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Comment: Re:Interstate Water Sharing system (Score 1) 591

by unimacs (#49517251) Attached to: William Shatner Proposes $30 Billion Water Pipeline To California
Here's another way to look at it. There are lots of small towns and even cities in the Midwest that would welcome an influx of people, industry, and agriculture. Instead of making herculean efforts to get water out of the Midwest to the Southwest at huge expense, let's make it easy for the people and industries that need the water to move to where the water is.

Frankly, I do not trust that redirecting any significant amount of water halfway across the country can be done without high ecological costs, unintended or not.

Comment: Re:Interstate Water Sharing system (Score 1) 591

by unimacs (#49517175) Attached to: William Shatner Proposes $30 Billion Water Pipeline To California
Pennsylvania exports natural gas because it's worthwhile for Pennsylvania to do so. If they were to decided that the ecological price for extracting it is no longer worth it, that is their right. Whoever is getting natural gas from them will have to get it from somewhere else or do without.

The Great Lakes aren't some vast untapped resource waiting to be exploited. They are used for shipping, recreation, commercial fishing, tourism, fresh water supplies, etc. They are home to an important ecosystem. All would suffer if any significant amount of water were diverted someplace else. In many ways, the Lakes are already being exploited at a level that can't be sustained.

And it goes deeper than that. The lakes are treasured part of the region just like the Grand Canyon is to Arizona. Would they be OK with us filling in part of the Grand Canyon with some of the garbage we don't have room for? They'd give us the finger and we'd deserve it.

No one is forcing anyone to live in squalor but people may be forced to live in a more sustainable fashion. It's not just a lesson for California but everywhere else.

Comment: Re:Well done! (Score 1) 488

by unimacs (#49513573) Attached to: George Lucas Building Low-Income Housing Next Door To Millionaires
There's a definite correlation between money and academic achievement. You're looking in the wrong place. Kids in more affluent areas do better in school.

In the study you linked it's pretty clear that school districts with higher levels of poverty have a lower return on investment. In other words, they spend more per kid but get poorer results. However, it is not an apples to apples comparison. Neither is comparing 1970 to today. The early 1970's represented an historic low in the number of people in poverty.

You have to look at what the schools are spending money on now vs 1970 and what poor districts spend money on vs affluent ones. In my school back in the 1970s there were no ESL students (English as a 2nd language). There was very little attempt to mainstream kids with significant disabilities. There weren't the onerous testing requirements created by "No Child Left Behind" and other well intentioned but flawed ideas. There weren't the outlandish health care costs that are crippling many of our public institutions. There weren't nearly as many kids getting "free and reduced price lunch" if there were any at all.

That's not to say that all money given to school districts is spent wisely and that giving them more money will automatically lead to better results.

Comment: Re:Help me out here a little... (Score 1) 502

by unimacs (#49506131) Attached to: Utilities Battle Homeowners Over Solar Power
Hawaii also pays about 3x the national average for electricity. They mostly burn oil which for them is neither cheap nor clean. Generating power locally via solar makes a whole lot of sense for them so they really should figure out how to make this work. My brother lives there and intentionally had an oversized PV system installed. Over the course of a year he generates more power than he uses. His system will pay for itself in less than 5 years.

Solar aside, both in Hawaii and the rest of the US we are suffering the effects of an aging and archaic power grid. The utilities could benefit by being able to more easily develop and take advantage of demand response systems. This would give them a greater capacity to manage peek demand without having to operate as many power plants, or buy as much power from somebody else, - which saves them money. They could also make themselves less susceptible to having interruptions in service due to not being able to meet demand or just plain old natural disasters.

Of course no one wants to spend money to do that even though both consumers and utilities would benefit in the long run. This is where government can play a role in moving things forward.

Comment: Re:Long View (Score 1) 479

by unimacs (#49489317) Attached to: Seattle CEO Cuts $1 Million Salary To $70K, Raises Employee Salaries
I didn't say our prosperity was based on skilled workers. We had prosperity because businesses were willing/forced to train and provide decent pay to UNSKILLED workers.

