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Comment: How I stopped hating tax and learned to love it (Score 2) 322

by Jodka (#49189803) Attached to: French Nuclear Industry In Turmoil As Manufacturer Buckles

Those dangers pale to uncertainty and mismanagement caused by political instead of scientific evidence and method based environments.

Other energy sources would be vastly more costly if their waste products weren't already grandfathered in to the public mindset and their true impacts to safety and environmental impact (which is far more spread out than the catastrophic results failures induced by idiocy and insanity cause newer power sources) were actually measured and factored in to the comparison.

Bingo, we have winner there. So if governments internalized externalities by charging polluters to pollute, making the price of coal reflect its true cost, then the price of nuclear energy would be more favorable in comparison than now. Without those conditions, we are now all subsidizing the most polluting forms of energy generation, such as coal, by making polluting free.

I know the free market libertarian types will scream bloody murder about the proposal that pollution be taxed, just because it is a tax and they reflexively hate all taxes. But hold on you free market libertarian type people! If the government returned payments from polluters directly to the public in the form of checks, instead of letting the crooks who run our government squander it, then the net tax rate would be zero because the total tax dollars collected from polluters would equal the total tax dollars returned to the public. There is a redistributionary aspect to this tax, and those are typically regarded as a bad because they create price distortions. But in this case it is a good because it corrects, not creates, a price distortion by redistributing dollars away from polluters in proportion to the cost of their polluting.

There is a noteworthy point there: taxation is not a burden. The burden of Government is not taxation but instead spending inefficiency. Consider the following: You can go to the grocery store and pay $2.00 to buy a bag of onions. Alternatively, the government can tax you $2.00 and provide you bag the same bag of onions. The tax payer is rationally indifferent to those alternatives, therefore the tax is not a burden to the tax payer. What makes government a burden is spending inefficiency: In actuality, the government taxes you $2.00 and instead of giving you $2.00 worth onions it buys a tobacco farmer subsidy, anti-marijuana law enforcement, spyware to read your e-mail, and corporate welfare in the form of bad loans to Solyndra or some other boondoggle. What fraction does go to anything which is of value to the public, such as perhaps housing, is filtered through government contractors who capture most of the dollars for themselves and creates unemployment by offering an incentive to not work.

Because the public would pay money for the government not to do some of those things government spending efficiency can be negative. For example, with low government spending efficiency the cost to the tax payer of a $2.00 tax could be $3.00 if the government uses its $2.00 to purchase $1.00 worth of harm to the taxpayer. With high government spending efficiency, the cost to the tax payer of a $2.00 tax could be $-1.00, that is, the tax payer gives up two dollars but gains $3.00. In practice that does not happen. If it did then Wall Street investors would all have been replaced by government bureaucrats, if they can earn that rate of return.

So if the government both taxes pollution and returns the tax revenues to the public as dollars then taxation is not a net social burden. And the reduction in pollution is a net social benefit.

Comment: Re:Lots of weird crap coming out of Congress latel (Score 1) 400

by Jodka (#49185735) Attached to: White House Threatens Veto Over EPA "Secret Science" Bills

...The (Republican) backers response? Apparently they think participants/Patients should sign a waiver agreeing that the raw study data might be made public, or they can simply choose not to participate in the study.

Oh come on moderators! That is false, false, false false. It does not deserve the +5 informative.

As many other posts here have correctly pointed out, there is no such requirement for a signed a waiver. According to HIPAA patient data can be published if it is stripped of personal identifying information such as names and soc. numbers. The falsehood that the Democrats are pushing is that research data must be either kept secret from the public or that, impractically, the personal identifying information must be publicly released with signed waivers.

This is about government officials trying to avoid public accountability by keeping secrets. Please stop enabling that by modding up propaganda.

Comment: What about the public? (Score 5, Interesting) 131

by Jodka (#49172593) Attached to: Supreme Court Gives Tacit Approval To Warrantless DNA Collection

So does this ruling apply to the public or only to government?

For example, could I legally collect Elizabeth Warren's "inadvertently shed" DNA and have it tested to find out if she really has a Native American ancestor?

