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Comment: Re:Judicial "system"? (Score 1) 182

by NicBenjamin (#49108009) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Can Technology Improve the Judicial System?

Having a lot of parties in Parliament is not the problem. Having a lot of parties splitting the vote in every single fucking Riding is the problem. The SoCreds/Credistes, for example, were never a national party because they never really competed outside of one of the four Canadian regions. Reform was not a national party until the very end, right before it ate the PCs. The Greens are.

I have read many Green apologists claim they take votes from parties that are not left-wing. Pretty much every analysis of this phenomena I have ever seen is pure motivated reasoning. Minuscule sample sizes frequently appear. What actually seems to happen when political campaign types strongly analyze the data is that much of their vote comes from the left--wing party, and every-goddamn-body-else would have been a non-voter because they're incredibly angry at the political system.

Think about it this way for two minutes: the Tories stand for no gay marriage, lower taxes, more weapons for the Armed Forces, strengthened links to the UK, ending the Kyoto treaty, siding with businesses whenever environmental activists complain on principle, strong support of Israel, near-slavish subjugation to the US in every important foreign policy arena, etc. The Greens strongly oppose all those positions. Yet many analyses claim that half of Green voters care about these issues so little that their second choice is the Conservative Party.

What do you think happens more often: a fairly far-left activist whose so angry at NDP/Grit impurity on the issues (not their ineffectiveness in fighting for said issues as minority parties in a majority-Tory parliament), vents by claiming the Tories are his second choice to some idiot who doesn't understand human psychology; or that there actually exists large class of people whose first choice argues that a) LGBTQetc. rights are the moral issue of our time, c) the military should be shrunk to the minimum conceivable, c) Global Warming is a man-made disaster and EVERYTHING should immediately change to reduce it's impact, etc. but has as a second choice Stephen fucking Harper.

As for your definition of Canadian left, in Canadian terms you are right. The Liberals define the center ground. OTOH in terms of English-speakers on the North American continent the Liberals are really truly fucking Liberal. Prior to the PC-Reform merger they could win because the moderates right-wing party had it's vote split. They even managed to turn their votes being split into an advantage, because they could use the NDP for cover to move left when they wanted to create Medicare and still play the moderate.

Comment: Re:Judicial "system"? (Score 1) 182

by NicBenjamin (#49104745) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Can Technology Improve the Judicial System?

Actually the Canadian federal government does not pay 100% of health funding in Canada. They do pay a good percentage (which is shrinking due to austerity and the current assholes in power refusing to even talk to the Provinces, little well compromise) which varies on how rich the individual Province is. Here in BC the average working person has to pay more and more in the way of premiums to offset the income tax cuts the government is so fond of.

And it's all Elizabeth May's fault. Seriously.

Prior to the rise of a national Green party splitting the vote in every Riding, Ridings only had three parties, and to get a majority government the rule of thumb was you needed 42%. Now Elizabeth has a seat in Parliament, her party got roughly 4%, and the Tories got 39%, so they got a majority. And a majority PM has more power then any American official will ever have because a majority PM runs both the Executive and the Legislative branches.

Which means that if you actually want any of the things Elizabeth May wants, what you want very very much is for her to come to some sort of deal with the other left-wing parties so there aren't there left-wing options in all 338 Ridings.

Comment: Re:Technology can't (Score 1) 182

by NicBenjamin (#49103163) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Can Technology Improve the Judicial System?

"Restorative Justice" would be very difficult to make work in practice for serious crimes. It's actually a fairly major component of Sharia law, so countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia already use it. One problem is that if both the victim and the the victimizer get to get together and decide what the punishment is, the rich have lots of ways to buy their forgiveness. They also have lots of ways to punish victims for insisting that RichieRichVandal personally repaint your fence. It could be useful for low-level property crime, but there'd have to be a way to kick offenders up to the old-style Court system.

There's a reason that Restorative Justice is used by pretty much every tribal society. Everyone's more-or-less equal in economic and political power (and is also cousin to everyone else) so nobody has the economic/political might to pull off a more regulatory model, and the point of the Justice system is not to be Just but rather to ensure that Clan Gregor and Clan Campbell aren't so busy feuding over some ridiculous crap that happened 97 years ago that the Irish can sweep in and enslave everyone. When you get a more productive economy a) somebody has the power to introduce fairness to the system which means iron-rules, which are necessary because b) it becomes trivial for the political and economic elite to game the system.

Comment: Re:My two cents... (Score 1) 182

by NicBenjamin (#49101309) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Can Technology Improve the Judicial System?

Eliminate mandatory sentencing. Rename it as "suggested". I think one issue is granting smaller sentences to people you "favor", hence why mandatory sentencing perhaps was created?

The point of mandatory sentencing was to remove "undesireables" from society without calling the prisons poor houses. A guy sentenced to life for stealing $2.50 in socks. That was the minimum sentence for his situation.

It's politics. When something happens most of the Senate and House and the President had to go along with it. This means that frequently they vote the same way on a bill for opposite reasons.

When mandatory sentencing was passed, for example, Conservatives liked the tough-on-crime angle. Liberals liked that Judges would no longer have the ability to let a pretty white middle-class girl off with a slap because she reminded the Judge of his daughter, while still sending black guys away for decades because they reminded him of this one scene in Birth of a Nation.

Comment: Re:Judicial "system"? (Score 2) 182

by NicBenjamin (#49101297) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Can Technology Improve the Judicial System?

My family has a cottage up in Ontario.

The biggest difference we notice in ER visits is that a) it takes the Canadians forever to remember how to charge people for care, and b) the bill is always much smaller then it would be in the states.

This does not happen because of some deep-ass hard-to-understand-psychological-king-fu they've done with their health market. It's because every year each province sets up a price list (a "Fee Schedule" to use the health care wonk jargon). They generally don't let the fees go up by 10-15% a year without a very good explanation, so the fee we pay today is roughly equivalent to what it would have cost to get the same procedure in America back in the 60s when Canadian Medicare (their name for their universal health system) wrote the first price lists. Hospitals can't charge more then the fee schedule or they lose their government funding, and since everybody uses government hospitals that means they'd go out of business.

State-side they know you'll pay more every year for the same service because what option do you have? Your kid is bleeding, you're at the hospital, and they'll tell you to get back into the car and drive for another half-hour unless you pay up.

This is one reason the US (which only funds healthcare for Federal employees, Federal retirees, 65-year-olds, and the poor) actually paid more per capita for health care then the Canadian Federal government did, despite the fact that the Canadian Feds provide 100% of health funding in that country.

Comment: Re:My two cents... (Score 2) 182

by NicBenjamin (#49101203) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Can Technology Improve the Judicial System?

You're missing the point of the constitution if you think that privacy between arrest and conviction is what the Founders wanted.

They weren't worried about a reputation being dragged through the mud, because if your reputation was dragged through the mud back in 1789 you could always move to another state and make it anew.

They were very worried that the Second President would use the legal system to bully his opponents into submission and become a Dictator. Thus the Executive would have to document why he was investigating someone, much of the investigation couldn't be secret. They were worried that Obama could arrest Mitt Romney secretly, and then agree to drop charges against Mitt if he gave up his Presidential dreams, but nobody can talk about it because of Mitt's privacy...

The way you get around this is make everything public record.

Number 6 would actually make a lot of the things that the OP worries about worse, because if some rich kid could insist on a Jury trial for being caught with beer in his car, the Prosecutor probably shouldn't prosecute because he has a budget and a Jury trial for that shit ain't in it. OTOH the poor bastard whose public defender will deal with his case for two hours because he can only go away for two months and she got this other guy today who could go away for 15 years is fucked.

Comment: Technology can't (Score 3, Interesting) 182

by NicBenjamin (#49101137) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Can Technology Improve the Judicial System?

The problem with the Judicial system is partly a reflection of it's fundamental design, and partly a reflection of current American culture.

Take the design issue. We have an adversarial system rather then an Inquisitorial system. This means that your defense is up to you, the government's sole job is to convict you, and the Judge's only job is to call balls and strikes. Which means that if you're poor in America, and you don't have a lawyer who can go over every single piece of evidence with a fine-tooth comb for Fourth Amendment violations, then de facto you don't have Fourth Amendment rights. The Judge is not allowed to force your lawyer to triple-check that the cops didn't fudge the info they put on a warrant application, your public defender probably only has 8 hours to deal with your entire case, so you're fucked. In France and some other countries the Judge is allowed a more active role, but to do that you have to give him more active role in the investigation, at which point the system becomes an Inquisitorial system. And in the US we're reflexively Protestant, so we insist on remembering the Evils of the Spanish Inquisition (just as Queen Elizabeth I intended) and that's a non-starter.

Note that this means that the only way a Judge has to convict somebody with really food rules lawyers in the US is think his way around Constitutional rights in ways rules lawyers can't counter (for example, the "good faith exception" to the Fourth Amendment says the cop had to know that he was violating the Fourth Amendment to get evidence thrown out) or nobody who makes more then $80k would ever be convicted. The muddle class thinks it always looks innocent, so $80k guy can can easily beat probable cause. But then there's a precedent the guy making $20k can't afford to reason around.

And there's the ridiculous amounts of money we pay people with PhD-level degrees in lucrative fields, and a legal degree (or a Juris Doctorate) is one of those degrees. you make it virtually impossible to give every defendant a lawyer who has a week to devote to his case. The money to pay the lawyers does not exist, the lawyers themselves do not exist, etc.

The "looks innocent" thing is huge. In NYC until De Blasio took office it was routine for cops to stop every young black man in the city once a year on the basis he was pretty sure said young black man had a gun in his pocket and was going to pull it out and start a murder spree. The warrantless search almost never turned up a weapon, does not seem to have ever prevented a murder spree, and was entirely justified by legal paperwork the cop filed when he was back at the station. It resulted in black men into weed losing most Federal financial aid (because they were convicted of drug crimes), including student loans, and thus being ineligible for most colleges. And yet when a Judge ruled that shit violated the Fourth Amendments fairly explicit right to be secure about one's person, she got reprimanded by the Appeals Court.

The basic fact is the Founders took a system that was literally designed solely to protect the Nobility from commoners (in English Law, for example, "Peer" is the word for "nobleman", so a "Jury of your Peers" means a Jury made up of nobleman of your own rank) back in the UK, added some Amendments so their new King-stand-in couldn't use said system to prevent himself from being voted out of office, and called it a day. If you want it to be fairer to people who don't have $250k lawyer budgets you'll need to make good legal help cheap, which probably won't happen unless you change the job market so that people with $250k legal budgets are much rarer. The $250k will get them a very convincing actor with legal skills for the jury trial, and it will get them people with mediocre acting skills to go over the paperwork of the investigation in very close detail and determine what can be excluded, which Juror is most likely to vote innocent, etc. while still having $15k to pay for expert testimony.

The Military

Will Submarines Soon Become As Obsolete As the Battleship? 439

Posted by Soulskill
from the end-of-a-silent-era dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The United States spends $1.8 billion to build a brand new, state of the art, Virginia-class nuclear powered attack submarine. They are the backbone of the U.S. Navy and the ultimate threat to those nations who are building massive amounts of missiles to keep U.S. naval forces like aircraft carriers away from their shores — think China, Russia, Iran and various others. Sadly, the era of the submarine could be coming to an end. New types of detection technology could make the stealth capabilities of subs obsolete, just like the age of flight made the battleship into a floating museum:

"The ability of submarines to hide through quieting alone will decrease as each successive decibel of noise reduction becomes more expensive and as new detection methods mature that rely on phenomena other than sounds emanating from a submarine. These techniques include lower frequency active sonar and non-acoustic methods that detect submarine wakes or (at short ranges) bounce laser or light-emitting diode (LED) light off a submarine hull. The physics behind most of these alternative techniques has been known for decades, but was not exploited because computer processors were too slow to run the detailed models needed to see small changes in the environment caused by a quiet submarine. Today, "big data" processing enables advanced navies to run sophisticated oceanographic models in real time to exploit these detection techniques. As they become more prevalent, they could make some coastal areas too hazardous for manned submarines."

This could force submarines to stay far away from areas where they could be found. Alternately, they could evolve into something different: underwater aircraft carriers hosting drones that could strike below the surface.

Comment: Re:But her seizures aren't under control. (Score 1) 327

by NicBenjamin (#49041679) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Panic Button a Very Young Child Can Use

Epileptics are fine most of the time, particularly if they control their seizures with medication.

But her seizures aren't under control. It's there in the first line of his post.

To be precise "well controlled until recently."

What precisely do you suggest he do? Divorce his wife because a medical condition he knew she had got worse? Quit the job that's probably so he can be a stay-at-home dad? If her seizures are so bad she can't care for a two-year-old there are literally no jobs that she can do anywhere so that probably means poverty for the entire family.

Moreover he doesn't say what he means by well-controlled. To a non-epileptic any seizure is terrifying. The idea of having one every six months or year is even worse. Epileptics are a bit more sanguine. They have a seizure, and it's over. They might have to take a personal day from work. Most people get a couple of those a month. If they're lucky nobody calls 911, because 911 means the ER, which means medical bills,, and they don't need the ER to tell them they have epilepsy.

Comment: Re:The button isn't the problem (Score 1) 327

by NicBenjamin (#49041447) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Panic Button a Very Young Child Can Use

It's not a good argument because it depends on a wonky definition of 'care.' I wouldn't consider spending three hours on Slashdot in the living room while the kid is playing in his room alone 'care.'

What makes it even more strawmanish is it's irrelevant to any point at hand. The OP isn't saying his kid shouldn't have adult supervision 24/7, he's saying that if that adult supervision in interrupted due a medical emergency he needs to know, partly so he can arrange for adult supervision until the seizure ends. If s.petry had used literally any reading comprehension skills at all he would know he was actually agreeing with the OP.

Comment: Re:The button isn't the problem (Score 4, Insightful) 327

by NicBenjamin (#49034731) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Panic Button a Very Young Child Can Use

Epilepsy isn't some debilitating condition that requires 24/7 care. Epileptics are fine most of the time, particularly if they control their seizures with medication. Most of them actually have productive lives, with stressful jobs, and manage to hold shit down. As a stay-at-home mom of very small children this guy's wife can control her risk factors (particularly her amount of sleep, when she takes medication, etc.) much better then somebody whose work-schedule changes every week, has lots of deadlines, etc.

But if she does have a seizure it would be really bad because a) she'd be alone with nobody to call for help, and b) the kids would be alone.

A two-year-old can easily understand when something's wrong with Mommy. Most two-year-olds will know something is wrong with Mommy before Mommy knows something is wrong with Mommy, particularly if she's a home-maker. If you're two, and you've got a stay-at-home-mom, she is your entire world. A two-year-old can understand "press this button." If the kid decides pressing the button is a good game there's no harm because the police haven't been called.

Comment: Re:Arduino Panic Button (Score 5, Insightful) 327

by NicBenjamin (#49034559) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Panic Button a Very Young Child Can Use

Calm down.

His wife's eyes are on the kid. But Mom has epilepsy, so it's statistically likely that eventually she'll have a seizure while she's the only grown-up at home. The solution back when I was growing up would have been something along the lines of "go to the neighbor lady down the street, and she'll decide whether to call the police" but nowadays it could easily be "ping dad with a technological doohickey and he'll decide."

Comment: Re:Half way there (Score 1) 119

by NicBenjamin (#49008921) Attached to: TurboTax Halts E-filing of State Tax Returns Because of Potential Fraud

BTW: You know that controversy over Obamacare? The way it works is that the federal government set up an insurance market, and even the poorest can afford to buy insurance because of Federal subsidies. You know how they do the subsidy? You tell the marketplace how much you think you'll make. It runs an algorithm for how much you can afford to pay, and then calculates the subsidy necessary for insurance to be affordable.

