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Comment Re:92B (Score 1) 61

But, you just don't get it! Microsoft has $92 billion. In cash! Parked overseas! $92 billion that they could bring back to the US!

But we are funding a project about education that involves Microsoft! With Federal Tax Dollars! If they just repatriated that $92 billion, we'd have another $30 Billion to spend on NSF studies and other stuff!


Comment Re:Is video recording required? (Score 1) 67

Actually, I don't know if they have the authority to prohibit cameras in public meetings. This has been something of a hot topic - there are activists who go to public meetings for the sole purpose of auditing their freedom to record the proceedings. Kind of a weird hobby, but someone needs to act as the 4th estate.

Comment Re:One term. (Score 1) 67

One could easily argue the opposite. By allowing the advantages of incumbency to become entrenched, we encourage corporatism. If the same guy is Mayor of Atlanta for 26 years, it is pretty easy for major contractors to know who to bribe and to set up systems for ensuring that their man stays in office. If they have to keep corrupting a new guy every 4 years, it would be that much tougher.

Both arguments likely have some truth. If every guy in office is a noob, then the bureaucrats will of necessity become more powerful, since they are the only ones who know what the heck is going on. So instead of the politicians getting the grease, it is the bureaucrats.

In the end the root of the problem lies in the amount of favors there are to dole out. With all of the power and money being tossed about by government it is inevitable that someone will try to game the system to their benefit. The only true answer to this is to limit the amount of money and power being funneled through the government. And of course this is the one thing that all those corporate interests would never allow. And neither would the political class - both bureaucrats and politicians. Since they all have something to lose if the money and power dry up, they'll never move to change it.

That's why term limits are attractive to some - even if it is a futile attempt.

Comment Re:Majority [Re:Don't trust [Re:Lovely summary.]] (Score 1) 1037

I'll take it that you are an expert on the topic and also somewhat passionate about it, so I'll ask you. How does the single transferrable vote thing work?

Someone below stated that if you only chose one work, your second choice defaults to "No Award". Therefore an evenly divided electorate that had a majority of voters failing to select a second choice would give results exactly as you have listed.

Is that how it works? Did we arrive at "No Award" on purpose, or did we arrive at "No Award" because a large percentage of the electorate failed to list a second choice?

Comment Re:How voting doesn't work [Re:Lovely summary.] (Score 4, Insightful) 1037

I don't think I understand your point. Are you saying that the "SJW" faction didn't decide to take their ball and go home by voting for "No Award"? Or are you saying that there were no works worthy of awards this year and that's how the voting went?

By voting "No Award" it sure seems like there was some organized group bent on preventing the interlopers from getting their way - even if it meant that nobody got an award this year.

Comment Makes no sense (Score 5, Informative) 250

This complaint just doesn't make any sense. We are moving to this pricing model all over the place, even in traffic control situations. Tolls on bridges and tunnels and express lanes are often "surge priced" these days. The express lanes into Miami on I-95 are only a quarter most of the time. But during rush hour and other heavy traffic times the lanes bump up towards $10.

And those are fixed resources - so there is no way to get more cars through the tunnel or over the bridge. With Uber the raised prices will theoretically get extra drivers on the street - limiting the surge in prices and getting service to more people.

And as others have mentioned - if you don't like the policy, you have alternatives.

Comment Re:Thoughtcrime! (Score 1) 244

Another search turned up an old California Law Review article detailing many of the problems of criminal conspiracy laws. Apparently these statutes have been used to punish things like draft protesters, labor organizers, communist party members, etc.... among other things. Apparently there is a long history of using "conspiracy" as an end run around the first amendment to punish politically unpopular speech.

It also points out the absurdity of a law that allows for a felony conviction for conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor. So if we agreed to be a part of a flash mob that streaks through Times Square, we could be convicted of a felony conspiracy under Federal law for planning to commit a misdemeanor disorderly conduct violation in New York, even if we never actually boarded the plane to join the performance. Nice.

Comment Re:Thoughtcrime! (Score 1) 244

While true, he was accused of the crime by police. Prosecutors then chose to carry forward the case. The judge allowed it to go forward. The jury convicted him based on the instructions of the judge.

Another court reviewed the verdict and found that the evidence of conspiracy was weak enough to toss it.

But the government is appealing that ruling.

It was the first case that came up on a google search - first search result for "thought crime conspiracy". The EFF got involved because of the morphing of computer fraud from hacking into a database into "violating the terms of service".

Basically, this is a nice cautionary tale for 'bad cases make for bad law'. Who knows if the original verdict or the reversal will stick? But he still faces life in prison for what plausibly was just online role playing. Yet another case where talking about something is much worse than actually doing it. Minus the cannibalism angle, you can murder someone and get much less than life in prison.

I don't know enough about the case to have an opinion. But I do know that if the people with the authority decide they want to get you, you are truly screwed. Particularly if those people are Federal prosecutors. Their power is so vast at this point that they pretty much just threaten people enough that they 'volunteer' to move to jail for a few years rather than risk life in prison.

Comment Re:Guess what? (Score 4, Interesting) 301

There are biological foundations to this issue. I used to work with researchers at the Yerkes Primate Center who were working on this very problem. The idea is that males want to ensure the paternity of their children if they are going to expend resources raising them. So they are protective of their sex partner. Females want to ensure that they have the help they need in providing for their offspring, so they desire a faithful partner. These needs drive the species toward monogamy.

At the same time, females want to enhance the odds of successful offspring by having more than one mating partner. (Partners who would be notoriously bad as long term spouses are particularly attractive ... the bad-boy alpha male) Males also want to enhance their chances of having successful offspring by having partners that do not require them to stay around and provide for the kids. So both genders have an incentive to secretly violate the monogamous bond.

Therefore you see a continuum of activities along these lines within and among human societies. One of the researchers reported that as many as 1/3 to 1/2 of all children in the pre-industrialized societies she examined were the result of illicit affairs. Most of these societies frowned on infidelity much more than we in the west do.

Enter game theory and genetics, which argue for a balancing act between the two competing needs, with different people taking different strategies and feeling different drives. Another researcher at Yerkes gave a talk about the "seven year itch". She had evidence that suggested a biological basis for the lagging emotions of marriages a few years along - with parallel evidence from other species. You know that "he's just not romantic any more" trope that is trotted out to explain a flagging libido and attraction to other partners? She had a theory that this was an instinctual result of changing hormones affecting the brain. The end result was to drive a woman to seek out other sex partners in order to ensure genetic diversity in her offspring.

So the answer is yes, it is complicated.

BTW, I'm in your camp. I would never consider cheating, and have a few decades of experience to back up that characterization of my own proclivities. But I do recognize that this is not everyone's experience. And I've been close enough to a few people who took a different path to know that it isn't just culture or upbringing that makes for fidelity.

Comment Re:Thoughtcrime! (Score 1) 244

This guy was arrested and convicted of conspiracy for fantasizing about kidnapping and canibalizing women in online chat rooms. He claims it was just fantasy role playing.

This is the perfect kind of case for this sort of thing - not only is the talk about something criminal, it is disgusting and morally repugnant. Really easy to get everyone worked up over something like that.

Conspiring to skirt federal open records laws? Nah, not so much. Even if officials actually carry out that sort of conspiracy.

Comment Re:Thoughtcrime! (Score 1) 244

If a banker wants to write a memo telling how to screw customers, but then he never actually screws any customers over, nor do any of his underlings, then he's fine. That's no different than writing a fictional story about committing a murder.

#3 is different because that falls under the "incitement" condition.

Actually, I don't think this is correct. I'm not sure how far you have to go, but simply talking speculatively about committing a crime can be a crime. Sometimes a much more serious crime than the crime being discussed. It is called a "criminal conspiracy" and in many countries (including the US - see US v. Shabani) you don't need to take any overt actions in furtherance of the conspiracy in order to be convicted.

Comment Re:Confessed? (Score 1) 244

That's just an absolutely ridiculous take for anyone even remotely familiar with the Knox case. At no point in the proceedings did the Italian justice system live up to the barest minimum standards of justice of the industrialized world.

This is not unique to Italy, although there were quite a few Italian quirks to the whole fiasco. Claiming that a prosecutor being able to successfully throw his weight around to defend the honor of the Italian legal system is somehow an indictment of the rights afforded US citizens is just plain silly.

And no, people successfully abusing their authority when they don't like what someone has to say is not unique to Italy. We just had a case in the US where a judge got pissed that some online commentors dissed her verdict in the Silk Road trial. That happened in a country where constitutional law and several directly related supreme court rulings have shown that this sort of behavior is illegal.

The moral: People with power are human beings. And human beings are capable of doing the wrong thing from time to time.

Comment Making some good kids shows (Score 1) 46

The cartoons that we all loved when we were kids in the 70's absolutely blew. But the live action stuff was way worse for the most part. Other than Sesame Street and The Electric Company, we had miserable crap like Zoom and much worse... the stylings of Sid and Marty Croft.

Amazon is doing a pretty good job with their new series. They have Annedroids as a direct competitor to the old Saturday Morning live action stuff. It is hokey, and the CGI is low budget. But it is pretty entertaining to the elementary school crowd. Gortimer Gibbon's is sort of a twilight zone meets the Hardy Boys for elementary school kids. Also pretty entertaining and fairly well done - if you are in the target demo.

Nothing to the level of the animated stuff available from Disney, Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network though. Several of their animated series hold up from elementary all the way to adults. I really don't see college kids glomming onto any of these live action series as stoner favorites. So they aren't that great, but they are better than "Land of the Lost".

Comment Re:This is just the looong tail of the distributio (Score 2) 122

This has been my experience as well - dating back to the late 80's. A principle investigator is basically a grant-writing machine who has built enough of a reputation to get his grants funded. He also has to come up with new areas of inquiry and prod his students and post-docs into getting enough data to write a grant for that line of investigation.

They visit the lab, but pretty much never get to do the bench work. And the distance from the lab means that they cannot remember how long things take, so they are always wondering why everyone is so much slower to get the result than they expect.

Being a P.I. is even harder these days, because the funding for the NSF and NIH, etc. have not kept up with the demand. They used to write 2-3 grants expecting to get one funded. These days it is more like 5-8. That is a lot of wheel spinning - writing a grant is not in and of itself productive work.

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard