Quotulatiousness

July 11, 2017

Maria Bochkareva and the 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?

Filed under: History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 10 Jul 2017

Maria Bochkareva was one of several Russian women who volunteered to fight in the name of the Tsar in 1914. She fought with distinction on the Eastern Front until the Russian Revolution. To set an example against the falling morale in the post-revolutionary Russian Army, she requested to train and lead the first Russian Women’s Death Battalion – ready to die for their country. During the Kerensky Offensive they went over the top and suffered heavy casualties. Ultimately, Bochkareva was executed by the Bolsheviks during the turmoil of the Russian Civil War.

The 905’ers – “the bridge-and-tunnel barbarians at the city’s gate”

Filed under: Business, Cancon — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Sniffy Torontonians have apparently adopted the NYC snobs’ favourite term for out-of-towners:

Not satisfied by the socioeconomic barriers to fine dining, downtown gourmands imagine any behaviour not matching their arbitrary standards of etiquette to be uncouth, going so far as to label outsiders to their tribe with a distinct pejorative: “the bridge-and-tunnel crowd.”

Originally a derisive description for commuters to Manhattan (the earliest known instance of its use is found in the December 13th, 1977 edition of the New York Times), the term has been adopted by the inhabitants of urban centres across North America to further alienate outsiders. In Toronto, it is used interchangeably with “905er,” a reference to the common area code for the suburbs surrounding the city.

To fully grasp the classism and snobbishness inherent in the term’s use, one is best advised to revisit an episode of the second season of The Sopranos, in which an annoying bar patron in Manhattan refers to the well-meaning, but simple-minded Christopher as a “bridge-and-tunnel boy.”

There is much sense, but little grace, to the formulation of such a descriptor. The self-absorbed downtown-dweller, you see, requires constant justification for their choice of domicile. The idea that one could escape the claustrophobic propinquity of the city and its higher cost of living while still enjoying its cultural amenities and nightlife on occasion is an affront – a threat that undermines not only the urbanite’s domestic decision-making, but to some extent, their very identity.

[…]

That an expectation of sustenance from ordering food at a restaurant would be scoffed at represents, at least on some level, a misappropriation of values. Oh, yes: It’s definitely the suburbanite who balks at the $35 plate of deconstructed spaghetti who is the fool. Believe it or not, you can live in a home with a dual car garage and still watch Chef’s Table on Netflix – and even understand why one might travel to Chicago to experience a meal at Alinea. However, if a chef is offering a Saturday night prix fixe, they’re probably not Grant Achatz.

Furthermore, it seems that if only one side of the urban versus suburban divide must be labelled ill-mannered, it should be the allotment who greets the other for an economic infusion in their service sector with disdainful mockery. The summer is littered with festivals and three- to five-course restaurant specials purposely constructed as an invitation for out-of-towners to come and open their wallets, and yet, the derisiveness projected toward them suggests a suffix should be attached to the Field of Dreams axiom: if you build it, they will come … for you to disparage them.

RPG-7: How it Works and a Demo Shot

Filed under: History, Military, Russia — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 11 Oct 2015

The RPG-7 is pretty far from being a forgotten weapon, but I was not going to pass up an opportunity to take a closer look at a live one. This example is one of the few live and registered RPGs in the US, and it belongs to Movie Gun Services (if you saw Black Hawk Down, you saw it in use…).

The RPG is a rocket-propelled shaped charge antitank weapon that took its philosophical foundation from the German WWII Panzerfaust (although it shares little with that weapon mechanically). Over the course of WWII, the armor on tanks quickly because too heavy for man-portable anti-tank rifles to defeat. The solution to this dilemma was the development of shaped charge warheads, in which directed explosive energy could be used much more efficiently than simple high explosive or even simpler kinetic energy.

After several earlier developmental iterations, the RPG-7 was introduced in 1961 by the Soviet Union and would prove to be an extremely effective, inexpensive and simple weapon. Today they are found in virtually all third world conflict zones. A variety of rocket types have made them much more than a dedicated anti-tank weapon, and they will be found used against everything from personnel to aircraft.

Norway’s experiment with inviting people to pay more tax than they owed

Filed under: Europe, Government — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Tim Worstall reports on the results of a Norwegian initiative to encourage taxpayers who felt their taxes should be higher to voluntarily pay more:

It is a standard contention of our times that people really would love to pay more tax. The things they get in return from government are so wondrous that obviously everyone will be emptying their wallets to feed the diversity advisers. Norway tried this — they managed to raise an extra $1,325 in tax revenues.

That’s not bad, $1,325 per capita in additional tax revenues multiplied by the Norwegian taxpaying population is … oh, you mean that was the total amount?

This does not bode well for the general contention, does it?

What we have here is of course that classic economists’ point, the difference between expressed preferences and revealed ones. We’ll all say all sorts of things but the correct guide to what we really want is to watch what we do. Which isn’t, even in Norway in any large manner, pay more tax:

    Hammered by the opposition for slashing taxes and going on a spending spree with the country’s oil money, the center-right government has hit back with a bold proposal: voluntary contributions.

    Launched in June, the initiative has received a lukewarm reception, with the equivalent of just $1,325 in extra revenue being collected so far, according to the Finance Ministry.

It is possible to cavil about this a bit. It’s all rather new for example.

    The program was decried as a political distraction from the left-of-center opposition party, who said that if the government was really serious about making up for recent revenue shortfalls then it would go after multinational companies like Google and Facebook. Launched only this past June, the opposition has argued that the scheme already costs more than it makes.

Well, yes, they would say that too. Quite clearly everyone prefers it to be that person over there getting taxed, not little ol’ me.

You don’t have to be Norwegian to take advantage of this wonderful offer to give the government more than your share: that option has been available to Canadians for many years. Her Majesty, in right of Canada, would be happy to accept any amount you wish to donate. As Tim points out in the article, the US and UK governments also accept gifts in excess of tax owed.

Why there are No Genuine Local Democracies in the West

Filed under: Britain, Government, Humour — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 11 Apr 2015

From Yes, Prime Minister

QotD: The non-profit scam

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Government, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Oddly, another form of this non-profit scam exists in my industry. As a reminder, my company privately operates public recreation areas. Several folks have tried to set up what I call for-profit non-profits. An individual will create a non-profit, and then pay themselves some salary that is equal to or even greater than the profits they would get as an owner. They are not avoiding taxes — they still have to pay taxes on that salary just like I have to pay taxes (at the same individual tax rates) on my pass-through profits.

What they are seeking are two advantages:

  • They are hoping to avoid some expensive labor law. In most cases, these folks over-estimate how much a non-profit shell shelters them from labor law, but there are certain regulations (like the new regulations by the Obama Administration that force junior managers to be paid by the hour rather than be salaried) that do apply differently or not at all to a non-profit.
  • They are seeking to take advantage of a bias among many government employees, specifically that these government employees are skeptical of, or even despise, for-profit private enterprise. As a result, when seeking to outsource certain operations on public lands, some individual decision-makers in government will have a preference for giving the contract to a nominal non-profit. In California, there is even legislation that gives this bias a force of law, opening certain government contracting opportunities only to non-profits and not for-profits.

The latter can have hilarious results. There is one non-profit I know of that is a total dodge, but the “owner” is really good at piously talking about his organization being “cleaner” because it is a non-profit, while all the while paying himself a salary higher than my last year’s profits.

Warren Meyer, “The New Rich – Living the High Life Through Your Non-Profit”, Coyote Blog, 2015-09-29.

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