Recent quotes:

How Civilization Started | The New Yorker

there is a crucial, direct link between the cultivation of cereal crops and the birth of the first states. It’s not that cereal grains were humankind’s only staples; it’s just that they were the only ones that encouraged the formation of states. “History records no cassava states, no sago, yam, taro, plantain, breadfruit or sweet potato states,” he writes. What was so special about grains? The answer will make sense to anyone who has ever filled out a Form 1040: grain, unlike other crops, is easy to tax. Some crops (potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava) are buried and so can be hidden from the tax collector, and, even if discovered, they must be dug up individually and laboriously. Other crops (notably, legumes) ripen at different intervals, or yield harvests throughout a growing season rather than along a fixed trajectory of unripe to ripe—in other words, the taxman can’t come once and get his proper due. Only grains are, in Scott’s words, “visible, divisible, assessable, storable, transportable, and ‘rationable.’ ”

The economics of poor policing in poor towns

There are almost fifty municipalities in North County. The officers in some of the towns are not just fighting crime; they also issue countless traffic tickets and ordinance-violation citations. The local governments often rely on the fines generated by tickets and violations to balance their budgets. (In 2013, the town of Edmundson, which comprises less than a square mile, issued nearly five thousand traffic tickets.) Police officers, meanwhile, can be paid as little as ten dollars an hour, according to Kevin Ahlbrand, the president of the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police. Ahlbrand says that the low pay can create “unprofessional police officers,” adding, “You get what you pay for.”

Return of $2 gas coming soon

“We could see the cheapest 1 percent of stations get within a few pennies of $1.99 over the next two weeks,” Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy Organization Inc., said yesterday by phone from Chicago. “We’ll see at least one station in the nation at $2 by Christmas. And that’s not really a prediction at all. That’s more like a certainty.”

Smoking as a regressive tax

Consider a married couple with a $30,000 a year income. If each spouse smokes a pack a day and they live in a state where cigarettes cost an average of, say, $6.00 a pack, they will devote 15 percent of their very limited income to cigarettes. Six percent of their income will go to cigarette taxes alone. If they live in New York City, the city’s new minimum price per pack of $10.50 will drain a full quarter of their income. Some low-income New Yorkers surely pay more in tobacco taxes than they do in taxes to support Social Security and Medicare.

Viktor Orbán is not only illiterate when it comes to computers. What about diplomacy? | Hungarian Spectrum

Goodfriend: “Interesting to see the nature of crowds in Budapest. Internet tax march seemed large & orderly w/good police support.” Then later: “Seeing the news reports of vandalism during the march as well, which I condemn. Not as orderly as it seemed where I stood.” Kovács: “Checkin’ the mood, André?! @a demonstration organized by MSZP and liberals’?! As Chargé d’Affaires? Interesting, Eh?” Goodfriend: “Absolutely. I’ve also checked the mood at the Peace Marches, and at numerous other events organized in Hungary.” Kovács: “Are you sure that’s the wisest thing in this histerically stirred-up atmosphere while you vindicate to be a key actor? Eh?!” Goodfriend: “There’s always a choice between hiding away, & getting out to see what’s happening. I try to hear the full range of perspectives.” Kovács: “Sure ‘hearing’ and influencing does make a large difference.” Goodfriend: “When I want to influence, I speak. Otherwise, I’m listening. Sometimes there’s not enough listening.” Kovács: “That we’ve learned through the past couple of days. Sometimes there’s too much ‘demonstration.'” Goodfriend: “So, now is the time to draw lessons from the discussion, and follow words with constructive, meaningful deeds.” Kovács: “Surely, giving an ultimatum by demonstrators to a govt is no ground for constructivity. Good luck with friends like that…” Goodfriend: “Some people see ‘ultimatum’ others see a proposition awaiting response as part of dialog. Constructive part may be the response.”
In 1971, when he was getting going in the music business, Branson was caught evading purchase tax in the UK. Since then he has been very careful about when he pays tax and to whom. He owns property in a wide variety of locations, though his primary base is his ‘holiday’ home on the island of Necker. His wish to avoid being taxed by the British government means he cannot spend more than ninety days a year in the UK. Given his peripatetic movements few other governments can lay a hand on him either. His businesses are registered under complex schemes across a range of different jurisdictions, including the Virgin Islands, where the holding company for Virgin Trains (very much a UK business) happens to be based. Branson has spent forty years denying he is a tax avoider and for the most part his reputation as a carefree spirit, partying his way around the globe, has trumped the idea that he is just another cautious plutocrat squirrelling away his wealth.
For the 200,000 attendees of San Francisco's Outside Lands Music Festival this past weekend, where a three-day pass cost $275, Uber's hated "surge pricing" scheme made sure that exhausted revelers ponied up hundreds of dollars to get a few miles across town.
Let that sink in: a 50-year, top-secret restriction on tax-reform proposals. Not reports on the whereabouts of al-Qaeda goons, not strategy documents for countering a Chi-Com invasion in the Pacific, but some senator’s thoughts on whether you should be able to deduct your mortgage interest. If you are wondering why men such as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden enjoy a substantial degree of public support despite the gentlemen in Washington stamping their feet and shouting about spies and traitors, there’s your answer. It’s axiomatic that a government power that can be abused will be abused, and secrecy powers are a leading source of abuse.