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Vintage 1960s Era Film Shows IRS Defending Its Use of Computers

tsqr Re:Uproar? (141 comments)

So are values such an interest paid to the bank, and income from stocks not pre-filled?

Nope. You get the blank forms from the government, W-2 (employer statements containing income and withholding numbers), and statements from banks and investment firms. Employers and banks and such are required by law to deliver the tax statements by the end of January each year, but it's not uncommon for financial institutions to be significantly late (this is a popular reason for the filing of extensions). Lots of opportunities for transpositions and transcription errors as you manually copy numbers from one form to another. Must be really fun for people who suffer from dyslexia.

I've been filing my taxes electronically for years, and quite frankly, I can't remember whether the IRS and California Franchise Tax Board are even sending me the instruction booklets and blank forms any more (which would be fine, as they would just go directly into the trash).

10 hours ago
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Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

tsqr Re:Militia, then vs now (1430 comments)

Who said anything about an ideal "free" society?. Society is not based upon the idea of depriving people of their rights, but it is at least partially based upon discouraging behavior that works against the goals of society. You seem to have "rights" and "human behavior" a little confused. I'm pretty sure there has never been a Constitutionally or statutorily guaranteed right in the USA for average citizens to commit murder.

yesterday
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Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

tsqr Re:Militia, then vs now (1430 comments)

strict Constitutionalists in the U.S. believe the Constitution brooks no amending, somehow it was born of immaculate conception and henceforth shall remain ever as is until fossilized.

No. Strict Constitutionalists don't have any problem with amending the Constitution by the Constitutionally established processes. They do, however, have a problem with ignoring the Constitution.

It always amuses me when people who raged against depriving one class of people of their rights (see Proposition 8), are so eager to deprive another class of people of their rights. And please -- resist the temptation to go off on an off-topic rant about human rights. I voted against Prop 8.

yesterday
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Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

tsqr Re:I just use TurboTax (382 comments)

If you're getting refunds, you have too much withheld, and are giving the government an interest-free loan.

$500 refund means an average "loan" of $250 for the year. At today's interest rates, that means I lose about $2.00 over the course of the year. Kind of gets lost in the noise when your total taxes exceed $20K.

yesterday
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Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

tsqr Re:It's better in the UK (382 comments)

Better that taxes cause a little pain. It reminds me once a year how screwed up our tax system is. If they make it too easy, people will forget about how much is being skimmed off their paychecks.

I'd mod you up if I hadn't already commented. Turbo Tax makes the process pretty painless, but looking at that "total taxes paid" figure is always an eye-opener.

2 days ago
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Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

tsqr Re:Prefilled, confirm by SMS (382 comments)

so you never get tempted to spend the government's money.

You know, I really don't object to having to pay taxes, but I have never considered it to be "the government's money", because they wouldn't get any of it unless I worked hard to have it available for them in the first place. The annual tax-filing fiesta is really the only time I get a meaningful look at how much I pay for the government services I receive. Well, mostly the government services received by those less fortunate than me, but that's OK; I'd rather be paying for services I don't use than be dependent on those services. I'd rather go through the filing process and be aware of the total bill, than to have it done automatically and be blissfully unaware. Looking at the deductions on my paycheck just don't have the same impact as crunching the numbers and looking at the annual total.

2 days ago
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Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

tsqr Re:I just use TurboTax (382 comments)

I figured my taxes manually and filed via snail mail for many, years. Then one year I had a dyslexic moment and entered the amount for excess social security withholding on the wrong line (I think it was the line for Railroad Retirement?). The chaos that ensued and the degree of difficulty involved in assuring the IRS that I wasn't trying to cheat, convinced me that it was worth the small cost of Turbo Tax to make sure it never happened again. For the past 5 years I've e-filed and received both Fed and State refunds in February.

