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Comment Re:How did these idiots catch anyone? (Score 1) 282

To be fair to the FBI, it looks like they didn't take this accusation too seriously. The rather nonsensical quote from the summary was made by an informant, not by the agent investigating Bradbury. The portion of the FBI report that was actually written by the investigating agent concluded that there was no actual evidence linking Bradbury to the Communist Party.

Comment Re:The informant was right (Score 1) 282

The informant was Martin A. Berkeley. According to the FBI's notes, Berkeley had confessed to being a Communist Party member and turned informant to save his own skin. This leads me to suspect that he eventually resorted to accusing anyone he could think of to maintain his "usefulness" to the FBI.

Comment Re:It does work... (Score 2) 755

There is a very strong libertarian argument to be made for a basic income. Assuming that it were implemented in a carefully though out manner (haha, I know), a welfare system centered around a universal basic income would be much less intrusive than the less generous patchwork we currently have. A couple of examples:

- No more corporate minimum wage. There doesn't need to be one, since there is already a basic income. This allows businesses greater freedom in their hiring and pay practices. It allows marginal workers to hold jobs that aren't worth paying $8.50 an hour + payroll tax for, but might be worth paying $6 an hour for.

-No more intrusive questions about marital status, family living arrangements, drug use, etc. The basic income is universal, so we can dispense with having the government making moral judgments about domestic affairs. No more punishing couples for being married or for not being married (our current welfare system somehow manages to do both at the same time).

Additionally, there are very cynical reasons that the elites should support a basic income, which you have already touched on in your post. There is a reason that you thought of France in the early 1800's and not the UK. The UK elites, starting with the Reform Act of 1832, recognized the practical necessity of compromising with the lower classes in order to shore up their own power. No doubt many in power at the time had the French July Revolution (which had overthrown Charles X and established a liberal regime by force just two years earlier) in mind when the Act was passed.

Today, we have a similar situation to that of Europe in the 1800's, although the issue is about economic participation rather than political participation. I hope that we choose as wisely as the British did.

Comment Re:Oh noes, the poors! (Score 1) 755

A basic income program is the obvious centerpiece of an efficient welfare state. A carefully implemented basic income will satisfy both libertarians (such as myself) who recognize the practical need for some form of welfare even if they don't like it, and welfare state liberals. Moralizing conservatives might oppose it, but you can't please everyone.

What many of my fellow Americans fail to realize is that we effectively already have a minimum income and a very expensive welfare system. It is merely decentralized - through 76 separate programs - patchwork, inefficient, and riddled with perverse incentives. We are not willing, as a society, to allow the poor to suffer and die without state aid. The sooner conservatives and libertarians here come to understand that, the better. We cannot, and for practical if not humanitarian reasons should not, get rid of the welfare state. But a basic income can make it more efficient, more fair, less intrusive on our private lives, and free from perverse disincentives against work.

I have always, somewhat against my will, been quite impressed by the Finnish welfare state. I have been particularly impressed by how Finland has used the comprehensiveness of its welfare programs to secure the support of all segments of the population. I can see the appeal; my first child is coming next month, and I doubt I could say no to one of the famous "baby boxes" right now, no matter how much of a crusty middle-class libertarian I try to be. I think that this experiment is a wonderful way for Finland to continue play to strengths of their successful system, and I wish you the best of luck. I hope to see similar experiments in my country soon.

Comment Re:Not quite the correct question (Score 1) 179

This is exactly what happened to me when I was a university lecturer. I was on a yearly contract, which was not renewed when there was a sudden drop in enrollment.

I was upset at losing my job at the time, but in retrospect I think this arrangement was actually reasonable. My department's enrollment numbers varied quite a bit from year to year, so they needed flexibility to trim staff in down years. While I was employed, I received full benefits and a reasonable salary.

Comment Re:WHICH candidates? (Score 2) 312

Most of Europe requires photo ID to vote, or require documentation that would be needed to get a photo ID. I know Germany, the Netherlands, and Ireland all require photo ID or similar documentation to vote. I somehow doubt that all of these countries have fallen victim to a nefarious Republican plot to disenfranchise the poor. Only in the U.S. is it controversial to require an ID to vote.

Comment Re:like the lightbulbs that last virtually forever (Score 1) 179

I was not aware that LED light bulbs have been having significant problems (those are the only types of bulbs I can think of that are supposed to "last for decades," correct me if I'm misunderstanding). My impression is that LED bulbs are improving in longevity and dropping in price very rapidly. If we're just trading anecdotes, I have not had to replace a single LED bulb at my house since I started phasing them in 6 years ago.

Comment Re:like the lightbulbs that last virtually forever (Score 1) 179

It is? I'm genuinely curious why you say that. My impression is that in the developed world the power supply is quite reliable and carefully regulated, and that even in the less-developed parts of the world, you can find relatively inexpensive solutions for normalizing your home power, if it's that important.

Comment Re:quickly to be followed by self-driving cars (Score 1) 904

As a member of the insurance industry, I can assure you that lower premiums in return for fewer claims (and especially, fewer very large claims) is a trade-off we'd be very very happy to make. Lowering claim severity has huge benefits for an insurer - greater flexibility in reserve investments, more competitive rates, reduced risk of adverse selection, etc. Ask the earthquake and flood insurers how much they like writing high premium lines of coverage - if you can find any still in business.

Comment Re:Data can lie too ! (Score 5, Interesting) 339

This is not quite correct about Columbus. Pretty much everyone except Columbus knew that Columbus was wrong about the travel distance to Asia. In fact, Columbus proposed his voyage to King John II of Portugal as early as 1485, and was laughed out of court. His brother was rejected by Henry VII of England in 1486 for the same reason.

The Spanish Crown financed Columbus, over the objections of their scientific advisers , for two reasons: the conquest of Grenada was wrapped up in 1492, and the Crown needed to find something for their surplus soldiers and sailors to do, and more importantly, the Crown was absolutely desperate to do something, anything, to break Portugal's trading monopoly with the East around the Cape of Good Hope.

Comment Re:Good. (Score 1) 133

Traditional schools have the problem that they still think employers want workers who are well grounded in theory.

In my experience, universities (at least, the better universities) do not think this. Rather, they are pretty well aware what employers want, but they don't cater to it because they are not vocational training schools. I think they have a reasonable point; it is the employers' fault for demanding unnecessary liberal arts degrees, not Harvard's fault for refusing to turn into a vo-tech.

"The Mets were great in 'sixty eight, The Cards were fine in 'sixty nine, But the Cubs will be heavenly in nineteen and seventy." -- Ernie Banks