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Comment: Mass Incarceration has failed (Score 1) 222

However, at the same time, periodic testing and background checks are becoming a way of life. The big casualty in the War on Drugs is justice. Poor teenage drug users get incarcerated much more frequently than rich teenage drug users. The US government routinely routinely ruins the lives of young people doing nothing differently than what George Bush or Barack Obama did when younger(and in Bush's case had a father able to pull political strings to get his cocaine bust sealed).

I think that something like Silk road is pretty much inevitable-but so is expanded drug testing that will eventually include folks in positions of power and responsibility. At some point use of drugs may do little more than restrict someone from living in particular cities or communities-and lying about drug use to business associates or constituents will become impossible-but without the act of lying, much drug or chronic alcohol use will loose its allure.

No, the US government cannot reliable shut down Silk Road-but it could create a sound drug testing program for members of congress, the President and all senior members of the government. It could require that all police and prison guards-and attorneys be free of hard drugs or chronic alcohol abuse. Here is a published article where I developed some of these ideas previously.

Comment: My father worked on this base for 3 years (Score 1) 134

by randall_burns (#39626967) Attached to: America's Secret Underground Ice Fortresses

The time frame is a little off I. I was born in Feb. 1959-and he had been working there for 18 months when i was born-and stuff had been going on there a while. My father was a pipefitting foreman for Peter Kiewit and sons-one of the civilian construction/maintenance contractors.

I've met several other people that were there. I think there was more than one nuclear plant(i.e. they had some redundancy).

The security around this all was pretty serious. The construction workers often had know idea what they were working on-or the layout of the facility. I would be VERY careful about assuming the "whole story" has been told here. Some of the facilities I've heard about were more elaborate than one would anticipate for a 200 man military base-or simply an ICBM base.

If folks are seriously interested-and have questions, I can try to forward them.

Comment: Public Search Engine vs. Competition (Score 2) 378

by randall_burns (#34074436) Attached to: Is Google Polluting the Internet?

In the beginning, we had a variety of search engines out there. It wasn't necessarily obvious at the time that a company like google would get a near monopoly.

I think the meta question here:
what are the range of services that really ought to be public vs. private/corporate?

The net simply would not exist if it hadn't been for DoD participation. I think we are still missing basic pieces of infrastructure. Some of these simply will not exist without public input.

My sense is that 99% of the time, google works fine-but that 1% of the time it doesn't work is critical.I think clearly identifying that 1% is a good idea and a site that could do that well might be important in its own right.

Comment: Re:HIV off the radar? (Score 1) 144

by randall_burns (#32854146) Attached to: Antibody Discovered To Boost HIV Vaccines

The US has areas that have a higher rate of _heterosexual_ HIV than African countries. The thing is, that in African, parasites and malaria are major factors in making AIDS spread more rapidly. In the US IV drug use is a major factor. In both countries treatable STD's like Chlamydia and gonorrhea are major factors. However, non-treatable STI's like HSV2 and HPV are also major factors.

  Aids deaths are declining in developed countries due to improved drug treatments. However,the number of folks living with HIV is still rising(though the rate of rise has slowed in some countries). That is in part the consequence of folks living longer after becoming HIV+. HIV is much less a factor in areas that have good public health-just containing treatable STD's has reduced HIV infection rate by 40% in some countries. However, the only country that has really claimed to have reduced its level of HIV infection for any period of time was Cuba--which had a program of mandatory universal testing and Florentine.

Comment: How this might work (Score 1) 149

by randall_burns (#32165018) Attached to: 13 Open Source Hardware Companies Make $1+ Million

I can believe that just being able to prove that a company in fact created an open source hardware design-or made a major contribution to its design, is enough to garner it significant business.

One problem with closed source designs, is that you may be buying from a company where the original creators are all gone. Open source hardware can help contain that possibility.

Comment: Re:Sad news (Score 1) 920

by randall_burns (#30922654) Attached to: Obama Choosing NOT To Go To the Moon

Space is already economically important. A 1996 KPMG report put the space GDP at over $77 Billion/year-and that is well over $100 Billion/year today. That is bigger that some significant countries.

I would argue that stuff like monitoring pollution, improving communications and what not are in fact improving humanities prospects on the earth. There are various technical directions that might mean independent off-earth settlements of humans, but they sure aren't near term.

The thing is, space is one of the few real engines for economic growth in a world economy that is rather troubled.

Comment: Total Cost of Ownership and the OLPC (Score 1) 173

by randall_burns (#30646910) Attached to: Freescale Unveils Design For $199 Tablet

The basic problem with devices like this tablet is they are largely disposable.

The _only_ netbook I have seen that is designed to be repaired is the OLPC. I can get parts for it at reasonable prices from places like http://xoexplosion.com/ and http://ilovemyxo.com/ and the repair manuals for the OLPC are readily available.

I suspect that we'll see a _much_ longer lifespan for these OLPC devices than any proprietary tablets and what not.

Comment: Re:To hell with BIG GOVERNMENT (Score 1) 681

by randall_burns (#29541377) Attached to: Microsoft Tax Dodge At Issue In Washington State

Even anti-tax economists like Milton Friedman admit that not all taxes are equally bad. The question is how much the tax tends to distort consumer prices. Pollution taxes actually make consumer taxes more reflective of social costs.; Land and Monopoly taxes are the least destructive general taxes capable of obtaining a lot of revenue.

