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In defense of Vernon Dursley

Vernon Dursley is one of the cruelist characters in the Harry Potter series. He treated Harry horribly, he hates magic, doesn't like anything that isn't "normal". JKR has said that Dudley couldn't have a child that is a Wizard because nothing related to magic could flow from his lineage.

Forgive me, but I think she's wrong. Because he's got one redeeming factor. It's a huge redeeming factor in this universe. It's love.

Vernon loves his wife greatly, and she loves him. He loves his son, though he expresses it poorly and spoils the boy. In the first volume, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when Hagrid breaks into the hut on the island, Mr. Dursley stands in front of his family, hiding them from this apparently threat (not quite successfully for Dudley). He fears magic, but he wants to make sure that anything done hits him first.

Let's turn the story around Vernon's standpoint. He met this woman, and fell in love with her. He lives a quiet normal life and expects to continue living it. Yet when Petunia tells him about her very very non-normal sister, he doesn't storm out demanding Petunia never see him again. He accepts Petunia. Meeting the husband of her sister goes badly, he doesn't understand what is going on in this man's life (and I find it unlikely the leader of the Marauders wouldn't have pulled off something on him). He loves Petunia, but he hates magic, he finds it terrible. And he really hates James.

Then, on November 1, the day after Halloween - a child is left at their doorway. The son of Petunia's weird sister and her terrible husband. There's a note included saying that their parents were killed by magic (magic's no good, just like I always thought) and that the boy will grow up to be a wizard. The rational thing for Vernon to do is insist that the boy be dropped off at an orphanage, let them deal with the risks of a magical boy. But no, it is Petunia's relative, so they raise him.

Strange things do happen around the boy growing up, the boy was becoming one of those terrible wizards. He made the window go away and risked the life of their dear boy! And soon after the boy uses his magic to threaten his boy, letters come to ask the boy to come to Hogwarts. No, absolutely not.

They try to avoid the letters (why can't they accept NO for an answer), go to an island, and this giant breaks down their door, threatens the family, gives Dudley a pig's tail, and then takes their boat leaving them stranded on the island. Nothing there to make him feel better about magic.

Then there's a FLYING CAR AT HIS PROPERTY that can be SEEN, ripping out the bars he put in. Destructive magic.

His nephew turns his sister into a balloon and THREATENS HIM!

In Goblet of Fire, the ruddy magicians blow apart his living room!

There's nothing in Vernon Dursley's life to make him think better of magic in all of his encounters. (Conceivably, that could change while he's on the run with his family in Deathly Hallows, just as Dudley came around once he realized Harry had saved his life.) That nephew has been a constant problem, disordering his nice ordered life and causing problem after problem.

And he keeps his nephew anyway. Probably at the insistance of Petunia, but he keeps his nephew. He puts up with all of it.

That is love.

No, I am not saying he is a good man. He can be cruel, he has very little imagination. He has no tolerance for things that don't fit in his ordered life. But he has love. Tom Riddle's story makes it clear that the ability to love is what makes one redeemable.

If I could talk/bribe JKR into writing one more story in the Harry Potter timeline, it would be to know what happened in Deathly Hallows when they were on the run. He'd have to see magic being used to protect, to serve, to do good things. He'd have close and continuing contact with two wizards who were risking their lives to protect his family. I think he'd still like his ordered life (without magic, thank you very much), but I think he'd also appreciate that there are good wizards who kept his family alive.

Posted on October 15, 2017, 6:05 am
Last updated on October 15, 2017, 8:58 am

Donald Brown

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Tax Plan (revised)

Trump's minions are out lying about his tax plan. So here's one that would do much of what he's claiming.

First, double standard deduction. That can simplify a lot of people's taxes. As for other deductions, we can discuss, but they were put in place because standard deductions don't always accurately reflect someone's available income. State and Local tax deduction stays - no one should be required to pay a tax on a tax.

Corporate Tax Rates - Right now federate corporate tax rates vary from 15% to 35%. I'm very much open to changing the income levels where the the various rates hit (if you're earning less than 100,000 in a business, 15% is very reasonable). But cutting them all to 20% is unreasonable, and excessive. Politics being the art of the possible, I'd be willing to cut it to 32%/33%, something in that range.

Non-corporate business taxes, also known as "pass-through" rates. Trump actually has a bit of a point, that small businesses often use pass-through rates and that they can be a real impediment to doing business. But, not all pass-through businesses are small. So, have a special tax table for pass-through businesses. Simple solution: same tax table as Corporate tax Rates.

Alternate Minimum Tax - it says, though I wouldn't be opposed to tweaking the income levels and rates.

Capital Gains: Long Term gains will be defined as capital goods purchased more than 5 years ago - this will be phased in (2 years in 2018, 3 in 2019, etc). Long term rate remains at 15%. Short term gains are treated as normal income.

Personal Tax Rates: (This is changed from the first publication). All current tax rates are cut by 20% (rounding up to a tenth of a percentage point). So the 35% tax rate goes to 28%, current top rate of of 39.6% becomes 31.7%.  BUT...

  • New bracket, for income over $600,000 - 50% - relive the great old days of Reagan
  • Another, for income over $1,000,000 - 70% - remember the great days of Camelot?
  • Final bracket, income over 10,000,000 - 90% - Everyone loved the 50s!

(Note: for those not aware, this means 50% of income AFTER the first $600,000, 70% of income AFTER the first million, etc.)

Also, three huge new tax deductions.

  1. Money invested in a new business in a way that they cannot take it back is fully deductable INCLUDING from AMT calculations. If you pay a year's rent for a building, purchase equipment, etc. - both a personal deduction AND a company deduction.
  2. For the first ten years of a new company doing regular business, the tax is prorated: 0% first year, 10% second, 20% third, etc.
  3. Major expansions/new divisions can apply for the same discounted tax of that portion of the business as above for new businesses. 

(Those will require technical skill in writing to be sure that it cannot be abused by creating a "new business" that is actually an old business)

Estate Tax: Covered elsewhere. Converts tax on estate into income for recipients, capital goods are acquired with a basis of 0. Taxes paid when sold, but nothing need be sold to pay taxes.

Great deal of negotiation to be done, and neither side is getting everything they want. But this would be a rational bit of tax reform without throwing money at the rich.

Posted on October 1, 2017, 10:48 am
Last updated on October 8, 2017, 4:12 pm

Donald Brown

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Immigration Plan

McConnell challenged Trump to provide his plan. Well, I'm not him (a fact I think the Lord for daily), but how's this.

(1) We restore DACA as it was under the executive branch, with one exception. On the fifth renewal, they get a green card and can apply for citizenship. This means that, five times, they've passed the background check that they don't have a criminal background. They aren't living on the public dime. They've shown themselves to be good productive citizens, so let's make them that.

(1a) We can put in some public service into the plan if necessary. Serve in the military or some other system of giving to the community with service. Oh, those who were out rescuing people from Hurricanes in Harvey and Florida - they've fullfilled that requirement.

(2) We do a significant boost to the budgets for the border patrol and coast guard, and determine if ICE needs a budgetary boost. (Yes, immigrants do come in boats.)

(3) We budget one million dollars towards the development of a virtual wall. Cameras, radar, ground sensors - and stations for quick response. This should be FAR more cost-effective than the physical wall, won't interfere with migration, can share land with ranchers whos land would be taken away for the wall, and actually be more actually effective against things like ladders, tunnels, balloons, drones, and so forth. We'll still call it a wall, so you know who can brag that he did build a wall.

(3a) Anyone suggesting land-mines shall go to the nearest blackboard and write one million times, "I will not be evil".

Simple. Win win win. Anti-immigration people get increased budgets to stop it, and a cost-effective way to catch them without wrecking the economy, the ecology, or stealing people's land. Pro-immigration people get DACA, no budget-busting physical wall - and something to build upon.

And the third win? Trump gets a win to notch in his pocket, gets a practical wall so that's another success, and actually looks human.

Posted on September 14, 2017, 10:16 pm

Donald Brown

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Let's compare private vs. public

Whenever universal or single payer health care is mentioned, those on the right always say "Oh, it'll be terrible, free market always better!". So let's do a test. Here's my replacement for the ACA

(a) We're going to start with doubling the expansion of Medicaid, paid for with other savings from ACA and, if necessary, excise taxes on pharmaceutical company profits. This doubling may not be necessary going forward, but we're priming the pump.

(b) Under the ACA, those up to 250% of the poverty line are eligible for Medicaid coverage. Those people will remain covered. For those above 250% of the poverty line, people may purchase Medicaid coverage. The rate will be the average cost for covering per person, plus 10%. However, a person's (or family's) premium will be capped at 10% of their after-tax income.

(c) Six months after this program is enacted, much of the ACA (other than the expansion of Medicaid) ends. No more subsidies, no more required benefits, no more requirement to set premiums based on cost.

(d) Two requirements will be added to nationwide private health insurance policies. (1) Every plan must have a consumer-friendly clear-text description of exactly what is and isn't covered. (2) No more lifetime caps. Instead, insurance companies may specify a cap (cannot be less than one million dollars) which, when reached, increases the normal premium (up to an additional 100%).

(e) After a year, additional services will be added to Medicaid to cover missing aspects (dental care, eyeglasses, etc.)

It won't be a full check of single payer (no mandates so those temporarily healthy may not by in at all), but at least a check of "can the government provide good health care". So what do you say, Republicans, want to prove what you've claimed?

Posted on July 21, 2017, 4:01 pm

Donald Brown

It's time to federalize elections

OK, the Resident in the White House is all concerned about voter fraud because that special snowflake just couldn't have gotten fewer votes than Hillary, he just couldn't have!

Very well, time to federalize elections involving candidates for the US Government (President, Senator, House of Representatives) - and might as well have the state elections handled as well. Here's what I'd do.

(1) National ID card, done in a way that any citizen can get one. By that I mean, in every community, there will be opportunities to get the card without losing a day or two of wages, liberal proof needed to get one (basically, needs to be proven you aren't a citizen to be denied one, rather than you must prove you are a citizen to get one). Frankly, I'd do without it, but that's not going to fly so we need an ID done right in a way that isn't discriminatory.

(1a) The National ID card has a strip readable by a computer. You can vote anywhere and you will get your local ballot, at least for the federal offices. This system will make sure that the same card can't be used in multiple places. If someone moves, a simple system of changing their stored "home" location will be provided.

(1b) Should a holder of a National ID card later be determined not to be a legal voter, their card will be voided and no longer able to be used for voting.

(2) Every community gets enough voting places that nobody has to take a long trip to get to their voting place, enough that long lines aren't required. The polls will be open from Sunday at 6pm local time through Tuesday at 6pm local time. All voting at booths will be done with marked paper ballots which are electronically read and counted. The paper ballots must be preserved for 5 years after an election. Early voting will be provided at times appropriate to the communities served. Absentee voting will also be allowed.

(3) For the Presidency, electoral college votes will be distributed in this way: The person winning the most votes in the state gets two electors. Each congressional district is counted separately and the candidate getting the most votes in that district gets one elector.

(4) The US Geological Survey will be responsible for the drawing of all Congressional districts, to ensure that all districts are drawn without political bias. A set of standards will be drawn up and approved by a bipartisan commission, the USGS will apply those standards to draw the districts.

See? All possibility of voter fraud removed. And in the process we get fairer elections. Exactly what Trump and the Republicans want, right?

Posted on January 25, 2017, 2:55 pm

Donald Brown

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