Links 1/9/19

Links for you. Science:

The Real Jafar Was A Science Advocate, Not A Disney Villain
Wild monkeys with killer herpes are breeding like crazy in Florida
On Democrats’ wish list: Tech help for a clueless Congress
The $35 billion race to cure a silent killer that affects 30 million Americans
Bill Gates says the US has lost its global leadership in nuclear power, and needs to ‘get in the game’


Why Trump Reigns as King Cyrus (reported elsewhere previously, but worth reading if you missed it)
Who Wants Bernie to Run? (oddly enough, pseudowoke Twitter is not indicative of reality)
I am Jewish. I wear glasses. I am bisexual — and I’m the Rose Queen
What the Believers Are Denying
Gifting Daniel Snyder any money or land for a new R——s stadium would be absolute madness
Scott Van Pelt on the R——s: ‘Is anyone at R——s Park listening?’ (if Donald Trump owned a football team…)
2018 Was the Year of the Scooter
Hope for a Green New Year
Medicaid expansion continues to reap social benefits: Having health care helps prevent homelessness
Democrats Don’t Do This
Dan Snyder Doesn’t Get It (the Donald Trump of the NFL)
Suicide is up. Opioid deaths are up. Economic inequality is up. And it’s not a coincidence.
Elizabeth Warren says ‘government has been bought and paid for’ by big business. Political scientists say she’s got a point.
The National Gallery of Art Had a Great 2018. Its Future Is Looking Greater.
Trump-loving economist caught red-handed ‘making up numbers’ by CNN guest
The Making of a Trade Warrior: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer wants to limit China’s influence, even if he has to break the American-made economic order to do it.
Democrats Winning Key Leadership Jobs Have Taken Millions From Pharma
Thirty years ago, Jacques-André Istel decided to move to the desert and think of something to do. Since then, he has constructed a museum intended to last until the year 6000.

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Wage Garnishment And Not Knowing What Things Cost

banana cost

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson apparently does not know the price of a banana (boldface mine):

On Tuesday, the Council passed a bill that increases the amount of District residents’ paychecks that are protected from debt collection.

D.C.’s current law uses a formula based on the federal minimum wage to calculate how much of a person’s weekly income is exempt from garnishment. That formula is 30 times the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which means at least $217.50 of a District resident’s weekly paycheck cannot be garnished.

The Wage Garnishment Fairness Amendment Act of 2017, introduced by At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman, changes that formula to 40 times the District’s minimum wage of $13.25—in effect, the bill protects all wages for a person making the District’s minimum wage of $530 a week (assuming they work 40 hours).

Before the bill passed, Mendelson pitched an amendment that would have lowered the amount of protected wages. Under Mendelson’s version, the formula would have been 35 times the District’s minimum wage, or $463.75 a week.

“Even though it sounds like I’m being horrible to low-income people, depending upon your assumption about disposable income, we could be talking about somebody who is earning $30 to $35,000 a year before this applies,” Mendelson says.

Under the bill, if a person makes more than the minimum wage, debt collectors can garnish up to 25 percent of a person’s “disposable,” income, which is basically what’s left over after legally required withholdings such as federal and local taxes, Medicare, and Social Security. There’s no perfect formula for calculating disposable income. Some say it’s 75 percent of a person’s gross wages, some say it’s 90 percent.

Side note: For a household of one in the DVM metro area, HUD considers an annual income of about $41,000 to be the “very low income limit.” For a four-person household, that figure is $58,600.

As some asshole with a blog recently pointed out, many people have completely unrealistic ideas of what things cost, in no small part due to inflation. This isn’t a matter of ‘optics’, it’s a lack of awareness of how some of your constituents actually live. Of course, some constituents are worth more than others:

Mendelson’s amendment had been shopped around to councilmembers by Wilson Building lobbyist Rod Woodson on behalf of debt collection companies Portfolio Recovery Associates and Encore Capital Group. Woodson tells LL that technically his client was Portfolio Recovery Associates, but Encore also supported the changes to the amendment he was pushing. Woodson argues that the more a government limits creditors’ ability to recoup loaned money, the more difficult it becomes to for people to borrow…

In early December, Racine, along with 42 attorneys general across the country, announced a $6 million settlement with subsidiaries of Encore for engaging in underhanded debt collection practices.

One major issue the AG’s office uncovered was a practice known as “robo-signing,” where Encore employees would sign affidavits en masse, attesting to the accuracy of a debtor’s information without verification.

“We argued that practice is unfair under consumer protection laws,” says an assistant attorney general who worked on the case. “They’re not verifying the information and many times they got the information wrong.”

As part of the settlement, Encore agreed to pay a total of $577,783 to District residents…

Mendelson’s amendment failed, 8-5. Councilmembers Jack Evans, Kenyan McDuffie, Anita Bonds, and Brandon Todd, all of whom make $140,161 a year, voted in favor of the amendment. As chairman, Mendelson makes $190,000, and earlier this year the Council voted unanimously to give him a $30,000 raise.

Another side note: In his early 20s, Todd filed for bankruptcy. He was more than $20,000 in debt, much of which came from credit card charges to luxury clothing stores.

I really wish the Washington Post would spend more resources digging into the D.C. government–and not just when a splashy CRISIS11!!11 occurs. WCP did some good reporting here, but they are a small paper (good reporting though!), but the major newspaper really doesn’t cover this kind of important news too often. That means D.C. residents really don’t know what our government is up to. It’s great that the Post sends reporters out to the ‘heartland’ to talk to yet another fucking Trump supporter, but how about staying home more often? The stories, if done right, will get as many clicks, and it’s a lot cheaper too.

Posted in DC | 2 Comments

Links 1/8/19

Links for you. Science:

How to re-establish​​ trust in economics as a science
Bacteria found in ancient Irish soil halts growth of superbugs: New hope for tackling antibiotic resistance (open access paper here)
For The First Time, Scientists Have Seen Bacteria “Fishing” For DNA From Dead Friends
James Watson Won’t Stop Talking About Race
‘We are at war’: New York’s rat crisis made worse by climate change


What Liberals Need To Do Is Shut Up
Why Does No One Care That Neo-Nazis Are Gaining Power In Ukraine? (I do)
It’s Time to Build New, Mixed-Income Public Housing
Cary woman arrested for vandalizing synagogue, has ‘disdain’ for people of other religions (‘racial disdain’? To use mainstream mediaspeak)
Warren Will Need to Avoid Being Typecast
Fake-porn videos are being weaponized to harass and humiliate women: ‘Everybody is a potential target’
Black teacher in NY school told she’s not allowed to eat ‘whites only’ food in faculty lounge: lawsuit (Long Island, NY is the most racist place I have ever lived in the U.S., including the South)
From sex selection to surrogates, American IVF clinics provide services outlawed elsewhere
Marx for me (and hopefully for others too)
French Resistance hero who saved hundreds of Jewish children dies aged 108
Trump claims there’s a 10-foot wall around the Obamas’ D.C. home. He is wrong. (narcissists lie because the lies make them feel good)
E.J. Dionne Provides Classic Example of Liberals Missing the Boat
Spread the Digital Wealth
I filed one of the 83 dismissed misconduct complaints against Brett Kavanaugh. Here’s why.
The SJWs Are Winning and You’re All Just Going to Have to Deal With It
Button offers instant gratification for those plagued by airplane noise
Baltimore Trying To Stem Decades-Long Disappearing Act
On Her Way To Retirement And Obscurity All McCaskill Can Do Is Whine About Progressive Policies And Deride Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Bernie’s Plan for Racial Justice (I’m leaning Warren, but the CAP-aligned bullshit is not helping)

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By Reader Request, An Update On Yesterday’s Post About Progressive Taxes

Yesterday, I posted about progressive income taxes, and compared income taxes during the Good Old Days of 1954 when straight Christian white people could treat everyone else like shit with impunity America Was Great to income taxes in 2018. In the post, I discussed Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to create a new tax bracket for income above $10 million that would be taxed at seventy percent (always knew Drugmonkey was Reviewer #3. Heh). Here’s how much tax, adjusted to 2018 dollars, married households at various levels would have to pay (the AOC column is the amount under Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal):


And here’s how Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal affect the after-tax income of higher levels in terms of units of what a family making $50,000 keeps (e.g., a value of 2.0 means that family has twice as much after tax income as the family making $50,000 does):


You’ll notice that the 2018 columns and the AOC columns are identical. Because that’s how fucking tax brackets work (despite the best efforts of conservative propagandists otherwise).

Really, Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal targets only the very richest of Americans (and only those who have more than $10 million of earned income; it would not target dividends which are taxed at a much lower rate).

They’ll be fine. And the rest of us will be better off for it.

Posted in Fucking Morons, Taxes | 2 Comments

Links 1/7/19

Links for you. Science:

Giraffes just silently went to the list of endangered animals facing extinction
The Terrible Destruction of Pinyon-Juniper Forests
What A Holiday Government Shutdown Means For U.S. Weather Activities
Ethnicity is Just an Estimate – Yes, Really!
Saving Florida’s Friendliest Native Bird Matters (scrub jays were also a classic study system)


I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America. (excellent; dysfunctional suburban culture)
The Mommy Party (excellent)
Benefactors and Malefactors
Why did nobody mention that Beto O’Rourke’s wife is a billionaire heiress?
Under current policies, residential batteries increase emissions in most cases
Sen. Jeff Merkley Wants to Stop Congress Members From Insider Trading By Banning Them From Owning Stocks
Oh God! A Speaker From Brooklyn?
The Real Reason Why Some Bernie Sanders Fans Have It In For Beto O’Rourke (for the record, I’m leaning Warren for now)
Still Gonna Jam
Going Out With Class (still waiting for the radical centrists to be angered by this attack on a fellow Democrat…)
The Malaysia Scandal Is Starting to Look Dire for Goldman Sachs
Two Roads for the New French Right
A NY Times Reporter Spoke At An Event Organized By Alabama Dirty Tricksters
The Balloon Man of Georgetown deserved his inflated reputation
Sarah Sanders has ‘struggled’ to find a new job as the White House press office becomes ‘Night of the living dead’ (boofuckinghoo)
Hidden crisis: D.C.-area students owe nearly half a million in K-12 school lunch debt (Jeff Bezos could pay this off?)
Computer scientists study security threats to smart homes
The President* Is So Hopelessly Compromised
NYS Senate Dems say thanks, but no thanks to Simcha Felder’s return to Democratic conference (good. Now fuck him over as hard as possible)

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We Need A More Progressive Income Tax

Last week, Democratic congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez proposed a seventy percent tax on earned income above $10 million. Naturally, conservatives had a major panic attack (SNOWFLAKES!), and many people demonstrated, either honestly or dishonestly, that they don’t understand tax brackets (one of the nice things about the predictable idiocy of movement conservative arguments is that I can just link to posts I wrote years ago–stupidity is timeless). Cries of TEH SOCIALISMZ! went out, even though, as some asshole with a blog noted, this is just another instance of what yoostabee called liberal Democratic policy (circa 1990s and early 2000s).

To put Ocasio-Cortez’s tax proposal in context, let’s compare income taxes for married couples in 1954 to those in 2018 (tax brackets from here, and here). You know, the Good Old Days of 1954 when straight Christian white people could treat everyone else like shit with impunity America Was Great. Here’s how much income tax, in adjusted 2018 dollars, these households would have to pay under each regime:


Zoiks! Taxes are higher! But here’s the interesting thing about a progressive tax code–it reduces income inequality, which, when it comes to things like inelastic goods such as housing in many areas and college education (which are driven by the high end which are definitely inelastic), means prices will also be lower. Let’s look at after-tax income of higher levels in terms of units of what a family making $50,000 keeps (e.g., a value of 2.0 means that family has twice as much after tax income as the family making $50,000 does):


The 1954 tax code was obviously much, much more progressive, especially at the high end. MAGA!

Keep in mind several things. First, Ocasio-Cortez is not proposing anything remotely like this: all she is suggesting is that people with earned income over $10 million would pay 70 cents on the dollar for every dollar past $10 million (e.g., $10,000,001 would yield an additional 70 cents in tax compared to $10 million). In other words, the scary table from when America Was Great would not apply to almost every American. Second, much of the income of people who have over ten million dollars of annual income would not be targeted by this proposal. Most rich people’s earnings are, in part (often a very large part), in the form of dividends, which are taxed at much lower rates (if I ran the zoo, I would keep the 10% dividend rate up to $100,000, and then have a second bracket that is much higher above that. Fifty percent seems good). So many people who have let’s say $20 million in income still wouldn’t be affected by this proposal. Finally, who can’t get by on $6.4 million/year plus thirty percent of the additional earnings above $10 million? This really isn’t hardship territory. If it bothers you that much, then work less and give someone else a shot. Yes, I’m judging. That’s what one does in public policy.

Anyway, I guess we’re about to find out who certain pundits and politicians really work for.

Posted in Conservatives, Democrats, Fucking Morons, Taxes | 5 Comments

Links 1/6/19

Links for you. Science:

Indian technology talent is flocking to Canada
Disruptive, disappointing, chaotic: Shutdown upends scientific research
The case for “conditional optimism” on climate change
Nancy Grace Roman, astronomer celebrated as ‘mother’ of Hubble, dies at 93
The Trump Administration’s War on Wildlife Should Be a Scandal


No Democrat Deserves a Free Pass Just Because They’re Not Trump
A Maryland teenager was robbed and did the ‘right thing.’ Then his family had to move.
House Democrats should move quickly to protect abortion rights in 2019
Treacherous memory: Brett Kavanaugh and the summer of 1982
The Economic Effects of Facebook (pdf)
Russian Ex-Spy Pressured Manafort Over Debts to an Oligarch
Trump’s Latino Base
The ‘Adults’ in the Room Are the Problem
As a grocery chain is dismantled, investors recover their money. Worker pensions are short millions.
’Tis the Season to Renew and Expand the US Postal Service
Trump orders pay freeze for federal workers
How to Respond to LeBron James (I’m posting this for the information content, as I really don’t agree with Zirin at all.)
Slandering the Unborn (the olds will remember that it wasn’t just Republicans who went with this)
What Democratic control of the House means for D.C. statehood
There Are Reasons Elite Media Journalists Attack Bernie– Starting With Who They Are (while I’m leaning Warren, this is a good reminder of the Post’s radical centrism)
The comical incompetence of President Trump

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