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If you look up the word “Stupid” in the dictionary, you may find this picture..

Posted on February 21st, 2012 at 19:56 by John Sinteur in category: Great Picture

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  1. If it wasn’t Photoshop, it would indeed be stupid.

  2. There is no reflection from the ladder in the car’s surface… 😉

  3. That’s totally stupid! They could have put the ladder in the car diagonally to make it stick out much less!


  4. If you look at the left rear windows you can see the reflection of the ladder on the car surface that goes to the left rear lights. Similar reflection to the one produced by the left mirror. The ladder steps produce shadow at the ladder as teh car in the road.

    I don’t see why it is fake.

  5. It’s the perspective view of the ladder that’s faulty. The left hand end of the ladder should show the front rail jutting out further. See the linked image file here: http://i292.photobucket.com/albums/mm19/satoriguru/ladder_perspective.jpg

The Facts about Tax Progressivity — The Monkey Cage

Posted on February 21st, 2012 at 19:02 by Desiato in category: News


The distribution of the tax burden is obviously a politically loaded question, where those on the right tend to have an interest in claiming that the US tax system is already (too) progressive, while those on the left wanting to increase the share of the burden shouldered by the rich. However, the question of how progressive the system is an empirical question. In fact, the system of taxation in the United States is relatively progressive. What makes this fact surprising is that tax progressivity and fiscal redistribution (the reduction of inequality by government action) are often conflated, and it remains true that redistribution in the US is low, due mainly to the relatively small size of the US government. The American case typifies one pole of a robust negative relationship between tax progressivity and overall redistribution, the cause of which remains a contested question in the literature on comparative political economy.

I’m hesitating a bit to post this, because there are tons of ways that claims and studies like this can be biased, but I think the article is thought-provoking and worth reading. If you end up finding responses by respectable economists, please comment.

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What if the ‘people’ don’t want democracy?

Posted on February 21st, 2012 at 18:32 by John Sinteur in category: News


A survey has revealed that the people of Libya may not be keen on democracy after all. The “Arab Spring” has been celebrated in the Western world as a struggle of democracy against dictatorship. Often the implicit assumption was that what the revolutionaries who were trying to overthrow their authoritarian regimes wanted was a Western-style parliamentary democracy. So when only 15 per cent of those surveyed in Libya say they want democracy established in a year, compared with 40 per cent who profess a preference for a “strong leader”, it’s a bit of a let-down for Western cheerleaders of the upheavals in the Arab world. Moreover, apparently only about a third of those polled wanted democracy even in five years’ time.

Today’s democracies seem incapable of making difficult decisions, as Europe demonstrates, or they are run by corporations with deep pockets, as the US demonstrates.

Now go tell people in Libya what’s so great about a democracy.

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  1. In a democracy, you only have yourselves to blame.

  2. In a democracy, you get bribed with your own money.

  3. In a democracy, I don’t worry about the knock on the door in the night.

  4. I’ll stop now. I assume the desire for a “strong leader” is for some paternal type who will “make it all better” and “give us stuff”. Sorry chaps, it’s not magic. You have to do it for yourselves. This is not an easy road.
    As a big man once said, it’s probably the worst form of government apart from all the others. Democracies can be built (cf. modern Germany) but it’s hard, bloody work.

  5. “Personally, I’m in favor of democracy, which means that the central institutions of society have to be under popular control. Now, under capitalism, we can’t have democracy by definition. Capitalism is a system in which the central institutions of society are in principle under autocratic control.”
    — Noam Chomsky

  6. What’s wrong with a nice benevolent dictatorship?

  7. Well, at least the trains run on time.

  8. To desire democracy, a society have to “get there”. It’s not like you can just “import” a completely new social structure.

Pollution in the Netherlands: Dirty dikes

Posted on February 21st, 2012 at 17:51 by John Sinteur in category: News


The average Dutch person is taller and lives longer than most other Europeans. And although the country may be overpopulated and polluted, the UN’s human-development index ranks it as the third-best place to live in the world, after Norway and Australia. High living standards, good health care and low accident-mortality rates matter, says Mr Boot. In times of crisis, they may seem to matter more than the environment.

According to Rick Santorum, we stretch old people there before you euthanize them. That must be it.

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Strauss-Kahn cannot identify prostitutes at sight

Posted on February 21st, 2012 at 17:28 by Sueyourdeveloper in category: News


Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is being questioned by French police as part of an investigation into a suspected prostitution ring.

One of Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers has said that the former French presidential hopeful did not know that the women at parties he attended were prostitutes.

“He could easily not have known, because as you can imagine, at these kinds of parties you’re not always dressed, and I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman,” Henri Leclerc told French radio Europe 1 in December.

OK, Dommy, here’s a clue. If you are at an orgy where all the men are rich, white, overweight and over 50 and all the women are pretty, athletic, undressed and under 25; I’d say they should be a slight suspicion that the women are doing it for the money.

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  1. Right, however, they are not necessarily doing it as a “business”. They could all be golddiggers, waiting for the big catch. Or just girls who like rich, white, overweight, older gentlemen. 🙂

  2. Honestly, if there were a single human being on the face of this earth that could identify prostitutes on sight, I would guess that that man would be Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Greek debt load may get heavier, euro zone study says

Posted on February 21st, 2012 at 11:23 by John Sinteur in category: News


Greece will need additional relief if it is to cut its debts to 120 percent of GDP by 2020 and if it doesn’t follow through on structural reforms and other measures, its debt could hit 160 percent by 2020, a confidential analysis conducted by the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission shows.

The baseline scenario in the 9-page report, obtained exclusively by Reuters, is that Greece will cut its debts to 129 percent of GDP by 2020, well above the 120 percent target.

“The results point to a need for additional debt relief from the official or private sectors to bring the debt trajectory down,” said the report, which is being discussed by euro zone finance ministers at a meeting in Brussels on Monday to decide on a second financing program for Greece.

The beatings austerity will continue until morale the economy improves.

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  1. What I have not seen is a real focus on credible plans to improve the economy, which in the final analysis, is the solution to the problem.

  2. [Quote:]

    In addition, Greece undertook to transfer its debt-servicing payments into a blocked account one quarter in advance. It also promised to enact legislation giving priority to debt servicing over other government spending “over the next two months” and to enshrine that principle in its constitution “as soon as possible,” Mr. Juncker said.

    I can’t imagine that that’s going to go over well with the Greeks.

  3. Everyone makes out that these debt ratios are catastrophic. The USA, the UK and Japan maintain higher debt ratios with very little grumbling from the “markets”, probably because they are too big to push to default without breaking the game.

    Within most large economies, regions that are backward or do not “pay their way” are carried as a burden without too much complaint by the rest of the country. Sometimes these regions turn around (e.g. in Canada the example of Alberta or Newfoundland and Labrador). Can Europe pull this off?

  4. Uh, Sue, the U.S. national debt is around 80% of GDP I believe?

  5. Wikipedia: “Official figures state that as of July 2011 the British national debt amounted to £940.1 billion, or 61.4% of total GDP.[2] By January 2012 this figure had grown to £1,003.9 billion, or 64.2% of total GDP”

    US figures vary depending on whether you look at public or gross national debt, but are around 80% or 100% respectively.

    Neither the US nor the UK is anywhere near the 173% of GDP that Greece faces.

    And it’s not just about the raw %GDP number–in the end it’s about ability to repay. The U.S. economy is far more likely to grow to support its debt than the Greek economy is.

  6. Actually US Dept-to-GP >100%

  7. GP= GDP

  8. Can Europe pull this off?

    Technical answer: sure, no problem. Greece is at most 4% of the EU economy. Peanuts.

    The right question is, do the want to?

  9. priority to debt servicing

    All that money that is now part of the aid package is, once released, making a quick u-turn in athens, right back into the coffers of the big banks, as “debt service”. Nobody in greece is being helped with a single cent or drachme.

  10. Yeah, OK, gross debt is 101.8%. That’s “around 100%”, I’d argue.

  11. @John @#9: Money is fungible, right? So money they don’t have to pay to creditors because of the aid is money the Greek gov’t doesn’t have to raise in taxes or can spend on something else. I imagine your point is that it doesn’t help the unemployed get jobs or retirees to pay rent (etc.), and I get that, but to say that nobody in Greece is being helped at all seems inaccurate.

