Tax Day doesn’t have to suck — at least not this much.
The IRS knows what you make. It knows if you typically take the standard deduction. For a lot of Americans, the IRS could just fill out their taxes for them. It would save billions of dollars in tax preparation fees and hundreds of millions of hours spent filling out tax forms.
This isn’t some wild idea: it was piloted in California, where citizens loved it — 97 percent of those who used it said they would do so again. It’s how taxes work in Denmark, Sweden, and Spain…
Politicians ranging from President Obama to Ronald Reagan have supported this tax change — but there are some very rich companies and some very powerful activists standing in its way.
Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, is a particularly powerful opponent. Such a system “minimizes the taxpayers’ voice blah, blah, blah…”
But that excuse doesn’t hold much water. Under these automatic systems, no one has to let the IRS fill out their taxes for them. They can continue to do it by hand or by TurboTax, or hire an accountant. Intuit knows, however, that many fewer Americans would do their own taxes under this scenario, and that would be a big hit to Intuit’s bottom line.
Some anti-tax conservatives also hate the idea of the IRS filling out sample returns. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, warns, “Conservatives, in particular, should see this ploy for what it clearly is: a money-grab by the government.” The easier and more efficient the tax system is, the more money it will raise, and the less public anger there will be for anti-tax conservatives to harness.
I’ve looked at samples and, frankly, come up with no difference in results. Plus a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon in February my wife and I usually spend cranking out a return — handed back to us.
Of course, regulation which ends up saving taxpayers and the government money and time is way too rational for Congress to consider. Especially when there are lobbyists with deep pockets who say the change is unnecessary and probably unAmerican.
Thank you to the 42 US Senators who voted in support of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s amendment increasing Social Security benefits!
The vast majority of Americans are overwhelmingly united in support of expanding our Social Security system. It’s great to see so many politicians finally catching on…
– and there are no vampies in this music video. But, it’s a segment appearing near the end of ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE by Jim Jarmusch. Worth seeing. This clip offered color from the neighborhood in Tangier where Adam and Eve returned to live in peace.
And I discovered Yasmine Hamdan:
The Boston Yeti is using its newfound notoriety to help some fellow furry friends.
The abominable snowman gained a huge following on social media during Boston’s epic winter by running around the city in costume and stopping to help dig out stranded drivers. Now the unidentified prankster is selling Yeti swag to raise money for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
All of the proceeds from the sales of stickers, buttons and bookmarks will benefit the MSPCA’s Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston.
The Yeti told The Associated Press in an email: “I can think of no better way to spin ones popularity than for the benefit of animals in need…”
The swag, illustrated with quirky line drawings of the Yeti by Rhode Island-based artist Jeff Smith, is being sold through an Etsy store appropriately dubbed Boston Yetsy.
MSPCA spokesman Rob Halpin says the animal welfare organization is grateful for the help.
“Blizzard after blizzard, the Yeti was a constant source of amusement and mystery for everybody just to get through the winter,” he said. “It’s wonderful that the Yeti would surface in the spring to aid his fellow four-legged friends who are in shelters.”
OK by me. That’s my kind of reality imitating myth.
Google Glass makes it into the surveillance society
Maybe you remember the famous video by Simons and Chabris. Two groups of students, one in white shirts and the other in black shirts, are passing a basketball around. You are asked to watch the video and count the number of passes made by one of the teams. You proudly count 13 (the actual number is 18). But what you didn’t notice, during all of your counting, was that midway through the video, a gorilla walked straight through the middle of the scene. Indeed about half of individuals tested in the original study missed the gorilla.
A red trauma victim is brought into the ED trauma bay by EMS. The lead paramedic provides details about the crash scene, the patient’s health status, and gives a point-by-point report about the prehospital care. Too bad that only 36% of the key information was accurately remembered by the receiving ED group.
What’s happening here?
These two examples highlight how medical care can be perceived differently, and maybe even contradicted, by doctors and patients. We aren’t aware of something we have missed — like the gorilla. You only see things you are focusing attention on. Have you ever had a patient complain “the doctor didn’t even examine my stomach” when you have performed, and documented, several serial exams? How many times have you been asked by a patient “When am I going to see the doctor?” when you’ve already had several conversations and introduced yourself as THE DOCTOR. Or, are perplexed by a family display of great disbelief when informed that their loved one is sliding towards the end of life.
We think we perceive and remember more of the world than we actually do, and different people experience the same inputs differently. We don’t see, hear, and remember alike. Hearing is passive, but listening requires concentration and focus to understand the meaning of another’s words.
Jeremy Brown has identified lots of examples where a med-cam can provide an objective view of medical reality — a sort of enhanced photojournalism — where the picture tells the truth. But we need to be ready to have our own behaviors and communications on display. After all, what’s good for the patient should be good for the doctor, too.
Questions of what’s private and what isn’t used to be decided essentially by what’s public and what isn’t. Starting with the obvious – like body cams for coppers – I can see where record-keeping is going. Not only for accurate answers to recurrent questions in an ER; but, the lawyers on retainer for the hospital are going to want this kind of recorded observation to keep a handle on liability.
The feeling changes. Your relationship with your employer changes. Doctors especially feel they’re part of the management team – even in large-economy-size urban hospital complexes. That feeling will change under observation. As much as useful qualities like those described in this article may be – in our society it’s easy to worry about office politics, petty jealousy becoming equally important to some administrator you consider to be an ignorant ass.
An interesting article comes with the research – done in 1976.
Which I find especially interesting because I’ve had a beard fulltime since 1979. Had the occasional beard before then – but, that was the start of this critter been here on my face ever since.
School administrators wouldn’t let me have a photo in my high school graduation yearbook unless I cut my sideburns. I guess I’ve always had a tendency to hair – though that finally is diminishing with age. Get my annual haircut, this week, in fact.
Oh, 1979. I was on a peak-bagging walk through the High Peaks region of New York State – in November. I was damned if I was going to shave using water from creeks a half-degree above solid. And any backpacker, mountain walker, worth their salt knows you don’t waste fuel on silly things like heating water for shaving.
Once I returned to what passed for civilization it dawned on me I not only liked the look of a full beard – I could sleep an extra five minutes before getting up to go to work if I didn’t shave.
Close enough for folk music.
During an unannounced visit to Apple’s Covent Garden store
Following comments regarding Apple Watch specifications and an upcoming Apple Store revamp, Cook spoke with the Telegraph in an extensive interview covering data privacy, government snooping, terrorism and more.
The Apple chief is cognizant of the amount of customer information being “trafficked around” by corporations, governments and other organizations, saying data sharing is a practice that goes against Apple’s core philosophies. He said consumers, however, “don’t fully understand what is going on” at present, but “one day they will, and will be very offended.”
“None of us should accept that the government or a company or anybody should have access to all of our private information,” Cook said. “This is a basic human right. We all have a right to privacy. We shouldn’t give it up. We shouldn’t give in to scare-mongering or to people who fundamentally don’t understand the details…”
The publication also asked about implications of terrorism, especially government surveillance operations created with the intent of aiding law enforcement agencies. Cook took a hard-nosed stance on the topic, saying the issue is a non-starter in his book because terrorists use proprietary encryption tools not under the control of U.S. or UK governments.
“Terrorists will encrypt. They know what to do,” Cook said. “If we don’t encrypt, the people we affect [by cracking down on privacy] are the good people. They are the 99.999 percent of people who are good.” He added, “You don’t want to eliminate everyone’s privacy. If you do, you not only don’t solve the terrorist issue but you also take away something that is a human right. The consequences of doing that are very significant…”
The executive reiterated Apple’s mantra of making products, not marketing consumers as products. Every device and service that comes out of Cupertino is designed to store only a minimal amount of customer information, Cook said.
Finally, Cook talked about privacy as it applies to Apple Pay, the fledgling payments service Apple rolled out in October. Unlike other payments processors, Apple designed Apple Pay to reveal little to no information to outside parties, including itself.
“If you use your phone to buy something on Apple Pay, we don’t want to know what you bought, how much you paid for it and where you bought it. That is between you, your bank and the merchant,” Cook said. “Could we make money from knowing about this? Of course. Do you want us to do that that? No. Would it be in our value system to do that? No. We’ve designed [Apple Pay] to be private and for it to be secure.”
I love the privacy of Apple Pay. I haven’t stopped smiling since the first time a checkout clerk exclaimed…”It doesn’t even tell me your name!”
This is excerpted from a long interview in the TELEGRAPH – worth reading.
Alaska on Tuesday became the third U.S. state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but organizers don’t expect any public celebrations since it remains illegal to smoke marijuana in public.
In the state’s largest city, Anchorage police officers are ready to start handing out $100 fines to make sure taking a toke remains something to be done behind closed doors.
Placing Alaska in the same category as Washington state and Colorado with legal marijuana was the goal of a coalition including libertarians, rugged individualists and small-government Republicans who prize the privacy rights enshrined in the Alaska state constitution.
When they voted 53-47 percent last November to legalize marijuana use by adults in private places, they left many of the details to lawmakers and regulators to sort out.
That has left confusion on many matters.
There’s a surprise, eh?…
That’s left different communities across the state to adopt different standards of what smoking in public means to them. In Anchorage, officials tried and failed in December to ban a new commercial marijuana industry. But Police Chief Mark Mew said his officers will be strictly enforcing the public smoking ban. He even warned people against smoking on their porches if they live next to a park.
But far to the north, in North Pole, smoking outdoors on private property will be OK as long as it doesn’t create a nuisance, officials there said…
In some respects, the confusion continues a four-decade reality for Alaskans and their relationship with marijuana.
Alaska has been burdened sufficiently with conservatives, religious nutballs and rightwing libertarians to have had any number of changes over the last four decades about what to do over getting a little mellow, being a drunk, how and where to have sex. This is just part of the whole package.
Fortunately, the Leftish flavor of libertarianism plus progressive Dems and Independents seems to be prevailing this week.