Monday, April 23, 2007

Weekend Johnny posts

I put two Edwards-related posts up on Ezra's blog. First, I managed to get the facts out about the haircut pseudo-scandal. (Thanks to Kevin Drum for linking!) Then I compared the recent head-to-head polling data between Edwards and Republicans.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bloggers like Form One

My post on Edwards' tax simplification plan got a positive reception from a bunch of people. Thanks to Becks for linking. I particularly liked this comment: "People might be more aware of this proposal if two ladies hadn’t been chased out of their jobs by a rabid mob."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Concrete possibilia

Of course, in the Lewis system the worlds are spatiotemporally isolated, but I can't read this without thinking about my possible girlfriend. I suppose this could happen in an impossible world, though, so those of you with impossibiliaphilia can dream about it...

Republicans Wish You A Painful Tax Day

So here's a pretty nice policy idea from John Edwards: if the IRS already has all the information it needs to do your taxes, as it does for about 50 million Americans, why don't we spare you the trouble and have the IRS do your taxes by itself? The IRS would then just send you "Form 1" in the mail, telling you how much you owe or how big your refund is, and you'd sign it and return it. Studies suggest that this would save Americans approximately 225 million hours of tax-related drudgery.

The folks at the National Review have objections, though. I particularly liked this from Steve:

I think one of the best things conservatives could do to make people realize just how bad our tax burden is would be to require all taxpayers to file and pay taxes quarterly. The current insidious system of employer withholding was designed to collect income taxes without taxpayers feeling the pain of writing a check.

Apparently he wants to build up government bureaucracy... so that people will get mad and want to tear down government bureaucracy. Republican governance at its best!

Now, I think the Republicans are right about the political situation here. If you make paying taxes painless, the most intense negative emotional experience associated with the tax system will go away. Not that everyone will suddenly be going "Hooray for taxes!" but the situation that instills the most passionate hatred of taxes will be gone, and resistance to taxation won't be as strong. Those of us who want to provide the revenues for national health care, free preschool, or any number of other useful benefit programs should be especially happy about progressive tax simplification proposals of this kind.

There are a couple other side benefits to the Edwards tax simplification proposal. It'd help poor people get deductions and credits that they might not know they're entitled to, like the EITC. Less than half of the eligible families with incomes below half of the poverty line know that they're eligible, and Hispanics are especially likely to be unaware.

Also, some poor people don't know about refunds, and the "Form 1" proposal would be especially beneficial for them. A friend of my brother was in a poor black North Carolina neighborhood some years ago, educating people about their taxes as part of a volunteer program. He met a woman who had been avoiding her taxes because she simply didn't have any money to pay. When he explained to her that doing her taxes meant getting a large refund check from the government, she didn't stop hugging him for a while.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hair

The best post I read on the Don Imus situation was by Pam Spaulding. It dealt with the subject of nappy hair and how to straighten it:
I am old enough to experience the “pleasure” of the thermal hot comb — you rested it over the gas flame of the stove to heat it up. Then the grease was carefully applied to your hair and that comb sizzled through the kinks till it was bone straight, hissing as you prayed the comb didn’t touch your scalp — inevitably you got scalp burns because the “stylist” f*cked up. [By the way, the “stylist” for most folks was usually a relative, but in my case, everyone in my family had straight hair, so my mom had to take me to a salon till she figured out what to do.]

Once the chemical relaxer came into vogue it was the same problem with a different twist, it became a watch-the-clock endeavor to see how long you could leave the vile-smelling chemicals on to achieve maximum straightness before your scalp started to peel, burn and get open sores. Anything for that damn straight hair.
And that's what one does to get hair that won't activate Don Imus' stereotypes about "nappy-headed hos". It wouldn't be so much of a problem, except that the success of one's career often depends on impressing men who come from Don Imus' demographic.

Dominant groups can impose strange and unpleasant burdens on less powerful groups, while acting on judgments that they never take a moment to consider. A straight man reading feminist blogs learns this over and over again.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Catch of the day

My big post on the Ezra blog this weekend expresses my concerns about Barack Obama. Does he actually have it in him to fight for progressive causes? His recent actions don't inspire a lot of confidence.

I also have stuff about the vacuum at the top of the GOP nomination race, media coverage of the primaries, and the fragmented nature of Iranian politics.

In philosophical news, the lineup for our grad student conference is looking pretty good.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007