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Comment: Re: Idiotic (Score 1) 551

I find it kind of remarkable that it's so low in the US. I wonder why that is. I can't imagine that conditions are any better. Or are UK prisons that much worse?

Could we be taking stronger steps to prevent it? (Surely not.) Could it be something about our pro-imprisonment culture that makes for a different mind-set among prisoners? Perhaps the record keeping is different?

I'm not any kind of expert, so this is the rankest speculation. The factor-of-five difference is very striking.

Comment: Re: Idiotic (Score 1) 551

It's certainly not cost; executing someone costs far more than life does.

Only because the standard of proof is so high. We have a lot of protections in place for those who stand accused of a capital crime, precisely because it's so final.

And that's good, but that says less about capital punishment than it says about the difficulty of proof. How many people are put in prison for decades, sometimes to die there, because their cases don't attract as much attention and aren't subject to the same level of scrutiny? Prison is still punishment, made worse in many places (including the US) by subjecting the prisoners to each other. Last year 82 prisoners in UK prisons killed themselves, more than twice the 35 people who were executed in the US (with a vastly larger prison population). (I'm sorry; I couldn't find data on US prison suicides but I suspect it's at least comparably high.)

I wish we could provide all of the accused with the level of scrutiny that they deserve. It would save a great many lives from being ruined, a fate I find at least as horrifying as execution.

Comment: Re:Why the bad rap? (Score 1) 111

True, though it could well impact the estimates of methane emissions worldwide. If there's some unexpected source of methane, there may be more. Or it may indicate that if some sources are producing more then others are producing less, or that that methane atmospheric lifetime is different than we thought.

So it's scientific curiosity, but it may well end up having an impact on our understanding of climate change due to greenhouse gases, beyond the immediate production at this site.

Comment: Re:Web sites (Score 1) 277

That's partly Amazon's fault. They nag you to provide reviews. And not just star ratings, but reviews; IIRC you can't submit the star rating without at least a few words. So at least some people end up writing crappy reviews just to turn the nag off, and hoping that they're helpful, even though ones like this obviously aren't.

Comment: Maskirovka (Score 1) 269

by jfengel (#49357937) Attached to: How Professional Russian Trolls Operate

So much so that they even have a name for it: Maskirovka. The term was originally used just for camouflage, and the uses of it seem entirely in keeping with ordinary warfare. The disinformation campaign around D-Day would have been a brilliant example of maskirovka.

But the Russians do it before a war, and even during active hostilities as a way to demand that they be treated as if they were non-combatants. It's going on right now, pretending that they aren't engaging in war against Ukraine. It's so traditional in the culture that it's not even really something we can blame them for, exactly. But it means that our actions and reactions have to be calibrated around the fact that this is part of the way they view the world.

Comment: Re:The real question in my mind... (Score 0) 341

by jfengel (#49295005) Attached to: Musk Says Drivers May Become Obsolete, Announces Juice-Saving Upgrades

there are on-road and off-road drives that are a lot of fun for the enthusiast and many such as I won't want to give up the option for that.

While I'm sorry about the loss of a fun activity, we don't spend tens of billions of dollars per year on roads for entertainment. If the best way to make the roads efficient and safe would be to get the human drivers off of them, I'd vote for that in a heartbeat. (I don't know if that is really required or not, but I suspect that roadways could be a lot more efficient if we eliminated the human factor: closer following distances, no need for yellow cycles on traffic lights, better planning for capacity, etc.)

People can use the roads for leisure driving now, because every other driver on the road is human and we have built everything to take that into account. But I just don't see giving up potentially billions of dollars in efficiency gains to preserve your ability to have fun on the roads.

There's probably some compromise that sets aside some roads for you, and maybe even sharing the roads at certain times when there are few other drivers. But I think a lot of people, including me, will consider that a lower priority.

Comment: Re:Becasue... the children! (Score 1) 190

by jfengel (#49251643) Attached to: Powdered Alcohol Approved By Feds, Banned By States

I've been thinking of doing some backpacking, and had been wondering it if was a good idea to carry some everclear with me. Pleasantly relaxing taken orally (with water), and useful externally (especially when the internals accidentally become external).

Question: can it also be used to make the water safer? If I were to mix it up as, say, a beer-grade solution (4%), would it be a more enjoyable alternative to filters and chlorine? (Googling has been less than useful; most of what I get is the fact that you can't drink while taking giardia medications.)

Comment: Re:How common is burglary in Britain? (Score 1) 282

by jfengel (#49226217) Attached to: Scotland Yard Chief: Put CCTV In Every Home To Help Solve Crimes

Ah, I hadn't realized that one of the sources was the Daily Fail. That, I dismiss out of hand.

The Telegraph isn't much better, but yeah, it does seem like this is election-year tough-on-crime sloganeering. (I haven't seen any polls, but I can't imagine it going all that well for the Tories. Not that Labor has dug themselves out of their hole yet, either, but I don't see the LibDems pairing with the Tories again. You guys could be in for a lot of post-election nastiness.)

They're both plenty likely to stir up terror of nasty brown people coming into your house to steal your stuff. It wouldn't half surprise me if people did want to rush out and have these things installed; at least, the kinds of people who read the Torygraph and the Fail. Whether they actually end up catching anybody, or deterring any more crime than they already have...

Comment: How common is burglary in Britain? (Score 1) 282

by jfengel (#49219751) Attached to: Scotland Yard Chief: Put CCTV In Every Home To Help Solve Crimes

Here in the US, violent crime has been falling for quite some time, and total crime as well. While every burglary is upsetting, and unfortunately few are prosecuted, is Britain so worried about it as to consider something that a lot of people would consider rather a damper on their daily lives? (A lot of people would be very self conscious doing ordinary dressing and sex with a camera in the room, even if they've taken measures to keep the data from getting out until a crime occurs.)

I know that Americans are quite paranoid about crime. A great many people would tell you that the crime rates are going up, even though they're going down. Is that what's going on in the UK? Or is there actually some rash of crime that's making them this worried? Or is this simply some top cop blue-skying about what he wishes he had, without regard to how that would affect people?

Comment: Re:DOA (Score 1) 550

And yet it does appear that the telcos are throwing money to make it happen. They certainly expect something for their money.

It does appear that it's unlikely that it would be legislation, but I imagine that they're laying the groundwork for something. Perhaps they're trying to shift the Overton window to bring it up again in the 115th Congress, when they may have a Republican President? It's unlikely that it would produce a filibuster-proof Republican Senate, but if the filibuster is the only thing preventing passage, there are often ways to convince individuals to break ranks. One tactic involves making this seem like a reasonable thing to do, and introducing legislation (especially when you give it a misleading name) can help.

Comment: Why cities? (Score 1) 112

by jfengel (#49198147) Attached to: Self-Driving Cars Will Be In 30 US Cities By the End of Next Year

Cities seem to me like the worst place for automated driving. They're not great for any driving, since things are constantly coming at you from all directions. And while computers are great at operating with many simultaneous distractions, these are cases where errors get people hurt or dead. Erring on the side of caution will block traffic, and city streets are often already at capacity.

I would think that the best use for automated cars would be interstates, which have limited access and more predictable situations. Problems turn into crises fast, but that's the kind of thing where a computer could react better than a human, since it's likely to involve less fine discrimination between "human" and "non-human".

Ultimately I'd love to see automation replace all human drivers in cities, since it can break the connection between driver, destination, and necessity to park. They could coordinate more effectively at intersections, which are currently very wasteful. So I'd like to see this work, but right now it feels like begging for trouble.

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