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Once Again, Baltimore Police Arrest a Person For Recording Them

hendrips Re:Fire all the officers? (515 comments)

If you want a more industry standard source for the relative danger of different jobs, the National Council of Compensation Insurers is a good source to look at. They are the source of information on occupational hazard for workers compensation insurers, so they have an extremely strong incentive to rate work related hazards correctly.

NCCI rates occupations by their Expected Loss Rate - the average number of dollars that an employee will receive in workers compensation payments in a year, per $100 of salary. This tends to be a pretty good indicator of relative occupational hazard for just about everyone except clergy and active duty military, because of the extreme uniformity of claims handling procedures within each state.

Looking at Maryland, where the police in question live, law enforcement officers have an ELR of $1.28. That's compared to, say, rock excavators and stone crushers, who have an ELR of $7.20. So, by that metric, the guys you see on the side of the road in the front wheeled rock crusher have a job that's about 5 and a half times as dangerous as law enforcement work, at least in terms of economic harm.

about a week ago
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Time To Remove 'Philosophical' Exemption From Vaccine Requirements?

hendrips Re:Mississippi Is Doing Something Right? (1050 comments)

Most people who object to vaccination are either 1) wealthy and well educated or 2) members of certain non-mainstream cults/religions. Let's just say that Mississippi is not particularly well known for having a high concentration of people in either of those groups.

about a week ago
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Seeking Coders, Tech Titans Turn To K-12 Schools

hendrips Re:The first few comments are awfully pessimistic (105 comments)

Bad example - modern evidence suggests that the Great Pyramids were built by salaried employees, possibly as a public works program to make up for the seasonal "unemployment" that would have occurred in sync with the Nile's flooding.

The Western notion that the Egyptians had vast hordes of slaves building the pyramids comes from incorrect speculation by the Ancient Greek historians, who didn't know what they were talking about - not really their fault, since the age of pyramids ended 1500 years before the Greek historians began writing.

about two weeks ago
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Apple Accused of Deleting Songs From iPods Without Users' Knowledge

hendrips Re:DRM-only? (250 comments)

I believe that the suit is claiming that Apple was improperly forcing users to perform a factory reset, rather than claiming that the reset process itself was malicious.

about two weeks ago
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Interviews: Malcolm Gladwell Answers Your Questions

hendrips Re:Divisions (48 comments)

Under the ACA, everyone in the United States is required to have health insurance, and health insurance plans are required to provide female contraceptives for free (however, men usually must pay full cost for male contraception). Every women in the United States already has access to free birth control, unless either they are either not complying with the ACA mandate or their employer is one of the very few that have an exemption. Even without insurance, female contraception is around $4-$5 per 28 days at the local pharmacy. What more am I supposed be advocating for?

Interestingly, many pro-lifers actually cite the ubiquitous availability of birth control as one of the reasons they oppose abortion.

about two weeks ago
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UK Announces 'Google Tax'

hendrips Re:Why tax profits, why not income? (602 comments)

The smallest possible deduction for a U.S. taxpayer in 2014 is $3,950 for the personal exemption + $6,200 for the standard deduction. That works out to $845.83 per month, which is certainly enough money for reasonable if sparse two bedroom apartment in my city. And, as I say, that's the theoretical minimum - if you are married, have children, are over 65, are blind, have a high amount of deductible expenses (including but not limited to certain business expenses that you pay for yourself), or earn more than $400 in employment income but less than $37,870, your deduction will be larger - often much larger.

about two weeks ago
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Top Counter-Strike Players Embroiled In Hacking Scandal

hendrips Re:Wait, E-sports players hacking? (224 comments)

In most tournaments that have a significant prize pool, there is usually an online qualifying followed by an in-person elimination round. This gives the best of both worlds: the tournament is able to invite a larger number of teams than logistics would allow if all games were in-person. But the actual prize money is won at the 2-3 day "main event," where the tournament is able to closely supervise the players.

