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Comment: Re:Who's going to know? (Score 1) 412

by SkimTony (#49046929) Attached to: Major Retailers Accused of Selling Fraudulent Herbal Supplements

Your previous comment (and this one) misses the point, which is that while you are correct that money can be made manufacturing drugs that are already certified, the patent (time limited! Just like copyright was supposed to be!) allows the company a window of time in which to make back the investment in completing clinical trials.
Once that investment is "paid off," it can be profitable to just sell an inexpensive version of it. If the substance can never be patented, then it would be much more difficult (and/or take much longer) to make enough to pay back the costs of clinical trials, making it a much less appealing investment.

Comment: Re:Fraudulent herbal supplements? (Score 1) 412

by SkimTony (#48980531) Attached to: Major Retailers Accused of Selling Fraudulent Herbal Supplements

I would argue that there is something preventing concerned citizens from performing their own testing and publishing, which is that if you were to publish any test results about a product that weren't glowing, that company would immediately threaten you with a crushing lawsuit (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilling_effect).
Would they win? Shouldn't the truth be absolute defense against claims of slander or libel? I think it should, but if someone with a massive legal department threatens to ruin your life over it, most private citizens don't have the resources to contest the issue, so they settle. Settlement term #1? Keep your findings to yourself. This is why we need government to step in - an organization beholden (at least in theory) to the people, with the clout to call the bluffs that corporations (or merely well-funded individuals) make in order to keep the less-well-funded from derailing their plans.

Comment: Re:Fraudulent herbal supplements? (Score 1) 412

by SkimTony (#48979719) Attached to: Major Retailers Accused of Selling Fraudulent Herbal Supplements

I agree that this is the intended result (government tests products on behalf of consumers, finds wrongdoing, pushes companies to fix the problem).

In this case, it was indirect regulation. The "supplement" industry isn't regulated. People can sell whatever they want, say "this might help with your deepest, darkest fears!" and if people will buy it, make money. However, because they're sold in stores in NY, they're subject to the same regulations as everything else that's sold in stores in NY, which are governed by Consumer Protection and Fair Labeling laws.

The NY state government examined these products under Consumer Protection regulations, found that the labels were wrong, and had them pulled because lying on product labels is illegal, not because there were any rules about supplements. A quibble, I know, but there was and is nothing in place to require testing of supplements like this - it was just something someone in the Attorney General's office decided to check.

Comment: Re:The ominous humm.... (Score 1) 823

by SkimTony (#48877785) Attached to: Fake Engine Noise Is the Auto Industry's Dirty Little Secret

Charging for things I don't want? I'd pay extra to shut off any extra noises my car might make. Then again, I'd pay a lot extra to disable all the extra noises that everyone else's cars make. An engineering project: Can I get the equivalent of a TV-B-Gone, so I can turn off the obnoxious extra noises that the cars around me make?

Comment: Re:Should be compared to CPI (Score 2) 619

by SkimTony (#47275847) Attached to: 2 US Senators Propose 12-Cent Gas Tax Increase

There is one reason to compare it to the cost of gasoline, which is predicated on an inverse relationship between the cost of fuel and the amount people are willing to spend on it. While there are many quibbles and outright logical flaws in the reasoning behind the gas tax, this one seems relatively sound:
    1) Gas tax is a certain percentage of cost of fuel, collected as fuel is purchased. Fuel use approximately correlates with wear and tear on roads.
    2) Price of gas increases dramatically (roughly 4x) with no corresponding increase in taxes (since it's a fixed rate, not a fixed percentage). This causes a short term decline in usage, reducing (slightly) wear and tear on roads. but then...
    3) Drivers acquire more efficient vehicles to offset the price of fuel. These vehicles aren't any smaller or lighter, so they cause the same wear and tear on the roads, but they deliver less fuel-tax revenue to pay for that road use.

I do appreciate the inflation method for calculating fuel taxes, though. I had a conversation with some friends recently about the comparative pointlessness of a five cent deposit on a can of soda or beer now, versus in the mid 1980's, when if you returned ten cans you could use the deposit money to buy a full can of soda.

Comment: Re:Hard to find good developers in Denver (Score 1) 491

by SkimTony (#46349709) Attached to: Do We Really Have a Shortage of STEM Workers?

You're also missing the (or at least a) point. If that car saves you $10k/yr., then it's only worth it to you if you keep it into the third year. Likewise, employees are only worth the money if the company is willing to invest some time in them. However, in the current market, companies don't want to pay enough to retain employees long enough for them to be worth the investment, so they lose out. Unfortunately, the Market chose price over quality a long time ago.

Comment: Social Benefit Programs? (Score 1) 597

by SkimTony (#46248199) Attached to: Financing College With a Tax On All Graduates

One of the issues that I have seen cited as a problem with the high cost of education is the inability of graduates to take lower paying but socially beneficial jobs. For example, an attorney becoming a public defender vs. going to work for a big firm, or someone deciding to start a business or work for herself rather than take a corporate grind job, because she can't just live cheaply until the business makes it, having lots of debt with a deadline attached.

          It sounds like this scheme has the same flaw, it just moves the issue from the person to the group, tragedy of the commons style. People who do take advantage of things and take lower paying jobs pay less into the system. This is a potential social benefit (more creativity and innovation, fewer corporate drones, better public defenders, better health care availability in underserved markets, etc.), but there's still that bill to be paid. What happens when the clock runs out on your "college tax" before you hit your stride professionally? What happens when that's even a significant fraction of students?

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein

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