Never mind the tumbrels, bring on the lawyers

Here’s an interesting tactic for destroying billionaires: sue them for cheating. You can’t get that rich without stealing the money somehow, so if you find evidence of tax fraud, sic a bunch of ravening lawyers on them. Michael Saylor is finding that out.

Michael Saylor amassed a multibillion-dollar fortune, splurging to combine three Georgetown penthouses into a palatial 7,000-square-foot residence, snapping up a 154-foot yacht dubbed Mr. Terrible and throwing lavish soirees including one where he was draped with an albino python.

All the while, the tech titan did not pay income tax in the District for years and bragged about it to friends, anonymous whistleblowers allege. They said he told people they were “fools” if they did not buy a home in Florida as he did and claim to live there. The state has no income tax.

He’s rich. He flaunts it. He owns 5 yachts and multiple mansions. He doesn’t pay any taxes because he’s found loopholes, such as by buying a mansion in Florida (no income tax in Florida!) and then claiming that’s his primary residence. By enforcing tax laws, people can claw back a fraction of his ill-gotten wealth, at least.

The key to forcing a billionaire to cough up is to enable citizens to hunt him down and cut a bounty out of his hide.

All told, Racine alleges Saylor failed to pay at least $25 million in income taxes, but he could owe much more. D.C. law allows the city to collect triple the owed amount in damages, along with assorted interest, fees and penalties. Racine said in the interview he hopes to recover more than $100 million from Saylor. The whistleblowers would keep 15 to 25 percent if and when any money is recovered.

It’s all down to a new law in Washington DC.

These False Claims Act laws are modeled on a Civil War-era federal statute that has helped return billions to federal coffers, but the federal law bars action on tax fraud, and most states have followed that lead in their statutes.

D.C. switched that up with its new False Claims Act, which went into effect in 2021 and allows whistleblowers to pursue cases in which the alleged fraudster has income of more than $1 million and damages collected will exceed $350,000. At first it was little known outside wonky tax circles.

They’re going to have to work fast, though, because Saylor’s wealth is built on cryptocurrency, and has repeatedly vaporized. Crypto is currently facing its own reckoning, and Saylor lost $1.4 billion just recently. They might end up dragging a pauper into court.

That’s the real crime, not only tax dodging but making all of his money with this venal Ponzi scheme called bitcoin. That’s the greater crime, that crypto is a tool for scraping money out of gullible investors — and PENSION FUNDS???? Jesus. I would hope my pension isn’t being thrown away on something like that.

In October 2021, one of Quebec’s largest pension funds — the Caisse de Depot et Placement du Québec — invested $150 million into the crypto-lending company called the Celsius Network — which may now be facing bankruptcy.

That same month, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) announced its investment in FTX Trading Ltd, supplying at least $50 million into a meme-inspired fundraising round — raising $420.69 million from 69 investors. FTX hasn’t crashed like Celsius Network just yet, but the investment is putting teacher pensions in danger.

That quote is from July. FTX recently crashed, as expected. Sorry, Ontario teachers.

Talking about evidence

Have you ever noticed that Christians and creationists have a weird obsession with something they clearly don’t understand? Josh McDowell, J. Warner Wallace, Lee Strobel…they’ve built careers around writing books that purport to provide “evidence” for Jesus, yet when you look at the cases they make, they fall apart pathetically. Let’s talk about what good evidence is on Thursday.

But what if all of my students are hot?

They are, every single one of them. Even the ones I don’t see because they’re just a black rectangle on Zoom. Apparently, though, attractive girls’ grades suffered when we moved to online courses because they couldn’t appeal to professor’s biases.

It’s a garbage study, though, as Rebecca Watson explains. The paper claims that…

As education moved online following the onset of the pandemic, the grades of attractive female students deteriorated. This finding implies that the female beauty premium observed when education is in-person is likely to be chiefly a consequence of discrimination. On the contrary, for male students, there was still a significant beauty premium even after the introduction of online teaching. The latter finding suggests that for males in particular, beauty can be a productivity-enhancing attribute.

I don’t understand the mechanism behind that — so we have some kind of radar that senses hot men even over wi-fi, but that fails when we try to detect hot women? How is “beauty” a productivity-enhancing attribute?

Did the author consider the possibility that all of our students and professors have been experiencing great strains over the last few years? Deciding that the one decisive parameter was what they look like seems exceptionally reductive.

Then I had to wonder how the scored “beauty”, and it turns out the author just scavenged up photos on social media, had a couple of students look at them, and rate them. This seems rather arbitrary, and dependent on biases by the judges, as well as accidents of photography. I know I hate it when people take candid shots of my face before I’ve put my makeup on, and also, I don’t know about you, but I automatically deduct 2 points from any photo in which the subject is making pouty duck lips. Sorry.

Final gross error: he included enough detail about the subjects that they could in some cases tell what their score was…and their grades. Oh, and big problem, there was no informed consent, none of the students knew they had been incorporated into this “study”.

The author, Adrian Mehic, is an economist, so I’d already be suspicious of his psychological/sociological study, but the ethics violations and the ridiculous conclusion he draws (“attractive women get better grades because they’re being unfairly advantaged”) confirms that this is a dumpster fire of a paper, constructed out of a thoroughly p-hacked grab bag of fuzzy data.

Get your flu shot

The omens suggest it’s going to be a rough season.

Flu season is here — and early red flags suggest it’s on track to be very, very bad. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Flu View report show extraordinarily high numbers of positive flu tests reported to the agency from labs around the US. As of November 5, nearly 14,000 positive flu tests had been reported, as shown in the orange line on the below chart. That’s more than 12 times the number reported at the same time in 2019 (shown in the black line).

Combined with COVID-19 and RSV, I’m anticipating a lot of hospitals are going to be clogged up, so don’t get sick for any reason. Just stay healthy. Vaccines will help.

You know what else would help? Masking. That seems to be a lost cause right now, unfortunately.

Wow, I guess that last election was more devastating than I thought

I thought the 2022 elections were rather good news, not great, but the Democrats did a little better than expected, and there’s some faint hope that our “liberal” party was going to wake up to the importance of talking about the issues that matter. We didn’t dig ourselves into a deeper hole, and maybe, if we keep working at it, we can someday reverse the descent that began in the 1980s.

Alas, poor Michael Voris. He has taken the outcome hard. Now he declares that the four pillars of his worldview — America, the Military, Notre Dame, and the Church — have been shattered. His hate group, the Church Militant will persevere, but he’s fighting a rear-guard action while playing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” as we slide down the slippery (lubricated with gay lube and the blood of babies) slope to Hell, all because the Republicans failed to take the senate this time.

[cue Sad Trombone and teeny-tiny violin]

Look on the bright side, Michael. He announced a while back that he’d lived the wild life in his thirties, and made a public confession.

Whatever the matter, I will now reveal that for most of my years in my thirties, confused about my own sexuality, I lived a life of live-in relationships with homosexual men. From the outside, I lived the lifestyle and contributed to scandal in addition to the sexual sins. On the inside, I was deeply conflicted about all of it. In a large portion of my twenties, I also had frequent sexual liaisons with both adult men and adult women.

He consecrated specifically my chastity to Our Blessed Mother. Well, there’s no point to that anymore, America is dead, the military is full of liberals, Notre Dame has become theologically insane, and the church is corrupt, so get out there and party like a mad man!

Billionaires aren’t real

They are especially unreal if their fortune was built on cryptocurrency and NFTs. One of the big players was this curly-haired guy, Sam Bankman-Fried, whose wealth has experienced a catastrophic roller coaster ride.

Sam Bankman-Fried’s fortune has been erased as his assets become essentially worthless, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index.

And that came before FTX and its affiliates filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy early Friday.

At its peak, his net worth was $26 billion and still stood at $16 billion on Monday. But by Wednesday it had shriveled to $1 billion, according to Bloomberg.

By late Thursday, it was gone. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index put the value of FTX’s US business at just $1 — down from $8 billion after a January fundraising round — due to a potential trading halt. Bankman-Fried owns roughly 70% of FTX US.

In addition, his $500 million in Robinhood stock was stripped from his net worth figure after Reuters reported it was held by Alameda Research, the crypto trading firm he founded, and may have been used as collateral for loans.

Earlier in the week, Bloomberg had assigned a $1 valuation to Alameda. On Thursday, Bankman-Fried said he is shutting down Alameda.

That’s amazing. $26 billion just evaporated into thin air. He’d spent millions putting his company name on sports arenas and teams before everything went poof, and he had to have known the company was worthless. So much jiggery-pokery was going on to prop up an empty shell, and now it has all collapsed. It does my heart good.

Next billionaire on the chopping block: Elon Musk. He’s desperately flailing about, selling off Tesla stock to keep his latest acquisition afloat, and it should be obvious to everyone by now that he’s an incompetent businessmen, a bad clown juggling his inherited wealth clumsily to acquire an unwarranted reputation and an inflated net worth. The ongoing Twitter debacle is illustrating that in a spectacular fashion.

The bad news is that I can’t quit Twitter now. I have to stick with it to watch the final explosion, all while waving my cowboy hat and going “Yeeee-haaaww!”. It’s going to be glorious.

Then, after I get my next game life, I wanna watch Mark Zuckerberg fold with a piteous whimper.

You can see with a glance where people are dying

I just discovered Liveuamap, a service that compiles ongoing reports from the war in Ukraine and plots them on a map. It seems to have a Ukrainian bias, which is OK, I guess, if you look at it as a representation of where the fighting is going on, but it’s also depressing when you’re looking at it and suddenly an icon of a bomb pops up with a label like “6 people killed as result of Russian missile strike at residential house in Mykolaiv”. What a godawful waste.

Ukraine does seem to be winning in the south, for now…where “winning” means lots of people on both sides dying in ferocious combat.