For example, in Dota 2 the Starladder tournament that is going on right now, based in Kiev, invites 44 teams, and has round-robin group play lasting from Nov. 14 to Jan. 18. Obviously, it wouldn't be possible to make 44 different 5 person teams from all over the world stay in Kiev for two months, so they have to have online play for these group stage games. This means that the fans of just about every major Dota team on Earth will want to watch part of the tournament - great for Starladder's viewership. Theoretically, a team could cheat through the group stages since they're using their own computers, but cheating is fairly unlikely because a) even if the team made it to the finals in Kiev by cheating, they'd just get crushed by the legitimate teams and b) most of the cheats that you can use in Dota are very obvious to observers.

My understanding is that this hack was noteworthy because the creator managed to get it flagged as a legitimate configuration file edit, which means that it was able to be used on tournament computers as well as their own. I could be wrong though; I don't follow CS:GO.

about three weeks ago
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Intel Announces Major Reorg To Combine Mobile and PC Divisions

hendrips Re:Not dumping (75 comments)

Yuck - please excuse my poor phrasing. It was early in the morning.

about a month ago
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Intel Announces Major Reorg To Combine Mobile and PC Divisions

hendrips Re:Anti-competitive? (75 comments)

Not necessarily. Legally speaking, "tying" as you describe is only a problem if it demonstrably restricts consumer choice (consumers in this case being the phone OEMs). In this case, Intel's actions have if anything increased consumer choice, by providing an alternative to the market-dominating Qualcomm.

about a month ago
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Intel Announces Major Reorg To Combine Mobile and PC Divisions

hendrips Re:Not dumping (75 comments)

In U.S. legal parlance at least, all of the following must to be true behavior to qualify as "predatory pricing" for predatory pricing:
-The business in question must have a dominant or substantial market share,
-It must be more likely than not that the company's practices are affecting not only specific rivals but the entire market as a whole,
-There must be a "substantial likelihood" that the predatory pricing will result in successful market monopolization,
-The company's prices must be below any reasonable measure of the cost of production,
-And, there must be evidence of actual harm to consumers (merely having a monopoly is not necessarily illegal, as long as the monopoly isn't provably causing actual harm).

Point 4 might be true for Intel, but the others definitely are not.

about a month ago
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Android 5.0 'Lollipop' vs. iOS 8: More Similar Than Ever

hendrips Re:Evolution of tech (178 comments)

Not just phones, but there's plenty of room for innovation in almost any commodity. RAM has been a commodity for a long time now, but there's still a ton of innovation going on - the new DDR4 standard bringing on faster speeds, LP and LV RAM lowering power requirements, manufacturing process improvements leading to lower prices, etc. Apparently those kind of extremely complex feats of creative engineering are just too boring to notice.

about a month ago
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Manslaughter Conviction Overturned For Scientists Who Didn't Predict Earthquake

hendrips Re:SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (139 comments)

And they were exactly right to do so. There is no scientifically accepted method to reliably predict earthquakes. There no scientifically accepted method to reliably predict increases in major earthquake risk over short periods of time. Period.

I work in the property & casualty insurance field. You seem to think that these seismologists should have known about some sort of method to detect an increased risk of a major earthquake. Can you tell me what this method is?

Seriously, if you could give my employer a method that reliably calculates increases in earthquake risk based on recent seismic activity, they would pay you 10 billion dollars. I am not even slightly joking about this.

about a month ago
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PC Cooling Specialist Zalman Goes Bankrupt Due To Fraud

hendrips Re:Auditors, auditors (208 comments)

Actually, while your comment is correct in most cases, it's not applicable here. Apparently, according to a whistleblower, upper management paid lower level employees very generously to keep their mouths shut.

about a month and a half ago
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PC Cooling Specialist Zalman Goes Bankrupt Due To Fraud

hendrips Re:how the banks will get their $3 billion back (208 comments)

If your bank is so horrible, why do you continue to do business there? In the 14 years since I got my first checking and savings accounts, the only fee I have ever paid is a $7 fee to print a spare box of physical checks.

