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226 posts • joined 22 Sep 2007
Call me crazy...
But the article read like it was written by my formerly tech-savvy uncle, who declared that BBS was good enough for him so it should be good enough for everyone. I realize the intent was humor with a side of snark, but it just came across as jaded, bitter, and fearful of change.
We know what Facebook is about. No new ground is being broken (journalistic or otherwise) by reiterating that it they track how what their users are doing. It also is disingenuous as all commercial (and many non-commercial) websites conduct user interaction tracking to some degree and leverage it for redesign or content presentation, including The Register.
Having been at a company that used auto dialers, the act of answering the phone was enough to drop the call to an agent. This service would do the same thing. Unless they are using a VoIP system that provides no way for an agent to access a number pad, my guess is that either the message about *5 is being cut off and not heard, or you've got some pretty honest salespeople over there. Those services were offered here in the States years ago, and they mostly died an ignoble death as they were not all that effective.
If emergency services is calling using an unknown number, they will be prompted to press *5 to get through. That extra step could be serious, especially if a time ever comes where robocalls for a general alert are ever required for safety and security. But even without it, the extra step is a possible failure point that could prevent the number holder from being reached.
And even if it was a cold call, the extra step of pressing *5 only assures that a human is on the line who won't be stymied by it. The service being provided is pretty gimmicky and relies on honest humans, a quality you won't often find in telephonic sales.
Re: And 2x bad == ?
I'm sure the robotic help would be better and more expensive than the poor folks they hire to be abused in the Philippines or Malaysia. The flowcharts they hand out have every termination point except "Resolved to Customer Satisfaction."
Re: More sourceless rumors
A week ago the rumor was that approval was imminent.
I can't say I've heard that one before. If there was a rumor approval was imminent, it would have rocked the internet, as many technology companies, media outlets, and other players with a stake have been against it from the start.
However, if you can provide a reputable outlet that published an article that substantiates your claim, I'm willing to accept that at least one person seemed to think this was going to happen at one point.
Sales Tax vs. VAT
While it is true that there is a wide variety of sales taxes throughout the States, more often than not services are excluded from being taxed. Again, this varies by jurisdiction but it's pretty common to go to the mechanic, for example, and get an invoice that lists the parts and services, with the parts section containing a tax line while seeing none in the services section. So here in the States, I would expect to see a monthly charge on my credit card of $19.99... assuming I ever suffered some kind of traumatic brain injury to left me legally fit to handle my own affairs while being completely bereft of sense.
Re: Benefit of the Guilds
You'll find that taxis are strictly licensed mainly for safety and honesty - there are still plenty of fake taxi companies at work in London that will rip off tourists. If you take a ride in an unlicensed and uninsured taxi you will receive very little compensation for injury. Uber et al are trying to jump on their bandwagon not a legal one.
You can set standards without unduly constraining market participants who follow the rules. What's happening here in the US is that a lot of places have established taxi operators who bid on a limited number of medallions, badges, licenses, etc, with the entire "fee" going into the city's coffers.
Rather than let the established market participants play in a walled garden, free from competition, it seems easier to require that anyone operating as a car-for-hire must carry commercial insurance of a certain amount and leave it to the insurance carriers to require a certain level of proof before they extend a policy. If you want to operate a car-for-hire service where you provide the cars (as many cab companies do today, though often on lease or for a fee), then the carrier should insure the business owner and require them to check, certify, maintain, and validate the drivers. If Uber or any other peer-to-peer service wants to play, they should make the Ts & Cs clear for both sides that insurance is required and that the transaction is between the driver and the passenger.
In some cases, there is something to be said for giving market participants enough rope to hang themselves with...
Re: Lax US Security Rules????
HIPAA was updated with the ACA (I think) to extend the same protections on physical data to electronic health records. How every company implements those requirements, or if they've decided that a claim filed through a provider portal should have the same level of security as one sent via fax probably varies much more than necessary. To me, it's logical that an electronic claim is protected the same way a paper claim is, especially since even before electronic claims became a thing, those paper claims were often entered into some green-text "UI" that used keystrokes and Function keys to navigate (I noticed those still existed in 2014).
The reality is that the OPM's audit was likely more concerned about the protection of the federal employees then the overall security of the system. And as many federal contracts demand security that is in excess of the legal requirements, companies often maintain separate datastores, user tables, and even applications to deal with those requirements. One the other side, non-governmental clients worry about things like the company logo is scaling properly, the exact color hex codes are used for the portal, and that their employees are being served an HR-approved message on some tertiary screen that is only accessed during 0.1% of all portal sessions, likely the HR bod worried about the messaging.
HIPAA covers how Protected Health Information that is identifiable can be accessed be people. Because of changes to technology in the last 20 years, the enforcement of HIPAA has been extended to include information security.
Having working in healthcare previously, I can attest to the rectal probing that an audit should bring when done with actual compliance in mind. Generally, even automated or transactional accesses to PHI was logged and justified. Since it extended to automated processes, just having a generic "SysUser" account for any and all applications that might access the data was not cool, so a unique identifier was required.
We were often asked to "Give me all you've got," by incoming systems and we had to get them to outline the exact data they needed, what it was needed for, and what, if any, was going to persist in their system. Even if they persisted none of it, however, there was a conversation way above my pay grade that often resulted in a much reduced field count and/or without any kind of the forbidden identifiers.
I'd heard that others around us were similar, though that might have been because healthcare is a rather important field in my geographical location, so there is a lot of poaching... err, cross-pollination of ideas, so it wouldn't surprise me to learn that through sheer luck, the healthcare companies in my neck of the woods are a bit stronger... but I'll probably see a local company hacked in tomorrow's paper just to make an idiot of me.
