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Comment: My perception - (Score 1) 405

by Darth Snowshoe (#46510033) Attached to: Paris Bans Half of All Cars On the Road

My perception in having visited Paris, Barcelona, Milan, Grenoble, Firenze is that a fair amount of the road pollution comes not from cars but from Vespas and similar scooters and small-engine motorcycles. Lots of people living within these cities rely on such vehicles, and just judging from my nose, they are big contributors to smog. I realize that it's often the most economical means of getting around for students and other younger people. Also for cities that were laid out before the internal combustion engine was invented, the convenience of a Vespa is hard to overstate. But there seems to be not much interest in engineering them to be very clean.

Comment: I'm thinking of a word - (Score 5, Funny) 263

I'm thinking of a word for a kind of system where, I don't know, someone makes rules for how large chunks of assets are managed, traded, stored. This word would mean that some PEOPLE, some kind of official-sounding types of PEOPLE, would "check up" on these places, these places that handle and store and manage other people's money, or assets, stuff. They would be checking up to make sure that the people who run those places, those people, wouldn't be, knowingly or unknowingly, doing things with other people's money that they shouldn't be doing. Maybe there could be a kind of system, say, where those people doing those things, are encouraged or made to do some things, to prove, that they have the money and things that they are supposed to have, and doing the things, those things that they are supposed to do, and not doing those things that they are not supposed to be doing, to those other people's money, and assets and stuff. And that they're honest, about what they say that they're doing, and that they're not doing. Who would be doing all that checking, and what would that process be, and who would be subject to it. If only there were one simple word for all of that.

Comment: Re:Just start the war already! (Score 5, Insightful) 498

We should all be thankful that people in the relevant positions in Ukraine have shown much restraint so far and trusted or hoped that diplomatic and economic means would be brought to bear. Once a shooting war starts in the Ukraine, the casualties will quickly accumulate. There's a large civilian population there, several large cities. The population is very polarized. Oh and Russia is pushing more soldiers, armor, mines, etc into the Crimea by the hour.

"Just start the war already?" Because you are bored? What a horrendous sentiment.

Comment: Re:Reality Check (Score 1) 303

Are you siting the continued existence of potholes in America as your only evidence of corruption in the government, or do you have some references you are not showing? As someone who works indirectly for the government, I take offense that there is constant presumption of corruption in the public sector. I've worked several weekends and late nights recently to make deadlines, with no extra compensation, and no one has showed up to line my pockets with bribes or kickbacks. No one ever has. I'll let you know though - I swear I'll post to Slashdot the first time it happens.

It's easy to villify federal workers if you don't go to the trouble to actually ever know any. Most of them are just pluggers trying to do their job and get through their day, just like everyone else. Conspiracy theories that it's all some big scam are just that - conspiracy theories, fun to blow off steam with, but entirely unmoored from any actual knowledge (or maybe with a couple of anecdotes garnered from your own echo chamber.) Jeez I heard potties on the space shuttle cost a million dollars each!

Comment: Re:Baby steps - (Score 1) 674

Well do you then think that we shouldn't try to reverse the trend? I think it's clearly preferable to have a middle class, rather than to have an upper class, a lower class, and few conduits between. The existence of a middle class is what brought a lot of talented and driven people to the shores of the USA over the last fifty years. Those kinds of aspiring immigrants are a boost to our economy and a renewable resource.

I don't think my definition of middle class requires a white collar. My dad was a machinist who did quite well for himself and put three kids through college (though it was never easy). I do think it's becoming harder to be middle class without a higher education now.

Comment: Re:Not a Luddite, but... (Score 1) 674

Ugh I can't not respond to this.

"The big failures are in areas where government interferes: housing, automobiles, and health care are not getting cheaper and better, precisely because they are highly regulated." Do you truly believe that a housing market or a health care market with no regulation would be fairer to the consumer? That you would want to work or live in a building that met no safety standards? Or use meds that hadn't been tested? If housing were to follow some Moore's Law in the absence of regulation, shouldn't houses be several orders of magnitude cheaper, bigger, better, somewhere where those conditions exist?

This kind of thinking, blaming US regulation for anything you think inefficient or expensive, is magical thinking that dissappears with any kind of knowledge or curiosity about other parts of the world.

"If you leave it up to market mechanisms, things will automatically adjust accordingly: products will get so cheap that people, with very little work, will be able to afford them. We're already seeing that, with everything from phones to TVs costing less and less and doing more and more." This ignores the effects on displaced workers. The post is not about how great your TV will be in ten years; its about what happens to workers that get displaced by automation. Unemployed workers aren't going to be buying many TVs.

Comment: Re:Baby steps - (Score 1) 674

I think quoting a single statistic without anything else to compare it to is disingenuous. More people surely are enrolling in college now than they were in my parents' generation. My parents, going to a state school, essentially carried no debt when they finished, and had good middle class jobs waiting for them. It was more likely in my parents' generation that one could be middle class all the way through to retirement without a college degree, as well.

The price of a college education has risen at a rate entirely inconsistent with median income. That's not just for Harvard or MIT - that's for all American college education.

Similarly, health costs have gone up without regard to income levels. Likewise real estate anywhere where jobs exist. Likewise daycare, or elder care. Pensions that were commonplace a generation ago are nearly extinct now, and vilified by a large segment of the population.

Sure, people can afford to have computers and DVD players and game consoles that didn't exist a generation ago, but the essentials of a middle-class life are getting more and more expensive relative to a middle-class income.

Comment: Baby steps - (Score 3, Insightful) 674

It would be an awesome first step if we could all just agree that the middle class (at least in America) is in decline from what it was one generation or two generations ago, and that that has several bad consequences, and that we should try to think of ways to reverse this trend.

I think it would be reasonable to admit that it does look as though a lot of currently-existing good-paying jobs (and even notso good) are being automated away, and that we don't really have much sense of what jobs all those displaced workers might be doing a decade or two in the future. I can easily google up lots of examples of current attempts at automating away whole classes of workers - bus drivers, teachers, care-givers for seniors, farm workers, guards and night watchmen, legal and actuarial staff. Logically, if the costs per unit output were more for these automated methods, (once the design, support, IT etc was included) than for the labor-intensive solution, then no one would be pursuing them. I don't see anything in recent economic history that leads me to believe the higher profits yielded by these automated techniques will be shared with the remaining workers. I doubt that too many of the displaced bus drivers or farm workers are ever going to be retrained as robot maintainers (or whatever new jobs are created.)

Most likely outcome: management is going to develop and use automation wherever it can, let go as many workers as the automation allows it to, and keep the profits. Productivity goes up, but the remaining workers don't get much in higher wages. Economic value (e.g. money, capital) continues to be concentrated at the top of the economic pyramid, where it is stockpiled and rendered useless.

Comment: Understanding how the Fed works should be a prereq (Score 1) 165

by Darth Snowshoe (#45848803) Attached to: Congressman Accepts BitCoin For His US Senate Run

Pretty soon the federal government is going to reach out and definitively regulate Bitcoin. That is one of the functions of a central government.
Section 8 of the Constitution enumerates the powers of Congress, among which;

"To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;"

Why would you vote into Congress someone who seems not to have read, or seems not to agree with, the founding documents?

Comment: Re:OMFG (Score 1) 691

by Darth Snowshoe (#45735987) Attached to: Why Charles Stross Wants Bitcoin To Die In a Fire

"Bitcoin's lack of regulation is not a Bitcoin deficiency, but rather a legal one. Blame government for treating Bitcoin as a commodity instead of as a currency, subject to the same laws as cash. Oh, wait, it basically is subject to the same laws as cash, [...]"

Bitcoin is not legal tender in the USA. This means that no one is obligated to accept it to clear debts. Other commodities, like say gold, or even cheetos, have some inherent value.

"the government can't create more of it out of thin air (which is a good thing, if you want your money to have the same or better purchasing power tomorrow as it did today)." I think this is a fair argument for anyone who has a fair chunk of cash in a savings account. But I don't see anyone having ever made an effort to change this through political means. If you don't like something your government is doing, a patriot would try to change what the governement is doing. If instead you try to undermine the government and the value of our mutual resources, that's not being a patriot - in fact, it's the opposite.

Center meeting at 4pm in 2C-543.