URLs du Jour

2022-04-27

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  • Did Elon Musk pay a 3.27% tax rate? Fortunately, Elizabeth Nolan Brown is here to answer: No, Elon Musk Didn’t Pay a 3.27 Percent Tax Rate.

    "Musk paid an effective tax rate of 3.27%" claims Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D–Wash.). Politicians love to lament misinformation and disinformation on social media…but they seem to make an exception for themselves. The latest case in point comes from Democrats' rhetoric around taxes paid by Elon Musk.

    The Tesla and SpaceX CEO recently became progressive enemy of the week after striking a deal to buy Twitter and promising to institute—gasp—policies more friendly to free speech. Musk's move has spawned a whole host of weird freakouts and demands, including insistence that Musk owning Twitter means we must reform Section 230 (the federal law that helps shield digital platforms from some legal liabilities for user content) and that it will help Donald Trump win the presidency in 2024. Along with this hysteria has come all sorts of Musk criticism and attacks that are occasionally justified but largely divorced from reality.

    This includes some seriously skewed information about Musk's tax burden. On Monday, Jayapal tweeted: "Just a reminder that from 2014-2018, Elon Musk paid an effective tax rate of 3.27%. The average working family pays an average tax rate of 13%. It's time for a wealth tax in this country."

    Well, no. ENB cites reliable data (albeit illegally leaked from the IRS) that Musk actually paid at a 27% ratein that period. Why the discrepancy?

    Jayapal seems to have reached her "alternative facts" (to use a vintage Trump-administration term) by calculating Musk's tax rate based on a system she wishes we used rather than the calculation system we actually use.

    Ah. Well, of course, PolitiFact caught this too, right?

    No. As I type, PolitiFact has only exerted itself to check Jayapal once, for this Instagram post:

    Rated "Mostly True"! Because of quibbles about the cost of the hospital stay.

    Which is garbage, of course. Because, as much as Jayapal and PolitiFact would like you to believe otherwise, "free" is not synonymous with "paid for by somebody else".

    And, for that matter, the $17,094 value is misleading the other way. Because some or all of that cost, in nearly all cases, will also be "paid for by somebody else". I.e., "free" in the Jayapal lexicon.


  • But back to Elon… An entertaining article from James Freeman: Bezos and the New York Times Have a Question for Elon. Here's Bezos:

    Now, to be fair, Bezos continued with a "probably not" answer. But:

    This would be a legitimate question if raised by people in almost any organization other than the New York Times or the Washington Post. The premise of Mr. Musk’s purchase is to rescue Twitter from the managers and staff who allowed the social media company to become not an open communications platform but an ideological enforcer. And there is no better example of Twitter’s assault on free inquiry and open dialogue than its suppression of the New York Post’s 2020 reporting on Biden family business overseas, especially in China. The New York Times and the Washington Post adopted a similar approach, generally ignoring the disturbing evidence uncovered by the New York Post about the Bidens and China except when they were actively disparaging it.

    Jeff, of course, owns the Washington Post.


  • I bet you already know why, but… At the Daily Signal, Douglas Blair explains: Why the Left Wants Twitter Over Tolstoy in Our Schools.

    A powerful group of educators called the National Council of Teachers of English recently released a statement calling on schools to “decenter book reading and essay writing as the pinnacles of English language arts education.”  

    But why?

    To more thoroughly push its leftist ideology, of course.

    The statement goes on to support critical pedagogies, referring to Marxist ideas, a la critical race theory. It reads, 

    Educators value the use of teaching and learning practices that help to identify and disrupt the inequalities of contemporary life, including structural racism, sexism, consumerism, and economic injustice. Critical pedagogies help learners see themselves as empowered change agents, able to imagine and build a better, more just world.

    The National Council of Teachers of English have been up to such anti-literacy shenanigans for a long time. I was reminded of a 1979 article from Richard Mitchell, aka the Underground Grammarian (skip down to "Three Mile Island Syndrome").

    IF you were lucky enough to have been a reader of this journal in March of 1978, you may now remember where you heard it first. In that issue, we (more or less) accurately predicted not only the recent mishap at Three Mile Island but also the collision of a southbound Metroliner (a crack train, that) with a hastily abandoned repair vehicle of some sort. “We are,” we told you, “in the hands of people who say they know what they’re doing, but they don’t.” We called them “self-styled experts failing in the work they said they could do and excusing themselves because the work is difficult.” Those are precisely the people who smash us into tampers and bring us to the brink of “super-prompt critical power excursion,” as the old AEC once called “meltdown.” It sure is good to know, isn’t it, that there couldn’t possibly be any such ninnies scratching their heads and tapping the dials down in the bunkers and silos of the North American Air Defense Command.