If this is something only the government can do legally, then what law gives them but not me the right to collect other people's DNA and have it analyzed without their permission?

More to the point, is there any law preventing me or anyone else from doing this right now? I can see James O'Keefe with a cotton swab and vial chasing Elizabeth Warren across the Harvard campus.

Comment: Amazing (Score 2) 73

by Jodka (#49068313) Attached to: Cellphone Start-Ups Handle Calls With Wi-Fi

from the summary:

"There are just so many places where Wi-Fi doesn't reach," says Jan Dawson "and the quality of Wi-Fi that you can find is often subpar."

I bought the Republic first-generation Android Moto X phone about a year ago and have used their 4G/$40.00 a month plan since. The only wireless networks which I connect to are my home network, work network, and free networks in airports and hotels when I travel. Republic will throttle the data rate if I exceed 5GB of cell data usage in one billing period, about a month.

So now for the million dollar question: Does that work? With only those connection, do I break the caps because too much of my data travels over cell towers instead of wifi? Ya, it works. I never get even close to the caps. Partly this is because the phone is smart about deferring low-priority high-bandwidth tasks until it picks up a wifi network. The big one here is auto synching photo and video to my google photo account. The other thing is my usage pattern is normally not to gobble up a lot of data while in transit because I commute to work by driving. If I were streaming Netflix or Amazon Prime video daily on an Amtrak commute then I might have a problem, depending on how severely they throttle.

There is more to Republic than just their wifi/cell tower technology: They work really hard not to be assholes about billing. There are no lock-in contracts and amazingly, you can conveniently change your cell plan up to twice a month, from $5.00 wifi-only policy to higher data rates at $10, $25 and $40 per month plans. The amount you are billed never exceeds those limits, regardless of your usage, they just throttle data rates instead of adding more to your bill.

I have only one gripe: I use my Republic phone with Google Voice and mostly the voice lag was insanely long. Seems to have improved a lot recently though. Not sure if that is attributable to the phone, to Google Voice, or to the two in combination.

Comment: Bre Petis (Score 3, Interesting) 128

Local Motors is an investment of Bre Petis, of Makerbot fame, as noted on his web page.

I don't know if it is deliberate viral marketing strategy of his or just good investment instinct, but I have noticed that products which make headlines on tech sites trace back to his investments. Another example is the new LIDAR offered at SparkFun from PulsedLight, which, according to this YouTube video, is linked to DragonInnovation.com, another Petis investment.

Comment: Re:Actually what reduced crime (Score 4, Informative) 218

by Jodka (#48525249) Attached to: 'Moneyball' Approach Reduces Crime In New York City

Actually, what really reduced crime was legalized abortion.

From "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," by John J. Donohue III and Steven D. Levitt, appearing in the The Quarterly Journal of Economics:

We offer evidence that legalized abortion has contributed signiZcantly to
recent crime reductions. Crime began to fall roughly eighteen years after abortion
legalization. The Zve states that allowed abortion in 1970 experienced declines
earlier than the rest of the nation, which legalized in 1973 with Roe v. Wade.
States with high abortion rates in the 1970s and 1980s experienced greater crime
reductions in the 1990s. In high abortion states, only arrests of those born after
abortion legalization fall relative to low abortion states. Legalized abortion appears
to account for as much as 50 percent of the recent drop in crime.

If that is correct, still either the Cosby Show or banning leaded gasoline could have accounted for up to a 50% of the drop in crime.

Comment: Importance (Score 3, Interesting) 96

There is a great interview with Elon Musk on youtube here. He is remarkably transparent about his reasoning. One key to his success is that he works very hard to understand motive and purpose when making decisions.

Musk makes that point that it costs about as much to fuel a rocket as it does to fuel a 747. Space launches are mostly so expensive because the vehicle is sacrificed with each launch, not because of the energy requirements for a space launch. The other big component of the expense is that rocket manufacturers charge a lot. According to Musk the value of the raw materials from which they are formed is reasonably inexpensive. Those were two hugely important realizations because they meant that space launches were not inherently expensive and therefore there is enormous potential for reducing launch costs.

