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About Altherion

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  1. There is some effort to portray corporate welfare as a bad thing, but it's not at the same level as the portrayal of payments to the poor. In other words, there isn't an entire party unanimously against it. For example, Amazon's plan for New York was supported by both the mayor of New York City and the governor of New York State -- both of whom are Democrats. There are some Democrats (and also some Republicans) against it, but usually this winds up being more or less the losers vs. the winners with a few "This is terrible!" people thrown in on the losing side. The same thing happens when the politicians giving away resources are Republican: there is some infighting and criticism from the other side, but it's not coherent. Furthermore, there's a threshold at zero which I suspect is not trivial. Our tax code is designed so that it takes either an expert or some fairly sophisticated software to figure out what any given individual's or organization's contribution should be. There's all sorts of loopholes, exceptions, special cases, etc. etc. and practically everyone tries to game the system to minimize what they pay. Even in the case of large corporations, a tax break may, at least in theory, be a good thing for everyone. For example, if Amazon was expanding not into New York City (which is already a global hub), but to some place that was in desperate need of jobs, it would still pay some taxes (even after the break) and employ tens of thousands of people who will also pay taxes so it makes sense to lure it with a giveaway. However, when an individual or a private organization gets back more in taxes than they pay, this person or group had better be doing something really valuable for the community... and in the case of poor people, this is usually not the case.
  2. It's practically impossible to predict one-off events and even without them the warning signs are not unambiguous. The people arguing that a recession will come in 2019 claim that some of these signs are already here (or almost here). For example, the yield difference between long term and short term US Treasury bonds is fairly small and even briefly went below zero for some maturities earlier this month. People refer to this as an "inverted yield curve" and it is a pretty good forecaster of recessions... but of course hasn't actually inverted yet. The people who have access to nearly all information on the matter (including the one-off possibilities) and are the closest to being neutral experts work for the Federal Reserve and they're still raising the federal funds rate (or at least that's what everyone expects -- see what happens this Tuesday). As long as this is the case, I'd be wary of people crying recession -- although of course it is certainly possible.
  3. The word "eradicate" does not mean what you think it means. Also, while there will certainly be a recession eventually and there are some people who are arguing it might come next years, the latter is far from certain and it's even less likely to start in the next few months (the past few quarters have been fine and there's usually some warning before a massive reversal).
  4. I doubt it. There's a significant difference in attitude towards poor people who don't make enough to pay taxes and rich people who play various games with the tax code to minimize their tax exposure. The same goes for poor people who get money from the government via the EITC and similar programs and rich people who get corporate subsidies. For example, the crowd protesting against Amazon's recent $3B subsidies in New York City is quite different from the one that opposes welfare and the like.
  5. I think this is the most likely way for the investigation to make an impact: drag it out for another couple of years and save some indictment or announcement to serve as an October surprise.
  6. I guess one way this can all be part of a coherent plan is for there to be an agreement with the EU that the entire thing can be called off (i.e. return to pre-referendum status quo) and all of the maneuvering up to this point being to this end. Kind of a roundabout way of doing that though. Incidentally, how big a deal is the ceremonial mace? Because this sounds pretty amusing: This was really an unfortunate turn of events as it deprived us of a chance to see how well a ceremonial mace would fare against a ceremonial sword in a fight (they don't use real swords, do they?).
  7. Altherion

    International News Thread

    I don't see it here yet, so here's Macron's pitch from a few hours ago: There will probably be some protest next weekend anyway, but I wonder if this is enough to diminish it to the point where it is no longer international news or if the protests can sustain their intensity.
  8. I am not saying that they're not elites -- short of a revolution, you could never organize something like Brexit without support from a substantial part of the ruling class. My point was that nobody had a concrete plan of what to do in case the referendum returns an anti-EU result and they've been unable to come up with an acceptable one in the two and a half years since then.
  9. It's fascinating how close to the truth this statement comes. It will be interesting to see what historians make of this mess: maybe there are some patterns that become apparent when you're looking from half a century out, but in real time it looks as though the elites of the UK agreed to an ill-advised referendum that they fully expected to go their way and when it did not, they... basically spent a couple of years imitating a flock of decapitated chickens.
  10. Altherion