The federal government is the entity most capable of regulating really large business entities, but a corporate/concentrated land tax(say a land tax with substantial household exemption) could be raised up until the point it crashed land values. The thing is, if that land tax increased was accompanied by a reduction in more destructive taxes like the B and O tax and sales tax, the climate for most businesses in WA would improve. Sure, Bill Gates might pay $1/Million year for that huge $30 million house and Microsoft might find its corporate taxes going up quite a bit, but can they really find a location like WA for less money?

Comment: Taxes Washington Could Raise (Score 1) 681

by randall_burns (#29511359) Attached to: Microsoft Tax Dodge At Issue In Washington State

Washington Real Estate taxes are low compared to Oregon--and some economically viable states like New Hampshire-so those taxes could easily be raised.
Whenever you see land appreciating in value, that is a sign there is a potential revenue source the government is ignoring. Perhaps we ought to have real estate taxes with a high exemption of say $1 Million per family. I think Bill Gates and Paul Allen could pay a LOT more property tax than they do now before they would consider moving to another state.

Marijuana could be easily legalized-and appropriately taxed.

The taxes I'd like to eliminate are the B and O tax and sales tax.

I've lived in WA for 13 years.

Comment: Re:H-1b Visa Use at UC Berkeley (Score 1) 167

by randall_burns (#27940479) Attached to: Break-In Compromises 160k Medical Records At UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley is a public institution with obligations to support the public interest. The real question here is how the people of California really benefit by having an institution that is more international vs. one that isn't.

I agree there are cases in which it is warranted to award visas. Usually it is being done simply because it seems cheaper to University to hire a foreigner to develop local talent. On the whole, Ph.D level jobs pay pretty poorly in the US because there is a huge pool of foreign Ph.D. folks that want to get into the US(which gets 10 Million applications for immigration rights each year).

When possible, I do think it is often better for US students to have instructors that come from a similar cultural background-particularly for earlier courses where communication skills are important. I understand the need to learn to deal with other cultures-but I think that is best done when folks have a solid base. I also understand that sometimes literally the only people that know something are foreigners--and when that is the case, I think visas are warranted _for purposes of developing local talent.

The problem is the US is no longer developing local talent because the US has made all but a few professions requiring advanced training rather unattractive to Americans.

Comment: Re:H-1b Visa Use at UC Berkeley (Score 1) 167

by randall_burns (#27940311) Attached to: Break-In Compromises 160k Medical Records At UC Berkeley

The area in which there was potential negligence was allowing any workers on which a good background check cannot be done to manage data that is highly confidential. There is a contradiction between US Hippa regulations on the management of confidential information and US regulations that tend to discourage background checks. I think this sort of thing happened much less regularly when background checks were more a fact of life in the US for any management of sensitive data in government institutions(that has been greatly curtailed in recent years).

I have reservations about the US relying heavily on foreigners for occupations requiring graduate training in general-I think we should instead pay CEO's less, have fewer attorney and accountants and make positions that require substantial training more viable for Americans. I wouldn't object to a smaller better managed program similar to Singapore does-I just don't think the current mass system is desirable or sustainable.

Anyhow, I see no evidence that US professionals have historically been subpar. The expansion of H-1b has not be accompanied by massive increase in US wages or even shareholder equity. I don't see that the US is more a technical leader than it was pre-H-1b.

Comment: Re:H-1b Visa Use at UC Berkeley (Score 1) 167

by randall_burns (#27940205) Attached to: Break-In Compromises 160k Medical Records At UC Berkeley

I think if you look, the economic protections for unskilled workers are considerably greater in Japan, Singapore, South Korea-and those are all highly competitive economies without a trade deficit or massive government borrowing-and they don't have the huge resource base the US has.

The folks in the US that are most highly paid relative to world standards and US median income are corporate executives, some folks in protected professions(Japan has a tiny fraction of the attorneys the US has) and some occupations like entertainers. The very wealthy in the US are enormously coddled by international standards relative to the economic base in the US. US doctors make quite a bit more than French doctors-and the US arguably has worse health care.

Comment: Re:H-1b Visa Use at UC Berkeley (Score 1) 167

by randall_burns (#27929991) Attached to: Break-In Compromises 160k Medical Records At UC Berkeley

"It's a shame that our people don't want higher educations to work in a high-tech field. Many of the people who I know that didn't attend college work in the Oil Patch, choosing short term returns over education."

If you are starting out in India or Pakistan, there is a huge incentive to get Canadian or US citizenship. If someone already had citizenship rights, the additional payoff from getting a technical education is minimal. The way Singapore handles this:
a company can get all the foreign workers they want-quickly, but they will pay 2-3 times as much in taxes as the wages they pay those workers. I also don't think Singapore would let foreigners manager critical infrastructure without very careful consideration.

Comment: Re:H-1b Visa Use at UC Berkeley (Score 1) 167

by randall_burns (#27926229) Attached to: Break-In Compromises 160k Medical Records At UC Berkeley

First off, I NEVER said all H-1b workers are criminals. I said it is impossible to do a background check on workers from India-or other similarly corrupt countries.

Every US worker could be replaced by workers from India or China at less than 25% of current costs. Does that mean they should be?

We will never see more US workers going into technical professions as long as those occupations are provided immigration preferences at no cost to the employers-and there thus will be little incentive to improve the US educational system or invest in advanced education for Americans.

The algorithm for finding the longest path in a graph is NP-complete. For you systems people, that means it's *real slow*. -- Bart Miller

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