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Comment: Re:Not as simple as teaching how to ... (Score 1) 328

OH, well why didn'tya say so fercryinoutloud. He wasn't just saying a law enforcement tool was bullshit smoke and mirrors, he was saying you could defeat the bullshit smoke and mirrors in order to lie. Geez -- if that sort of stuff starts happening, you'll see people selling bullshit smoke and mirrors to law enforcement, so we'd better punish him severely.

Comment: Fine Line (Score 1) 320

Is it a programming exercise? Then actually have human beings who understand the assigned task go over the submitted code with the student, having the student explain it. If the student can explain what is happening to the investigator's satisfaction, fine. If the student copied code and has no clue what it is doing, force them to work for a large company. And please stop calling programming computer science; no one could "copy code" over the internet to demonstrate an understanding of computer science.

Comment: Re:History is written in the geologic record. (Score 1) 495

by mtrachtenberg (#48269011) Attached to: Imagining the Future History of Climate Change

Yesterday I got into a conversation about climate change with a tow truck driver. He explained to me that the geologists know it's all a fraud. At the time, I just mumbled something about, well, yes, neither of us do lab work so who can know for sure. But I'm thinking of mailing him a printout of this: http://www.geosociety.org/positions/position10.htm

There are at least two serious problems with Americans' understanding of the seriousness of our situation. The first is the continued power of the fossil fuel based companies and the banks that love them; they put the tobacco industry to shame when it comes to deceit. The second is a spectacularly pathetic media, that seems to have evolved into a group of incredibly dumb gasbags bringing in their comrades to shout at one another, leaving the impression that every issue is an ongoing debate in which the winner is the person best able to shout stupidity.

Comment: Re:And now the opposite view. (Score 2) 553

by mtrachtenberg (#48225811) Attached to: Employers Worried About Critical Thinking Skills

"Just because someone exercises critical thinking does not mean that that person will come to the same conclusions you have."

Well, perhaps not. But I think it's very reasonable to guess that a group of critical thinkers will be able to agree that a serious problem is, in actuality, a serious problem, and will be able to recognize, individually and collectively, that a given existing situation is unacceptable due to the seriousness of a serious problem. The solutions that they propose will undoubtedly vary based on group members' experience and goals, but I like to believe that the solutions that critical thinkers offer, while varying, will be offered along with the reasoning leading to the solution, and that the reasoning can be accepted or rejected in predictable ways based on the beliefs of the members of the group. Thus, groups whose members have similar beliefs and high-level goals -- say, "conscious beings have a right not to be arbitrarily killed, or killed for the pleasure of others;" and/or "approaches that reduce every individual's suffering while also reducing the average individual's suffering are to be preferred to approaches that fail this test" -- will be able to converge on solutions acceptable to most members.

Comment: Re:What is critical thinking? (Score 5, Insightful) 553

by mtrachtenberg (#48223563) Attached to: Employers Worried About Critical Thinking Skills

Way too many people don't realize that our current economic and political system would not survive if critical thinking skills became commonplace.

We are destroying our own planet in the name of making 0.01% wealthy, and most of us, most of the time, are perfectly content to participate in the process in any way that pays decently and offers "interesting" work.

Comment: Global Emergency? But What Color Code? (Score 0, Flamebait) 183

by mtrachtenberg (#47630991) Attached to: WHO Declares Ebola Outbreak An International Emergency

The WHO has declared an emergency? Well, that's fine, but let's do it the Murkan way. Would you prefer "Hot Pink," "Schoolbus Yellow," or "Fire Engine Red." We badly need for our top world leaders to work out the colors for our color code. What are these world leaders wasting their time on, if we don't have color-coded posters for airports?

Comment: Re:Really, We Get What We Deserve (Score 1) 144

Look at what happened with the Obamacare website to see how things actually work. Tons of time and money were spent on an important system that was developed by the usual suspects. It didn't work, and it was going to cause problems for someone important, the President. So what happened? The President called in competent people -- the people who had worked on his campaign website, not the people who work for his government. The thing got turned around in no time and started working. See -- people get what they care about.

Comment: Really, We Get What We Deserve (Score 1) 144

Gee, another $300 million down the drain on a system that doesn't work? What a shocker.