As far as the "seal of approval" from the OPM, I think they only are really concerned about the security of federal employee data... and it wouldn't surprise me if such data was kept sequestered from the other information to please government auditors. Where I was, the PHI of Medicare, Medicaid, Military, and Federal Employees were kept separate from other clients and had tighter control as the government had standards in excess of what was required by law, while the other clients were more concerned about NDAs, IP, and trade secrets (which they often considered things like benefits to be). So at Premera, don't be surprised if few, if any, people associated to a federal contract were compromised.
So TWC and Comcast are last-mile providers...
But they wield out-sized power as they are some of the few providers who can attach that last-mile to the network or a backbone.
They own the cooper or fiber in the ground that goes to homes and businesses. However, that copper and fiber weren't placed for internet; they were done so for cable TV. And because of all the M&A activity in the 90s when being a regional cable TV provider was good money (assisted by legislation they and their predecessors crafted in the late 70's to protect their networks), they had near national infrastructure in place to convert the signal from TV-only to the 1's and 0's we depend on for cat pictures.
Nothing wrong with that, except those pesky cable TV laws that prevented them from being competed against in cities. Those laws made it legal (read: mandatory) for cities to offer franchise agreements giving the likes of Comcast exclusive access to the residents. Now we are in a state where one provider (maybe two in a large city) provides cable internet. The same happened in the DSL space (different means), so now most cities are left with this for internet: One cable and one DSL.
That's it. Sure, TV can also be grabbed from satellite, both DirecTV and Dish, but they don't offer internet (and often bundle with DSL providers who haven't done an IPTV). For me, it's Comcast and CenturyLink, the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of monopolistic internet providers. The only plus side to the proposed TWC and Comcast merger is that I'm in one of the few areas they have already offered to spin off and sell to another company... so maybe I'll not have my name changed to offensive words when I call to complain yet again about channels not coming through, poor bandwidth, and the fact that HBO Go can't be used on the PS4 or Amazon Fire because Comcast is the only provider that refuses to allow their customer accounts the ability to activate it.
Re: First part was better.
After reading both parts, I can't help but wonder if this was a long-winded way of saying, "We don't know what it means, but we need to figure out who to blame in case it goes downhill fast."
I get the Google hate, but it also seems to be a repeat of the anti-Microsoft rantings from the 90s: Deserved, but way more smoke than fire. Yes, Google is a terrible, horrible company that had the gall to claim "Don't be evil" as their governance motto back in the 00's. For that alone, they should be summarily dismissed as a company worth doing any business with and ideally placed in a stockade so we can throw rotten produce at them.
However, the real world will continue on and the populace will find other boogeymen to blame for the speed of their connection, the dropping of phone calls, etc. It might move upstream to the backbone providers. And hey, nothing here seems to indicate that companies can't enter into some kind of data-metering circumvention deals like T-Mobile and Spotify, which is just another way of providing some kind of preferential treatment to certain providers. How long until we see a Netflix/Verizon agreement or ESPN/AT&T?
My point is that there is a lot of ink being spilled here going on about the soon-to-come internet-destruction caused by Google, Netflix, Facebook, etc., without a lot of consideration to why we've reached this point and how exactly the market has failed. Are the FCC rules similar to using a sledgehammer when a tack hammer will work? Maybe. But that is the reality of a process where people can do more than just vote with their dollars. When the dollars don't seem to sway the market, or the market has created artificial constraints that keep too many dollars from leaving, people are going to start agitating for reform from the government, good or bad.
We won't know what will happen until it happens. It might be good, it might be bad. It might balance out to be a different feeling of vague ickiness, much like the way it is today. We don't know what we don't know, and historical precedence is not actually helpful as it just proves that point. However, it's easier to kick out an incumbent when their services are interchangeable with another (MySpace to Facebook) than when the incumbent owns the last-mile *and* has the ability to throttle, charge, meter, change, etc. the terms of that last mile on a whim without being afraid of being swapped out for another provider.
As a resident of the frozen wasteland up north...
I can understand the fear of snow and sub-0C temps for 3-6 months a year, but as I'm sure Texas residents would concur, even the slightest hint of water freezing causes them to hunker down like Armageddon is about to hit (never mind the Rapture-lusting contingent). And it's not like Texas doesn't get cold itself, and being a state with little to do in the winter months while not getting cold enough to support winter sports like skiing, I've heard some pretty miserable stories about December through February down there. At least up here on the other end of I-35, we have other things to do and the infrastructure to handle it.
Also, the further north you go, you get away from some of those weird Bible Belt situations... though you do get dangerously close to Canada.
It depends on the arraignment. For many large employers who offer insurance, they actually just hire an insurance company to pay claims and curate a provider network. It's called self-insured and usually has other provisions like stop-loss insurance and things like that. The assets themselves (premiums from the paycheck and a set-aside by the company) are placed in a trust that is legally separate from the company. So if the company goes down, those assets are not up for grabs by creditors. How it's handled... I'm not sure. Never been part of that, though I assume that as long as the company is being restructured, they still have to use the trust to pay claims.
But in that case, the large employer just had a Third-Party Administrator expose your employees (or more importantly, the VIPs of the company like the CEO and executives), meaning that you should be able to sue that TPAs pants off for breach of contract as well as take your business to a (hopefully) less porous TPA, resulting in only minimal disruption to your employees (really, the VIPs) health care.
It would likely hurt those who are fully insured (group-rate insurance) because the bankruptcy would likely result in a suspension of service. However in those cases, what would likely happen is that it would a restructure, not liquidation... and it would result in many debt-holders (like providers who submitted claims as part of their contract) getting only a percentage of the amount due. Health care then wouldn't stop either, and many of the group rate insurance and individual insurance groups would go to another insurer.
Funny story, but many insurers do these days. The HIPAA law actually does make insurers both responsible for and liable for data breaches when it concerns Protected Individual Information and Protected Health Information, the latter bringing steeper fines and cease-and-desist notices when you screw up.
More importantly, those that deal with the federal government often are held to standards that probably would result in most clients being laughed out of the building. This is even more true when it's dealing with Medicare or veteran's benefits. I'm not saying that other insurers would pass a typical pen test, but the fact Anthem outright refused to cooperate with an audit that other providers of benefits for the federal government submitted to speaks volumes about the company's attitude towards security.
Frankly, the sooner that such breaches result in massive financial loss and wholesale bankruptcy of a company or corporation, the better. Teach the survivors a lesson on why spending money on security is actually important. Until a company is run out on a rail, it will get lip service, then buried under dozens of other projects which of an ROI that can be measured in profits or potential daily fines (the only thing I ever saw get the attention of those writing CBAs for compliance work).
Heavily regulated... maybe. Enforced only when people get sick or die.
Also adding to the confusion/gaps is that the USDA handles most animal-sourced products, assuming they aren't processed into additional products for consumer sale while the FDA actually is responsible for most other agricultural products like crops, in addition to most of the processed food on the shelf. And yes, there are gaps. Lots of them. Did I mention that any product from overseas is supposed to be checked by the FDA, meat and everything else?
It's a mess and one of the absolute failings of the nation. Lots of laws and rules on the books; most of them are rarely enforced (USDA grading is voluntary and the organic label is something pawned off on non-profit and for-profit groups adhering to USDA rules, which can and do include items that most people would not consider organic, like many pesticides that have been around for decades).
Given than the regulations came well after the creation of those utilities, I don't think your point comes to play here. There are plenty of deregulated states in the US, and they have higher consumer costs. Additionally, the illusion of competition is just that; Texas is deregulated, but because the "incumbent company" built the lines and still owns them, that means other electrical providers only have to "rent" the lines, yet somehow even without the maintenance costs associated, they are providing power at a more expensive charge than others. As everyone requires power to function in today's economy, to be the "cheapest" option just means you raise your rates more slowly than the other guys. Unlike optional goods and services, you can't really price a consumer out of your product because they will always want it.
So now Texas enjoys the illusion of choice, pays higher rates than many other consumers in the country, and doesn't have any more reliable or useful of an electrical grid that a regulated state.
That may be true in other parts of the world, but in the United States, much of the infrastructure that delivers electricity, natural gas, telephony, and cable, along with most rail lines and even some roads and freeways is in fact private property.
In the case of electricity and telephony, they are underpinned by generous public tax dollar support in addition to the fees paid by subscribers. And just like cable, electricity and gas comes from a single providers. In a state like my own, we have Centerpoint Energy for natural gas and Xcel Energy for electricity. They are publicly traded companies that pay dividends, just like Target or Walmart. The difference for them is that they are forced to have rate increases reviewed by a public commission, mostly because they are true monopolies. They are allowed to temporarily charge a rate increase while approval is pending, meaning they get an interest-free loan in the case of the increase being rejected or pared back and they have to send out refunds to customers.
It's all very strange here, often because of this almost allergic reaction to the idea that governments should be doing anything at all, oftentimes on the grounds that government is not responsive to market forces, wastes money, yadda yadda yadda. Never mind that a company in a monopoly position has the exact same drawbacks as cited by the opponents of government. They also have the added bonus that they don't have to worry about being thrown out of office by upset citizens through a voting process. That's why government intervention exists; short of fraud or other criminal behavior (which these days only results in a few fines that are a fraction of the illicit profits), there is no other mechanism to make a monopoly responsive to the market. Threat of citizen revolt through government action is the only thing that could possibly work, and even that is a minor threat at best.
Re: @Arnaut the less (Is this intended to be a permanent fixture?)
Technically Amazon doesn't turn a profit either, but it's still seen as a world-striding giant.
More importantly, Tesla is profitable when you reduce their R&D spend by half. Since they have $1.9 billion in cash on hand by using debt issuance during low-interest rate periods, there is no valid reason they should not be spending $464 million on R&D when they are trying to break into new markets and create new, more mainstream products. For 2014, their net loss was $294 million, all while increasing their cash and equivalents by $1.1 billion. Outstanding debt was half of the revenue from 2014, which is a very manageable level for a growing company
You don't have to turn a profit as long as you have access to capital and/or continue spending on R&D in ways that result in investment returns greater than sitting on it. It's not only a common theme among companies for decades, it's the preferred method of business growth. Profits are useful only insomuch as you are able to use them to grow your business, pay dividends, or purchase competitors or enter new markets.
Apple actually is a prime example of a company that is too profitable and making poor business decisions by sitting on a 12-figure cash hoard (and adding to it with bond issuance). There are only so many responsible things that Apple could do with it's cash, but the fact that they keep adding to the hoard purposefully rather than holding even shows they have no business plan besides doing what they are already doing. If they were a smaller company, a competitor or company keen on entering that market would buy them out with little effort. Apple's #1 valuation makes them too big too gobble up, but it still makes shareholders nervous when cash piles keep growing.
If you are a privately held company, profits are great; though even then it can be troublesome because profits can be subject to taxation at a greater rate then if the money was invested or reclassified as payroll and/or asset purchases. So while you are technically right that Tesla is not profitable, it's because of business decisions made to grow revenue, increase market share, enter new markets, and create new products.
Re: How on Earth is this patentable?
Actually, this wouldn't be much different than patenting the cotton gin with a feed mechinism on the front. Same basic design, just slightly modified.
Like it or not, but the patent process was explicitly designed to allow for incremental or additive changes to existing technology. That includes something as simple as adding an electric motor to a technology previously powered with a hand crank. Seems dumb, but when the US codified patent law back in the 1800s, the idea was that a person who improves an existing process, regardless of how minor, they get an exclusivity window on that particular improvement.. assuming they were the first to idea and could prove it if someone else filed first.
That's how software patents snuck in to the process. They were "improvements" on existing process. No one realized at the time that the sound they heard after approving it was the squeaky hinge on Pandora's Box. Maybe this will be rejected, maybe it will be pre-empted by prior art. But you can't patent what you don't file, so that's what they have to do.
Re: Why are established companies allowed on Kickstarter?
Like clockwork, this complaint comes up with any Kickstarter. Be it from a company who has another product out there, an artist who wants to support a side project, or some other "how dare they!" group.
Here's the reality: Kickstarter was never solely for charity cases who were reduced to Oliver levels of begging for more gruel. It has always been for-profit. In fact, I believe Kickstarter strictly forbids any kind of non-profit or charitable projects; there are other sites for that.
Kickstarter is in the business of helping people or companies get the word out for a risky or unlikely-to-find-traditional-funding project that will almost certainly be commercial in nature. Yes, it can help struggling artists find their money muse, but almost all the success stories on Kickstarter that create eye-watering figures come from people who are or were established players. Reading through the most-funded list will quickly reveal a pattern: People or companies who knew what they were doing.
The problem with bank or VC funding is that they want a huge possible market, even if it never materializes. VCs take it a bit further and also demand a share in the profits and/or company that comes from it. And if they get the vast percentage of the company, they can quickly and easily force the inventor or project team out the door the moment things turn from dicey to profitable. Kickstarter gets around this by explicitly stating that backers only get what is outlined in the rewards and are not entitled to any share of the profits, revenue, company, etc.
So while it might offend your sensibilities, there are tens of thousands of people who want a specific product, but that's not enough to make someone stand-up and take notice at the bank. A yawn and a kick in the ass is all you would get from them; this way, that extremely small number of people will be the market, and if things go really well, you might be able to sell a million.
Re: As a new start up...
You won't. The dirty secret is that any good government project manager, contract expert, or other team member will be quickly identified and plucked from the ranks to better pay in the private world. In exchange for that, their intimate knowledge of the process is used to ensure that the hiring contractor knows exactly how to tick all the right boxes for the next RFP that comes out.
The game isn't rigged, it's just set up in such a way that only the big boys and their former government employees can even get a seat at the table, let alone have a chance at winning the bid.
And you probably don't want to think about how those RFPs are created in the first place when the government often has to go to consultants to put them together...
Re: Better than expected
When you're one dude in a garage or basement trying to market a successful project, your margin for error (waste) is slim to nil.
When you are a company that has billions in annual revenue, dropping 100 million on IT projects and have only 1 million be written off would not only be an unqualified success, but it would probably lead to a doubling of that write off through bonuses and parties, reduced through clever accounting shifts use of the tax code, then talked about like a Nessie sighting for years to come.
The point is that when you have a lot of balls in the air, one or two will invariable hit the ground. IT projects are notoriously difficult to assess ROI on, so companies often are reduced to broad brush strokes by evaluating it all in aggregate and simply comparing the costs to the revenue generated. A few failed projects won't matter as long as something else delivered. It's cynical, but it's also reality.
So is it better to cut losses after £100m...
Or double down in hopes of "getting to done" in the next year?
It sounds like the commentards here are adherents to the sunk cost fallacy.
That or like most hit pieces, the Taxpayer's Alliance would have also been happy to take a hatchet to the government for continuing to work those projects.
Consider the source.
Re: Not so bad
Actually, there are a number of foods that cook ideally in a microwave precisely because of the efficient heat it can generate in specific foods. Popcorn is a prime example of this, as you can take a small amount, put it in a paper bag without any oil or butter, fold over the top, then staple (yes staple) it shut on either side of the fold. 2 minutes later, perfect popcorn. It sure beats the hot fat over a flame method in both time and clean-up.
Many vegetables are the same way. One of my favorite tricks is asparagus spears, sprinkled with salt, wrapped in a damp paper towel, wrapped in plastic wrap, then cooked for a couple of minutes. The water steams the spears in no time while preserving the texture and bring green color. Same can be done with other fresh veggies like green beans and snap peas. In fact, the new steaming bags for frozen veggies operate on the same principle.
Anytime the goal is to cook something with a high water content, the microwave is your best friend. Plus it's one less burner or pot that you have to use while cooking up the rest of dinner.
TL;DR - A bad craftsman always blames his tools.
Re: Question for you, Tim...
Sounds like you need to start hiring the HR staff on merit. The rest will follow.
Short of rewiring the human brain, that won't help. The problem isn't "We want the best", the issue is that we equate "the best" with "people who are just like me." For example, even if you were to wash away the demographics until it was time to do the actual interviews (a separate kettle of fish), there are so many other proxies that can be used (and are today). The university one received a degree from will quickly (and correctly) provide one with a high level of certainty as to the various boxes a person may or may not tick.
That's not something you can solve through market forces or wishful thinking, which is what Tim seems to be proposing. Frankly, this smacks of, "I see too many issues and my ideology gets in the way of coming up with a solution, so I'm going to shut my eyes really tight and think of rainbows and kittens and butterflies."
The question remains: How does Tim (or anyone else) propose that the best be hired regardless of the things that keep being from being hired today, even if they are the best?
Question for you, Tim...
While I'm sure we all would love to hire on merit alone and live in a world where diversity is the town you're from rather than color, religion, gender, etc., how do you square your no less idyllic vision for the future with reality? Numerous fields, even those of supposedly liberal persuasion (like education), have demonstrated that when presented applications of identical qualifications, those selected for interview are predominantly male and white? And by identical, I mean the application or resume or academic paper is exactly the same other than the demographics like name, gender, or address.
With that kind of subconscious exclusionary policy, how do resolve the issue so that results or merit is the only factor?
Except that in deals between individuals, the seller's impression is entirely relevant. You can't hand-wave away unreasonable behavior because it's unreasonable. Humans aren't return-maximizing robots; they can do often do things that are entirely illogical and even deleterious just because they can.
You can try to catalog the various factors that can cause a human to forgo profit even if the opportunity is there; in this situation, the case study is a junkie who is clearly trying to get their next fix. You can certainly chalk it up to a moral failing rather than a feature of humanity. We value intangible things with rates that are wildly different from others. And taking it as an aggregate and coming up with a nominal value will fall apart as long as people continue to assume that those variables aren't interdependent.
