Flat taxes and taxed servers.

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Nov. 26 2002 7:21 AM

Flat Taxes and Taxed Servers

Readers respond to Robert Shapiro.

What's up with the Fray? Check out the special Fraywatch here. Servers are moving a bit faster and many folks have solved their initial posting problems. I am still working through e-mail. The biggest problem is still folks who have lost their longtime nicknames. I am putting together a list of these to see which ones we can resuscitate. E-mail me or respond to the post here.

Platykurtic pipedreams:Robert Shapiro argues  that "the current system has virtually no redistributive impact on most Americans" Even doodahman wishes he'd seen a citation to back this up, but adds this quibble:

Of course, he leaves out the effect of state taxes-- exercise, property, license fees, user fees, etc.--- which, I'll wager, ends up causing a redistribution of wealth from the lower and middle class to the very upper echelons of wealth.

(Perhaps someone can take him up on the wager?) And in case anyone has forgotten the basic reason progressive taxers hate flatness:

Maximizing economic growth is a value, but not the only one. Even if a flat tax did not have the drawbacks noted here, it would be a bad public policy for reasons that have nothing to do with economic growth, but everything to do with fairness and the principles of citizen responsibility.

PubliusToo thinks that Democrats can finally use tax reform to their advantage here:

Now that the republicans appear to be fleeing meaningful tax reform in droves (it's far easier to cut taxes when you can blame the opposition for the resulting budget deficits), the democrats can use tax reform to seize the initiative.

His proposal is to fold payroll taxes into the income tax system and flatten things for middle-income payers. Shades of Robert Reich? … 7:45 a.m.

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Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2002

And to think we were worried about key escrow: Responding to Paul Boutin's plea for geeks to avoid politics and head straight for the hacking hills, BenK offers a way around an increasingly nosy government here. More interesting than his firewalling proposal is his diagnosis of the snoopers' underlying tension:

It will be a toss-up, soon enough, between the gov't encouraging hackers by making individuals' computers insecure and the gov't encouraging piracy by letting people secure their own computers and networks. ...

Nulla dies sine Linnaeus: Culturebox Fraysters are quick to defend Michael Kinsley's "refreshing self-effacement" against National Book Award nonfiction committee chair Chris Merrill's"pompous indictment." (Zagat-like quotes from Hosea here.) Zathras offers a critique of Merrill lifted from a natural history museum diorama guide:

And now, the literary bluenose shark ... Rare outside major universities and publishing firms, this species is known to strike at great length and in high dudgeon at passing writers who let slip the idea that not all that is published is worthy or even very good. Can be pacified with large quantities of flattery and assurances that it is too ... Humorless but generally harmless.

(Based on Zathras' effortless use of the word "dudgeon," he has been reading Slate too long; can savvy and overrated be far behind?) ... Newsflash: Fray nickname rules hit consulting industry: KPMG Consulting is busy spending $45 million to change it's name to BearingPoint. (All that cash and no goofy diacritical marks? They wuz robbed!) Rob Walker summarizes  the twofold significance of the change: "a) the new name is an exciting development, and b) the company is as great as ever, so the new name doesn't really mean anything." andkathleen adds

c) we don't have anything to do with scandals. Nothing! We're the same as ever, but we aren't doing anything wrong now. Not that we were before, ha ha! Nope! But we're squeaky clean, and you should run, not walk, to our nearest branch office. 'Cause we're all new! Except for our experience. 

Boomer Sooner it ain't: And Inonit-2 spots us the link to KPMG's old fight song—a must-hear. ... 4:15 a.m.

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Monday, Nov. 25, 2002

Illuminating the masonic conspiracy: As Dan Menaker has already noted, a regular Soprano's Frayster (liviasghost) was the first to ponder Tony's dream of being a mason, beating the shrinks to the punch here. ...

And if Kaus gets his way, they'll have to change the stationery again: Now that Senate Democrats have acquiesced in authorizing Bush's version of the Homeland Security, Fred Kaplan turns to the bureaucratic job at hand. Pacimini(recently Keep a Clear Eye) thinks Kaplan wants the impossible here:

Kaplan is a funny guy if he thinks that the federal government is going to "throw money" at the terrorism problem and eliminate pork at the same time. It doesn't work that way … That's why the big defense contracts for fighter jets and things like that are spread out over so many Congressional districts.

He saves his harshest comments for Republicans:

Bush and the Republican leadership are eager to fight global terrorism abroad, and they are eager to defend Texas Stadium, Disney World, and various Confederate monuments. But they are not hot to spend an enormous amount of money defending cities that aren't on Salt Lakes.

(Lest we forget the prolonged authorization process, Dreamworld promises to hold Democrats accountable for any future attacks here.) ...

Colorful Greenspan ideas Fray furiously: The Moneybox Fray has little to say about the airline bailout, but plenty of juice for Daniel Gross's piece on Alan Greenspan, "The Maestro is a Hack." There is an excellent thread discussing Greenspan's mistakes beginning in 2000 here (Will_Jacobs, PhilfromCalifornia, and ChasHeath are in on it.) ... 10:40 a.m.

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Friday, Nov. 22, 2002

Everybody in the Fray loves Brad Garrett: Nothing has inspired more TV fraying than Virginia Heffernan's subtitular remark that Everybody Loves Raymondis "Seinfeld for Catholics." W.V. Micko parses the difference here:

Seinfeld's whack jobs were too crazed to be scary, and I laughed myself to tears. But "Raymond?" "Raymond" is Seinfeld's final episode, over and over and over again: strange, creepy, suffocating and depressing.

Anya Fanya kicks off a great thread of future Heffernan articles. Her best: Touched by an Angel: CSI for Baptists. The Max Fischer Players cannot bring himself to love Raymond: "too many Remington Steele flashbacks whenever Doris Roberts is on screen."

And they gave my red hat to a donkey!: While Zathras and Lee agree with Michael Steinberger that Beaujolais Nouveau is worth skipping, they are on opposite side of the paradox of the mass market. Zathras defendsFrench negociants for raising American interest in wine:

The truth is there would be no American market, or at least not nearly as big a one, without this kind of wine, not just from Beaujolais but from California and Chile as well. You just don't see great crowds of really knowledgeable wine drinkers besieging wine shops in November to get the hands on the latest Nouveau; what you see instead are casual wine drinkers and some who are just beginning to drink wine.

Lee thinksthat interest has destroyed the French tradition it was built on:

The original idea of the "new wine" releases was to generate excitement about what the wines of a year would eventually be, once they matured a bit. Bicycle messengers would race down from the vineyards with bottles of new wine for fans of a particular vintner. The tasters would evaluate the new wine and decide whether it was going to be a good vintage, and make up their minds about how many cases they would purchase.

Of course, something this charming, this quaint, this provincial, would get commercialized and marketed in America, land of Wal-Mart ... 11:50 a.m.

I got your conspiracy right here: As promised, Neal Katyal offers detailed answers to Jurisprudence Fraysters's questions about his piece on conspiracy here (the links are active in the version posted at the bottom of the original piece). The meatiest part of the answer comes near the end, when he sorts out his advocacy of a broad use of conspiracy in criminal cases and his opposition to the increasing use of military tribunals:

[T]he permissive rules surrounding conspiracy prosecutions emerged in the context of our particular criminal justice system, with its emphasis on the right to counsel, juries, grand jury presentment, individual rights, cross-examination, Brady disclosures, and the like. What I fear today is that the broad rules surrounding conspiracy doctrine can be used to justify the indefinite detention of people in military brigs. These permissive rules surrounding conspiracy only work with a vibrant power to test the government's claims, and it appears that such testing is out of the question for those indefinitely detained. That is the worst of every world … 6:55 a.m.

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Thursday, Nov. 21, 2002

Where's your conspiracy now? "Is this the end of little RICO?" TheWatchfulBabbler asks in the best post title—and one of the best posts—in the Jurisprudence Fray discussion of Neal Katyal's piece about conspiracy. (Today's blog shall be known as BabbleWatch.) Doodahman leads off a terrific thread about the use and abuse of conspiracy. The nut graf:

Years after conspiracy laws explode in applications that are largely horrific (using them to put low level, barely culpable poor people in jail basically forever on the basis of the harms committed by kingpins who are rarely brought to justice), brainmeisters like Katyal bootstrap vague sociological theories to the original legislative intent and call it "prescience".

Piney's response stresses the coconspirator statements as an exception to the hearsay rule:

[T]he REAL real reason the feds love conspiracy charges is Fed.R.Evid. 801(d)(2)(E). That lovely provision says that a hearsay statement ... is somehow transformed into being NOT hearsay if it is "a statement by a coconspirator of a party during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy." ... A powerful tool indeed, especially when [one conspirator] rolls over and enhances his standing with Team America by describing conversations he says he had out on the street with [his coconspirator] some years (or days) ago.

(Another great Piney post here.) Katyal is travelling today, but expects to respond tomorrow. Fraywatch will update. ...

Kipling and kinesiology: Responding to Chatterbox's rewriting of Kipling for an era when "fighting" is called "kinetic warfare," Eldoktor improves the scansion with this:

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Give him an emetic!'

But it's 'Saviour of 'is country' when the U.K goes kinetic. ... 7:40 a.m.

J.D. Connor is assistant professor of English and of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard. He is working on a book about neoclassical Hollywood.

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