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Comment The China Syndrome movie didn't kill nukes. (Score 1) 269

And it sure has hell wasn't Greenpeace or the Clamshell Alliance.

It was the 1980s oil glut that did the deed. That was especially devastating following on the heels of the 1970s oil crisis, because so many companies who entered the alternative energy business in the late 70s only to have the floor cut out from under them in 1980. I had a good friend who quit his job at a software company in 1980 to go to work for a company developing a seasonal thermal energy storage scheme. He was an accountant and according to him the numbers were solid as long as oil prices were north of $100/bbl. That was in May of 1980 when oil was trading at $114/bbl. 13 months later the price of oil had fallen to $60/bbl. For the next five years the Saudis tried to prop up falling oil prices by cutting back production, but in '85 they gave up, opened the spigots, and oil prices dropped to $23/bbl.

The economic reaction was entirely what you'd predict with oil prices at a 40 year low. The development of new energy technologies stalled. Cars got bigger again and SUVs of unprecedented size and low fuel economy became wildly popular. And new nuclear plant starts dried up. Oh, the industry pointed the finger at the big, bad environmental movement, which is laughable because so far as I know they only nuclear power plant ever canceled due to protests was the monumentally stupidly sited Bodega Bay in 1964. Imagine for a moment the Clams and all those guys didn't exist; it wouldn't have mattered in the least. Nobody is going to invest in new nuclear power plants when oil is priced at $18/bbl. But it sounds better to say that the Greens have put you out of business than to say the prices you used in your revenue projections were off by an order of magnitude.

Comment Re:This! (Score 1) 130

Are they selling an object like a car or a service like access to a fairground?

Even ignoring quasi-legal arguments like software licensing, I'm inclined to feel this is an example of the latter.

This is not like selling costume packs for Skyrim, where both parties were involved in a transaction presented as a purchase of an object (again, legal arguments like licensing aside - user buys a box called "Skyrim", expects that to be the end of their relationship with Bethesda and Bethesda expected that to be the end of their relationship with the user, save for bug fixes and purchases of other products or services)

This is a straightforward "You pay us $X for access to our service.

And as such, just as paying money to access to a fairground doesn't mean you can reconfigure the rollercoaster, likewise you don't get to mod a multi-user game just because you paid money for access to it.

Comment Re:Books thesis (Score 3, Insightful) 145

Well, having worked in both the non-profit sector and in public health, I think the criticisms of the Gates Foundation's public health efforts are malarkey. It's basically an opportunity cost argument and by that standard virtually every charitable foundation is wanting. Why are you spending money on the ballet when there are kids who can't read? Why are you spending money on literacy education when there are kids who don't have enough to eat etc. The problems of the world are endlessly varied and complex, and you can't ask much more of anyone than that they pick a spot and take a whack.

That said, the idea that spending money on infectious diseases is wasteful is particularly inane. Sure, in some places obesity may result in more premature deaths than malaria, but the fact is nobody really knows how to effectively fight an "obesity epidemic", whereas malaria is clearly eradicable -- and once it's gone, it's gone forever, because P. falciparum has no natural host other than humans. The same goes for communicable diseases for which we have vaccines; we know how to fight those cost effectively, even eradicate them in many cases. The missing piece of the puzzle is money.

Now criticism of the foundation's education efforts is a lot more warranted. Just like everybody thinks they're qualified to design a website because they have opinions about which sites they like and don't like, everyone thinks they're qualified to redesign the educational system because they went to school. The difference is that Gates has the money to make his bad ideas materialize. It may be hacker philanthropy, but most attempts at "hacks" result in kluges.

So overall it's a mixed bag. While you do have to give props to Gates for being "the man in the arena", sometimes, unlike in Teddy Roosevelt's famous speech, the man in the arena's failings don't fall exclusively on himself. So while philanthropy is admirable in itself, where the philanthropist's activities impinge on areas of public policy like education his actions should be held up to scrutiny like anyone else's.

Comment Re:Splendid, Captian (Score 1) 18

This is precisely the first time I've ever heard of political correctness being rooted in anything other than cultural marxism.

Hardly a surprise. People like you will never understand that people like me grew up in your world. We remember being looked down on and ostracized for not being religious, or religious enough. We remember that having a tattoo, or a piercing, or hair too long meant exclusion from "polite" society. We remember when women were best seen and not heard. We remember the rigid "manly" codes that literally killed countless boys before they even reached adulthood. We remember the "conventional wisdom" that tore apart entire countries for not being sufficiently advanced or obeisant.

We remember all the racism and sexism that served no purpose but to preserve power. We remember "good ol' boys" and unspoken rules that made life bewildering to those not in the know. We remember having to respect our elders, our supervisors, our officials, no matter what they did. We remember being told to keep quiet for no reason other than widespread knowledge of the crime was a worse sin than the crime itself.

And yet you have the gall to throw "cultural marxism" in my face as if we in the west didn't already have a culture of stifling anything that dared move in a direction the herd didn't approve of. You and your ilk bleating and moaning and complaining, confused at the world they live in, too stupid or too proud to understand this very thing you've ceaselessly complained about for years is the direct result of you wanting exactly that, just to your own specifications. I hope you choke on it.

Comment Re:Where was the CIA, FBI and NSA... (Score 3, Insightful) 287

How do you know it was credible, besides through the benefit of hindsight? The CIA/FBI/police get 100 tip-offs per day that the stranger down the street must be a drug dealer/kiddie fiddler/international terrorist because he can't whistle 'Dixie'.

Strawman argument. The point is that there were several credible warnings of both an Al Qaeda attack and specific concerns with piloting students affiliated with them, some from foreign intelligence agencies; all these reports were not duly considered and discarded -- not because they were the moral equivalent of not being able to whistle "Dixie", but because of organizational and political dysfunction.

It was a failure -- specifically a failure to do something that was well within the government's power to do. I'm not saying that signals intelligence is not important, but it's an evasion of responsibility to claim our failure to take effective action was because we needed some technical capability that we lacked at the time. We had everything we needed to catch the 9/11 hijackers before they struck except for leadership.

Comment Re:Increase productivity?? (Score 3, Insightful) 413

Here's my anecdote: Many interesting ideas I had back in the day came to me under the influence of pot. Some of those ideas brought me a great deal of money.

I never said this doesn't happen, but your reasoning is post hoc ergo propter hoc: your ideas came to you while you were stoned, therefore they must have come from the pot. In order to conclude that you'd have to have done all of your thinking about the problems while you were stoned.

As I said, I think it quite plausible that drugs can, at the right time, help you escape the limitations of self-censorship in your thinking. But in my experience people who are stoned all the time certainly have novel ideas, but those ideas aren't particularly useful. That's because creativity actually involves a kind of interplay of critical and imaginative thinking. Enough people have anecdotes like yours to think there's something to it, but the very nature of creativity -- at least as I'm defining it -- makes me doubt you can get it entirely out of a bottle.

For the record, I consider creativity the finding of novel approaches to a thing that are better in some way than pre-existing approaches. This almost certainly presupposes an intimate familiarity with pre-existing approaches, unless we count pure dumb luck as creativity. Picasso, for example, didn't draw the way he did because he couldn't to realistic work. He had very good drawing skills, and his early works were representational. That level of draftsmanship doesn't come without struggle; and from that he derived his interest in geometric figures, most easily seen in the development of his landscapes. Note if "House in the Field" seems a bit crude, it was painted when he was twelve years old.

Quark! Quark! Beware the quantum duck!