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Comment: Re:Level the playing field (Score 2) 715

by cfulmer (#45940921) Attached to: How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

Charters often serve niches of students. A charter which is good with, say, kids with learning disabilities, may be horrible with kids without those disabilities. You can't take the "it's either a good school or it's a bad school" model -- you have to ask "Is it appropriate for this child, or not."

Also, note that many charter specifically target students who are struggling academically.

Comment: Re:Level the playing field (Score 1) 715

by cfulmer (#45940883) Attached to: How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

In North Carolina, charter schools have to take all comers and accept by lottery if there are more comers than seats available. Can't speak for other states -- each state does something a bit different. That, of course, doesn't mean that each charter school is appropriate for every student. But, of course, the traditional public school system also isn't appropriate for every student.

However, I disagree that they should have to take the same standardized tests. Those tests are generally based on state curricula, so saying "you have to have the same standardized test" really says "you have to teach the same curriculum that the rest of the state teaches." And, that undermines part of the idea of charters -- allowing them to teach a different curriculum.

I've noticed that charter-school opponents really neglect the benefit of allowing parents to choose to send their kids to a charter school, and do not give enough deference to those parents' decisions. Instead, those parents are basically treated like they're not smart enough to make those sorts of decisions. So, for example, opponents may say "Only 36% of the students at this charter school are reading on grade level. We should close that school. Those kids' parents obviously don't know what's best for their kids, so we need to step in." In reality, though, it may be that the public school where those kids would otherwise attend only has 25% reading at grade level. Or, it may be that the charter school is really good at helping kids to read and takes them from being 4 grades below grade level to only 1 grade below grade level. Or....

Comment: Bizarre.... (Score 1) 499

by cfulmer (#44556483) Attached to: IAB Urges People To Stop "Mozilla From Hijacking the Internet"

When the Internet was first starting out, there was a lot of concern about the sheer amount of advertising which would be poured into it. Recall the backlash against the Green Card Lawyers?

If anything, it's the advertising industry that has hijacked the internet. Firefox is just taking one small step in taking it back.

Comment: Re:How is this legal? (Score 4, Informative) 1103

by cfulmer (#44153741) Attached to: Employers Switching From Payroll Checks To Prepaid Cards With Fees

Recognize:

(1) This situation is often better than the alternative, where the employee gets a check and has to go to a check-cashing place, which charges even higher fees.

(2) The card fees are generally transaction-based, so the fewer transactions, the less in fees: The guy in the article who spends $40/month on fees is a moron: He should take all the money out in one fell swoop. That might cost him $1.75, but that's far less than he would have paid at a check-cashing place.

(3) Despite what the article says, this is usually what happens when the employee doesn't choose direct-deposit. There may be a few employers out there who are actually dropping direct-deposit, but the majority of employers are using these cards only for those people to whom they usually issued checks.

I don't understand why so many low-income people don't have bank accounts. Free checking still exists at smaller local banks and credit unions (check out first citizens, for example). If they got bank accounts with direct deposit, they could move away from these cards.

That said, it is disgusting how the big banks seem to be gleeful about making money on the ignorance of poor people.

Comment: Re:email leak (Score 1) 476

That's not a convincing argument, for a number of reasons:

(1) If you are in the 3% (or whatever it is) of climate scientists who disagree with the 97%, then your reputation is taking a significant CURRENT hit -- 97% of your colleagues think you're an idiot.

(2) It's easy to hide in numbers: "Yes, I admit I was wrong. But, so were 97% of climate scientists. That's nothing to be embarrassed about."

(3) It's not likely to be outright fraud, as much as "Hmm... This data didn't come out right.... There must have been some problem with how it was collected or... See, if we massage it like THIS, it comes out better.

(4) Recall that we took a similar view with bankers: "Bear Sterns would NEVER invest in something so risky that the company would fold -- that would be hugely embarrassing for everybody involved." Are climate scientists so much less susceptible to the same human foibles that got to the bankers?

[Note: I'm not saying that climate scientists are wrong; I'm just saying to look at their data and results, and not just trust them because they don't want to hurt their own reputations.]

Comment: Re:We Wish (Score 1) 663

by cfulmer (#43600479) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What If We Don't Run Out of Oil?

I believe that electricity-producing solar panels still consume more energy to produce than they produce during their lifetimes. Yet, they're still quite useful and "worth it," partly because you can put one out on the middle of nowhere. Not all joules are created equal.

