Late Night Open Thread: “Show Trial By Microblog”

I stockpiled a couple dozen links about the Bo family’s… situation… when the English-language news media started paying attention last fall. But the anecdotes just kept coming*, and as an insufficiently-informed gwailo everything I drafted seemed deeply inadequate. But very few people are reading this late on a Saturday night, and besides Cole will undoubtably bump this post down fairly soon, so let me say for the record: This is one of the few Big News stories in recent years that’s had me flashing back on John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar and the supercomputer Shalmaneser musing to itself, “What an imagination I’ve got!”

HONG KONG — Even in the inventive annals of Chinese propaganda, it was a first: show trial by microblog. When Bo Xilai, the politician whose fall convulsed the Communist Party, stood trial on Thursday, the government took the unprecedented step of reporting the proceedings to a nationwide audience of many millions over China’s equivalent of Twitter.

The court, in eastern China, reported the day’s developments on Sina.com’s Weibo service, a popular microblog platform similar to Twitter. The reports, quotes and pictures that emerged in fits and starts from the courtroom drew riveted attention from the Chinese, testament to the public’s fascination with Mr. Bo and to the power of the Chinese Internet. In recent decades, trials of former senior officials have mostly been muted in secrecy, often until hearings ended and state news media showed the officials making tearful confessions…

But as Thursday progressed, the trial began to look less polished. Mr. Bo scorned the charges and ridiculed prosecution witnesses, and the microblog feed from the courthouse, though perhaps selective, gave him an unusually prominent podium. “I really saw the ugliness of a person who sold his soul,” Mr. Bo said of one important witness for the prosecution, according to the court’s running account.

Mr. Bo appears likely to end his public career the way he advanced it: as the combative star in a drama played out over the Internet and in mass media.

“To begin with, everyone believed that it would all be prearranged,” Mr. Li said. “But now it looks less sure.” …

(cf: “… Mr. Bo is accused, among other things, of abusing his power in the case of a British businessman who the authorities say was killed by Mr. Bo’s wife, and of taking “massive bribes” directly and through his family, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. The official report’s long list of accusations against Mr. Bo, which includes adultery, seems intended to bury Mr. Bo’s political career and diminish lingering support for him within the party and among the general public…“)






91 replies
  1. 1
  2. 2
    John O says:

    With all due apologies, I’m liking this guy more and more, and appreciate his motives more still. This stuff needed some open discussion.

    I consider the advancement of the Police State inexorable and inevitable, so it’s all just noise to me for the most part. Still, I can understand on an emotional level the Paultards.

  3. 3
    MoeLarryAndJesus says:

    “Stand On Zanzibar” and its similarly-constructed “sister” novel “The Sheep Look Up” are two of my very favorite 60s-70s era science fiction novels.

    When I was in 9th or 10th grade I went to an SF convention in Boston and saw Brunner speak. A very funny and warm speech and he welcomed endless questions afterwards.

    Of course the highlight of the convention was sitting outside waiting for one event and talking to a mellow older bearded dude who turned out to be Frank Herbert. I didn’t recognize him but once he introduced himself I pulled out my copy of “Children Of Dune,” and asked him to autograph it, which he did with grace and humor.

    There were giants in those days.

    Not dickheads like Orson Scott Card…

  4. 4
    Yatsuno says:

    @John O:

    Still, I can understand on an emotional level the Paultards.

    I don’t. Libertarianism is a poor excuse to be completely selfish and to act as if every achievement in your life is you own. It’s not. We all depend upon each other in so many ways that to pretend otherwise is to ignore that every day we take advantage of collective actions. Unless you own and pave your own roads. Which said ownership is protected by state courts and police.

    On Mr Bo’s trial (though for a sec I thought this was about the Obama’s dog!) the fact that information other than the tightly controlled state media is leaking out even in bits and pieces is both exciting and scary. I could eventually see the authorities in China shutting off the Internet completely if that information control gets too far away from them. But it may also be a genie they can’t stuff back into the bottle, since economically they need teh Interwebs. Fascinating time for the Chinese people.

  5. 5
    Punchy says:

    They have actual trials in China? I thought they just accused you, then tried to run a tank over you.

  6. 6
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @John O:

    He’s running with the neo-feudalist crowd.

    That cannot be excused, under any circumstances.

  7. 7
    Suzanne says:

    @Yatsuno: If the Libertarians even promoted any alternative social structures to take over some of the responsibilities they wish the government didn’t have, I could take them seriously on at least an intellectual level, if not a moral and ethical one. You know….there’s no governmental regulation of restaurant kitchens anymore, but accreditation agencies like Joint Commission or DNV could do it. See? There. I had an idea, more thought out than anything a Libertarian has ever offered me.

    But since they only want to tear down, I must conclude that they don’t actually want to make the world safer, freer, or more fair. I have suspicions why they feel that way.

  8. 8
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Yatsuno:

    for a sec I thought this was about the Obama’s dog!

    Good, I wasn’t the only one.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    Mnemosyne says:

    Since this is an open thread and I know even less about current events in China than AL does, I test-drove a Subaru Impreza this evening. It was quite a nice little car, and the salesguy was low-key enough to not scare me off. Now I have to try the Mazda 3 and Honda Fit and I’ll at least be able to start narrowing things down. But right now, the Subaru is in the lead over the Prius C.

  11. 11
    John O says:

    I said, “emotional level.” It’s not like I would vote for the racist nutball or anything. I actually read Atlas Shrugged about 5X before I grew up and realized it was mostly b.s. Just not all of it.

    There is a case to be made for right-to-die, ingesting what one thinks is appropriate, etc., that I find it hard to be unsympathetic to.

    Cutting the military budget by about a third, ending the WoD, and refining the tax code to make it simpler are all ideas I can get behind, also too.

  12. 12
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: we have and love our 2008 Fit. If you ever have occasion to carry a lot of stuff and don’t want a lot of car to do it, the Fit is for you.

  13. 13
    dollared says:

    @John O: All good. And solid policies that were mainstream Democratic in 1980, and are still mid-dleft Progressive positions. You don’t need to flirt with people who would destroy everything we’ve built in the last 100 years, just to cover five checkbox issues. You just need to subscribe to The Nation.

  14. 14
    Yatsuno says:

    @Mnemosyne: I rented an Impreza and loved it. So did my sister-in-law. So much so she bought one a few months later. She used to own a Mazda 3, which I personally didn’t like, and I think the Fit is cramped. YMMV as with all things.

  15. 15
    Felonius Monk says:

    It seems Mr. Bo has made his bed, I guess he will just have to Li in it. I just cannot get worked up about some high-toned commie that can’t play nice with the other commie kids and wants to take their lunch money. Will the Chinese people ever be able to rid themselves of these oppressive arse-holes?

  16. 16
    RobertDSC-Power Mac G5 Dual says:

    I wish the Space Shuttle still flew.

  17. 17
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Yatsuno: And I still have a car older than PSIFighter, but at least it’s got a new clutch.

  18. 18
    Cacti says:

    @John O:

    With all due apologies, I’m liking this guy more and more, and appreciate his motives more still.

    The smarter thieves often try to cover their tracks.

    This behavior isn’t unique to Moscow Eddie.

    And speaking of his new home…Russia bans public protests at the 2014 Olympics.

    I’m sure wikileaks and team Edward will roundly condemn this.

  19. 19

    @Suzanne:

    You know….there’s no governmental regulation of restaurant kitchens anymore

    There isn’t? I must be imagining those inspection certificates from the health department. I would say the county health department, but my city is one of the few that inspects its own restaurants rather than having the county do it.

  20. 20
    John O says:

    @dollared:

    That’s a matter of priorities, dollared. I think most of our current economic evil is rooted in the tax code and that everyone should be able to figure out everyone else’s tax nut with minimal input.

