Read Yes, Virginia, You (Probably) Got a “Tax Cut” by Michael Siegel

People have been demanding a simpler tax system for a long time. We’ve had various presidential candidates promise that the IRS could do your taxes or the code could be simplified down to a postcard or whatever. But what people say they want and what they actually want are sometimes two different things. People want a simpler tax code … except for the mortgage interest deduction. And the charity deduction. And state/local taxes, definitely. And daycare, obviously. And healthcare expenses. And retirement contributions. And is it really fair to tax capital gains like income?
Therein lies the rub: the tax code didn’t get complex because of a ancient Egyptian curse. It got that way because we wanted it that way. We want our special deductions and social-engineering credits and alternative systems and all the other jazz. We will never simplify the tax code until a majority of Americans decide that it’s worth giving up their favorite deduction for. Or worth giving up a refund for. And this outcry is a reminder that we’re not there yet, if we ever will be. I suspect, after a year or two, most people will get used to the new system and this hubbub will die down. But this portends a tax system that will mostly go on as the shambling drunken mess that it is.
Of course, in the long run, nobody’s taxes have been cut. As Harry Browne argued in the 2000 election, a tax cut without a spending cut is not really a tax cut; it’s a shell game. Eventually, things have to be paid for. The deficit is surging right now and we are on a completely unsustainable fiscal path. Trump’s tax cut has not reduced the tax burden, Laffer Curve misrepresentations not withstanding; it’s re-arranged it so that the burden falls on the future rather than the present.
So if you’re upset that your refund is smaller or non-existent this year, better hold on to something. Because it’s only going to get worse.

The united States tax situation is, I think, worthy of having a well-known user experience design truism applied to it. To paraphrase the truism: Don’t listen to what people tell you, watch what they show you, and then proceed accordingly. Everyone wants to pay less taxes, until it comes to their favorite, (for the lack of a better term), handout: Medicare or the military or supposed border security for the red, and supposed social programs for the blue. The only people who seem to be completely honest about their positions are the libertarians and the socialists. I personally disagree for the most part with both, but I respect their consistency. I’m thinking that, for the most part, Americans treat politics like religion, and the two are almost indistinguishable at this point. Maybe we should ease up on the holy wars, because there are enough logs for all of our eyes.
Read Trump tells US Jews that Netanyahu is ‘your prime minister’ by TOI STAFF and AP (timesofisrael.com)

President also says Democrats would leave Israel ‘out there by yourselves’ in comments to Republican Jewish group; asks how they could back Obama, apparently referring to all Jews

The president of the United States manages to accuse American Jews of being foreigners and of dual loyalty at the same time. This brings to mind a certain verse:

And Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and separate among the peoples throughout all the provinces of your kingdom, and their laws differ from [those of] every people, and they do not keep the king’s laws; it is [therefore] of no use for the king to let them be. (Esther 3:8).

Unfortunately, we know where this all too often ends. But don’t worry Mr. President, when the bigotry is inevitably stirred up, (as it always is after you drag out anti-semitic tropes when they suit your agenda), you’ll have plenty of supporters who will be all too willing to sweep this under the rug, as they always have. And if the stirred-up bigotry results in enough deaths, you’ll find an opportunity for another political photo opp, and probably a token to serve to cover your ass.

Read They Had It Coming by Caitlin Flanagan (The Atlantic)

The parents indicted in the college-admissions scandal were responding to a changing America, with rage at being robbed of what they believed was rightfully theirs.

This was an incredibly good read.
Read The Girl on the Train by Erynn Brook

This post is a twitter thread I wrote today.
I’m waiting on kitty ultrasound results and trying to distract myself a little bit so I’d like to tell you a story about something that happened last night, in the hopes that I can process my feelings around it.
I met a girl on the train last night.

Read The Three Problems with the North Korea Walk-Out – The Bulwark by Andrew Egger (The Bulwark)

When the news came late Thursday night that denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea had broken down without a resolution, it didn’t take long for the president’s media allies to arrive at a consensus: Trump had demonstrated strength by walking away from a bad deal.

Not that I’m going to go leave this comment on the Breitbart website or anything, but there’s one huge problem with the so-called “buttering-up” strategy which Joel Pollak attributes to the president, and as someone who has negotiated my fair share of contract terms, I think I can comment on this to some degree. That strategy can work, if a few things are in place: First, you have to already possess a reputation for having an amiable personality. If you don’t have that, and you then go to the negotiation table pouring the sugar on as thick as you can, whoever’s on the other side is going to see right through that, and proceed accordingly. Second, as with any negotiation, you don’t show your hand before talks begin, and you sure as hell don’t hand over all your cards, (as the president appears to have done), before you secure worthwhile concessions from the other side. To do otherwise isn’t negotiation, it’s desperation to save face, and it usually never turns out that way. So I think it’s safe to conclude that the president, (once again) got played like a baby grand.
Read My Mother’s Daughter by Molly Jong-Fast (The New York Review of Books)

When my mother took the flustered German filmmaker to see her elderly shrink, I snuck into the bedroom and called my father who had recently moved to Palm Springs, California. “Did you know that you and mom had an open marriage?” I asked him. We had a sort of jovial relationship; we shared the experience of having a crushingly powerful parent and it was a sort of bond. By the time I was three years old, my parents embarked upon the hippie version of irreconcilable differences. As a consequence, I don’t remember them ever being together, which is probably a good thing. There was a brief pause on the line. “Oh, is that what she’s calling it now?”

Read The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America by Casey Newton (The Verge)

“I’m fucked up.”

This is worth a read for several reasons. First, for me at least, this is definitely “Essence of Convergys” material. Granted, we weren’t moderating content, just people’s prescriptions and who could get them, or rather, we were responsible for telling people whether or not judgment had been handed down in their favor or not. Second, I saw this on Twitter, and the general reaction I’m seeing is concern over moderators adopting misinformation and conspiracy theories, and nothing about what clearly is the toll being taken on them as people. I think that’s rather dehumanizing. The final thing that comes to mind is the complete disregard by the “anti-deplatforming” crowd, who dehumanize these people just as easily as the “misinformation” crowd, except in the latter case the dehumanization occurs because it’s far too easy to attribute malice to these people than to recognize that moderation is a very difficult job and God forbid you moderate something I approve of on a platform I don’t own.
Read who-is-watching-you-in-your-airbnb by Jeffrey P. Bigham

Imagine you’re looking for a home on AirBnB. You’re doing your due diligence, reading the description of the home, and looking through the pictures. One of the 20 or so photos on the listing is: “A view of a corner of a living room. It’s really hard to see, but there is a little camera up in the corner.”

For me at least, it’s obvious we have a separate problem above and beyond the problem of “Hey we put a camera in the living room and are probably recording and if you mind you’re now a person we don’t like.” If you’re blind, how the hell are you supposed to figure out from the AirBnB site if cameras other than the stated cameras at the entrances are present? I haven’t stayed in an AirBnB yet, although I’ve heard they can be cheaper than hotels. I also understand that this is probably completely irrational, but frankly it scares the hell out of me that a host can essentially have hidden cameras in the residence and AirBnB is going to do nothing about it because technically you consented. I can think of several ways this could go very very wrong, complete with the online backlash when it does and somebody decides to complain or report or anything. So I’ll be holding off on AirBnB until this kind of thing is sorted.