Unless you live in an extremely isolated rural area, you almost certainly have access to a not-for-profit credit union. Heck, even if you are in an isolated area, most credit unions will allow you to deposit checks by mail, and to make all other transactions via the Internet. At one point, I spent two years living 400 miles away from my credit union's nearest branch without a problem.

Also, "less interest" is a function of the Federal Reserve's fiscal policy decisions. Short term interest rates are more or less going to look like whatever the Fed wants them to look like.

about a month and a half ago
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PC Cooling Specialist Zalman Goes Bankrupt Due To Fraud

hendrips Re:easy (208 comments)

The world sure would seem more just if the banks suffered more, right? Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

The loans were made specifically on the basis of Moneual's revenue statements. That is, the banks were trying to learn from mistakes they made last decade, and were relying on audited sales figures to make their loans, rather than "it's a technology company, it must be magic" like they were ten years ago. Unfortunately, the company lied about its sales figures, and then the auditing firm confirmed those falsified numbers. I'm not sure why the banks involved "should" have known that Moneual was lying and the auditing firm was incompetent. Maybe it's different in South Korea, but in the U.S., that kind of screwup would put the company's executives in jail for many years, and would lead to crippling fines and lawsuits for the auditing firm (how's Arthur Andersen doing these days?), so income statements and balance sheets tend to be considered fairly trustworthy.

Furthermore, bank loans like this are almost always collateralized by company assets, so in the event of default the bank gets first go at anything left over. Only large, well established companies can get away with issuing unsecured debt without crippling interest rates. Secured debt is precisely why lending to a startup (the Korean parent company is only four years old) is not a "foolish risk." Seriously, think about a world in which banks were not allowed to recover assets from their debtors. Why would any bank issue a loan, or at least a loan without double digit interest rates?

Actually, you don't have to imagine this - just look at the interest rates on a credit card, which is unsecured by any collateral. And before you tell me that those rates are so high only because banks are greedy, compare the credit card interest rate to the interest rate on a mortgage. Both credit cards and mortgages are issued by the same greedy banks, yet one usually has an interest rate of 15%-20% while the other has an interest rate of 4%-5%. The main reason for this difference is the fact that the mortgage is collateralized by the underlying house. That is precisely why lending $200,000 to a couple that makes $60,000 a year is not a foolish risk; the bank knows that it can get most or all of its money back by foreclosing on the house.

And lastly, how would you feel if the same logic got applied to every other fraud victim? Do you find it just as easy to say that the victims of Bernie Madoff "should" have known that something was suspicious, and that those investors took a foolish risk and should suffer the consequences? Why should these fraud victims (and make no mistake, the banks are fraud victims in this case, according to statements from at least one Moneual's own managers) be treated differently just because you don't like them?

about a month and a half ago
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PC Cooling Specialist Zalman Goes Bankrupt Due To Fraud

hendrips Re:3 billion on a fan company? (208 comments)

Partial answers are given in this article, where a whistleblower answers some of these questions. Some of the answers seem like they have suffered in translation, unfortunately.

By the way, the fraud was not committed by Zalman, but by the South Korean company, Moneual, that bought Zalman in 2011.

about a month and a half ago
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In this year's US mid-term elections ...

hendrips Re:What do you vote for? (551 comments)

I don't know how it is in other states, but where I live there are standard elections for mayor, state governor, and state assemblyman, then "retention elections" for other offices, where an official is appointed as you might expect, but once every 4 or 8 years can be removed by popular vote.

So, for instance, when selecting a new judge, my state's attorney general (head of the justice department) will consult with the state legal association to present the governor a list of three or so candidates. The governor then chooses which candidate best fits his preferences and appoints him as judge. That judge then serves for life, or until voluntary retirement. However, once every eight years, the judge is subject to a retention election, where the ballot asks something like "shall Judge X continue to serve as judge?" with the vote option being yes or no. If a majority vote no, the governor appoints a new judge.

The theory behind this is that the public isn't very good at deciding who would be a good judge, so there shouldn't be a standard competitive election. But, the public is fairly good at noticing official corruption (a problem that my state had back in the day, but is hopefully behind us), so they should have some way of punishing corrupt officials without relying on legal procedures that may themselves be overseen by corrupt officials. That's the theory, at least.

about a month and a half ago
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Statisticians Study Who Was Helped Most By Obamacare

hendrips Re:You shouldn't need insurance for most things (739 comments)

I know it's fashionable to hate on health insurance companies, and I agree that there are very many good reasons to do so. But circumventing the restrictions on loss ratios is certainly not one of those reasons.

Insurance companies in the US are subject to Statuatory Accounting Principles, which are distinct from the typical GAAP accounting requirement. Under SAP, insurance companies required to report earned premiums and loss costs, both of which are well defined terms that leave no room for creativity in reporting. The company's loss costs (dollars paid to doctors & hospitals, in this case) divided by earned premiums is its loss ratio. You can calculate these numbers yourself from any insurance company's financial report.

There is no such thing as Hollywood accounting when it comes to U.S. insurance companies. An insurance company CFO would have to be exceptionally stupid or exceptionally desperate to try to fiddle with SAP compliance. I'm not saying it doesn't happen sometimes, but executives absolutely will face federal PMITA prison if they get caught deliberately manipulating SAP figures, not to mention the company being immediately forced into receivership by a bunch of angry state insurance regulators (as an aside, it seems like most Americans really don't understand how harshly deliberate accounting fraud is punished in the US).

And "NEVER" is a demonstrably false adverb - I got my refund check for the first half of 2014 from Blue Cross three months ago. Apparently their loss ratio in my state came in at 84.8%, so I got .2% of my premium refunded.

Again, I don't want to sound like I'm defending health insurance companies, because they can be pretty slimy. But in some ways, their sliminess actually comes because their profit margins are so small - they have to fight and scrap for every penny.

about 1 month ago
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Statisticians Study Who Was Helped Most By Obamacare

hendrips Re:Camps mixed up (739 comments)

I assume that he was talking about only taxes. Berkshire Hathaway is probably second only to GE in terms of corporate skill at manipulating the tax code.

about 1 month ago
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Statisticians Study Who Was Helped Most By Obamacare

hendrips Poor Conservative States? (739 comments)

I find the meme about poor states = conservative to be a bit annoying and misleading. While it is true that conservative states, especially Southern states, tend to have lower median incomes, they also have significantly lower costs of living. "Studies" like this one never adjust for purchasing power parity, and that oversight always makes me question anything else they have to say.

For example, according to Wikipedia's article on household income in the United States (alas, the numbers are a couple of years old), strongly Democrat Hawaii, which is the 5th wealthiest state by income, is actually dead last adjusted for cost of living. New York ranks 44th once incomes are adjusted for purchasing power parity. Virginia and Utah are the two wealthiest states in the U.S. by PPP income. Of course, Mississippi and West Virginia are still poor no matter how you slice it, but the correlation between political orientation and real income among states is weak at best.

This should not be surprising - local government politics in the U.S. look decidedly different from national politics. This is especially true for conservatives - many Republicans are comfortable with giving powers to local or state governments that they would abhor giving to the federal government, and moreover local elections frequently come down to personal, rather than party, politics. So judging the results of a state's internal, local elections and policymaking by how its citizens voted in a national election doesn't make that much sense, because those two things are imperfectly correlated.

Sorry - that turned out to be a bit long and off topic, but I have a problem trusting articles like this that purport to investigate a fairly complicated and nuanced issue while also making such offhand implicit assumptions.

about 1 month ago

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