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Comment How to stop all Robocalls (Score 5, Interesting) 108

Most Americans hate robocalls. More Americans put themselves on the “Do Not Call” (DNC) list than voted for any presidential candidate. The law does not work for two reasons. First, the federal government refuses to enforce it so none of the robocallers end up in jail. Second, the politicians wrote loopholes for themselves and friends. Political campaigns are allowed to make robocalls as are certain kinds of political non-profits.

The only answer I can see is to create a political non-profit to advocate for the end of all robocals by using.... robocalls. Let’s call it the “ National Association To Stop ALL Robocalls” (NATSAR), and have the organization distribute to its members free software that allows them to randomly robo-call area code 301, 703, 202 and 212 numbers with a message saying “Hi, we are NATSAR and we want your support for legislation to make it a crime to send ANY unwanted /Marketing/Polling/Political message to a person on the DNC list. Would you like to join us?”. When the people in the DC area and NYC who run our government start getting 20 “political”- and thus legal- robocalls every day at dinner they’ll do something about it.

I spend time in the Virginia suburbs of DC and take my word for it they don’t get tons of spam calls like people in the rest of the country. Why? For the same reason that in the 1960s every city in the U.S. except Washington had a Mafia crime family. The deal was “We’ll leave you alone in DC as long as we get a free hand to operate in the rest of the country”.

Submission + - A Debate only for Cable subscribers?

Joe Branya writes: The second Republican debate will begin in less that two hours. This is the first event in U.S. campaign history that is available only for those with a cable subscription. Now this is an extraordinary development- pay to watch a Presidential debate or go without it.

Two questions: First, how did the Republican party allow itself to get in this spot? Were there any objections? Have any of the candidates raised the issue?

Second, is there any way the Slashdot public can force the issue to be addressed during or immediately after the debate? How can we influence the candidates and the press people to raise the issue? Or how can we use social media in the next few hours to raise such a storm that the debaters and the press will have no choice avoid the issue.

Put your thinking cap on and go to work....

Comment The real dirt on the raidioactive dirt (part 2) (Score 1) 216

I accidentally truncated what I wrote by about 50 words. Mia culpa... Here is the last section:

Finally I should say I’m not clear on why the U.S. and NATO have decided to move to Rota although I’ll throw out a few possibilities. First, it may be hard to find places to train in the central Med because of refugee boats. The Navy has not picked up one refugee. The U.S. navy has clearly been told “The President doesn’t want pictures of a hundred Africans on board a U.S. warship with no place to land them except back the U.S.” Second is the Ruskies and ISIS; we may need Marines to land in a hotspot like Syria and for that we need a serious logistical base like Rota. Third, there may be a general NATO realignment in the area. European warships are doing all the refugee rescues. Building “a fence in the Med to stop immigrants” will clearly be a European activity, not an American one.

So we get Rota and the Spaniards get rid of the dirt. The only question is about the 50,000 cubic meter number; is it a firm number or is it guess that might balloon into something much larger.

Comment The real dirt on the radioactive dirt shipment (Score 2) 216

Here is what’s really going on.

For the last fifty years the 6th Fleet has been headquartered near Naples, Italy. There are no shore bases in Italy for the roughly 1,100 Marines assigned to the fleet. The fleet is routinely called the Mediterranean fleet but the area it controls includes most of the eastern Atlantic and south western Indian oceans. (See map at: ). The U.S. has only ten full sized aircraft carriers and none are operating in the Med right now The real action is in the Indian ocean and the western Pacific facing China.

For some reason the U.S. government and NATO have decided to move the Naples headquarters to Rota, Spain, which is potentially a much larger facility that Naples, with room for a few thousand Marines on shore.

Of course Spain wants something in return and we had to get the deal done before the Spanish election, which might bring in a leftist government. The best article on the deal is, as usual, in the British newspaper the Guardian To quote from the article (paragraph brakes removed):

“The Palomares clean-up deal is seen by many as a sweetener in exchange for Spain agreeing to Washington ramping up its military presence in the country. The number of marine personnel at the base in Morón in southern Spain is to be increased from 850 to 2,200, and to 3,000 in the event of a crisis. Meanwhile, the US navy base at Rota, near Cádiz, is set to become the largest in the Mediterranean. Talks with Spain’s right-wing government over the military build-up have intensified in recent months amid fears that a government less sympathetic to Washington’s strategic aims may be elected in December. Barack Obama said during the King of Spain’s visit to Washington in September that a change of government might harm bilateral relations. Kerry refused to comment on the possible outcome of the election but said that the US supports “a strong and united Spain”, a clear reference to the Catalan region’s aspiration to break away and become independent.”

So in the end the U.S. gets roughly 50,000 cubic meters of irradiated soil- how irradiated is still unclear. 50,000 meters equals roughly 80,000 tons. If the dirt is packaged first, it will take two-or-three medium-sized shiploads to get it to the U.S. and the equivalent of roughly 1,000 railroad freight cars or 2,000-3,000 forty-foot containers to move the dirt inside the U.S. My guess is railroad cars.

The present speculation says it will go to Idaho but I’m not sure. There is always the example of the USS Sturgis which had a small reactor that suffered damage during storms in the 1960s and 1970s. The ship had not been designed so the interior of the reactor room could be cleaned by water spray. So for 40 years the ship was stored in Quantico and on the James river, too hot to dismantle and yet not really a danger.

Finally I should say I’m not clear on why the U.S. and NATO have decided to move to Rota although I’ll throw out a few possibilities. First, it may be hard to find places to train in the central Med because

Comment pinned in under 10 seconds (Score 1) 510

Hastard on his own pederasty (I couldn't resist)

If the prosecutors knew what the money was being used for via a wiretap or an investigation before they "interviewed" Hastard then this was the usual setup of an unwary non-lawyer. Since he is not a public official like Spitzer was (and thus potentially subject to blackmail in his official capacity) I'm not sure that the Hastard interview was so routine. There are a lot of structured cash cases out there to investigate. As this continues we will get a timeline from the Court sometime in 2017 and be able to decide if this was a setup.. And why has the ex-student not been charged or has he? In other words, did he contact the prosecutor or did he cooperate and help set up Hastard.

Paraphrasing the head of the Soviet secret police talking to Stalin in the 1930s, "Show me the man and I'll find you the crime". Finally this is a direct outgrowth of the Al Capone tax evasion charge in the U.S. Just remember, whatever they can do to him they can do to you.

Comment Not quite as the poster describes (Score 1) 107

The Japanese did not say what the poster described. They simply said if a missile is aimed at or over Japan they reserve the right to shoot it down. They have posted a destroyer in the sea between Japan and North Korea for the purpose. The Reuters article actually says "a destroyer was dispatched to the Sea of Japan and will fire if North Korea launches a missile that Tokyo deems in danger of striking or falling on Japanese territory, the source said."


Comment The Bruce Cube (Score 1) 330

Finally we have an objective unit to measure paranoia, the Bruce.

The theoretical relationship between a truth function and the belief in the truth of the truth function has never previously been established.

My hypotheses is that each truth table has a paranoia variable located on the Z axis, measured in Bruce Units, which measures the belief in the reliability of the truth table. A positive Bruce value means you are paranoid and probably an idiot; a negative Bruce value means you are not paranoid and everybody else is an idiot.

I propose that the combination of a truth table and an array of associated Bruce values be called the Bruce Cube. Other proposed names such as the Nixon Cube and the Tom/Friedman Cube lead to the incorrect belief that the paranoia vector is associated exclusively with either the left or right spin. The name “Nixon-Friedman Cube” was just too damn long to use.

I'll leave it to other to work out the details of Bruce calculus. I'm too tired


Comment Water intake issue (Score 1) 88

The plant would stay open under normal conditions- it produces a lot of cheap, baseload electricity- but the new fish intake rules from the Obama administration will add almost one billion dollars in costs, and that is what is really forcing the closure.

The San Onofre plant is cooled by ocean water via a 3,000 ft long pipe going into the deep ocean. Some fish get sucked into the pipe. New regulations are designed to reduce fish deaths. The easy solution to the fish problem is to put a big screened enclosure at the end of the pipe so the speed of the water at the screen is low enough to allow fish to simply swim away. The new rules will not allow the simple fix. Instead they require cooling towers and a closed loop cooling system. There is no place on-site to put the towers so a huge earth moving operation will be called for and the towers are expensive to build, thus a billion dollar bill for very little benefit.

This sort of "drive them out of business by regulatory changes" is going on everywhere in the power business. The goals may be laudable but the process is intended to replace public discussion of costs and benefits with a more closed and opaque system based on regulations.

Power Engineering magazine has covered the issue extensively (but behind a password for most web surfers). However if you Google "San Onofre water intake" you can get a pretty good picture of what is going on. Why is the cooling story and the associated cost issue not being covered in the newspaper reports? Anybody's guess.

Comment Silly beyond words (Score 1) 533

So is the St. Patrick's Day corned beef and cabbage I cook in my pressure cooker now a WMD? Or is that WMDP or PWMD? Can I carry an unloaded pressure cooker on a plane? Will DOD, CIA, NPR and CBS drop IED for WMD? Inquiring acronym hunters want to know. He may be guilty as sin but this makes it all sound like the 1938 Moscow show trials meet the Marx brothers doing "who's on first".

Comment Bottom Line (Score 1) 690

With absolutely no sense of irony the study's authors say girls do better at school because the subjective judgment of the teachers is that they are "better students" while the objective judgement of the standardized tests say the boys retain more of the information- meaning "are better students". Is the purpose of school learning or social control? No wonder many boys find school to be so false; like the old Soviet system it trumpets inputs (she works so hard) instead of outputs (he got the right answers). At least in the old days the conduct grade and the subject grade were kept apart- now the teachers honestly seem to think they should be the same thing. The Mensa test does not ask about "task persistence, eagerness to learn, learning independence, flexibility and organization". Neither does the Google job interview. Thank God.

Comment My anger; thier vulnerability (Score 5, Interesting) 377

I'm almost 70 and never post here. Two-or-three years ago I knew a very warm-hearted young woman going through a very hard time in her life. She discovered Farmville and I started getting the Zynga message stream... a picture of a sad little animal and a message saying "An abandoned little baby llama has just been found and it needs to be adopted... so lost and lonely". I knew the incredible effort my friend put into fostering real animals, the insane hardships she had seen and how little money she had. And now some of that miniscule amount of money was going to Farmville. She was living in her car here in Austin scraping by with her two pet dogs and a coutimundi she was fostering (I kid you not). One afternoon we took one dog and the coutimundi out for a walk on leashes near the U. of Texas, where I live, and ever since I've been elevated by the frat boys to "The Coutimundi Dude"- a serious promotion. I didn't really know what Farmville was costing her, so after the"baby llama" emails I looked at Zynga and how it worked. What they were doing- carefully and systematically preying on the kind and the needy like some sort of hyper-evolved emotional shark while the tech press politely applauded- made me madder than anything I'd seen on the internet in years. Today I emailed the following to my now much happier and more settled young friend: "I saw thew following story and remembered the time in your life when Farmville was so important to you. I never said anything at the time, because I know how much you loved animals, even virtual ones, but I did look at the company that made Farmville, Zynga, and got incredibly upset at the tactics they were using to make money. The idea of charging for add-ons didn’t bother me at all, but the way they systematically targeting the needs of people who were both kind-hearted and vulnerable because of the way they loved without reservation and yet felt so alone really pissed me off. I’m so glad that today you are in a much better place. I just feel sorry for those who created and so generously loved those disappearing virtual pets." I'll make no comment on Zynga and its well-deserved fate. But the rest of us (including me) should remember with love and respect the sheer neediness of some of those we make for and sell to... or just meet on the street,and try to do a little better by them in 2013. Happy New Year.

Submission + - Are wikileaks contributions being monitored 4

Joe Branya writes: Today I went to the Wikileaks site and on the spur-of-the-moment made a $25 Euro contribution using my U.S. Bank of America Mastercard. Three minutes later I got an automated call at my home phone from the BOA fraud detection hotline asking "did you do this?" and requiring me to verify the charge from my phone with the keypad. A bit unexpected for a $32 charge, unless there is a lot of Wikileak contribution fraud or someone wants the cardholder to verify in a very tracable way that can potentially be used as evidence. Or maybe somebody wants me to think about whether I really, really want to make such a contribution. So is there a lot of Wikileak contribution fraud and is this happening to all Wikileak contributors or was it a one-of-a-kind?

Comment The crash video is a bit misleading (Score 2, Informative) 496

Modern cars are much more crashworthy and safer than old cars. But this video is a bit of an intentional misrepresentation of reality. Starting with the 1959 models, GM went to a modified unit body construction, eliminating the two, heavy, car-length frame rails that ran the length of the car, and instead mounting a small front frame to attach the engine and transmission to a newly designed unit-body passenger compartment. The aim was to lower the car's profile and to improve head-on collision crash survivability. In the new design the front end was designed as a crush zone- no more instant stop for the passengers when two rigid-frame cars collided head on. Also the engine would no longer end up in the passenger compartment when it broke loose from the frame in a bad accident; instead the engine would absorb much of the front end impact and then slid slide harmlessly underneath the passenger compartment when the subframe collapsed (that was what the wide "hump" in the middle of the floor of the 1959 car was all about). One result of this new design was to make the 1959 cars more dangerous in one type of accident, a "corner to corner" collision, one where the impact was head on but the two cars overlapped a bit but not enough so that the engines absorbed the impact- it was a design tradeoff. The Insurance Institute, which is, after all, a self-congratulatory lobbying group, reproduced that one type of accident here on purpose to showcase the results it wanted you to see. The Institute moved the impact point so that only 40-45% of the cars would overlap (see the overhead view at 1:16-18 in the shockwave flash cited- ). This is enough overlap to make full use of the new car's unit front end, roll cage and air bags (note even the windshield stays in and absorbs energy), but the overlap is small enough that the old car's engine and transmission, designed to absorb energy in a head on collision, were just outside the accident zone and did not absorb any of the impact energy. If the institute had shown a real head on collision the results would have been very, very different, with the damage much more equal. And a 1958 Chevy in a corner-to-corner would have performed much better. New cars are nifty, but this is a piece of propaganda designed to "educate the masses".

Submission + - Privacy... the loop

Joe Branya writes: My stock broker had a security breach. Among other things they gave me a free subscription to the Equifax credit monitoring program for a year. So I logged onto to enroll, filled out the form and got to the "agreement", which asked me to check the box saying I'd read and would abide by the user agreement. I was in five minute so far. But there was only an empty box where the user agreement was supposed to be, with a button saying 'print agreement', so I hit the button. Up came a blank screen. I hit the back button and was sent back to square one to begin the whole process again, at which point I quit. So the only way to proceed is to say "I've read this agreement" when no agreement is provided. Anyone else had this unique form of "consumer information" out of Equifax?

Comment Some suggestions (Score 1) 297

Some comments and two ideas on these calls. First, I get these calls all the time in Austin, TX. But I just spent a week in the Washington, DC area, where NONE of my friends get these calls. So it seems as if the callers follow the old Mafia rule- operate everywhere but in DC, because that might lead to a reaction by the only people who count- legislators, thier staff members and thier neighbors. Don't mess with the big boys. Second, more people have voted for the Do Not Call list with thier fingertips than have ever voted for a Presidential candidate, so the public is on our side. But the law is weak, has no enforcement mechanism to speak of, and was intended that way- the bill's opponents were the "non-profits" (and now everyone is a non-profit), the financial institutions (the previous-business-relationship exception), and all the usual suspects, who hire a company in India, have them do the automated calling, then switch the call back to the U.S. when you "press 1"- and of course the U.S. company hangs up when you ask "who are you?". So this is the usual "We really are doing something" legislation aimed at shutting up the one-hundred million folks who want to be left alone at dinner time, so that Congress and the contributors can make a buck- and, of course, be left alone at dinner in the DC area. In Europe, where they have real privacy laws, people get arrested for this stuff. Not here. So what is to be done? First, lobby your legislature, but don't hold your breath. Money talks. Second, spread the pain to DC. Anyone who comes up with an easy way to redirect these calls to the White House and Congressional switchboards will hear squeals of pain immediately. Then there is the question of what happens when someone with a knowledge of Skype et. al. comes up with a "Washington Area Autodialer For the Rest of Us". If it is legal to do this stuff for money it is legal to do it for political purposes. For example an automated message to phones in those Congressman-laden prefixes in McLean, VA saying "Send money to our new PAC aimed at getting Congress to pass a bill giving us REAL opt-out phone privacy and a private right of action against ANY U.S. company using using these subcontract cut-outs" will get the right people up from dinner. If you make our leaders get up from thier own dinner table often enough they will listen. Make DC share our pain; lab rats can learn and so do legislators. Deeply annoyed Dave

"Everybody is talking about the weather but nobody does anything about it." -- Mark Twain