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Comment: Re:Money for Something (Score 1) 660

by Sinterklaas (#29961386) Attached to: Nothing To Fear But Fearlessness Itself?

You are ignoring the facts. Research shows that today, there is very little upward mobility in the US. For instance, if you are born poor, there is only a 1 percent chance you end up in the top 5% of incomes. For those born into wealth, it is a 22 percent chance. You cannot pin that difference on laziness.

Some other facts:
- People who worked long hours were more upwardly mobile in 1990-91 and 1997-98 than households who worked fewer hours. Yet this was not true in 2003-04, suggesting that people who work long hours on a consistent basis no longer appear to be able to generate much upward mobility for their families.
- Over the last decades, an increasing percentage of households had a large short-term reduction in income. It are these set-backs that make it very hard for hardworking poor people to advance.
- The median household was no more upwardly mobile in 2003-04, a year when GDP grew strongly, than it was it was during the recession of 1990-91. This suggests that upward mobility has actually slowed a great deal, since you'd expect far more upward mobility during boom times.
- There is far more upward (and downward) mobility in more socialist countries like Canada and Denmark, than in the US and the UK. This shows that the American Dream is a lie and that more capitalism doesn't necessarily mean that you get a merit-based society.

PS. See http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2006/04/b1579981.html
PS. And also http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A02E5D61238F934A35755C0A9639C8B63

Comment: Re:Money for Something (Score 1) 660

by Sinterklaas (#29950366) Attached to: Nothing To Fear But Fearlessness Itself?

No, he's saying that with the same (or less) effort, privileged people will usually achieve success while non-privileged people won't. At the very least, that means that rich people shouldn't assume that poor/non-rich people are lazy and deserve their fate.

Your post is a great example of this 'you didn't deserve it, while I did'-mentality. You assume that the person you replied to is lazy, even though it is a fact that most people who work two jobs have a low income. In fact, one of the major issues that is keeping poor people down is that they don't have the time to get a better education, because they spend most of it working + taking care of their family.

Comment: Re:Weird, yes. Naturally, no. (Score 1) 579

by Sinterklaas (#29820285) Attached to: Are Software Developers Naturally Weird?

Actually, there are many different variants of autism, which is why the term 'autism spectrum' is often used. Some variants do not have mental retardation as a symptom and the people who have those variants may be quite productive, within the confines of their abilities. In some cases, they may be more productive than 'normal' people. For example, tasks that are fairly repetitive, but require intense focus on details are much better suited to autists, who will not grow bored unlike 'normal' people.

Autism is diagnosed based on symptoms, not by testing for the causes (since they are unknown). One of the primary criteria for diagnosing someone as autistic is whether or not their symptoms are severe enough to affect their life (actually, that is the primary diagnotic criterium in all of medicine). That doesn't mean that people who do not meet the diagnostic criteria are not autistic. Frankly, we cannot tell, because we cannot test for the causes, so we do not know how many people have very mild autism that is not diagnosed. Personally I believe that autism is an (partial) lack of of certain abilities that all humans possess, sometimes combined with an excess in other abilities. For instance, we all have a limited ability for empathy. Most people can enjoy doing repetitive things for a while (video games!). When you take these to extremes, we call them symptoms of autism. In mild cases, we call them personality traits. So I feel that it is perfectly acceptable for people to identify themselves as mild autists when they have mild symptoms.

We know that there are many more diagnosed cases of autism in Silicon Valley than in other areas, so it appears that there is a correlation between the ability and/or choice to program and autism. One of the most common complaints about programmers is their inability to conform. In the anecdotes, the programmer usually hasn't got a clue that his behavior is unwanted, despite non-verbal hints. This matches up well with the lack of demonstrated empathy and inability to pick up on certain types of nuanced communication that is typical of autism. There is a very important rule that can prevent lots of pain and suffering when dealing with (mildly) autistic people, which is to be explicit. Tell the autistic person in simple direct messages what he needs to do. That will help him greatly to conform and to foster relationships. Unfortunately, as children we learn that it is rude to communicate this way. Supposedly, we should not embarrass people by telling them to shower more often. Instead, we should gossip about it and ostracize them. I prefer that mild autists understand their personality traits and mentor people on how they should be treated, so they can foster good relationships. If that requires people to self-diagnose themselves as autists, when the medical community doesn't agree, that's fine with me.

PS. I'm not saying that geeks do not have affectations, nor claiming that all geeks are so autistic that they cannot help but misbehave (most are not). However, the geeks that people complain about usually seem to be autistic.
PS2. Be seeing you.

Comment: Re:Yeah! We're number one! (Score 1) 827

by Sinterklaas (#29146661) Attached to: US Cell Phone Plans Among World's Most Expensive

Maybe not, but my representative is much more accessible than the state senator or the US president. I can walk up to the guy (when he's home) and speak to him. He answers my letters at least somewhat thoughtfully. He's up for election every 2 years, so he's more afraid of local activism.

