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Submission + - Virginia spent over half a million on cell surveillance that mostly doesn't work (muckrock.com)

v3rgEz writes: In 2014, the Virginia State Police spent $585,265 on a specially modified Suburban outfitted with the latest and greatest in cell phone surveillance: The DRT 1183C, affectionately known as the DRTbox. But according to logs uncovered by public records website MuckRock, the pricey ride was only used 12 times — and only worked 7 of those times. Read the full DRTbox documents at MuckRock.

Comment Re: Going to be dead on arrival (Score 1) 96

I guess that's why they don't use tanks and use fuel cells instead then.

Just in case you actually don't know what a fuel cell is: Its an electricity generator, not a fuel storage device. You still have to have something to store the fuel in (a tank). The fuel is then transfered into the Fuel cell slowly where it is converted into electricity and waste products (water in the case of hydrogen fuel cells).

Comment Re: Going to be dead on arrival (Score 1) 96

Are you telling me they can't put it in a tank designed to store liquid hydrogen?

A tank designed to contain liquid hydrogen has to be kept *cold*, *very cold*. Failure to do so causes the tank to rupture, and you will get a massive conflagration if not outright explosion.

Cryogenics plants are not small, or light. If you change that from liquid hydrogen to compressed hydrogen gas, that is now a factor of 40, not 4.

Compressed hydrogen gas actually makes lithium ion look safe by comparison. Liquid Hydrocarbon fuels are not explosive under vary many scenarios, usually requiring a heated pressurized environment. Many types of hydrocarbon fuels wont even burn under normal STP. Hydrogen gas by contrast loves to burn, and is a mess to contain (leaking hydrogen has no smell, and it is perfectly possible for a container to leak hydrogen but be "air tight" to everything else).

Comment Re:Curing Greed. (Score 1) 436

Thanks for asking. There are lots of different schools of thought on the matter, so I'm just giving my own thoughts on it here, not an overview of every possibility entertained. If you were to strictly-speaking enforce a process of diminishing returns on concentrating wealth, that wouldn't be a free market anymore; keeping wealth from concentrating in a free market requires you find some kind of loophole or process that is enabling that, and then you just stop enabling it.

I think that that loophole is rent, including rent on money otherwise known as interest. I'm cutting this really quick here and glossing over a lot (mostly rebuttals to anticipated objections), but basically rents happen when one person has more capital than they (in their own estimation) need for their own use, and someone else has less capital than they (in their own estimation) need for their own use, and the one with more exploits that difference by charging the one with less a permanent fee for the temporary use of the capital, so that when the whole transaction is over, the one with more now has even more, and the one with less now has even less, and (this is the key part) that process then loops over and over and over again, unless by some other means the one with not enough capital manages to get enough capital of their own (a process made all the harder by having to pay to borrow someone else's meanwhile).

In the absence of the ability to rent the capital (lend it at interest), the one with more capital would need, if they wanted to profit from it at all (since they're not using it themselves), to sell their excess capital, and the only buyers would be those without enough already, so the sale would have to be on terms (price and payment schedule) the latter can afford, to satisfy both of their own self-interests. This would still come at the cost of extra labor from the buying party (being all that they have to trade, lacking in capital), and consequently afford the selling party some leisure (lack of labor needed), but that would be a temporary condition until the sale is complete. Afterward, both parties have the amount of capital they (in their own estimation) need for their own use, and can continue about their usual amount of labor, keeping the whole product thereof for themselves.

For illustration consider a toy model economy where the only capital is land, the only labor is farming, and there are only two identical participants, with the same needs and labor capacity. If they both have enough land to farm to meet their own needs, then they can each farm their own land and they are equals. If one has more land than he needs and the other less, and rent is a thing, the first can rent some of his land to the other, which he pays by also farming some of the other guy's land (besides the part he's renting), meaning the other guy can kick back and work less... and this will continue like that indefinitely, one person perpetually indebted to the other, all because one of them started out with more than the other. Meanwhile without rent, the poorer farmer would still need to buy the excess land from the richer farmer, meaning he would still have to do some of the farming for the other farmer in trade for that land, but a finite amount thereof, after which time the price will have been paid, they will have equal amounts of land, and go about farming it with equal amounts of labor to meet their equal needs, neither indebted to the other.

Fortunately, we don't have to ban rent to get rid of it, because rent is not just a voluntary trade of one thing for another, that would be a sale; it's a special kind of contract. If we simply stop enforcing such contracts, consider them invalid the way we consider a contract selling yourself into slavery invalid, then rentals and interest-bearing loans would be, while strictly speaking allowed, economically untenable (inasmuch as I will not be punished for agreeing to be your slave, but as soon as I decide I'm tired of it, tough luck for you, that agreement is not binding). So you're not using any force, and all trades are still free, just certain kinds of contracts are not protected, and so won't be used, and in their absence, actual trades (still free) will have to be used instead, in the process circumventing the problems that arise from rent.

And Marx thought capitalism was an unavoidable byproduct of free markets just because he couldn't see what it was, in addition to the free trade of private property, was really causing it. The problem is not, as Marx thought, that the factory-owners pay the workers less than they in turn sell the product of those workers' labor for; the problem is what causes the workers to be in such a bind that their best option is to agree to such an arrangement instead of telling the factory-owners to go fuck themselves, and that is that the workers have debts to their landlords (and possibly other creditors) to pay. The only difference between capitalism and feudalism is that the lord whose land you live on and the lord whose land you labor on can be different people (and you can pick who they are); you're still laboring upon someone else's capital, and then giving a big chunk of the product of that labor to someone to borrow the capital you need to live and continue laboring. That the someones are different instead of the same doesn't make that much difference to the economics of it.

Comment Re:Curing Greed. (Score 1) 436

i think you're a moron with no knowledge of the history of economics who can't distinguish propertarianism (private property ownership) and voluntarism (freedom to conduct commerce voluntarily) from capitalism (the shaping of a market -- free or not -- by the prior distribution of capital, such that ownership flows to those who already have more of it; first coined by Marx as an unavoidably byproduct of free markets, though I and plenty of others think he's wrong).

Comment Re:Stop using cars at all. (Score 1) 196

Which precisely describes the opposite of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens.

Nobody is saying you ought to be forced to take the streetcar from Mayberry to Petticoat Junction. From Monmarte to the Bastile -- transit makes more sense than driving, especially if you factor in time for parking.

Comment For the Bank of Russia it's not even pocket change (Score 3, Insightful) 75

It's just numbers on a spreadsheet. The Bank of Russia is Russia's central bank and there is literally no amount of money you can steal from a central bank that will harm it. That's because they're the people who issue the fiat in "fiat currency".

The harm is to the economy as a whole, in the form of inflation. In this case we're talking about the release of thirty one million spurious extra bucks into a two trillion dollar economy. Just a tiny bit of inflation, diluted to homeopathic concentrations and applied to everyone who uses rubles.

Of course the bank has to pursue this because it undermines confidence in the system, but this is as close to a victimless crime as any illegal way of obtaining thirty-one million dollars can be.

Comment I find this kind of depressing. (Score 1) 213

I'm all for things that go boom. I love weird, clever little gadgets. I admire a clever and subtle subversion of a system, even when I don't condone its use.

But geez; this thing is not exactly elegant. It uses a fairly basic circuit to exploit the completely unsurprising fact that the interface isn't designed to handle high voltages.

Comment Re:Not much. I do look at data which may upset you (Score 4, Interesting) 293

Attempting to simplify the crises in Syria by pointing at climate change seriously under states all other factors. Hell, one of your own links (the usda one) clearly shows that Syria has been able to meet its needs IF allowed via imports

The USDA link shows no such thing; it shows Syria eating up its reserves as it fails to import enough wheat to make up the shortfall. Yes, Assad underwrote the price of bread, but there wasn't enough subsidized bread to meet demand, forcing people to buy non-subsidized bread which increased in price six-fold. The net bread expenditure went up by 20% in a country where many people spend half their income on food.

I'm not a reductionist; situations like this have multiple important factors. The Assad/Islamist thing had been simmering for decades -- generations really. Had that situation been different, the climate shock might not have destabilized the country. In point of fact bread prices were an issue throughout the Middle East and a major factor in the Arab Spring. Syria was arguably better positioned than most other Arab countries, but the stress of having 5% of your population displaced on top of the deep and old fault lines broke the country apart.

This is precisely how climate shock is going to work. It won't be like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water; it'll be formerly rare occurrences happening more frequently and stressing vulnerable populations. Take sea level rise; cities won't drown slpowly, but what was once a hundred year flood will become twenty year flood. That will stress coastal cities, and the results depend on how stable and wealthy a particular city is.

For example were sea level to rise almost a meter by 2100 (as is now within the scope of mainstream positions), the very wealthy coastal city I live in would go the Venice route and build a tidal barrier, which would conservatively cost at least ten billion dollars. Chittagong Bengladesh, however, will be screwed. My city has twice the GDP of Bengladesh as a whole even though it has 3% of the population.

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