The only construct we have today that can quickly and easily process those calculations is the one in your head; and it's only good for you. Maybe some day everything will be assigned a value and a grand unified theory of human behavior can be fed into a supercomputer and each single person's actions predicted, but until then, grand proclamations about what is and isn't relevant in a transaction between two people is foolish.
Re: Does high top tax matter?
One has to wonder then if ego and personal glory is driving things, then a tax rate would have little impact. I think part of the problem we face right now is rather than entrepreneurs and innovators making up the bulk of the top tax bracket, it's a lot of people who work in fields like management, executive leadership, and other low-ROI fields. They've engaged in an international circle-jerk to make sure that their pay is based off the CEO across the street, who in turn bases their new compensation package on the guy across the street, all the while raising the bar even higher to artificially constrain the number of available candidates.
If your only motivation for higher pay is to get back at the guy who got a raise, then you're probably not the kind of people we should be basing an entire tax policy around.
Re: There are a number of problems...
I find taxes to be a necessary evil, and the implementation of such is more about what the end-goal of the society rather than towards some kind of ideal state for economic growth. It's hard to argue with a straight face that taxes only hit the ones who are taxed. If it's a level-ish playing field, a company being taxed at 15% of profits will look around, see that their competition is getting hit with the same tax, and just hike prices, reduce wages, pare back benefits, etc. to other wise pass that tax on. However, a company is a bad example for two reason: One, it's not a level playing field, as even at the state level here in the USA, one company might be taxed a lot higher or lower purely based on where they incorporated; Two, there are very few sectors of the economy that don't include competition on some level with internationally-based entities.
This is where I tend to take issue with the those like Worstall, as I find there is too much conflation of business behavior with individual behavior, even when the latter is looked at in aggregation. The two are very different as many changes in the market struggle to overcome even the collective neuroses of people. Even stepping away from the Wall Street/Main Street dichotomy or the 99% vs 1%, humans are rather unreasonable. Game theory and behavioral economics shows that time and again (and something Worstall alludes to in his article) people don't do what the logical thing would be, and cultural or social mores often inform decision-making, even if it's deleterious to the individual. Aggregate that to a national level and that behavior still persists, which is why trying to assume that people are the same at the market is folly at best. A company is serving a set of masters with a very defined end-goal: Make money. An individual's end-goal is much muddier, and they are the only decision-maker, not a committee or group of people who have to reach consensus.
So with all that, the behavior of people when taxed is not so cut and dried as what companies do. Companies offshore, do inversions (Medtronic buying Covidan and reincorporating in Ireland to lower then tax bill), hold money in international subsidiaries, etc. People... you'd think that if the super-rich really felt that tax policy in the USA was so terrible, they would have the financial means to go international, become a citizen of some tax-friendly nation, then "live" there while still maintaining assets here in the USA. Yet few do. Very few, despite the loud headline from the financial media, renounce their citizenship. And staying in the USA, the numbers in low-tax states compared to high-tax states tell the same story. The taxes on the top 10% in CA, NY, and other high-tax states are absurd. Yet they continue to live there.
The USA was, in the 50s, up around 90% on the highest tax bracket, of which there were many. It also correlated with some of the highest growth seen in the country's history. When it was finally flattened and the top marginal rate reduced in the 80s, the impact to the bottom line was negligible and the economy didn't react much at all until the internet took off like a rocket in the mid 90s. The tax cuts in the 2000s in response to a recession did nothing, and the recent incremental increase (really just a roll-back of the last round of cuts) is being accompanied by the best growth seen in nearly 15 years. Do I attribute the growth to higher taxes? No, but it also seems to demonstrate that tax rates and economic growth aren't as closely linked as many would like to argue. They are probably indirectly linked at best, and easily overwhelmed by external factors like technological innovation.
There are a number of problems...
With welfare as practiced today with goods and services as the main benefit, with a side of cash, as well as the idea of the negative marginal tax, which speaks about your idea of exempting further income from taxation. Both suffer for gross inefficiencies and both try to satisfy moralist on either side of the aisle (to speak from my American based experience).
I can't speak for the UK, but the problem here is that both the right and left tried to appease moral outrage by either attaching work for credit schemes (the Earned Income Tax Credit is nearly a real-life version of the negative marginal tax) or by offering an almost cash benefit but restricting what it can be used on. Both were compromises, from what I can tell, that came out of the hand-wringing that began in the Reagan administration in the 80s and culminated in the late 90s with the Clinton welfare reforms (attaching work, looking for work, and retraining programs in exchange for benefits).
To make matters worse in the US, at least, a lot of these welfare programs are administered by the states. That means moving to find a job (something that is even more important in the uneven recovery happening here) results in a loss of benefits and a lag time before new benefits kick in, plus the process of reapplying using new paper and pen forms, going through the same invasive investigations instituted to combat fraud, and in some states prone to inchoate bouts of moralist rage, drug testing (pity the person moving from the many states that allow medicinal or recreational pot use to a state with absurd alcohol and nicotine consumption that wants save 5 cents on the dollar spent for drug testing).
Basic minimum income is something that at least in the US is going to be a hard sell exactly because the reactionary wing of the Republican Party (right wing) are the kind who get all sorts of laundry in a twist over the idea that someone might be using a cash benefit to by a few joints, a candy bar, or saving it to make a purchase on a TV or other item. I won't leave out my scorn for Democrats, as I'm sure some of that party will still want to continue some other benefits, like hands off Social Security, which would make the entire thing completely unworkable.
This is one of the few times that I agree with Worstall, mainly for the same reasons. It increases agency, allows a person more dignity and privacy on their choices, is more efficient both in terms of cash can be spent most anywhere and administration would be next to nothing compared to today's process, and it allows for a way in which many disparate programs trying to accomplish the same end can be rolled into one. And unlike the UK, the US's top marginal rate is 39.6%, even for those Warren Buffett types... at least on income. There is a whole other discussion on how to handle the various excise taxes that end up punishing the bottom 20% even more because they are generally inelastic costs.
