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Comment Re:Trickle Down Theory? (Score 1) 269

Most of the time people work because they need money to pay for the requirements of basic survival, things like food, rent and hopefully afford a few extra western luxuries.

Rich guy comes along, he is no longer motivated by the requirements of ensuring basic survival, and could become a professional layabout if he so wished (the idle rich don't get as much publicity). But instead he says, I have a bat shit crazy idea, lets build a moon rocket. Not only that, I'll flow enough money towards the project that food and rent won't be a limiting factor to anybody who wants the fun job of making this happen.

As the poor little peon on the ground, what you mean I get to design a moon rocket and get paid money at the same time?

As for what does the rich guy do personally, well whatever jobs he feels like are most fun, and because he is the one paying the bills, nobody is going to tell him "you are not qualified". Oh, I get to design a spaceship, that sounds like fun... almost as fun as getting to fly one of these things.

Comment Re:For my fellow squares (Score 1) 34

With illegal drugs, they have already been government certified (class A, B or C) and they are only available on the black market, where there is no incentive to hide what they really are (assuming they are not cut).

With drugs that have not been formally classified, this is legally a gray area, they are technically sold "not for human consumption" and thus marketed "legally" as "bath salts", "plant feeder", "room odorizer" etc... a form of legal plausible deniability for the manufacturer and the shop.

Due to the current legal framework, adding a true ingredients list would only provide additional legal liability to the manufacturer, both alerting the authorities to a new chemical they should look to ban, plus highlighting that the product is indeed "illegal" once the government gets around to updating its list of banned chemicals.

Thus we see the ingredients marked as "ketones", which sounds chemical and technical, but its vague to the point of only describing that molecule has a C=O functional group somewhere inside.

Also in the commercialised "legal high" world, there are no drug patents, only trade secrets. Commercial value comes from scarcity, and if the product itself is not scarce (assuming you know its name), the value comes from the brand name and not disclosing the secret.

The downside is that nobody really knows what they are taking, the scarcity of the tried and tested drugs (which are now all illegal) means only the new and untested drugs are legally available, until human clinical trials show its effective enough to become popular enough for journalists to talk about it, at which point the government bans the effective drug, until the human teenage guinea pigs find something else for the government to ban. It becomes even harder for the new generation to research and stay safe when attempting to get high responsibly.

This is all a dark artefact of the drug licensing laws that try to prohibit rather than regulate recreational drugs. However this would require a law saying you are allowed to openly state that an untested chemical is intended for human consumption and that information regarding its composition and known safety (even if its not been through formal clinical trials) is included and openly stated.

Comment Re:Centralization of power (Score 1) 75

Decentralization is like riding in a car... more ways to crash or traffic jam with other cars... but at least if you see your broken or in need of repair... it may be expensive, but you can go out and fix it yourself (and hope everybody has fixed theirs)

Centralization is like riding on a train... trains all drive on the same tracks and to the same signals so can more faster and are less likely to individually crash... but there is only one train netwrork... but if something looks like it is broken all you have to wait to see if the train company chooses to fix it (maybe its a design choice)... but when it does crash everybody gets hurt

Comment There is only one way to win, don't be the pigeon! (Score 2) 733

So who's bright idea was it to choose a robot flying thing as the weapon of choice against a bunch of rednecks with guns who enjoy shooting at flying things... hey if we send up enough robots they will eventually run out of ammo and have to leave the pigeons alone!

As the Cat from Red Dwarf would say... I know this game, its called gun and pigeon, and there is only one way to win... don't be the pigeon... well unless you believe those lying cartoons.

Comment Re:HFT needs fees (Score 1) 617

The first thing that would happen in such a case is that there would be a huge amount of mathematical and legal research into how to game this system too.

We could see HFT setup hundreds of legal shell entities that trade with each other on their own "internal" network all controlled by the same computer system, so the people doing the buying and selling are no longer the same legal entity. Possibly involving some form of legal futures derivative, so you are now technically trading something different, but designed in such a way that the price is set now, but the actual bookkeeping and "money transaction" is delayed for a year to avoid the tax, counterbalanced by a 0% interest "loan" repayable in full in exactly one year.

Alternatively, for frequently traded stocks, there may be the creation of pools of "buffer stock". I have buy 100 shares in X, add this to my existing pool of 1000 shares, then a half a second later sell the "oldest" stocks from the pool, which would attract a lower tax rate than selling the "newest" stocks in the pool.

The name of the game is information warfare, things are only worth what everybody else believes they are worth, you make more money if you can correctly second guess the actions and beliefs of the other participants in the market faster than anybody else. Its game theory, if you can predict what the other side is going to do, then its much easier to pick a winning move.

If we as a society use "money" to determine "value", and this is an area of the economy where more money can be made in the shortest period of time compared to any other sector, then the effect is that we allocate our best and brightest minds to solve this mission-critical problem that financially we have deemed to be the most important problem our generation has ever faced. Financially it is more important than getting man to the moon. If this sounds silly, then you have to realize that this is the exact logic behind the invisible hand of the free market and the methodology the capitalist system uses to allocate the resources (both people and things) within our society.

Given that such a high quantity of society IQ points (our top lawyers, mathematicians, economists, computer programmers) are going to be working full time at finding any and every loophole in any "simple" system designed by our politicians (who are elected based on popular vote), the danger is that any such rule would simply serve to penalise small actors in the system how are now forced to follow the new rules, yet allow the hardcore HTFs to effectively continue with "business are usual" once they have a figured out a way to circumvent the wording of the law.

So while I agree that HFT is having a significant impact on the market, and distorting it, the problem of how to change the rules of the system, such that everybody "plays fair" (which economically is a losing strategy)... it is far from simple.

Nobel Prize winner James Tobin suggested the Tobin tax, which is a tiny fractional percentage tax on all currency transactions, to help stablize the currency markets. Depending on the specifics of the market, 0.00006% tax may be feasible on the USD-EUR market. But this is still subject to markets "off-shoring" to avoid the tax, the exact long term effects of such a tax on the market, how exactly such tax rates would be calculated (too high and it affects the "normal" market, too low and it has little effect of HTF) plus the political question of who/what/where does the collected tax get spent on has yet to be solved.

Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 747

True, Assange may have fallen victim to bad luck and a couple of women scorned.">

The sex happened less than a month after the public release of Afghan war documents, and the warrant for his arrest was initially canceled the day after it was issued (20-21 August 2010), for the implied reason of lack of evidence.

Within 10 days, the case is taken over by a different Swedish prosecutor (Marianne Ny), who reopens the case, Assange is questioned by police in Stockholm (31 August 2010) and 3 months later (20 November 2010) an international arrest warrant is issued for his arrest in the UK. Marianne Ny) tells AFP that overturning another prosecutor's decision was "not an ordinary (procedure), but not so out of the ordinary either".

Then we have had all the bureaucratic shenanigans in the UK with Assange handing himself in, appealing to the high court, getting bail subject to house arrest, and then acquiring political asylum with Ecuador but no actual way out of the country.

There is suggestion, but not proof, that "US diplomatic pressure" was brought to bear behind the scenes to have the case reopened by a different prosecutor. The recent release of the Afghan War Diaries would at the very least have made Assange, and those around him, an active CIA observation target.

Regardless of the morality or legality of his actual actions, my point is that due to his "political crime" of wikileaks, it behoves US interests to have the man behind bars, regardless of what he is actually charged with, or in which country. There is also the question that if it where not for his fame/infamy, that the case may never have been reopened. My suggestion is that if Assange was just an unknown average Joe, there is a reasonable probability that in practice the case would have been dropped and he would now be free. But "Assange + Afghan War Diaries" means he his now effectively under house arrest in the Ecuadorian embassy.

The difference in theory is the addition of the "political crime" and the difference in practice is that he is effectively imprisoned.

Comment Re:Why? (Score 2) 747

I have no proof or additional behind the scenes information, my interpretation simply stems from reading between the lines of the story as you described.

He was interviewed by probation officers shortly after it became public that he was behind the movie.

Notice how his probation officers where not just systematically surfing youtube and digging up probation records for every user channel out there. It also took them a significant amount of time to identify the producer of that movie.

The USA President gets a daily security brief from the head of the CIA. I am imagining a conversation somewhat along the lines of:

CIA: We have a situation, the Muslim's are rioting and storming our embassies and killing our ambassadors

Obama: Why?

CIA: A US youtube user posted a video the Muslims consider offensive, they are demanding we do something about it

Obama: I want to know everything I can about this video, who, when, where, why, how... and I want it now!

CIA: Yes Mr President

Obama: Given that we can't actually do anything about the film right now, send Hillary to do a PR offensive and give the usual spiel about religious tolerance and we come in peace, but don't mention anything about free speech... maybe we can just get them to calm down and this will all blow over in a week


CIA: We found the guy behind the film, and here is everything we know about him

Obama: Bring him in for voluntary questioning, but play it softly softly, see why else we can learn about the critical situation

CIA: He was using an alias, but we have him on file and he just so happens to be on parole, we have multiple violations we could charge with, what would you like us to do?

Obama: Charge him with whatever you have got, I want this man in jail. But play it by the book - I don't want the first amendment nutjobs rioting over this as well

Obama: Send Clinton to tell the Muslims we have punished the infidel for his crimes, they can stop rioting now!

Comment Re:Why? (Score 4, Insightful) 747

There where two "crimes".

The first was a political crime, that of creating a US foreign policy issue through a youtube movie. This according to the 1st amendment and the letter of US law is not a "crime".

The second crime was the violation of the terms of his parole, this is the "technical law" that they arrested him under.

The US Administration decided it was politically expedient to have this man in jail for his "political crime". The technical method of achieving this goal, as they are only allowed to wield their power according to the "letter of the law", they hired a detective to dig up the dirt on him and "find a law" which which to charge him. Had his film not caused the diplomatic incident, he probably would have flown under the radar and not been noticed by the authorities, and thus still be a free man.

This is in some ways similar to Julian Assange... his "political crime" was wikileaks, so they dug up his past and thus he was technically arrested on "suspicion of rape".

The Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei was charged with tax evasion.

The "chilling effect" is that in a society where a possibly significant percentage of the population are "technically" in violation of the law, but the law in many cases is not strictly enforced, then this allows the government to effectively arrest people guilty of "political crimes" through the selective enforcement of the "other" laws.

The moral of the story is that if you are planning on creating a diplomatic incident or significantly challenging or embarrassing the political establishment, then you better have a squeaky clean past and not expose yourself to any legal liabilities by "technically" breaking the law. Once you are in the spotlight, the normal rules of flying under the radar no longer apply and if the government can find any dirt on you, and they will be suddenly be looking closely for it, they will find a way to make it stick.

Comment Re:light years (Score 2) 67

A light year is the distance it takes light to travel one year:
    | 0.3066013938 pc (parsecs)
    | 63241.07708 AU (astronomical units)
    | 9.461×10^12 km (kilometers)
    | 9.461×10^15 meters
    | 5.879 trillion miles

Though according to general relativity spacetime is 4 dimensional and the distance between two events can be measured in interchangeable units of space and time measured in light-years or light seconds.

We all travel through spacetime at the speed of light, in the direction of time, but when we start to travel in the space direction at a fraction of the speed of light, we still travel at the speed of of light, but as an angle in space time, like the hypotenuse (long side) of a triangle using Pythagoras' equation (a^2 + b^2 = c^2), with part of our direction in time and part of our direction in space. This accounts for most of the weirdness experienced with time dilation and dimensions appearing to shorten (the object is partially rotated into the time dimension).

Comment Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (Score 1) 170

self discipline and personal responsibility

That costs money, and as most of the work is outsourced to contractors, often to the lowest bidder, it becomes quite easy to pass the buck and look the other way.

We can save money by getting someone else to cut the corners for us.

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