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Comment: Re:What a guy (Score 1) 342

by IamTheRealMike (#49786323) Attached to: Obama Asks Congress To Renew 'Patriot Act' Snooping

These career govt employees feed info to the pres, make recommendations, and fight for their interests. Even if a new pres wants to turn on a dime, Washington DC is a large ship that turns slowly.

Bingo. The old UK comedy "Yes Prime Minister" was a rather cutting illustration of this phenomenon at work.

What happens to someone when they become the prez? Enormous numbers of apparently experienced people begin telling you all kinds of secret things. They stress the importance of secrecy. They tell you about this plot or that plot. They say it's vital they get new powers and they not-so-subtly imply that if you don't help them Women And Children will DIE! And although it's left unstated you know perfectly well that if you don't give them what they want, you will see leaks in the press from anonymous officials that paint you as a prevaricator, as weak, as unconcerned for the lives of Patriotic Heroes And Their Women And Children.

The problem any US President has, and I daresay many other countries presidents, is that they are immediately submerged into a fantasy world woven from the agendas of the people around them mixed with their own pre-existing views, and those people are themselves also in a slightly less extreme form of a personal fantasy world and so on all the way down. A toxic brew of patriotism, belief in American exceptionalism, militarism and most of all pervasive classification means that it's impossible for a prez to penetrate the fog of misinformation that surrounds them. They can be manipulated into believing nearly anything because it would take an incredibly strong willed personality to say directly to the senior bureaucrats feeding them classified intelligence, "I think you are bullshitting me and I am going to personally audit your shit and prosecute you if you're lying to me".

Obama is very much NOT a strong willed personality. He sees himself primarily as a reasonable man who finds compromise between different factions. This makes him easily manipulated: all it takes is for people who agree to present him two apparently opposed positions - one extreme and one very extreme - and Obama will reliably pick something that is quite extreme. And the officials around him know that.

In hindsight it should have been obvious. Obama has no real track record of achievement in politics. He supported no particularly controversial positions, or showed any particularly clear thinking. Compared to Bush he seemed like a genius of course but Bush was a fucking man child, so that wasn't hard.

For that reason, Rand Paul fans might be disappointed if he won. I don't expect he would be able to accomplish as much change as people would like.

Almost certainly not. But it looks like Rand Paul is made of stronger stuff than Obama. Paul consistently argues for positions that piss off most of his party. He seems able to come to conclusions about things himself regardless of what other people believe. He seems to have fairly strong principles. He doesn't come across as the sort of wishy-washy people person that Obama is. If there's any US politician that actually might tell the people in his secret briefings "stop bullshitting me or I fire you", it's probably Rand Paul.

Comment: Re:None. Go meta. (Score 2) 250

by IamTheRealMike (#49786191) Attached to: How Much C++ Should You Know For an Entry-Level C++ Job?

That sort of logic holds true when moving between languages that are very similar. The transition between Python and Ruby or Java and C# spring to mind.

However if I need a C++ programmer and need one pronto, I'm not gonna hire a guy who has only JavaScript on his CV no matter what. Learning C++ is not merely learning a different way to create an array or slightly different syntax. To be effective in C++ you need to know how to do manual memory management and do it reliably, which takes not only domain knowledge but more importantly: practice and experience. You need to understand what inlining is. You very likely need to understand multi-threading and do it reliably, which takes practice and experience a pure JS guy is unlikely to have. You need to be comfortable with native toolchains and build systems: when the rtld craps its pants and prints a screenful of mangled symbols you need to be able to understand that you have an ABI mismatch, what that means and how to deal with it. Unfortunately that is mostly a matter of practice and experience. You might need to understand direct manipulation of binary data. There's just a ton of stuff beyond the minor details of the language.

Could the pure JS guy learn all this stuff? Of course! Will they do it quickly? No.

Comment: Re:Stupidly in charge of user interfaces too (Score 1) 144

by IamTheRealMike (#49776347) Attached to: Apple Design Guru Jony Ive Named Chief Design Officer

Yeah, I agree with the growing sentiment that whilst Ive is a talented hardware designer, he is also seriously overhyped (by Apple, not himself).

Case in point: how long did it take for Apple to make a larger iPhone? A long time. I read a story about Ive in a magazine. It described the process of them deciding to make a bigger screened iPhone. The design team milled dummies of a bazillion different sizes and carried them around to try and figure out the perfect larger size. They spent ages on it. They tried literally every size. Eventually they produced something ..... just like their competitors. You know what? Apple ignored the trend for years. Then they procrastinated because their holy design team can't do anything fast. They could just have looked at what was selling well - it's not always a good idea but it's not always a bad idea either. But they made a mountain out of it.

Why do Apple's products have almost no customisability? Why did it take YEARS for them to even support setting a wallpaper image in iOS? Well, probably because:

Ive’s decision to offer choice was a challenge to Apple’s recurring theme of design inevitability. In one of our conversations, Ive was scathing about a rival’s product, after asking me not to name it: “Their value proposition was ‘Make it whatever you want. You can choose whatever color you want.’ And I believe that’s abdicating your responsibility as a designer.”

He was probably talking about a Motorola phone. But I guess that's why everything Apple makes is white. You wouldn't want to "abdicate your responsibility" by letting people choose colours! Well, unless it's a watch, of course.

If you read the whole New Yorker article you'll get an overwhelming sense that the design team there live in a bubble where they feel it's OK to spend months on a trivial detail and then produce something almost exactly the same as what their competitors did in a week. Apple has been consistently behind the Android market for years now when it comes to features and even new design ideas, and reading the article will reveal why.

Comment: Re:Well there's the problem... (Score 1) 201

by IamTheRealMike (#49776207) Attached to: Court Orders UberPop Use To Be Banned In All of Italy

Nope. The taxi drivers would compete for too few passengers by trying to undercut each other, skimming on costs thus reducing the safety for passengers etc.

Except that taxi prices are controlled, either by the state (yellow cabs) or by Uber. Taxi drivers don't dynamically adjust prices on an hourly basis by themselves.

Comment: Re:Well there's the problem... (Score 1) 201

by IamTheRealMike (#49776167) Attached to: Court Orders UberPop Use To Be Banned In All of Italy

Your desire to have the mythical unicorn of the free market still doesn't change the reality that those laws exist, they exist for a reason, and it's not up to Uber to decide what the law is.

Markets are hardly mythical. They're rather common.

Anyway you're arguing with things he never said. Obviously the laws exist. Obviously Uber cannot decide what the laws are. The only part you're disagreeing with him on is "they exist for a reason", but that's the crux of the issue - some people believe that reason is bogus. Limiting the numbers of cabs specifically to fight congestion is so indirect it practically screams corruption. You solve congestion with congestion charges, that apply to all vehicles equally.

Uber wants to run a illegal cabs, contrary to the law. The problem isn't the existence of the law. it's that Uber are a bunch of whiny self-entitled douchbags whose business model relies on running illegal cabs and playing the victim card.

Given that your post criticises Uber for "throwing a tantrum" your own writing comes across as extremely shrill. The problem is the existence of the law. You seem to think that all laws must be righteous and good and no organised group of people who give themselves a name and a logo should ever object to a law or try to get it changed (and good luck getting taxi laws changed agains the incumbents without a large large consumer group to back you up). That's an increasingly non-viable position in our world: governments create laws at prodigious rates and the effort needed to get them overturned is too large for individuals to take on.

Comment: Re:When you're using words like "reeducation" (Score 2) 429

LOL

Okay, you raging sexist. Let's take it down a notch for a second here ......... [short time later] ....... It still blows my mind that every time this comes up, almost nobody talks about the elephant in the room: Women are smarter and value their time better than men in general.

Plank in your eye before speck in your brothers, etc.

Comment: Re:no power (Score 1) 429

Yeah yeah yeah. It's so tough being a programmer.

Reality check: many, many other jobs are doing worse. You may think that programming is going down hill as a career* but would mothers rather that their daughters study Eng Lit and then become a Starbucks barista when making it as a journalist doesn't quite work out for them?

*though I don't see that, heck on the front page is a story about how much money is flooding into the industry from VC's right now

Comment: Re:How is this tech related? (Score 1) 154

by IamTheRealMike (#49770221) Attached to: EU Drops Plans For Safer Pesticides After Pressure From US

Um, yes.

How exactly do you intend to prove that something is safe? There have been cases in the past where chemicals were thought to be safe, and then found that they cause a higher risk of common disease but only after many decades (smoking is one obvious example of that).

How do you even discover that without large scale usage by humans? How would anything ever get approved? What if the drugs are believed to save lives, but it can't be proved that they're always side effect free? What then?

IMO, this shouldn't be up to governments. They should act as a source of trusted advice, at best. The idea that the FDA might have killed more people than it's saved (by delaying the use of medicines that were later found to be safe and effective) is an interesting one, though I can't remember if it's ever actually been proven or is just some libertarian meme.

Comment: Re:Spin everywhere... (Score 1) 154

by IamTheRealMike (#49768971) Attached to: EU Drops Plans For Safer Pesticides After Pressure From US

How anyone, who is not a subject matter expert, can make a decision in this is just beyond me

You can't easily do so, but you can easily recognise the spin for what it is. As you say, the Guardian wants us to believe that the chemical industry is some cigar-smoking shades-wearing embodiment of corporate evil here, which is unlikely. It seems to be more like a dispute over the costs and benefits of enacting a ban before harm is conclusively established. So ..... just ignore it! My opinions on TTIP have been entirely unmoved by this story as it seems to be a dispute that would have happened anyway, regardless of whether TTIP existed.

Comment: Re:How is this tech related? (Score 4, Interesting) 154

by IamTheRealMike (#49768787) Attached to: EU Drops Plans For Safer Pesticides After Pressure From US

Yes indeed. Whenever I read a story in the press that asks me to believe that a large group of people are utterly, totally evil and get their rocks off by being malicious psychopaths, I go looking for a reality check.

Digging through apparently endless links arrives us at this quote:

Peter Smith, executive director for product stewardship at CEFIC, which represents the European chemical industry, said the Nordic report attribution of health problems to EDCs was “arbitrary”. He said: “The link between exposure to a chemical and an illness has not been shown in many cases. The authors themselves say they have some trouble with causality.”

Smith said the delays to EDC regulation in the EU did not suit the industry. “Nobody is happy with the delays. But we would prefer it to be permanent and right rather than temporary and wrong.” He said case-by-case rigorous assessment was needed and that any precautionary action had to be proportional to the evidence of harm.

However, Professor Andreas Kortenkamp, a human toxicologist at Brunel University London in the UK, said the epidemiological work needed to prove causation is very difficult. For example, he said, analysing links to birth defects would mean having taken tissue samples from mothers before they gave birth. “But there is very good, strong evidence from animal and cell line test systems. The chemical industry only likes to emphasis the first part of that.” He said precaution was the only safe approach and said the Nordic report was good work.

In other words, the EU doesn't actually know these chemicals are dangerous to humans. They have some initial findings from animal studies that should be followed up on, and the chemical industry agrees with that, but heck if every mouse study translated directly to humans we'd all live a thousand years and be totally disease free by now.

So this entire dispute boils down to non-expert bureaucrats wanting to ban some chemicals early without clear evidence that they harm people, based on an abundance of caution, and the chemical industry saying "you should really prove your case first". Not entirely unexpected - EU regulators won't be the people who actually have to find alternatives and then do all the work to transition to them. They'll just issue a regulation, then go home and tell the wife/husband the story of how they fought the Big Chem to save helpless babies. The cost will get passed on the consumer. Skilled manpower and resources will be diverted from other things.

If they're right and the effects reproduce in humans - great, we got a few fewer years in which the chemicals were interfering with fertility. If they're wrong, well, the cost of that would be huge.

I don't see any clearly right or wrong side on this, which probably means the government should stay out of it. Mandate labelling at most, so consumers themselves can decide, at least until the scientific evidence of harm is stronger.

Comment: Re:Will this happen elsewhere? (Score 1) 241

by IamTheRealMike (#49767451) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

I don't recall anyone promising tax cuts during the last UK general election

e.g.

http://www.theguardian.com/pol...

Yes, the Tories won despite promising more austerity and that's the big difference between the UK and Greece. Regardless, if they thought it was affordable they would definitely not hesitate to use windfalls from taxing foreigners to buy off pensioner votes, for example. That's a very clear pattern in how governments do things.

And we spend 8% of government spending on interest not 25%.

You're right. I looked it up and it's 8%. I'm not sure why I thought it was 25%, perhaps I'm getting confused with some other country.

But the main point is, if a company wants to do business in the UK it should pay UK taxes on it's profits.

We're talking about a company that delivers things through the mail, here. What does "doing business in the UK" even mean? If Amazon were to have no offices or presence in the UK at all and just deliver everything via third party companies, would they be "doing business" there or not?

The problem with this sort of thinking is it ignores the consequences. Imagine a small company in the USA gets an order for its new widget from the UK. The company wants to sell, but ...... wait! The UK has screwed up laws. A single sale to a British person means the UK Gov will classify the company as "doing business" in the UK and suddenly all the companies profits are taxed twice. No can do, therefore, no sale.

So in practice that's not how the system works.

What about first employee in the country? Well, same problem. Google looks at the UK and says, hey, we'd like to hire people in Britain to do engineering and sales. But ..... it makes no sense, because hiring the receptionist for the new office will cost us a billion dollars in new tax, as suddenly our profits all get taxed twice.

So the scheme you outlined is not workable. It'd just mean nobody does business with the UK.

The usual variant people demand is "tax only the profits made in the UK" but this is also so vague and poorly thought out as to be unworkable. Where are profits made, exactly? This is easier to see with a company like Google or Facebook. The physical location where profits are made is unknowable because many countries contribute to the whole. For Amazon people tend to say, it's the sales to people in the UK, but then you're asking for a sales tax not a profits tax, and the EU VAT changes have now put this in place (at massive bureaucratic cost).

Comment: Re:To be more precise, Amazon will collect on taxe (Score 1) 241

by IamTheRealMike (#49765639) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

"and therefore corporate taxes are evil, and should be abolished, not raised." - if you do that then the people will have to pay more to make up the shortfall.

swillden's point is that it would be neutral. There is no shortfall, exactly. Tax reallocates resources that would have been used for other things, it's not like a mine that you actually dig gold out of.

Whilst governments might feel the need to raise personal tax rates if they no longer received corporation tax, as corporations are no longer being taxed that money will end up doing something else instead. It might lower prices, in which case paying more personal tax to government wouldn't change your standard of living. Or it might get paid out to shareholders, i.e. you or your pension fund. Or it might get re-invested into developing new products, which again would improve your standard of living to offset the fact that you have less money than before. Remember money is just a proxy, what ultimately matters is wealth not money. (or happyness)

At the moment personal taxes are high because not everyone pays their fair share of tax, that includes businesses and personal, if everyone did the right thing and paid what was owed, we'd all be taxed less.

A common misconception spread by propaganda in the press. Tax evasion rates in western societies are very low. Almost everyone already pays what they owe. The UK is not Greece - there's no blood to squeeze from that stone. The entire tax avoidance argument is that some people should owe more than the rules say they do.

Personal taxes in Anglo countries are high for a bunch of reasons, including but not limited to: extremely expensive and pointless foreign wars, increasing life expectancies that cause spiralling healthcare and pension costs as governements are loathe to adjust the retirement age, hangover from the banking bailouts, the general decline in labour force participation over time meaning more people on benefits, unaffordable tax cuts (USA), the massive interest payments on debt incurred by previous governments (UK), etc etc.

They are not high because immoral people are somehow dodging the tax man.

Practical people would be more practical if they would take a little more time for dreaming. -- J. P. McEvoy

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