Re: I love the black or white logic here...
There are also limits on business exploitation of what is done in a public places. For example, in many jurisdictions you can't take photos of people in public places and sell them for profit - or use it freely - unless you obtain a "release" from them. The fact that you walk in a public places doesn't allow anybody to take "ownership" of your "image data" and use them as he or she wish.
I think it depends on the photograph or recording. If you are purposefully posing or otherwise are the subject of a picture or recording, then yes, you are likely going to sign a release for commercial use of it. Alternatively, you are participating in a commercial venture in hopes of being compensated for your time spent and your image. However, and you can demonstrate this in most parts of the world just by looking at the newspaper, if you are another face in the crowd, identifiable or not, you will not be asked for a release, you will not be able to sue for use of your image, and you most definitely will not be able to have your image removed from said image or video if it's used in the future. You can try to sue, but being as you were background or otherwise incidental to the image, there is nothing for you.
Google was pushed into allowing people to be blurred out in their Street View product, but that was likely due to the "focused" nature of the image. If you are just one of two or three people, looking directly at the car as it passed, it could be said you were a subject to a reasonable person, especially if it was taken out of context. However, there is also the reasonable person standard that Google leaned on for pictures of a house or the interior through large picture windows. In those cases, it was argued (successfully, I believe) that if the homeowner wanted privacy, they would close the drapes or otherwise obscure things on their property. Without such an exemption or limitation, any single person on the street could be held liable for taking an otherwise innocent or incidental picture showing your auto-erotic asphyxiation routine just by recording their passing or taking a selfie or group photo at an inopportune time.
In these and other cases, if you draw a line for online use or aggregation, you have to be extremely narrow in scope, or you end up making people liable or even criminals for being out in public, taking a picture in a public space, and incidentally getting an image of some guy propositioning a police officer or something. Additionally, any further restriction on what public actions can be filmed by the public gives an officer or other government official even more reason or motivation to threaten, cajole, or even take action against a member of the public catching that someone in a bad moment in the background... or even purposefully recording them.
It doesn't take an amoral, exceptional lawyer to find the small cracks in a broadly or ambiguously worded law or regulation and pry that sucker wide open to catch any number of people in a net supposedly crafted for a specific group of companies or behaviors. In such cases, I would prefer to work on finding better ways to obfuscate personal identify in the data rather than restrict or prevent its transmission. Doing anything more than that runs the risk of unintended consequences, especially given the lazy and unsophisticated nature of the folks tasked with modifying or adding to the law.
Re: I love the black or white logic here...
I think there is a world of difference between yesterday's friendly local shopkeeper knowing what your "usual" was, and the ability to collect much more personal habit data than before; which means there is an emergent issue.
I don't disagree with the idea that the ability to collect the data and disseminate it beyond the shopkeep is greater than before. Or at least the velocity. However, there was nothing other than social capital at risk that prevented the shopkeep from telling every third customer that you were buying hair tonic at an astounding rate, and then go further and speculate as to the why or cause. Maybe he'll remember another data point from gossip or conversations with you that led him to believe the hair tonic isn't for your scalp, but maybe the base of the tonic is spirits and you're a drunk.
That's how personal information was disseminated before: through the use of individual observation or interaction, conversation with others who might have observed or interacted at the same or different time, then a "profile" of you, the hair-tonic swilling drunk, would be making the rounds in town. Your best bet to find it out would be the stares or the weird looks you got, and there's a chance that your social standing might take an undeserved plunge.
I would say that since relatively accurate profiles are the only thing of value to the credit card companies today, they have no profit-driven reason to create a false narrative about your hair-tonic purchases. That's not to say malicious uses can't be found for accurate profiles either, but all this really represents is a technological adaptation to a human behavior that probably separated us from the primates: the ability to assess, create, store, and disseminate thousands of interactions with countless combinations of our social group to devise a usable, actionable profile that could be used for a variety of things beyond just getting laid and filling the belly.
I love the black or white logic here...
The reality is that individuals have been generating data for use by others since the first sensory organ evolved. As humans, we've taken that to a whole new level with using technological methods to convey private or personal thoughts, feelings, affiliations, etc.
Already we have defined the line between public and private, and usually by saying, "In my home not visible to others, it's private. Standing naked on the road waving a sign saying 'Putin for Supreme Leader of the World' is public." In short, you do it in a public space and someone can detect (correctly or not) and you no longer are the owner of that data point.
We just haven't caught up to what that means in an online world. I can't imagine anyone ever believed that their credit card purchases, for example, would not at least be leveraged by the issuing bank or credit card company to develop a profile that could be used for tailored marketing. And you the cardholder did not "own" that data, which is why laws were created to limit what the actual owner of the data could do with it and how identifiable it could be. Of course, there are folks who claim that they own their purchase data, but that would have been a laughable claim 100 years ago when you went down to the local store to purchase you daily supply of hair tonic. The shopkeeper would know who you are and they would use your purchase habits to ensure that the hair tonic was always in supply, and may even suggest a different tonic if the other one wasn't working.
So maybe rather that just saying, "Hur dur, that's my data," and then accusing everyone else of trying to shaft you by taking your public actions and creating a profile of you, you take steps to understand just what kind of impression you make in the world, what it means to perceptions of you, and what you can do to limit additional construction of that profile if you find it objectionable. However, I will say that our transactional economy and human nature mean that every interaction, every glance, and every facial tic gives away way more than you think.
The comments by the ISPs are telling...
In short, they come across as scorned children, caught with their hand in the cookie jar. While the wireless industry isn't sure that they can be Title II'd, Verizon seems to accept that such a fate is within the rules, and their only recourse is to get that legislation they kept claiming was coming to show up and have enough support to either override a President Obama veto or contain all the things deemed important to net neutrality without the baggage of Title II.
