Book Analysis

We are big fans of Iceland: The place, the soccer team, and Arnaldur Indridason.

Sidebar: We saw the Iceland soccer team play a FiFA qualifier in Reykjavik in 2002 or so.  They tied an eastern European team, Romania, we think.  The echoing cheers of Is-land and the folks that looked like Vikings made the game great fun.  We enjoyed, on TV, their success at the recent European tournament.  End Sidebar.

Arnaldur has written many books about Inspector Erlendur but we just finished reading a stand alone book: Operation Napoleon written in 1999.  All the books are written in Icelandic and translated into British English.  It might be described a political fantasy that pokes fun at Americans and Icelanders alike.  What got our attention was this on page 50:

“They [American politicians] were always putting themselves centre-stage.  Especially Democrats, with their demands for open government, for having everything transparent and above board.”

When we first saw it we thought that Arnaldur was just another clueless European leftist but the rest of the book led us to believe he as capable of deeper insights.  We would like to ask him but we think it is tongue-in-cheek.  Remember that is was published in 1999 so it was written during the height of one of the Clinton scandals.  Democrats arguing for open government would have seem dated by then.  Certainly Obama has convinced everyone that the Venn Diagrams of open government and Democrats do not intersect.

Press And Tax Illiteracy

The Donald’s administration had to act on tax illiteracy as reported in the WSJ.  First, the administration said correctly:

When he was asked about tax incentives for retirement, Mr. Spicer said that the only deductions protected from repeal in a tax code overhaul were those for mortgage interest and charitable contributions.

But some tax illiterate reporters thought that this would endanger the tax status of 401-k plans.  So they needed to reiterate:

The administration clarified Mr. Spicer’s comments after the briefing, making clear no changes to 401(k)s and similar retirement accounts were proposed as part of Wednesday’s announcement. The breaks for 401(k)s aren’t technically deductions; contributions are excluded from the income-tax base. [Emphasis added]

Nope, they didn’t clarify Mr. Spicer’s comments.  They might have reiterated or explained them but there was nothing unclear about the first briefing.  The technically we bolded is simply an admission of error.  The sentence is more accurate without it.  We expect that the misunderstanding on the part of reporters is more likely to be foolishness rather than nastiness.


In the local paper today, it is not on their website, is the following headline:

Who Sends The Most Taxes To DC

With the following subheadline:

The Surprising Answer: It’s Not A State

The first paragraph:

As Tax Day approaches show some love for the good people [what about the folks who are not good?] who live in the nation’s capital.  [Because?]

They send the most money per capita to the US government.  Color us surprised.  Not.  Even if we weren’t informed it should be a logical guess that with all that tax and lobbying money going into DC that its denizens will be doing well.  How can anyone be surprised that the folks in DC are, on average, making big bucks.  As they quote somebody later, the reason they pay lots of taxes is that they are getting lots of dollars for income.  Big income means, on average, big taxes per capita.

Of course, the headline of most taxes and the switch of per person in the second paragraph are, at best, not very well thought out.  DC has a larger population than just two states.

Sidebar: Places with a small population are are likely to have the small and large per capita results because small numbers of observations means big variation.  If you don’t believe it [we say without even checking] then check the major league leaders as of today.  After about a dozen games there are strange results.  End Sidebar.

Fifteen states have ten times the population of DC.  Since only one state, West Virginia, pays less than one-tenth of DC then the headline is highly misleading.  Lots of states pay more in taxes then DC.  Per capita is a whole different thing.  We hope that the media remembers that when considering economics and unauthorized workers.  We doubt our hopes will be recognized.

There are no surprises here.


Press Bias Or JPS?

Press bias in the local paper is something we are used to.  We think that today’s reporting is more likely to be Just Plain Stupid (JPS) rather than bias.  The advisory referendum on yesterday’s ballot asks if we should increase the sales tax on tourist related items to, perhaps, pay for road repairs.  The local paper’s first paragraph reviewed the results and said:

Most La Crosse County voters support the idea of paying more in sales taxes to generate money to repair the county highway system.

