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Department of Transportation Makes Rear View Cameras Mandatory

smoot123 Re:Grabs popcorn (518 comments)

1. The mirrors have blindspots. That's why this proposal exists. Kids being backed over by cars is a common problem.

Depends on your definition of "common". I don't think 10 deaths and 1000 injuries a year is common at all, that sounds quite rare.

about 6 months ago
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Getting Young Women Interested In Open Source

smoot123 Men into nursing (545 comments)

Sure, just as soon as this bright spark also puts some money into getting more men into nursing, human resources, and primary education, all fields as dominated by women as IT is by men. Maybe more so. I don't think my kids' elementary school had a single man on the staff other than the janitor.

about 8 months ago
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US Issues 30-Year Eagle-Killing Permits To Wind Industry

smoot123 Re:Holy Biased Presentation Batman! (466 comments)

There are hundreds of genuine cases of flammable water as a result of fracking. And lots of cases of illness.

I don't have any reliable evidence one way or the other. It's hard to pin down what causes illnesses and I don't trust the sob stories you see in the news or documentaries. From what I understand about fracking, it seems implausible it's causing much more damage than other forms of gas drilling. It definitely seems more benign than coal mining and, joule for joule, better than wind. But it's such a hot button issue I'm always worried about bias and hidden agendas.

Here's my bias. I'm really happy to have cheaper natural gas and electricity than without fracking. As far as I can tell, the vast majority of people living in shale basins are happier having the fracking industry than not having it. The environmental cost is localized to those areas. Who am I to tell them they are wrong?

about 10 months ago
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US Issues 30-Year Eagle-Killing Permits To Wind Industry

smoot123 Re:Holy Biased Presentation Batman! (466 comments)

Are these really equivalent?

Danged if I know, they're really hard to compare, especially if you don't accurately account for both the costs and benefits. It's going to come down to a judgement call which ones you think are worth it. But that's not my point. It seems we vigorously enforce environmental laws until they inconvenience some pet project of progressives (e.g. wind power or high speed rail in California), then suddenly we can just issue a waiver. If you truly cares about the environment and believe environmental protection laws are a good thing, you must uniformly apply them, even when that makes it difficult to achieve some end you desire. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

about 10 months ago
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US Issues 30-Year Eagle-Killing Permits To Wind Industry

smoot123 Re:Holy Biased Presentation Batman! (466 comments)

What cheeses me off is wind farms get a federal exemption from their provable environmental damage while fracking (which has cut carbon emissions way more than wind farms) has to prove it's 110% safe.

As others have observed, there's no totally benign energy source. Maybe killing birds and tortoises is the least damaging thing we can do. Fine. But how about we have a comprehensive, reasoned discussion of the costs and benefits of wind, coal, fracked natural gas, nuclear, oil, etc.?

about 10 months ago
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Should the US Copy Switzerland and Consider a 'Maximum Wage' Ratio?

smoot123 Re:Sorry, you lost me on the first sentence (1216 comments)

This is patent nonsense, once you understand that a "mutually beneficial contract" is a fiction that already needs intervention to enforce. Contracts are pieces of paper with no value.

You really lost me at that. A contract is an agreement between two parties. The paper is just documentation, it's not the actual "contract". We grant governments the right to use force to enforce contract agreements because our society works much, much better when people can trust contractual agreements. I don't know anyone who thinks this is a bad thing, it's one of the most important reasons we institute governments (others being protecting property rights and personal safety).

Without a mechanism to force people to hold up their agreements, then contracts are worth no more than the paper they're written on. And that's why I prefer our society to the one of The Empire Strikes Back ("I am changing our agreement. Pray I don't change it again.").

about 10 months ago
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Lockheed Martin Developing Successor To the SR-71 Blackbird

smoot123 Schedule (160 comments)

What's odd is the Skunk Works was famous for banging out fantastic planes in record time. SR-71 development kicked off around 1960, the first flight was 1964, and it went into service in 1966, around six years after starting.

The fine article says the SR-72 will be ready for flight in '18 (five years from now) and might be operational in 2030 (!). Does it really take 17 years to develop an unmanned drone, albeit a really fast one?

about a year ago
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Silicon Valley Stays Quiet As Washington Implodes

smoot123 Re:Who elected this guy to speak for Silicon Valle (299 comments)

It's not even a valley and it is definitely not made of silicon.

Huh? There are mountain ranges east and west of me, a big chunk of flat land running north/south in the middle. Ground mostly made of silicon dioxide (with bonus toxins from the closed silicon fabs). Have you ever actually been here? Do come, it's lovely.

about a year ago
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Silicon Valley Stays Quiet As Washington Implodes

smoot123 Re:Bah ... (299 comments)

No competition? Tell that to the old AT&T, which got crushed by it's children. Or Yahoo as it watches Goggle zoom ahead. Or Google, as it watches Facebook grow its mobile ad revenue like there's no tomorrow. Or Microsoft as even microsofties use iPads. Or PanAm as Southwest ate their lunch. In my company, I get a win/loss email every week about how we won a customer from our rivals and they beat us at another.