By being Space X instead of Boeing the cost of launch is reduced to about 25% of conventional launches because Space X can assemble a rocket from raw materials for that much less. A re-usable vehicle, Musk predicts, would reduce launch costs by an order of magnitude.

So those are the motives and reasoning underlying the X-wing grid fins and re-entry discussed in the Slashdot summary.

Comment: Side Effects (Score 1) 204

by Jodka (#48380765) Attached to: Your Incompetent Boss Is Making You Unhappy

your boss's technical competence is the single strongest predictor of workers' well-being

I am not disputing that that is the best correlated variable, but in my experience it is not the lack of technical competence per se which causes problems with bad bosses but instead the concomitant pathologists exhibited by low-skill bosses to compensate for their own incompetence.

I have a story which illustrates the point: Earlier in my career I worked for a state government. One day I get to work and the lead programmer is having something of a breakdown in front of the project manager and they both happen to be standing in front of the entrance to my cubicle. So all I could do was wait there and listen. Turns out that the lead programmer had been devoting all of her time, and struggling for months, to find any way to digest and print the document files previously used in the old oracle/COBOL/dumb terminal system in our new custom client software running on OS X and which was replacing the dumb terminals. So I stand there and listen to the irate complaints from the lead programmer about how the problem was impossible to solve. At the end of the conversation I ask if she would like me to take a look at it. I was done by about 2:00pm the same day. It was easy. I just asked the DB programmer in the cubicle next to me for a sample of a document file. Looks like gibberish so I figure it's not PostScript and therefore must by PCL. Download and install the free GhostPCL renderer, an offshoot of the GhostScript project. Built and installed it. Wrapped the command-line GhostScript in Cocoa's NSTask. Threw together a GUI in interface builder. Wrote a little glue code in Objective-C to invoke Cocoa native classes for loading and displaying the output of GhostPCL and to invoke my NSTask GhostPCL wrapper. And checked the GhostPCL license, which I think might have been GPL, but since I was running it as a separate process and not modifying the source, or redistributing it outside of or organization, we were not compelled to share our custom OS X client source.

Worked great. Everyone was happy. Except the lead programmer, who was livid and from then on set about trying to make my life hell. She banned the project manager from speaking to me. She excluded me from meetings.

The fundamental problem was that the lead programmer did not know how to code. That is not a criticism of her programming skill, I mean she really did not know how to code. As in, literally, could not have programmed a single line to save her life. (Although I can not think of an actual circumstance where anyone would have to do that.) She did not understand what a pointer is. Did not now how to check code out of the repository. Would not have done any good if she had because she did not know how to build code. (In XCode. You click the build button.) Being technically incompetent, she was completely preoccupied with compensating for her own lack of skill, and it was that, not the lack of skill itself, which caused the problems.

Comment: According to the police... (Score 1) 698

by Jodka (#48370249) Attached to: US School Installs 'Shooter Detection' System

The noted gun rights advocate John Lott, Jr. makes a point here.

... consider the advice from PoliceOne, whose 450,000 members make it the largest private organization of active and retired law-enforcement officers in the U.S. It surveyed its members last March and asked, “What would help most in preventing large scale shootings in public?” Their No. 1 answer: “More permissive concealed carry policies for civilians.” (It was followed by “More aggressive institutionalization for mentally ill persons.”)

Comment: children killing children (Score 1) 698

by Jodka (#48370145) Attached to: US School Installs 'Shooter Detection' System

So my father grew up on a dairy farm near Frederick, Maryland in the 1940's. After the Columbine massacre I commented that that kind of thing, students shooting each other in school, seemed new and wondered what gave rise to it. He said he did not know, but that when he was in grade school, the boys brought rifles to school so that they could hunt squirrels on the walk home. There was never a problem.

Some time later I ran into ESR somewhere or other, up on his gun rights hobby horse. I mentioned the thing about the squirrels. His only comment was, "that's a healthy gun culture."