2 days ago
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

tsqr Re:This happened to my wife (627 comments)

the Republicans only too willing to attribute it to the the Evil Obama

This little gem is in Section 14219 of the "Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008". You may recall that the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate back then. So maybe attributing it to the Evil Obama isn't that far off the mark.

2 days ago
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This 1981 BYTE Magazine Cover Explains Why We're So Bad At Tech Predictions

tsqr Re:It was a "joke" back then (275 comments)

And yet, some sci-fi authors have shown amazing technology foresight. In the dystopian novel "Shockwave Rider" (1975), John Brunner coined the term "worm" to describe a malicious program that propagates itself through a computer network. And though he failed to predict the smartphone, his protagonist uses public phone terminals to hack government computer systems and create new identities for himself. Really, a remarkable book.

2 days ago
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This 1981 BYTE Magazine Cover Explains Why We're So Bad At Tech Predictions

tsqr Re:It was a "joke" back then (275 comments)

they get one invention or innovation right, but every invention and innovation has to be understood in the context of the million other inventions, innovations, and social changes that surround it.

In "The World Set Free" (published in 1914), H. G. Wells described a devastating nuclear weapon that continued to "explode" over a period of days or weeks. Very advanced technology, indeed. But they were launched by hand, from biplanes, after the pilot initiated the reaction by biting a fuse.

2 days ago
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Google Buys Drone Maker Titan Aerospace

tsqr Re:Live Google Maps? (41 comments)

I think the families of Malaysian Flight 370 might have something to say about that.

I'm sure they would, but the original question was about Google Earth, not ISR.

If you want continuous coverage of all the world's oceans (you would, right; who knows where the next aircraft would disappear to?), then the coverage area balloons from 57.3 million square miles, to about 197 square miles. So, roughly quadruple the number of aircraft required to about 1200. Unit cost would be somewhere between $5 million and $10 million; at the lower number figure $6 billion or so just for the aircraft. Add in ground support equipment, control equipment and people to run the system, and you're starting to talk about some real money. In the history of commercial aviation, a total of 4 commercial passenger airliners have been lost (by which I mean, they disappeared and no trace was ever found), not counting MH370. If MH370 is never found, it will be the first to be lost since 1962.

3 days ago
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Google Buys Drone Maker Titan Aerospace

tsqr Re:Live Google Maps? (41 comments)

If they send up enough sats, could they make google maps realtime?

Realtime sounds like you're asking for the video edition of Google Earth. Let's assume you meant "updated frequently" instead. We'll also assume you're not interested in continuously updated images of empty ocean.

Land surface area of our planet is about 57.3 million square miles. An aircraft at 65,000 ft has an observable "footprint" of a circle 600 miles in diameter; that's about 283,000 square miles. So at first blush, it looks like you'd need 203 or so aircraft to cover the land area. But you'd need substantially more aircraft, because equal-sized circles don't pack without a lot of overlap (for example, with a hexagonal pattern, 14 circles of unit diameter are required to cover a rectangle of 8 square units); aside from that, you probably aren't going to get usable imagery at the extreme edges of the footprint. There's also the inefficiency involved in covering small, isolated islands. You can get by with fewer aircraft if you can live with a lower refresh rate and can have each aircraft orbit with a wide radius rather than try to stay in one location. On the other hand, you're going to need a lot of spare aircraft, because even though they're solar powered, they depend on things like motors and batteries and servo actuators to stay aloft and operate through the night time and stay on station, and those things don't last forever.

Then there's the issue of single-event upsets and single-event latchups, which can be a major problem at the altitudes we're talking about. It's also very cold at 65,000 ft, so a lot of stuff that would be OK at the surface is going to have to be heated to stay operational at altitude, which means more batteries and a bigger solar array. Then, although their routine operation would be autonomous, there will have to be some level of human monitoring, because you'd sort of like to avoid having airplanes full of lithium batteries falling into urban areas.

So yeah, it could be done in theory. In practice, it might be too expensive.

