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Comment: Re:I disagree. (Score 1) 759

by philipgar (#33376624) Attached to: Does the GOP Pay Friendly Bloggers?

Nope, complex financial regulations don't hurt the little guy at all, it's not like a company with 10 people would be required to hire specialized accountants (who can actually understand the 1000s of pages of regulations that often exist) to make sure they comply with all the new regulations (on top of any full or part time accountants they already had), plus the money spent on consulting with lawyers to make sure you're in the clear. Then there's often overheads of dealing with large bureaucracies, sometimes lots of money spent in filing fees, etc. But no, doing these things doesn't hurt the little guy at all, because in comparison the company with a 1000 employees is probably paying 5-10 times as much money to comply as the little guy. . .Oh wait, they have the funds to afford it, and as a percentage it's much lower. Any law that increases regulations, and requires jumping through more hoops and dealing with lots of legal things will ALWAYS impact the small guy more than the big guy. It's why the big guys don't tend to mind the regulation.

Phil

Comment: Re:conservatives (Score 1) 759

by philipgar (#33376580) Attached to: Does the GOP Pay Friendly Bloggers?

Free/unregulated markets tend to be opaque, uncompetitive, and anti-consumer; whereas with appropriate (perhaps minimal but targeted) regulation, we can have well-functioning, transparent, competitive, consumer-oriented markets.

I can't help but hit here... Relatively free markets are not uncompetitive anti-consumer etc. If we look at the industries that tend to be the most uncompetitive, anti-consumer, etc, they ALL are the MOST heavily regulated industries. Let's see health care, education, cable, internet, wireless phone, etc. One of the few free market companies I can think of that are extremely uncompetitive is Ticketmaster, and that's a case where some minimal regulation and competition would help tremendously. Most other industries aren't nearly as anti-consumer as the ones I've named, and the majority have prices that have decreased over timer (with the exception of many labor-intensive jobs that can't be made much more efficient through technology (think things like day care, construction to an extent, plumbing, electricians, etc). However, those services are expected to increase faster than inflation in a growing economy (if they're not, then it means the workers aren't getting paid more over time, and they'd move to other fields, and the demand would increase etc).

Of course, I wouldn't argue for a completely 100% unregulated economy, but by the definition of "free market" I see many people assuming, they think that basic laws (such as not allowing someone to kill another person, damage others properties etc) aren't compatible with a free market. I'd argue that a free market just means that the government does the least it can to intrude and prevent competition between companies. Looking at highly regulated markets, I don't think it's surprising that they're the same markets most likely to be anti-consumer, anti-competitive, etc.

Phil

Comment: Re:conservatives (Score 3, Insightful) 759

by philipgar (#33358154) Attached to: Does the GOP Pay Friendly Bloggers?
I think many many many people on slashdot have this absurd notion that big corporations are always pro-free market and therefore conservative. This is 100% pure crap. Big corporations tend to be in bed with big government (both republicans and democrats) because big government pushes new rules and regulations on their business... rules and regulations that these same big corporations are WRITING. They do this because, although it imposes a cost on themselves, it imposes a far bigger cost on anyone who might want to compete with them in the future, thus stifling competition, and allowing the big corporation to do whatever they want (what choice does the public have when there is no competition, or the competition consists of 3 huge companies preventing anyone else from entering the market). I love when people talk about oil companies wanting to drill so much so they can increase profits. The truth is, their profits would be MAXIMIZED if all new drilling in the US was stopped. This is because they don't need to spend billions on extracting new oil, and their existing oil can be sold at far greater prices because of the laws of supply and demand (welcome back $4-$5/gallon gasoline).

The companies that are pro free market tend to be smaller companies that are unable to compete due to the laws and regulations laid out by the big guys. There are also exceptions for other large companies that rely on buying cheap goods in bulk from others etc, but those aren't the majority of companies. If you want to know which way the companies lean, just look at what candidates they support. When the democrats look like they'll be in power slightly more money goes to them and vice versa. They don't want to be screwed over when the leaders in washington change.

Phil

Comment: Re:The only absurd part of this... (Score 3, Interesting) 260

by philipgar (#33283632) Attached to: Sell Someone Else's Book On Lulu!
one problem there, and with the parents reasoning... Most text books are NOT paid for by the publishers. The authors (normally professors at a university) write the book while being paid by the university. The university wants their name on the book (just like they want their professors names on research papers) as it helps the university's rankings (you know those rankings everyone bases college choices on even though they say absolutely NOTHING about the quality of the teaching at the schools). I'm sure the author of the calculus book is doing pretty well because of book sales, but I'd be surprised if he gets more than $10-$15 for each book that sells. The publishers however are raking in the money, and the college students are paying for it twice, once when they're paying professors to write the book, and again when the publisher sells the book. Then the publisher does their best to screw over the students even more, by forcing professor(s)s to sign a contract saying they'll make new revisions of the book every 2 or 3 years. Sure in some fields this makes sense, but I don't think there's anything new being taught in calculus today that wasn't in a book from 10-15 years ago (likely more, although some changes are made to keep the book "relevant" with engineering disciplines, etc). The sole purpose of that is to kill the used book market. Professors can no longer teach a class using the old book because new copies aren't available, and students can't sell/use an old copy, as the problem sets are different (normally that is the main thing publishers want changed in a book).

Of course, on that note, I remember paying ~110 for this same book new 10 years ago, I guess inflation has been terrorizing the book market.

Phil

Comment: Re:C'mon people, this is Slashdot! (Score 1) 911

by philipgar (#33270986) Attached to: Convicted NY Drunk Drivers Need Ignition Interlocks
Or... I dunno, they get convicted again sometime AFTER the device is no longer needed on their car? I imagine their data is something like over a 5 year period, with the device only necessary for the first year after the conviction. I doubt many of the people (if any) get caught again in the next year driving their own car... the only thing i could see happening is someone gets arrested driving another car. I imagine tampering with the devices in an attempt to defeat them is considered a major parole violation, and could result in quite a bit of jailtime. I seriously doubt many people are doing that.

Phil

Comment: Re:Not fraud (Score 1) 406

by philipgar (#31177984) Attached to: Owners Smash iPhones To Get Upgrades, Says Insurance Company
Actually, this isn't always true. Sometimes, if the warranties are provided by the manufacturer for a fee, it can be cheaper to buy their extended warranty than to run the risk of your hardware failing. Although this doesn't make sense at first glance, it does for many consumer electronics where buying replacement parts to fix them is extremely expensive, as no market for them exists. The only choice is getting the original manufacturer to fix the product at a massively inflated price. In these instances, the manufacturers often have warranties available that could be less than the projected cost of fixing the failures yourself.

With something like a laptop, if it's 2 years old, out of warranty and the logic board dies, it's often about the same price to buy a new laptop as it is to replace your logic board. If this happens to even 1/10 laptops (not counting other problems that are likely to occur), a warranty costing 1/10th of the price of the machine is a worthwhile purchase. In reality, the numbers are likely even higher than this, and many of the manufacturer extended warranties are worth it simply because the cost of getting them to fix your product otherwise is completely unreasonable.

Of course, Best Buy and other stores warranties rarely operate under these principals, and I largely view them as a ripoff. However, I will say buying them isn't always a bad idea. Sure you'll end up behind in the long run, but it's the same with buying any insurance, even HEALTH insurance. You buy the insurance not because it's a good deal, but because the cost of fixing a potential problem is too great to take on on your own.

Phil

Comment: Re:Seems reasonable (Score 1) 505

by philipgar (#31080166) Attached to: Call For Scientific Research Code To Be Released

The first part that you propose is COMPLETELY unreasonable There is no way conferences or journals would remotely be able to "peer review" source code as part of their review process. You must think that scientific peer review is that strong, it really isn't. They read over the papers, and much of their decision is based on their own biases, although your ability to sell your idea in a paper can help it get in. I know conferences, and likely many journals have papers with grammatical errors in them (have you ever read some of the foreign submissions to these things?), they get the most glaringly bad ones out most of the time, but they don't remove them all. The lack of citations is sometimes seen, but not all reviewers know of all the relevant work that is out there. Often times as a submitter to a conference or journal, you look at who will likely be on your review committee, and ensure that you are citing their work, even if the work is only tangentially relevant.

As far as "peer review" for correctness goes, that tends to be a joke depending on the field. Scientists aren't trying to reproduce your experiments before seeing if they should accept or reject a paper. They have to take it on face value that the work you do is real. Occasionally you'll hear stories about students who have been faking results for years, getting multiple publications etc. It's not until years later when this gets revealed, and the papers get invalidated. This can often ruin careers of relatively innocent bystanders, such as professors who trusted that their student was doing the work they said they were doing. There just isn't time to do all the fact checking necessary. Trying to add a code review to the process is akin to asking a scientist to stand behind another scientist whenever they're doing field or lab work to verify that their procedures are correct. Some things are taken at face value as being accurately done or not.

As for simulations, at least in my field (roughly computer architecture), the simulator you use or base your research on can greatly influence what people think of your results. Using older less detailed simulators will get your work knocked down pretty quick. However, I will say that credit is MOST DEFINITELY given to the authors of the simulators used. This is generally done through the citations when describing the simulation infrastructure, or methodology of the work. Most simulators have a single paper written describing how it works etc. This is normally written a few years after the simulator was developed, and the group that developed the simulator has already gotten most of the use they could get out of the base infrastructure.

Phil

Comment: Re:Seems reasonable (Score 3, Insightful) 505

by philipgar (#31076300) Attached to: Call For Scientific Research Code To Be Released

Actually, I'm pretty sure everyone is fairly close with the current data they're generating to prevent other groups from beating you out the door with your idea. The exceptions to this rule are when professors trust one another, and know that the other wouldn't use the information you're supplying them with to do the same research you are already working on.

As a graduate student, you definitely don't want to share code you've developed immediately. You may spend 2 or 3 years of a PhD writing code, and get a couple papers out of it, but with the code base in place you plan on getting a handful more. More to the point, these papers become relatively easy to generate, because you spent those years developing the program that allows you to do it. Writing papers, and generating results, analyzing them etc takes time, so you can't do everything at once. Releasing your code too early means other groups can do these other experiments, and you, the grad student who spent so many years setting up the code or experiment for them, still wouldn't be able to graduate, because you have not produced enough original research, and instead only developed the tools others used to pump out results.

As a student nears graduation, they might be more willing to release their code, as then competition is less of a concern. Someone won't pick up your code and be releasing a paper based on it in 2 or 3 months, it just takes too long to get up to speed. However, the BIGGEST impediment to releasing software in academia is the support that you have to give to your software if anyone is going to use it. You first need to audit and clean up your code, a non-trivial task. You have to supply documentation on how to use the software, another non trivial task, and then provide documentation on the basics of how it works etc. All of this stuff takes a lot of time, and doesn't tend to help a student graduate. Also, once code is released, there's an expectation that you'll be providing some level of help with questions. Granted that normally rarely happens (as the author has gone on to do other things, and hasn't touched the code in years). It just becomes a difficult thing to do.

Phil

Comment: Re:He got away with it. (Score 1) 402

by philipgar (#31075864) Attached to: Space Shuttle Spy Gets 15 Years

I'm pretty sure it has to meet the US definition of treason. For instance Robert Hanssen was sentenced to treason for spying for the Russian government, and betraying the US government. As far as I know we were never officially at war with the Soviets.

Looking at the UC constitution, treason is defined as follows:

"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted."

It only states adhering to the country's enemies, and NOT specifically countries we are at war with. Otherwise the definition of treason would end up being pretty ridiculous.

Phil

Comment: Re:Paging Wesley Mouch... Mr. Mouch... (Score 1) 61

by philipgar (#31027684) Attached to: Following Tech's Money Trail In Washington
Except, under a free market, lobbying wouldn't be nearly as beneficial, because the government wouldn't enact laws that would shoot down your competitors. Big business tends to love big government and big regulations. Regulations make it much harder for the little guy to compete. It's why many big companies are behind government actions which would "hurt" their profits (pollution controls etc). Although they increase their costs of doing business, it often makes it much more difficult for someone else to get involved in the market, or keeps them out of it entirely. This means the company can increase the price they charge, more than offsetting the costs of complying with whatever regulations the government made, allowing them to profit the most.

Of course, how it often works is these big companies take it a step further, getting antipollution (or whatever) bills through congress, and then getting special exemptions for themselves that are justified on the grounds of saving 100s of jobs etc. So these companies get the effect of limiting competition without the harm of the measures that were supposed to do something in the first place.

Phil

Comment: Re:Bad, bad news (Score 1) 1070

by philipgar (#30857322) Attached to: Supreme Court Rolls Back Corporate Campaign Spending Limits
Uh.. actually, if you run a PERSONAL business, many of these things can be written off if they are BUSINESS expenses. The government chooses not to tax operating costs of businesses, because if they charged revenue and not profit, then it would A) push all businesses to be vertical monopolies (the same reason many governments use VATs and not sales taxes), and B) it would make it ridiculously hard to make a profit in certain low margin businesses. In effect, businesses that operate best under a free market economy (many competitors driving down costs) would be penalized the most under a tax like this. I wouldn't want to imagine the havoc this would wreck on the economy.

Phil

Comment: Re:That's about right if your name is Fidel Castro (Score 4, Insightful) 344

by philipgar (#30827716) Attached to: 2-D <em>Avatar</em> To Be Pulled From Theaters In China

There are so many things wrong with your post, I don't really know where to begin. First, Communism is not a form of government, but an economic system. Unlike Capitalism however, communism only tends to survive when supports by an authoritarian regime, and normally they tend to be more totalitarian than anything. This is because economics permeates everybody's day-to-day lives, and dictating how the economy works requires dictating how day-to-day lives work.

On another note, you mention that it is IMMORAL for a corporation or any foreigner to own land in another country, and yet, you blame the US for the embargo.... This does not compute. First, the whole premise of free trade essentially requires that foreigners can own land, or own "something" in another country. Otherwise, why would they trade with the other country? What would they get back in return. Currency needs to be backed by something, and normally it is based on the countries economy, and being able to buy things from the economy. By your own logic, China is an evil immoral country, not because of their human rights violation, but because the government and the people/corporations in the country own huge chunks of land in the US, as well as trillions of dollars in government debt. Do you think the US should be allowed to write off the debt, never paying it back because they don't want another country to own so much of our country? In my view, that is stealing (what a government does best), and is immoral. It would also likely result in a huge war with china.

I agree that many US policies were constructed in fear, but I don't think we're the reason cuba is a disaster. Unlike Cuba, China threw away much of their communist control over the economy, and has reaped the rewards. If China was still a highly communist country, the fact that they are pulling Avatar wouldn't surprise anyone. It would have been more surprising that Avatar was played in their theaters in the first place.

Also, your argument of: "If the Cuban people want to try communism, that's their right." implies that the Cuban people wanted the system Castro through in place. Like many communist revolutions, the Cuban people wanted changed from Batista, as he was doing some bad things. Many of them desired freedom, and a free form of government, and Castro, at the time of the revolution praised those ideals. Batista got toppled, and Castro took control with an iron fist, quickly jailing many of the same people who helped put him into power because they wished for a limited government, and the freedoms associated with that. Some of the people may have wanted what Castro wanted, but I doubt the majority of those who fought for the revolution would have if they realized that A) Castro would retain power for the next 50 years or so, and B) the ideals of freedom would quickly be dropped, etc. This is a case of people making a bad decision, acting rashly and making a bad situation much worse. Governments are quite good at doing that.

Phil

Comment: Re:Multilayer WTF? (Score 1) 926

by philipgar (#30664284) Attached to: Slovak Police Planted Explosives On Air Travelers
You don't think that just maybe if the TSA (or whoever) finds explosives on a single passenger for a given flight they might oh... I don't know cancel the flight, or at the minimum delay it significantly re-screening every other passenger on the flight. I'm pretty sure there are procedures in place, and the agencies involved aren't stupid enough to let a plane go off without a hitch if someone attempted to board it with explosive materials.

I'm pretty sure trying to spread explosives to multiple people getting on the same plane would greatly increase the chances of them stopping your attempts. I imagine at enough airports if multiple explosives got found in a day they might just halt all flights until they figure out what is going on.

Phil

Comment: Re:Economics: Comparative Advantage (Score 1) 502

by philipgar (#30628736) Attached to: Did the US Take the Back Seat In Science In 2009?
I suppose it's less true with TAs, but with RAs, the government is paying for both the results and the education. I'm also an RA, and know what it's like. It's a lot of work, the pay isn't very great, but it's still not cheap. And the cost of an RA is NOWHERE near $30k/year, at least not here. Salary alone is 18k, tuition costs are another $24k or so, health insurance etc are probably at least $5k-$6k, and then you factor in the fact that at most universities half of all grant money goes straight to the department/college/university costs. That works out to about $100k of grant money to pay for one year of school. While you're getting paid almost nothing of that, that is what the costs involved are. As far as the NSF etc paying for results or for education, it's a bit of both. Sure, they want the results, but PhD students aren't really the cheapest way to get results. It's not until the last two or three years of a PhD where most people start getting useful results, and making progress. So that's at least 2 or 3 years of paying them when little is getting "done". By the time most RAs are producing good results, they're graduating and getting out of there. The real truth of the matter is much of the work done at universities is spent training future scientists. Some will go to national labs, some into industry, others will stay in academia, etc. The benefit of most PhD's thesis does not work out to the price tag that is often associated with it. However, the training of these people to go on to do greater things throughout their careers is.

Phil

Comment: Re:Economics: Comparative Advantage (Score 1) 502

by philipgar (#30628664) Attached to: Did the US Take the Back Seat In Science In 2009?
I was mostly referring to people from less industrialized countries such as china, india, pakistan etc. In those countries the cost of living is often even cheaper, but the pay they get in the US is much greater. I also don't think people from first world countries like the UK, Germany, France, Spain, etc have as hard of a problem getting visas.

Phil

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