And other observations.
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‘Shut Up,’ She Explained
Elizabeth Warren — the ridiculous hustling flatbilly grifter from Massachusetts from Oklahoma who snookered the academic establishment by pretending to be a Native American while writing dopey self-help books that are so sloppy and intellectually dishonest that it’s a surprise skeezy old Joe Biden hasn’t plagiarized them yet, a political grotesque who prides herself on being in the first generation of her family to attend college but rage-tweets as though she were in the first generation in her family with opposable thumbs, as ghastly and deceitful and god-awful a sniveling and self-serving a creature as the United States Congress has to offer — is, in spite of the genuine facts of her sorry case, getting a little full of herself, and believes that as a senator, she should be above the petty “heckling” of the little people
You know, peons. Like you.
Sometimes, they mess up and tell you what they are thinking. And what Senator Warren is thinking is: “Shut up, or I’ll use the power of my office to shut you up.”
At issue is the senator’s recent social-media spat with Amazon. Because Senator Warren is as dreadfully predictable as a chlamydia outbreak in West Roxbury, you can imagine the insipidity of her complaint: “Blah blah blah, fair share, higher taxes on everybody except important hometown business interests and rich liberals in Cambridge, blah blah blah, Amazon.” Etc.
To which Amazon offered a perfectly sensible response, if I may paraphrase: “You’re in the Senate, you ridiculous ninny — and you are even on the freakin’ committee that writes tax legislation. You got a problem with tax law? We know a counterfeit Cherokee princess repping Massachusetts you might want to have a quiet word in private with.”
(My words, not theirs. Should have been theirs, though.)
Senator Warren, because dishonesty is her reflexive instinct (remember that bullsh** made-up story about being fired from a teaching job for being pregnant?), protested: “I didn’t write the loopholes you exploit.”
Well, senator . . . this is going to be kind of awkward!
Do you know what another word for “loophole” is? Law. Loopholes aren’t manufactured at some overseas sweatshop loophole factory operated by Charles Koch’s evil cousin Skippy — they are manufactured right there in the august body that is the United States Senate Committee on Finance, of which Senator Elizabeth Warren is, insanely enough, an actual member. She may as well have a sign on her door reading “Loopholes ’R’ Us.”
This is Senator Warren’s mess. Jeff Bezos just pays the bills.
And, of course, “loopholes” aren’t really loopholes. “Loopholes” are what useless low-minded demagogues call intentionally designed features of the tax code when they are being used by somebody it is politically convenient to attack. We see this year after year after excruciatingly stupid year: Somebody with big ideas about spurring blue-collar employment proposes a tax subsidy for politically connected manufacturers, and then two years later bitches that tax subsidies are being used by politically connected manufacturers. Because we tax businesses on their profits rather than on their cashflow, ordinary expenses are deducted from taxable income — and politicians bitch about businesses getting to deduct expenses resulting from business decisions the politicians don’t like. An endless cycle of asininity, over and over and over.
Amazon’s strategy for minimizing taxes on its profits is indeed a devious one: not making very much money. Amazon routinely posts quite low profit margins: Last year’s 5.5 percent, modest by the standards of an Apple or a Google, was unusually high for Amazon, and in many years Amazon has reported no profit at all or almost none, choosing to reinvest its income into the business — you know, that chronic capitalist short-termism we’re always hearing about.
That’s not a loophole. That’s how basic U.S. corporate-tax law works.
It doesn’t have to work that way, of course: Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House, too, and there isn’t anything stopping them from passing a big fat progressive tax-reform bill that raises corporate taxes and capital-gains taxes to 65 percent, that radically narrows the deductibility of business expenses, whatever.
Go ahead. Should be fun to watch.
But this isn’t about taxes. This is about power.
Senator Warren has informed Amazon that she intends to — her words, here — “break up Big Tech so that you’re not powerful enough to heckle senators.” If the people of Massachusetts had any self-respect, they’d remove her from office over that threat.
(If the people of Massachusetts had any self-respect, they wouldn’t be the people of Massachusetts, so she’s probably safe.)
But allow Professor Williamson to give Professor Warren a little civics refresher: Here in the United States, we have a nifty thing called the Bill of Rights, which means that everybody — everybody — is powerful enough to heckle a senator. It goes with the job you effin’ dolt. (See? Heckling is easy!) This isn’t North Korea or Venezuela or East Germany — not yet! — where people have to be afraid of criticizing those who hold government office. The fact that Senator Warren so obviously wishes that it were so is a real good reason to retire her pronto.
Heckling pissant politicians is our national pastime. It’s what we do. We have a word for the kind of society in which those without power are too terrified of those with power to criticize them: tyranny.
