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Comment Re:Intellectual sleight of hand. (Score 1) 298

See what you just did there?

"a PROPER marketplace with a PROPER government is NOT..."

No, no, I have it all wrong, you say.

"government...is involved in the marketplace to assure the soundness of the transactions...enforce contract law, stamp-out fraud, squash involuntary transactions...make sure the marketplace is essentially 'safe' and fair..."

Gosh, then you restate exactly what I said. Markets exist because governments create the conditions for their existence. You list a few conditions that you believe are essentially right for markets, but these are not natural laws, they are your value statements about what makes a "good" market, presumably one likely to benefit you. Even the values have to be defined and are culturally bound. Sound transactions. Enforcement of laws. Fraud. Involuntary transactions. Safe. Fair.

These, too, are social quantities, socially defined. What do you think governing bodies do all day as they debate? They argue about what these things mean and how they ought to be encoded as policy. And however they're encoded, someone is getting their way and someone else is not.

By the time you have a market, governments (read: societies) have already picked winners.

"Safe" is not a natural quantity that can be measured. Neither is "fair." All are matters of social deliberation and social construction. All are arguments won (or lost) by someone. All are winners already picked.

Claiming that your own preferences are somehow objective and right doesn't make it so. Nature doesn't make markets. People do.

Comment Ideological sleight of hand. (Score 2) 298

The market is not a natural entity, it exists because government creates and enforces the conditions to enable it to exist.

Picking a market is *still* the government picking winners and losers. It is picking whomever does well when the market does well under the market conditions that the government preserves.

Governments pick. That's what they do. What's why they were created in the first place. The only question is who gets picked.

Comment Re:Now... (Score 1) 412

Ants throwing sand grain sized nukes at us would definitely destroy us and all of humanity as well. There are more termites by weight than humans by weight (unless the McRib sandwich is available year round). If the ants ally with the termites, we'd have no cover from their many-nuke assault.

Your strategy sounds viable, we just send rockets with ants and their nuke sand at the aliens -- they'll never know what hit them. Bonus; if it fails, we got a patsy. No more of those damn red ants biting you at your picknick in Central Florida!

Comment Re:Now... (Score 1) 412

However, even us bumpkins on earth know to throttle down our engines when entering a dock.

The gravitational distortion used to propel the crafts FTL are not likely going to be used -- or at least not at full strength in a confined area as they'd be shifting other ships around as well. Of course any gravity distortion field is likely to have a VERY large area of distortion (like one wave peak to peak the length of a planet) and it would take an order of magnitude less ships to diffuse the light.

HOWEVER, any analysis of the light passing through such a distortion would probably create a very wide gamut of light -- any analysis with a interferometer would show such an anomaly. Since we haven't heard of one - likely no gravity distorting drives.

MY GUESS is that it isn't the star getting dimmer, but an astronomical event that made the star brighter has passed. I'm thinking like the exhaust at the pole of a black hole pointing at the star causing a huge flare. As the orbits of the star to the black hole have passed - it's energetic activity has passed.

I'd look for a black hole above or below the galactic plane of orbit to the West or East of the star for about 20 light years.

Comment Nonsense. We had much better than we have now. (Score 1) 311

Even in print journalism, the quality difference between 30 years ago and today is huge. Today's newspapers would have been yesterday's tabloids, in most local markets.

The problem is basic human nature. Before people needed some basic facts about life:

- Weather
- Sports results
- Local events
- Job listings
- Legal announcements
- General news about the world

For historical reasons, these came to be gathered together in one place, the newspaper, about which several good social histories have been written. But as a result of the specialized labor and production involved (half a century ago, not just anyone could "make" print in their own homes) it was a professionalized sphere that had to serve a single, large regional audience with one bundle of print, so it had to be reasonably even-handed. There was a kind of obvious supply/demand synergy. The economies of scale were there to make it viable, if the information was presented at a reasonable level of quality and without prejudice or bias that would result in fragmenting the demand base.

Now people get get everything but the "news" part of this package for free. So now you have to ask people to pay only for "reporting" and not for those other "facts." But at the same time, there are endless sources of free reporting as well. And most of those are of lower quality (by which we really mean biased). So we're asking people to pay solely for material that they are *less* likely to agree with than its *free* alternative.