I grew up in rural Ohio where hunting was an excusable absence from school. Many of my classmates owned guns. There were never any problems with threats or gun violence.

Children own guns. And that has been going on for a while. The student massacre thing is new. Which suggests that the underlying cause of these student-on-student gun massacres is not caused by the introduction of guns.

Comment: Is Tax Avoidance Necessary for Success? (Score 2) 158

by Jodka (#48363207) Attached to: Apple's Luxembourg Tax Deals

Tax avoidance schemes are remarkably common among large successful coporations. Other successful U.S. tech companies exploit the "Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich" loophole. Ikea pays almost no tax by incorporating in Holland and exploiting its permissive rules for non-profits.

Which raises two questions:

- Are tax rates so high that it is necessary to engage in complicated tax avoidance schemes in western democracies to be successful in business?

- Is it best that companies do avoid taxes? Do we trust Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Vinod Khosla and Bill Gates to invest efficiently for the betterment of society more than we trust Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton? And I would ask the same of the Republican counterparts of those politicians. Though that the comparison is somewhat unfair to Republican politicians because it is their objective to reduce the concentration of wealth under their own control by shrinking government, regardless of the political persuasions of those who would benefit from that dispersal of wealth. I have never understood why, for those who believe wealth is dirty, that its transfer to the political class is somehow purifying.

   

Comment: Snowball Earth (Score 1) 78

by Jodka (#48360793) Attached to: Earth's Oxygen History Could Explain "Darwin's Dilemma" In Evolution

Life appeared when the earth was tens of millions of years old, but evolution didn't go into high gear until the "Cambrian Explosion", nearly a billion years later.

Another leading theory which explains this delay is Snowball Earth, a super ice age enveloping the entire surface of the planet.

Comment: Harry Reid (Score 1, Interesting) 485

by Jodka (#48301683) Attached to: Silicon Valley Swings To Republicans

Both parties deserve credit for cooperation. Republicans and Democrats have been working together in the House to enact many reforms, not just patent reforms.

... as of August, 356 bills passed by the House sat languishing in the Senate. Some 200 of those bills were passed with bipartisan majorities and 100 with the support of 75 percent of the House Democratic conference.

link.

The problem here is specifically Harry Reid, not the Democrat party in general. However, Democrats will not replace him on their own, and the only way to do that in this election cycle will be to vote a Republican majority into the Senate. Hence support for the Republican party when the actual target is only one Senator.

Comment: What the exemption? (Score 3, Insightful) 331

by Jodka (#48282083) Attached to: Colleges Face New 'Gainful Employment' Regulations For Student Loans

from the summary:

Now Kimberly Hefling reports that for-profit colleges who are not producing graduates capable of paying off their student loans could soon stand to lose access to federal student-aid programs.

A secret about those private "not for profit" colleges which the Department of Education exempted from that regulation. They are for profit. Huge profits. The distinction is not that these institutions do not earn profits, but rather that they are exempt from business taxes on those profits and the income accrues to the administration and faculty instead of to business owners.

So I had a friend in college who worked part-time in the payroll office and had access to the campus salary database. From her dorm room. So one evening she asks if I want to know what any of my professors make. Looked them all up. In 2014 dollars the mid-level salary for recently-tenured faculty was about $300,000 / year. Deans, provosts and presidents made much more.

Subsidized college loans have created a glut of education dollars and "not-for-profit" educators are raking them in. They are not opposed to earning huge profits themselves, the just do not want competition from other colleges which are run as business. So they lobbied Arne Duncan to enact a regulation which, for no legitimate rationale, applies only their competition.

Don't believe me? Universities try to keep this information locked away tightly but occasionally it leaks out. Here, for, example, is what Treasury Secretary Jack Lew received as severence pay from New York University:

President Obama’s nominee to lead the Treasury Department, Jacob J. Lew, got a $685,000 severance payment when he left a top post at New York University in 2006 to take a job at Citigroup.

NYU is a private "non-profit". And, as that link indicates, as such they receive additional benefits from the federal government beyond tax exemption.

     

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