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Comment: Re:Unfortunately (Score 4, Interesting) 143

by AthanasiusKircher (#49308095) Attached to: Excess Time Indoors May Explain Rising Myopia Rates

Wait, they're admitting to doing it for no reason? Something isn't right with that. I've never seen a government agency acknowledge any wrongdoing, they go out of their way to avoid any such thing.

That's not what I said. There are cases where CPS admits -- after investigation -- that they found "no evidence" of abuse or neglect.

At the least, they'd have to claim they couldn't take the risk, that the mere possibility of harm wasn't acceptable.

Yes, and that's what they do. But that doesn't change the fact that they are basically admitting that 1/3 of child removals are done without any substantiated evidence.

Don't get me wrong -- if a child seems in imminent danger, perhaps CPS needs to step in. But the policy with CPS nowadays seems to be "take kid first, ask questions later," which if you're a parent who hasn't done anything wrong seems... well, wrong. Doesn't it?

But don't limit this to police/CPS for children. It hits adults as well. It's bad enough that people with actual mental illness are neglected because nobody can be bothered to care, both in and out of care, it's worse when people are mistreated by those who are supposed to help them

Okay, yeah. I know there are other things wrong in the world. But the topic of TFA is kids not going outside enough. One reason they may not be outside as much is because parents can't always be around their kids, and nowadays society seems to be saying if you can't personally supervise your kid until he/she is 16, you can't have them out of your sight (like outdoors). The abuse of people with mental illnesses and other "wards of the state" is another significant problem, but I'm not sure it's particularly related to TFA.

Comment: Re:Unfortunately (Score 4, Insightful) 143

by AthanasiusKircher (#49308073) Attached to: Excess Time Indoors May Explain Rising Myopia Rates

oh my godsies, parents have to take care of their kids. Wow, that's terrible. Next thing you know they'll have to find them too... tough shit, have a kid, you better be there to take care of them and raise them.

"Being there" and "taking care" of a kid also involves gradually giving them the freedom to make their own choices and do their own things as they grow. If you don't do this, you end up with kids who never learn to take care of themselves and are still living at home in their late 20s or 30s.

Anyhow, this needs to be based on age and maturity level, obviously. But nowadays we can't trust a 10-year-old to play outside with a 6.5-year-old younger sibling or to walk home from a park together (and yes, the parents ultimately were found responsible for neglect), nor can we trust an 11-year-old alone in a car for a few minutes while Mommy goes into the store.

Etc., etc. Sadly, these stories are not uncommon. There are things like this that come up on a regular basis across the U.S., and if you search a bit you can also read some of the harrowing stories of parents who are force to spend months or years struggling to get their kids back or living under draconian state "supervision" by CPS when they do.

Yes, as parents, you need to supervise your kids when they are little, and then you gradually allow them more freedom. It's called "growing up." But nowadays, people call the cops if they see a kid younger than 16 without a parent around, and CPS comes knocking.

You don't think that's extreme?

Comment: Re:Unfortunately (Score 5, Informative) 143

by AthanasiusKircher (#49307823) Attached to: Excess Time Indoors May Explain Rising Myopia Rates

However, the REAL problem is that helicopter mummsy and daddsy are TERRIFIED that pedobear will rape little timmy and throw him away in an old icechest, because Fox News said so.

It's not just Fox News, and it's not just pedophiles. If you've been keeping up with the news in recent years, you know that the newest trend is for do-gooders to call the police when they see even a 9 or 10-year-old walking alone (e.g. back from the park) or sitting in a car reading while Mommy's doing some shopping.

And guess what happens in too many cases? Parents get arrested for neglect. Children sometimes get removed for a while by protective services and parents may need to fight to get them back.

