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+ - Study Finds U.S. is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers from Princeton University and Northwestern University have concluded, after extensive analysis of 1,779 policy issues, that the U.S. is in fact an oligarchy and not a democracy. What this means is that, although 'Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance', 'majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.' Their study (PDF), to be published in Perspectives on Politics, found that 'When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.'"

Comment: Re:Endorsed By President Reagan? (Score 4, Informative) 416

by NotSanguine (#46758719) Attached to: Intuit, Maker of Turbotax, Lobbies Against Simplified Tax Filings

That's quite a trick! Seeing as Ronald Reagan has been dead for ten years, was a Ouija board involved?

Apparently, Ronald Reagan did endorse this idea in 1985. I stand...errr...sit corrected. Please ignore my initial comment. That is all.

From the 1985 speech:

The number of taxpayers who need to itemize would be reduced to 1 in 4. We envision a system where more than half of us would not even have to fill out a return. We call it the return-free system, and it would be totally voluntary. If you decided to participate, you would automatically receive your refund or a letter explaining any additional tax you owe. Should you disagree with this figure, you would be free to fill out your taxes using the regular form. We believe most Americans would go from the long form or the short form to no form.

Comment: Re:Fantastic Google Chrome marketing (Score 1) 202

by NotSanguine (#46758581) Attached to: Mozilla Appoints Former Marketing Head Interim CEO

I agree that leaks are worrying, but in this case I'd argue that donations to political campaigns should be public. If someone without money to spare wants to endorse or promote a cause they have to speak, revealing their position. Just because you can afford to give up $1000 shouldn't excuse you from that responsibility. Yes, you are free to say what you want, but you are never free from the consequences.

Leaks? You mean leaked from the publicly available, state mandated, campaign donation reporting database? Which, we both agree is a good thing.

Comment: Re:Fantastic Google Chrome marketing (Score 1) 202

by NotSanguine (#46758455) Attached to: Mozilla Appoints Former Marketing Head Interim CEO

I don't think I agree, but I admit I may be wrong. I'm very sure that it would be very bad to have to disclose how you vote. But with regards to monetary contributions to a Proposition ballot advocacy group, I'll have to think about it more. I do think it's proper to disclose contributions to nominees running for office, but I feel that way because it represents influence the donor has on the candidate, not because the candidate then spent money on advertising. And if PAC contributions weren't disclosed, that would just be a glaring loophole for candidate contributions through a middle-man.

But a $1000 donation to a Proposition group? I don't know. I agree there's a problem if someone wealthy can donate $1 Million, but a small monetary contribution feels more like a donate-to-your-cause type thing than try-to-influence-others type thing. On the other hand, you're right that ultimately it's spent on trying to influence other people, and that should not be done with secret backers. So maybe you're right and I'm wrong.

(I'm the AC you responded to)

Ballots are supposed to be secret, yes. However, campaign contributions are highly regulated (both federally via the Federal Elections Commission and in most states.

In California, campaign contributions (including donor names) are reported to the California Secretary of State. This link will take you directly to the reporting for Prop 8.

Comment: Re:Fantastic Google Chrome marketing (Score 1) 202

by NotSanguine (#46754919) Attached to: Mozilla Appoints Former Marketing Head Interim CEO

You raise an interesting point too. He was fired over information that should never have been released. That just makes it that much worse.

It makes the topic difficult, and it annoys the crap out of me that the info was revealed, and it annoys me that no one seems to care that this type of information should never be revealed. Democracy depends on it not being revealed. But... since it has been revealed, it's not like it can just be ignored.

Wrong. Your vote is supposed to be secret, not your political contributions. The FEC (and the laws of the various states) requires that candidates, political parties, PACs and certain other political organizations report the source and amount of each donation received. That information is then published and is publicly available.

Democracy depends on free discourse, a vigorous and *free* press, free and fair elections and a host of other things. It does not depend on secret campaign donations.. When we don't know who is paying for all those TV ads and rallies, etc. that can give undue influence to players we don't even know exist.

In fact, the law should be changed to force such reporting from 501(c)3's and similar organizations that currently do not need to file such reports, IMHO

Given the enormous amounts of money thrown into political campaigns, we should know where that money is coming from -- giving us more information about the supporters of issues and candidates.

Comment: Re:Fantastic Google Chrome marketing (Score 1) 202

by NotSanguine (#46754847) Attached to: Mozilla Appoints Former Marketing Head Interim CEO

And it's a very bad thing that his contributions to Prop 8 were known, because those types of things are supposed to be kept private and we should all want them to be kept private. But since they were revealed, there's no way in hell he should have been offered the role of CEO of Mozilla. Once you learn someone is an A-hole, you have the right to decide if he/she/it should be the leader of a volunteer-based organization.

BZZT! Wrong. All political contributions should be publicly available for all to see. As a society, we should be able to know who voted with their wallets and to what purpose. We have that to a certain extent, but 501(c)3s and their ilk (as well as any other players attempting to affect elections) should be forced to publicly disclose all of their donors and the amounts contributed, just as candidates do.

Blowing my mod points on this thread because you need schooling, friend.

+ - Rome 'Was Founded 200 Years Earlier Than Previously Thought'->

Submitted by concertina226
concertina226 (2447056) writes "Archaeologists excavating Lapis Niger, an ancient shrine in the Roman Forum, have found a wall that predates Rome's official founding year of 753BC by up to two hundred years.

According to Italian newspaper Il Messagero, the wall was made from blocks of volcanic tuff, the product of volcanic eruptions, and was designed to channel water from the small river Spino, a tributary of The Tiber.

Near the remains of the wall, the archaeologists also found fragments of ceramic pottery and the remains of food in the form of grains.

"The examination of the ceramic material was crucial, allowing us today to fix the wall chronologically between the 9th century and the beginning of the 8th century," said Patricia Fortini, an archaeologist working for Sovraintendenza ai Beni Culturali di Roma Capitale, a state-funded organisation in charge of all historical, archaeological and artistic monuments found in Rome."

Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:San Francisco: crazy again (Score 1) 371

by NotSanguine (#46698179) Attached to: Smart Car Tipping Trending In San Francisco

Gentrification to me means turning poor neighborhoods into unaffordable ones for rich white people. Which displaces people who have few resources.. I haven't heard any reasonable argument that I am not a racist scumbag trying to justify my small-mindedness.

There. FTFY. And you're welcome.

Comment: Re:What About Seniors And The Terminally Ill? (Score 1) 402

I'm approaching 50, and I'll let you in on a little secret, we're not as tough as we act at this age. I had better senses, attention span, cognitive speed, reflexes, learning speed, joint mobility, stamina and a host of other useful, animal skills when I was 25 to 35 years old. Of course, I'm still "better with age" but that's basically experience at work, and 99% of what makes me better today than I was 20 years ago can be replaced by a team of experts at the other end of a radio link.

If I were the mission planner and I could have a ground crew of 200, but only 12 on the mission, I'd keep the grey hair down with their families, let 'em work ordinary 8 hour shifts and take normal vacations - you get better people that way, and you want the best people you can get. If you take the brightest, most talented and experienced person and caffeine fuel them for 18 hour shifts, you're still not getting better performance than you would from a team of 3 people who have figured out what's important to them in life and also happen to be experts in their field.

So, I'm saying, put the wunder-kind on the mission vehicle, support them with experienced ground crew. When the pioneers have established a reliable shirt-sleeve living and working environment that doesn't demand too much of the residents, then think about sending the old folks - they'll be able to contribute in great ways; but for pioneers you're better off working with people that don't have heavy family ties, arthritis, kidney stones and the occasional cancer that needs treatment.

I am also just a couple years short of the half-century mark. You are correct, I am not the man I was fifteen or twenty years ago.

But I think you miss my point. What good are fast reflexes and the exuberance of youth on a ten year mission to explore the Jupiter system? Most of the time would be spent waiting to arrive, and then manning consoles to run experiments. Nothing that requires super fast reflexes or the ability to stay awake for days at a time. It's also a good bet that radiation exposure would probably kill anyone attempting such a mission. Even if we make it clear that this would be a one-way trip, you'd have people lining up to make the journey. Again, I ask you -- "why waste all that potential?"

Construction, management and operation of a moon base would be another mission that would be ideally suited to older folks. Most of their time would be spent planning and managing, with power equipment doing all the heavy construction. No wunderkind required.

If we want to, say, explore Mars with a team of ten or so, or set up a colony, that would be the time for the youngsters, IMHO.

Comment: Re:What About Seniors And The Terminally Ill? (Score 1) 402

Then, when they expire, you could strap 'em to the hull for radiation shielding....

Seriously, there are plenty of healthy people - more likely to accomplish the mission objectives and also willing to go.

This isn't John Glenn's joyride on the shuttle, we're talking about actual pioneering - requiring, you know, pioneers....

There most certainly are plenty of healthy people who could go. However, I disagree that younger people could perform better than older people. Okay, the terminally ill would be a poor choice.

In a low (1/6G on the moon, for example), older folks would be just as capable as younger ones to perform low G construction, scientific testing, spaceport management, all kinds of stuff. In fact, many of the jobs necessary in low gravity/free fall would be just fine for those in their late fifties and sixties.

In fact, they would be a wonderful resource for long-term missions to the outer planets as well as helping to engineer space habitats, moon facilities and even martian exploration.

As long as the worker is healthy enough to survive the trip to LEO, they should be perfectly able to perform tasks for which they are trained (how many engineers, scientists and the myriad of other specialties required for space exploration, development and colonization are in that age range? A whole lot). Unless, of course, you think that somehow being older makes you less intellectually capable. The average lifespan of an American is somewhere around 75 years. I ask again, why waste a valuable resource?

What is more, this would obviate many of the evolutionary and ethical issues seen with younger participants.

Comment: What About Seniors And The Terminally Ill? (Score 1) 402

Surely, given the activity level of many seniors, they could take on the really dangerous missions. Same goes for terminally ill people. If they're more concerned with science and discovery than with coming home, we'd all be better off. I'd guess that there are many seniors/terminally ill folks who be willing to take on a dangerous mission with little or no chance of returning. I'm not either of those and I would jump at such a chance. Why should we waste all that human potential?

Just sayin'.

+ - Starting on intermediate maths?

Submitted by hughbar
hughbar (579555) writes "I haven't done any 'real' maths since university about 40 years ago. I wasn't useless, but not that great either, I had to do some elementary quantum mechanics and the kind of arithmetic that an empirical scientist always needs.

I'd like to start on a little more, but every entry in Wikipedia seems to lead to another entry. Can't find the end of this piece of string. Should I specialise? Is there a book or course that covers university entry and first year maths for non-mathematicians [for example, people switching major subject]? Any ideas on this welcome, I'm ready to start but just don't know where to start."

Comment: Re:April Fools stories are gay (Score 1) 1482

by NotSanguine (#46633719) Attached to: OKCupid Warns Off Mozilla Firefox Users Over Gay Rights

Seems to me, OKCupid trying to drive traffic to their site by using this non-story as a hook for folks to see if this is true, potentially creating new customers. Nothing to see here, just another corporation attempting to hitch its wagon to a cause to drive business.

There. FTFY.

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