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Comment Re: The cost of the ID isn't the $10 (Score 1) 393

That's a good point. File W-2s along with car registration and bank account as things that probably required a photo ID in the first place. That further enhances the catch-22 problem (need an ID to get a certified birth certificate, need a certified birth certificate to get an ID) and makes the problem of getting an ID even worse.

Comment You don't know what will happen! (Score 1) 751

What's with everyone predicting with certainty what will happen? Absolutely none of you know what will happen! The only way to find out is to try it.

Personally, as a moderate with libertarian leanings (although not a true Libertarian), I think it's worth a shot. The fact is that, like it or not, totally getting rid of the state welfare is politically impossible. However, we can make it less of a mess. Instead of having an alphabet soup of government welfare programs (and the bureaucratic overhead to go with it), it's not that crazy to just cut everyone a small check and be done with it. If the plan doesn't work, scrap it. It's hard for me to believe that the world will end (or even be significantly damaged) if we try it for a year. The economy is surprisingly resilient and has survived worse without serious damage.

FWIW, I'm not the only non-liberal with this idea. Here's an argument for basic gauranteed income published by the Cato Institute (Cato Unbound is one of their publications). Here is Charles Murry on the issue. (I'm not the biggest Murray fan, but he's certainly not on the left either.)

Comment The cost of the ID isn't the $10 (Score 5, Insightful) 393

The issue isn't the $10. You don't simply fork over $10 and get an ID; you need some proof of identity, like a _certified_ birth certificate. Don't have one? They're not free either. Moreover, you often need a government issued ID to get a certified birth certificate. That's a bit of a catch-22, right? The solution varies by state. Sometimes you can use a combination of utility bills, W-2s, car registration, bank account, etc. The first requires a permanent residence. The second requires a real job. The latter two probably required a photo ID in the first place. Almost all states allow an attorney to request a certified birth certificate, but attorneys aren't free either. The situation of not having a real job, permanent residence, and certified birth certificate is probably totally foreign to /. users, but there are a non-trivial number of (usually poor) American citizens in that situation, but they still deserve the right to vote.

Now, some states try to avoid this mess. E.g. in WI the non-driver IDs are free if you need one to vote. Also, if you don't have the documentation you need, you can fill out a form and the DMV will take care of everything -- at least in principle. I don't know how well it works; the WI DMV is already stretched kind of thin.

I have mixed feelings about all this. Voter fraud is simply not a problem in the US. (Yes, some idiots filled out fake voter _registration_ forms last election because they were paid to fill out lots of registration forms. That's not voter fraud since no fraudulent votes were cast.) Voter ID laws are there to make life difficult for poor people who tend to vote for Democrats. End of story. What's the upside? Because of the political angle, voter ID laws have lead to organizations assisting poor people to get ID cards. I don't know how effective the organizations have been, but the people who get an ID probably benefit.

Comment Re:No, gas stations will not go extinct soon (Score 1) 904

In 2000, there may be less vehicles. But there were also less gas stations.

False. They were more gas stations then than there are now.


There were 156,065 total retail fueling sites in the United States in 2012. This is a steep and steady decline since 1994, when the station count topped 202,800 sites. (Source: National Petroleum News' MarketFacts 2012)

Comment Nonsense (Score 2) 397

Because a vegan diet that is actually complete is unquestionably harder and more expensive than a non-vegan one.

I'm not a vegan (or a vegetarian), but that's total nonsense. Just because some people make it "harder" (whatever that means) or more expensive doesn't mean it inherently is. Back up you claim. WHY is a vegan diet intrinsically "harder" and more expensive?

Rice and beans make a cheap, complete protein. There are all sorts of vegetable oils for fats (no need for extra virgin olive oil), or eat some peanuts (or real nuts if you want to splurge). You get your carbs from grain/bread/etc. If you can't stand veggies for vitamins, then pop a vitamin pill.

Those are some basics; fill in the blanks on your own.

And they also frequently struggle with malnutrition.

And? Poor people are malnourished because they can't afford to eat. News at 11.

Comment No, gas stations will not go extinct soon (Score 2) 904

the tipping point will come when gas stations, not a massively profitable business, start to go out of business as many more electric cars are sold,

This idea is simply bogus. Here's a good analysis of the argument, but a choice quote sums up the problem with the argument:

Consider that in 2009 there were 246 million motor vehicles registered in the United States. A 10% reduction would be 221 million vehicles but that is how many vehicles there were in 2000.

Gas stations didn't go extinct in 2000 because there were fewer gas vehicles, and they won't do so now. In fact, there are already fewer gas stations now, mostly because gas-powered cars are more efficient. However, no one started yelling tipping point because gas-powered cars became more efficient, an effect which is probably more important than electric vehicles in the foreseeable future. There still so many that the gas-station-tipping-point hypothesis is BS.

Comment The problem is the background (Score 1) 77

I've been trying to write a little piece about my research so that my friends and family (and anyone else who cares) have a better idea what I do (a subfield of solid-state physics). I don't think the concepts are that hard, and the subject is interesting to many people, but the real problem is providing the background.

This is more of a problem in some fields than others. For example, I met an ecologist who researches frogs -- including colorful ones you see in advertisements for Costa Rica. The creatures are eye catching, people know what frogs are, and you'd be sad if something that cool looking was going to be wiped out by an foreign disease. It's a subject people can relate to because almost everyone has some understanding about nature, frogs, and disease, and it's not too hard to fill in enough of the blanks to make a good, informative news article.

The same is not true for solid-state physics. Part of what I need to explain is why my research is new and novel, which is a tall order given people's lack of background. Heck, most people don't even know the difference between silicon and silicone, which are very, very different. It's hard to provide the background without boring everyone to death. I still hope to write my piece, but it sure as heck won't be a popular read.

Comment Apparently cell phones are more distracting (Score 1) 195

I reported some facts, added a little interpretation, and finished with one sentence of speculation. Where did I suggest banning anything?

Surprisingly, you reminded me of something relevant. IIRC, there's evidence that talking on a cell phone (hands free or not) is _more_ distracting than talking to a passenger in the car. (I don't have time to look up sources ATM.) It sounds weird, but it's plausible that interacting with something that's actually in the car is less distracting that paying attention to a disembodied voice. Most of the "distractions" you mentioned aren't interactions in the same way. E.g. you don't have a back-and-forth interaction with a license plate or even a radio; you just look or listen.

Comment Reminds me of hands-free cell phones (Score 4, Interesting) 195

When the dangers of driving while holding a cell phone became clear, many places banned hand-held cellphones while driving but allowed hands-free cell phones. After further research, it seems clear that hand-free cell phones aren't any safer. Even a little distraction can be very dangerous when you need quick reflexes. Minor distractions are particularly dangerous because most of the time you don't need quick reflexes; you're just cruising down the highway -- lulling you into a false sense of security. I'm guessing a HUD causes similar problems.

Comment I disagree (Score 1) 1083

I think the government works too capriciously as is -- because of the inflexibility I mentioned. It seems counter-intuitive, but it wouldn't be the first time that a well-intentioned, strong rule backfired -- causing the rule to be strong in principle but weak in practice (because everyone ignored it).

Passing laws is a real hassle in the US. They have to get a majority of votes in the house, 60% of votes in the Senate, not be vetoed by the president, and not be struck down by the courts -- and that's not even counting hurdles within congress (committees, leadership support, etc.) And you know what? It isn't needed. Many governments operate just fine with a parliamentary system that only has one real legislative body and a judiciary. In fact, well functioning presidential governments are quite rare -- and now we're seeing why.

What's the effect of a screwed up legislative branch in a presidential system? The executive branch taking more power (e.g. Obama's executive order wrt illegal immigration). That's now how it's supposed to work, but sometimes things need to get done, and if the legislative branch sits there, one of the other branches will take its power. In the longrun, it's dangerous. It's exactly the thing the checks and balances (inflexibility) was meant to prevent. Oh well.

Ditto with the constitution. The interstate commerce clause is used as the justification so much federal legislation, but it wasn't meant to be that way. The issue is that the constitution was not written with the needs of a modern government in mind. Rather than update the constitution (which is a pain in the ass), we warp the constitution to fit our -- often legitimate -- purposes. However, once we start bending the meaning of the constitution like that, it stops blocking the bad things it was meant to block.

Like all things, there's a happy medium between to weak and too strong. I just think that we're on the too-strong side.

Comment I'd be all for that, but... (Score 1) 1083

So your argument is that the 19th amendment shouldn't have been necessary, and it was only needed because the courts wouldn't apply the 14th amendment properly?

That's a self-consistent reading, and I'm all for giving people more rights, but I just don't see it in the text of the 14th amendment. Does the "privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States" really mean "any right [that doesn't violate the golden rule]"? It would be nice if it did. I'm not holding my breath for the courts to enforce it that way.

I agree with the raisin ruling, but that really seems like a 5th amendment thing to me ("nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation"). I also agree that there are many laws that should go, but just like for the raisins, I think a lot of the fire power comes from other amendments -- without the need for everything under the sun to be a privilege or immunity.

Comment Right(s)... (Score 1) 1083

The constitution does not endow rights. The constitution delineates most rights mainly by restricting the government's ability to interfere.

Reconcile your argument with the 19th amendment: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

What's your reading? Did women always have the right to vote but the government was interfering with that right until the 19th amendment restricted the government from doing so? Just because the amendment used a double negative doesn't mean the right existed beforehand hand.

That's was a warm-up. Now, reconcile your argument with the 13th amendment: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

I'm sure that amendment didn't give anyone rights -- rights that were never explicitly banned before...

For all intents and purposes, those two amendments enshrined rights in law. Before them, slaves were and universal suffrage was not. If that's not endowing rights, I don't know what is.

Maybe you just want to argue about some sort of relativism -- that rights float in the ether independent of government. Regardless, there's a bonus question: if the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment is so powerful, why was the 19th amendment needed? Do you see where I'm coming from?

Comment Those took constitutional amendments (Score 2) 1083

So, they can't decide women no longer have the vote. They can't decide black people can be property.

That's true because of the 13th and 19th amendments, respectively. Those rights were not due to court rulings (which went the other way).

That's an important distinction between the above two cases and SSM. Ostensibly the objection to this ruling is that the right did not come from the legislative process. Although I'm sure opponents would be equally pissed if SSM were legalized by a legislative process, I do think the gripe has some merit. SSM was legalized by one vote out of nine. It can be undone by the same amount. Other rights won through the supreme court (such as abortion and even the right to use contraception -- Griswold v. Connecticut) can also be undone if the supreme court membership changes. The same is not true for a constitutional amendment -- which is how many other major rights were endowed.

Is it a good or bad thing that the legislative process got bypassed? I don't know. I'd much rather see this type of thing handled by the legislature. However, I'm pragmatic. I think that we see lots of end runs around the legislative branch because the constitution is so darn inflexible with so many hurdles to pass legislation and constitutional amendments. That inflexibility was well intended, but if the constitution were just a little more flexible, I think we'd see the government work much more smoothly.

Comment Re:There will be negative effects too (Score 1) 292

That sounds like a strong reason to pander to the base if neither party has accurate polls for guidance. If the candidate with the lager base can make swing voters not vote by pandering to the base (as you suggest), then that candidate has won.

The road to ruin is always in good repair, and the travellers pay the expense of it. -- Josh Billings