URLs du Jour

2021-09-16

  • Eye Candy du Jour from Pun Salad fave Mr. Ramirez.

    [Tax the Ignorant]

    His home paper, the Las Vegas Review Journal, adds a short comment:

    AOC’s gown at the Met Gala was meant to shock. What it demonstrated was a shocking ignorance of America’s highly progressive tax system. The top 10% percent already pay 71% of all federal income taxes.

    That's from (for example) here (tax year 2018). And the "top 10%" isn't particularly rich, although they're doing OK; the threshold to put your household in that class is $151,935 AGI.


  • A contrarian, probably correct, view. David Harsanyi is looking to lose whatever populist friends he had: The Rich Already Pay Too Much.

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez donned an elegant gown with the slogan “tax the rich” painted on the back at the Met Gala in New York, where guests selected by Vogue’s Anna Wintour ponied up around $35,000 a pop for tickets. The scene was reminiscent of Tom Wolfe’s “Radical Chic” — though rather than being guests of the well-heeled in Park Avenue duplexes, today’s revolutionaries own luxury condos and drive around in government-subsidized electric cars that most Americans could never afford.

    My first question, though, is: Who doesn’t want to “tax the rich? Judging from my social-media feed, there seems to be a growing segment of people under the impression that the wealthy pay little or nothing in taxes. When you ask Americans if they support a wealth tax, a majority support the idea. One recent poll found that 80 percent of voters were annoyed that corporations and the wealthy don’t pay their “fair share.”

    Polls rarely ask these people what a “fair share” looks like. Is a quarter of someone’s earnings enough? A third? Because the rich have been shouldering an increasingly larger share of the cost of government. The United States already has one of the most progressive tax systems in the free world. Those who make over $207,350 now pay 35 percent in income tax. Those who make $518,400 or more pay a 37 percent income-tax rate. At some point, taxation should be considered theft.

    There's nothing particularly noble about demanding government goodies that someone else must pay for.


  • Rules are for the little people. Specifically, the leprechauns. Glenn Greenwald is scorching about that gala: The Masking of the Servant Class: Ugly COVID Images From the Met Gala Are Now Commonplace. It is by now something even the MSM is noticing.

    From the start of the pandemic, political elites have been repeatedly caught exempting themselves from the restrictive rules they impose on the lives of those over whom they rule. Governors, mayors, ministers and Speakers of the House have been filmed violating their own COVID protocols in order to dine with their closest lobbyist-friends, enjoy a coddled hair styling in chic salons, or unwind after signing new lockdown and quarantine orders by sneaking away for a weekend getaway with the family. The trend became so widespread that ABC News gathered all the examples under the headline “Elected officials slammed for hypocrisy for not following own COVID-19 advice,” while Business Insider in May updated the reporting with this: “14 prominent Democrats stand accused of hypocrisy for ignoring COVID-19 restrictions they're urging their constituents to obey."

    Most of those transgressions were too flagrant to ignore and thus produced some degree of scandal and resentment for the political officials granting themselves such license. Dominant liberal culture is, if nothing else, fiercely rule-abiding: they get very upset when they see anyone defying decrees from authorities, even if the rule-breaker is the official who promulgated the directives for everyone else. Photos released last November of California Governor Gavin Newsom giggling maskless as he sat with other maskless state health officials celebrating the birthday of a powerful lobbyist — just one month after he told the public to “to keep your mask on in between bites” and while severe state-imposed restrictions were in place regarding leaving one's home — caused a drop in popularity and helped fueled a recall initiative against him. Newsom and these other officials broke their own rules, and even among liberals who venerate their leaders as celebrities, rule-breaking is frowned upon.

    "We're all in this together. Except me."


  • Surprisingly, "Local News" strongly supports it. Christian "Only two vowels in my last name" Britschgi, notes imminent damage to an independent press: House Democrats’ Tax Bill Lavishes Subsidies on Local News.

    House Democrats are keen to raise taxes on corporations, high-income earners, and users of vaping products to pay for their $3.5 trillion spending bill. But they're cutting local newspapers some slack by slipping a special subsidy for publishers into their latest tax proposal.

    Under the tax bill released by the House Ways and Means Committee this morning, local publishers would get annual tax credits of up to $25,000 for each journalist they employ, which could then be put toward their employers' share of Medicare payroll taxes. The value of the credit would fall to $15,000 after the law has been in effect for a year.

    This would be a refundable tax credit. In other words, if the value of the tax credit exceeds the Medicare taxes a publisher pays, the publisher would receive the difference in the form of a check from the IRS. This transforms the policy from a targeted tax break to a direct subsidy.

    I can't wait for additional struggling businesses to line up at Congress's door demanding their subsidies.


  • And so much for the "only raising taxes on the rich" lie. Dominic Pino writes at the NR Corner on another legislative feature: Democrats' Tobacco-Tax Proposals Are Nanny-State Instincts Plus Tribalism.

    Democrats want to raise about $100 billion over the next ten years by raising taxes on tobacco products and introducing new taxes on vaping products. Tobacco usage is not a rich-people thing; in fact, it is quite the opposite. About 14 percent of American adults overall are smokers, but 21 percent of American adults living in households making less than $35,000 per year are smokers.

    Democrats have tried to wiggle their way out of this clear violation of Biden’s no-tax promise. According to the Washington Post:

    Democrats have argued their efforts do not violate Biden’s pledge. A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the administration’s thinking, said smoking is not a required cost for working families and the introduction of higher taxes would not directly affect their incomes. The aide also highlighted the public health imperative behind the idea, given the well-known dangers of a practice they are trying to discourage.

    There’s no display of confidence quite like refusing to go on the record when explaining to the American people why your policies are a good idea. One suspects they know they’re full of it by saying that Biden’s pledge isn’t being violated. The Post also asked Howard Gleckman, a tax scholar at the left-leaning Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, if the proposals violated Biden’s pledge, and he answered, “Absolutely, no question.”

    I wish the anonymous "White House official" would have been even more honest: "We're only raising taxes on the rich, and any other unpopular minority we can get away with."


  • Same as the old b… Oh, you know that song. Thomas A. Firey requests that you Meet the New Boss.

    Some 18 months ago, then-president Donald Trump sent jaws dropping and tongues wagging by claiming the Constitution gave him the power to close and open state economies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    "The authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be," he said of his supposed ability to overrule state shutdown orders.

    Of course, neither he nor any president has such authority, whatever the wisdom of the shutdowns. But it was one more example of Trump’s belief that the Constitution gives presidents “the right to do whatever [they] want.” Throughout his time in the White House, the mainstream press and fact-checking organizations were kept busy knocking down such claims, with the Washington Post launching a regular podcast titled “Can He Do That?” (which it has continued in the Biden administration).

    Watch for the partisan bullshit. See someone with an opinion on Biden's "I can do anything" position. Find out what they were saying back then. (Here's an example: Kevin D. Williamson (NRPLUS, unfortunately).

Schrödinger's Killer App

Race to Build the World's First Quantum Computer

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I can't remember why I put this book on my get-at-library list; it was a while ago (pre-pandemic). But there it was; I requested UNH's Dimond Library to get it via Interlibrary Loan, and it showed up from Tufts.

It was not quite what I expected, and I mean that in a good way.

First, it's hilarious. The author, Jonathan P. Dowling, peppers his text with wry observations and jokes. I read a lot of dilettante-level physics books, and I'm pretty sure this is the only one with stories I read aloud to my wife. She even laughed at a few of them. (It helps to have a physics degree under your belt.)

Second, it's opinionated. That's not rare these days, but Dowling turns it up to eleven.

Third, there are many inside-baseball descriptions of how physics is done in the 21st century: funding, employment, refereeing papers, meetings, protecting your turf, bullshitting, confronting charlatans. (Dowling is merciless in taking apart the "hippie" view of quantum mechanics. (E. g, Gary Zukav's The Dancing Wu Li Masters, the movie What the Bleep Do We Know!?.)

He's even merciless in discussing non-hippies. On Roger Penrose:

I have read his book and heard him talk on the subject, and as far as I can tell, his argument goes like this. Penrose does not understand how quantum mechanics works, and he does not understand how his brain works, and hypothesizes that quantum mechanics is needed to understand the working of the mind.

Note: Roger Penrose is a Nobel Laureate in Physics. Dowling isn't afraid to punch upward.

Well, enough of that. What's the book about? It starts out by describing the weirdness of QM, specifically the features that bothered Einstein so much. Dowling breaks the weirdness down into three related features: uncertainty (you don't know an experimental result until you measure); unreality (the measure doesn't really exist until you measure); and nonlocality (measuring at point A can affect a measurement of an "entangled" property at point B. And B can be across the room from A, or light years away.) I found the defense of spooky old quantum mechanics to be as good, if not better, than anything else I've read. I felt marginally smarter.

But the meat of the book is quantum computing. Dowling points out there are problems that are effectively non-solvable by classical computers, no matter how fast. He uses the example of the thulium atom, which has 69 quantum-entangled electrons; it manages to "solve" its own wave equation only slightly slower than instantaneously due to that entanglement. How can this power be exploited for human ends?

The discussion gets pretty deep into the weeds; Dowling eschews equations, but breaks out the Bra-Ket notation pretty willy-nilly. You either follow this or you don't; I (sigh) did not.

But the "killer app" is actually a dagger aimed at the heart of the Internet-as-we-know-it. If a sufficiently powerful quantum computer existed, it could run "Shor's Algorithm" to factor very large numbers. And the encryption used to secure internet traffic relies on that being impossible.

The end of the book is very blue-sky. Quantum AI? Sure. Conscious computers? Why not. Doomsday scenarios (Terminator, Colossus, Borg, etc.)? Maybe!

For an active field, the book is kind of dated (2013). But (as near as I can tell) progress on Internet-breaking has been (at best) marginal, and some people have wondered if it's achievable. An article from earlier this month: NSA: We 'don't know when or even if' a quantum computer will ever be able to break today's public-key encryption. (Of course, the NSA might be saying that even as they have a bunch of quantum computers right now in some basement at Fort Meade spying on the Chinese.)

Some sad news, given the above: Dowling died last year. I didn't know that until I googled him in writing up this report. I also learned that he wrote a second book, Schrödinger’s Web: Race to Build the Quantum Internet, so that one is now on my get-at-library list.