I understand the desire to hold a 'local' person accountable, but I think that you overvalue it greatly. If you manage to convert your representative to your cause, it is only one vote of 435, so he would have to convert many of his colleagues. I don't see that happening unless many of their constituents are also converted to your standpoint. So if you want to change something on the national level, local activism in one region is not sufficient. You need to convince people nationally. I don't see how that is much harder for the slightly more distant House of Reps that I propose (remember that you have 4 reps per state). If you can't even convince one of your reps to champion your cause, then what chance does your cause have in national politics?

The regional representation that you currently use for both Senate and the House means that it is very difficult for unclustered minority opinions to get any traction. This is far easier in a party system where even a 5% minority is heard and whose voting power can be significant. The way I see it, there is no real conflict between the Senate and Congress in the current system, which results in a lack of checks and balances. For instance, they both want as much pork as possible for their region and feel no responsibility to the overall budget. It is far easier to get non-regional politicians to commit to getting rid of pork.

I'm also not quite comfortable with your system since it further removes the significance of the separate states... I am a big proponent of returning more power to the states rather than marginalizing them further.

Currently both the Senate and the House of Reps do two things:
1. Consider issues based on their ideology
2. Wonder about the effect on their state & the limits of federal power

In practice, they implement 2 mostly by trying to get pork for their state. They pretty much ignore state rights and constitutional limits. During elections, Americans mostly vote based on ideology, so the politicians get away with it. My system would seperate these two responsibilities. The new Senate would be ideological and Americans vote for parties based on their opinion about abortion/gun rights/taxes/etc. The House of Reps would focus on the limits of federal power and the consequences to the states. Hopefully, Americans would understand the seperation and would vote for representatives that reflect their opinion on state rights and state issues, rather than ideology. If so, the power of the states could be greatly strenghtened.

I share his concerns, but saying that the media needs to be a watchdog over government and then funding it with the same government seems counterproductive.

Science research is funded by the government, but politicians do not determine what research is done by scientists. The supreme court is funded by the government, but politicians have no say in the rulings. Similarly, you could have a focused media organisation that is 100% aimed at researching and disseminating facts (the spin is for the networks). The leadership could be put in the hands of a small group selected by American newspapers.

It seems that some very clever Iraqis managed to hoodwink most of the US government, and the media. I'd like to fault the Times, but it's very hard to imagine how they would get high-quality information out of Iraq, which had no freedom of press to speak of.

I disagree with that, just as the Times did later on. Fact is that at the time, there was absolutely no solid evidence that Iraq still had WMDs. Good journalism (and good intelligence gathering) is about verification and there was nothing to back up the wild claims made by Curveball (the primary 'intelligence' source). Analysts both domestic and abroad could not verify his claims. Weapons inspectors got tips from US intelligence, but did not find the weapons where they should have been according to the sources. Journalists should have reported on this, that is their job.

On the one hand, they have American "intelligence" saying that there were WMDs and on the other side a dictator halfheartedly denying it, yet not allowing any inspections. It's only clear-cut in hindsight.

Saddam didn't halfheartedly deny it, that is a lie. It is also a lie that Saddam didn't allow any inspections. They only left Iraq shortly before the war. Just before the war, the leader of the inspection team said:

In my 27 January update to the Council, I said that it seemed from our experience that Iraq had decided in principle to provide cooperation on process, most importantly prompt access to all sites and assistance to UNMOVIC in the establishment of the necessary infrastructure. This impression remains, and we note that access to sites has so far been without problems, including those that had never been declared or inspected, as well as to Presidential sites and private residences.

Both of these facts were know before the war. In nearly all countries, a majority of the population was against the invasion. The US was the exception. Your people didn't have any better or worse information than the rest of us, you were lied to by your government and the media. Unfortunately I don't think you have changed. It can happen again tomorrow, with horrible results.

my point is that it is impossible to say "Americans feel..."

I know. I was talking about the average American vs the average European, not about individuals (or large groups in certain regions). It's not about absolutes, but there are some major differences, like these:
- Americans tend to think more black/white.
- Americans like winners and dislike losers (although they love it when a loser becomes a winner).
- Americans want to decide what they spend their money on, instead being 'forced' through taxes.

IMO, these differences are very clear in American politics, in the opinions of Americans I talk to, etc. These differences have good and bad effects. Some of the differences make me like the US and some make me dislike it.

Exactly. I'd argue that the less federated you are, the lower the turnout will be because the federal government has a lot less to do with the day-to-day activities of the citizenry. ... but that you need to also look at how excited people will be to vote for a representatives to detached mystery city potentially thousands of miles away. This is why I'd hate to give up much more state power to the feds.

While that is true, I feel that the human race is at a threshold. The population has grown so big and we are abusing the resources of the earth to such an extent, that it is unsustainable and may result in major blowback (if we destabilize the eco system too much, for instance). Local politics can never rise above the prisoners dilemma that has us pumping out enormous amounts of greenhouse gases, emptying out our oceans and wasting our water supplies, all because our competitors might profit if we take on these challenges and they don't. Furthermore, the global capitalism that 'we' advocate means that irresponsible behaviour by some countries (US, UK, Spain, Iceland), can result in a global crash. So we need global rules to prevent this.

