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Comment Space exploration takes time (Score 2, Insightful) 162

It's an unfortunate byproduct of our electoral system that most government departments have trouble seeing beyond the 4 year election cycle, because a whole new group of people could be in power by then and completely reverse the direction they've been taking for this time.

This problem is amplified in the United States, it seems. Countries like Canada, Australia, most of the EU don't have this problem; the political parties are often quite similar in terms of their policies, differing usually only in name and a few minor things.

It's hard to think of a solution that might help the US situation, apart from an agreement between the two major parties that, for major undertakings like the mission to Mars, if the other assumes power then it will continue.

Of course, every politician and their dog will want conditions on that; riders, perks, kick-backs, etc. It's hard to see how it could actually work in practice.

Comment I'm not normally one to say things like this... (Score 5, Insightful) 245

But this reads purely as propaganda.

"Putin is Lawful Evil, guys. He wants to control the Internet! He wants to rule over it, and over YOU, and you should hate and fear and oppose whatever he does because that's what's good for America!"

It may be largely true, maybe, that Putin believes that Russia should have domain over the Internet as it exists within Russia's borders, and there's certainly some precedent for that. Even sense. Nation-states exist to further their own interests, and the interests of their citizens.

The USA installs leaders in third world nations all over the globe based on the single, sole criteria of how loyal they are to the USA.

Russia does the exact same thing.

Great Briton did the exact same thing in the past.

The People's Republic of China will do the exact same thing in the future.

It's not news at all that governments seek to control the affairs of their citizens domestically and as much as they can internationally. This is the world of global politics. It's not different simply because it deals with the Internet; that's not to say it's necessarily good, or moral, or even wise, but that's how the game is played.

Comment Re:Am I missing something? (Score 1) 81

I'm getting pretty sick of this too. What happened, Slashdot? We used to be all about the tech, right or wrong. Now it's just "M$ suxx and are evil!!!" in every thread that Microsoft's mentioned.

It's annoying, and even self-defeating for Microsoft haters; it makes it a lot harder to take their serious points, well, seriously. If they're always going to be critical of Microsoft no matter what, and are willing to go total ad hominem when nothing else works, how can an uneducated observer take anything they say seriously?

Comment Re:Slow it down - what's wrong with that? (Score 1) 125

You're right, to an extent, which is why I pointed it out. There IS justification for increasing taxes at a time when the economy is strong, for all the reasons you outlined.

The issue is that the GST (+10% tax on all goods and services, as its name might imply) isn't the fairest way to tax a population. As I mentioned, it's a stealth tax on low income earners, assuming that the other (higher) taxes are removed and the GST put in their place.

Now, I don't think for a moment that'll happen. That promise was made decades ago. Might as well have been made by cavemen with stones, in the political landscape.

But it's worth pointing out.

Comment Great news! (Score 3, Informative) 125

Yes! (in theory)

See, the introduction of the GST was to coincide with the bundling of a bunch of other taxes into one. For some goods, most notably electronics and "luxury items", they actually got cheaper. This was because it's truly a stealth tax on the poor, by taxing commodities like bread and orange juice (which previously would have been taxed at lower rates or even subsidized), and lowering the tax on luxury goods to only 10% (where they would have previously commanded much higher taxes).

So, of course, it's possible that Steam games and Netflix and other such things are about to get a whole lot cheaper. After all, most software is more expensive here; in some cases this is simply because "it's what the market will pay" (read: foreign companies gouging us for our high quality of life), but in some others, it's because of taxes. So in theory, prices could actually drop.

In theory.

It won't actually happen, because our economy is roaring along thanks to the mining boom, and the powers-that-be want to slow it down a bit and rake in some of the dough while the going's good.

Besides. That election promise is so many governments ago nobody gives a fuck anymore, but it's nice to dream. Dream the fevered dream of a madman; that taxes will even once go down, and that Australia might, one day, pay "only" as much +10% of digital products as the US, UK, and other places.

One day...

One day.

Comment As an Australian rights holder, how do I opt-out? (Score 3, Insightful) 78

I'm an Australian author. I recently published my 10th novel. I make my living from selling books, primarily on Google Play, but also Amazon and Apple.

How do I opt out of this scheme? How do I request that even if someone downloads a copy of a book I normally request payment for without doing so, that they face no legal harm from anyone? The article mentions "rights holders" can get in contact with potential "infringers"; how would they notify me? I work from home, is my street address on file somewhere?

I found that when I ask these kinds of questions it leads to conclusions that should embarrass the people trying to implement them. The truth is; invariably, these kinds of schemes do absolutely nothing "for me" as downloads of my books would not even be detected by whatever system they want to put in place, even if I was stomping and shouting and demanding all the evil pirates ceased immediately.

This is, and always is, solely an effort to protect a foreign industry, Hollywood. An industry which gives the common Australian absolutely no consideration at all. Digital downloads are often more expensive here than the US, simply because "that's what the market will pay", which is code for, "Australia's high standard of living means we can gouge the shit out of them". Shows arrive late, miss our holidays, are screened out of order or are incomplete.

Why is this good for Australia and Australians in any way? If nothing else, and setting aside my own personal objections: why are we actively protecting a foreign industry and doing absolutely nothing to protect our domestic productions?

Comment Re:If you dare... (Score 1) 216

Please list examples in Western societies today where there is a power imbalance between the genders. Including ones where women are given preferential treatment.

Well, there are a few places. For example: I write in speculative fiction, especially sci-fi, and it's hard for female sci-fi authors to be taken seriously in that field. The reverse is true in other fields (I write paranormal romance under a female pen-name, because nobody will buy romance written by a man), but that is one example of where men and women are given preferential treatment based on their gender, where I've observed the difference first hand and been affected by it. In this case, based on potential revenue, it's probably better to be a best selling romance author than a sci-fi author, but romance is a heavily crowded market and it's hard to stand out whereas sci-fi is a lot more niche-y.

There's a fair number of other instances, too. For example: women in the military must face challenges that men in the military just don't have to worry about to the same extent. That's not to say that male servicemen aren't sexually assaulted, both by their own side, by allies, and by opposing forces, but it happens to a lesser degree. Female soldiers, sailors and airmen are much more likely to experience violence, sexual violence, and harassment simply because of who they are. However, that said, reporting structures for male victims tend to be a lot thinner on the ground, there's a social stigma against male victims that isn't present for female victims, and because it happens more rarely is less likely to be taken as truthful. Again, it's not a situation where it's always 100% bad to be a woman, but as an overall trend, it's less advantageous.

The role of women and men in our society is a complex, nuanced one where we can't just simply boil things down to a soundbite, where there's no consistent narrative and the only thing that is known for certain is that "problems exist".

Comment Re:If you dare... (Score 5, Interesting) 216

I can't say I disagree, and I have a few opinions about that (some of which are fairly popular and well received, others not so much). Recently I've been trying to understand more about Feminism and it's been a fairly rough learning process which has probably cost me some friends, but I'm still pushing on with it. I see a lot of good there, but I'm also seeing a lot of bad, too.

I think the main problem is... there is no Pope of Feminism, so anyone can adopt that label and claim to represent it. This makes it hard to judge the intentions of that person because while most Feminists are genuinely committed to reaching true equality, some are not, and those happen to be the loudest, most confrontational, most aggressive ones who also tend to be the ones most vocally claiming to represent Feminism.

And some of those people are remarkably bigoted.

As a movement, in general Feminism makes some really excellent points, some of which have caused me to rethink a fair few important parts of my life and my own behaviour -- and that's good. Some self-reflection and introspection is an important part of living a healthy life and I really recommend it for everyone.

The problem is, it just seems like no matter how much we agree, whenever I speak to anyone who describes themselves as a "radical feminist" (the self-described part is important) it inevitably becomes a negative experience for me. This is surprising for me because of how much we agree on.

For example, I acknowledge there is a power imbalance between women and men, favouring men. It's hard for me because, as a man, I can't control how other people act, only myself. So I do my part and treat women equal to men. I have a female gym trainer, female IT head, female editors for my books and I have both female superiors and subordinates in almost all aspects of my life, as well as a large number of female friends. I treat them as I would men in their respective positions -- as cool people to hang out with, as people to follow my instructions or give me instructions respectively, or people who fix the errors in my books. Women are worthy of praise and criticism equally, and when I develop a negative opinion of someone, it's because they're incompetent, or rude, or any other attribute that's not related to their gender.

That just doesn't seem enough for the self-described "radical feminists" I meet. Whenever gender issues come up, we can usually have a great discussion -- up to the point I bring up anything that might be described as favouring men over women, even when women aren't the "cause" of it (such as the male suicide rate being twice that of women, and the suicide rate amongst trans* people twice that again). When this happens, even raising the point immediately puts them on the defensive. Suddenly I'm trying to deny that there's problems for women. Suddenly I'm the 'straight white cis guy with an opinion'; which seems to be the enemy. There's an expectation of bad faith there that means that anything I say that's not overtly stating that women are an oppressed slave-like underclass with no rights is seen as a misogynistic attack.

Ultimately, this kind of behaviour undermines the often good, legitimate points that feminism makes, making it easy to dismiss the whole movement. For feminists (male and female) who don't self-apply the "radical" term, I can almost always have a good, positive, helpful discussion with them about a broad range of issues and I usually come out feeling that there's a genuine move towards acknowledging that life is sometimes shitty for a lot of people irrespective of gender, colour or creed and that we should all work towards fixing the inequalities in our society together, as a species, and that makes me really happy.

Discussions with self-described radical feminists, though, usually end with me getting angry that my (smaller, less critical problems) are dismissed quite casually, and then as the anger fades, unable to shake the nagging feeling that the "quest for equality" is a sham and that instead the people involved with that ideology simply want to be in charge; to be on the giving end of injustices rather than the receiving end.

And I really don't like that feeling.

Fortunately, though, most Feminists I talk to aren't like this; it tends to be the label-wearing, flag flying, dogmatic, ideologically motivated ones where things end poorly. And those are the minority. Reading things like this ( tend to really help bring me up whenever I get into one of these arguments and, despite my best intentions, start thinking ugly thoughts about Feminism and the movement as a whole.

It's a slow process, but no movement or ideology should be free from criticism. It just seems like Feminism is one that takes it extremely poorly.

Comment Re:Like DRM? (Score 1) 448

Do you think that if the Republicans (or any other political party) were in power, this mess would have never happened?

If your answer is an affirmative, unconditional yes, you're probably not thinking rationally. The Republicans started this whole mess after all. The Democrats continued it. Both are bad, neither is blameless. To believe otherwise is to be an unthinking automaton.

I've got a bad feeling about this.