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Comment That because LBJ bought a war on the credit card. (Score 1) 477

20 years ago, a working man could pay for his rent with one week's salary. Now on the average it costs 2 weeks or more... and that's before you've paid for other necessties such as food, utilities, and car payments and gasoline.

A large part of that is that the government went on a spending spree that hasn't abated. The extra work is to provide the value that's sucked out to pay off the creditors and for the latest spending schemes. That value has to come from somewhere, whether it's devaluation of the currency (from more dollars chasing the goods) or the double-whammy of government borrowing sucking out the investment market, which means that money isn't making more consumer stuff AND it has to eventually be paid back, at interest, out of taxes.

There was some government debt for a long time. But the big fall-off-the-cliff turning point, IMHO, was when LBJ ran, first the Vietnam (undeclared) war, then also the Great Society welfare entitlement programs, on credit (meaning looting future generations). Then Nixon tried to fix things by unhooking the dollar from gold, and it's been unchecked government spending, explosive inflation, and accumulating debt and interest ever since.

Comment Re:Reasonable Doubt (Score 1) 112

No I disagree, as the data involved in matching is the result of a highly filtered process. There are many many data point's that don't support a match, as evidenced by the inability to replicate a match via any other method.

Simply using the matching data allows the filtering assumptions to go unchallenged.

If what's at issue is whether the tool selected the matches and hid the mismatches, and this can't be determined by comparing the defendant's genome against the tracable raw data that went into building the database, then the defendant's team gets to examine the software or the evidence is out. Agreed.

Defendant have the right to a thorough cross-examination. The database used, the filtering process are all relevant to the actrual likelihood of a match.

Here's where we're differing. I am claiming that, once a match is found, the quality of the match can be checked by comparing the raw data of the defendant's sample against the raw data that went into the database that was searched. Even if the data was reduced and encoded in some proprietary way to assist rapid searching and probability estimation by the proprietary tool, the match can be proven - as can the assertion that no exculpatory evidence was withheld - by providing the base data and ANY algorithm that performs the equivalent probability computation in a transparent way. If it gets the same numbers, that part of the issue is proven.

If there is some question of whether the tool used improperly obtained evidence in deciding to look at this guy's data, that would make its internals relevant. If there is some question that it may have identified other, equally good, matches and these were withheld from the defence, that might make the OPERATION of the tool relevant, without putting the workings of its innards into that category.

But IANAL. If the court says you're right on this it won't surprise me. (But their reasoning would be interesting.) Also: I won't complain if they kill database-fishing for "a wrong reason". B-)

Defendants have the right to compel testimony and other evidence to be produced if they can show it is relevant. Trade secret, patent, or copyright has no power to override constitution guarantees to due process.

Total agreement there.

Prosecutors should not be allowed pseudo-science or selective disclosure of data. In fact, knowing use of either constitute prosecutorial misconduct, [an offense] that can result in financial sanctions and or disbarment.

Total agreement there, too. (Also, IMHO: Such sanctions and/or disbarment should be invoked far more often than they are. B-) )

Comment Don't confuse The Republican Party with The Right (Score 1) 351

Our Right just keeps advocating policy that will heep even more money onto a wealthy class of citizens who are wealthier then they have ever been in American history.

Please don't confuse 'The Republican Party" with The Right". For at least the last three presidential election cycles the Republican Party has been solidly under the thumbs of one of its four major factions - the Neocons. (And this cycle that faction is finally being bumped by a new challenger which I'll call "The Plutocrats", in the form of the self-financed campaigns of Trump and Fiorina.)

The Classic/Paleo conservatives, religious right, and liberty wing (libertarians and other anti-tax, government-off-our-backs types) are more of the party but lately have negligible power.

Comment Re:Take my money! (Score 1) 267

Insurance against calamities on a larger scale than your underwriter is prepared to cope with, or sufficiently large to eliminate the legal and economic framework under which the policy was purchased would be pretty worthless.

Just look at the truly impressive work that AIG and friends managed to do in selling impossible amounts of insurance, and remember that that didn't even require an external catastrophe of any particular magnitude, they just fucked it up during the course of business. You think that they'd do better under circumstances that have people running for the bunkers and executing continuity-of-government directives?

Comment Re:Reasonable Doubt (Score 1) 112

From the perspective of the burden of proof placed on the Prosecution, they have to disclose how they arrived at this derived 'evidence' of a match via TrueAllele.

IMHO: Unless there is an issue with whether the database TrueAllele searched was obtained illegally (making any results of searching it for suspects "fruit of the poisoned tree"), they DON'T have to show how the match was found.

They just have to show that the match IS a match. This can be done with the data involved in the match standing on its own,

Comment Not true. (Score 1) 112

If he refuses to show his code to an expert witness and explain it, then the evidence can't be used.

Not true...

As I understand it, he should be able to get his program (or a modification of it) to produce as an output:
  - The computation of the probabilities
  - The data used to compute them, with annotation giving a trace back to its source.
  - The assumptions behind the computation.

The issue of HOW IT IDENTIFIED this individual is separate from WHAT IT IDENTIFIED ABOUT HIM. The former is the "secret sauce" and would not be revealed. The latter is the evidence and can stand on its own. Further, it MUST be able to stand on its own - because if it can't, it's inadequate.

Now if part of his "expert testimony" is that his program did NOT find any other people who 'matched' and this is somehow relevant, THEN how it goes about doing the matching also becomes relevant and he's hosed.

Of course the defence is going to do their darndest to monkeywrench the prosecution, and threatening the tool builder with disclosure of his trade secrets is a good move tactically. It's up to the judge (and possibly the appeals judge) to call them on it if it's just an irrelevant thrash.

(I say this all as someone who personally believes that DNA evidence should only be used for defence, not prosecution, in criminal trials, because non-match is definitive while "match" is a difficult probability estimate based on assumptions about genetics, gene distribution, gene correlation, and on some very difficult to grasp probability computations. Hunting for matches in databases is, IMHO, subject to false positives and overestimation of the improbability of the match being false, based on underestimation of correlation and the genetic and familial mechanisms that might promote it.)

Comment Re:Aw fudge. What a let-down (Score 1) 48

It's one of these magic new interweb things. You click the arrows at the sides and different pictures appear, like in the Mirror of Galadriel.

Slashdot has long felt obligated to post warnings about linked sites that require registration or use Flash. Maybe they need to add notices for NoScript users "Warning - won't work without JavaScript".

Comment Re:Why did it go public? (Score 1) 135

Probably because they had no real business model beyond attract users for a long time which meant they needed to take on venture capital to pay for everything. The VCs know that the best way to get their payout is to take the company public and cash in on the IPO.

And this is different than with other internet startups how, exactly?

Comment Re:Boston has an app like this. It's useless. (Score 1) 159

I suspect that it depends on the attitude as well. At least in IT, there seem to be two basic flavors(in varying levels of competence, there are some commendably diligent but not terribly sharp ones; and there are some total slackers with the annoying ability to pull off something brilliant just when it looks like their slacking might catch up with them; then go back to slacking): There are the people who say "The problem is that you are bothering me about some 'problem', so now I have to go look at it." and the ones who say "The problem is that there might be a problem I don't know about yet."

The former is...unlikely... to welcome better reporting systems. The latter is likely to be delighted that they can spend less time hunting for problems and more time fixing them.

Comment Re:What? (Score 2) 159

Fundamentally? Not at all. In terms of convenience? The fancy tech toys presumably make it fairly trivial to construct a nice machine-readable trouble ticket, with GPS coordinates, user submitted text, pictures, etc. that drops right into the trouble ticket without needing anyone to man the phone; or depending on their ability to reliably interpret and record what the caller is reporting, write it up, and send it to the appropriate person.

Given that the input is still coming from people, I suspect that you can't automate all the labor out of cleaning it up(if there is a way for data you attempt to collect about the world to be messy and intractable, it will find it; and even if you think that there isn't, it might just invent one...); but there's a lot to be said for cutting out tedious, error-prone, steps, especially once you are dealing with a system large enough that providing 'the personal touch' simply isn't possible. These sorts of systems can be somewhat prone to being impersonal or inflexible(especially if the implementation tries to use a bunch of drop-down options to shove you through the decision tree and your problem is some flavor of 'other' that they don't provide for); but if the userbase is large enough that you'd need a call center to do it with humans, you don't really have the option of interpersonal familiarity; so you might as well go for efficiency.

If this were Ye Olde Smalle Towne, where you could just ring up the mayor's office and the kindly secretary who has been there forever and knows everybody would pick up and you could tell her about it, the 'app' thing would be a pointless gimmick; but that's not exactly the scope of the problem here.

You are in a maze of UUCP connections, all alike.