It's a mixed bag. Some markets are more open to competition than others. But competition is alive and well in many, many places.

about a year ago
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Web of Tax Shelters Saved Apple Billions, Inquiry Finds

smoot123 Re:Did they break any laws? (716 comments)

Nope, there are no legal limits.

OK, IANATaxL.

Taxes are paid on earnings – i..e. when the profit is made. Not when that profit is distributed – i.e. dividends and buybacks.

Hmmm, I recall paying taxes when I receive dividend checks or sell stock back to the company. But regardless, I thought that was the gist of the outrage, that Apple was using tax shelters to defer paying tax on their earnings.

Yes, but you would be paying lower taxes. Cap Gains taxed are lower than personal income – which is rate of dividends – if you ignore the QDI / DRD rules.

Of course, but this gets into the whole debate about whether to tax earned and unearned income at different rates. I don't understand the economics enough to have an opinion.

Which leads to the question – why am I investing in Apple? It’s not because they are earning the rate of inflation on their cash pile. If I wanted that I could open a bank account.

As an investor, that's a great conversation to have with the board. Presumably you think they can invest the money more profitably than you can. If they're not doing that, well, Carl Icahn is always looking for some action :). Since I hold no Apple stock, it's really none of my business how you two settle this, nor is it the business of any other non-investor.

about a year ago
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Web of Tax Shelters Saved Apple Billions, Inquiry Finds

smoot123 Re:Did they break any laws? (716 comments)

Taxes. RTFSummary for chrissake.

I did read TFSummary. It implied the only way a company contributes to society is by paying taxes. I was pointing out corporations contribute tremendous amounts to society even if the corporation pays no taxes. Taxes are how we fund government but government is not society, it's a creation and tool of society.

And further, since I view corporations as nothing more than the collection of people who invest and work for them, I don't think it's significant whether the employee, investor, customer, or company bursar writes the check to the IRS. Google "Who bears the burden of corporate income tax" to read more about this.

about a year ago
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Web of Tax Shelters Saved Apple Billions, Inquiry Finds

smoot123 Re:Did they break any laws? (716 comments)

2 points: first, companies, just like individuals, may justifiably want to hold cash in order to deal with unexpected contingencies. In tough times, they want to hold more cash, and make less investments, despite the fact that it makes everybody worse off.

I haven't studies Keynes but if Apple is has cash in the bank, the bank can loan that money out. It's not really sitting idle unless the bank needs it for capital reserves, but that has nothing to do with Apple. But that's not my main point.

My understanding was there are limits to how much earnings a company can retain. By holding cash and not paying dividends or doing stock buybacks, they're essentially deferring taxes forever. To prevent that, the Feds imposed an upper limit on how much a company can retain. I remember when Microsoft paid their first dividend, somewhere in the late '90s/early '00s, and the argument was the same. I'm frankly amazed Apple was allowed to accumulate so much cash without being required to justify how they might need it somehow. But I'm not a tax lawyer either.

One could argue that the retained earnings are reflected in the stock price and thus when I sell appreciated Apple stock, I'm effectively paying more capital gains tax based on the retained earnings. So maybe it doesn't really matter, someone is paying taxes somehow.

about a year ago
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Web of Tax Shelters Saved Apple Billions, Inquiry Finds

smoot123 Re:Did they break any laws? (716 comments)

Apple contributes to society by producing great products that delight their customers. Millions of users have happier lives, thousands of employees have jobs they love, earning wages they prefer to any other available alternative (otherwise they'd work somewhere else). Millions of stockholders earn great returns on their investment. Their success spurs competitors to burn the midnight oil trying to out do Apple, causing a virtuous cycle of steadily improving products at decreasing costs.

So how exactly are they not contributing?

about a year ago
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Robots Help Manufacturing Recover Without Adding Jobs

smoot123 Re:you missed an option (559 comments)

One nit, there isn't one "price the market will bear." If you drop prices, you and the industry as a whole will typically sell more units as customers on the margin now find your product just barely worth buying, where at the old price, they did not. In fact, "price the market will bear" pretty much has it backwards. There's an amount the market wants to buy at certain price ("demand the price will bear") and an amount the producers will make at a certain price. In both cases, price is the independent variable, not supply or demand. But I don't think that's the dominant effect here.

Yes, you pick B. In the short term, customers run from your competitors to your door and the increased sales overwhelms the some of the potential profit per widget. You cackle with glee as you roll in your vast piles of (honestly earned) dollars. But from there our stories differs because virtually every market that's not a legally enforced monopoly is "extremely competitive".

