of mandatory, every-election RLAs is to detect any kind of problem that might cause machine-reported results to be different from what you’d get in a correct manual recount. And these mandatory RLAs should be done before results are certified, so that if the RLA does detect a problem, then it can be immediately corrected by a recount. And one thing we learned from this is that the Secretary of State’s office can do recounts accurately.

    The True Trump-Won Believers up at Granite Grok are, bless them, aghast that the Windham investigation didn't prove … well, something. At this point, I can't tell.


  • Can You Take One More Anti-ProPublica Article? Yes you can. You'll take it and like it.

    Sorry, shweetheart.

    Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. has a good point I haven't seen explicitly made elsewhere: Your Stolen Tax Records Are News.

    We can save the pros and cons of a wealth tax for another day, but notice how gratuitous was ProPublica’s use of stolen tax data for 25 wealthy taxpayers (and it claims to have data on thousands more Americans).

    By definition, these returns don’t contain information about unrealized stock-market, real estate and other asset gains that aren’t “income” under U.S. tax law but ProPublica has decided should be. For almost the entirety of its purpose, ProPublica relies on Forbes’s long-running research into the wealth of the richest Americans.

    Forbes did the work, tracking down and valuing the wealthy’s assets for the years 2014 to 2018. More to the point, at any time in the past three years, anyone could have calculated how much the wealthy would have owed if unrealized gains were taxed. And did. Using the same Forbes data, economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, in a single sentence in a Washington Post op-ed in April, said everything ProPublica really had to say.

    Forbes engaged in enterprising journalism. Whoever stole the tax returns was enterprising in another sense. ProPublica was enterprising only in inventing a piffling rationalization for publishing the stolen data and proclaiming itself the author of an important scoop.

    Holman (I call him Holman) goes on to highlight the real news: the "tax returns of thousands of Americans, which the government is pledged to protect, now are in the hands of unknown numbers of private parties and criminals."

    The IRS can't be trusted with your tax data.


  • Not Enough Suffering, the Democrat Complained. Christian Britschgi was paid to pay attention, and noticed: Former Biden Senior COVID Adviser Admonishes Americans for Their Lack of ‘Sacrifice’ During the Pandemic.

    The Biden administration's COVID-19 czar thinks Americans didn't sacrifice enough during the pandemic. At the risk of being unpopular, former White House senior COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt knows who to blame for the 600,000 American lives lost during the pandemic: It's you, the viewer.

    Slavitt resigned from his position on the Biden administration's pandemic policy team last week and has since been making the rounds to promote his book Preventable. A big part of his message is that had individuals done more to curb their own selfish desires for social interaction during the last 18 months, we would have seen far fewer COVID-19 deaths.

    "I also think we all need to look at one another and ask ourselves, 'what do we need to do better next time?'" said Slavitt during a Monday appearance on CBS This Morning. "Being able to sacrifice a little bit for one another to get through this and save more lives is essential."

    I got a chuckle from a Matt Kibbe tweet:


  • I learned it by watching you! Charles C. W. Cooke adapts a like from a great drug war PSA: This Is Your Brain on Critical Race Theory.

    Last week, the actor Tom Hanks responded to calls for a more robust accounting of America’s racial history by penning a piece in the New York Times about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. “For all my study,” Hanks conceded, “I never read a page of any school history book about how, in 1921, a mob of white people burned down a place called Black Wall Street, killed as many as 300 of its Black citizens and displaced thousands of Black Americans who lived in Tulsa, Okla.” This, Hanks suggested, was perhaps because “History was mostly written by white people about white people like me, while the history of Black people — including the horrors of Tulsa — was too often left out.”

    Yesterday, writing for NPR, Eric Deggans explained that what Hanks had written in the Times was “not enough.” “Tom Hanks,” Deggans proposed, “is a non-racist.” But, he added, “it’s time for him to be anti-racist.” Echoing almost verbatim an argument that has been advanced by Ibram X. Kendi, Deggans explained that there is a “difference between being non-racist and being anti-racist” and that Hanks had not yet bridged the gap. “Anti-racism,” Deggans submitted, “implies action — looking around your universe and taking specific steps to dismantle systemic racism.” And while Hanks’s words are nice, they did not change the fact that he “has built a sizable part of his career on stories about American white men Doing the Right Thing.” “If he really wants to make a difference,” Deggans concluded, “Hanks and other stars need to talk specifically about how their work has contributed to these problems and how they will change.”

    Deggans’s essay serves as a perfect illustration of the cynical Motte and Bailey game that is currently being played by America’s self-appointed “anti-racists.” While in their Motte, the sponsors of critical race theory and its equally ugly relatives insist that all they truly want is for America’s schools to do a better job of teaching the history of American racism. On Twitter yesterday, Berkeley’s Robert Reich provided a solid example of this position with the claim that, by opposing the adoption of CRT in schools, the Republican Party is “trying to ban educators from teaching about the anguished role racism has played in the shaping of America.” In the safe haven of the Bailey, however, such defensible-sounding arguments are quickly swapped out for a set of considerably more extreme contentions, such as the claim that unless a person spends his days actively dismantling whatever “structures” a handful of “experts” have decided are problematic — including himself and his work, if necessary — he is in practice aiding and abetting racism. Clearly, Tom Hanks thought that he was playing inside the Motte. Clearly, he was not.

    I have problems thinking about whether I'm in the Motte, but it's entirely due to the fact that I can never remember which is the Motte and which is the Bailey.


  • It Provides Psychic Relief to the Aggrieved, Though. Megan McArdle explains it to her WaPo audience: Raising taxes on the wealthy won’t magically fix our inequality problem.

    Last week I noted some of the problems with trying to attack inequality by taxing the wealth, or the unrealized capital gains, of billionaires: When you tax something heavily, you generally get less of it. And capital isn’t something we want less of; capital is what gets invested to make the economy more productive. A more productive economy means we all get more stuff for less work — and even if you think “more stuff” sounds dubious, surely “less work” has some appeal.

    But some sort of tax hikes are definitely coming, because the U.S. fiscal gap is too large to sustain indefinitely. And many people figure the folks sitting on giant piles of wealth are the ones who can most easily afford tax hikes.

    They’re right. But given the flaws of capital taxation, I’d ask: Is it their wealth we want to redistribute? Or is a better target the real goods and services they use that wealth to consume?

    Probably realizing that spending restraint is not politically feasible. Megan makes the argument for a consumption tax. She notes (however) a nasty detail: "For one thing, the transition would probably be fantastically expensive, since we’d have to make allowances for those who, say, planned their retirement around the old tax code."

    She's talking about me, and just about every other financially responsible baby boomer.