Contractors are being well-paid, government supervisors are being well-paid, I'm sure no one will be fired and I'm sure at least some folks who have contributed to the problem are getting bonuses. Just like the banks in 2008 -- there is not a shred of real accountability.

A public that allows this is getting what it pays for. It really has no reason to complain.

Comment: Televoting (Score 2) 18

by mtrachtenberg (#47449973) Attached to: Interviews: Juan Gilbert Answers Your Questions

I've got to admit that Televoting as described in the video doesn't strike me at first glance as a bad idea at all. I'd be interested to hear what holes can be poked in it, but I think using a human election official and engaging in live video interaction between the official and the voter, and allowing the voter to witness (via video) the ballot filled in with their choices going into a ballot box goes a long way towards addressing the complaints I have with other forms of internet voting.

Comment: Re:hope they win (Score 5, Insightful) 110

It's beyond just dumb. This is the sort of waste of public money that really should be criminal. At the very least, the CEO and his Chief of Staff should be dismissed. Call it encouragement to resign if that's the way it's done these days, but if someone getting paid $200K plus thought this was worth it, that person is not worth it.

Comment: Public money wasted (Score 3, Insightful) 110

$17,500 to polish your CEO's reputation? The CEO and the Chief of Staff should both be fired. Or, in keeping with the CEO's resume, encouraged to "resign." And suing to recover the money is likely to cost the public more than just giving up on the wasted funds. Just cut your losses, Seattle.

Comment: Re:sounds like North Korea news (Score 1) 109

by mtrachtenberg (#47432463) Attached to: Google's Experimental Newsroom Avoids Negative Headlines

All advertising supported news runs the risk of turning into "content;" that is, of existing primarily as a circus attraction to get an audience into the advertisers' tent.

In the distant past, professional integrity enabled journalists to get actual news into newspapers. Perhaps that was because the people who chose to devote their lives to journalism, even the editors and publishers, were interested in contributing to society by acting as its eyes, its ears and, on occasion, its conscience. That's always been in conflict with people who view their work as a way to raise money for themselves, and don't give it any thought beyond that. Of course, few people exist at either extreme; most of us are somewhere along the spectrum.

There's a Darwinian process taking place in journalism as elsewhere. What survives will be what attracts people -- that is going to be something that brings in enough money without rendering itself so distasteful that people with disposable income universally reject it. The fitness landscape is being altered as we speak by the increasing income inequality of our society. Magazines selling Rolexes will do well, as will newspapers that cater to the lowest common denominator that can still buy anything.

If I were you, I would not be searching for truth in ad-supported media; what you get is either "content" or propaganda the owners liked investing in. Google just sounds a bit more clever and experimental in its thinking than the rest.

Comment: Re:And Joe Schmoe wont care. (Score 3, Insightful) 364

by mtrachtenberg (#47420473) Attached to: The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere

If you can't stand these priorities, please consider signing this: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/help-arriving-children

Please let me explain what I am thinking in distributing this petition. I believe that Americans, like people everywhere, truly want to help others. But somehow, through a combination of fear and the greed of a few people, we no longer show this value in our government's budget. Instead, we spend more than $600 billion a year to fund the world's biggest military and the companies that build weapons, while sometimes thinking we cannot afford simple humanitarian programs.

If Americans understood what we could buy for ourselves and our neighbors with just one percent of the military budget, I truly believe we'd shift our funding. One percent of our military budget could fund sixty $100,000,000 projects at home or around the world. And, with Central American kids risking their lives to travel to our borders, the need is evident.

Some of us sometimes worry that welfare programs go to "undeserving" people. This is a time when, regardless of our beliefs about whether welfare works, we can easily see that people deserve our help and support -- these are kids fleeing poverty and danger.

Groups like The Moral Majority have poisoned the word "moral" for many people I know. But true morality has nothing to do with conservative religious groups. True morality is using our wealth to help our neighbors in distress, not to further build an already oversized military. True morality is not turning our backs.

And I further feel we find our own safety in true morality. A nation that is extending its arms to help others is less likely to be attacked than a nation that demonstrates concern only that the wealthiest 0.01% of the world not pay their fair share of the bills.

Thanks for spreading the word!

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