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Comment: Re:Over 18 (Score 1) 612

by Teancum (#46762379) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

If a business fails to show profits for more than five consecutive years, it is classified by the IRS as a hobby. In other words, you are indulging in this particular activity even if money is being collected. There are of course exceptions to every rule and of course piles of common law precedence to consider as well.

Comment: Re:Over 18 (Score 2) 612

by Teancum (#46754201) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

1. Ex post facto limitations apply to criminal cases, not civil cases.

While I appreciate the sentiment, I have known legislators who specifically write in "grandfather clauses" even for purely civil legislation because of the principle of ex post facto concepts applying to civil law. It may have more applicability to state laws, and especially legislatures controlled by the opposite party from the party which appointed the judge or currently runs the Department of Justice. This separate clause (independent from the congressional ex post facto clause) might also apply:

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility. -- Article I Section 10

This clause suggests perhaps it applies in a greater measure explicitly to state governments. I have no idea if it has ever been interpreted as such by the U.S. Supreme Court though. There is of course the situation with the RS 2477 roadways based upon the concept of ex post facto legislation where current law doesn't permit establishment of roads through wilderness areas, but previously established roadways that can be documented on survey maps or other historical documents have been used as rationale to not only maintain but even upgrade those roadways.... even if all they were previously was just a horse trail or something an oxen wagon settler company used a century ago. That certainly is not criminal legislation.

As a matter of public policy, it is a really stupid idea to enact legislation that varies significantly from what the law was like in the past and expecting citizens to have complied with such legislation in the past as well.

BTW, does the bill of attainder clause also apply to situations where only a specific company, group, or organization can get a benefit or in cases that I claim are pure corruption where a request for proposals can only be submitted by a single person or entity due to the restrictions intentionally placed in the legislation? A good example of that is the Senate Launch System legislation, but there are other excellent examples of this routinely happening too.

Comment: Re:Over 18 (Score 1) 612

by Teancum (#46754111) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

Hmmm. Is TurboTax tax deductable?

Possibly, if you can count it as a business expense. Just make sure that your "business" is profitable so it doesn't become a hobby (thus business expenses can't be counted). Sole proprietorships are reported on the standard 1040 form, although all of the reporting you need to do can be rather complicated if you want to take business expenses and tax credits too.

It can get even more complicated than that, as purchasing software like TurboTax may only be partially deductible if you are also using the software for both business and personal usage (aka if you have a salary from some other business where you are merely an employee) and other subtle things like that too.

Comment: Re:Snowden, that's why it's relevant to /.ers. (Score 4, Interesting) 193

by Teancum (#46721879) Attached to: Stephen Colbert To Be Letterman's Successor

Steven Colbert's entire schtick is about double standards and how absurd some people can get. I seriously doubt you are getting the humor of his persona (and that is all that it is) of his Colbert Report.

The interesting thing is to see how much of that persona is going to carry on with the Late Show or if he will be more himself.

Comment: Re:Panasonic (Score 1) 151

by Teancum (#46691353) Attached to: Tesla: A Carmaker Or Grid-Storage Company?

Where it becomes flat out obvious to use a combination of a small wind far + solar power + some sort of power storage (a water tower works surprisingly well if you don't want to mess with different battery types and hydro-electric power plants are incredibly efficient) is in a rural area where you need to pay the power company to string miles of aluminum wire + power poles (and maintenance of all of those poles from hazards of nature & people) from the nearest distribution point. Going off the grid definitely makes sense when you aren't even on the grid in the first place. Just ask the folks at Black Rock City, Nevada.

As a supplement to power generation, home solar panels on a limited basis really do make sense though. You might want to check on the price of solar panels, as they've gone down in price in terms of $$$/watt so it might make sense to start building some on your roof to cut costs. Quite a bit of power consumption in a typical city happens during the day, which is precisely when solar panels are at their peak power production as well. The problem comes when you cross the threshold and are running the power meter backward, thus selling power back to the utility company.

Lead-acid batteries are used for automobiles for two huge reasons: 1) They are incredibly cheap 2) the long-term power storage requirements of an automobile aren't particularly high anyway. An automobile only needs a bunch of amps for power when the starter motor needs to crank the rest of the engine, then the generator takes over (which is when you would typically run the rest of the accessories). It is a completely different situation for a home power system, where you could certainly use other forms of power storage. This could include flywheels (something horrible to use on an automobile even though most internal combustion engines still have some smallish flywheel simply to operate) or some other kinetic energy storage system in addition to something like a battery pack.

At least we aren't using Leyden Jars for energy storage any more. There definitely have been some advances in electrical storage technologies over the years.

Comment: Re:So if they (GM/whomever) wanted to buy the comp (Score 1) 151

by Teancum (#46691267) Attached to: Tesla: A Carmaker Or Grid-Storage Company?

I think the GP poster was pretty spot on, and it was sort of tongue in cheek in terms of the idea of buying Microsoft.

Of course nobody in "the real world" would bother to loan some random homeless dude off the street and give them a few billion dollars to make a leveraged buyout of Microsoft. That is because no average person has the talent nor the ability to operate a company like Microsoft and have it continue to earn money for its investors (which in this case would be the bank). Besides, if the bank had that kind of money burning a hole it its pocket where a random dude could be put in charge of the company and run it, that bank would have purchased the company a long time ago and would have cut you out of the deal a long time ago.

Also, most banks like loans for investment purposes to also have the person involved having some "skin in the game". In other words, even if you are using a bank to assist in a major financial purchase, you also need to have a substantial fraction of the company (at the bare minimum 10% of the investment capital... likely in this case more like 50%-80% for Microsoft). It isn't strictly required (sort of what you are suggesting), but it depends on how much risk the bank is willing to take with such an investment.

On the other hand, if you were able to convince them that a leveraged buy-out of Microsoft could get you running the company and allow them to repay the loans with substantial interest + extra profits, there is no doubt that a reasonable bank would jump on the chance. The trick is convincing the loan officer (and for that kind of money, the board of directors for the bank and likely the local Federal Reserve Bank board too) that you really are the kind of person who could get the company producing profits like when Bill Gates was running the company. That has the proverbial chance of a snowball surviving inside of the Sun's photosphere for any length of time.

Getting back onto topic, the question is if one of the other major automobile companies could do a better job of running an electric automobile manufacturing company? It should be apparent that there are some very experienced and capable people at Toyota, GM, Daimler, and Ford that could in theory run Tesla, possibly even better than Elon Musk seems to be doing so at the moment. The question then becomes one of cash flow for these major companies and if they can leverage the money needed for the purchase.

Tesla stock prices are high enough that a hostile take-over is now simply out of the question. If Toyota was to advertise that they were willing to pay $200 per share for the company (this does happen... usually in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal when it is so blatant), odds are likely that the exchange prices will soar to $250 or more. By the time the chase is over, it is likely that Tesla would buy out Toyota instead. Sort of like what happened when Pixar bought out Disney.

Comment: Re:There is already a Tesla home battery pack (Score 1) 151

by Teancum (#46691167) Attached to: Tesla: A Carmaker Or Grid-Storage Company?

I wouldn't call it a scam, but most of the electricity infrastructure is based on the model that you have a massive central power plant and a series of ever decreasing stages for smaller consumption purposes that ultimately terminate with a consumer electronic device or a light bulb (still a major consumer of electrical power). What this kind of arrangement requires is for the infrastructure to be able to feed power within that small sub-grid from one producer to one consumer, or better yet feed the power back upstream to other users. This is where the real problem lies.

There is also the problem of power companies selling power at retail prices (which accounts for all of that infrastructure... some of which isn't needed for major industries who legitimately get a price break by consuming large quantities of electrical power at wholesale prices as that industrial plant deals with the infrastructure needed to run the lights or other individual appliances), and then having those same companies expected to buy back power at the same retail price level. It is possible that simply to be connected to a power grid there might be a monthly fee dedicated to paying for the distribution infrastructure, and that different tiers of payment for power generated could be established for residential power generation vs. large plants (including solar & wind farms).

Legitimately there are many neighborhoods in California that the neighborhood as a whole is a net electricity producer, so that whole centralized distribution also needs to deal with what happens when too much power is being generated. It is entirely possible that a power company may have to shut down every power plant in their distribution system and then still need to dump the power generated somewhere.... usually into some massive resistors that simply generate a whole bunch of excess heat that does nothing useful. While not entirely a brand new problem (some very long distance distribution lines can also generate electricity simply by having the Earth spin on its axis during a solar storm, pick up the power from the high power long distance lines), this is something that definitely needs a different kind of infrastructure in place.

The battery packs can help in this situation too, or some other power storage system. A utility company near where I live wants to pump water from a large lake into a reservoir as a form of energy storage, and then use hydro-electric power generation to retrieve the power when needed. It is meeting some huge resistance from local residents mainly because the power storage isn't being used locally not to mention that it will do some massive environmental damage, but the idea is being floated around as an alternative to the Li-ion cells. That also is a kind of infrastructure cost that needs to be considered, where you might be able to have a centralized power storage system instead.

There are no simple answers to any of the problems being offered, and I think it is disingenuous to suggest that it is a scam. Even companies like Solar City or others that offer home solar power aren't scams, but there definitely are some political considerations to be made.... including some concessions by the major utility companies that their distribution model is not needed any more and instead something different needs to be developed at the same time the existing grid is maintained.

This really is more like the transition from horse-drawn vehicles and massive canal works to something more like paved roads leading to the Autobahn or Interstate Highways. The basic infrastructure how it was used in the past can still be used that way but new things are now connecting to the power grid in ways that it wasn't intended when it was built... and the infrastructure needs to cope with the changes. That takes some effort on the part of the public, legislators, utility companies, and a legitimate need to address the very real problems that are happening so buck passing on the problems doesn't keep going on.

Comment: Re:bitcoin stock exchanges (Score 1) 535

by Teancum (#46585351) Attached to: Facebook Buying Oculus VR For $2 Billion

All of those stock exchanges are also illegal. I know, I looked into the issue as I was about to code one of those Bitcoin exchanges but wanted to know how deep I needed to hide my cover in case the SEC decided to go after the developers for cooking up such an idea.

In theory you can get licenses to operate some exchange like that, but for now it is 100% an underground economy. Legally you do need to be a qualified investor even in that situation.

Comment: Re:Our first act on the moon (Score 1) 54

by Teancum (#46585293) Attached to: The Mystery of the 'Only Camera To Come Back From the Moon'

This is what political extremism does to your brain, people.

Funny thing is, I agree with you. All I was merely pointing out is that there is a whole bunch of stuff up in space already, and if you are so paranoid about some astronaut leaving some camera on the Moon as somehow destroying nature, there is much more that you could show too that would really send the environmentalist activists into a real panic mode.

Too many people ignorantly watch science fiction films and TV shows thinking that is real science, yet think real activities on the surface of the Moon never happened because SciFi shows demonstrate that kind of thing never could have happened. Perhaps I should have simply replied with "*facepalm*".

Comment: Re:Our first act on the moon (Score 2, Informative) 54

by Teancum (#46580905) Attached to: The Mystery of the 'Only Camera To Come Back From the Moon'

Considering that astronauts literally left their shit all over the place, litter like a slightly used camera is no big deal at all. Dumping radioactive waste on the Moon in the form of RTGs that are still pumping out energy even today should give extra brownie points. It should be pointed out that other countries have also dumped trash on the Moon, not to mention other worlds in the Solar System too.

Comment: Re:Kickstarter is not an investment (Score 5, Insightful) 535

by Teancum (#46578769) Attached to: Facebook Buying Oculus VR For $2 Billion

What is sad is that current SEC regulation and other securities rules make it illegal for companies to offer shares or actual ownership in a company through something like Kickstarter. I'll admit there is potential for fraud to milk piles of money from people with not much disposable income, but it does get to absurd levels with this too.

It really seems stupid that you need to be a millionaire in order to simply qualify to spend $10k (or even $1k) of your own money into some random company that you think may make a better mousetrap. Yet at the same time you can throw away piles of money into stupid penny stocks or worse buying a used automobile or a "membership" in a multi-level marketing scheme.

Kickstarter does offer some protections from would-be fraudsters as they can require a refund of any money received through Kickstarter if for some reason they haven't honored their promises.. especially if rewards were never delivered. Unfortunately all you can get back is the money you paid. Somehow I don't think Occulus is going to care and might just prefer giving refunds for those who are pissed.

Comment: Re:Grab the popcorn! (Score 1) 535

by Teancum (#46578669) Attached to: Facebook Buying Oculus VR For $2 Billion

I don't care about Facebook or the oculus rift, but the shitstorm that is about to drop will be worth a watch!

If the comments here on /. are typical, there is going to be so much blowback on this move that the only thing to really say is to watch the former owners of Oculus laugh all of the way to the bank and see what they do next, like buying a private island in the south Pacific Ocean or become space tourists.

Popcorn is definitely in order.

Comment: Re:Faster please (Score 1) 48

by Teancum (#46574283) Attached to: SpaceX Resupply Mission To Launch March 30

This is what you get when the contractors themselves write the RFP before the bid itself goes out. It is a form of corruption that IMHO should be illegal.

Sadly I've been involved with similar kinds of government contract manipulations... both being in the government agency handing out the money as well as being an engineer in the company trying to win the contract and "helping" to write the RFP before it is made public. I always needed to take a long shower after getting involved in one of these projects and hated every minute I was pushed into doing this kind of stuff, even if it may have benefited me and my family personally.

This is something that ordinary taxpayers should be made aware of though, and it is a failure of "the fourth estate", namely investigative journalism, that even permits this kind of crap happening in the first place. Then again so many people are caught up into the idea that you can have corruption that benefits you if you let me have corruption that benefits me that nobody wants to get rid of this corruption in the first place.

Comment: Re:Faster please (Score 2) 48

by Teancum (#46569881) Attached to: SpaceX Resupply Mission To Launch March 30

While I agree with the sentiment, I'd point out that NASA's will, in theory, be able to lift 70 or 130 tons. So it is a bit better.

By which time SpaceX will have the MCT close to completion. This is a rocket so large that pad 39 at the Cape can't be used because the flame trench is too small. I don't know what 100 tons of payload to the surface of Mars translates in terms of tonnage to LEO, but it is safe to say a little bit more than 130 metric tons.

Besides, the 130 ton version of the SLS will still be a couple of years away even after the first launch happens for the 70 ton version, assuming it flies at all.

Nothing is rich but the inexhaustible wealth of nature. She shows us only surfaces, but she is a million fathoms deep. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson