January 29, 2011

Government spending: it’s a problem of scale comprehension

Filed under: Economics, Government, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:04

Alberta’s Wildrose Alliance gets some international attention

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:54

An article in The Economist reports on the state of play in the Alberta political realm:

Mr Stelmach seems to have been pushed out by his own party’s fiscal hawks, led by Ted Morton, his finance minister. The premier wanted to balance the budget gradually, without big cuts to services. Mr Morton, a leader of the party’s right-wing brought in by Mr Stelmach last year, wants fiscal balance now. Mr Morton and his allies in the party worry about the rise of the Wildrose Alliance, a libertarian, small-government group which won its first seat in the legislature in a by-election in 2009 but has since attracted three Conservative defectors and drawn close to the ruling party in some opinion polls. Its leader, Danielle Smith, sparkles in comparison to the Conservatives’ dull suits.

More surprisingly, the left is also showing signs of life in the shape of the Alberta Party, a moribund group newly revived last October by two smaller outfits. It gained a voice in the legislature when a former Liberal elected as an independent said he would represent the new party. The Liberals have been shunned in Alberta since the 1980s when a Liberal federal government imposed an energy plan widely seen by westerners as benefiting the rest of Canada at their expense. But with its new and different banner, the Alberta Party will hope to attract centrists dismayed by the Conservatives’ impending lurch further to the right.

Mr Morton, beaten by Mr Stelmach in a leadership election in 2006, may now take over as Conservative leader. He might steal the Wildrose ground. But Albertans have a habit of rejecting former governing parties so decisively that they disappear from the political landscape. That happened with the Social Credit party in 1971 and the United Farmers in 1935.

Wired How-to: Get back on the internet after a government shut-down

Filed under: Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:47

A post at the Wired How-to wiki on getting back online after your government attempts to shut down internet access:

Scenario: Your government is displeased with the communication going on in your location and pulls the plug on your internet access, most likely by telling the major ISPs to turn off service.

This is what happened in Egypt January 25 prompted by citizen protests, with sources estimating that the Egyptian government has cut off approximately 88 percent of the country’s internet access. What do you do without Internet? Step 1: Stop crying in the corner. Then start taking steps to reconnect with your network. Here’s a list of things you can do to keep the communication flowing.

This article is part of a wiki anyone can edit. If you have advice to add, please log in and contribute.

Bad news for US small businesses

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Law, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:32

A very small item in the recent US Obamacare legislation will mean a huge increase in tax compliance paperwork:

Section 9006 of the health care bill — just a few lines buried in the 2,409-page document — mandates that beginning in 2012 all companies will have to issue 1099 tax forms not just to contract workers but to any individual or corporation from which they buy more than $600 in goods or services in a tax year.

[. . .]

But under the new rules, if a freelance designer buys a new iMac from the Apple Store, they’ll have to send Apple a 1099. A laundromat that buys soap each week from a local distributor will have to send the supplier a 1099 at the end of the year tallying up their purchases.

The bill makes two key changes to how 1099s are used. First, it expands their scope by using them to track payments not only for services but also for tangible goods. Plus, it requires that 1099s be issued not just to individuals, but also to corporations.

Taken together, the two seemingly small changes will require millions of additional forms to be sent out.

“It’s a pretty heavy administrative burden,” particularly for small businesses without large in-house accounting staffs, says Bill Rys, tax counsel for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Eliminating the goods exemption could launch an avalanche of paperwork, he says: “If you cater a lunch for other businesses every Wednesday, say, that’s a lot of information to keep track of throughout the year.”

For a one-person business, this change could double or triple the tax-related paperwork right there. Given that a lot of people have started new businesses in the last couple of years — partly because big businesses downsized and haven’t been hiring again — this will be a significant discouragement to self-employment.

H/T to Virginia Postrel for the link.

Update: It may not stand: there’s a bi-partisan coalition in the Senate to repeal that provision.

A bit of history, from a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London

Filed under: Britain, History, Humour — Tags: — Nicholas @ 10:39

H/T to Craig Zeni for the link.

Inappropriate license plates, Virginia style

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Humour, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:07

Jason Ciastko send a link to this article. You can see why the Virginia authorities decided to recall the license plate (but you’re probably wrong):

A Virginia motorist has apparently had to return their vanity license plate after the Department of Motor Vehicles decided it was too lewd for public roadways.

According to the user-generated news website Reddit, the DMV revoked a special-issue “Kids First” Virginia plate with the personalized license plate “EATTHE” to spell out the phrase, well, you know…

Full story, including the sad bureaucratic recall procedure, here.

Most reactions were like the one from a mom in a minivan plastered with pro-Christian bumper stickers who chased him down.

“I thought she was going to yell at me and tell me I’m going straight to hell, but she and her kids found it absolutely hilarious and she took pics of it with her kids next to the plate,” said Yeaman. “I learned my lesson on judging people before they speak.”

Sadly, the Virginia DMV didn’t talk to him before they judged him offensive and sent him a letter requesting the plates back immediately. With his brother’s encouragement, Yeaman requested a hearing with a mediator to keep the plates, which he didn’t find offensive.

H/T to Craig Zeni for the Jalopnik link.

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