    Curiously enough, in the same piece we cited Adam Smith’s observation that when people of the same calling consort together, the result is always a conspiracy against the public. That, in the context of recent calamities, must bring at once to every mind dark suspicions about the National Council of Teachers of English. In every control room and laboratory in America, in the cockpits of aeroplanes and the swivel-chairs of agencies, wherever meters are read and decisions made and dials twiddled, this sinister confraternity has planted unwitting agents. Dr. Fu Manchu never had it so good.

    It wasn’t even hard. All they had to do was convince us that painstaking accuracy in small details was nyet humanistic and not worth fussing about in the teaching of reading and writing. They seized and promulgated, for instance, the bizarre notion that guessing at unknown words was more creative than learning the sounds of letters, thus providing us with whole bureaucracies full of nitwits whose writing, at best, is made out of more or less approximate words that might sort of mean something or other. After all, if your teacher applauds your creativity when you read “supper” for “dinner,” you’re little likely to grow up caring about the difference between parameter and perimeter.

    In the past 43 years, has the NCTE gotten better? Guess not.


  • Betteridge's Law of Headlines Disconfirmed. The Dispatch fact-checker, Alec Dent, asks and answers: Has a Wikipedia Founder Complained About the Site’s Liberal Bias?. From Facebook, a septuagenarian comments:

    Amusing:

    The post was marked as potential misinformation by Facebook’s fact-checking algorithm. It is, however, correct. Larry Sanger created Wikipedia with co-founder Jimmy Wales. Sanger left Wikipedia in 2002 and has been critical of the website since then, alleging issues with the management of the site, a “dysfunctional community” of contributors, and error-filled content. Sanger has discussed what he perceives as a bias in Wikipedia articles since 2010, when he told Slate:“I do think that there is a liberal bias on most topics where such a bias is possible, and I think that’s probably a reflection of the fact that, again, the people who work the most on Wikipedia tend to be really comfortable with the most radically egalitarian views. And those people tend to be either liberals or libertarians.”

    I link to Wikipedia all the time, but it's pretty clear there's a subset of activist contributors. I haven't noticed any particularly libertarian bias, but that could be me.


  • Dumb but amusing WIRED article. Eleanor Cummins ("freelance science journalist writing about death, disaster, and bowling balls") has a tall order for us homo sapiens homeboys: With the Clock Running Out, Humans Need to Rethink Time Itself. Sample:

    Conceptions of time have changed dramatically across human history, from cyclical to linear, religious to secular. But “scientific” time, based on a traditional Newtonian conception of time’s arrow moving forward at a regimented speed, is the timepiece of modernity, of capitalism, and of liberal democracy. While more recent physics research has challenged this premise, “clock time” is still used to structure our electoral cycles, prison sentences, immigration policies, and more, says political philosopher Elizabeth Cohen, author of The Political Value of Time. In this context, time is not an inert substance, but the very soil from which democracy springs.

    Many wealthy countries, however, are increasingly post-clock. Instead, people’s day-to-day lives operate on “network time,” says Robert Hassan, a professor of media and communication at the University of Melbourne and author of Empires of Speed. Since the 1960s, networked computing, which makes everything from social media to Zoom calls possible, has allowed for a kind of connectivity that collapses both space and time. The result is that democratic politics seems interminably slow relative to the pace of commerce and culture, and people’s dual identities as citizens and consumers feel more and more at odds.

    Well, anything specific? Let's see… Ah:

    While politics at the speed of TikTok must be discouraged, democratic reform can help us better account for deep time. For example, the voting age in the US should be lowered—to at least age 12—to give those who will be living with the fullest effects of climate change and other policy decisions a voice. Democracies should also employ age-weighted voting, which gives certain demographics more votes than others as a means of elevating their perspective. For example, everyone under 21 might get three votes, while those between 22 and 59 would get two votes, and those over 60 would only get one vote. Together, these interventions would help overcome our default devaluation of the future and put more power in the hands of those who will live through it.

    Because nothing says "democratic reform" more than giving a 12-year-old five times more political power than me.


Last Modified 2022-05-11 7:11 AM EDT