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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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?”
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?”

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.

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

“I’m fucked up.”

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.

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.”

How America Lost Faith in Expertise by Tom Nichols (Foreign Affairs)
In many ways, the populist surge that brought Donald Trump to office represents a rejection of experts and all they represent. Americans today see ignorance as a virtue. Here’s why they’re very, very wrong.

This is a long piece, but worth a read, and I would encourage everyone to read it, regardless of what your politics are. Ignorance really is considered a virtue in our society, and for once, this really is something that occurs frequently on both sides and by this point is a deeply held belief. Nobody gets to be smug on this one. As a result of the belief that ignorance is a virtue on the right, we now have President Trump, who quite proudly will not listen to any advisor who tells him something he doesn’t want to hear or anything that would cause him to question an already-held belief. And on the left, we have Alexandria Ocacio Cortez, who is young enough to still believe that she is more knowledgeable than she actually is on a whole range of subjects. In Cortez’s case, there is hope that she will mature before seeking the presidency, if that’s even one of her goals. But hope is not a strategy that anyone should rely on. In Trump’s case, I’m afraid we’ve passed the point where we can reasonably expect that there’s going to be a shift in his personality that would cause him to begin not only listening to, but seeking, the advice of those who are experts in the various subjects he must make decisions on as president. In my view, Ocacio Cortez and Trump are, (in some very striking ways), mirror images of each other. But that’s for exploration in another post. This article is enough to be getting on with for now.

How America Lost Faith in Expertise by Tom Nichols (Foreign Affairs)

In many ways, the populist surge that brought Donald Trump to office represents a rejection of experts and all they represent. Americans today see ignorance as a virtue. Here’s why they’re very, very wrong.

Goodbye Facebook, Goodbye Google+ by Ryan BarrettRyan Barrett (SNARFED.ORG)
https://snarfed.org/door_to_outside.jpg https://snarfed.org/door_to_outside.jpg I deleted all of my Facebook posts last week. I deleted my Google+ posts too. They were pretty much all posted here on my web site too, so nothing was truly lost, but I still feel a bit lighter, somehow.

I find myself in the same position as Ryan with regard to Facebook. It’s where all my (biological) family are and a ton of my chosen family, and to add to that, there are work-related reasons why I need to maintain an account. My posting there is pretty rare, and I’m trying to get to the point where I’m posting only links to my own site with my thoughts, as opposed to native status updates and photos. The native updates tend to garner more engagement, but at this point that engagement serves as a reminder of the inferiority, (at least inn my eyes), of only being able to engage on one platform with people who have accounts on that platform. We don’t really have a catchphrase for the concept of “Once you discover the joys and even fulfillment of widening your circcle of engagement to the entire open web instead of just silos, you never go back”, but I think we need one, because that’s the position I find myself in. With Twitter and Micro.blog, I can pull in replies and other interactions. With Mastodon, I can’t pull in replies and other interactions yet, but it’s still decentralized which lessens the sting a bit, although I’m getting to the point where I really want to crack that nut. With Facebook, it’s either Facebook’s way or the highway and I really, really don’t like that. At all. Twitter also bothers me, although I suppose not as much as Facebook, but eve if it did, I still find myself in a position where I at least need to maintain some sort of presence. It’s a lot easier to handle posting only links from my own sites to Twitter though because this step is automated. I think that’s the part of Facebook’s changes that has impacted me the most: Not being able to (1) automate publishing, and then (2) pull the conversation back in.

Goodbye Facebook, Goodbye Google+ by Ryan BarrettRyan Barrett (SNARFED.ORG)

https://snarfed.org/door_to_outside.jpg https://snarfed.org/door_to_outside.jpg
I deleted all of my Facebook posts last week. I deleted my Google+ posts too. They were pretty much all posted here on my web site too, so nothing was truly lost, but I still feel a bit lighter, somehow.

Passive Tracking > Active Tracking by Eddie Hinkle (Eddiehinkle.com)
In the most recent episode of Two Dads Talking, Jonathan and I talk about tracking our information and whether we are using active or passive applications. Jonathan is using mostly passive applications that collect his behavior and translate that into posts on his website. I, on the other hand, spend way too much time tracking all sorts of information:

I mostly track everything I’m doing manually, and am still working on the automation part. This seems like a worthy goal to work on in 2019, because while manual tracking has its advantages, (well, OK one, which is thinking about what you’re tracking and hopefully therefore tracking intentionally), it’s mostly a pain and means that I forget to track things and post them to my website.

Passive Tracking > Active Tracking by Eddie Hinkle (Eddiehinkle.com)

In the most recent episode of Two Dads Talking, Jonathan and I talk about tracking our information and whether we are using active or passive applications. Jonathan is using mostly passive applications that collect his behavior and translate that into posts on his website. I, on the other hand, spend way too much time tracking all sorts of information:

Exit Through the Novelty Exhibition by Kyle Paoletta (The Baffler)
Winnie the Pooh, destroyer of art museums "I know you're out there."

On one level, as I was reading this piece, I was thinking “Man, seriously, how can you hate Winnie the Pooh so much, he’s adorable!” Well, he’s adorable, unless we’re talking about what happened when he met the internet. Yes, that’s an Angelfire page. I’m surprised it’s still up. On another level though, I get where the author is coming from. I completely understand the “get-off-my-lawn, why do you guys have to ruin everything” sentiment that seems to be on display here. I can kind of see both sides though. From a purely artistic perspective, and from the perspective that museums serve a very specific purpose, I can see how adding an exhibition like this that purposely leaves out any context and is merely an attraction to draw in younger visitors would be viewed as nothing less than some sort of abomination. But on the other hand, museums have to generate revenue. After all, nonprofit is a tax status, not a business model. I imagine that the Pooh attraction, as devoid of real art as it is, probably draws in at least enough revenue to keep itself going and to help the museum along with its research and other exhibits.

Exit Through the Novelty Exhibition by Kyle Paoletta (The Baffler)

Winnie the Pooh, destroyer of art museums
“I know you’re out there.”

Brains of 3 People Have Been Successfully Connected, Enabling Them to Share Thoughts (ScienceAlert)
Neuroscientists have successfully hooked up a three-way brain connection to allow three people to share their thoughts – and in this case, play a Tetris-style game.

Oh great. Just what we need. Facebook, except with brains. How about let’s not and if you want to you can pretend we did.

Brains of 3 People Have Been Successfully Connected, Enabling Them to Share Thoughts (ScienceAlert)

Neuroscientists have successfully hooked up a three-way brain connection to allow three people to share their thoughts – and in this case, play a Tetris-style game.

You don’t have to live in public by AUSTIN KLEON
if I re-wrote the book now, I would encourage artists to use much more caution when it comes to using social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It seems ridiculous to say, but 2013, the year I wrote the book, was a simpler time. Social media seemed much more benign to me. Back then, the worst I felt social media did was waste your time. Now, the worst social media does is cripple democracy and ruin your soul.

I think tending to your own website more than your social media is always good advice. For one thing, regardless of whether or not you go full indieweb or full federated. Granted, you need all the indieweb building blocks if you want to add more semantic meaning, along with the social components, but the basics of owning the content you create are as simple as purchasing a domain, some hosting, and setting up your own website, followed by posting there. Of course this means you might miss out on the instant gratification of social media, and you’ll have to do more work on those platforms to get the word out, but to really have an impact at this point on social media, you need to put in that work anyway. It’s not just about using the right hashtag. I also think you can take a middle road when it comes to social media by posting on your own site first and then syndicating to social media, instead of posting on social media first.

You don’t have to live in public by AUSTIN KLEON

if I re-wrote the book now, I would encourage artists to use much more caution when it comes to using social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
It seems ridiculous to say, but 2013, the year I wrote the book, was a simpler time. Social media seemed much more benign to me. Back then, the worst I felt social media did was waste your time. Now, the worst social media does is cripple democracy and ruin your soul.

Welcome the January 2019 Ultimate Blog Challenge (The Martha Review)
Today I am excited to Welcome the January 2019 Ultimate Blog Challenge! For those who aren’t familiar with the UBC, it’s held January, April, July, and October every year and the challenge comes by writing a blog each day for the challenge months.

I think it’s incredible that someone has managed to sustain not just one blog challenge, but three in one year. I have some rather large shoes to fill, and admittedly this has awakened my competative streak. I think this makes challenges like this a lot more fun, but that’s just me.

Welcome the January 2019 Ultimate Blog Challenge (The Martha Review)

Today I am excited to Welcome the January 2019 Ultimate Blog Challenge! For those who aren’t familiar with the UBC, it’s held January, April, July, and October every year and the challenge comes by writing a blog each day for the challenge months.

Foreign Agent (Scot Harvath, #15) by Brad Thor (goodreads.com)
Foreign Agent has 9,295 ratings and 564 reviews. Monnie said: If there was an Academy Award for evil, ISIS would have taken home an Oscar.Yep, you ca...

"Foreign Agent" book cover

Foreign Agent by Brad Thor
Amanda is currently reading Foreign Agent
by
Brad Thor

Foreign Agent (Scot Harvath, #15) by Brad Thor (goodreads.com)

Foreign Agent has 9,295 ratings and 564 reviews. Monnie said: If there was an Academy Award for evil, ISIS would have taken home an Oscar.Yep, you ca…