    I think spending public money when you could EARN public money via the legalization and regulation of prostitution, gambling, and most drugs (certainly MJ) is kind of Government 101 By Dummies stuff. I think it’s going to take generations if not centuries for almost all of the ancient wars to work themselves out, and we can’t afford to spend that kind of money over that kind of time frame getting too involved. And that’s a LARGE net revenue change, and most people on both sides of the aisle would agree that the government needs to do at least a marginally better job of balancing its books.

    The government’s jurisdiction also ends at my skin, mouth, door, family, clergy (not that I have one of those), and ultimately my self.

    So I wouldn’t say it was a flirtatious exercise as much as a matter of the general direction I think the country seriously needs to consider before we go full-on plutocracy/Po-lice State.

  21. 21
    JasonF says:

    I think the important takeaway here is that Obama named his dog after a prominent ChiCom, thereby proving his true loyalties. Why haven’t the articles of impeachment been drafted yet?

  22. 22
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I’m still planning to give one a try, but the Impreza set a high bar. I kept saying, “It feels so roomy!” And I tried to find blind spots (my RAV-4 has some weird ones) but I really felt like I had a great view of the road in all directions.

    @Yatsuno:

    G was making fun of me because I was paranoid about getting pressured by the salesman so I was apparently acting a little weird, like Don’t use your sales glamour on me, I’m just here to look! My excuse is that I had a bad experience at Toyota where I really felt like they weren’t going to let me leave without a struggle — I actually had to say, “I’m planning my dad’s memorial right now, I can’t buy a car” before Toyota let me go.

  23. 23
    Suzanne says:

    @Roger Moore: No, there’s still plenty of over mental oversight of restaurant kitchens. I was trying to say that if we were in the Libertarian paradise, what might fill that gap. I was unclear, to my detriment. All apologies.

    But since all Libertarians seem to want to do is create gaps and they never talk about the other ways society could perform its functions, I must conclude that they aren’t interested in having society function.

  24. 24
    John O says:

    @Cacti:

    I hate Russia right now. It’s a bit of a stretch to connect my appreciation for the discussion Snowden and GG started to Putin fascism. If I may say.

    Perhaps if we invited him home under, say, sane circumstances and the assumption of innocence, under the principle that the truth will set him free, he wouldn’t have been in Russia in the first place.

  25. 25
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @John O:

    I think most of our current economic evil is rooted in the tax code

    Yes, but trying to “simplify” it means taking things(credit, deductions, adjustment, etc) away from people. They tend to resist that alot, and still complain how complicated it is. When conservatives/libertarians talk about “simplifying” they mean a flat tax.

    You’ll have great difficulty cutting defense to a large extent, too many communities depend on military bases. Ending the war on drugs might be more successful once the ‘Silent Gen’ have less clout, until then we’re stuck with it.

  26. 26
    Mnemosyne says:

    @John O:

    Yes but … there are sometimes other people behind your door (spouses and children) who may need to have their own rights enforced by the government if you’re not willing to take them into account. Not to mention neighbors who may be affected by things happening on your property (like burning leaves whose smoke drifts into their yard).

    That’s the tricky balance we all have to learn. We used to decide it by declaring as a society that the rights of specific people (usually white, usually male) trumped those of everyone else, but we’ve realized that’s not a sustainable way anymore, so now we have to figure out how to balance rights in a world where everyone’s rights are equal in fact, not just in theory like it was for 200+ years.

  27. 27
    Redshift says:

    I was listening to a report about the Bo trial on BBC yesterday, and it does seem pretty interesting. It seems like a lot of people in China are fascinated by the case, so the government thought it would be a good idea to have something like an actual trial instead of a show trial. My impression is that they’re having trouble because they don’t have much experience with actual trials, so a clever guy like Bo is able to make hash of their evidence against him.

    Another interesting thing from the Chinese correspondent is that a lot of Chinese people don’t disapprove of an official taking bribes as long as he’s an effective public official. I suppose that shouldn’t be too surprising in a society where bribes are commonplace, but it was a reminder to me to question my assumptions about what “regular people” would think is okay or outrageous in a country I don’t know very well.

