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Comment: Re:This is the problem with all aging infrastructu (Score 1) 152

The architect says this (bridge/power plant/building) will stand for (20/30/40) years with proper maintenance. Then, we should outright replace it. We know it'll cost x dollars now, plus y dollars of the life of the item. Sounds good, so we buy in.
  At the end of the lifespan, somebody who is not that architect says we can't afford to replace a (still perfectly good) piece of infrastructure. Let's agree that if we (inspect more often/inspect in greater detail/upgrade this piece here), we can get (10/20/30) more years of life out of it. Y'know, I can already hear the original architect screaming "That isn't what I said!".

The original architect necessarily has to be very conservative in his estimates because he has, in your example, 20-40 years of future uncertainty messing up his predictions. He cannot actually know how high the humidity will be, how much the ambient temperature will fluctuate, how much the soil will shift, what sorts of loads the facility will come under, etc., except as some form of probability distribution. And this distribution becomes more uncertain the further into the future he tries to plan it.

After the 20, 30 or 40 years have actually passed however we know all these things, or can find them out, pretty exactly. And if life has fared gentler with the facility than the architect's worst fears accounted for then there may still be decades of useful life left in it. In this case it is perfectly sensible to make a new maintenance plan and life estimate for it, and then take it from there.

Comment: Re:Good. (Score 2) 1037

by bentcd (#46675133) Attached to: How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion

OK, so here is a one liner for you that is equally ancient: Can god make a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it?

This always seemed to me like a very silly sort of "paradox".

In short, yes of course he could. After he did it he would no longer be omnipotent, but then, it has to be such that an omnipotent being has the power to make himself no longer omnipotent; or he would not have been truly omnipotent in the first place.

Also, as a trivial observation, once he had made the unliftable stone he could still use his remaining near omnipotence to turn it back into a liftable one, thus restoring his own full omnipotence. It is of course possible to rephrase the "paradox" in such a way that he cannot do this but that doesn't change the reasoning in the previous paragraph.

There are some more interesting paradoxes involving the question of whether an omnipotent god could make things happen that are simply flat out illogical (I forget the specifics, but draw a two dimensional circular square perhaps). These fast get difficult to relate to however and may be artifacts of our language more than they are good philosophical observations.

Comment: Re:Top Gear was worse. (Score 1) 544

by bentcd (#46658849) Attached to: 60 Minutes Dubbed Engines Noise Over Tesla Model S

The fact that Tesla's lawsuit against the show was settled in a way that still allows the BBC to rebroadcast the episode seems to indicate a lack of fraudulent claims.

The lawsuit ended in Tesla's disfavour because Top Gear isn't a car review show, it's a sitcom with cars in it. And in a sitcom you can say almost anything no matter how outrageous and easily get away with it.

Comment: Re:Above the law (Score 1) 94

by bentcd (#46574327) Attached to: Turkish Finance Minister Defends Twitter Ban

It's interesting that this tactic has failed in every case going all the way back to the start of the printing press. If you make some sort of communication form illegal it just gets distributed more widely.

You can't really know this though. Those times when it does succeed (if ever) you won't have heard about, that is the whole point, and so you won't know that it happened. It will therefore seem like it never works even if quite often it does, and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a world in which suppression never works and a world in which it often does.

Comment: Re:Good News... (Score 1) 21

by bentcd (#46541587) Attached to: After FOIA, Homeland Security Releases Social Media Monitoring Guides

Right. After reading through all this, it's not clear why Homeland Security bothers. A customized news feed from Google would be about as useful and much cheaper.

Homeland Security isn't about doing things "cheap". In fact that would pretty much completely defeat the purpose.

The pork barrel used to be about building expensive green kit to kill the commies with, now it's about harassing citizens just enough so that they think you're protecting them from dangerous men with beards. There's lots of money in the pork barrel and the more expensively you can manage to do your job the more money will get poured into it.

Comment: Re:People must be free (Score 1) 323

by bentcd (#45899993) Attached to: Cartels Are Using Firetruck-Sized Drillers To Make Drug Pipelines

Child porn or dumping toxic waste, it comes down to the same thing, the same point that you've dodged all along - you imply that however odious the behavior may be, it's OK so long as enough people want to do it.

I am "implying" no such thing. I am explicitly saying that if it's very popular then that is a strong argument in its favour. How odious or not you personally may feel it is, is neither here nor there.

Comment: Re:People must be free (Score 1) 323

by bentcd (#45898705) Attached to: Cartels Are Using Firetruck-Sized Drillers To Make Drug Pipelines

That's not qualification, that's sophomoric handwaving and rationalization. It just leads you into an endless maze of twisty little debates over what constitutes 'big enough' and does nothing to prevent the very situation posited by the GP.