    International News Thread

    Despite the French government caving on the fuel tax, the protests are back and possibly even larger than before. The authorities even brought out some armored vehicles this time around.
  11. It appears that the manners of our Vice President are becoming more popular: The article points out a potential reason not to do this: However, the obvious rejoinder here is that an accusation of sex discrimination is far less devastating to any particular individual than one of harassment so while institutions might equally oppose both, individuals are far more likely to attempt to avoid the harassment charge. Amusingly enough, the behavior described in this article is quite similar to what was officially requested of graduate students who were teaching undergraduates back when I was a grad student: always leave the door open when holding office hours, don't be alone with any given undergrad (especially of the opposite gender) and so on. If this keeps spreading, we'll go back to the days when it was a breach of propriety for a man and a woman who are not married or related to be alone together except that instead of fear for the woman's reputation driving the trend, it will now be fear for the reputation of the man.
  12. Altherion

    International News Thread

    They're not mutually exclusive, but they draw upon the same political capital and have the same natural redistributive tendency (i.e. away from the poor) so one has to prioritize and, in many countries, it is only possible to do one well. The idea of subsidizing new technology as, for example, in Norway and to a lesser extent in the US, appears to be less politically toxic and more effective than punitive taxes on people who have no options. Yeah... that's definitely suicidal. On the bright side, they seem to have given up on the gas tax for now.
  13. Altherion

    International News Thread

    This is always the nature of new technology. The first ones are curiosities for the very rich, then more are available and it becomes affordable for the upper-middle class and only then does it become cheap enough for the masses. The current version of the Model 3 is about halfway to the third stage. And yes, despite the wonders of modern shipping, most stuff initially becomes affordable in the nation where it is produced and only later in small nations on the other side of the planet. I don't understand your distinction between mileage per charge and driving time per charge; unless the car is very inefficient at common speeds or the battery drains itself when standing still, they should be very nearly the same. The mid-tier Model 3 can handle an 8 hour trip with just a single half-hour stop at a supercharger. For 12 hours with a total half-hour of stops for charging, you'll have to wait a couple of years more for better batteries and better chargers, but driving like that is really difficult. We have a few of the cheaper electric cars in the US too, but in addition to the lousy range, for the most part they're fairly small and lacking in both acceleration and maximum speed. The Nissan Leaf is probably the best of these (it's certainly the most popular of them), but it's already obvious that this is not the future.
  14. Altherion

    International News Thread

    It's almost always both more efficient and less carbon intensive to use electricity. First, fuel also needs to be widely distributed (it's harder to move oil from where it is refined to a local gas station than electricity to a local outlet). Second, very few countries get all of their electricity from fossil fuels and not all fossil fuels are equally bad. Third, it's not just a matter of CO2 scrubbers: automobile engines must make tradeoffs because they need to be small and self-contained enough to be mobile, tolerate all sorts of accelerations and behave reasonably well in collisions. The average power plant is significantly more efficient than the average automobile engine. Which ones? As far as I know, Tesla was the first to make a purely electric car that is normal-sized, can match the speed and acceleration of gas-powered cars and can go more than 200 miles between charges. They're also the most recognizable and numerous purely electric (i.e. not hybrid) brand worldwide. Basically, it's not the only game in town, but it's certainly the coolest one. I hadn't heard of this. How did they manage that? It sounds a bit suicidal...
  15. Altherion

    International News Thread

    In principle, I agree with you -- but creating better energy options is hard and the path to them is uncertain whereas making existing options more expensive is easy and straightforward (at least when a party interested in doing so is in power). The problem with the French tax is that it does this in a really ham-handed way. The price of gas in France is already roughly double what it is in the US (mostly due to taxes) and this tax would raise it even higher. And while it is technically possible to get around without a car in much of France, it's often not pleasant. I lived in France for a long time and when I was moving back to the US, I sold my car about a month before the move. My round-trip commute with the car was roughly 45 minutes and without was a little over 2 hours. It's even worse for people in rural areas where there is no mass transit; this tax hike must be pretty brutal for them.