Comment: Re:Yeah! We're number one! (Score 1) 827

by Sinterklaas (#29117509) Attached to: US Cell Phone Plans Among World's Most Expensive

This is an extremely tall order. I'm not sure how you could "force" the US system to become multi-party. I'd try a few thing... Get rid of "gerrymandering" completely. Congressional districts should be decided based on a simple algorithm with an emphasis on straight lines. This MIGHT encourage third-parties, since gerrymandered districts are set up to purposely be extremely Republican or Democrat. I'm not sure what else you can do without an amendment...

I'm not saying that you can change it by making one small tweak. That was my point actually, until now, all amendments were small tweaks, instead of the big change that is necessary. In the current system, gerrymandering is inevitable because each member of the House of Representatives has to represent just 700k people (on average), but with party politics, the parties simply want to win as many of these small districts as possible so they can implement their national agenda. So they tune the districts to get the required numbers. There is not much consideration of the different needs of different districts, so the House of Representatives doesn't really serve a purpose. So I would do away with it completely. The current Senate would become the new House of Representatives, but with one major change: 4 representatives per state. The new Senate would be fully party based, with national elections (instead of state elections). Then the president would have to find 50+% support in the Senate by getting support from several parties.

Advantages of this system:
- Voting for a minority party for the Senate elections isn't useless (and to a lesser extent, the same goes for the House of Representatives)
- Minorities that are not geographically clustered can still get representation
- Influence in the new Senate is proportional with the number of votes, so minority parties actually have power
- A very clear mandate for both houses: the Senate makes laws with support of 50+% of americans, while the House of Representatives makes sure that small states are not 'shouted down' by big states
- Democrats and Republicans will have to work together. This will inevitably lead to more respectful and useful politics, instead of both parties shouting loudly and trying to increase the differences between them, instead of compromising.
- 3+ parties will completely disrupt the binary mindset in the media. They might even get so confused that they start doing journalism again.
- 4 representatives per state in the new House of Representatives means that the states have to change their voting system, hopefully to a system that gives third parties a chance. It also strongly reduces the incentive for pork. Currently, you can win the vote for a state by bribing one senator with pork. In the new system, there are four times as many people to bribe, which makes it a less feasible.

- Media reform (instead of dismissing lies they like to discuss the 'controversy')

Certainly it would help to undo some of the stuff Bush did regarding ownership limits, but I'm not sure how much you can do here. After all, the worst offenders are the cable networks, and it is tough to justify regulating a private network like cable.

I'm not sure either, but I think something drastic has to happen. Perhaps Dan Rather can come up with something:

http://www.aspendailynews.com/section/home/135834

I pretty much agree with your criticisms of our media (TV anyway). But I had to laugh that you quoted an American TV show to support your argument. :)

Newspapers can be just as bad. Even the NYT is infected. They let themselves be fooled by the WMD lies about Iraq for instance. Anyway, I'm not saying that it is hopeless and there are no sane people left in the media. They are just few and far between.

True, but Americans are pretty pro-corporate in general. Microsoft even got off mostly scott-free, despite being an obvious abusive monopoly. Other than on Slashdot, there is no outrage at all. A German friend of mine once explained that it took him a while to get used to the American mindset, and he boiled it down to: In America, the corporation exists to make money. In Europe, the corporation exists to make jobs. I think this is true, but I've spent very little time in Europe.

For most people in Europe, a corporation exists to serve society. Beyond jobs, that means that they are expected to behave ethically. For instance, we also feel that corporations should try to be environmentally friendly, shouldn't reward their management for failure (golden parachutes), shouldn't abuse a monopoly, shouldn't discriminate against minorities, etc. As far as I can tell, Americans simply feel less strongly about these issues. On the other hand, I can give many examples where the US media considered an opinion to be anathema, while polling showed that a large portion of the population actually held that opinion. So I wouldn't necessarily conclude that Americans don't care, just because the media don't tell you that they do.

Also, there's nothing inherently two-party about our legislature - it would still work with coalitions, but they would have to deal with the pluralistic executive's ability to veto. Selecting the executive with a preference-based voting might help this.

There are no mandatory coalitions in any of the countries that currently have coalition governments either. The politicians simply desire them. Changing the voting system for congress to realistically support more than 2 major parties would automatically result in coalitions.

Errr, yeah, I kinda forgot about the "war on drugs". Nothing about that makes any sense at all and I won't even try to defend it.

I wasn't arguing about the war on drugs. I was arguing about the ease with which the constitution is ignored when the written words don't match the desires of a large (Washington) majority. It turns your constitution into a joke (not that my constitution is any better, but I'm not pretending that it is, like most Americans seem to do).

If there was an "EU" vote, what do you think the turnout would be? Americans feel very detached from the federal government. Don't get me wrong, I think you are right that many people feel disenfranchised, and I do think switching wholesale to a European-type system would improve matters in that regard - but the federal elections will never draw the number of voters that the Europeans see.

There was an EU vote in 2009 (EU parliament). The average turnout was a mere 43%. I don't think that it is comparable to the national US elections though, because:
- The EU is much more of a federation than the US. The individual EU states have a huge amount of power, while the EU parliament has far less power then the US Congress.
- We don't actually get to vote for European parties. We vote for national parties that send representatives to parliament, who then cluster into European parties that can have drastically different policies than the national party that we voted for.
- There is very little media reporting on the EU parliament (as a European, I know more about decisions made by the US congress than those made by EU parliament). Even if I find out that they did something that I like or dislike, it is very hard to figure out which parties voted for/against it.
- The EU political system is very young and nobody is happy with it. The only disagreement is with how it should be changed.
- There is a new EU constitution on the way which is a major change.

Again, my criticism of the US is not that the system sucks, it's that there is no serious effort to change it.

Comment: Re:Republicans (Score 1) 353

by Sinterklaas (#29116359) Attached to: Comcast Finally Files Suit Against FCC Over Traffic Shaping

And this, my friends, is what inevitably occurs when a business with such huge startup costs tries to compete in a fixed-size market. There is truly no way to prevent this except to take the startup costs out of the picture, either by the government giving a colossal grant to the cable company to cover its infrastructure costs or by the government building the infrastructure to begin with and leasing it out to multiple competitors.

The only way telecom competition can work is if the infrastructure provider and the data provider are not the same company---if the infrastructure provider leases access to the data provider on a nondiscriminatory basis.

An alternative is to force the companies to lease their lines at a modest cost (where the price is set by a government agency). This has worked very well in some EU countries, where they wanted to convert government utilities to a free market.

Comment: Re:Yeah! We're number one! (Score 1) 827

by Sinterklaas (#29052659) Attached to: US Cell Phone Plans Among World's Most Expensive

I'm sorry, what was your point again? That there is corruption in the US? I didn't disagree. However, it is quite low when compared to the world...

I might have high standards. I consider Italy to be awfully corrupt and France to be fairly bad. If you compare the US with really shitty countries like Nigeria or Russia, it comes out fine. But then again, are those the countries that you want to compare yourself with?

Your examples are interesting because they demonstrate how corruption is actually dealt with, as opposed to tolerated.

True, but only because Abramoff went too far in his corruption. It is clear that he was at the center of US politics and many other lobbyists were doing the same things, in a slightly more modest fashion. I don't see any indication that most politicians want to deal with it. They just want to prevent excesses that will become public and will result in outrage.

That may be, but a bribe that is a promise is:
(a) A pretty bad bribe... who says the promise keeper will keep their word? They've already demonstrated moral corruption by bribing you.
(b) Almost impossible to detect or fight unless the parties are exceedingly stupid.

Not at all, a gentlemens agreement that is enforced by a group is extremely effective. What happens if a big company doesn't do this? They will quickly lose influence in DC, since the other politicians will stop listening to them. So they are forced to do it. It is very easy to detect as well, just look at the CV and donations list of a politician who becomes a lobbyist. A law could be made that disallows politicians from becoming lobbyists for the companies that they had contacts with while in office.

This is a very tough problem to solve... who gets to decide what can go on TV? The government? Won't they abuse this power to curtail legitimate criticism? Who decides what is "legitimate"?

You are right. But there are several solutions that can help:
- Spread the power around by changing your system to be multi-party (it's harder to win with a negative PAC campaign when you have to discredit 5 opponents instead of 1)
- Media reform (instead of dismissing lies they like to discuss the 'controversy')
- Better defamation laws so lies can be countered effectively

Examples? Does this "independent media" have anywhere near the viewership of the US networks? In the US, the networks are pathetic... they simply go after a demographic, and their idea of "balance" is putting a useless right winger up against a useless left winger. US newspapers tend to be better though... at least until they all disappear.

UK, Germany, France, Holland and the Scandinavian countries all have way better media than the US. The problem with the US media is not that they go after a demographic. In fact, as long as the main biases are accounted for I like that far better than media that pretend to be impartial. The real problem is firstly that they have too much time to fill and want to fill it as cheaply as possible. So what do you get: sponsored and dumbass opinions, 'controversies', reading twitter messages and emails out loud on air, etc. What is rare: expert opinions, critical interviews, investigations and other forms of real journalism. The second problem is cultural. The media consider what happens in Washington DC to be normal. There is almost no criticism directed at the system. They only see fault in individuals (and those are always exceptions). Here is a nice quote:

BILL MOYERS: I think you wrote that "The media stars in Washington almost never understand that there's anything wrong with the establishment of which they're a part."

GLENN GREENWALD: That's right. I mean, if you were to say to normal Americans, and it's the reason why these issues resonated, and why Barack Obama made them a centerpiece of his campaign, that members of Congress leave office and make millions of dollars doing nothing other than essentially peddling influence to wealthy individuals who can have their way with Congress.

Most people consider that to be corruption. That's what Barack Obama called it when he ran. Yet, to members of the media, who have spent their lives in Washington, who are friends and colleagues of the people who are engorging themselves on this corrupt system that is just the way of life. It's like breathing air or drinking water. It's not anything that's noteworthy, let alone controversial.

