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Comment Darned janitor [was: Re:Uh huh.] (Score 1) 478

No, it was not the software engineers intentionally designing and placing cheat software in VW vehicles. It was the janitor. He's been caught sneaking into offices and forging top executive's initials on memos before, and this time he's gone too far. Two months suspension with pay, effective immediately. No need to look for any other culprits, it was entirely a one-man operation. That Hans, what a card!

Comment Re:My view of this (Score 3, Insightful) 662

We agree on your first statement, that he doesn't seem to be dangerous.

Your second statement -- he's not *really* a boy genius -- applies to all mainstream media coverage of science. No science fair kid is ever just clever, anyone who does anything at all is a presumptive genius. The same with kids in spelling bees, FFS. Papers need to be sold, advertisements need to be swathed in content, channel changers need to be kept at bay.

Your third statement is irrelevant. A child who brings a pencil box filled with clock parts to a school should not be suspended or, as you have said, arrested and cuffed. It's not a bomb hoax if everyone involved except for the idiot English teacher agrees it didn't particularly look like a bomb. If it was a bomb hoax, then any student bringing the insides of a toaster to school should cause immediate suspension and arrest for the student and the three hapless kids sitting closest to the student.

What is missing is your fourth statement: the reason the kid's actions turned into a media firestorm. Simply, it is that a great deal of tinder and kindling existed in leadership positions in Irving, Texas. The media is quite properly pointing out the existence of anti-Muslim bigotry in Irving. While bigotry's role in this may have been indirect, it seems to me to be impossibly naive to suggest the bigotry had no connection to the incident.

Comment Re:My view of this (Score 3, Insightful) 662

Sorry submitter, not buying. Have you read the news articles about the city council and mayor of Irving, Texas? You can start with this one: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/ahmed-mohamed-beth-van-duyne-sharia

So, basically, a kid is hauled off in handcuffs and some clown goes to substantial efforts to demonstrate that he started with a Radio Shack clock.

We *need* kids tinkering around with stuff.

We even need kids who get maybe a teensy bit cheeky with their stupidest teachers.

And when the cheeky kid happens to be "not quite white" in a community with stupid bigots in charge, and they get hauled off in handcuffs, and the school leaves him suspended, we don't need some clever jackass backward-engineering his little toy to demonstrate media overreaction. We need people looking into how bigots ended up in leadership positions in Irving, Texas. Then, instead of investigating its overreaction, maybe the mainstream media could investigate why it hasn't been plain-old-reacting to this bigotry for the last fourteen years, or to the stupidity we've been witnessing for 14,000.

Comment Re:Contact Avoidance (Score 1) 275

Genetic competition eventually leads to sentience. That's where things become interesting, and where the previous forms of selection lose much of their power. The sentient species actually supports its weaker members, and values intelligence and, perhaps, compassion. Where intelligence is valued over compassion, wars eventually destroy the species, or reduce it to a point where it no longer is able to operate at scale with the powerful technologies it has found. Where compassion is valued over intelligence, there's a chance for further growth.

The societies that don't destroy themselves within a few hundred years of developing technologies involving electromagnetism and, say, nuclear power are well worth investigating. Ours may do so, in which case we may be investigated. But, for now, we're just dangerous.

Comment Contact Avoidance (Score 4, Insightful) 275

Any extraterrestrial civilization that has survived into interstellar travel is probably willing to invest a great deal of its time and energy into NOT being discovered by us. What could be more dangerous than a species that has learned some technology yet turns every technological advance into a weapon against others of its own kind? And we've been advertising that aspect of ourselves to the universe ever since we discovered radio waves.

Comment Politicians Please, Not Professors (Score 2) 281

I'm glad Lessig was moved to action by the needless and cruel death of a fine young man. Lessig is right that the wealthy control our politics, and he is right that they are leading us down a path of spectacular self-destruction.

But I don't want a noble Harvard professor -- if there is such a mythical beast -- who promises to resign in favor of his Vice President, so as to avoid soiling his hands once he has saved us all.

Instead, I want a spectacularly good politician, who can rally crowds to bring about the change we all want and need. I'm guessing that such a politician will not be willing to say exactly the same things a noble Harvard professor may be willing to say, primarily because any spectacularly good politician values the idea of getting elected and having power more than s/he values the idea of returning to the ivy covered halls. But I'd still like that spectacularly good politician to be willing to stick his or her neck out for things they believe in, whether it makes them ultra-popular or not. And, if they believe in things like putting citizen's health above the needs of corporate health insurers, or things like educating all of a nation's children to the best of their abilities, regardless of their parent's ability to pay, and in the idea that even a full time burger flipper is entitled to enough money to participate comfortably in our society, regardless of whether that means raising the marginal tax rate on CEOs... I can actually drum up some enthusiasm.

Bernie is looking good.

Comment Devil in the Dark (Score 5, Insightful) 485

The Gene L. Coon episode The Devil in the Dark, in which a bunch of miners have come under attack by a strange stone-like creature, made an indelible impression on me, certainly more than any bit of religious scripture I've encountered. The lessons in that magnificent episode included the need to understand the other, the danger of assuming you are in the right, the dangers of an ill-educated mob, and the power of fear. I wish W and President Cheney had been forced to watch it before they were unleashed on the world.

Comment Re:you fail at formal logic (Score 1) 288

If this were a serious concern for you, you would realize that election officials must be lying when they talk about your ballot's votes being anonymous. I've never heard anyone suggest such a concern, so I assume those who raise "formal logic" issues, with special coded sequences of votes and such, are being, well, politeness prevents me from finishing the thought yet again.

Would you like a verifiable election that doesn't rely on ballots? Fine, here you go: five contests with five candidates requires five scales, five planks of wood, five curtains, and 25 etched glass jars with lids through which beans can be inserted into temporary holding chambers, falling into the jar only when the jar is tilted. The planks go on the scales, the jars on the planks, the jars' etches indicate which choice each jar represents. The scales are checked after each voter to show that no more than one bean's weight was added to each contest by the voter, at which point the plank is shaken or tilted and the beans drop into their jars. The only part of any jar visible to anyone until the end of the election is the part from the etching to the top. Representatives of each candidate monitor the jar collection until each jar is weighed, at which point the jars are sealed and transported. The winners are those represented by the heaviest jar in each contest. Done. And, miraculously, I have not cursed.

Comment Re:In other words. (Score 4, Insightful) 288

This is not the first time I've heard the argument that access to voting records can reveal supposedly secret votes. Of course, what this argument reveals, if accurate, is that voting officials are routinely able to determine supposedly secret votes, as they have access to the voting records they refuse to reveal to the public.

The long-term solution is to ensure that all voting records are routinely made available to the public, meaning that any systems which acts to violate the secrecy of the vote will do so equally for all, leading to the withdrawal of such systems on the grounds that they do not meet the baseline requirements for a voting system meant to maintain the supposedly sacrosanct secrecy of the vote.

I would have thought this common sense when I was younger.

Comment Stasi = CIA = KGB = Mossad = NSA = MI6 (Score 4, Insightful) 226

There was a time when you could take pride in your country, and think that "your" intelligence agencies were working for freedom.

That time is long past. Long, long past. Intelligence agencies are, simply, the enemies of decent people everywhere. Those who expose them do humanity a service, and those who join them are traitors to any concept of freedom.

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan