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Comment: Re:What does it mean to divest? (Score 1) 214

You call it "key", but it's pointless. Profits on the trade of stocks accrue to traders, not the underlying company. Making Exxon's stock price collapse with a "successful" divestment campaign can wreck any number of stock traders, pension boards, and mutual funds, but it does not remove a single cent from Exxon's bottom line.

Comment: Re:What does it mean to divest? (Score 1) 214

What is divestment but a form of boycott?

Boycotts of a company's products work because the operations of a company are making and selling the product, and not buying that product cuts off their income, lowering their profits. Boycotts of a company's stock, on the other hand, have no affect on the company's operations at all, and do not affect either income or profits. The business goes on as normal.

There is _nothing_ that compels an "automatic, equal and opposite transaction"

Um, yes, there is. The fact that until someone buys the stock, you have not actually sold it. This is really, really basic. Otherwise there's no sale. Every single successful sale of stock ever, by definition, is also a successful purchase of stock by the counterparty. Until someone other than Harvard buys the stock from Harvard, Harvard has not yet divested itself. Since the amount the other party paid and the number of shares they receive is identical to the amount Harvard receives and the number of shares Harvard gets rid of, the divestment is automatically coupled to an equal and opposite investment.

selling stock can actually generate a positive feedback loop that causes _more_ stock to be sold.

But it cannot cause more stock to be sold than is bought. Because without a buyer, there is no sale. Transactions have two parties and two sides and both sides are always in balance.

Yes, if lots of people want to sell the stock and few want to buy, that makes the stock price go down, and because lots of stock traders are stock price speculators, that can have a herd effect. So what? The price of stock does not affect the operations or the balance sheet of the business in the slightest.

Stock price only matters to investors who are gambling on share price appreciation. There are a lot of investors like that, but not all. Plenty of people buy stock for the dividends, and your divestment campaign simply makes the stock more attractive to those people. Net, what you do with a divestment campaign is change the owners of the company from people who want the stock price to go up to people who want the company to pay high dividends - and the former care a lot more about bad PR than the latter. Divestment, insofar as it has any effect on a coal company, will make that company less sensitive to social pressure that might affect the stock price and more interested in maximizing operational profit to maximize dividends.

Comment: Re:What does it mean to divest? (Score 1) 214

No, divestment doesn't touch income at all, in the slightest, much less "profoundly". Boycotts and sanctions do, and what hurt South Africa was the boycotts and sanctions. If they were calling for Harvard to boycott energy from fossil fuels, there would actually be an economic point to the petition.

Divestment, on the other hand, does precisely nothing to income. In order to divest, Party B, the divestor, sells Party A's stock to Party C. Party C invests in the stock to the exact same extent that Party B divests. It's an automatic, equal-and-opposite transaction. And Party A doesn't have its operations affected in the slightest.

Comment: Re:What does it mean to divest? (Score 2, Insightful) 214

Which makes me wonder where the "Why is this on Slashdot!?" crowds are.

Now, now. I think it is news that at least 93 members of the Harvard faculty are so ignorant of how the stock market works that they don't notice that any divestment by any party, by necessity, is automatically matched by an equal investment by the counterparties who buy the stock from the divestor.

The problem is the headline, which should read something like, "93 Harvard faculty members admit they're as ignorant of economics as creationists are of biology". Well, and a summary that seems to think it's possible for any divestment campaign to have victories. But, still, the underlying fact 93 Harvard professors are ignorant fools is worth noting.

Comment: Re:Level of public funding ? (Score 5, Interesting) 292

by SEE (#46721187) Attached to: Nat Geo Writer: Science Is Running Out of "Great" Things To Discover

Right now, our current observations combined with general relativity say 96% of the universe is unaccounted-for by anything resembling a solid theory in quantum mechanics. Or, conversely, our current observations combined with quantum mechanics says general relativity is so wrong that it only can be made to work by assuming a mass-energy budget 25 times greater than that of the actual universe. So how can there not be anything huge to discover?

Granted, the stuff might be beyond our ability to discover, but we pretty blatantly don't know what's actually going on.

Comment: Re:You people are so ignorant... (Score 1) 223

by SEE (#46682905) Attached to: Why There Are So Few ISP Start-Ups In the U.S.

This is not because of "regulations" it's because of anti competitive measures like "franchise fees"

So, it's not because of "regulations", just government . . . I guess we'll call them "rules" . . . that require payment of fees in order to be allowed to compete?

If the government, at any level, has the regulatory power to say no to new competitors entering a business, the incumbents in that business will spend money at that level to convince them to say "no" to new competitors. It has happened every single time, with every single industry than any country every has ever allowed its government to regulate what businesses may enter a market. From medieval guilds to Elizabethan patents to taxi medallions to the FCC, it always happens.

And it happens every single time because regulation causes corruption. Public choice economics can no more be repealed by the ignorant but well-meaning than pi can be made to equal exactly 3.

Comment: Re:Nice that they're trying.. (Score 1) 143

by SEE (#46520061) Attached to: Church Committee Members Say New Group Needed To Watch NSA

Oh? Has the NSA defied a direct Presidential order?

If and when Obama, head of the Executive Branch, tells the NSA to stop collecting, and they keep collecting anyway, then we can start talking about how the NSA is only beholden to its own agenda.

In the meantime, there's no reason at all to believe the buck does not stop with the President. This is not "NSA spying" any more than that the war in Iraq was the "Department of Defense's war".

Comment: Re:Beyond oversight? (Score 1) 143

by SEE (#46520039) Attached to: Church Committee Members Say New Group Needed To Watch NSA


It's not like Obama has issued an order for the NSA to stop domestically collecting metadata right now. If he did that and the NSA kept collecting, then there would be an issue about whether the NSA was "by nature beyond oversight".

Rather, what we have here is the NSA doing what the President has told them they can do. Pretending the NSA is a rogue agency is simply letting the person in charge - the President - off the hook.

Comment: Re:Better uses for $50 billion (Score 1) 712

The atmosphere is, on the books, $0 in assets. That doesn't mean you can phase out use of the atmosphere and not wreck the economy. Imagine how much damage the economy would take if you stopped people from using the atmosphere and instead required that they acquire necessary gasses from non-atmospheric sources.

Comment: Re:Makes sense (Score 1) 286

by SEE (#46378305) Attached to: Scottish Independence Campaign Battles Over BBC Weather Forecast

Scotland will still be part of the EU,

No, it won't still be a part of the EU. As a newly-independent state, it does not inherit membership in any limited-membership treaties. Scotland will have to petition for admission to any such it wishes to join, including the EU. It will then, under EU rules, have to get the unanimous consent of all EU members to join the EU.

I know the SNP says otherwise; the SNP is spouting nonsense.

Now, it's highly likely that the EU will be willing to let it in. However, there's no way it'll be let in without satisfying the rest of Europe on entry conditions.

This is why, in fact, there's no major question on what currency Scotland will use at all. It will either use the Euro from day one or use a local currency locked in the ERM II with the auto-glidepath to joining the Euro, because agreeing to do that will be a condition of joining the EU (nobody has any reason to give the Scots a way to take the Swedish dodge).

Scotland will not get any of the Thatcher-negotiated rebate, because none of the members of the EU have any reason to give it any part; the real wrangling will be between UK-EWNI and France on how much of the Scottish-proportional portion the UK keeps and how much is eliminated.

Scotland will at the same time assume a proportional portion of the British debt, because every EU member looking at its own separatist movement and its own debt will want to make the point to their separatists that independence won't mean escape.

Comment: So, is he bragging? (Score 1) 401

by SEE (#46271463) Attached to: US Secretary of State Calls Climate Change 'Weapon of Mass Destruction'

I mean, Kerry's the guy who as Senator led the charge to kill the Integral Fast Reactor back in '94, easily making him one of the 100 people alive in the world today who are personally most responsible for carbon emissions. So, when the fucking asshole talks about the threat of climate change, is he bragging about his role in causing it?

Comment: Re:So... what is it? (Score 2, Insightful) 128

Wayland's an effort to stuff a pointless layer of abstraction underneath X on Linux in order to make performance worse and debugging more difficult.

(Yes, yes, they say it's an effort to replace X. But look at how they're doing the compatibility with X - running a full X server on Wayland in order to run X apps. Then look at how much effort they've put into making Wayland portable to other varieties of *nix.)

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen