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Comment Re:You just described SoylentNews. (Score 1) 437 437

I definitely enjoy the differing opinions on Slashdot and hope that doesn't change.

If an article about some controversial subject comes up, you can be sure that people from both sides will post their views. If, for example, the subject is gun control in the US, you'll have one post from someone proclaiming the Second Amendment as sacred and not to be trampled upon by the federal government, another post from someone calling on the feds to round up all guns and melt them into a giant "peace sign" statue", and a bunch of other posts in between.

I definitely don't agree with everyone here, but it would be a big loss if the entire community was shoved into one side or the other.

Comment Re: Is anyone actually suprised? (Score 5, Informative) 460 460

And when there were whistleblowers before him who tried to report issues they saw. These people don't have the name recognition of Snowden because their reports were hushed up and the whistleblowers were accused of wrongdoing themselves. Snowden saw how "work within the official channels" went and chose a more effective method, albeit one that put him into permanent exile.

Comment Re:Just like Teacher "Grades" (Score 1) 245 245

Until now, in New York at least, standardized tests didn't impact teachers' jobs. So if Sally got a low test score because her teacher didn't teach her the EXACT method that the standardized test said should be used, there was no problem. Now, however, Sally's teacher could be fired because Sally learned a method that worked better for her and not the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all method that the test demands. If you get the right answer with the wrong method, it's counted as wrong.

Furthermore, I've seen teachers come under fire when multiple students answered questions similarly. They were taught by the same teacher under the same standardized curriculum to answer things in the same way. When this resulted in similar answers, the test scorers claimed that the teacher must have coached them during the test. The teacher even had to fight against the district because they wanted to fire her under suspicion of cheating. (There was zero proof beyond a vague "some answers looked similar" but if you teach kids to answer a question in a certain way, you're bound to get similar answers.) So now teachers apparently get penalized if they stick to the script or sway off of it.

Comment Re:Just like Teacher "Grades" (Score 1) 245 245

And NY also declared that "failing" schools (as determined by state ed) would be put into receivership. The first year, the superintendent runs the school. He can fire teachers/administrators for no other reason than "it's my whim", he can lengthen or shorten the school day, change the teachers' pay (again, no union dealing, just "this is what you're paid now, deal with it"), and more. If, after a year, state ed determines that the superintendent didn't turn the school around, it goes into a third party receivership (likely a charter school) who can permanently change the school into a charter school as well as all of the things the superintendent was able to do.

Of course, the schools most at risk for receivership are inner city schools. So why would a teacher take a job in an inner city school where they could be fired for low student test scores or fired when the school goes into receivership?

Of course, all this was put into play because the teacher's union didn't support the governor's reelection campaign. Charter schools did support him, though. He's taking political revenge on the teachers and doesn't care how many students get hurt in the process.

Comment Re:Just like Teacher "Grades" (Score 1) 245 245

Except now the teachers' jobs are at stake. In New York, if a teacher's students don't do as well on their standardized tests as the state says they should, the teacher can be fired. If this happens three years in a row, the teacher IS fired. No argument is accepted to avoid termination (except fraud and good luck proving that).

Comment Just like Teacher "Grades" (Score 5, Interesting) 245 245

In NY, where I live, we're now "grading" teachers based on how well their students do on standardized tests. Any teacher who strays from the "prep for the test" subject matter and uses inventive ways of helping their students learn is going to have students who might know more, but who will perform worse on the tests. Teachers who stick to the script and drill test preparation into their students will wind up with better scores even though their students will know less (except how to fill in bubbles).

Just like the Doctors example in the article, the "teacher grading" system is going to backfire. Talented teachers will be kicked out (test scores are tied to their jobs now, your students get low scores and you're out) and mediocre teachers will remain. It's almost like trying to take the jobs that teachers and doctors do and standardize their job functions across every student/patient they see doesn't work. Maybe because their jobs require using their brains and trying different techniques as opposed to an assembly line worker who just needs to perform the same task every time with no variation.

Comment Re:"Drug Companies Seek to Exploit"!!! (Score 1) 93 93

Which is why the Vaccine Court was formed. Vaccines don't make drug companies a lot of money. In fact, they lose out on selling drugs to treat the diseases that vaccines prevent. Given our sue happy culture, the drug companies could wind up losing a lot of money in legal fees (even if the lawsuits are without merit) and could make the financial decision to stop offering the vaccines. Then, nobody would get vaccines, the diseases would make a comeback, and people would die.

Comment Re:Correction: (Score 3, Informative) 217 217

Or any banking or other financial system.

Your money isn't stored in a big container with your name on it. It's bits in the banks systems. Relatively speaking, it's trivial to move the bits from your account to someone else's account. Practically speaking, there are safeguards in place to ensure this doesn't happen in an unauthorized manner and to track all transactions that happen, but at the core this is a computer system and someone could theoretically hack the system to increase their funds and decrease yours.

Keeping your money off of all electronic systems would mean stuffing piles of bills into your mattress.

Comment Re:Copyright needs reform (Score 1) 93 93

Well, with a 14 year + one-time 14 year extension, "the vault" becomes less of a concern. Suppose you run a company and a movie under your copyright was just released. The clock is ticking and you have only 28 years (assuming you extend the copyright, which I'm sure most companies would do) to profit from it. Putting the movie "in the vault" is essentially saying "We're not going to profit off of this for a period of time." Put it in the vault for 5 years and you're giving up 18% of your copyright term. Companies would rush to maximize profits on their movies and "the vault" would be less and less of an issue.

I would add one more technical detail, though. Ripping DVDs/Blu-Ray discs of movies that have entered the public domain would be explicitly legal no matter when the DVD/Blu-Ray was released. So no releasing the "Super Ultra Platinum Edition" Blu-Ray a year before the copyright expires and then claiming that this disc is protected for 28 years. The movie's copyright still expires in a year and, after that, it's public domain so posting a rip of it online is fair game.

Comment Re:Who needs Lifelock? (Score 1, Informative) 54 54

My personal data was stolen (from where, I never found out). Someone got my name, address, DOB, and SSN and opened a credit card in my name. Through sheer luck, they paid for rush delivery of the card BEFORE changing the address and the card wound up at my house. Otherwise, I would have found out about it when the collections agency beat down my door to get the $5,000+ that "I" owed them.

If you think your personal information has been compromised (or if you want to play it safe), Lifelock is not the tool to use. Freezing your credit file is. When your credit file is frozen, nobody can open a new line of credit. Not you and certainly not Mr. Identity Thief. If you want to open a new line of credit, you need to first thaw your credit file for a set period of time (e.g. 2 weeks). Then you open the credit line and your credit file refreezes with that new line in place.

The downsides are that you can't easily open a store card at the register to get X% off your purchase, though we find this to be a positive. ("Would you like to open a..." "Can't. Credit locked. Identity theft victim.") You also need to pay to initially freeze your credit file (though victims of ID theft might be able to do it for free) and pay to thaw it. Costs vary per state. My costs are $5 per credit agency per file. So if my wife and I were buying a new car, we'd need to pay $30. (3 credit agencies and 2 credit files.) The peace of mind of knowing that nobody can open cards/loans/etc on my credit file despite my information being out there is well worth this cost, though.

Comment Re:If race doesn't exist, how is this possible? (Score 1) 312 312

It's funny, though, that the color of the skin is given such a huge amount of importance. It strikes me as a bit arbitrary. I mean, why that? Why not, say, whether your fingers are skinny or chubby? Why is one genetic expression the all important one, considering there are so incredibly many of them?

I always figured that it basically boiled down to skin color being easily identifiable. When you look at a person, you can tell their skin color which means (if you're a racist) you can easily tell if the person is $GOOD_RACE (i.e. the one you belong to) or $BAD_RACE (everyone else). Compare this against religious affiliation. This is harder because, looking at me, you can't tell right away whether I'm Jewish, Christian, Atheist, etc. (My last name is a bit of a giveaway, but we'll assume you just spotted me on the street and didn't know my name.)

Of course, where "skin color easily identified" fails is that more and more people have a mixed ancestry which means you might not be able to easily tell - from sight - just what race they belong to. (Where "belong to" means "the group that the racist is going to stick them with.") Then again, racists aren't known for seeing the world in shades of grey. There's black and white (literally). One group is good and one group is bad and that's that. Anything more complex makes their brains hurt.

Comment Re:Copyright needs reform (Score 1) 93 93

The big problem is that copyright fines were set when the major copyright violators were commercial in nature. Sure, people would make mix tapes and distribute them, but they were small-time operators compared to the CD presser who could make a hundred copies of the latest CD, sell them for a couple of bucks each, and make a major profit. The fines were set to bankrupt such operations so they couldn't just spring up elsewhere.

Nowadays, though, anyone can become an unauthorized distributor in a matter of minutes (depending on connection speed and how fast you can install software). There is also no profit motive - installing BitTorrent and sharing out your music library isn't done because it rakes in cash - and there is no way to really know how many songs were distributed. This should definitely carry a penalty, but the current penalties outweigh the impact. Fining someone $75 million for sharing 500 songs does nothing but put that person into bankruptcy permanently.

Actually, it does do something else. It allows the copyright holder to force the person into a deal. If you are facing a long trial with a possibly life-ruining fine at the end, the copyright holder's $3,000 settlement agreement sounds great. Even if you are innocent (the IPs "matched" but don't actually belong to you for one reason or another), fighting a huge battle with horrible potential consequences at the end is not something many people can afford. In essence, the copyright holder comes to the fight with a tank and the alleged infringer comes with a slingshot.

Making a "non-commercial" copyright infringement tier would level the playing field a bit. It would still let copyright owners smack down infringers, but it wouldn't allow for the abuse of "settle on our terms or face a $75 million fine!"

Luck, that's when preparation and opportunity meet. -- P.E. Trudeau