One can only say they brought it upon themselves. They tried to make this an R vs. D. issue, they tried to scare legislators into action through
extortion, I mean using predictions that roll-out of broadband (now at 25Mbps!) to rural areas would be slowed or stopped because they couldn't build a fast-lane for AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast services while providing degraded or ala carte options (at extra cost) to have similar services from other providers available at reasonable speeds.
At the same time, Mr. Wheeler has explicity ruled out some of the other rules that come with Title II, like forcing ISPs to lease their last mile connections to competitors to provide services over the same copper or fiber. In other words, he gave the ISPs an out by allowing them to cry poverty and beg for incentives to build out to rural or impoverished areas so that they could continue the lucrative business of franchise rights to a city or region, meaning they were the only cable provider in town.
The FCC has been partisan for a long time...
The current law of the land is that the FCC Commissioners serve 5 year terms, are nominated by the President, and confirmed by the Senate. Besides the partisanship that comes from such a process and a term that lasts one year longer than a President's term and 1 year less than a Senator's term, there is another wrinkle: Only three of the five commissioners can be from the same political party. As the United States only has two parties, we are guaranteed a fractious, partisan FCC even if a single party held on to the Senate and White House for multiple terms.
Net neutrality only became an R vs D battle because President Obama started to come down on the side of Netflix and Google. Prior to that, it was not uncommon to see Ds in vocal opposition to net neutrality because the ISPs had filled their campaign coffers and Rs in favor of net neutrality because it sounded like "Freedom" in campaign speeches and a good way to differentiate themselves from Democrats. In short, the net neutrality thing is just another battle between well-heeled donors and eventually which Republican can cast aspersions on President Obama more quickly than the others, and Democrats circling the wagons even if two years earlier, they were happily taking money from the ISPs and proposing all those wonderful pro-RIAA and pro-Comcast bills.
The AEI at which the commissioner was speaking...
Is an anti-regulation, pro-business think-tank that pretends that cutthroat capitalism will result in everyone winning, with an extremely strong belief in social Dawinism. Oligarchies are a-okay, even oppressive and monopolistic ones, because it's not the government. In general, everything they take issue with when the government does it is somehow not just acceptable but laudable when done by businesses.
The commissioner in question was a legislative aid for the Senate Republican Whip (like the name implies, it's the leadership position in charge of "whipping up" support for a leadership-approved bill) and has been a professional politician. He was "nominated" by President Obama to make sure the FCC even had enough bodies to have a quorum and do anything at all. To show just how politicized the FCC is, there are legal limits to the number of commissioners that can be from the same party.
To expect this man to be anything more than a Trojan Horse used to convey the not-so-secret desire of the ISPs to double charge for the same bandwidth is ludicrous. At best, he's a puppet. His appearance at the AEI speaks volumes about his ability to address any proposal or action without having already decided the outcome.
Re: Anything to declare sir?
You might have to check the paper itself. The article I read on The Verge said that much of this was a technological in nature, such as being able to compress the data created by the learning in such a way as to not take up many petabytes of space, the ability to find algorithms that can efficiently compute what they called the regret points of any given hand so the program can react at least at human speed, and then the geek-cred of solving what is called an imperfect information game, where a player doesn't know what the other player possess, and has no way of knowing for certain what will be coming.
That's why chess and other strategic but perfect information games were solved a while back on much less impressive hardware.
The story on The Verge talked about how the program will win over the long run. It will always break-even or be ahead. Additionally, the computer is supposed to be playing a style that has no bearing on the opponent, as by playing the odds and using its experience, it will always come out ahead over the long-term.
So to answer your question, it might not win over 30 hands. But it has a statistically significant probability to come out ahead in those few hands. Keep in mind that the version of Texas Hold 'Em being played here is the most basic variant, where there is no such thing as all in, and with only a single opponent, there is no chance that there will be collusion (something banned by the rules but can happen).
The Verge article also noted that an earlier program had played this variant against some of the top poker players in the world, and over six games, it had three wins, two losses, and a draw. So even it's granddaddy was able to hold its own against people who play the game for a living.
Re: We get it...
The valuation of a single company over a short period of time is meaningless. Especially when evaluated in a vacuum without including the overall market fundamentals and movements in context with other, similar companies. The stock is still up 40% over the last 12 months, even with the pullback in the last 6 weeks.
What you need to remember is that with small cap stocks in general, they are volatile. They have low trade volumes and a small number of shareholders, so a single person or investment company deciding to offload shares can have a large impact on the closing price. It could be simple profit-taking, year-end re-balancing, diversification, or even the actual officers of the company deciding to cash in on a share price that looked to be at an all-time high. Tesla suffered the same pull back after massive gains over the last 18 months, and even with a flurry of bad press, they seem to be doing okay.
Re: We get it...
You mean the Kotaku interview where he says they didn't plan for it when stumping for cash on Kickstarter, but then when the idea was floated on the forums, they thought it could be done, though a bit empty-ish? I hadn't read that one before, but that to me means that those people upset about its removal doesn't have much of a leg to stand on if they supported the Kickstarter, and I don't recall it being advertised when I was deciding if I should buy into the beta, though it could have been part of the alpha push.
And that interview does still show that they were agonizing over how to include it right up until the point they axed it. Could they have made it clear sooner that it would have been a problem with the way the rest of development was going? Sure. Would it have changed anything? Probably not. And it probably did suck up valuable development resources that could have been used to focus on the online mode.
As far as the need to purchase the rights to Elite, I haven't been able to find anything about that other than forum posts and hearsay from jilted gamers. That's not to say it wouldn't be truth, but I would like to see a researched or validated source, not some anonymous post on a Reg or gaming forum. If you have that, please share it so I can take a look.
We get it...
Someone at The Reg is upset that the offline mode was canned for the original release. The same paragraph appears in every article about Elite: Dangerous, regardless of its relevancy to the story. I would be too if that's the sole reason I supported the game, but when I started following the progress, it always seemed incredibly difficult to juggle the needs of the multiplayer experience with a stand-alone single player version that did all the same things. The fact that they kept trying up until last month shows that they really wanted to honor that commitment, despite its deleterious impacts to the main game
And let's be honest, Kickstarting anything is always going to be a dicey proposition, and the express terms of Kickstarter are that backers are nothing more than source of funding, with no rights to the profits, the revenue, or much anything else than what a developer, publisher, or individual outlined in the rewards. Heck, even successful and acclaimed projects like Wasteland 2 were a year late with things things that didn't meet some backers expectations.
Re: What a revolutionary idea agile seems
I'm a BA. I know what it's like to get folks to think about what they want in the future as opposed to fixing the problems they have today. At some point, you just have to say that today's solution is as good as it's going to be, and if the business model changes or the workarounds become too costly, we'll come up with something new.
The worst part of my job by far is trying to convince people that a new solution means that the old baggage doesn't need to come along. So that six-step process to validate an ETL or manually modify the loaded cases isn't needed any longer as long as we capture why that ETL validation was going on or the cases were being modified after the fact. We don't need to create custom functionality in the new world to account for the broken crap in the old world.
The problem is that operations is usually heads-down trying to keep up with today's work. They aren't incompetent; they were hired to keep the ship from grounding on a sandbar rather than finding a new, pristine harbor to sail to. Getting them to see that and dictate requirements from that POV is a Herculean task and often the reason for overrun and scope creep, in my experience.
Re: Project Managers
I've worked with good and bad PMs. Often times I have to stand in, as I'm the poor sap who has the BA title appended to my name. A good PM keeps people focused on the task at hand and gently steers the ship towards the goals. They cut out scope creep, keep the numbers looking good for finance, and if necessary, throw themselves in the line of fire when management comes calling, wondering why something isn't being delivered on time, under budget, and with pristine quality.
The newer PMs often come out of school and/or training with a specific set of tools in hand they are to use, and when one tries to upset that particular apple cart, they have a tough time. I've noticed in my travels the PM is the one who struggles to move from one methodology with one set of tools to another, as they are raised in a world with specific metrics and reports. You put story points and velocity in front of them when it used to be IT spend and burn rate, and suddenly the foundation of their world takes a huge hit. The PMs I've worked with who have multiple methodologies under their belt tend to take whatever crap their current company throws at them. Just like any other professional, experience and thick scar tissue is what makes for a good PM.
And it's a job I never want to do. Ever.
Speaking as the requirements gatherer...
As a Business Analyst, I prefer the quicker turnaround times afforded by a sprint, as there is always going to be a change in what a requirement holder wants when even the most basic of features is demoed (or demoed as it self-destructs) in front of them. Having worked in a waterfall-esque environment where requirements documents contained a whole quarter's worth of development, to be delivered two quarters from now, it's impossible to keep the requirements to come in mind while gathering the requirements still needed (especially when there are multiple BAs working on a larger project). This goes double when there is migration from an existing app to a new one with different user bases, as you're also likely to run into duplication of requirements worded differently so you end up with two ways of doing similar things in the same application.
At the same time, I find that code fast and break things is a feature of the current agile-esque methodology at my new company. Things are produced, shit hits the fan, and we move on. Things break; it happens. That's why we hire support staff and keep the software architects employed.
They are welcome to ban it. They can even put in the Ts & Cs when you host a conference or rent a room that you will not create a personal hotspot to be used while in the common areas, and failure to follow that rule will result in some charge, fee, or out-right refusal of service.
However, what they can't do under US law is employ jamming hardware due to safety and security concerns. So their "clever" workaround is to use what amounts to a DoS attack on any "unauthorized" hotspots. But if I have the (unfortunate) luck of having a room near a conference space and use a hotspot in my room, something that Marriott is claiming is allowed, what's to stop the signal from being detected in a restricted area and being spammed by the local admin or software-based jamming solution?
So this isn't a discussion about what a private business can do, but the way in which they are asking for a special dispensation while at the same time inventing a pretense for it that has little basis in reality and has all the hallmarks of being a solution in search of a problem.
Re: Dear Marriot
While it would be a refreshing change of pace, it might endanger the notion that unfettered capitalism isn't all it's cracked up to be on a personal level.
Re: Aww democracy
Absolutely right. Democracy is crap, since there is no effective and accurate means to separate the wheat from the chaff.
At the same time, I imagine you have a better process in mind? I think we've been waiting 2,000 years or more for something better than the "'One Man, One Vote,' in which <insert dictator/monarch/head cheese> alone is the Man, and he has the Vote," method employed by such esteemed governments as those in Russia, North Korea, Egypt, China, etc.
Re: American Bacon
It just looks like smoked, streaky bacon from the picture, what am I missing?
If Wikipedia is not lying to me, you are right. Bacon here in the US is pork belly that has been cured then smoked, usually over hickory or applewood. It's then sliced into 1/4" to 1/2" thick strips. The stuff one finds in a diner, however, is usually the mass-produced stuff, quick-cured through numerous injections into the pork belly with a saltier brine and sliced as thin at 1/8". I generally avoid it..
We don't have back bacon as you find in the UK, as the Canadian bacon here is just the loin, no belly.
Re: American Bacon
As a US Citizen, I will point out that maple syrup on bacon is purely a personal decision. Pork belly is cured then smoked, making what we call bacon. What happens after that is entirely up to the one consuming it.
At the same time, maple syrup is delicious (the real stuff, not the corn syrup version) and as bacon is often served at breakfast along with pancakes, waffles, French toast, or other syrup-friendly item, a bit may spill over and touch the bacon, which some people enjoy.
As far as cinnamon... are you talking about the real stuff of cassia? Here in the US, both are called cinnamon... though the use of either is generally restricted to sweet or dessert items.