Re: Weasels vs. transparancy / traffic cameras

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Tue May 23 2000 - 03:23:35 MDT

On Mon, May 22, 2000 at 01:03:25PM -0400, Michael S. Lorrey wrote:
> >
> > Ahem: if we play this game, I'll have to cite the CIA's fun activities
> > in the 1960's and 1970's. Or Oliver North's little escapades. Clue: the
> > "next dissident group" is _already_ planting bombs -- it's nothing to
> > do with the Irish issue and everything to do with militant animal rights
> > protestors blowing up meat packing warehouses.
> Ollie and the CIA never, to my knowledge killed anyone, up until the present
> administration, who was an american citizen, with the sole exception of a few americans
> who were assisting communist insurgents in central America, and they got offed by CIA
> clients, not by the CIA itself. By definition, foreign communist geurillas are open
> season. Nobody in the White House ever ordered anyone to off an American, a market
> contrast to the practices of the Intelligence Section over there...

I thought you were a libertarian, Mike. Where is all this defensive
hyperpatriotism coming from? The CIA is allowed to off communist
insurgents by way of its clients, but the British government (a US
client state) isn't allowed to off its own communist insurgents (the
avowedly-Marxist pIRA) because they don't have the holy indulgence of
the US state department?

People are human beings, Michael, whether or not they're citizens of
the United States. Either you concede that governments -- your own or
others -- have the right to kill them, or you don't. Personally, I don't
think state violence is a good thing under _any_ circumstances; there
may be mitigating conditions (such as, it's intended to prevent worse
violence -- i.e., self-defense), but that still doesn't make it _good_.
In fact, advocacy of state violence strikes me as being downright
un-extropian. (Snark, snark.)

> &28,000 equals, at a current exchange rate of 1 to 1.48, an income of $41,440.00.
> Assuming you are single, you have an initial deduction of $5700.00. Thus your taxable
> income is $35,740.00. With no other deductions or writoffs, your tax would be the
> following:
Wrong. That's the tax I pay on income _above_ 28K. On income _below_ 28K
the rate is 25%. There's a marginal rate of 10% on the first couple of
thousand, and a tax-free allowance of about 4.8K. On that first $41,440
of income (US figures) I pay roughly $7000 in tax (don't have the UK IR
tables to hand, can't be arsed calculating 'em by hand); this compares with
the $8200 you'd pay, if single, in the US, going by the IRS table you

> If you have any dependents, you would have additional deductions of I believe $2,000
> each, thus lowering your taxable income and thus your tax bracket.

Funnily enough, there are similar allowances in the UK tax system --
only rather than being on the tax side, they're on the benefit side
(automatic non-means-tested non-taxable state hand-out to parents with
children, on a per-child basis).

Why are you so convinced that the USA is automatically and in every
way better than anywhere else on the planet? It's just another goddamn
country, and the rest of us don't all live in holes in the ground,
subsisting off hand-outs and cast-offs.

(If the USA was a substantially better place to live -- combination of
money, standard of living, and all the rest -- I'd emigrate; I speak
the language, I've got highly employable skills, and unlike you I'm
not incredibly attached to my country. But as far as I can calculate,
the degree to which my life would improve is highly questionable, and
I'd lose a fair bit, too. Some of us _like_ having five weeks a year of
paid vacation -- never mind sick leave -- as normal working conditions,
and not having to worry about medical insurance or burglars with guns.)

> > These days, the UK is approximately 7% non-white. Yeah, that's lilly
> > white compared to the US. It is, however, a major departure from the
> > historical record.
> True. I have asserted that the relatively low homicide rates over there are
> specifically because you don't have anywhere near the number of minorities as we do, as
> most homicide is minority on minority crime here. Its got nothing to do with guns,
> while the lack of guns is specifically why your property crime rate is so high...

Fairly predictably, the lack of firearms hasn't stopped gangsters getting
their hands on them; there's a really nasty little turf war between a
bunch of thugs from Manchester and their neighbours in Leeds right now
(kneecappings, bodies found in car boots, that sort of thing).

However, among petty criminals the issue is different. Anyone who goes
housebreaking in the US is by definition fearless, and probably armed
-- they know what they're likely to get. (This makes tackling a burglar
extremely dangerous, but on the other hand, your chances of being burgled
are relatively low.)

The perpetrators of burglary in the UK are different, because the risk
is lower. You get opportunist criminals (teenagers and drug users) who
try to sneak through a window and steal a VCR or a handbag. If confronted
they will run like hell and not fight back. Even if they're caught, the
severity of punishment will depend on whether they threatened the home-
owner -- armed robbery can land you a life sentence, whereas housebreaking
can't (unless you turn it into armed robbery by waving a gun around at
the almost-certainly-unarmed occupants).

What this means is, comparison of burglary rates between the USA and UK
are damn near invalidated because of the different conditions that apply.
In the UK, burglary is very rarely a violent crime, but is more usually
an opportunistic offense (like vandalism or theft from a car). There is
no advantage, and many disadvantages, to a burglar going armed and
perpetrating violence. No criminal/victim arms race has gotten under way.

And you might take note that this is why the UK government is so dead keen
on policing by camera -- dwellings are so close together that suspicious
patterns of loitering (typical of an opportunist burglar) can be spotted

Or at least, that's the theory ...

-- Charlie

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