That subsidy is an income tax credit. Which you have to repay if you got a raise and didn't report it to the exchange so they could cut your subsidy a little, or if you got fired and still made your payments you might get some money back.

And the US income tax system is so ridiculously complex and stupid that I was able to fill a huge post on the topic without thinking about Obamacare.

Comment: Re:Half way there (Score 2) 119

by NicBenjamin (#49008899) Attached to: TurboTax Halts E-filing of State Tax Returns Because of Potential Fraud

I don't know about the Danish system as a whole, but the income tax system for individuals is much simpler then the US. For example, there are three different tax forms Americans file (1040EZ with about 15 lines, 1040A with fifths, and the full 1040 with 79 lines). Your income tax is calculated in stages.

First you add up all potential sources of income -- wage income, independent contractor income (which usually has to go on a Schedule C so your software calculates the Self-Employment tax correctly), interest from your bank account, capital gains (which could come from selling Bitcoin at a profit), etc. This is your Gross Income.

Then you adjust the Gross Income by taking out certain other expenses the government really approves of. This are called "above the line" deductions. This year I paid student-loan interest, so I subtracted that interest from my wages to get my Gross Income. This gave me an "Adjusted Gross Income." Many retirement accounts, health savings accounts, etc. are here which means the Feds are using the Income tax system top subsidize a) health care, b) higher education, and c) retirement. You will also note that since it's done through the income tax system, the tax-break used to pay for all these things is much more advantageous for people who have a lot of income to tax (like Mitt Romney) then the poor schmuck whose so proud that he's full-time at Walmart.

After that you take out your exemptions ($3,950 per person claimed on your return, and there are lengthy legal tomes devoted to the thorny subject of who gets to claim whom for what), your Deduction ($6,200 for single or married filing single, $9,100 for Head of Household, or $12,400 for Married Filing Joint; or some completely different number you calculate yourself based on a completely different list of expenses The Government Really Approves of them the aforementioned above-the-line deductions). This results in a Modified Adjusted Gross Income.

But now that we've grossed our income, adjusted it, and modified the adjustment, surely it will be a simple matter of math to figure out the taxes owed? Don't be stupid.America has multiple tax brackets, and if you told an American just on the cusp of going from the 10% bracket to the 15% that his tax bill would increase by 50% if he'd made just bit more he will scream to high heaven and start a rebellion. So what they did is they made a table. It's in $50 increments. If you're in the 10% bracket every increment is $5 of taxes until you get to the end of the bracket. Then it's 15%, so it alternates going up by $7 and $8 (including pennies so you could just do $750 would make sense, so we don't). Then you hit the 25% bracket and alternate between $12 and $13, the 28% bracket is $14, but once you're halfway through the 28% bracket they stop the table and you have to calculate by hand for the rest of the 28% bracket, and the entirety of the 33%, the 35% and there 39.6% brackets.

Congratulations! We're half done! You see now that we know what you should theoretically pay we can start using tax credits. Tax credits are better then deductions because credits reduce the full amount you pay. There're child-care credits, education credits, and retirement credits. We're now about 2/3 done. Maybe 3/4.

Now we have to factor in your payments. Your withholding is just a very small part of what you officially paid. The thing about the credits in the last paragraph is they can make you own $0 taxes, but the can't make the Federal government cut you a fucking check for $5,000 (note: I actually had someone at my tax desk today get a $5,000 check from the Feds). Some education payments double as tax payments, there's a credit for buying gasoline for your tractor, there's the infamous Earned Income Credit which is de facto the major element of the modern welfare state because it gives people who made very little money and are raising families multi-thousand$ checks.

So my friend, if Denmark has managed to make it's income tax system more complicated then the US I will be both extremely disappointed and impressed.

Whom the gods would destroy, they first teach BASIC.