Thursday, June 30, 2011


What happened to Thailand in its slide from democracy to political near-chaos.

Predicting the effects of extreme climate change.

Hospice care has been hyped as delivering better care (in terms of satisfaction) for a cheaper price, and that’s led to an increase in the numbers of terminal patients using it. Has widespread fraud accompanied it?

Patents out of control—Apple edition.

When democracy and inequality collide (South Africa edition.)

Is the NBA really losing money? Accounting magic and the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, including this factoid I didn’t know:
The RDA dates back to 1959, and was maybe Bill Veeck's biggest hustle in a long lifetime of hustles. Veeck argued to the IRS that professional athletes, once they've been paid for, "waste away" like livestock. Therefore a sports team's roster, like a farmer's cattle or an office copy machine or a new Volvo, is a depreciable asset.

The underlying logic is specious at best. As Fort points out, a team's roster at any given moment isn't actually depreciating. While some players are fading with age, others are developing and improving. But the Nets don't have to pay more taxes when a player becomes more valuable. And in any case, the cost of depreciation is borne by the athletes themselves, when they pass their primes and lose their personal earning power.

Nevertheless, the IRS not only agreed with Veeck but allowed any owner claiming the write-off to deduct roster expenses twice — first under "player salaries," in the case of the Nets' documents, and then under "loss on players' contracts" — and an enormous tax shelter sprang up within the balance sheets of franchises everywhere. This can't be emphasized enough: Every year, taxpayers hand the plutocrats who own sports franchises a fat pile of money for no other reason than that one of those plutocrats, many years ago, convinced the IRS that his franchise is basically a herd of cattle. Fort calls it "special-interest legislation." "It's not illegal," he says. "It's just weird."

The magic of the judiciary and wiretaps:
A total of 3,194 intercept applications by federal and state courts were authorized in 2010, with 1,207 applications by federal authorities authorized and 1,987 applications by 25 states authorized. One application was denied. Installed intercepts totaled 2,311.
So who’s watching the watchmen, again? (not the judiciary, apparently.)

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