Take a look at how Scandinavian countries do it and you'll find actual working examples of a more equitable system. Your every day Jane and Joe get paid well, have significantly more vacation time than we do plus have a shorter work week. The lowest paid worker at a McDonald's in Denmark makes the equivalent of $20 an hour. Yes, the cost of living and taxes are higher but they still come out way ahead.

Their health care is affordable and so is college. Retirement is not something they have to scrimp and save for while at the same time trying to save for their kid's college education. And yes there is still room for executives and others to make huge sums of money. Just not as extreme as they are here.

This is reality for them but we've been brainwashed into thinking it won't work here.

What's funny is that it used to work that way here too. Not exactly but closer than it does now. Part of the reason is collective bargaining. It's the norm there but becoming increasingly uncommon here. Collective bargaining has been proven to both improve the pay of the average worker while having a dampening effect on CEO pay. It's not that unionized companies were less profitable, it's because it's very hard to argue to a union that you can't afford to pay the workers more after you just gave the executives a huge pay increase.

Comment: Re:"deserves" (Score 1) 479

by unimacs (#49488459) Attached to: Seattle CEO Cuts $1 Million Salary To $70K, Raises Employee Salaries
It's not that easy changing your economic status. If you're born poor, you're likely to stay that way. It's no one's "personal decision" to be born poor. You're probably going to go to a crappy school. You probably won't be able to afford college. Even middle class people now start out in debt by the time they graduate from college. Maybe you're one of the exceptionally bright ones that get a full ride, but probably not.

I'm not saying it's impossible to do. I'm just saying that if you were born to a relatively affluent family you have no business telling people they're poor because they made bad decisions. You have no idea.

Comment: Re:Long View (Score 1) 479

by unimacs (#49488347) Attached to: Seattle CEO Cuts $1 Million Salary To $70K, Raises Employee Salaries
Wow. Let's just pay everybody crap because they aren't smart enough to spend their money wisely if we were to pay them more. They'll just gamble it away or do something stupid with it.

I'm sorry, but what a crock.

We had a substantial middle class in this country not be because we had a highly skilled workforce where everybody busted their ass and had skills that were hard to find. We had a substantial middle class because companies actually trained people and paid a decent wage. Collective bargaining gave leverage to workers even if they didn't have much in the way of skills.

Healthcare was cheaper. Funding retirement was easier. Paying for college didn't mean you started out 30,000 in debt.

It's not that people are stupid. It's that they are not getting paid enough to enjoy the same standard of living that people in this country enjoyed a generation or two ago. Even though on average, people in generation X, Y, or the millennials are better educated. This while the 1% are getting compensated ridiculous amounts of money. People say that redistribution of wealth won't fix the problem. Wake up. Redistribution of wealth to the top is what's causing the problem.

Comment: Re:Long View (Score 1) 479

by unimacs (#49488031) Attached to: Seattle CEO Cuts $1 Million Salary To $70K, Raises Employee Salaries
How many CEOs actually started the company they run?

In 1965 an average CEO made 45 times what the average worker made. Today it's about 248 times (400 to 500 times more for fortune 500 companies). Is it that much more work to run a company now than it was 40 or 50 years ago? Does the average worker have it that much easier?

Comment: Re:Decent (Score 1) 479

by unimacs (#49487951) Attached to: Seattle CEO Cuts $1 Million Salary To $70K, Raises Employee Salaries
He's paying himself less and his staff more. The total cost for labor is the same. Perhaps the real inefficiency in compensating CEOs far more than they actually return to the company. Even when they're let go or the company fails they often have "golden parachutes". The can survive for years off their severance packages.

Comment: Re:Decent (Score 1) 479

by unimacs (#49487815) Attached to: Seattle CEO Cuts $1 Million Salary To $70K, Raises Employee Salaries
Also remember that in larger companies there are many executives making large amounts of money, - not just the CEO. Making their compensation less exorbitant as well would free up even more cash for the average worker.

In 1965 the average CEO in the US made about 45 times what the average worker made. Today it's about 250 times more. For fortune 500 companies it's more like 400 to 500 times more.

Comment: Re:Long View (Score 1) 479

by unimacs (#49487659) Attached to: Seattle CEO Cuts $1 Million Salary To $70K, Raises Employee Salaries
Yeah, how awful. They might be able to fund their own retirement and healthcare, plus send their kids to college so that they'll have skills. All that along with paying more taxes that can be used to fix decaying infrastructure among other things.

Compensation is tied to the bargaining power of the worker, not necessarily the skills. If only people with unusual skills can expect decent compensation then by definition most people will get paid squat. That does not lead to a stable society.

Comment: Re:A first: We should follow Germany's lead (Score 2) 699

by unimacs (#49484791) Attached to: 'We the People' Petition To Revoke Scientology's Tax Exempt Status
From irs.gov:

"Certain characteristics are generally attributed to churches. These attributes of a church have been developed by the IRS and by court decisions. They include:

- Distinct legal existence
- Recognized creed and form of worship
- Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
- Formal code of doctrine and discipline
- Distinct religious history
- Membership not associated with any other church or denomination
- Organization of ordained ministers
- Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study
- Literature of its own
- Established places of worship
- Regular congregations
- Regular religious services
- Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young
- Schools for the preparation of its members

The IRS generally uses a combination of these characteristics, together with other facts and circumstances, to determine whether an organization is considered a church for federal tax purposes."

My take is that it's not something that can be reduced to an algorithm and to a certain extent it is a judgement call if for example an organization has some of the above characteristics but not others. Note however that the belief systems themselves aren't judged in any way (nor should they be).

Also important to recognize is that the above are just characteristics of a church and alone aren't enough to make an organization tax exempt. There are other rules that apply. For example there can neither be private owners or share holders.

For many years the IRS denied Scientology tax exempt status. I don't know if it was because the IRS claimed that it wasn't a real religion or because it violated some other rules regarding non-profits. Eventually Scientology was granted tax-exempt status but rumor was that they did so by strong-arming members of the IRS. Anyway, a petition will not be enough to remove their tax exempt status. It will have to be shown that they are in violation of the rules.

Comment: Re:A first: We should follow Germany's lead (Score 1) 699

by unimacs (#49480313) Attached to: 'We the People' Petition To Revoke Scientology's Tax Exempt Status
Note: Many churches fill out the paperwork just to protect themselves even though they aren't technically required to. There are people that believe this is completely unnecessary and that calling yourself a church is all you need to do to make yourself tax exempt. There are actual court cases that have proved this notion to be wrong. If you call yourself a church and engage in practices that could be mistaken as "for profit" activity then you place yourself at risk of coming out on the bad end of an audit.

Comment: Re:A first: We should follow Germany's lead (Score 1) 699

by unimacs (#49480265) Attached to: 'We the People' Petition To Revoke Scientology's Tax Exempt Status
They don't have to fill out the paperwork but they have to meet the qualifications of a 501c3 to guarantee their tax exempt status. In other words, they can skip the 990 but declaring themselves to be a church doesn't prevent them from being audited and ultimately being made to pay back taxes if they are found not to meet the qualifications of a non-profit.

So declaring your organization to be a church doesn't really make you exempt from anything other than getting a pass on filling out some forms. You can call yourself a church and not pay taxes, but if the IRS audits you and finds that you don't meet the requirements of a 501c3, then you're screwed.

So, Scientology shouldn't be exempt unless they can demonstrate they meet the requirements of a 501c3 non-profit. It really has little to do with belief systems.

Comment: Re:Just goes to show (Score 2) 441

by unimacs (#49467341) Attached to: Republicans Introduce a Bill To Overturn Net Neutrality

Corporations are people under US law and "people" can spend as much as they want on election campaigns.

Corporations are persons so they can be be a party to contracts and be legally held to them. I mean, you want corporations to be accountable, right?

Also, what part of "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech" don't you understand?

Not "Congress shall make no law against individuals", not "Congress shall make no law against unions". NO law. Any law restricting the movement of speech, including political contributions, is unconstitutional. You don't need to bring "person" into it.

It's kind of obvious that "freedom of speech" now belongs primarily to those who can pay big bucks for it.

One of the worst decisions ever. Corruption has been enshrined in law.

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky

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