And tyranny is what Senator Warren plainly desires — if we take her at her own word. Of course, there are lots of reasons not to take her at her own word, beginning with the fact that she is a habitual liar.
If Senator Warren weren’t dumber than nine chickens and as useless as teats on a boar hog, it would be genuinely surprising that she would put this political extortion threat into writing and publish it. Because that is what she is doing and what must be understood: Senator Warren is threatening to use the power of her office to impose economic sanctions on Americans to keep them from publicly criticizing her. I don’t have any particular sympathy for the recreant techno-bullies over in Jeff Bezos’s shop — I think it is just damned weird that our nation’s biggest bookseller is also our premier book-banner — but once you accept this kind of abuse of political power, it’s a short route to chaos.
This is, in fact, precisely the kind of thing the Democrats impeached Donald Trump over: the abuse of official power. Senator Warren “has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-government and the rule of law.”
We have the senator’s own word on what must follow from that.
And it involves more than heckling.
Words About Words
What exactly is a loophole, in the non-metaphorical sense? It is a balistraria, which is to say, an embrasure or crenelle, as the space between two merlons traditionally is called.
No? Not helping?
A loophole is a slit or other opening in a castle’s battlements through which archers of old could fire arrows or that defenders could use for other purposes, such as pouring burning pitch down on invaders. There seems to have been some cross-linguistic fertilization going on, with the Middle English loop (window) and the Dutch loop (to run or jump, related to leap and lap) playing off one another. Macmillan reports:
The “modern” meaning of loophole is itself over 300 years old, but it’s not entirely clear how we get from a narrow window in a castle to an omission — in a law or contract, for example — that provides an opportunity for evading its intended purpose. The consensus seems to be that the current use developed not from Middle English loop (a window) but from Dutch loop (which is related to the verb loopen, meaning “to run”), and from the now obsolete Dutch word loopgat, which was a hole through which someone or something could “run away” or escape. Somehow this concept — which is also reflected in loophole’s near-synonym escape clause — attached itself to the existing word loophole, and it’s easy to see why. The loopholes in a castle give you an advantage over your adversary, and so — potentially — do the loopholes in a law or contract.
Increasingly, figures such as Senator Warren use loophole to mean, “a feature of the law that is inconvenient for me politically but which I lack the courage, conviction, or intelligence to change.”
A reader writes to draw attention to the frequent mispronunciation of Realtor as “re-Al-it-tor,” which is what you become if you have a gauntlet with the Reality Stone in it. (Too soon?) Funny thing about Realtor — if you fail to capitalize it, you will sometimes get a note gently reminding you that it is a registered trademark that should be used only to refer to a member of the National Association of Realtors. They get pretty ridiculous about this:
As a REALTOR®, you can use the REALTOR® membership mark to help identify yourself as a member of the National Association of REALTORS®. To help protect the power the NAR brand, please read and follow our guidelines once you’ve selected the logo you want to use.
Any time you feel the need to write frequently in all-caps and use the ® three times in a short paragraph, you are engaged in very bad writing and should stop immediately.
But the underlying point is a valid one: When trademarks go into common generic usage, trademark owners can lose their legal rights. Aspirin, for example, used to be a registered trademark. (So did Heroin, but nobody much wants that one anymore!) The makers of Levi’s jeans, Xerox photocopiers, Dumpster-brand trash receptacles, etc., used to send newspaper editors irritated letters if they saw, e.g., xeroxed used as a generic term for photocopied. By way of comparison, Alphabet seems perfectly contented for google to be a synonym for search. Other common words in this category, some of which are still very much contested as exclusive intellectual property, include teleprompter (a product of the TelePrompTer Corp.) cellophane, trampoline, escalator, dry ice, laundromat, zipper, adrenaline, frisbee, jacuzzi, jet-ski, and memory stick.
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In Other News . . .
The People demand it, so here is a Katy-and-Pancake update. As you can see, Katy objects to Pancake’s presence a bit less than she used to, although she’s still pretty growly.
Pancake has about doubled in size in only a few short weeks. She is still unfortunately unclear about the distinction between outside and inside but seems to have figured out that she isn’t going to get breakfast until 5 a.m. even if we get up at 4:30 a.m. Dachshunds are not very smart dogs, but they do have priorities, and breakfast is the main one for Katy and Pancake both.
Katy is pretty mellow, but the littler puppy is a vicious little beast, ripping the stuffing out of her toys and doing some considerable violence to the rugs. Hence she is to be known as Pancake the Destroyer. Witness the decapitation of Lammy.
Please do take the time to heckle your senators regularly. It is more important than voting.
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