I'd be much more scared of police or child protective services kidnapping my child than "pedobear," because that's certainly the case. (In case you think I'm exaggerating, look up the stats. Roughly a HALF MILLION kids are removed by CPS for short or long term every year in the US... And CPS's own stats admit that in a full 1/3 of those cases, after review there is NO evidence of abuse or neglect... Not counting the cases where the claims are questionable, just the removals where the removals are completely unwarranted.)

Also, here's a blog that keeps track of some of the more egregious stories in the news.

Comment: Re:Don't treat the computer, fix the space. (Score 1) 252

While it's a good idea in theory, be certain to do it correctly. I've heard a number of stories about bad crawlspace encapsulations that have made things worse or created new problems. It's only become common in recent years, so be sure to get a contractor who is experienced with this sort of thing... And don't just go with the cheapest option. If you screw something up, you can end up trapping even more moisture in your crawlspace, depending on the individual situation. Some houses are much more complicated to implement this than others. And I'm also of the mind that "if it ain't broke..." -- e.g. if you have a 75-year-old home and no major moisture issues, it may not be a great idea to mess with something that's been okay for decades. I'd recommend getting a moisture meter and humidity monitor -- and go check it out yourself and/or have a qualified inspector look for moisture issues first. All crawl spaces have some dampness, but intervention isn't always necessary and when done poorly could make things worse.

Comment: Re:Transparency in Government is good! (Score 1) 334

If it's all game theory, then play the long game. A vote for a third-party candidate is a vote for more and better options in the next election.

Exactly. I'm tired of these oversimplified analyses that don't take into account the various effects.

A first-past-the-post system for voting may tend toward a two-party system, but there's no guarantee that those two parties will always be the same two parties or that they will have stable platforms. If you vote for a candidate that has a specific platform for a particular party, you are implicitly endorsing that party and that platform. How do you expect there to be change if you endorse the given system in the given party?

Sometimes strategies require a longer outlook in games. Is the goal to govern for the next few years or to begin a trend that could nudge the system in a better direction. If you vote for one of the offered candidates "as-is," you are only slightly more useful than the guy who doesn't even bother to vote.

And keep in mind there are a LOT of those out there... Clearly the majority of Americans don't care enough to vote in most elections. So if you nudge the system in such a way that attention comes to candidates who might excite even a small fraction of that silent part of the electorate, you might eventually find enough people to overpower even a major party.

But yeah, if all you focus on is the current candidates rather than the broken system that offers no real choice, of course you're going to keep getting the same old crap.

Comment: Re:Of course! (Score 1) 305

by AthanasiusKircher (#49262059) Attached to: Prison Program Aims To Turn Criminals Into Coders

Else, why hire some ex-con when there's 100s battling to get that job?

What about the possibility that the employer just didn't happen to like any of the others that he interviewed? You might get hundreds of applicants, but will probably interview only a dozen or so... what if the one with a criminal record happened to still leave the best overall impression?

In an ideal world, that's what employers might (should?) think.

In the real world, employers often have to worry about things like liability. You have an application from someone saying they committed a crime in the past. If they commit a similar crime again while doing anything related to that job, could you be held liable? You had prior knowledge that this person might be dangerous/unstable/willing to commit whatever (fraud, deceive customers, etc.), and then that person did it again. Are you responsible? Or, if the previous crime was something that could directly harm your business, would you take that risk?

For many employers, even if such a risk is very low, it might be a deciding factor. We can (and should) argue about when such reasoning is flawed, but that's the logic that would happen in the real world. Employers are not going to be looking for reasons to hire the ex-con; they'll be trying to figure out whether it's possible to take on that risk (however minimal) *before* they even consider how the ex-con stacks up against other candidates.

Comment: Re:How about teaching them management skills (Score 1) 305

by AthanasiusKircher (#49261989) Attached to: Prison Program Aims To Turn Criminals Into Coders

I mean, they are already criminals, the rest should be easy.

Precisely. There's often a lot of talk about allowing blue-collar workers to be empowered to transition or work their way up to white-collar jobs -- through education, training, etc.

So why not train blue-collar criminals so they can work their way up to white-collar crime? They need a career after all. And dealing drugs on the street corner is not a way to pay your bills, let alone moving up in the world. Why be stuck mugging people and earning $20 or $50 or whatever, when they could be embezzling, commiting financial fraud, or peddling bad investments and making millions?


Comment: Re:Of course! (Score 5, Informative) 305

by AthanasiusKircher (#49261953) Attached to: Prison Program Aims To Turn Criminals Into Coders

Since such discrimination is illegal, and the government (and society) has an interest in getting these people jobs, expect any suspected discrimination to be challenged in the courts.

[Citation needed]

It's NOT illegal to discriminate against ex-cons. Otherwise, how it is that so many companies get away with running criminal background checks? Are you saying that all these companies pay to run background checks but then can't actually use them in the hiring decision process??

Things are changing a bit, though, and it is getting a little harder to discriminate overtly. For what's really happening, see for example, here:

Federal labor laws do not explicitly prohibit companies from discriminating against ex-offenders. ... Most of the rules spelling out what an employer can and can't do come from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is stepping up scrutiny of employer hiring practices. Corporate policies that immediately screen former criminals can disadvantage minorities and violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the agency says. In April 2012 it issued a "guidance"--a set of rules for companies to follow in evaluating job applications of released prisoners. The guidelines "create a burden on the employer to do a more individualized assessment" at the start of the hiring process, says Andria Lure Ryan, a labor lawyer in Atlanta, and not simply weed out ex-offenders from the start. The agency acknowledges there are valid reasons why some employers--a day care center, for instance--might not want to hire someone who has committed certain kinds of crimes. In such cases, the guidance says rejecting those applicants is OK. And there are federal regulations against hiring people convicted of violent crimes for jobs in airport security, among other fields.

In sum -- there's no explicit law against discriminating against ex-cons. It *IS* illegal to discriminate against minorities, and since a disproportionate number of ex-cons are minorities, the federal government has said businesses need to be careful.

In practice, however, what this means is now many companies tend not to do a background check immediately upon receipt of an application, but rather do some sort of interview or other screening first, then only do the background check later in the process.

At that point, employers still often toss people out of the pool of applicants for previous convictions. There's no federal law preventing that, particularly if the company gave them "fair consideration" early in the process before doing the background check. (Some states and cities have more policies to prevent such discrimination, such as the "Ban the Box" movement, but if a company can justify running a background check, it's hard to prevent discriminatory actions.)

Comment: Re:HOWTO (Score 1) 1081

by AthanasiusKircher (#49261769) Attached to: How To Execute People In the 21st Century

So the State, having decided that murder is illegal, resorts to murder as "punishment". That is hypocrisy of the highest order.

"I'll take 'arguments that can be used against prison and kidnapping as well' for 10 points."


I'm actually NOT in favor of the death penalty. But I'm tired of stupid arguments surrounding this debate. You want to argue against the death penalty? Great -- I applaud you. But learn some basic logic skills.

Most of the times that the government has a law which requires a citizen to do something, it is likely doing something which would be illegal for private citizens to do. To wit:

- If police officers arrest people and detain them (for specific reasons), it is legal. If you do this as a private citizen, it is generally considered "kidnapping." As the parent says, same goes for prisons. Same thing goes for a court summons that requires citizens to show up (or be compelled by police to do so).

- If police officers are forced to restrain people physically (for specific reasons), it can be legal. If you do this as a private citizen outside of imminent threats to yourself, it is generally considered "assault."

- If the government requires you to give it money in exchange for not taking your property away, it is called "taxation." If you do this as a private citizen, you're probably guilty of "extortion" or perhaps some other form of "racketeering."


Generally speaking, unless you're an anarchist, you accept that the government has powers to do things that would be "crimes" if private citizens would attempt them. The government is empowered to do these things to maintain order in society, to provide services for society, etc.

I'm sure people will disagree about the exact scope of these powers and governmental authority, but especially if we accept the notion of any "police power" in the state, we are acknowledging that the state will go around kidnapping ("arresting") people, extorting money from them ("fines"), or perhaps confining them for long periods against their will.

Should such possible state actions extend to killing people? Most people again tacitly allow such actions in the case of war -- as long as we are killing "the right people." Does the state's power extend to killing its own citizens? Well, until the past century or so, it was common to "summarily execute" (murder?) soldiers for things like desertion or aiding the enemy with relatively little due process. Nowadays we are having similar debates about "enemy combatants" and drone strikes which may target and/or inadventantly kill American citizens.

So, the death penalty is simply another place some people might want to draw the line. You may think the state should not have such a power. But it is ridiculously naive to argue that any action the state takes against criminals should be subject to the concept of "hypocrisy"... unless you're ready to accept that police should start having discussions like -- "Well, gee, this guy kidnapped someone and put her in handcuffs... so, well, it would be hypocritical for us to put him in handcuffs and force him to come to jail... so, well, I guess we just let him go! Can't be hypocritical, after all!"

Comment: Re:HOWTO (Score 1) 1081

by AthanasiusKircher (#49261561) Attached to: How To Execute People In the 21st Century

I'm no fan of the death penalty, however...

It is silly to support the death penalty because it could theoretically be fair and sensible in some alternative universe.

Hmm... and yet in your previous post you say that anti-death penalty people tacitly approve of the current dysfunctional system rather than actually "fixing" it (which could make it more humane, decrease abuses and errors in the system, etc.) because you endorse the complete abolition which would be more "fair and sensible in some alternate universe."

Perhaps your "alternate universe" is more likely than the GP's, but clearly you also are willing to accept an intermediate system that might be a stepping stone toward a better one.

If you support it, you must support it as it is, not just as it should be.

I rarely say something like this, but that is an insane argument. Forcing people into absolute positions is rarely helpful. You're clearly an absolutist on this issue, and that's fine. But pretending there can't be more than one other possible alternative position is ridiculous.

It's like animal rights activists who believe that consuming animals for food is murder. Some of them refuse to acknowledge that there could be anything like "humane" farms that also slaughter animals for food.

But I think the a huge number of people around the world would disagree. It's possible to condone the eating of animals for food AND also think it's wrong to cause an animal to needlessly suffer for its entire life. Just because you like to eat meat once in a while doesn't mean you MUST approve of people who torture animals for fun before killing them. There are more possible positions of morality in the world than two absolute polarized ones on most issues.

Similarly, I think it's logically possible for a person to admit that the current death penalty system is SO dysfunctional that it is is fundamentally unjust, yet not disapprove of the entire concept of the death penalty system in every possible incarnation. You may regard such arguments as unpersuasive -- but insisting that such a person must be lumped together with some conservative wacko who wants to streamline the process to get more minorities in the electric chair faster is ridiculous.

Comment: Re:Pi Day 2015: meet the man who invented Ï (Score 2) 107

by AthanasiusKircher (#49261307) Attached to: Pi Day Extraordinaire

The real mystery is why the diameter was chosen instead of the more logical ratio of the circumference to the radius. Euclid would not approve.

Why is the radius "more logical"? It depends on the practical use of the relationship. It seems "more logical" to use a radius as a primary circle measurement if you're using a modern mathematical definition of a set of points equidistant (by the radius) from a central point. And it seems logical to adopt this measurement if you constructed a circle in this manner.

On the other hand, if you are confronted with an existing circle and wish to determine the circumference, measuring the diameter is more straightforward than measuring the radius. (Fix one point on the circumference, and use your straightedge, rope, whatever to find the longest distance on the opposite part of the circle.) Sure, finding the radius is simply dividing by 2, but that's an extra step.

I don't know if this is the rationale for using the diameter in the pi definition, or if it might also have to do with the formula for circle area (pi*r^2), which is slightly simpler without the additional factor of 2, or whatever.

Nowadays, there seem to be many good mathematical reasons for defining the ratio of circumference to radius as more fundamental. However, most of these were unknown or not primary concerns when pi was first adopted as a primary ratio. There's no "logical" priority to one or the other measurement -- it depends on practical usage for calculations, and I suspect that pi was probably just used slightly more often than 2*pi in practical calculations centuries ago.

Comment: Re:We've redefined success! (Score 1) 498

by AthanasiusKircher (#49224425) Attached to: Mental Health Experts Seek To Block the Paths To Suicide

If you are not in a fit state of mind when you get married, you can get an annulment. If you are not in a fit state of mind when you have the child, you can let the child be adopted or temporarily fostered. If you are not in a fit state of mind when you signed the mortgage, it can be nullified.

While these statements are technically true, the reality is that most people actually have great difficulties getting out of many of these decisions. How many people are actually even driven to suicide because of a bad marriage where they feel trapped, or because of an inability to meet family responsibilities and expectations, or because of financial hardships created by debts, bad loans, etc.??

Proving that you were "not in a fit state of mind" is not as easy as you make it sound. Moreover, the decisions you mention are often done along with someone else, and unless that person agrees that you were "not in a fit state of mind" (unlikely, if they went along with you in signing a mortgage or marrying you or whatever), it's going to be hard to cancel things on that basis.

And particularly in the case of a child, I don't think you get to make this choice alone. Try getting out of a paternity suit or child support by saying, "Uh, gee... whoops... I wasn't thinking clearly" or even "I was behaving irresponsibly" or "I wasn't thinking soundly." Hormones generally don't go together with a calm rational state of mind.

I understand that by saying "not in a fit state of mind" you probably mean actually insane or mentally incompetent, but the reality is that many more people than we like to admit are rather sane when they choose to end their own lives -- or at least as sane as they are when they marry some drunken idiot as a teenager or have unprotected sex with someone at a frat party "in the heat of the moment" or sign a loan on the "dream house" they can't afford.

Lots of things undermine rationality without meeting the threshold for strict mental incompetence. But we don't let generally allow people to easily reverse such decisions.

If you are not in a fit state of mind when you kill yourself, there is no going back.

Teenagers who have kids in undesirable circumstances around the world also feel like "there is no going back." Lives are ruined -- or at least severely changed and restricted in choices -- every day through the kind of stuff you mention. As I already said, many of these choices also lead people to suicide... because they feel like they can't reverse these choices. I agree with you that suicide is different and obviously irreversible. But the circumstances you bring up often are practically irrevocable too (or trying to do so would make things worse).

I personally have no issues with suicide, even assisted suicide, so long as the person who has elected to kill themselves has done so in a fully concious, fit state of mind.

The problem is who exactly decides and defines who is in a "fit state of mind." The government? I can just imagine a DMV-like place with a long line: "Well, let's see -- you meet criteria X, Y, and Z, you get a free pass to commit suicide! Next! Yes... let me see here... Oh sorry, we have determined that you don't meet criterion Z; try again next year!"

And then you have the problem of defining these moral parameters X, Y, and Z, which tend to change at various times depending on societal values. We have a hard enough time as a society deciding whom you can legally sleep with. Currently, a single adult partner of the opposite or same sex is fashionable. Multiple partners are not (but were in many cultures for many years). Partners under the age of [arbitrary local number X] are not.*

Can you just imagine the difficulties in deciding whether you are legally in a "fit state of mind" to kill yourself? Some places now seem to be saying it's okay in the case rather imminent terminal illness. And we tend to pin medals on the dead chests of those who commit suicide during war for their country in situations where it's morally obligatory or encouraged.**

But otherwise, this is pretty murky as a moral issue, let alone if you tried to legislate/regulate it.

[*See local regulations. You may be eligible to sleep with someone if your age is within Y years of age X.***]
[**If someone commits suicide during war and is unaffiliated with a country -- or just an enemy -- he/she is generally termed a "terrorist" rather than given a medal.]
[***See local regulations. Even if you are within Y years of age X, you might still be charged with possession of child pornography and put on a public sex offender list for having nudie photos of yourself or your partner on your phone.]

Comment: Re:Maybe in a different country (Score 3, Insightful) 498

by AthanasiusKircher (#49224119) Attached to: Mental Health Experts Seek To Block the Paths To Suicide

First of all, they are dramatically underreported, as has been shown numerous times.

Well, it depends on what you mean by "dramatically." For example, the New York Times investigated this and estimates that about half of accidental gun deaths of children may not be properly reported or classified. A USA Today report said the actual numbers were 61% higher than the CDC numbers, perhaps getting up to 100 unintentional deaths in the year studied there.

And that latter report was by an organization promoting gun safety, so I don't think they are lowballing the figure. On the other hand, that latter report doesn't define "child," so I'm not sure what age range is involved.

In any case, while these gun deaths are deplorable and may be somewhat underreported, even organizations who are desperately looking for gun deaths don't seem to agree with your statement that "It is not hard to find an accidental shooting every single day in this country that involves a child." Maybe a couple times a week on average. But hardly "every single day."

The CDC's numbers may be low. But your numbers are too high.

And your bit about the age of a child is a straw man argument. I follow the standard definition of a child being under 18.

The problem here is again a shift from possible underreporting to vastly overreporting that is characteristic of the other side of this argument.

The unfortunate reality -- as is the case with many polarized topics in U.S. politics -- is that both sides lie and mislead. Gun advocates want these numbers to appear as low as possible. People who are anti-gun want them to appear as high as possible.

And the anti-gun side has a strong tradition of including all sorts of misleading numbers involving teenagers to jack those numbers up -- trying to lump suicides, homicides, and accidents all into one category for example. Of course, most people recognize that teenagers below the age of 18 often are smart enough and competent enough to realize what they are doing, so you can't just lump all these things together.

Anyhow, clearly you have your own biased perspective and are intent on exaggerating your data. Clearly GP has his own as well. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.

Comment: Re:I know it is a bit late in life... (Score 1) 186

By the way... I should clarify that I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who play at "my level"... And if I were into playing games on the internet, etc., I'm sure I could find them. But I learned chess on a real board before computer chess was common, and I always played it as a casual social experience... And I just don't have the desire to go looking for opponents at my level. Anyhow, my point was my perception of the game changed radically when I became aware of certain bits of classic strategic patterns.

Comment: Re:I know it is a bit late in life... (Score 4, Interesting) 186

I have to agree with this. I loved chess as a little kid -- probably started playing when I was 4 or so. Always just played for fun and liked the way it was more complex than something like checkers. I also occasionally enjoyed puzzling out some of those chess puzzles in the newspaper, which usually involved endgame scenarios. But then, early in middle school, I played against someone who actually "knew what he was doing," which included things like memorized openings, basic tactics, and canned strategies. He was kinda dumb but nonetheless beat me handily. I spent a month or two learning openings and such, and suddenly I could beat most of my friends (including those quite a bit older) pretty consistently too, just from the improved board positions.

At that point I realized that becoming a "real chess player" was very different from the fun I'd been having, and I completely lost interest. I've only played a handful of times since, mostly because it's really hard to have any fun playing with my knowledge -- not enough to play "real chess" against anyone who studied strategy, but too much to play against the people who know the basic rules but never learned that stuff.

I admire the grandmasters, because they have both that amazing set of memorized knowledge AND the incredible logic/intuition. But I have absolutely no desire to play the game anymore because while I'm somewhat interested in the latter, I can't be bothered with the former. It's permanently ruined for me.

"Text processing has made it possible to right-justify any idea, even one which cannot be justified on any other grounds." -- J. Finnegan, USC.