Petrofuels have an advantage over other energy sources in that they are easy to transport and that the mechanisms to convert them into energy are relatively small. It could easily make sense to use 1.5 joules of nuclear energy to obtain and refine 1 joule of aviation fuel.

Comment: Re:I don't understand the "high cap" magazine ban (Score 1) 1862

by cfulmer (#42591907) Attached to: 3D Printable Ammo Clip Skirts New Proposed Gun Laws

The theory is that if magazines holding more than 10 rounds are banned, then nuts who go into elementary schools will have to reload more often and, as a result, will be more susceptible to being stopped during reloads and will be unable to kill as many children. In other words, it's an attempt to reduce the amount of harm caused, not to get rid of the harm altogether.

Please note that I'm not stating an opinion about whether the ban would actually have that effect. I'm just trying to describe the argument in as neutral a way as possible without taking sides.

Comment: Re:Bizarre (Score 1) 110

Yeah. So, the summary made it sound like evolution happens when new DNA elements occur which activate individual genes, as if you could take a fish cell, feed it the right programming and out would pop a walrus or an eagle. That entire model, though, is wrong -- DNA is not a program being fed into a machine. In many ways, it's both the program and the machine itself. Adding "new DNA elements" is actually the process of adding genes (or, more precisely, adding things which when combined with other parts of the DNA, become genes), which means that you're adding information about how to do something at the same time that you're adding information about when to do something. The verb "activate" does not adequately describe this.

Comment: Re:Bizarre (Score 1) 110

Yeah, so I wasn't really trying to claim ID was involved (although I'm amused by how many people thought so -- see below). The point was that the idea that genes are sitting around waiting to be 'activitated' isn't really what happens. Thus, the need for a better way to explain what does actually happen.

The structure of my argument was "A or B." If A is absurd, then "A or B" -> B, where B is "need a new way to describe this." However, a lot of people apparently thought B was absurd and concluded A,

Comment: Re:Change the tax structure (Score 1) 768

That is a horrible idea. Think of what it does to foreign countries who have US operations -- they would have to pay US tax on their entire worldwide operations. For example, Bayer, a German company, would have to pay German taxes on its German operations AND US taxes on its German operations. If other countries adopted your rule, Bayer could easily end up paying its entire profits (or more!) in taxes because every dollar would be subject to taxation in every jurisdiction.

"No, no, no," you say, "this only applies to US companies." Doesn't matter, for two reasons: (i) Google would still have to pay both German and US taxes on its German operations, as well as taxes in any other country that adopted the same rule, and (ii) all that does is create an incentive for Google to re-incorporate in the Bahamas -- if the rule applies only to US corporations, it's easy to not be a US corporation.

What's really going on here is that the US tax code is keeping all those billions of profits from being distributed to shareholders. Instead, they sit in the off-shore subsidiary. Here's what the US should do: Give a one-time exemption from the corporate tax for money repatriated from foreign subsidiaries. That would do two things: (1) provide a huge bump in dividends, which would then be taxed to the shareholders, and (2) provide a lot of capital which the company could use to expand its US operations, putting a lot of people back to work.

Comment: Re:Automation and Unemployment (Score 1) 602

by cfulmer (#42233777) Attached to: A US Apple Factory May Be Robot City
I don't know about you, but as somebody who holds some Apple stock in my retirement investments, I'm happy if Apple is actually able to keep that $50. It means my investment, and that of millions of middle-class people like me, is worth more. Regardless, though, Apple still operates in a competitive environment even if you can differentiate their products from everybody else's. They sell more when prices go down. As a result, they'll keep some of that $50, and some of it will go into reduced prices.

Comment: Re:Automation and Unemployment (Score 1) 602

by cfulmer (#42233751) Attached to: A US Apple Factory May Be Robot City
That's a bit extreme. Of course some people still have jobs -- at minimum, you still need people to operate the machinery. The difference, though, is that the person who does this has far higher skills than the people who were sitting on an assembly line tightening the same bolt or screw day after day. And, you need people designing those machines; you need accountants, marketing people, operations specialists and . . . The fact that the act of manufacturing doesn't employ nearly as many people doesn't mean that there's no employment. It does mean that people will have to improve their skills if they want to find a job, because the jobs of tightening the same bolt day after day are all gone.

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

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