  28. 28
    Cacti says:

    @John O:

    Perhaps if we invited him home under, say, sane circumstances and the assumption of innocence,

    Not sure I’m following you. He’s free to come back any time he’s prepared to answer the charges against him.

  29. 29
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Yatsuno:

    Also, too, what company did you rent the Impreza from? I can’t find anyone who advertises that they have them.

  30. 30
    Cacti says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA:

    When conservatives/libertarians talk about “simplifying” they mean a flat tax

    And whenever they talk “flat tax” they always plan on exempting capital gains and investment income from it’s requirements. Mitt Romney’s 13% effective tax rate is just too damned high.

  31. 31
    mdblanche says:

    @Felonius Monk:

    Will the Chinese people ever be able to rid themselves of these oppressive arse-holes?

    Maybe if they had some sort of revolutionary left wing party…

  32. 32
    John O says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA:

    *sigh*

    Exempt from federal income tax a livable wage, for the sake of discussion let’s say $36K/year. Period. No other exemptions. Everyone gets it, from Bill Gates on down.

    Tax the income between $36K and X, I say about $250K at Y. Again, flat. You’re only deduction is on your first $36K, in this example.

    Now, the magic. Above X have the rate float, while still flat, based on the prior year’s or years’ revenue and assumptions about the current fiscal year’s revenue needs. In other words, the top earners get first dibs on future tax decreases as well as increases. That provides incentive to the rich people (not a partisan reference), who lets face it run the place and always will run the place to look for ways to cut the government budget, and rich people are not always stupid and impractical, and besides, we’re giving everyone their first $36K tax free.

    You can quibble about the numbers and rates and such, but the concept solves oodles of problems over the long run.

  33. 33
    Yatsuno says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: The War on Drugs is very very slowly inching back towards sanity. It’s not helping that the state of WA basically told the DoJ to get stuffed when it came to enforcing marijuana laws after I-502 passed. Colorado took a similar position, and other states are set to follow here soon.

    As far as the tax code…it’s a mishegas. But flat taxes are an amazingly regressive idea. Why should a millionaire pay the same rate on their income when they get more out of government than someone who makes $30K?

    @Mnemosyne: Enterprise. They were going to give me a different car but they had the Impreza available. I was quite pleased with the switch-out. Enterprise usually has a diversity of cars that they don’t advertise that they rent. Their rates are also usually quite reasonable.

  34. 34
    John O says:

    @Cacti:

    Awww, I think that’s pretty naive. Of course, I agreed with JC’s post about Manning. :-)

    It would be nothing but a show trial, and my point is that if the preponderance of what he’s released turns out to be factually true in terms of what the government is doing to skull-fuck the 4th Amendment, charges should not be brought against him at all. And I’ll bet that’s how he feels.

  35. 35
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @John O: Government has used tax incentives for years to encourage certain conduct and discourage other conduct. It is easier to offer a tax credit than a subsidy.

    Do you have a mortgage?

  36. 36
    Cacti says:

    @John O:

    It would be nothing but a show trial

    I’m assuming you have something to back this up other than personal opinion.

    ETA: When you choose to violate the law, and let’s not be coy about it, purloining classified information and transmitting it to third parties is very much illegal, you don’t get to choose the consequences. Go to court and make your case to a jury of your peers.

  37. 37
    RobertDSC-Power Mac G5 Dual says:

    charges should not be brought against him at all.

    He still stole and disseminated classified information. He’s 100% guilty of that. Hell, the government could throw in fraud and conspiracy charges because Snowden and Fucktard Greenwald deliberately chose the contractor in order to steal classified information.

  38. 38
    John O says:

    Yes, I have a mortgage, and if I chose to pay $36K+ in taxes on it that’s my call. And that’s my entire deduction in the first place under my proposal.

    I believe the tax code should be set up to collect money, and that collecting money doesn’t need to be rocket science. Let the culture decide the mores. Take advantage of behavior, instead of fighting it. Stuff like that.

  39. 39
    Yatsuno says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: The mortgage interest deduction is one of the most fascinating market distortions the government does. It may not even be necessary. Canada doesn’t have it yet their home ownership rates are similar to ours.

    It is also one of the best ways to get in trouble with the IRS. If your mortgage interest is way high in proportion to your income, you got some splainin’ to do. I’ve busted quite a few self-employed people this way.

  40. 40
    John O says:

    @Cacti:

    Nothing specific, but how about the entire arc of humanity when it comes to a little guy seriously pissing off The Man throughout all of history? To me, that’s pretty good support.

  41. 41
    Redshift says:

    @John O:

    Perhaps if we invited him home under, say, sane circumstances and the assumption of innocence, under the principle that the truth will set him free, he wouldn’t have been in Russia in the first place.

    The US government has demanded that foreign governments return him home for trial. How is that not the presumption of innocence, unless you take his and his cohorts’ histrionics about how the US supposedly wants him dead as truth without any particular evidence? If you’re going to start with the assumption that he won’t be given a fair trial, then there’s no point in blathering about the danger of becoming a police state; that would mean we already are one.

    And considering that that the acts he has publicly admitted to (disclosing classified information) are in fact a crime under US law, though not one that is always prosecuted, complaining that he’s being treated like he’s guilty is a bit rich.

    I’m open to the argument that it’s a good thing that he did what he did (I’m ambivalent about it myself), but claiming that because he wasn’t treated with kid gloves he had no choice but to seek asylum from some of the most repressive governments in the world is bunk.

  42. 42
    Cacti says:

    @John O:

    Nothing specific, but how about the history of the little guy seriously pissing off The Man throughout all of history? To me, that’s pretty good support.

    Then Mr. Snowden should put his proverbial money where his mouth is. Patrick Henry didn’t say “Give me liberty, or give me death!” then hop the first boat to Paris.

    I’ve no doubt that plenty of A-list legal talent would be willing to represent him gratis in a criminal case against him.

  43. 43
    Yatsuno says:

    @Redshift:

    I’m ambivalent about it myself

    Moi aussi. I’m glad enough white guys are sufficiently disturbed to have this conversation now, but having it be triggered by a criminal conspiracy should also have its own consequences.

  44. 44
    John O says:

    There is space between martyrdom and doing the right thing anyway.

  45. 45
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Yatsuno: But people love it. Take it away and people will freak. Take a smaller thing, tax credits for energy efficiency improvements. They have been popular and have achieved some positive results. I know tax credits do not have the same return as subsidies, but they are politically easier. We live in the world in which we live.

  46. 46
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:

    @Redshift:

    Bo amassed a lot of street cred as the anti-crime, anti-corruption “mayor” of Chongqing (whatever the head of that political district is called). So he does have some popular support. And the corruption charges possibly could be seen in the Chinese context of “playing for the wrong team when the ref blew the whistle.”

    His wife’s involvement in the death of the British businessman and the subsequent coverup seem to have provided the stick Bo’s rivals needed to go after him. (She sounds like a character from a Gong Li movie.) The anti-Bo faction won, so he is in the process of being purged. Hell, the guy was a leading candidate for the Central Committee until this hit the fan.

  47. 47
    Suzanne says:

    @Redshift: @Cacti: Word to everything you both said.

    The legality vs. the popularity of the NSA’s actions as publicized by Snowden also bears exploration, too. You’re not a whistleblower if everything you leaked was legal.

  48. 48
    John O says:

    @Redshift:

    …then there’s no point in blathering about the danger of becoming a police state; that would mean we already are one.

    I believe I said up thread somewhere that the police state was “inexorable and inevitable,” which I hoped would be perceived as akin to us being very close if not already there.

  49. 49
    Suzanne says:

    Might I just also note that I finally found a fluoride-free toothpaste that doesn’t make me wanna hurl.

  50. 50
    John O says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    People would love a livable wage, tax free more!

  51. 51
    Mnemosyne says:

    @John O:

    Frankly, federal taxes are the least amount of taxes anyone pays except for rich people. Most people who make under $36K a year get about half of the taxes they paid in back at the end of the year, and sometimes more if they have childcare or mortgage costs they can write off.

    Under your plan, people would still be paying state taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, gas taxes, etc. etc. and wouldn’t really see that much difference day-to-day. Except, again, rich people, who aren’t as affected by things like sales tax.

  52. 52
    Cacti says:

    @Suzanne:

    The legality vs. the popularity of the NSA’s actions as publicized by Snowden also bears exploration, too.

    Aside from the initial acts of obtaining and disseminating the information he did, he also shared info on US intelligence gathering activities with the South China Morning Post. That one was just plain inexcusable. There is no free press in China, and sharing such information with a media outlet there is tantamount to sharing it with the government of the PRC.

  53. 53
    John O says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I would expect rich people to have to cough up way more significantly under my plan.

    No more shelters or deductions. You make a number, and pay a number. And don’t forget that top number would be high under the circumstances say, of our fearless plutocracy starting more wars, or building Supertrains, or whatever else they decide to spend our money on.

  54. 54
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @John O: Ah, that’s not a flat tax, a flat tax has 1 rate.

    That provides incentive to the rich people (not a partisan reference), who lets face it run the place and always will run the place to look for ways to cut the government budget

    Sof high income filers can decide government spending? Social Security and Medicare were nice.

  55. 55
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @John O: Well, fuck. People want a living wage? No shit? First I heard of that. I thought people loved poverty.

    We have a tax system. People and companies have based a shitload of decisions on that system. Changing it will fuck with them. One should be careful how one does it.

    Also, fuck the libertarians. There isn’t a good thing for which they advocate that isn’t supported by a liberal Democratic politician. Why do the Pauls get the publicity? Wyden has done at least as much on the NSA issues as Rand. But, at the same time, he isn’t sexy, is he?

  56. 56
    John O says:

    Whoa. I was just floating an idea for a sane way of collecting revenue. The tax code is an objective abortion, and only those with serious money can seriously take advantage of it.

    Suggested read: “Perfectly Legal,” by David Kay Johnston, NYT beat writer on the finance side. You’ll want to scream.

    Some libertarian tendencies are where future voters lie. This seems pretty obvious to me.

  57. 57
    Yatsuno says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Wyden has done at least as much on the NSA issues as Rand. But, at the same time, he isn’t sexy, is he?

    That tears it. We’re getting Wyden a hair weasel. That seems to be the thing that gets attention these days I swear.

    (A bit under the weather, so crashing out early. Have fun in my absence.)

  58. 58
    Hal says:

    @Cacti:

    I’ve no doubt that plenty of A-list legal talent would be willing to represent him gratis in a criminal case against him.

    This is what I do not understand about Snowden, and why I question his judgement. If he came back to the US, he would be represented for free by some of the best legal minds in the country. If he could achieve bail, he would be supported by many people until his trial was over. More to the point, if he really has a cause he believes in, that he is a whistle blower and not just a disaffected Paulite who decided to fuck with the current Administration, than come back to the US and make your argument in court and to the people of this country.

    People comparing Snowden to MLK, Rosa Parks or Nelson Mandela were so far off the mark. None of those people jumped on a bus to Canada or a neighboring African Country. Hell, Nelson Mandela spent decades in prison. He had every reason to leave, but what would that have done to his cause? Also, does Snowden really think he’s just going to bob around country to country for the rest of his life?

  59. 59
    John O says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA:

    I never said it was a flat tax. I might call it a progressive flat tax, but am not really concerned about what it is called. It’s simple and fair. It is the rich who continue to get us into these messes, and it drives me nuts they don’t have to cough up to get us out.

  60. 60
    NotMax says:

    Related to nothing whatsoever, just crazy about the way the relatively new microwave cooks rice. Fluffy, succulent, everything rice should be.

  61. 61
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @John O: Take all the deductions/credits out the current system, it’s pretty simple. The problem is people love their deductions(mortgage interest, real estate, charitable gifts). There’s also an effect on those industries, they won’t let these deductions be easily removed.

  62. 62
    John O says:

    Time for night-night, y’all. Have a good Sunday.

  63. 63
    John O says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA:

    LOL! I GET that it would be politically difficult, if not impossible, but that in no way means it’s a bad idea. $36K is your deduction, and you get to choose how to divvy that up.

  64. 64
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @NotMax: I just get the precooked rice in the little bowls, pop it in the microwave and done. It’s either that or a rice cooker to keep the rice connoisseur happy, aka my wife.

  65. 65
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @John O: It’s not all that uncommon for a mortgage+real estate tax deduction to be greater than 36K in some parts of the country.

  66. 66
    John O says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA:

    Yes, I know. Poor babies. So set it at $50K, or whatever. I’m much more attached to the principles than I am the numbers.

    (I live in a Chicago burb, not exactly known for our low tax rates…)

  67. 67
    Suffern ACE says:

    I got a free drink tonight for admitting to be a Democrat , which is probably more in terms of freebies than in the 27 previous years.

    Suffern ACE +7

  68. 68
    Splitting Image says:

    @John O:

    You can quibble about the numbers and rates and such, but the concept solves oodles of problems over the long run.

    No it doesn’t. The complexity of the tax code isn’t caused by the differences between rich taxpayers and poor taxpayers. It’s caused by the differences between people who make their money through salaries and wages and people who make it through investments. What makes doing your taxes so complicated is the sheer number of places you can put your money and the fact that the code has to account for every one of them.

    If you want to simplify the tax code, you would have to make every form of income or investment that you didn’t want to deal with illegal so that the tax forms would not have to refer to them. (Mortgage-backed derivatives would be a good place to start if we were to go this route.)

    Having said that, a lot of the ignorance about the tax code that I have encountered is self-induced. At my last job, I had several co-workers who firmly believed that working overtime meant they were paying more in taxes than they earned for the work, because the amount deducted on that week’s paycheque went up, and I remember one guy asking to have his hours cut because he calculated that he was getting close to the next tax bracket and thought he would lose money if he went over the threshold. I’ve never seen an American tax form, but the page that handles the income brackets on the Canadian form is pretty well idiot-proofed.

    Unfortunately, as Douglas Adams (pbuh) once said, the mistake that everyone makes when they try to make something completely idiot-proof is to under-estimate the ingenuity of complete idiots.

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    Redshift says:

    @John O: But the point is that if you claim you want to simplify the tax code, hand-waving away all the difficult work on deductions that would actually simplify it and concentrating on your pet idea for flattening tax brackets, which does virtually nothing for simplification, is just intellectual wankery.

  70. 70
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Redshift: THIS.

  71. 71
    John O says:

    @Redshift:

    Ahhh, caught me just as I was catching a nod-off. I respectfully submit that a tax code without any deductions save for the one single one to keep it from regressivity (regressiveness?) is a more workable societal tool.

    One of the principles of any tax code is that everyone with basic math skills should be able to figure out everyone else’s tax nut.

    Down the road of deductions and all the fancy stuff the financiers have bought for themselves through our glorious electorate lies the madness that is what, 8X longer than the freaking Bible?

  72. 72
    John O says:

    And how does flattening tax brackets NOT make it more simple? Talk about wankery! Remember, the TOP bracket isn’t flat at all!

  73. 73
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Splitting Image:

    I had several co-workers who firmly believed that working overtime meant they were paying more in taxes than they earned for the work, because the amount deducted on that week’s paycheque went up, and I remember one guy asking to have his hours cut because he calculated that he was getting close to the next tax bracket and thought he would lose money if he went over the threshold.

    I’ve had this exact discussion numerous times with co-workers, and they still don’t believe me. This is another way conservatives convince voters that more tax brackets are bad and higher marginal rates will increase their taxes and not just the wealthy.

  74. 74
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @John O: How does one bring it about? People are invested in the system. They make life altering decisions based on it. If you change it, what happens to them?

    It is easy to design a system from scratch. In the real world, one doesn’t have that option.

  75. 75
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @John O: Either way, you’re just going to a table and finding the tax payment. More brackets, with increasing MARGINAL rates, makes a tax system progressive as opposed to regressive.

  76. 76
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: Actually adding a number of upper brackets would make a huge difference. $250,000 is much less than $25,000,000 as an income.

  77. 77
    burnspbesq says:

    TBogg has to come back for this.

    http://mobile.rawstory.com/the.....d010fe19/2

  78. 78
    burnspbesq says:

    @Redshift:

    The intellectual heavy lifting has been done.

    http://www.nytimes.com/roomfor.....tax-system

    What’s missing is the political will.

  79. 79
    burnspbesq says:

    ETA: if you insist on only having an income tax, Picketty and Saez’ work on the optimal top rate is required reading.

  80. 80
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Absolutely, I totally agree.

  81. 81
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @burnspbesq: I saw that in comments over at LGF. “Stay classy San Diego”.

  82. 82
    Barney says:

    I think English language media started paying attention in the spring of 2012, not the fall, when the police chief went to the US consulate saying Neil Heywood had been poisoned. You can see the headlines British news had in March and April 2012, for instance, here: http://www.itv.com/news/2012-0.....ans-death/

  83. 83
    magurakurin says:

    @John O:

    so, then the next time we see each other it will be in the Ministry of Love, I guess. whatever.

    It is more or less an insult to people who have actually had to live in a brutal police state to compare what the United States is now to that. Seriously. We’d all be in prison already. Hell, my weekly skype conversations with my friend in the States are without question being collected since I am oversees. Based on what we talk about alone, we would have been in irons years ago.

    The NSA needs more oversight, the FISA court needs strengthening, but going on with hyperbolic comments about how the US is a police state doesn’t really bolster one’s credibility in my opinion.

  84. 84
    debbie says:

    I just had an out-of-body experience. Maureen Dowd is defending Obama this morning.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08.....&_r=0

  85. 85
    gogol's wife says:

    I’m sorry I missed this thread although I know nothing about China — it’s just great to see a post about an important international issue other than the one that’s been done to death lately. Thanks! More of this please! It’s very interesting.

  86. 86
    Walker says:

    @John O:

    Spitting Image has it right. The brackets do not make taxes complicated. Brackets are something that you can put in a web page, like all those mortgage calculators, for people to see how the taxes are calculated. It is trivial.

    What makes taxes difficult is categorization. What did you make from wages? What did you make from dividends? What did you makes from capital gains? Is your S corporation involved in renewable energy activities?

    Simplifying brackets without simplifying categories with (1) not make things noticeably simple and (2) screw middle earners.

  87. 87
    debbie says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I drove a Fit and loved it. Small, but not cramped. The non-existent front end was a bit of a worry. I ended up going with a Civic because I needed a lease, which wasn’t offered for a Fit.

  88. 88
    burnspbesq says:

    @John O:

    Suggested read: “Perfectly Legal,” by David Kay Johnston, NYT beat writer on the finance side. You’ll want to scream.

    Everything Johnston has ever written is crap. His commitment to objectivity and professional standards in journalism is, shall we say, Greenwaldian.

  89. 89
    Dolly Llama says:

    @Suzanne:

    Might I just also note that I finally found a fluoride-free toothpaste that doesn’t make me wanna hurl.

    Might I ask why one would seek out such a thing?

  90. 90
    steverino says:

    Late-nit. I have read and re-read Stand On Zanzibar enough to know off the top of my head it was Bennie Noakes who endlessly watched TV while tripping, and said, “Christ, what an imagination I’ve got.” Including when he had no picture left but static “snow.”

    Not that it matters, but I have nothing to contribute on taxes so I do what I can…

  91. 91
    Anne Laurie says:

    @steverino: Isn’t there a scene at the end where Shalmaneser repeats Bennie’s favorite quote?

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