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Comment Re:Yeah! (Score 1) 530

In fact, the greatest damage moderates and left-wing could do to the right wing extremists is to invite them to freely speak their minds. The resulting spew of homophobic, sexist, and racist non-sequiturs would likely shift most people just a bit to the left.

In my experience that's a fallacy. If you say that spewing hate-filled bullshit is "okay" and "harmless", it will catch on.

Dismissing dangerous political ideas as somehow "inherently self-destructing" flies in the face of all experience with human history, which includes a lot of dangerous political ideologies - like Communism and Nazism.

The reason preposterous or dangerous ideologies tend not to catch on in developed societies is because people react to them. If people stop reacting to them, they catch on.

Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 102

Another approach would be to add an abstraction layer between the hardware and software very much like what is done with virtualization, Java, ZFS, LVM, DirectX, Crossbow et al. That would make the software more independent of the underlying hardware...

Isn't that basically how CISC works nowadays?

Comment Re:Of course it was! (Score 1) 555

The problem is that both parties given the change will do the same to the extreme.

Nope. Sorry. There's no comparison. And trying to say that both parties are equally bad isn't merely incorrect, it represents a cowardly cop-out which is far too common, built on the illusion that saying that both parties to a conflict are "just as bad" serves to "raise you from the fray". It does not. It serves to remove you from any useful discourse, and to remove the disincentive to the Republicans for any disingenuous behaviour (thus stimulating it, since the incentives are many).

Comment Re:Of course it was! (Score 1) 555

I'm sorry to be an annoying outsider here as a non-American, but my pet peeve about political discussions in the United States is this absurd belief that all correlation implies total causation - "Say what you want about the Yugo, but when I drove a Yugo the economy went really well". It's a great way to remove all meaning from a discussion.

Discuss the facts of the matter - the concrete decisions made, the changes in culture - and the direct and indirect outcomes of those. That's how you get closer to a good answer. And the clear and obvious reality is that the Republican party has - to a far greater extent than the Democratic party - made the strategic choice to put the popularity of the party above the general welfare of the nation, by eagerly jumping at a chance to obstruct the political system to hinder its work in a manner which - to the casual observer - seem to make the Democrats look bad by impeding their agenda.

This is possible because the press will not criticise the Republicans for fear of being branded partisan. Commercial censorship at its best. This is not a partisan statement even if it is primarily a criticism of a single political party. Objectivity is not the belief that both parties are always equally poor.

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.

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