They quote a supporter:

La Crosse County Board Chair Tara Johnson said she was pleasantly surprised at the referendum’s margin of victory, especially considering the push by the opposition in the past couple weeks.  “Nobody is jumping up and down and screaming for joy about a new local tax,” Johnson said.

It is technically a local tax but it is not a tax on locals.  It is a tax on tourists.  We suppose some locals will buy a cheesehead but it is an attempt to tax the folks that come to visit God’s Country (to be fair they use the roads too) rather than the local residents that use the roads more.  It is not surprise that residents picked somebody else to pick up the tab for local roads.  It is not something to be proud of got either the voters or the newspaper.

Poor Chelsea!

Jim Geraghty has an actual headline from the LA Times:

“Just like her mother, Chelsea Clinton never gets a break.”

The article has an even better quote:

But the laser-focused Chelsea vitriol is perplexing when it comes from the left. Shouldn’t such first-daughter hatred be reserved for Ivanka?

So why are folks upset with Chelsea?  Here is a quote from Oxford:

Her record at Stanford shows that she is a very well-qualified and able student. The college is also pleased to extend its link with the Clinton family.

That about sums it up.  Chelsea is a good student but lots of things come her way.  A job with NBC at $600 K.  Working for the [evil] family foundation.  Lots of people sell influence but it isn’t a popular job.



The Donald’s 2005 Taxes

The Daily Beast reports (h/t Jim Geraghrty):

 Trump’s 2005 return also shows that he’d continued to benefit from the roughly $916 million loss he reported in his 1995 return—published last year by The New York Times. Using a loophole Congress closed in 1996, Trump converted that loss into a tax credit for the same amount he could offset against income.  Emphasis added.

Jim has the same Daily Beast quote.  We went to the source to make sure they hadn’t tried explain the bold section elsewhere.  We have made bold the phrase we’d like to talk about.  First, loss carry back (a great horse) and carry forward, seem a matter of fairness to us.  If you make a million in 2017 after losing a million in 2016 you have not made a profit for the two years combined.  Fairness suggests you should pay no taxes over the two years.  That is what the “loophole” allows.

Was the loophole closed in 1996?  It seems obvious that it wasn’t if The Donald was using it in 2005.  Well it was adjusted:

The Net Operating Loss (NOL) carry-back and carry-forward periods have been changed. Under the new law, the carry-back period is now reduced to 2 years. The carry-forward period is increased to 20 years. This change is affective for tax years beginning after August 5, 1997.

It was not eliminated.  One part was reduced and the other was increased.  It is the kind of biased reporting we expect today.



Resumes Versus Interview

We are fans of resumes and hardly ever impressed by interviews.  We like the paper trail.  In retirement we contacted a former colleague on a search and screen committee at the University.  Because we like resumes, we reviewed the finalists and sent our comments.  The response was that we showed understanding at a distance.  It might be just puffery but we took it as a complement.

Given our outlook it is not surprising that we didn’t watch the The Donald quasi state of the union speech.  We haven’t watched anybody’s speech in a long time.  We don’t watch speeches because we don’t like them and don’t have expertise at evaluating them.  But we are interested in responses.  There are many positive responses from a variety of individuals.  The conservatives didn’t really like it because it wasn’t conservative.  Because it wasn’t conservative it got at least a mixed review from the other side of the aisle.

The potentially positive result is that The Donald will be seen as what the previous president falsely claimed to be, a non-ideological problem solver.  The Donald is starting to building up a positive paper trail to support such a claim.  Although we would prefer a conservative, we think that such an individual is appropriate following such an ideologically driven predicessor as The Donald does.  Despite our disagreements we continue to support him and wish him well.  We will evaluate him when the paper trail is evident.