3 days ago
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Mathematicians Use Mossberg 500 Pump-Action Shotgun To Calculate Pi

tsqr Re:Or you could just memorize 20-odd digits (307 comments)

Or you could just remember 355/113, accurate to 0.000027%. Or, if you're happy with the accuracy of the shotgun solution, there's always 22/7, which is accurate to 0.13%

3 days ago
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Jenny McCarthy: "I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'"

tsqr Re:Why do people listen to her? (583 comments)

Why do people listen to her?

Probably for the same reason they listen to celebrities' opinions on all sorts of things they're unqualified to give advice on, from social issues to reverse mortgages.

3 days ago
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Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

tsqr Re:Believable as anything else they say (721 comments)

I am perfectly happy to stipulate that every administration I can remember (that would date back to Eisenhower, by the way), Democratic and Republican alike, has lied through their teeth at every opportunity in order to advance the agenda of the day. Maybe, just maybe, Carter might have been an exception, but he made up for that in other ways. Though what that has to do with the current question is somewhat unclear.

about a week ago
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Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

tsqr Re:Politics as usuall (721 comments)

and some got on Medicare

You probably meant Medicaid, but you're at least partially correct -- many (not all; there are plenty of poor people who try really hard to be as responsible as they can) of the people who were able to take advantage of the Medicaid Expansion were not previously insured. That would account for some portion of the missing 5 million people I was wondering about. As for the CBO being surprised about employer plan enrollment, I don't know why they would be surprised. Even when my employer's contribution is taken into account, my employer-provided plan is just about half the cost of equivalent coverage through the ACA marketplace. If I only look at my cost, my current plan is about 20% of the ACA plan cost. Of course, that's just an anecdote and I'm well aware that all employer-provided plans are not equal.

everyone is obsessed with trying to either prove or disprove it's working.

Well, not everyone, but for sure a lot of people, and frankly, I find both sides rather tiring. I'm one of the people who would just like to get their facts straight.

about a week ago
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Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

tsqr Re:What all is included? (721 comments)

Insurance companies have been reporting that so far, between 76% and 85% of ACA enrolleees have paid their first bills by the due date. It's going to be pretty tough turn that into the 99% you seem to be predicting.

about a week ago
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Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

tsqr Re:Politics as usuall (721 comments)

From a study done by Rand, over 9 million people have health insurance than did before.

From the NBC News article you cite:
"Most of the people who got new insurance didn’t buy it on the Obamacare exchanges but rather signed up with an employer, the survey found. Rand says that 8.2 million people have gained insurance from an employer since September — more than 7 million of them who had no health insurance before."

I'm having a little trouble with the arithmetic here. 9 million more people have health insurance than had it before. 7 million people who didn't have insurance before, got it through their employers. 7 million enrolled through the ACA marketplace.

So ... 9 mil newly insured, less 7 mil who got their new insurance through employers ... that leaves 2 mil who got new insurance somewhere else. But, wait -- 7 mil signed up for Obamacare ....

Does that mean that of the 7 million who enrolled through the ACA marketplace, only 2 million didn't previously have insurance? What, did the other 5 million all have their previous policies cancelled for ACA non-compliance?

about a week ago
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Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

tsqr Believable as anything else they say (721 comments)

My first reaction was, the 7.1 million number is about as credible as anything else this administration says about the policies it wants to promote. Then I remembered that this particular subject is the President's legacy achievement, so it's probably less credible than usual.

about a week ago
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Isolated Tribes Die Shortly After We Meet Them

tsqr Re:Other animals (351 comments)

Did you even read what you referenced? The whole article is about how the Europeans were responsible for the devastation you're trying to put off on a native plague.

Well, no, not the whole article. There's this, which I imagine is what he was referring to: "Little known outside the circle of a few forensic epidemiologists, though, is the fact that the deadliest plague of all in the Americas was very possibly a home grown virus."

about a week ago

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