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Comment Re:Your one party system has failed you (Score 1) 193

Corporations have the same incentive as government for efficiency, albeit enforced by different mechanisms.

It's just that in some cases, in some parts of the economy, the mechanisms that regulate a private company are better. Most of all, this applies to sectors of the economy where the rules of the business can change rapidly, where you have multiple competitors in a situation where the customers are equipped to make a truly well-informed decision, and where the benefit of cooperation does not exceed the positive outcomes of competition. To me, the best example of this is the computing industry, and a comparison between the US and Soviet computer industries are profoundly striking.

Now, that does not apply for all things, just a large amount of them. And one rather extreme counter-example is a weather service, where you're basically dealing with - first, basic research, which never makes fiscal sense to MBAs and so long-run R&D departments tend to get cut quite severely when parent organizations are privatized. Secondly, it's data processing based on the maximum number of data collection points. It's called a "natural monopoly"; Essentially, you want a monopoly rather than three or four organizations competing with a third or a fourth of the sensor coverage, so the task is best executed by a monopoly.

Besides, the US Weather Service is really pretty excellent. Their ability to constantly improve their quality of output is striking, and they are masters of prediction.

Private companies are quite robust because they always have a bottom line they can steer by. If you're in the black, you're doing fine. Government institutions can really only steer by the expectations of the voters, and by constantly lowering them that inherently causes the government efficiency to drop - so it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Expecting efficiency from the public sector really does work.

I'm a big fan of the private market, but the extent to which a lot of people oversimplify its strengths and ignore weaknesses is counterproductive. The world is full of nuances.

Comment Re:I'm not British (Score 1) 160

Yep. Tekst-TV is the generic name of the service in Norway, the analog of "teletext", I suppose. NRK used to run Tekst-TV on VAX and later Alpha OpenVMS systems. Now we run it off a doubly redundant Linux box with a bit of custom software.

It's really all a fun and kludgey affair, but quite stable - the box outputs analog composite video with the Huffmann-coded data - which is then run into a really old MPEG-2 encoder (which is the only box around that will actually import teletext) - which then turns it into a transport stream over ASI, which then runs into the modern multiplexer. The external data used to arrive by a varied set of different means but it's all XML over HTTP now, which is munged into Teletext by way of a templating system written in Object Pascal, of all things.

Tekst-TV is still one of our most popular services, and we get immediate feedback if there is any error in the content - some of the feedback displaying a truly admirable attention to accuracy from the users! Bathing temperatures, ski information, airport arrivals/departures, stock exchange - people tend to remember the page numbers, and so it's really only between four and six key strokes to get the information in an instant. The typography isn't beautiful, but I don't check bathing temperatures for the typography. :)

The system is very well integrated with our other content infrastructure. The subtitles are integrated with our DVB subtitling system, for instance, and the news delivery with our web CMS. This enables us to keep the system chugging along very cost-efficiently.

Comment Re:An (Score 1) 272

Well, because the market mechanism doesn't work as well as the public mechanism here

Well, you'll need to give an example then. It looks to me like market works better for this sort of thing.

The Apollo space program. All other space exploration too. The Internet. Transistors, fiber optics, radar (and all the high-frequency electronics that come with it). I could go on.

For the price of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars you could do the Apollo project between 10 and 40 times over, depending on which estimate you trust, never mind the human cost.

And what would you have gotten for that money? At least with the wars, the US knocked over a dictatorship and set back some enemies that were looking to make a habit of bombing stuff on US soil.

You also knocked over what conservative estimates place at more than 110 000 innocent civilians in Iraq and 20 000 in Afghanistan. And you can't document those claims.

Comment Re:An (Score 1) 272

What I don't like is the fact that space is becoming increasingly privatised.

Well, why shouldn't it be? Most endeavors in the US are handled privately.

Well, because the market mechanism doesn't work as well as the public mechanism here - if the US were only able to shed its market fundamentalism and understand that some tasks are optimal for one sector, some for the other. Space exploration is the archetypal community effort - it benefits all of mankind and almost all financial benefits to the country are almost entirely external (research and development yielding advances in manufacturing, engineering, etcetera)

Of course, you might get results because all the people who actually want to get space stuff done will gravitate towards the suboptimal solution, but the optimal solution would just be to lobby for a change in priorities of your national government. For the price of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars you could do the Apollo project between 10 and 40 times over, depending on which estimate you trust, never mind the human cost.

Comment Re:Sysiphus (Score 1) 687

First of all, "Becoming epidemic" is perfectly cromulent since epidemic is both an adjective and a noun.

Second of all, it is probably the more descriptive word. "Widespread" do not convey the notion of something which is catching on, in this case due to social pressures - which "epidemic" does.

Comment Well, he was misquoted, but... (Score 2) 1223

The problem with Mitt is that it wasn't clear that it was a joke.

There are two problems, one minor, one severe, which caused this:

One, he's not the funniest man in the world. That's fine. People are voting for a politican, and a great sense of humour and delivery - although useful, is not a prerequisite.

The second problem is the real one: He has said - and is running on a platform of! - so many so profoundly stupid things that it was in no way clear that he didn't sincerely mean this to be true.

Comment Re:Much Better Video Available (Score 2) 105

If they had been able to scan the originals, that might yield a quality improvement - but there are so many things I'd love to try out with the raw materials.

I would be very interested in seeing what digital image processing might be possible to use - if one could mangle the three temporally separate frames into a luminance signal and a chrominance signal which interpolates using motion-compensation derived from luminance, that might temper the rainbow effect somewhat - and triple the temporal resolution!

Comment Re:.gov gone wild (Score 3, Interesting) 149

The person is operating a business - admittedly, on non-standard terms - but she is running a business. That does include a requirement to understand and comply with the basic laws of the land. And she has done it in a way which runs afoul of some laws that are there for good reasons but which are not impossible to get around.

It's bureaucracy doing exactly what it is supposed to do: Ensuring a functional market by regulating it competently.

Comment Re:Cue the young earth creationists (Score 1) 267

The Genesis account clearly says that the 24-hour day was not in existence until the 4th creative day, thus the creative "days" could not have been literal Earth days. Technically, the last two could have been, but they weren't because 1) the same word for "day" is used for all six, and 2) science (duh).

Personally, I am a creationist (couldn't you guess?), but I actually know what the Bible says.

That's an odd claim. I looked up the Young Literal Translation:

4 And God seeth the light that [it is] good, and God separateth between the light and the darkness,
5 and God calleth to the light `Day,' and to the darkness He hath called `Night;' and there is an evening, and there is a morning -- day one.
(...)
13 and there is an evening, and there is a morning -- day third.
14 And God saith, `Let luminaries be in the expanse of the heavens, to make a separation between the day and the night, then they have been for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years,
15 and they have been for luminaries in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth:' and it is so.
16 And God maketh the two great luminaries, the great luminary for the rule of the day, and the small luminary -- and the stars -- for the rule of the night;
17 and God giveth them in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth,

Which suggests a few things: Firstly that the separation God made between night and day occured on the first day, not the fourth (but some more stuff happens on the third). Since you trumpet your superior knowledge of the Bible, I think you really ought to at least have memory of the first page of the book. Secondly, he makes the statement right at the top. Thirdly, that the presence of these lights in the sky was the definition of the time of day. Fourthly, that he means "day" and "night" to be something which is only indicated by the presence of the luminaries, and not something which is actually defined inherently by their relative position.

Interestingly, the literal translation also does seem to indicate quite strongly that the Moon gives off light - which, together with the implied geocentricity, I would consider a claim difficult to reconcile with your argument that the Bible is not inconsistent with scientific findings.

Comment Re:Get a fact checker (Score 1) 172

Who is them?

The exceptions.

Wait, what? I don't see how that makes sense in the context you used "them" in the above text...

The Second Amendment is an excellent example of an idea which has no real relevance for the purpose intended in the old days, which should really not be a part of the US Constitution.

I think we need more protection against collective punishment-like restrictions ("Some people abuse guns; ban them for everyone."). Again, I don't think the current amendments go far enough in this regard. I believe it needs to be made explicitly clear.

That's a weird way to state the problem. It's not a collective punishment - it's a risk/benefit assessment. The fact that I'm not allowed to carry out biological experiments on contagious diseases or store high explosives in my downtown apartment is good because I don't see any reason anyone would do that. That's not a "punishment". The thought that my neighbor does not have those rights is a relief. And it does prevent random accidents. The point is: Why would you need a semi-automatic weapon for personal use? Is regulating their ownership really "punishment", or is that really just a disingenuous turn of phrase?

The primary reason why it is possible to ensure that the gun control is so incredibly lax in the US, is by harping on the ramifications of the Second Amendment and the idea that it provides some kind of hypothetical balance of power against the US Government. Sure. Try forming a militia, go somewhere and rebel - see how that works out for your group and the crater that would surround it.

But that argument, so incredibly separated from reality, is the primary argument against gun control - and that is possible because the Constitution is turning into something people are supposed to have faith in, in the religious sense, rather than a document that should appeal to rationality.

Ironically, the idea that the Constitution is immutable really does remove freedom of self-determination from the people - subverting the intent of the document.

Comment Re:Get a fact checker (Score 1) 172

Who is them?

Personally, I don't get this idea of turning the Constitution into a dogmatic, religious text. To me, the idea that the document is to be revered for the position it has rather than its content, lessens its value by implying it will not stand its content being tested. My reverence is reserved for liberal values, and not the text itself. Especially when it is generally ignored anyway when it's considered convenient by the executive branch.

Don't get me wrong - as a historical document it is one of the most important documents in human history, but laws appropriate for ensuring a free society in 1776 may well not be appropriate for 2012, hard as that may seem to understand. The Second Amendment is an excellent example of an idea which has no real relevance for the purpose intended in the old days, which should really not be a part of the US Constitution.

At home in Norway, we change our constitution from time to time. It's much closer to being just another law, than it is to being a sacrament. I like it that way.

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