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Comment Re:The house always wins (Score 1) 843

... it would be a tax cut, even for those with good accountants (but maybe not for those with the best accountants).

Let's examine that claim a bit...

Centuries ago, it was possible for the elites to claim "divine right of kings" and maintain their fiefdoms based purely on a supposed mandate from God. Taxes could be levied on the poor, while exempting the elites, because God wanted it that way. Today, the masses will not accept this. A "divine right of robber barons" is not going to pass the sniff test, so the elites must be able to at least make a plausible case that the state operates in the interests of the masses, not just a privileged few. Costs to run the country, and defend its existence need to take account of that reality.

The above reality being recognized, let us look at where the federal taxes levied go, and which uses of taxes you want abolished.

First, I assume you wish to abolish the (supposedly separately funded) social security and Medicare programs. With most businesses having eliminated their own employee pension schemes, this is the main unavoidable contribution they must still make. It means, of course, not just no retirement benefits (no problem: the wealthy can afford their own pensions) but also such expensive entitlements as disability insurance, Medicare and Medicaid among other entitlements Medicare is horrendously expensive, partly for reasons that have to do with the way health care is structured in the US. (Unlucky if you are one of the individuals who finds it impossible to get privately funded replacements, such as because of preexisting conditions.) It is just conceivable that you could eliminate these programs over time. After all, individuals also bear some of the cost. There is no way the masses would accept an abrupt removal of their benefits, though, so reductions in the cost to business would have to be a slow process..

With that out of the way, we can examine where the main federal taxes go.

  • By far the biggest is the military. I would argue that these costs could be hugely cut back, though only with a big short-term hit to the economy. What is needed is a small standing army and air force, together with a minimal nuclear deterrent. There is no way the elites would permit this, however. Their ability to project power globally relies on the current bloated monster.
  • You have federally funded education initiatives like the Head Start program, training and placement for unemployed, and grants for low income college students. Individually, these are not too expensive, but collectively they command a measurable proportion of the budget. I would personally not favor eliminating most of these, and I think acceptance of the system is impaired by doing so, but I concede eliminating them is possible.
  • I believe food stamps are funded from regular taxes, not social security, so these need to be considered separately. Yes, they could be axed. Some children would die, and more would be mentally and physically damaged by malnutrition, but that is not the elites' problem.
  • There is government support for scientific research. Outside of that with military applications, it is actually not a huge amount of money.
  • There are regulatory authorities to ensure things like food safety and disease control. While business would probably like to see them go, as complying with regulations costs them money, I personally think for most purposes they need to stay.
  • There is infrastructure spending, such as on the roads. You could replace this with a system of toll roads, as in Europe in centuries past.
  • Veteran's benefits could be eliminated, but the outcry from the masses would make this quite untenable

Overall, I agree with the theory that much smaller and cheaper government is feasible. I do not think it can be done in practice unless (i) you can convince the population at large that programs to benefit the bulk of the population should be eliminated for the benefit of big business and the rich; and (ii) you can convince the elites that their global ambitions need to be forgone for the benefit of everyone else. I think you have a tough task ahead.

Comment Re:The house always wins (Score 1) 843

This is a very American attitude, though not by any means limited to the US.

If people want nation states, they need institutions to run them, and defense forces to enforce their existence. Most people do seem to want this, and they do not pay for themselves.Part of Trump's appeal is emphasizing the tribalism that underlies the desire for borders.

I am totally out of sympathy with the attitude that says: "I want the nation state with the benefits that accrues to me personally. However, I would be stupid, as a wealthy individual with access to sleazy accountants, to pay my share, because I can force the burden onto the middle class and the poor." The analogous attitude in business is that "there is a fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value, and any kind of actions within the limits of the law that we can take to achieve this are not only acceptable but mandatory."

Comment Re: I don't hate on systemd but this is really ba (Score 1) 508

No, see the highly rated post above. There is no bug. The fact that there are problems after issuing that command is a coincidence. The server just coincidentally was hit by cosmic rays around the same time. Other reports of the same problem are similar coincidences. The systemd OS is just as perfect as the Microsoft operating system it takes its inspiration from.

Comment Re:basic features (Score 1) 63

Why can't I have a "show how big a folder is" in Google Drive?

I feel your pain, but it is actually a hard problem. Folders do not exist in Drive. They are just the result of a specialized search. Having files locatable using tags associated with them, and all files being stored all over the globe provides some pretty cool capabilities. A single item typically is stored in several different places, for redundancy and speed of access reasons. The same file can also exist in many different "virtual locations" at the same time, with an individual deciding where it best fits in their own hierarchy (possibly several places for the same individual for cases where a traditional filesystem would use links).

However, it does suck when you really do wish they behaved like real folders. It would be fiendishly difficult, when tags change, or even files renamed, moved or deleted, to maintain indexes for each individual user of the items in their own Google Drives.

Comment Lots of hands on activities (Score 4, Insightful) 133

It should be designed in such a way that kids can actually make the exhibits work, not just tell them how it works. All other considerations are secondary. However, dramatic comparisons like an IBM 350 disk unit displayed alongside a modern mSATA drive will also make an impression.

Comment Lifespan? (Score 4, Interesting) 23

I can imagine something like this being effective in the lab and when new, but I wonder how long it takes for its performance to degrade. It presumably relies on very sensitive chemical reactions which assume zero contamination. After a few minutes exposed to street pollution, does it still work? Even if my concerns in this area are well founded, the technology will still be useful, but I am pretty skeptical about it becoming a standard smart phone feature.

Comment Re: Happy Birthday to The United States of America (Score 2) 87

How democratic the US may be in practice is a complex question. The biggest problem (greater than voter apathy) is the way the electorate is misinformed and manipulated.

When people face a hefty fine for not voting, as in Australia, it is not surprising that voter turnout is high,

Comment Re:Happy Birthday to The United States of America (Score 0) 87

I cannot help wondering if your post is a clever troll. Universal suffrage (in my view a condition for true democracy) in the US dates back to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. If you take a more narrow view of a "democracy" as allowing all males meeting certain property requirements to vote, then the US was not the first.

Whether the US is celebrating another well-run year is open to debate. It is possible to argue for or against that proposition.

Comment Re:Yeah, sure (Score 5, Interesting) 104

The argument against most medical advances revolves around improbable failures. Meanwhile, people die, go blind and lose their legs because they are using inferior, outdated treatments.

The device being discussed in this article is clearly preferable to purely manual methods that may need to be applied when the patient's mental faculties are impaired by a severe glucose imbalance (or even when the patient has entered a coma). Might faults in the hardware or programming result in accidents? Yes, but the risk/benefit analysis clearly favors its use.

I would add that there is a crying need for much more research into the impact of the microbiome on autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes. There is tantalizing evidence that type 1 diabetes may be curable for some individuals simply by modifying the gut bacteria.

Comment fecal transplants may be faster and more effective (Score 2) 136

Contrary to what the FA suggests, some experiments with fecal transplants to treat various other conditions have been done. Although most available data is anecdotal, there is evidence that they could be the best treatment for obesity, and a possible cure for type 1 diabetes and other auto immune conditions. See, for instance, some views of Dr. Jeffrey Gordon

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