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Comment: A Spectacular Political Statement (Score 1) 479

This is not just a good thing for Gravity's employees, it is also an enormously thought-provoking action at a time when such actions are rare.

Even imagining that high tech is a true meritocracy, which is a fairly dubious imagining, American companies are still floating in the sea of American business. And America has been heading towards historic levels of income inequality, higher than the levels that preceded the great depression. We tend not to learn our lessons until we shoot ourselves in the foot or higher. This CEO is demonstrating the obvious -- once you are making a ton of money, you can begin to share it with the people who have helped, are helping, and will continue to help you make even more, and this can have a positive impact not just on the people you are sharing with, but on YOURSELF as well, and on your society.

A positive impact on yourself, because you will be appreciated and honored for doing a very decent thing.

And, if your society were to pick up on your lesson, all sorts of good things could happen: it would be less likely that your children will get an infectious disease, because other children would be healthier; you would be less likely to have to pay for more prisons, because people are less likely to turn to crime when they are able to participate in a flourishing economy; you would not need to invest quite so much in alarm systems for your mansions. You might find the public schools improving because there would be fewer people going to private schools. You might even need to invest less in a military because with less income inequality, the politicians' focus might change from protecting our billionaire class' stolen overseas assets to protecting our country while aiding the poor in our own and other countries.

Comment: The NSA requests you stop sealing envelopes (Score 5, Insightful) 212

As you all know, our country is subject to terrible terrorist threats. It has come to the attention of your friends at the National Security Agency ("we put the security in the national") that terrorists have, under certain circumstances, used the United States Postal Service, United Parcel Service, and Federal Express in order to facilitate their terrorist doings. Therefore, we would appreciate it if, effective immediately, you stop sealing your parcels and envelopes, to make inspection easier.

This is for your protection. Please don't object, or we'll have to illegally open your items and lie about it. Thank you.

Comment: Re:The Real Lie - faking statistics (Score 1) 394

by mtrachtenberg (#49138493) Attached to: Lawmakers Seek Information On Funding For Climate Change Critics

This is fairly hopeless, I see.

I'm sure the IPCC, like any other bureaucracy, has problems. But you cannot take a situation where there is no consensus and fool everyone into believing that there is a 98% or 99% consensus. The consensus may be wrong, but I do believe in playing the odds.

I'm sure there are occasional credible people who disagree with it; we are not machines. I'm sure there are people agreeing just because there is a consensus; again, we are not machines. But to suggest that the vast majority of those who have the ability to study the subject have not reached consensus about certain issues is simply to deny reality.

You can easily see the effect of propaganda when you compare public opinion of the IPCC in countries like the UK with public opinion of the IPCC in countries like the United States. The GOP and Tea Party have succeeded in destroying belief in any neutral organizations because, as Ronald Reagan explained to us, "facts are stupid things," and, as Upton Sinclair wrote, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

Comment: Re:The Real Lie - faking statistics (Score 1) 394

by mtrachtenberg (#49138271) Attached to: Lawmakers Seek Information On Funding For Climate Change Critics

The procedures used by the IPCC to gather data and come to consensus are described here:

I suggest you read them, because it is clear you haven't. I'd also suggest you read the lists of authors of the working group reports. Perhaps you might consider contacting a few of them to find out why they believe what they believe. Until you've done so, you're not worth taking seriously.

Also, I notice you do not respond to the fact that United States elections may be purchased like any other commodity, according to the persons appointed to the supreme court. There is a clear and accepted correlation between expenditures on advertising buys and ad-market voting results, yet the persons appointed to the supreme court do not believe in preventing the expenditures of millions (or, for that matter, trillions) of dollars on advertising buys by the interested parties who got them appointed. That makes your own interests very clear.

Comment: The Liars (Score 4, Insightful) 394

by mtrachtenberg (#49137403) Attached to: Lawmakers Seek Information On Funding For Climate Change Critics

Well, I suppose it's a good thing if it can be demonstrated that the Koch Brothers and other fossil fuel interests are behind the vanishingly small number of still-reputable scientists issuing climate change lies. But, really, when you have 98% or 99% consensus, you don't need to wonder if the 1 or 2% are lying or just wrong. There are no areas in life where we find ourselves unable to operate with a consensus of 98% or 99%.

So the problem is not that a few scientists are wrong, or willing to be bought. The problem is that the people we elect are willing to destroy the planet for the benefit of their reelection. And the problem is that substantial numbers of voters are stupid and so incredibly self-interested that they are willing to trade their children's future for some politician's "promise" of "jobs, jobs, jobs."

Capitalism as we see it is a complete failure, allowing 85 individuals to control equivalent assets to several billion people, and legally treating the destruction of the planet as just another externality. "Democracy" as it is practiced in the United States is a game played by advertisers and strategists; really, all you need do to understand the depth of the fraud is to realize that advertisers "buy" points with advertising buys. It's not a democracy if you've learned you can predictably alter the point spread with a "buy" of a certain size.

There is no longer *any* legitimacy to our national-level institutions, and for the Senate or House to "investigate" fraud is a joke.

Comment: Thank you, NSA (Score 1) 115

Thank you, National Security Agency, for doing such a truly brilliant job of damaging future prospects for the American computer hardware industry. Smart move to leave the torture to the CIA, no reason for geeks to get their hands dirty. You, along with the CIA, daily provide the rest of the world with evident of how deeply, incredibly stupid supposedly smart people can be when they don't mix with grown-ups. Congratulations!

Comment: We need to teach people to think, and to use tools (Score 5, Informative) 291

by mtrachtenberg (#49056263) Attached to: Should We Really Try To Teach Everyone To Code?

Ah, the computer, that magnificent "universal machine."

Have you ever watched as someone tries to take information from, say, Microsoft Word, and use it to do mailing labels? Especially if the information has been formatted to be "pretty." Let me tell you, it ain't pretty.

We don't need for people to learn to "code." We also don't need for people to learn how to use particular proprietary products. We need for people to learn things like basic math, basic logic, and understand how they can use computers, with a teensy bit of effort and understanding, to accomplish their unique and specific tasks. We also need to teach people that they should not feel helpless when confronted with a computer program that doesn't do precisely what they want.

I feel a bit Mao-ish on this subject, and truly think the best solution would be to issue a voltage surge to all existing infrastructure, and not allow anyone to buy any replacement computers until they demonstrate an understanding of their jobs (not the computers' jobs, the individual workers' jobs).

Comment: Don't watch if you don't want to watch (Score 1) 400

by mtrachtenberg (#49014665) Attached to: An Argument For Not Taking Down Horrific Videos

As someone who has managed to avoid watching the video of the Jordanian pilot being intentionally burned to death, I thought I would share my approach, which didn't involve removing it from the internet. I did not click, and I don't watch Fox News. Actually, I don't watch any mainstream TV news; I listen to the radio and read online sites run by newspapers (the Guardian, mainly) and other organizations (Pro Publica).

This has saved me enormous amounts of time, and spared me from having to tut-tut when TV newsreaders working for General Electric, Westinghouse, or other large successful corporations turn out to be liars and frauds. It also prevents me from having nightmares from watching people being bombed by governments, burned to death by other terrorists, and yet I still feel relatively informed about just how disastrous 21st century capitalist fraud has been for humanity.

Comment: Re:Science by democracy doesn't work? (Score 1) 497

by mtrachtenberg (#48876389) Attached to: Science By Democracy Doesn't Work

In other recent news, the United States Senate recently passed legislation requiring that all government contractors use 3 as the value for pi. Asked for comment, Sen. Inhofe stated "irrational numbers are the devil's spawn, and America is a Christian nation. We use wholesome whole numbers in this country."

"Necessity is the mother of invention" is a silly proverb. "Necessity is the mother of futile dodges" is much nearer the truth. -- Alfred North Whitehead