Glen Greenwald is one of the few good journalists around today. Not surprisingly, he lives outside of the US, to keep himself from being infected. Without any staff and by doing research by phone and through the internet, he has publicised some major scandals over the years. Unsurprisingly, many of those involved unethical behavior by the media.

Most PEOPLE here favor big business. Just look at the success of Wal-Mart and other big box stores. People would much rather buy cheap shit from a giant company then support a local merchant. Our politicians reflect the populace in this case.

There is a big difference between buying from big business and letting them make the rules. Big business has gained market-share in Europe as well in the past decades, but in most West European countries their influence in politics is far less than in the US. There is actual pro-competition regulation for example, both for Europe as a whole (see the efforts by the European Commissioner for Competition) and in individual countries. I can point out many other differences between US laws that favor big business versus European laws that favor the consumer (privacy laws for instance, companies can't sell my personal info).

I have no problem with big business as long as they are kept on a tight leash (through strong regulation).

Democracy can be just as horrid as any other system if you happen to be a minority. A good system tries to balance a ruling elite with the wishes of the people.

My definition of democracy goes beyond 50% + 1 and includes the rights of every citizen (minorities, non-voting citizens, etc). Then again, I live in a country of coalition governments, instead of a winner takes all system. Support from a minority party can be crucial get into power, so there is a strong self-interest to listen to the minority, at least for the issues they care most about.

Hate to break it to you, but most people are ignorant, and almost as many are dumbasses. This is one of the other reasons that pure democracy is a nice ideal but a bad idea in practice. This is why I have no problem with money being thrown at education.

hear, hear!

They are the ones who tried to create a single/no party system. It wound up accommodating two. To be fair, it creates more stability than coalition governments have. It's also very interesting having a legislature - pretty sure most other (all other?) democratic countries have the legislation written by the executive. This of course exasperates the lobbyist problem in the US.

Stability is overrated. If the citizens of a country cannot agree on major issues, so a strong coalition government cannot be formed, why should there be a strong government that changes laws without sufficient support? Leave the existing laws alone then. A weak government can then manage the daily affairs until there is consensus. BTW, in my country the House of Representatives has the right to propose laws, although it only happens a few times a year (and not for pork).

Yet Americans keep pretending that their constition is perfect,

How can you say that when it has been changed dozens of times over the years?

I might have exaggerated a little by using the word perfect. But if you look at the list of amendments for the previous century, most are either fixes that do not actually change the system (women's suffrage, federal income tax, two term limit for the president) or really minor alterations (20th, 23th, 24th, 25th, 27th). I see none that try to fix the two party system. For instance, in many countries, the presidential elections are two-tiered, with the two highest scoring candidates going to the decisive election. That would be a small step to do away with the a-constitutional primaries and would give third parties a much better chance. However, if you really want to earn my respect, you could go for approval voting, which only requires one election and would give even better chances to third parties (while still being extremely simple: vote for everyone you would want as president). Of course, the same can be used for congressional elections, so this can be introduced on a state level first.

Example? While it's not exactly rare to see the legislative and executive branches taking liberties, I haven't seen the Supreme Court "interpret" the constitution in a blatantly incorrect way in a very long time.

The government can only regulate interstate commerce, which should not include medical marijuana sold to state residents by stops in the state. The Supreme Court decided in 2005 that Congress may regulate a non-economic good, which is intrastate, if it does so as part of a complete scheme of legislation designed to regulate Interstate Commerce. I don't see how this interpretation is reflected in the constitution. It's a clear case of: 'we don't like this part of the constitution, but a large majority in Washington agrees and we don't want to allow for the sale of medical marijuana while an amendment is being processed'.

I think you'll find that about 2/3 of Americans vote straight down the party line. Every once in a while we get a decent alternative party (Ross Perot), and it attracts a good portion of the remainder. More people like their GOP and Democrats than you seem to think.

How can you say that when almost 50% of Americans don't vote at all and of the remainder, many are unhappy with the limited choices they have and feel forced to vote 'against' rather than 'for'. To me, it seems that many people are disenfranchised, but do not see how they can change the system. I think you'd be surprised what Americans would vote for if third parties had a chance and the media would do their work. Polls often show that the American people are way more sane than their politicians.

Comment: Re:Yeah! We're number one! (Score 1) 827

by Sinterklaas (#29045633) Attached to: US Cell Phone Plans Among World's Most Expensive

I'm not sure what you are referring to. The amount that a lobbyist can give to a member of congress for their campaign is laughably small - in line with what an individual can give. In any event, it's not corruption if it is all out in the open and legal. You can see who a politician takes money from and vote accordingly.

Bob Ney, Michael Scanlon, Neil Volz, Mark Zachares, Italia Federici, Robert E. Coughlin, Ann Copland and John Albaugh have all pled guilty to taking money or gifts from Abramoff while they were in politics. Tom DeLay was involved in the scandal too and received gifts from Abramoff. There is a money trail going from Abramoff to a lobbying firm (ASG), to Christine DeLay (about $300,000 in total). Tom DeLay was majority whip of course, so this happened at the center of US politics.

Furthermore, there are scores of politicians who worked very closely with lobbyists and later were given higly paid jobs by the companies that sent the lobbyists. That is also a form of payment, IMO. Then there are donations to PACs, which can be spent on attack ads and such. Most politicians are pretty lazy, so they will often rely on a few lobbyists to tell them what to think. Then you buy legislation by buying the lobbyists that advise the politicians. That situation is just as bad for democracy as bribing the politicians directly, but it is completely legal.

Someone is going to always control the media, be it a multinational conglomerate, a rich guy, a government, or some combination.

That is just ignorance. There are civilized countries that have independent media that is not beholden to a small elite. Unfortunately, the mainstream media in the US is completely corrupt, since the majority of the US citizens do not seem to care and most politicians favor big business (no wonder, since those are the people who steer their votes).

The guy working two jobs or kneeling in the rice paddy is never going to have a big voice.

My point is that he could have much more influence, if the US political system was more democratic. Unfortunately, you seem to accept your broken system and don't actually care about democracy. Land of the brave? Land of the slaves is more like it.

It's a bit more complicated than that. IMHO, you are right that Americans feel like their vote is wasted, but not because of corruption. It's simply that the federal government is not that big of an issue in most people's lives.

Health care is not a big issue for Americans? Or the enormous national debt that will have to be paid back one day? What about the lack of banking regulations that costs you billions in Chinese debt while the bonusses keep getting paid? Iraq & Afghanistan?

If the American people feel that there are no major national issues that the federal government should address, they are dumbasses. Being disenfranchised is an decent reason not to vote. The national government not being important is not.

I know it sounds lame, but I even know people who won't vote so that they don't get stuck in the jury pool.

You are right, it sounds incredibly lame. Giving up your vote, so you won't have to do your duty to make sure that justice is served = Double-plus unpatriotic.

Also, our de-facto two-party system alienates a lot of people (myself included). I actually take the effort of voting for other parties, but few other people bother. Even I hesitate, as our "third parties" tend to be wackos.

So where is the party that wants to change the system? You could at least make an effort. Other countries do it. Your founding fathers told you to keep improving upon their work. Yet Americans keep pretending that their constition is perfect, while both parties and the supreme court 'interpret' the constitution to mean something completely different from what it clearly says and very few people actually want a two-party system.

Comment: Re:Yeah! We're number one! (Score 1) 827

by Sinterklaas (#29034969) Attached to: US Cell Phone Plans Among World's Most Expensive

The alternative is the "Silvio Berlusconi" model, where only the super-rich can afford to run. Limits to contributions and the wide-open nature of US campaign finance limits the corruption. The hardest part is the "soft money", which is constantly an issue here.

The majority of electoral democracies have government subsidies to pay for (some of) the campaign expenses and other costs. Combine that with a multi-party system, where power is spread among many political parties and it is far less likely for political parties to become dependent on donors. Italy is Western Europe's black sheep, so it's not fair to look at that country as the only alternative.

Rich people, in general, have more of everything than someone with a median income. Those are the breaks. Even in colonial days, a rich person could print up more pamphlets than a poor person. I suggest accepting this fact and working around it rather than fighting it.

There is a big difference between influencing voters by paying for ads and giving money to politicians in return for favorable legislation. In the US both seem to be called free speech, while in the rest of the world, the latter is called corruption.

Ultimately, the idea behind democracy is that everyone has an equal vote. A rich man's opinion as expressed through the ballot box is not worth more than the a poor man's opinion. Obviously that ideal is unreachable, but it should still be mostly true. If not, the government cannot be considered democratic and is illegitimate. The US is doing very badly in this respect, IMO, clearly evidenced by the small turnout, since many Americans feel that their vote is worthless (about half).

Comment: Re:What do you bet... (Score 1) 509

by Sinterklaas (#28983867) Attached to: Feds At DefCon Alarmed After RFIDs Scanned

Having a gun makes no difference in those situations.

But it is much harder to kill someone with a club, knife or your bare hands than with a gun. In fact, that is a very common argument among gun-lovers: miss beanstalk can only defend herself from mister bodybuilder rapist if she has a gun. I can run away from someone with a contact weapon, strike at the weapon, take it away, etc. That is much harder when the opponent has a gun.

If you're so pissed off that you're going to kill someone, you're going to find a way to do it

Not if the anger subsides, the person becomes semi-rational again, the victim manages to escape/counterattack, someone helps the victim, etc. These are all more likely when the attacker does not have a gun.

There are many examples of people who survived an attack by someone who was determined to badly hurt them. You have to be pretty determined to kill someone with your bare hands. Most attackers give up when the victim is clearly beaten, but he is still alive. Similarly, knife attacks typically end after a few stabs. There is a good chance that you'll survive. A gun is much more effective.

If I'm a big guy and I figure that I could throttle you pretty easily, but I know that you carry a gun, that may dissuade me from assaulting you.

Not if you were carrying a gun. Then you only need to make sure that you pull out your gun first. If you were prone to getting into fights with people who might carry a gun, that would be a very good reason to carry a gun yourself (where there is a good chance that they would limit themselves to a knife in places where gun ownership is restricted).

Comment: Re:1-dimensional America misses point. (Score 1) 881

by Sinterklaas (#28971057) Attached to: Murdoch Says, "We'll Charge For All Our Sites"

Also Politics is two dimensional: Socialist (left), Capitalist (right) Authoritarian (up) and Liberal (down).

There are more dimensions than that, such as:
- Environmentalism vs Cornucopia
- Fiscal conservative vs Big spender
- Multi-cultural vs Single-cultural
- Populism vs Elitism
- Small government vs Big government
- Egalitarian vs Social hierarchy
- Pacifism vs Warmongering
- Isolationism vs Globalism

While certain combinations are much more likely, pretty much any combination is possible. For instance, there are capitalist environmentalists, socialists that are against a multi-cultural society, liberals who are elitist since they want strong limits on democracy (like a powerful constitution) to prevent authoritarians from making laws they don't like, people who want small government and big spending/tax cuts, etc.

Unfortunately, due to the archaic political system in the US, there are only two viable political parties and most combinations do not have a corresponding political party. The result is that many Americans are not even aware that there are more possibilities than those reflected by the Democratic and Republican party.

Comment: Re:Let it die. (Score 1) 554

by Sinterklaas (#28954795) Attached to: The Music Industry's Crisis Writ Large

See, you just can't help but beat that dead horse, can you? Did I claim that the Republicans were any better?

Yes, when you said this: "I was specifically referring to was the spend spend spend attitude that is personified by the Democratic Party in the United States." This sentence only makes sense if you think the Republicans are better. If you think that both parties are bad, then say so. Don't whine when people judge you on the words you write instead of reading your mind (and I'm not the only one who read your words this way, so it's not me who is the problem).

Did I even claim to be a Republican or to sympathize with them on any particular issue? Why are you so bound and determined to change the topic of conversation to the party that isn't in power right now?

They have been out of power for a very short time, after 8 years of making policy. Obama has put Reps in his cabinet, so they share part of the responsibility. They are still a factor in congress (with the democrats having a very slim filibuster-proof majority). You can't just ignore them, especially since your criticisms of the Democrats might drive people to the Republicans, which won't solve anything.

Does it bother you when someone points out that the Democrats picking right up where GWB left off and driving our financial bus over the cliff?

Yes, because it is unfair. You cannot turn a supertanker on a dime. During a recession, the first priority for the government is to appear reliable and stable. You cannot simply change fiscal policy drastically, without risking major panic. Also, it diverts attention away from the bipartisan corruption and foolishness.

That only happened because he had a GOP Congress to contend with. I think I'd like Obama a lot more if the GOP had control of Congress. Divided Government seems to be the only thing that keeps spending in Washington under control.

Obama reached out to the GOP. Did they demand less spending? No. They wanted lowered taxes (a very ineffective way to combat a crisis, since many people will put the money in the bank). The consensus in Washington is that there needs to be spending to fight the recession (as has always been the case during a recession, since politicians started believing in Keynes after the Great Depression).

Bullshit. The vast majority of Obama's spending is not stimulative in any sense of the word. The "stimulus plan" was a bill loaded up with every bit of pork that the Democrats have been saving up over the years. With few exceptions (cash for clunkers being the one everybody is talking about today) most of his spending has zero to do with the economic recovery that is now under way. Hell most of the money hasn't even been spent yet. And now they are making rumblings about needing a second "stimulus"! Gotta love it.

No, it's not. A lot of money goes to tax cuts and the states, which are not pork. The rest of the bill does have some pork, but by Washington standards, it is very little. You are just parroting right-wing talking points. And of course the money cannot be spend immediately. It always takes time to start up projects, especially if the money is not earmarked.

Imagine that -- limiting my "world-view" to America during a discussion about American politics. Go figure!

But the discussion wasn't about American politics. It was about liberalism until your post where you started talking about the Democrats and the Republicans.

When those people are running for a seat in the US Congress then I'll care about the political platform they stand for. Until then it's just more redirection by someone who is unwilling to have a candid discussion about the US Democratic Party and American liberalism.

Why would I let you hijack this thread and reduce it to a myopic talk about US politics? There are plenty of non-Americans on this site and many articles that are about foreign or global topics (like this article). IMHO, a major weakness of many Americans is that they have very little global awareness. As a result, you get these crazy ideas floating around:
- There are only 2/3 normal political options: Dems, Reps (and on Slashdot: Libertarian). Everything else is extremism.
- What the Dems do is liberal/socialist
- The Dems are objectively left-wing
- What the Reps do is conservative (or even libertarian)
- The government can never do anything right, so politicians cannot be blamed for f**king anything up
- A (semi-)socialized health care system will be more expensive and will provide far worse care than the current system, which ranks poorly on both counts when compared to nearly every other health care system from civilized countries.
- Empire-building is normal, everyone who disagrees is an extremist who hates America
- Etc.

What stereotypes? We've passed a nearly trillion dollar "stimulus" that was anything but, we are going to fund health care "reform" on the backs of the rich instead of the shared sacrifice that Obama talked about during the campaign, we've passed a cap and trade system that gave away the majority of the permits to political/industrial interests and we've twisted the bankruptcy code to reward a political base (the UAW) that should have been behind the bondholders in line according to the letter of the law. I'm not stereotyping -- I'm just going off what the Democrats are doing now that they are actually in power.

Your comments on the stimulus are just nonsense, as I've said before. The health care reform is clearly needed and you cannot blame the Democrats for the disinformation campaign that tries to make good reforms impossible. The rich will have to pay roughly the same tax percentages as under Reagan, after having had way more tax cuts than poorer Americans for the last few decades, so I don't think they can rightly complain. The cap and trade giveaway is similar to what happened in Europe, nothing outrageous. The GM bailout is standard operation procedure in DC, that both Dems and Reps support. Nearly all politicians quickly turn into socialists when jobs in their constituency are threatened.

All in all, the Democrats seem to be moderately right-wing for the most part. Of course, the GOP and their cronies are shouting socialism for everything that the Democrats do, even though the Democrats are doing nothing outrageous by US standards. That you seem to think that the Democrats are now implementing some socialist masterplan tells me that you've drunk the kool-aid and are caught up in the stereotypes.

*shrug*, many people care passionately about those issues.

Irrelevant. My point is that there is very little actual change on these issues, so they are very poor reasons to vote for a certain party.

Define "long time", because it was just a few years ago that the assault weapons ban was passed. It was just a few months ago that carry in national parks was passed. A few years ago the partial birth abortion ban was passed. Both of those issues are alive and well, for better or worse.

1994 is a long time ago. The AUW law expired in 2004 and all attempts to extend it have failed. Obama has said that he will not try to get it reinstated. The 'carry in national parks' rule has been stopped by a judge for now and a final judgment still has to be made. However, it seems like small potatoes to me. The partial birth abortion ban has been easily circumvented by doctors by injected the fetus will lethal drugs before the abortion is performed. It changed nothing substantial.

They don't have to talk about those "real" issues because they've engineered the electoral system in such a way that the real election happens during the primary when the most partisan part of the electorate can dominate. Most Congress-critters have gerrymandered districts and know that short of an underage sex scandal they are going to win re-election. So they focus on the rich donors, primary electorate and special interests while the rest of us get the shaft.

That was my point! The partisanship that you demonstrated by attacking the Democrats is what helps to keep this alive, since it diverts attention away from the broken system and pretends that this is just a game where 'your side' has to win.

Comment: Re:Let it die. (Score 1) 554

by Sinterklaas (#28941401) Attached to: The Music Industry's Crisis Writ Large

I'm pretty sure I addressed this, but thanks for the redirection. Apparently the fact that the GOP sucks is all the justification that the Democrats need to suck as well.

It's not redirection. You claimed that liberalism = Democrats = spend spend spend. But Bush Jr, Bush Sr and Reagan were big spenders. The most fiscally conservative president of the last few decades was Clinton. Arguably, Obama has had little choice but to continue spending to get out of the recession. Most fiscal conservatives are fine with running deficits in bad times, as long as there is a (larger) surplus in the good years. Obama could easily turn out to be a fiscal conservative, by cutting spending and raising taxes when the recession is over.

In short, your anger at the Democrats for being big spenders is not based on facts, since the GOP is way worse in that respect. Your anger at liberals is even more of a mystery, since your world-view seems to be limited to the US. Liberals exist all over the world and some are extremely fiscally conservative, while many conservatives want to spend like crazy. Break out of the stereotypes. They are what allows politicians to get away with the horrid behavior, while beating the pro/anti-gun, pro/anti-abortion, etc drums at election time. On those issues there haven't been major attempts to change the laws for a long time, but politicians pretend that they are major issues, so they don't have to talk about the real issues (like their awful spending & corruption).

Comment: Re:Let it die. (Score 1) 554

by Sinterklaas (#28940837) Attached to: The Music Industry's Crisis Writ Large

Liberalism rarely survives ones first paycheck and the discovery of how much of your money the Government is taking from you. To borrow a quote, "If you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you're not a conservative at forty you have no brain."

Except that there are many old liberals. That quote is really only enlightening to a selfish subset of the population who can't stand the thought of paying for the well-being of other people, at the expense of a little luxury.

Got a better suggestion? For all it's flaws our capitalist system has produced much of the wealth and technology that we take for granted. I've yet to see a system that I'd rather live under.

Anti-corporate and anti-business doesn't mean anti-capitalism. There are many people that want reforms. Banking reforms are especially popular right now. There is no reason why we have to accept the current crappy system that favors short term greed over long term sustainable growth.

Comment: Re:Corporate executives are SOO much better right? (Score 1) 594

by Sinterklaas (#28919949) Attached to: "Cash For Clunkers" Program Runs Out of Gas

Without government bailouts, the worst a private company can do is to piss away their own money (and that of their clients who have hopefully done their risk-management homework) and go out of business.

When the government screws up, you pay them a trillion dollars at gunpoint so they can try it again.

But the problem is that these private companies have huge debts with each other. So if a few big banks/insurers go, they all go. The regular economy is hugely dependent on the banks, so they will crash as well. We would lose much more money in the long run. Look at the Great Depression.

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