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Comment MIT OpenCourseWare (Score 1) 525

I highly recommend the MIT OpenCourseWare course on Python. It is written in a very simple and welcoming manner, and includes a free textbook, labs, lecture materials, and homework assignments. Python is probably the best route regardless, as it makes both an excellent teaching language, and a very useful language to use outside the classroom in the real world. There are also a variety of Karel the Robot style introductory systems, including at least one ported over from the original Pascal dialect to Python. Karel the robot provides a limited subset of a typical programming language, and labs that allow a student to practice ordering a robot around an obstacle course. The pascal-based version was my first intro to programming, and it makes a great way to learn still to this day.

Comment Smithsonian museums (Score 3, Informative) 363

If you hit Washington, DC, then you should definitely check out the Smithsonian along the Mall. The National Air and Space Museum is especially good, although crowded in the summer. Make sure to check out the kid's section, which has a bunch of wind tunnels and other fun things that adults will get a kick out of. They also have a really great annex full of cool aircraft next to Dulles airport about an hour west of the city. It would also be a terrible shame if you didn't visit one or more of our national parks while you're in the US. Our varied landscape and remote stretches of wilderness define the character of our nation perhaps more than any other single thing. Just make sure to pack plenty of water and basic survival gear, as some of the parks can be quite remote and wild. Wherever you end up visiting, you'll want to keep a sense of scale in mind. The US is rather large, in ways that many of our visitors aren't really mentally prepared for. Consider limiting yourself to one or two regions, so that you get more time actually seeing things instead of racing from place to place. I hope you enjoy your visit!

Comment Re:Wikileaks == scapegoat (Score 4, Interesting) 274

There's a strong possibility that you're mistaken in your assertions there. There has been some reporting in the press that Wikileaks activists have actively eavesdropped on data by running one or more rogue Tor servers:
There has also been reporting as recently as today that Wikileaks actively gathered data from peer-to-peer file sharing networks:

Comment Risk vs Reward (Score 1) 473

Correlation is not causation. One could argue that education does help in some direct ways (e.g., understanding enough about statistics to realize that you're probably not going to die from terrorism). However, there may be other factors at play, too. Compared with staying near home and picking up a job immediately, higher education carries some risk. It frequently involves moving far away from support networks, and taking on a considerable amount of debt, all for the chance of very delayed gratification. It could simply be that the minds of those seeking higher education are more finely tuned to accept a bit of risk in the search for rewards.

Comment Re:kind of makes you wonder (Score 2, Informative) 141

Security firm eEye used to keep a long list of Internet Explorer vulnerabilities that they had reported to Microsoft, but Microsoft hadn't developed patches for. eEye's list tracked how many months, or even years, Microsoft had known about the vulnerabilities without releasing a patch. A few years ago, under pressure from Microsoft, eEye agreed to take their list down. Microsoft happens to be a big customer of eEye's, and presumably is responsible for a lot of eEye's revenue. This has been fairly typical behavior for security firms that have signed lucrative contracts with Microsoft over the last few years, and one wonders how much of this type of thing is merely hush money.

Comment Lakely is confused... (Score 1) 944

Libertarians are generally against government intervention and manipulation of the free market economy. What could be more manipulative than the coercive force of the federal government, providing government-sanctioned monopolies in the forms of patents and copyrights to rent-seeking entrenched industries? Those monopolies arbitrarily increase the costs of goods and services to individuals and other businesses, and they also have the strong potential of interfering with our constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech. Assuming they support "intellectual property" at all, most libertarians would require very high standards of proof of innovativeness before passing out such power, and would limit their scope and duration to the bare minimum "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," as stated in our Constitution.

Comment Refugees of ethnic discrimination? (Score 1) 515

I would imagine that many of the asylum seekers are probably refugees from ethnic discrimination, or even worse ethnic cleansing. Many are probably forced to flee precisely because they are descendants of foreigners or a minority ethnic group. Wouldn't it be directly counterproductive to refuse refugees on the basis of their lack of ethnic purity?

Comment Re:Libertarians have too much baggage. (Score 3, Insightful) 785

Actually, I would expect most libertarians to be in favor of only limited intellectual property protections. Copyright, patent, and trademark laws are the very essence of government manipulation of the free market. When the government arbitrarily sanctions monopoly power through intellectual property laws, it creates artificial scarcity where there should be none. This raises the prices of goods and services for all Americans, and limits true innovation. It also puts Americans at a competitive disadvantage, because our competitors don't share our draconian intellectual property laws and therefore can operate at lower cost.

Comment Re:Arab citizens of Israel (Score 5, Insightful) 1067

That would be because the Arab states collectively massacred or purged Jews from their lands around the time of the 1948 establishment of Israel. Unlike the unique position of Palestinian refugees, no right of return or requirement for compensation is recognized for those Jews or their descendants, not that they'd generally want it. Also, Arab Israeli citizens and even Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank have significantly more rights and better living conditions than Palestinians hosted in Arab refugee camps. Many other Arab nations prefer to keep their Palestinian refugees herded into ghettos, and kept as pawns in their ongoing war by proxy with Israel. I'm not much of an Israel apologist, but I suggest you do a bit more research into the issues and history of the region. I think that you'll find that Israel's treatment of its non-Jewish population is generally poor and sometimes unforgivable, but far less evil than their neighbors' treatment of Jews or even Palestinians.

We're here to give you a computer, not a religion. - attributed to Bob Pariseau, at the introduction of the Amiga