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Comment: Re:Fascism largely a creation of director Verhoeve (Score 4, Interesting) 240

by the gnat (#49182707) Attached to: 'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming To the Big Screen

The accusation of fascism wasn't just Verhoeven, though - many others have made the same complaint (again, I think it's unfair, but it is a widespread view). Heinlein was clearly bothered enough by some of the reactions to his book that he wrote an entire essay defending himself and clarifying what he meant (I think it's in the collection Expanded Universe). One of the key points was that fascism tends to involve universal conscription - his "federal service" was absolutely voluntary.

Comment: Re:There might be hope for a decent adaptation (Score 2) 240

by the gnat (#49182673) Attached to: 'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming To the Big Screen

I'm using the term "libertarian" only in the most general sense - not the Tea Party/Ayn Rand versions. It's an imperfect term to describe him, but I have a hard time thinking of another that works better, since none of the established political groupings occupies a similar niche.

Comment: Re:There might be hope for a decent adaptation (Score 3, Interesting) 240

by the gnat (#49182619) Attached to: 'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming To the Big Screen

I love Heinlein. But, one cannot take some of his ideas too seriously.

I agree; I think Starship Troopers is one of the greatest works of science fiction, and it has influenced the way I think about participation in government, but it's important to recognize the inherent flaws of the premise (and to place it in the proper context of his other, sometimes nuttier, writing). A lot of his work was intended to provoke, not present a blueprint for an ideal society.

Comment: Re:There might be hope for a decent adaptation (Score 5, Insightful) 240

by the gnat (#49182203) Attached to: 'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming To the Big Screen

There is one way of looking at the movie in relation to the book that actually sort of makes sense. For all of the criticism leveled at Heinlein for being too militaristic or even "fascistic", the society he describes is basically a multicultural libertarian utopia: people of all nationalities seem to be relatively happy and well-off, the government is relatively minimal, and the federal service is open to absolutely anyone (even cripples). And that's precisely the problem - utopian ideals rarely turn out well in practice. Actually, the even more specific problem is that Heinlein assumes the society would basically be run by people like him. Verhoeven's version, although it badly misrepresents what the book actually says, is probably a more realistic vision of how such a society would turn out.

That said, I'd still love to see an adaptation that plays it straight. Or at least gets the mobile infantry right, complete with orbital drops and mechanized armor.

Comment: Re:..and we're done (Score 2) 320

by the gnat (#49129675) Attached to: Use Astrology To Save Britain's Health System, Says MP

. . . says yet another person who appears to be totally ignorant about history. Do you really believe that if you went back in time to, say, 1950, you couldn't find politicians saying equally idiotic things, perhaps in even greater numbers? And do you think "technology" is limited to, say, space travel?

I am carrying, in my pocket, a computer significantly more powerful than anything I used as a child (and much cheaper in absolute dollars), with access to a global information network containing most of human knowledge, and the ability to instantaneously communicate with anyone in the world. The overall computing infrastructure is rapidly overtaking the technology depicted in a 20th-century show about 24th-century space exploration. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of people across the planet, whose parents lived in virtually pre-industrial economies and regularly suffered from pandemics and famine, now have relatively comfortable middle-class lives thanks to improved technology and the expansion of the global economy. These improvements have mostly happened within my lifetime (i.e. since 1980 or so). So I'm not exactly losing sleep over the fact that the developed world still has a handful of proudly ignorant fools in government.

It's also worth remembering for context that shortly after the close of World War II, the British government drove one of its greatest scientists to commit suicide at the age of 41 because it was run by superstitious, self-righteous prudes who disapproved of his homosexuality. Today, the UK has some random back-bencher spouting nonsense about homeopathy. I think that's an improvement.

Comment: Re:Why not open source wolfram alpha? (Score 1) 210

by the gnat (#49075097) Attached to: Interviews: Ask Stephen Wolfram a Question

Because he runs a business not a hippy commune.

But he has pretensions towards being a respected visionary scientist. It's not impossible to have it both ways, but it's really, really difficult. (Especially when you've taken the work you did as a student at a public university and commercialized it without giving a penny to the university.)

Comment: Re: Helping Castro (Score 2) 166

by the gnat (#49068999) Attached to: Cubans Allowed To Export Software and Software Services To the US

Saudi Arabia also requires exit visas to leave the country - which can only be obtained with permission from your employer. For many foreign nationals in the country, a large fraction of whom are domestic servants, it is essentially impossible to leave as a result. It's made even worse by the fact that work visas are also specific to the employer, so they can't switch jobs either. This is a country that didn't even officially outlaw slavery until after Castro's revolution, but even so they've kept slavery in all but name. (Not even going to start on their sponsorship of Salafi Islamist nutters across the globe.)

Besides, Cuba did finally allow foreign travel starting in 2013 (of course, most of its citizens are probably too poor to afford it, but the embargo certainly doesn't help). And we kept diplomatic relations and some commerce open with the Warsaw Pact at a time when they also restricted travel, which didn't stop their system from collapsing under its own weight.

Comment: Re:More liberal than libertarian (Score 1) 580

by the gnat (#49049019) Attached to: Low Vaccination Rates At Silicon Valley Daycare Facilities

I live in Berkeley, you insensitive clod! But no, ultra-liberals aren't even as powerful in Berkeley as you might think.

Perhaps, but this is still the city that had to call a special meeting of the city council to make a special exception to the "nuclear-free" law so that they could get the library book scanners fixed. And the city where in 2002, 30% of voters approved a proposition that would have imposed jail time for anyone selling non-shade-grown, non-organic, or non-fair-trade coffee.

The North Berkeley area is certainly not that bad, and I feel right at home.

Well, it's mostly not that bad... there is certainly a high quotient of what are commonly called "limousine liberals". I'm not sure how to classify the nutters trying to prevent more cellular relays being placed in the hills because they're afraid they'll get cancer. But if I lived somewhere else, they'd probably be praying for my soul instead, so I guess I'll settle for the devil I know.

Comment: Re:It means you jumped on the latest bandwagon (Score 1) 94

by the gnat (#49048897) Attached to: What Does It Mean To Be a Data Scientist?

I translate "data scientist" as "PhD in hard sciences who couldn't get a job in his or her field because we've been massively over-training PhDs for the last couple of decades, so he/she took a course in statistics and learned to write simple Python scripts and use scikit-learn and Hadoop." That seems to cover most of the ones I know, anyway. (Although to be fair, some of them knew Python already.)

Comment: Re:anti-science??? (Score 4, Informative) 580

by the gnat (#49043163) Attached to: Low Vaccination Rates At Silicon Valley Daycare Facilities

you think it's _good_ to carry out mass-vaccination of a species

Smallpox killed more people in the 20th century than every war combined, and is now completely eradicated because of mass vaccination (sometimes coerced). Remember: vaccines are unnatural, but so is a life expectancy of 80 years.

Comment: Re:More liberal than libertarian (Score 4, Interesting) 580

by the gnat (#49043073) Attached to: Low Vaccination Rates At Silicon Valley Daycare Facilities

Most libertarians I know are reasonable libertarians. They want some service and regulations, they just want such to be minimal and to be served by the lowest and most local level of government. Just enough for basic safety, a level playing field, equal opportunity and most importantly accountability to locals.

I'd argue that in California, the biggest contingent is what are sometimes called "liberaltarians" (I include myself in this group): secular, very libertarian on social issues, skeptical of interventionist foreign policy, broadly pro-capitalism, generally just want to mind their own business and make money and be left alone, but don't usually freak out over income taxes and mildly redistributionist policies and universal healthcare, and probably more environmentally conscious than average. Personally, I despise laws banning smoking in private business (e.g. bars), or requiring seat belt or bike helmet use, but on the other hand, I think California's law declaring the coastline public property was one of the wisest things the state ever did.

Most of us are willing to put up with the large number of crazies in the Bay Area because overall, they're not nearly as powerful as you might expect (outside of Berkeley, at least), and they also like weed, gay marriage, and Mexican food, so at least we have that much in common.

The moon is a planet just like the Earth, only it is even deader.