Most people aren't willing to pay for content that they disagree with when they can select for free only content that they agree with, and that agrees with them. Most people aren't willing to pay to be challenged.

So market conditions and human nature have conspired to make high-quality journalism untenable. It's no longer bundled with other facts that people are willing to pay for as well and that are available only through newsprint or television viewership, and as a result, there are no longer ready-made regional audiences of scale that will support it, and that at the same time drive a necessary professionalization and objectivity. Instead, you have to market just on the value of the prose alone and pick up subscribers where you can find them, which means that you have to segment the market according to interests and prejudices and play to their biases to get them interested, and then, because it's easy to chuck out content that reflects existing interests, prejudices, and biases (as opposed to professionalized reporting, which is research-oriented and often surprising), you're also competing with people that essentially do it for free as "bloggers" and so on.

This is not unconnected with difficulties in politics that we are experiencing. Once research-oriented, regionally-minded print goes away in favor of alacarte, self-selected consumption from the entire global market free and paid, people become more and more different as they consume media over time (and more and more intensely bound to their prejudices and narrow interests) rather than more and more the same (for having all read the same newspaper across a large region for years).

A combined reading of Michael Schudson's "Discovering the News" and Benedict Anderson's "Imagined Communities" gives a good sense for how this all comes together, and the problems for democracy and nationhood that we (and everyone) face(s) now in a post-news era.

Comment Re:The crime of lying to a Federal Agent (Score 1) 81

The sort of people who use "yes I'm a terrorist" as an excuse to remove your civil rights -- or at least load up charges, are the same douche-bags who would falsify evidence because they KNEW you were guilty.

Nobody is convinced by "yes I'm a terrorist" but the dishonest and eager. It seems our local PD mentality runs all the way to our HS. If they can't find real terrorists, they keep lowering the bar to call SOMEONE a terrorist.

I can hear it now; "OK, we didn't find any weapons, but we do know that you lied when you said you packed your own bag. Scum like you will never learn."

Comment Re:Simpler explanation (Score 1) 81

It swells my heart with pride to say that the TSA has caught everyone checking YES on the question; "I am a terrorist and thanks for asking!" And exactly ZERO smart assess who can't help themselves by making fun of Homeland Security have gone unpunished.

To date, they may have saved the planet, or at least dealt with up-armored homeless people before this and the urine smell on subways escalates beyond control. Does all this splendiferous success merit a $1 trillion dollar price tag? Some cynic might say that for $500 billion we could win hearts and minds by building hospitals and schools in the nations that breed terrorism, but those are the same people check "I am a terrorist and thanks for asking!", and we'll take care of them all eventually, as our policies get more invasive and dumber.

Comment Re:The need to fix everyone else (Score 2) 308

I think that if someone brings up "I have a mental illness" that it should be treated like someone broke their leg. You don't have to dance on egg shells to talk about a foot race -- but don't expect the person with the broken leg to keep up. And insulting such a thing, well, then you should be considered an ass, or someone with Asperger or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That doesn't mean people can't talk about empathy, just that they shouldn't expect you to have any. Maybe everything we find annoying will one day be treatable. It's hard to say what is really in your control or not -- and people without a disorder or who have been around it, won't understand that just a few chemicals can make night and day differences in a person.

If anything, we will find more of us have SOME kind of ailment that has been holding us back. The "self made men" out there will of course, think that we are becoming an "excuse society" urged on by Radio talk show pundits and the like, who make sure any expense that could be borne by big business or government, not take away from paying pundits and billionaires.

We can all sympathize with the cancer patient or the battle scarred warrior with PTSDs (at least we FINALLY call it something beyond Shell Shock). Depression and other ailments can be just as debilitating -- or even more so, yet they don't garner the "respect" of the obvious ailments. "I don't want to" sounds like an excuse, so people without the mental energy to do what they need to be doing, find ways to conceal that they have any problem -- even to themselves.

Comment Re:Good (Score 2) 138

AFAIK, the FBI can't prosecute US citizens for thought crimes.

But how is a website or BBS showing material NOT a thought crime? You might say; the materials are prohibited. But we could outlaw bibles, and then everyone with a bible would be an outlaw. What ABOUT the bible is illegal? Reading the words, of course. They'll say it's possession, but really, it's in what you might learn, think and how it might change your behavior. No clear smoking gun on Pedophilia.

So this is a thought crime. They can see, view and hear but don't DO. Crime is an act that harms people. Until someone actually affects a person or property -- no crime. The only crime is based on prohibited material.

Is the crime in viewing an actual minor, or in viewing someone who LOOKS like a minor -- or a cartoon? What if I'm married to a 26 year old woman who 4 feet tall and looks really cute? Do I go to jail? Sure these people may clearly be looking for kids -- or maybe someone likes tiny women, but how do you define such a thing and does it really matter?

The user in this case is assuming there is privacy. They are viewing material to get stimulated. They didn't touch anyone.

I hate taking the side of Pedos -- but we don't even know if all these people are actual pedophiles. Some of them might just be into extremes and next week they'll be looking at chubby chicks. Some of them may have been abused in the past. If you criminalize this -- you don't have a situation where people can seek help. There are so many cases in our own history where stigmatizing causes MORE of the thing we are trying to reduce.

This is thought crime -- pure and simple. And if the rights of people who have done NO HARM are not considered, as reprehensible as they are, then the long arm of the law might do a reach-around into something else, like colluding with each other to change laws we think are wrong.

Comment Re:Good (Score 2) 138

I agree. While I abhor sexual abuse of children (required statement), it's an easy target of outrage but has far-reaching consequences to charge criminal offenses of people who view such things on the internet. It is a thought crime -- the abuse of the children is the people making the content -- and I think it should end there.

Free access to porn has shown a relative drop in rapes. Violence in games shows a huge drop in violence (relative to the same demographic without video games -- though not sure where they find those anymore).

I think the next battlefield will be on realistic sex robots. People will be morally outraged if they look this way or that. There's no abuse because it's a mechanism. If it stops rapists, sex addicts and molesters from doing damage to real people -- what is the harm?

I think too often we have morals based laws, that don't really meet the public interest of; "what does the most good for the most people?" Sure, we all might be creeped out by someone's preferences, but by not criminalizing the USE of materials, we can better get the CREATORS of harm. And in the future, STDs, Prostitution, and Sexual offenses may take a nose dive as Sexbots hit the scene.

It would be interesting to see the real stats on whether viewing makes someone more or less likely to abuse a kid. Perhaps there's a difference when there is a blog of people reinforcing how "OK" it is. The real question is; what path prevents child abuse?

Comment The problem is that there are legitimate (Score 1) 227

assumptions at work.

"Here. I've optimized your car for you."

By social convention, people will assume this means that you have made their car run better. No, this is not spoken, but it is based on tacit agreement, a kind of social contract. We don't have to specify every last thing in detail; we can all agree that we know what we mean.

However, you could—certainly—mean that you have optimized their car for them to be more optimal with respect to environmental concerns. For example, you may have removed the engine. This would result in a perfectly optimal configuration for minimizing emissions and fossil fuel consumption.

But it would rightfully not be what someone expects when you said, "I've optimized your car for you." That would be a violation of the implicit social contract and social expectations.

But of course that is exactly the point of this story, and exactly where we are today. Which is why we *do* specify every last thing in detail (in interminable EULAs) and also why people feel as though the social contract is breaking down: because it is. But there are still remnants enough of it in place that people get upset when they feel as though it's been violated, and I can't say that I blame them.

Comment Agree. Marketing speak is the problem. (Score 5, Interesting) 227

I work in marketing and advertising by turns these days (seems like every career trajectory eventually ends up somewhere in this playground, whether near top or bottom of the food chain), so I have to admit guilt here as well.

There is a tendency to operate with the goal of eliminating negative and limiting language because, surprise surprise, positive language tests out well in actual conversion numbers. But there is unquestionably an element of half-truth in it.

"slowed down and degraded to reduce data use" becomes "optimized for mobile"
"we've raised our prices" becomes "we've changed our plans to offer the best possible value to our customers"
"we've removed a bunch of features that raised costs for us" becomes "we've streamlined our service for ease of use"
"we've slashed our support staff" becomes "we're enabling you to find answers more quickly with our self-help area"
"we've eliminated our warranty" becomes "our product is so reliable that it's made warranties obsolete"

and so on.

It's not the actual policy that's the problem. It's that language is Orwellian. Bad becomes good. "Optimization" is supposed to be a good thing. But in this case, the customer's presumption that "optimized" equals "good for me" is actually not true; the word is being used in opposition to its conventional connotation.

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