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Comment Re:Sigh... graphs.... (Score 5, Interesting)270

Why would you start the axes at zero? First off, as you note, the income axis is logarithmic, and so cannot go to zero anyway. As for life expectancy, zero would be a meaningless label. It's impossible for a country to have a life expectancy of zero. It is entirely appropriate to set the minimum value for an axis at the minimum value which has ever been recorded. The difference between a life expectancy of 40 and 75 is enormous, and I do not find the presentation to be in any way misleading.

Your second issue, the logarithmic axis for money, is debatable either way. Given that incomes have generally risen exponentially (in the US, an increase of about 2% per year for the last 200 years), a linear scale would show accelerating income growth for wealthier countries. It strikes me that this would be more misleading than use of a logarithmic axis. If you usually think of income growth as linear, maybe it's your thinking, rather than his graph, which is mistaken.

For the third issue, there is something called "Purchase Power Parity" which corrects for the effect you're talking about. The presentation doesn't discuss whether his income figures are adjusted for PPP or not. Contrary to your assumption, the figures clearly are at least adjusted for inflation (given that his \$400 minimum would have been a princely sum in 1810, far above any country's per capita average), and if he's adjusted for inflation, I see no reason not to believe that he's adjusted for PPP as well. If he hasn't adjusted for PPP, then I agree that's something that should have been done, but it in no way alters his fundamental point. PPP reduces income inequality, but in no way eliminates it.

For the fourth issue, without his enthusiastic presentation, it's just a graph. There's a time and a place for cold, sober, "just the facts" presentations, and that is textbooks. In less academic settings, it's entirely appropriate to use enthusiastic explanations to show people why something matters.

Comment Re:So what the justice system is saying to us ... (Score 1)83

A "harder nut to crack" as in a more complex issue. I think that was pretty clear in context. A criminal who, as in this case, did something for the mere excitement of it may be dissuaded from future offenses once he sees that his actions have consequences, and a slap on the wrist may be sufficient to accomplish that. Or he may be irredeemable, and may need to spend the rest of his life locked up. Prisons serve (or are meant to serve) many purposes: reform, rehabilitation, and deterrence, as well as simple punishment, and you can't make a simple blanket statement of "A carries a longer prison sentence because it is morally worse than B."

As for the whole crime of passion bit, it looks like we'll have to simply agree to disagree. I do not believe that people know under what circumstances they would kill (I certainly don't know about myself what it would take to drive me to that point, or indeed if anything could). Clearly society does not share your views, as we do not punish "thought-crime" by itself, yet we do consider mental state in judging the severity of many crimes.

Comment Re:So what the justice system is saying to us ... (Score 1)83

I don't think the intent is to equate profit motive with evil, it's to recognize that people with different motives need different incentives to be rehabilitated. A criminal with a profit motive is likely performing some sort of a cost/benefit analysis. Increase the punishment, and the criminal will be deterred from re-offending (and potential criminals may be deterred from offending at all).

Criminals without a profit motive, however, are a harder nut to crack. Maybe they have poor impulse control, or have difficulty empathizing with others, or even understanding the connection between cause and effect. Simply lengthening prison sentences may not do much to reform or deter them, and thus would be a wasted governmental expense.

Also, your "linear moral arithmetic" is absurd. By your argument, premeditated murder should carry the same sentence as a crime of passion, because otherwise we're sending the message that forethought and planning are inherently evil. Forethought and planning are only evil in connection with murder, just as a profit motive is only evil in connection with criminal activity. You can't subtract the underlying crime from the exacerbating factors.

Comment Re:Wait. (Score 2, Interesting)152

Well, David Brin's book Earth posited a future where transparency had become such an accepted norm that the developed world went to war with (and nuked) Switzerland for attempting to maintain secrets (secret bank accounts and such). Probably far-fetched, but at any rate, the more relevant question is whether the server farm would stay connected to the Internet if Switzerland were nuked. A server farm doesn't do you much good if the cables leading in are cut, especially given that you'd have to send someone hiking through the alps into a radioactive wasteland to re-establish contact if the connections were cut...

Comment WHAT kind of conception? (Score 1)478

I believe the term you're looking for (and finally spit out in the last sentence) was "virgin birth." Immaculate conception is something else entirely. Specifically, it's the uniquely Catholic doctrine, developed as part of the cult of the Virgin Mary over the past 500 years (finalized only about 100 years ago), that Mary was conceived without sin. God put a kind of "sin shield" around the egg as it was being fertilized apparently, and so she was born without the taint of the original sin (i.e., "immaculate"). Catholics would claim that she was thus made fit to bear the son of God. This whole notion is rejected by Protestants (Martin Luther explicitly argued against the growing importance of Mary in Church mythology back in the 16th century). Again, bottom line: immaculate conception refers to MARY's birth (without sin), not Jesus's (without sex), and is not a part of non-Catholic Christian doctrine.

Look, I'm no partisan for organized religion, but if you're going to throw around religious terms in an effort to make a story seem more interesting, at least use the right ones. <BiffTannen> You sound like a damn fool when you say it wrong.</BiffTannen>

Of course, given the role a snake played in the creation of the original sin, a boa constrictor being born immaculately really would be news!

Comment Re:Regulation of births is needed. (Score 1)738

Actually, there's something very wrong with it. It mistakenly identifies evolution, a scientific theory, as a moral principle. It would be as if someone argued that we shouldn't build houses because the second law of thermodynamics instructs us to strive toward maximum entropy.

Over the last century, people in developed countries have been living longer, getting stronger (see the constantly advancing Olympic records), and smarter (the Flynn effect). If we can achieve all these improvements with technology and environmental changes, what exactly would the point of eugenics be?

Comment Re:I don't think so. (Score 1)738

WW1, not really (the Spanish Flu famously killed more people in one year than the war did in 5), but WW2, with its civilian bombing campaigns, death camps, genocides, and atomic weapons, had a somewhat greater impact. Wikipedia claims "50 to 70 million," probably close to 65 million, dead from the war, and population then would have been something less than 2.5 billion. So something on the order of 2.5% of the world population. Maybe not a "pretty big dent," but not unremarkable either. That's more than every 40th person dead. It erases about a year and a half of population growth (at prevailing rates in the era).

Of course, one can reasonably guess that any major war today would have a substantially greater effect (though radiation would probably neutralize any "benefit" the survivors would get from less competition for natural resources).

Comment Re:Regulation of births is needed. (Score 2)738

WTF? How did this neo-Nazi crap get modded "insightful"? Dismissing eugenics not on moral grounds, but on the grounds that we won't get it right, and instead favoring war and plague to weed out the "unfit"? I can only hope this is a troll and the mod's finger slipped...

Comment Re:London (Score 5, Insightful)297

Rule of thumb: if parking tickets are a big grievance for you then your life isn't as bad as living in East Germany under the Stasi.

This is obviously true. No one will be executed, tortured, or held in secret prisons in Nice for parking violations. However, the GP's point isn't totally trivial either. Certainly a surveillance apparatus is being implemented that is vastly greater than anything envisioned by the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, and it is being aimed at punishing citizens who generally are trying to live their lives without harming others. Yes, people are breaking laws (usually, though there's plenty of stories of systems implemented in such a way that they catch even law abiders), but we all have occasions where we need to stop in a bus zone for a minute to drop something off, or realize that we left our change in our other pants and can't pay the meter. The notion of having eyes on us at all times, watching for us to make the smallest mistake and pouncing on it, does contribute to a sense of alienation, a feeling that government is working against us, rather than for us. Working for the citizens, rather than against them, is supposed to be the very essence of what separates liberal democracies from totalitarian autocracies. Just because a government demonstrates its hostility through annoyance, rather than brutality, doesn't mean it's not a disturbing attitude.

Comment Re:Summary not so clear (Score 4, Informative)315

The court is dumb by design. We (common law countries) have an adversarial system, wherein it is up to the prosecution and the defense to do all the legwork of proving their cases. If a source is unreliable, it gets thrown out, and it's the fault of the prosecution for not doing the work of following the citation chain themselves to cite the correct source.

In a civil law countries (most non-English-speaking countries), the situation may be different.

Comment Re:not proportional voting, rather representation (Score 1)375

While true in theory, I'm not sure that'd work in practice. Virtually every law puts SOME financial burden on the states, for enforcement at the local level or what-have-you. Forbidding "unfunded mandates" would dramatically increase bookkeeping as the federal government would have to try to track every cost of every law and allocate money to the states accordingly.

Having actual people representing the states' interests would probably be a more effective mechanism than a constitutional amendment. That being said, I generally don't support adding layers of interference between the people and the government, so I prefer the current system.

Comment Re:Interesting... (Score 4, Informative)584

Where the heck are you getting your numbers? \$24 trillion would be something like 1.6 times the total US GDP, how would it even be physically possible to spend that much?

Per the official US Budget DoD section, the total amount including supplemental spending hasn't exceeded \$666 million. (see here: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy10/pdf/budget/defense.pdf)

Wikipedia's got a pie chart showing general expenditures for 2009, demonstrating that total defense spending was 23% of the budget, whereas Medicare and Medicaid are barely less at 19% of the budget (here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Federal_Spending_-_FY_2007.png)

But the big problem, as noted, is not today's spending, but what happens in the future. Wikipedia's got a great graph for that, too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Medicare_%26_Social_Security_Deficits_Chart.png

Comment Re:Oh bull (Score 1)91

The one story I'll note was the options backdating scandal of about a year or two ago. The WSJ found that entirely through mathematical analysis of employee options performance. So sometimes data does turn up interesting things.

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