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Comment Re:Books thesis (Score 1, Troll) 83

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:Putin cares! (Score 1) 57

Your paranoia is extreme, and I already have private data hosted on servers in foreign countries.

I haven't broken the law to do this.

If HMRC want to investigate my tax affairs, they can ask me for all relevant information. Where I personally store that information is not relevant, whether I provide it to them is.

Comment Re:Putin cares! (Score 1) 57

If it's a foreign company then how it it beholden to laws in a jurisdiction in which it doesn't operate? And why should it care?

If they provide the tin but you install the software and add the data, how is it their responsibility irrespective of jurisdiction?

Why do you think you have to rent a server anyway?

Comment Re:Where was the CIA, FBI and NSA... (Score 3, Insightful) 266

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 1) 330

Man, you're trying to state that all OTR Drivers (myself included) are doing mass amounts of speed, thus causing wrecks?

No, he's pointing out that the ones that did, caused a fuckload of accidents.

How much have you addled your brain on that shit, that you misinterpret someone to that extent?

Comment Re:Political methane emissions (Score 1) 164

Problem is, he's only one of a number of politicians in a position to push through bans on driving diesel cars in cities.

The city near me is considering this too. I need to write to them and let them know that if my efficient relatively clean diesel gets banned then I can only afford a very old petrol engined car, and since a second car needs to have practical value I'll go for a 4x4. Lets see them argue a 12 year old 4 litre SUV is better for the environment than my existing vehicle..

Comment Re:Putin cares! (Score 1) 57

Under current law, I have a choice. Under European or Russian law, I don't.

I like to have the choice.

Under UK (and so probably European) law you do have the choice.

The companies sucking in all your data and abusing it do not. This is a good thing.

But feel free to put your own data anywhere you like. Nobody's stopping you posting your private information onto a server in every continent.

Comment Re:End of open and honest? I'll disagree. (Score 1) 201

I'm pretty sure I can post open and honest comments while not being anonymous.

If you're white, middle-class, cisgendered, belong to a mainstream religion, have political views within the mainstream, and live in a cosmopolitan community, yes.

If you're a closeted gay atheist anarcho-communist in a small town in "flyover country", maybe not so much.

Comment Re:Increase productivity?? (Score 2) 330

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.

Comment Re:Wow... (Score 1) 59

Unfortunately it's a symptom of having only enough money put into the system to house and punish those found guilty and not rehabilitate them. We keep them completely shut out of society with no preparation on how to re-integrate and then just shove them out the door with a few dollars in their pocket. Can you imagine trying to catch up on all of the changes in society if you have been away for a decade or two?

Actually, rehabilitation may well require isolating prisoners from some parts of the outside world.

The specific concern being addressed here is the operation of criminal networks in prison. This goes two ways: imprisoned leaders continuing to operate their criminal enterprises from behind bars, and gangs extending their operations into prison -- supplying drugs, weapons, and contraband, recruiting members, targeting rivals. Clearly not participating in criminal activities is a precondition to reformation.

All that said, recent research shows that the recidivism rate calculations may be misleading, because they overrepresent repeat offenders. Basically if you ask the question "What is the likelihood that someone exiting prison will return to prison," and "What is the likelihood that someone entering prison for the first time will be incarcerated again after he's released," you get very different answers. A solid majority (about 2/3) of people who go to prison will only go to prison once.

Can we conclude that prison then is better at reforming people than we thought? Not necessarily; it may be that most people who commit crimes only do so once in their lives, or naturally age out of the crime-prone demographic. But what is clear is that the recidivism problem is overwhelmingly people who go back to their old lives when they're released. So if you want to reduce the recidivism rate you have to focus on people whose social connections keep them involved in criminal activity throughout their lives. Disrupting at least some of those connections is a no-brainer.

We all agree on the necessity of compromise. We just can't agree on when it's necessary to compromise. -- Larry Wall