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Comment Re:They are concerned about lost tax revenue? (Score 1) 366

Sales tax is more usually expressed as Value Added Tax or Goods and Services Tax in countries like Australia however they are normally categorised as consumption taxes. These are "policy" taxes with a view to taxing consumption at the end point of the chain of production (ie GST is a deductible input in the production of goods and services and so it is only the end consumer that actually "pays" the tax). It is not a question of MUST, but a question of the policy goals of the way in which the community is taxed and the simplicity of the overall tax system. There is a need to broaden the base from which government revenue is raised since Australia already has a progressive income tax system and, whilst not exactly Scandinavian in it's brutality, wage earners are already redistributing income down the curve significantly. And the introduction of GST in Australia was accompanied by a rationalisation of a wide variety of other taxes, including Sales tax in order to simplify the base from which non-income taxes were levied.

Even with the "dodged" GST talked about in this report it is much harder for dodgers of GST to dodge it effectively since they get caught on the back end when they go and buy something more "retail" where the GST is just included with no option of omission for cash.

Regarding your analysis of consumption taxes being to hide how much revenue is gathered by obfuscating the means of raising said revenue, that is a crock. Proven so by the detailed breakdown of sources of revenue provided by the Treasury on an annual and longer term basis in terms of post hoc reporting and publicly disclosed projections for policy planning purposes.

Comment This isn't a victory for Behring-Breivik. (Score 3, Insightful) 491

Someone once pointed out that hoping a rapist gets raped in prison isn't a victory for his victim(s), because it somehow gives him what he had coming to him, but it's actually a victory for rape and violence. I wish I could remember who said that, because they are right. The score doesn't go Rapist: 1 World: 1. It goes Rape: 2.

What this man did is unspeakable, and he absolutely deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. If he needs to be kept away from other prisoners as a safety issue, there are ways to do that without keeping him in solitary confinement, which has been shown conclusively to be profoundly cruel and harmful.

Putting him in solitary confinement, as a punitive measure, is not a victory for the good people in the world. It's a victory for inhumane treatment of human beings. This ruling is, in my opinion, very good and very strong for human rights, *precisely* because it was brought by such a despicable and horrible person. It affirms that all of us have basic human rights, even the absolute worst of us on this planet.

Comment Re:Of course not (Score 1) 190

Distributed ledgers have some value, but there are not many applications where the cost of the bitcoin approach is justified. All this talk of the blockchain in the finance industry is interesting but frankly smacks a bit too much of "me too" bandwagonism for my liking. I really struggle to understand the benefits of a distributed ledger in most financial transactions. Certainly can't understand the value with latency and volume constraints like the current bitcoin implementation.

I think public key cryptography is _vastly_ more important than the blockchain to name just one.

Comment Re:Good news. (Score 1) 80

It's a complicated question that presents me with difficulties. Let us assume that we live in a country with separate Executive, Judicial and Legislative powers. Despite failings, this is largely true of the UK. If the executive (police etc) want to spy on someone they need a legislative authority and I would like them to have a second, independent, step by which someone evaluates if the purpose of their spying is within the legislative authority. That would be a judge. I am not convinced that the Home Secretary (which is an Executive position) is the right institution to be conducting this evaluation. A judicial oversight would be more comforting methinks.

I don't have a problem with the state hacking for the purposes of investigation. Placing the existence of this capability into the public domain certainly impacts the probative value of information found on a device (the planting of false evidence becoming likewise easier). This is akin to weight of the finding of physical evidence with the probability of the planting of false physical evidence with the warranted access to a suspect's property or person. Corruption is the problem here, not the means by which it is effected.

What concerns me most of all is the creation of legal processes which are not subject to the scrutiny of public view. It is this issue that should be at the top of all the agitation about the progress of these courses of action. Secret courts or injunctions, the existence of which cannot be mentioned are frightening and indeed so Kafkaesque as to be worthy of new round of parable fiction.

Comment Re:I found another unicorn! (Score 1) 317

(51% of the water in CA is given to animal agriculture.)

Are you sure? That number seems well out of whack from my understanding of how water is used in most agricultural water systems. First you probably mean that as a percentage of the water consumed because it is unlikely that more than 50% of the water in California is consumed, most of it will be used to manage the system itself (checking facts.... yep... So once you correct for that detail and turn to agriculture, fixed plantings and cropping are metered and use giga litres per annum but livestock water is such an insignificant amount that it's not even metered (as long as the pipe is small enough). Perhaps in the US (and the big valley in particular) feed is a big part of that cropping.... rudimentary googling suggests it is nearer to 25% than 50% and that includes alfalfa or nearer to 10% if you are measuring irrigated pastures. It's a bit different where I am from since we don't usually irrigate pasture except for dairy use.

I wholeheartedly disagree with almost everything you say, but if you are going to run the argument you may as well use facts a little closer to the reality. Who knows your argument might even hold water for some folk under those condition, if you will excuse the pun.

Comment IANAE (Score 2) 213

I am an econometrician (well sort of), which is probably worse, but at least we know that. But economics, independent of any data set availability or actual method problems, is broadly handicapped by the generally unobservable nature of the actual data that would enable the verification (or refutation) of a hypothesis. That is, much of the data is quite noisy with many variables mixed in with each other, and as such a big part of the work is trying to determine the extent to which the data itself is a useful measure of the thing being tested. Sometimes getting to a useful dataset is dependent on some awkward assumptions. As such, one of the biggest faults of Economic Theory is assuming a can opener (

Comment Staggering Amount of Money (Score 1) 186

As an outsider, who writes software for a living (proper, highly available transactional systems [finance industry but I do know some general stuff]). This amount of money is simply staggering. Even if we assume the published number (4.3B), 3% inflation, a relatively aggressive annualised ROI and 10 years over which to apply the costs, that turns into between 80 and 160 [20% ROI to 10% _annual_ ROI] million dollars per year in costs. IN COSTS. Even if you margin those costs at 33% (profit is already accounted for so the margin is on costs and risk) that's still 50 - 100 million dollars a year of costs to develop and support this system every year for 10 years. WTF kind of project are they planning? People have written software that changed the freaking world with a fraction of that amount of money.

Now having said all that, I have a little window on the way a different government developed their budget for an IT project. They knew that the new project would make 60 people redundant so they looked at the cost of those people, multiplied it by some number of years for the scope of the new system and went... There you go 30 million dollars.

  There is something very, very, very wrong with government.

BTW, There are about 20M veterans in the USA, give em all 200 bucks and let them keep scans of their own records on a freaking thumb drive. Backed up to, S3 or something. That might even actually work!

Comment Re:Taxi licenses are crazy expensive (Score 1) 334

Medallion owners bought the medallions with the understanding that they were buying into a limited monopoly.

Maybe it should be clarified here that when you see someone claim that it's not the government charging $200,000 for a taxi medallion, that's just the going price on the secondary market. You know, good old capitalism, where people are bidding up the price of a __un__necessarily limited commodity.

The taxi authority looks at population, traffic flow and transportation needs and comes up with a number of taxis that they think should be on the street. Every year, they add new medallions into the system, usually with a lottery. The idea is not so much to protect the cab drivers (cities don't care about cab drivers. If they did, they wouldn't make the minor traffic fines, like your cab being 10 inches over the line of a designated taxi waiting zone, as much as $500 (which practically wipes out the cab driver's week), but to keep the number of taxis from getting so crazy that you have cabs clogging up city centers, fighting for fares.

There you go, I fixed that for you.

If the regulators approach to the problem described was the correct one then why can't I get a fucking cab when I want one? There are many more solutions to the problem of oversupply that you identify, indeed one can quite happily argue that Uber actually have one.

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