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Comment: Re:The problem is celebrity culture (Score 1) 536

by readin (#46824925) Attached to: The US Public's Erratic Acceptance of Science
Where do you get your news from? Celebrity newscasters, celebrity reporters, or newscasters and reporters whose names you don't know and won't remember? Are the latter somehow more reliable?

Or do you travel around from country to country investigating every news story yourself before you believe it?

Do you trust what celebrity physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson tells you about science or do you read most science papers yourself and spot check by re-running some tests to be sure you get the same data?

We can't all investigate everything ourselves so we have to take someone else's word for it hoping that they've done the research and trusting or not based on what little we know about them.

Now when a politician who can't even understand simple economic laws like Supply and Demand and can't understand how evolution-like processes can produce more efficient economies that are as difficult to muck with as any other naturally evolved ecosystem starts to tell me about science, I don't have a lot of confidence in him. But when someone who almost always makes sense tells me about science I tend to have a little more confidence (and even more if he's an expert in the field).

Either way, I'm basing my confidence largely on the person's reputation (i.e. what I know about him as a celebrity).

Comment: Re:Shocking... (Score 1, Insightful) 536

by readin (#46819331) Attached to: The US Public's Erratic Acceptance of Science
Climate change: A theory about very complex system to model with the most famous proponent being a politician who stands to make a lot of money if the theory is widely accepted but whose personal behaviors (traveling by private plane, having a huge house) indicate that he's not too worried about how much impact he makes. Of course there will be some doubters

Vaccines are safe and effective: Are people questioning science or are they questioning politicians and pharmaceutical companies? Even good-hearted politicians might be tempted to tell a noble lie about this. If a vaccine isn't safe but it is effective, then the negative effects of killing a few people directly might be considered to be outweighed by the positive effects of indirectly saving even more. And of course pharmaceutical companies have profits to worry about (that they use to bribe politicians). The research funded by those companies says the vaccines are safe? There was a lot research funded by cigarette companies saying smoking was safe too.

The age of the earth and the big bang? It is one thing to know and understand the science, it is another to believe the evidence isn't outweighed by other knowledge. Do I believe dinosaurs existed? Well I believe that we find dinosaur bones in the ground that appear to be millions of years old, and that the science of evolution is sound and explains many things including much human physiology and behavior, and I certainly do make use of that knowledge for understanding animals and other humans. But if you asked me if I "believe" in evolution... well the Bible can be interpreted to say otherwise and I believe God can give us whatever evidence he wants - though I don't know if he would. So such a survey might count me as a doubter of evolution even though I understand and use the theory regularly.

I'm not saying Americans are well-educated about science. I've seen plenty of evidence that they're not. On the other hand I've dealt with a lot of foreigners and their scientific understanding seems pretty limited too. What I'm saying is that these kinds of surveys can be very misleading about people. It's sort of like that question about Obama's religion and the supposed proof that Fox viewers were ignorant because they thought he was Muslim. But those same viewers had been fed plenty of information about his church in Chicago - how could they be as ignorant as people were claiming? What the people pushing the survey were ignoring is that Fox viewers might be well aware of what Obama claimed to be but just didn't believe him because of other things he said and did - while the survey pushers were simply taking everything Obama said at face value without any skepticism.

Comment: Re:The US needs a constitution (Score 1) 631

by readin (#46758365) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt
Changing the winner-take-all voting system to a first-past-the-post system would be a huge improvement. But even better would be having the government go back to doing only those things a government should. I wouldn't mind only getting to vote 11 times in 12 years if the government were only making 11 important decisions about my life in 12 years. But when it is running nearly everything it becomes very hard to register my disapproval about anything in particular, and especially about a number of things. So I vote Republican this year - is that because I like their immigration policy, or was it their tax policy, or was it their spending promises, or was it their Supreme Court picks, or was it their freedom of religion stand, or was it in spite of some or many of those? Nobody but me knows, and I get to hear a lot of nonsense from political pundits who want to spin my vote into something I never intended.

Having a lot of political parties so I could vote for one on a particular single issue would help, but there would still be a lot of issues where I don't think my voice can be heard.

Better to leave more issues to the free market and civil society.

Comment: Re:The US needs a constitution (Score 1) 631

by readin (#46758257) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

Yet, you don't get to choose a Apple laptop with an AMD instead of and Intel processor, a Samsung handheld computer with an A7 processor instead of a Exanos or Qualcomm. In life, things come in sub-optimal bundles and you pick your poison.

So there are some limitations. But I still get to make a choice for every single purchase. I don't have to select just one company and then have that company provide every single piece of computer equipment that I get all year.

The problem is that we often only have a few choices even in a commodity market because of economies of scale. The economics of spending billions of dollars to develop high performances CPUs have dwindled the field to a majority player and a consolation player. Likewise, in the US, there aren't an excess political resources to fund billion dollar campaigns where only 1 person wins, so there is only about 1.1 political parties. When you scale things back you get more diversity, (e.g., local politics or SoC chips), but at the top of the food chain, it's not much freedom and not much service...

I think you misunderstood the 1.1. In America we get to choose 1 president for 4 years, 2 senators for 6 years each, and 1 representative for 2 years. That gives us 11 votes over 12 years. Yikes, my math was wrong and it's worse than I said. We get less than one vote per year.

I care about more than 11 issues, but I don't get to choose 11 different politicians to address them - or even 3 different politicians to address them.

I own more than 11 different electronic devices, and I can choose a different company to provide each device.

Comment: Re:Am I the only person... (Score 1) 631

by readin (#46758153) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt
You still have the problem of who writes it. Even the judicial branch isn't free from politics. It's only in recent years that the Supreme Court has almost swung back to the center after decades of hanging out on the left. You can imagine the different questions and answers the tests would have if they were written by an precedent-focused judge like Scalia vs an original-meaning focused judge like Thomas or a whatever-I-think-is-good-policy focused judge like Breyer.

Question 1: The ACA (Obamacare) is an exercise of the federal government's constitutional power to
a. regulate interstate commerce
b. tax
c. promote the general welfare
d. none of the above

You can see how a judge could write that question and the answer would depend on which other judge is grading it. (or if House Speaker Pelosi were writing the question the answer would "ha ha ha ha ha".

I've seen a lot of suggestions about how we need quizzes or tests to make sure people are qualified to do some action in politics whether it be voting, running for office, making laws, whatever. I even made some suggestions myself when I was younger. The problem always comes down to reliably finding some neutral disinterested uncorruptible party to write the tests when few such parties exists and you can't trust the people tasked with finding them.

Comment: Re:The US needs a constitution (Score 2) 631

by readin (#46753311) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt
Because too many Americans want their government doing everything for them, and it nearly does. But we only get a few votes each year. This gives the politicians the opportunity to do a lot of things wrong so long as they do more things right than their opposition likely would.

Let me put it this way. I can about the national debt, generally following the Constitution, specifically allowing freedom of religion, illegal immigration, lowering spending, global warming, racism, NASA, good treatment of America's allies, treatment of America's enemies, free trade.

Every year I get just over one chance to choose Democrat or Republican on all these issues. I don't get to say "I'll have a Republican on following the Constitution, a Democrat on global warming, a Republican on illegal immigration, a Democrat on NASA..." Nor can I choose specific models "I'll have a far right republican on freedom of religion and a moderate republican on free trade..." I get to choose 1.1 person a year.

On the other hand in electronics I get to choose an Apple laptop, a Samsung handheld computer, a philips stereo, a Sony TV,... And when I choose that Sony TV I get to choose from so many models. And if I find I don't like one of these items after getting it home I can return it.

We need to have less control by the government and more control by the market because market control generally means freedom and excellent service.

Comment: Re:Refunds indicate bad tax planning (Score 1) 631

by readin (#46753253) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

A large refund is a sign of poor tax planning.

Or a recognition that if the money goes in the bank your spouse will expand your expenses to match the income. The interest on the refund isn't nearly as much as I save by not letting my wife spend it for a year. It gives us a chance to buy something nice once in a while.

Comment: Re:Am I the only person... (Score 2) 631

by readin (#46753231) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt
I have long thought that we should amend the Constitution to say that every bill must be read out loud in its entirety before it can be voted on, and that only members who sit quietly with no electronic equipment though the entire reading should be allowed to vote on it.

A bonus would be that every sponsor of a bill would have to approve every amendment to a bill. That way you would always have at least one person who could be held personally accountable fore the whole bill (i.e. they wouldn't be able to claim they had to vote for the bill even though it contained some provisions they didn't like since they would be able to eliminate any provision they didn't like).

Comment: Re:And they've already stopped (Score 1) 631

by readin (#46753205) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

They cancelled this policy almost immediately after it was brought to light.

I dunno. Are the 0.01%ers trying to figure out a new way to fuck over the middle class?

Congress is more like .0001%, and yes they are as always. (Perhaps your 0.01% is accurate if you include enough government functionaries.)

Comment: Re:It kind of makes sense...but it doesn't (Score 1) 631

by readin (#46753195) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt
I would like to know about the whole "due process of law" thing in the Constitution. I money considered property? If so, don't they have to give you due process before taking it (and generally "due process" is considered to be a trial where the burden of proof is on the government)?

Or is this one of those cases where some judges have already decided that their preferences and policies are more important than what the Constitution says?

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234