Imagine I'm the competitor, watching my shrinking sales with dismay. I will go out of business if I do nothing so I respond any way I can. Simplest is I just cut my profit to zero to match your prices. I'm desperate to turn the tables so I look for any innovation I can. Practically speaking, I don't believe you can stop me from finding some new, creative idea. If I can't find anything, I don't really deserve to be in business and I fold up shop. But with enough elbow grease, I find a different way to cut production costs by 55%. Now I can lower prices below you and smirk.

This leads to a virtuous (to the consumer) race to the bottom with each company fighting and clawing to be the most efficient and produce the most value for the money to earn your business. In the long term, the companies left in business will be selling widgets for much closer to the 50% price. And this is why 50% reductions in cost are really, really rare. Competition has already squeezed out all the easy stuff so people sweat blood to get a percent here and there.

There are, of course, a many corner cases. Someone who actually took Econ 101 as opposed to just reading some econ books can explain cases where the price-supply, price-demand, and customer preference equivalence curves lead to different results. That person is not me. But in general, that's how it works.

Don't believe me? Look at one of Slashdot's favorite whipping boys, cell phone service. You used to pay by the minute. You used to pay for long distance. You used to pay for mobile-to-mobile calls. You used to pay for roaming. You used to pay for each text. You used to have unlimited dat...er, well let's just skip that one. But just in the last two years, all the major carriers have started bundling more and more stuff in plans while keeping prices with dimes of each other. I'm more familiar with family plans because what's what I buy and just in the last two years, they're including more stuff for basically the same price.

about a year and a half ago
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Robots Help Manufacturing Recover Without Adding Jobs

smoot123 Re:you missed an option (559 comments)

You missed one: a significant beneficiary are the consumers of the goods, who now get better products cheaper than they ever could before. Based on supply and demand curves, the benefit will wind up split up among workers, the shareholders, executives, and consumers in ways that are hard to generalize.

As a produce of a single good with limited appeal (enterprise software) and a consumer of more goods than I can count, I'm all in favor of looking at things from a consumer point of view and trusting everything else will work itself out.

about a year and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Magazines Do You Still Read?

smoot123 Only three (363 comments)

Smithsonian, National Geographic, Technology Review.

I wonder which magazines correlate with which others. I be there's tons of Smithsonian/NG readers. And I think those two are a secret cabal: they seem to do stories on identical subjects way too often for it to be pure chance.

about a year and a half ago
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The Zuckerberg Tax

smoot123 Re:Such systems have been proposed before (1065 comments)

Well, first off, property taxes on homes have serious problems. People having to move because they couldn't afford their property taxes is why Prop 13 passed in California.

Second, what happens when I pay taxes on my paper wealth, then the asset decreases in value. Do I get a tax rebate the next year? Given that many assets are held for many years, this seems like a ton of unnecessary checks going to and fro.

Finally, many assets are hard to value. You don't know the true value until they are sold. The beauty of income taxes over wealth taxes is I know exactly what I sold something for so there's no need for an assessor to determine this year's fair market value.

more than 2 years ago
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Patent Expires On Best Selling Drug of All Time

smoot123 Re:See. Patents/Copyright spur innovation. (491 comments)

b) that altruism is idiotic, (You _have_ heard of Philanthropy, right? I guess no one does anything for the betterment of mankind for free.)

Turns out the profit motive is a terrific way to get people to do useful things. Who'da thunk that people were willing to work so hard in order to get ahead. Amazing, isn't it?

Now I don't disagree with you that, yes, money provides a great incentive, but thankfully dinosaurs that think money is the _only_ way to motivate people are dying.

Charity and philanthropy are all well and good. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation does wonderful things and has a huge budget. But in terms of scale, charitable activities are dwarfed by for-profit activity (my guess is by two or three orders of magnitude). Far from being dead, for-profit dinosaurs are alive, kicking ass and taking names. The open source/free software world is an anomaly and only works because software development can sometimes be done for very little cost other than your time. Don't fool yourself into thinking the rest of the world works anything like that.

more than 2 years ago
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Fee Increase Attempt Inspires 'Dump Your Bank Day'

smoot123 Re:I did (667 comments)

Wells-Fargo free for 20 years and have never looked back. Second best move I ever made.

more than 2 years ago
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Ron Paul Wants To End the Federal Student Loan Program

smoot123 Re:Subsidies inflate pricing. (1797 comments)

Let the market decide.

This kind of logic has FAILED US EVERY FUCKING TIME IT HAS BEEN USED.

It must be sad on your planet. Here on Earth, telecommunications, cars, houses, home appliances, clothes, food, entertainment devices, computers, travel, and zillions of other products are better and cheaper because companies are competing for my business in a free(ish) market.

more than 2 years ago

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