    I suppose in the end it comes down to the question whether you think it would help the Greeks if they left the Eurozone, as that would be the end result of not having the aid package. It’s pretty unclear to me, and not even clear to me that anyone can truly do that calculation accurately ahead of time.

    Just a few days ago there were op-eds saying that it’s all just a big stalling game to put enough of a firewall around Italy (& Portugal & Ireland…) so they won’t go down the drain when the EU finally cuts Greece loose.

    Time will tell.

  12. It’s pretty unclear to me as well, but Greece has been fucked over by the banks, their own government, en themselves the last decade.

    You can’t even do an Argentina on them, since their economy is too fucked. Argentina had some growth potential, while in Greece everything there had going for it has been taken over by other EU countries. They’re even an importer of olive oil right now.

Drones With an Eye on the Public Cleared to Fly

Posted on February 21st, 2012 at 10:53 by Desiato in category: News, Privacy, Security


His career will soon get back on track. A new federal law, signed by the president on Tuesday, compels the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to be used for all sorts of commercial endeavors — from selling real estate and dusting crops, to monitoring oil spills and wildlife, even shooting Hollywood films. Local police and emergency services will also be freer to send up their own drones.

But while businesses, and drone manufacturers especially, are celebrating the opening of the skies to these unmanned aerial vehicles, the law raises new worries about how much detail the drones will capture about lives down below — and what will be done with that information.

Police departments yesterday, your neighbor today. This happened much faster than I expected.

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  1. Lots of tricky stuff ahead in this area. Once these drone get down to the size of insects, for example, are you permitted to swat them like a bug?

Copyright Cheats Face the Music in France

Posted on February 21st, 2012 at 10:49 by Desiato in category: Intellectual Property


A report commissioned by Hadopi, which has a budget of €11 million and employs 70 people, showed a sharp decline in file-sharing since the system was put in place.

A separate study by researchers at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh suggests that Hadopi has given a lift to legal downloads via the Apple iTunes music store. Since the spring of 2009, when the debate over the measure was raging, through mid-2011, iTunes sales rose much more strongly in France than in other European countries.

While there is no proof that Hadopi was responsible, the study says the case for a link was bolstered by the fact that sales of musical genres that suffer from high levels of piracy, like hip-hop, rose much more than sales of low-piracy genres, like Christian and classical music. The researchers calculated that Hadopi resulted in an extra €13.8 million a year worth of iTunes music sales in France. Adding the potential benefit to other legitimate digital music services, including fast-growing online streaming services, which provide music for online playback rather than downloads, the gain could have been substantially larger, they said.

It seems like there is substantive support here for the claim that piracy was reducing music sales (in the differential between genres and between France and other countries). You can’t explain this by saying that downloading gave people a taste for the music which they needed to satisfy once they stopped downloading, because the music they tasted from downloading they already had possession of, free and clear.

I’m curious what the counter-argument is. I’m sure someone here has one.

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  1. No “counter” argument – people will use the easiest way to get music. Quite often, that’s piracy. Some content cannot be acquired at all without piracy (example).

    What happened here is totally in line with that statement. Instead of legal services making things easier, they used laws to make piracy more difficult, but the end result is the same: people will use the easiest way available.

    So, yes, harsh laws do work in making acquiring content legally easier than acquiring content trough piracy. At a huge social cost, in my opinion.

    So now, if you’re in France, anybody can make your internet disappear by filing three claims. I find the social costs of that too high for the added benefit of reducing piracy a bit, I’d rather see the content owners work on the other side of the equation.

    Besides, as long as the content owners work from the basic assumption that all their customers are thieves, I will continue to refuse to be their customer. I would rather do without the content altogether.

  2. Sure, I did not mean to justify the specific means implemented in Hadopi. But one hears the pro-downloading folks claim that the music industry isn’t losing sales from downloads, that downloading serves to get people familiar with music and “whet the appetite”, that in fact downloading is what drives later sales.

    It’s likely that in reality it’s always “some of each”. The losses aren’t of the ridiculous scale claimed by the music industry, but it’s also not the case that none of the content downloaded would have been purchased otherwise.