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Comment: Re:RT.com? (Score 1) 532

by redlemming (#47903683) Attached to: Cuba Calculates Cost of 54yr US Embargo At $1.1 Trillion

In neither Norway nor Sweden are the means of production owned by the state

Some people believe these are socialist states. That's a misunderstanding of the term socialism (just as it is grossly misleading to call systems such as the British health care system socialist).

It's more accurate to say these are capitalist states that use some of the surplus resources generated by their capitalism to fund social programs (such as the kinds of things you mentioned in your list). This does not make them socialist.

It's also worth noting that these small states depend in part in capitalism in other states with larger economies, since they can't even come close to funding the kind of research and manufacturing that the bigger states can, which affects all kinds of things (like health care). In a sense, they mooch off the larger capitalist states. If they had to fund everything themselves, they would not be able to provide high quality social services over the long term.

I'd go further and say that is it misleading and dangerous to claim these are socialist states, it simply encourages the true socialists, who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that socialism (as it is classically defined) has been tried many times over the past century and more, and has been a massive failure every time. Encouraging people this deluded is never a good idea.

Alternately, we can think of calling Norway and Sweden "socialist" as falling prey to socialist propaganda.

In fact, not only has socialism been a huge failure, the most successful anti-poverty or welfare program in the history of the human race was the Chinese switch from socialism to capitalism, which brought millions of people out of poverty. Similarly, India (while it still has a long way to go) has seen huge improvements in the standards of living of much of the population since switching from socialism to capitalism.

The right path forward for humanity (in terms of the greatest good) does not involve switching from capitalism to socialism, it involves for each nation figuring out how much of a nation's production can be allocated for the general good, then trying to spend those resources as efficiently as possible. Also, just as Adam Smith noted, some regulation of capitalism is necessary for the greater good.

If a nation takes too much of it's production to spend on social causes, it goes into debt, which is likely to cripple it over the long term (something the USA and Britain are struggling with now, yes I know the USA doesn't spend it's resources well but that is a separate issue).

There are two fundamental issues here that the true socialists do not want to understand, namely 1) that production is very inefficient under their system, and 2) that taking too much of the production of any system to fund social causes cripples the system and hurts everybody (creating a welfare state and/or massive levels of corruption). This is why encouraging socialists is a bad idea. Instead we should be focusing on finding a reasonable level of production of allocate to social causes, and then paying attention to spending that production with a reasonable level of efficiency.

Comment: Re:Legal Deposit (Score 1) 102

It would nice if this was extended to requiring source code for all software/web pages, and HDL for all hardware/firmware, to be deposited. It is, after all, part of the intellectual record and publishing heritage of the nation.

I suppose this material wouldn't necessarily have to be released to the public right away, to provide a reasonable period of time of protection for trade secrets.

Is anything along those lines being pursued?

Comment: Re:RT.com? (Score 1) 532

by redlemming (#47892081) Attached to: Cuba Calculates Cost of 54yr US Embargo At $1.1 Trillion

This is INDEPENDENT of any other economic axis. You can have capitalist socialist countries, fascist socialist countries, marxist socialist countries, and even free-market socialist countries.

You appear to be using some sort of non-standard definition of socialism and capitalism that you haven't provided. By the standard definitions, the above is not a correct statement, i.e.:

"Socialism is a social and economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy"

and

"Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industry, and the means of production are largely or entirely privately owned and operated for profit."

where both quotes are taken from Wikipedia.

Social ownership of the means of production is not compatible with private ownership: they are completely opposite things. Further, operating "for profit" of private owners is very different from operating with "co-operative management" for the benefit of society.

The existence of welfare or public aid programs in a state is not socialism. Many states throughout history have had welfare, e.g. the Roman "bread and circuses" and the British "Poor Laws" going back to 1536.

Were you trying to suggest that some sectors of an economy could be run in a socialist manner, while others were run in a capitalist way? Is there any nation that does this?

Comment: Re:Nice timing (Score 1) 138

Stalin effectively threw away a mobile warfare doctrine that was arguably as good as Germany's

I'm not really sure "Germany" had a "good" mobile warfare doctrine at the start of the war. Yes, they had a few moderately large mobile formations, and those formations had trained together. However, most of the German army was still on foot, and using animals for transport. Many of the vehicles the Germans did have were captured during the invasion of Czechoslovakia!

Further the German tanks were hugely inferior to the best French models (inferior as in the German shells often bounced off the French armor, a problem the German anti-tank guns also had!). Logistics was another big problem in their doctrine: they made an attempt to plan for this, but the plan didn't survive contact with reality and the mobile units often operated on a shoestring during the battle for France.

The one big thing the Germans did get correct was to emphasize combined arms. As it turned out, this made up for the other deficiencies (especially since their logistics, while severely stressed during the battle for France, turned out to be sufficient given the short length of the campaign and the relatively small amount of time they had to spend in combat).

The Germans had excellent communication systems, allowing better tactical coordination than their opponents could achieve, facilitating combined arms operations. Further, they discovered (probably as a result of frantic improvisation) that they could turn their 88mm anti-aircraft guns into superb tank killers (the high velocity cannon needed to reach high altitude had exactly the characteristics needed to penetrate heavy tank armor).

These factors, plus the skilled use of the Luftwaffe aircraft in an air-ground role (and excellent ground-based mobile anti-aircraft systems that kept up with the other mobile units, providing very effective protection from enemy air), were, IMHO, the keys that gave them tactical superiority over the French and British forces in the key stages of the Battle for France.

An enormously high level of average officer competence (and the impressive willingness of these officers to exercise initiative, quite unlike the stereotype of the rigid Teutonic type) allowed those (relatively few) German units that did have mobile capabilities to move quickly once they made the initial breakthrough. I don't think anybody in Germany ever dreamed that things would go as well as they did!

It would probably be better to say the Germans had a mediocre and flawed mobile warfare doctrine, but what they had was better than what anybody else had! A high level of officer competence allowed them to adapt quickly and effectively to fluid situations, using the equipment and people they had in creative ways to overcome the deficiencies in both their equipment and doctrine.

As for the Soviets, they were extremely active in developing the T-34 tank as a result of the lessons learned in the battles with Japan (where the older tank models revealed some very serious defects). This shows that whatever the fate of particular individuals in the purges, a key element of mobile warfare was being actively pursued with considerable vigor. Similarly, Khalkhyn Gol demonstrated some active Soviet officers (post-purge) were fully capable of understanding the role of logistics and the use of combined arms in mobile warfare (far better than their Japanese opponents!).

Comment: Re:Nice timing (Score 1) 138

For one, Stalin's army had suffered severe purges of qualified generals in the 1930s

I have a couple of minor quibbles with this. For one, it wasn't a severe purge:

"At first it was thought 25-50% of Red Army officers were purged, it is now known to be 3.7-7.7%. Previously, the size of the Red Army officer corps was underestimated, and it was overlooked that most of those purged were merely expelled from the Party. Thirty percent of officers purged in 1937-9 were allowed to return to service." Stephen Lee, European Dictatorships 1918-1945, page 56, quoted via Wikipedia.

It has been argued that many of those purged were incompetent or overly ambitious, with Stalin using the purges to remove potential troublemakers. It's unclear these were particularly qualified folks, either. Few senior military people are, in any army - most are "politicians in uniform" who often do far more harm than good to the causes they serve.

Further, that so many were allowed to return to service suggests that some sort of competence filtering was going on.

Note also that the invasion of Finland started on 30 November 1939, AFTER the 1938-1938 Battles of Khalkhin Gol and the Battle of Lake Khasan, during which the Soviets thoroughly defeated the Japanese after some initial setbacks. As the Soviets were the only major power that would be able to beat the Japanese for some time, it follows that they had qualified leaders who could be very effective when given the freedom to do their jobs.

It seems to me that the direct impact of the purges is not a strong factor in explaining the initial disasters that followed the decision to invade Finland (or, for that matter, the disasters that followed the later German invasion of the Soviet Union). The Soviet system (and paranoid leadership) was more at fault. Competent people were not involved in the planning and initial execution of the operation, even though they were available.

Your points are otherwise well taken.

Comment: Re:Anthropometrics (Score 1) 813

The reason for european economy flights being comfyer is that we have true competition in Europe, with several dozen companies, as opposed to the US where you have only 3!

The USA badly needs laws limiting the size of corporations that do business in the USA. No corporation should be larger than the medium sized town, implying a limit of 10k or perhaps at most 20k employees! All the major US airlines are way over either limit.

Further, no business should ever be allowed to buy, or merge with, a competitor.

Allowing corporations to become overly large creates huge bureaucracies (which, in itself, results in all kinds of negative consequences for the employees and the larger society), and inevitably results in executives that are badly out of touch with the workers (causing all kinds of problems for the workers, and - indirectly - causing more problems for society). Further, this is just simple sanity from the perspective of legal and governmental ethics: large corporations simply have too much ability to buy the legal profession and the government.

Given that the right to legal and governmental ethics is certainly a right "retained by the people" under the 9th Amendment of the US Bill of Rights, the current policies of allowing effectively unlimited business size should even be considered illegal.

While there is some merit to the concept that economies of scale matter, this needs to be balanced against the overall good of society. Even Adam Smith was well aware of the dangers of unregulated capitalism.

Comment: Where is the biology research? (Score 1) 103

How much do we spend on armouring cables, and is this the right solution to the problem?

For the short term, we might need to armour the cables, but it seems like a better long term approach would have to follow from research that lets us better understand the electrosensory mechanisms that sharks (like skates and rays) use to sense prey.

This could help us understand why the sharks mistake cables for prey, with the goal of possibly being able to change the design of the cables and/or the signalling to reduce the likelihood of shark attack.

We have a very simple and crude understanding of the electro-sensory systems of these creatures, but the current research (as of the last last time I looked at it) is lacking in the kinds of details engineers would need to design systems.

There is so much to learn about the sensory and nervous systems of animals, and much of this research will eventually benefit humans. This seems like a great opportunity for a long term research project that will be beneficial to society and, as a bonus, a project that won't automatically have the enviro- and animal-rights fanatics up in arms ...

Comment: Re:Two questions (Score 1) 227

by redlemming (#47659785) Attached to: About Half of Kids' Learning Ability Is In Their DNA

What is meant with "skill at reading"?

It's not easy to find. You'll find a rather vague overview in the "methods" section. There is considerably more detail in the pdf files in in the "supplementary information". In particular, they seem to be applying measures as follows:

1. the "Peabody Individual Achievement Test", and the "Goal Formal Assessment in Literacy for Stage 3" for reading comprehension,
2. the "Woodcock-Johnson III Reading Fluency Test", and the "Test of Word Reading Efficiency (Form B)" for reading fluency
3. the mathematics test comes from a different paper (reference 6), but largely seems to be about really basic stuff

I suspect if one looked closely at these tests, there would be considerable grounds for questioning how well they really measure the "children's ability in reading and mathematics" (as you mention). There is so much involved in both subject areas, after all, and thus coming up with a really good measure for "ability" is quite difficult (and not all the differences are necessarily going to appear at the high end). Also, are we measuring the ability to take the test, or real ability? Further, there may be effects across a culture or nation that contaminate the results. This kind of testing (I'm not prepared to call it "measurement" at this point) is always somewhat problematic.

Another consideration worthy of note is that the mathematics in a lot of social science research has gotten really complex in the past few decades (a point that might surprise many Slashdot folks, who traditionally tend to look down upon the social sciences). This makes it very difficult for someone that is not a subject matter expert to assess the results of a study like this without investing considerable time and thought into the details. Subject matter experts will often have their own biases and preconceptions, of course.

Often the mathematics used in modern social science relies on some very tricky assumptions, and it can take a major effort to think through whether or not the use of a given statistic in the particular circumstances that apply is actually reasonable (something the researchers don't bother to spend much time discussing).

The claim is made that the twins are representative of the general population ("the sample remains representative of the UK population"), but I always tend to be a little bit suspicious of such claims. Note also their statement: "We also excluded twins whose zygosity was unknown or uncertain, whose first language was other than English, and included only twins whose parents reported their ethnicity as 'white', which is 93% of this UK sample.".

Comment: Re:Why wouldn't you think they are scanning? (Score 1) 353

by redlemming (#47627445) Attached to: Microsoft Tip Leads To Child Porn Arrest In Pennsylvania

My significant other deals with teenagers all the time in schools, and it's amazing how many of them get irate when parents/teachers/police start to question them about stuff they posted on Facebook... Their typical response is, "that's my private Facebook page!"

It's not only teens that can have an expectation of privacy in public places. Most human beings do. For example, everybody "uses the facilities" that nature provides when hiking on public lands, which are, by definition, public.

There can also be an expectation of privacy in a crowd, simply through anonymity, particularly when there is no obvious surveillance equipment in use. Is that not what we ultimately rely on when posting to Slashdot, even as AC?

Perhaps the problem here does not involve unreasonable expectations with respect to privacy, but rather unreasonable standards of when privacy can be violated.

Comment: Re:You cannot replicate everything (Score 1) 172

by redlemming (#47603999) Attached to: Psychology's Replication Battle

Occam's Razor is merely a pithy statement of the principle of parsimony. It is not a law in any sense, and it "rules out" nothing. It merely suggests that the simpler explanation is more likely to be correct.

Indeed, Occam's Razor is a principle of philosophy, not of science.

When we look at physics, certainly the most rigorous of the sciences, we find that the simpler explanation is often shown to be incorrect over the long term. No "simple" explanation of "how things move", for example, would have come up with quantum mechanics, or relativity, or chaos theory.

This suggests that Occam's Razor is largely worthless as an intellectual tool.

Comment: Re:Dangerous Journeys (Score 1) 183

by redlemming (#47570695) Attached to: How Gygax Lost Control of TSR and D&D

How do you define really good? It seems to me that most paper-and-pencil RPG players today fall into two groups:

1. Those who massively emphasize role-playing over gaming (they like to call themselves "story gamers" in my area), and
2. Those who really enjoy the gaming aspects, but like to mix some role-playing in.

There is a third group, who want all gaming and no role-playing, but these folks tend to occupy themselves primarily with computer games, or with tabletop games like Descent, both of which arguably have no real role-playing. So these people aren't really "RPG players".

Whether or not people will like DJ and consider it good will likely depend upon which of these groups they fall into. It has moderately complex rules. People in group [2] tend to like this, because this provides the foundation needed for creative tactical play: mastery of the rules in this setting is an asset.

People in group [1] tend to prefer games with less in the way of rules. Instead of being a tool that provides a foundation for creativity, the rules are often seen as an obstacle by these folks. Mastery of the rules for this group is often characterized as rules-lawyering.

Much of the criticism of DND 3.0/3.5 and Pathfinder comes from people in group [1], because these games have rich rule sets. These critics would not enjoy DJ for the same reason. Many of the folks making negative comments regarding Gygax in the current discussion probably also come from this group, because his work certainly fell into group [2].

The other aspect to consider is that DJ was killed, possibly as a result of abuse of the legal system (that seems to happen a lot in the USA), long before it had a chance to develop its full potential. There is only one campaign setting, and very little in the way of canned adventures.

For a RPG group to be successful requires far more in the way of good chemistry, a reasonable degree of maturity, shared interests, and an experienced GM, than the use of any particular rules system. From this perspective, the differences from one system to another are pretty insignificant. If a group has these things, one can easily have a good experience with DJ. Certainly there is some real creativity in the system.

Comment: Re:Incomplete data (Score 1) 174

Computer Science is ultimately a branch of mathematics. That much should be obvious to anyone that's been through a decent University program.

Computer Science is not a branch of mathematics. Mathematics is done in a fantasy world. One creates a fantasy world when one creates axioms, and then proceeds to develop lemmas and proofs using those axioms and agreed upon rules of logic. There are no straight lines, or points, or even line segments (as defined in geometry) in the real world.

All science is different from mathematics in that it is based on real world experiments and measurement (in the case of computer science, the experiments are done on or involving a computer). Mathematics in science is merely a tool, not the end. That much should be obvious to anyone that's been through a decent University program in any science, but the many mathematicians teaching in computer science departments sometimes fail to discuss this issue ...

For example, consider the following: the mathematician mistakenly believes we can't determine, in general, whether or not a program will halt, and will teach a theorem stating this as a significant result. The computer scientist, on the other hand, understands that all programs will eventually halt, as a result of thermodynamics. There are no infinite loops: entropy (a quantity based upon experiment and measurement) will increase in the system until the computing device eventually fails. Mathematical results such as Turing's Halting Theorem can exist only in a fantasy world that disallows thermodynamics, and thus are trivial to the scientist.

In modern processors, we expect mechanisms like diffusion or hot electron ejection or traps to eventually degrade the cpu's silicon-based structure, destroying the devices and hence causing any program running on it fail. Future systems will have their own limitations appropriate to the technology.

The engineer, of course, understands that the "in general" aspect of the Halting Theorem is far too general to be useful, even if the rest of the Theorem had validity. The engineer is concerned with building a specific system, not with a system "in general" as the mathematician defines such things ...

Comment: The argument is irrelevant (Score 1) 534

The argument being made is irrelevant.

It is easy to show that a right to public oversight over private entities arises under the 9th Amendment as a right "retained by the people". We show this using a technique known since Euclid, namely proof by contradiction.

Assume that no such right exists. Then it follows that the government may infringe any right by appropriate delegation to third party entities. From this, it follows that no rights exists. But the Bill of Rights, the highest law in the land (superior even to the pre-Bill of Rights Constitution, as the history clearly shows) provides both for explicit rights and unstated rights. Hence we have a contradiction, and the assumption is shown to be invalid.

Government may not hide behind 3rd party entities, nor may it hide behind private property. As a corollary, it follows that the Bill of Rights can and often does limit the actions of private entities.

Law such as contract law and property law is only valid to the extant that it does not violate fundamental rights, including any rights arising under the 9th Amendment (rights retained by the people) or the 10th Amendment (rights reserved to the people) that are not explicitly stated in the law.

Thus, in this case, an argument based on contract law is irrelevant. If the request for information was appropriate, and if the refusal to provide information was made by a legal professional, sworn to uphold the Bill of Rights, while engaged in the practice of law, it follows that person is in violation of that oath.

All rights have limits, of course. In most situations, the only oversight that is required is of the long-term variety. In the case of government, long term oversight allows police, military, and espionage operations to be carried out with some degree of secrecy when appropriate. For instance, the identities of undercover agents may be concealed under many circumstances, for a reasonable period of time. In the case of private entities, long term oversight allows trade secrets to be kept for a reasonable period of time.

The people have the final authority to decide what is appropriate. That is inherent in the nature of rights retained to the people.

In practice, getting the legal profession to recognize the authority of the 9th and 10th Amendments seems difficult (aside from a few well known exceptions such as Roe vs Wade). This problem can primarily be ascribed to ethical conflicts on interest that arise on the part of the legal profession with respect to this issue. That last point that has been made numerous times on Slashdot during prior discussions, in the context of discussions on copyright law, patent law, contract law, and property law, so I won't belabour the point here.

Law is far too important to trust to the legal profession.

Comment: Re:Same old same old (Score 1) 370

by redlemming (#47302249) Attached to: Age Discrimination In the Tech Industry

I remember reading about this problem 30 years ago when I was a young programmer.

It seems like what might be needed here is some judicious regulation, so that the situation will be different 30 years from now. It seems fairly straight-forward:

Age and date of birth should not be part of an employment application for those who are legally adults, nor should they be allowed in a job interview. No company database should have this information. Managers should be taught that it is unethical and inappropriate to ask people their age or date of birth. There can be no mandatory retirement ages, but regular tests of physical ability may be appropriate in certain jobs.

More generally, commercial and government databases should not have age or date of birth, except under extremely limited circumstances (and with extremely limited access). The age of individuals does not, in general, and should not need to be made available by government to the public (for example, in freedom of information requests or police reports). Identification cards may have codes to indicate whether one is legally an adult and/or eligible for certain privileges (such as buying alcohol), but shall not have age or date of birth.

We can go further. There is no need even for most doctor's offices or hospitals to identify patients on this basis. Even in medicine, this information should be available on a need to know basis only (such as when it is actually relevant to a diagnosis in the eyes of a reasonable person).

The challenge here is getting society to recognize that age based discrimination is wrong, so that lawmakers have an incentive to do something about it. Then the next challenge is to make sure that whatever they do does not create more problems than it solves.

Comment: Re:I was fired when I discovered the CEO's monitor (Score 2) 195

by redlemming (#47301887) Attached to: Workplace Surveillance Becoming More Common

No. We're a "work at will" state, so they can fire anyone for any reason at any time.

This kind of thing is why James Madison added the 9th Amendment to the Bill of Rights, and didn't restrict it to just limiting Congress (unlike, for example, the 1st Amendment).

The 9th Amendment is there to provide a mechanism to allow people to assert rights against state and local governments as well as against the federal government, and to have those rights supersede the state and local law. In joining the union, the states are bound by this, and local governments come along with state government.

Madison knew from his own legal experience that state governments would attempt to violate fundamental rights. He went to bat for the Methodists against the state of Virginia attempting -- in violation of its own Bill of Rights -- to force them to pay to support the Anglican church. He won (and this victory would later pave the way to getting him elected to Congress in the predominantly Methodist districts his home was located near, in spite of massive gerrymandering by senior Virginia state officials intended to keep him out of Congress).

In this case, one could assert a right to not, in general, be spied upon by one's employer. Such a right respects basic human dignity, and thus can be considered a fundamental right. It is part of the right to privacy.

In some circumstances, infringement of this right could be justified (all rights have limits), but the circumstances under which this could be done would have to be carefully worked out (not just with respect to when surveillance could happen, but what could be done with the data). If private entities can arbitrarily violate fundamental rights, then they can become a tool for government to violate fundamental rights, and thus the protection of these rights against government necessarily involves limiting many private entities as well.

Here, as is so often the case, the challenge in fighting this kind of thing is not in defining right and wrong (the company was clearly in the wrong, if the facts described are correct), but in getting the legal profession to remember that they swore oaths to uphold the Bill of Rights, and act appropriately.

Only great masters of style can succeed in being obtuse. -- Oscar Wilde Most UNIX programmers are great masters of style. -- The Unnamed Usenetter

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