This maze is otherwise known as "politics" and yes it does have lots of twisty little debates in it.

Child pornography is a three billion dollar business (or so they say, I have no doubt that it is big), is that big enough?

In evaluating the market size I expect number of participants is more important than transaction sizes. Essentially, if a significant percentage of citizens want to engage in the trade then this is a good indicator the trade should be legal. How many percent of citizens have expressed an interest in child porn?

Do note that child pornography laws have drifted a long way away from being about protecting children. Nowadays if you draw a stick figure and write the caption "naked 6yo" under it then that's child pornography and they'll put you in jail if the fancy strikes them. Personally I don't consider drawing stick figures to be particularly evil regardless of the caption, but others may disagree.

Comment: Re:People must be free (Score 3, Insightful) 323

by bentcd (#45895919) Attached to: Cartels Are Using Firetruck-Sized Drillers To Make Drug Pipelines

You are right, but if the 'free market' were an argument for making something legal, then we should make assassinations and corporations that dump poison into rivers legal, because they are going to anyway.

Well, the free market is an argument for legalization, but only with qualifications. Essentially, if the free market for a given good or service is or would be big enough then this alone is a very strong argument for legalizing it. The reasoning behind this is that first of all, if a lot of citizens want to trade in it then it is a democratic problem if they are prevented from doing so; secondly, that with such a big market even if you outlaw it the trade is still going to happen at large scale so what are you really achieving; and thirdly, that a lot of money that would otherwise move around the economy in a proper manner is now going to get funneled into a black economy where it will see less circulation (thus having a stagnating effect on the economy overall), will not be properly taxable, and will tend to leak into other more serious criminal enterprises. Also as we have seen with drugs, criminalizing what many see as a necessary good has led to the blatant militarization of police forces and erosion of civil rights for everyone. This is a very high price to pay for feelgood politics.

Of course this would only be one of the arguments in any given debate but it would be a weighty one.

Comment: Re:How is Norway going to know? (Score 3, Insightful) 245

by bentcd (#45702457) Attached to: Norway Rejects Bitcoin As Currency; Taxes As Asset, Instead

How or why would they ever know I bought a Ferrari? Are such purchases reportable in Norway? (they aren't in the US)

It would need to be reported one way or the other. The easiest way to try to get around it is possibly not to register it but then you won't have a number plate (unless you fake one) and so couldn't use it on public roads. Maybe you could drive it on foreign plates and hope no one notices/cares that you've been doing so for far too long. You'd still be required to list it as wealth but if you choose not to there may not be any obvious ways for the tax man to find out on his own.

What will happen from time to time though is that someone you pissed off at some point reports you and then you may be in trouble again.

You're right, if they do catch you cheating, the penalties are harsh... the question to ask is, what are the odds of being caught?

If you want to drive the car on public roads it's probably very difficult to avoid registering it. Cheating one's way around this is probably possible but if you ever have an accident or otherwise end up in the spotlight it's game over.

Comment: Re:Rule #1 (Score 1) 894

by bentcd (#45702183) Attached to: How the Lessons of Columbine Saved Lives At Arapahoe High School

While legally carried handguns may present problems, this isn't one of them. When someone decides to go shoot up a school I have yet to see evidence that this is a spur of the moment decision. Rather, it is a pre-planned event for which the shooter brings weapons from home explicitly for this purpose. He is going to bring them whether carrying guns is legal or not, because he has already decided to break much more serious laws.

If anything, legally carried handguns may help prevent school shootings or at least keep down the body count because they increase the likelihood of an armed citizen being nearby to shoot the shooter.

Comment: Re:How is Norway going to know? (Score 4, Insightful) 245

by bentcd (#45702133) Attached to: Norway Rejects Bitcoin As Currency; Taxes As Asset, Instead

If someone makes a bunch of profit on Bitcoins, how is Norway going to know if the person doesn't self report?

They won't, but if they later find out they'll nail you to the wall.

As an immediate concern, if you're making lots of bitcoins then there's not really that much to spend them on directly and so you'll want to convert them into national currency. At this point the tax man may notice and start asking questions.

When the time comes that you can easily buy a Ferrari for bitcoins they will also have a chance of noticing, and will ask you how you could afford that Ferrari.

If you go to any length to avoid the tax man noticing any of those two scenarios, you're probably guilty of some shade of money laundering which will get you nailed that much harder if they do discover you.

Also, how are capital gains taxed there? In the US, capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than most normal income, so if the choice is between normal income and capital gains, I'll take the latter every time (since I'm in the US).

I think it's much the same thing here. Capital gains is 28% or thereabouts, whereas income tax is progressive from 28% up to 50%, -ish. There may be important nuances I am omitting, being a wage slave rather than a tycoon.

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