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Comment Re:Criminal (Score 1) 516

The end of your quote is the important part. They still have an effective two-party system in those places, its just that the identity of the two parties in question varies depending on where you live in the country. In other words, they have regional parties.

We have had that happen in the US. In fact, that's essentially what the founders thought would happen (if you substitute "parties" for "candidates"). However, that hasn't happened since the 1960's (when southerners were dead-set against Civil Rights for black citizens, but couldn't bring themselves to vote for the party of Lincoln).

Comment Re: How many people really support her? (Score 1) 516

The "theoretical" aspect you deride was terribly important to potential Democratic party competitors when they were deciding whether or not to run.

...theoretically. There's no proof whatsoever of this statement.

If they were to take such a thing under consideration, they'd be pretty silly. The Superdelegates are almost all elected officials, and like elected officials everywhere, have historically voted along the same lines as their constituents.. For example, rather a lot of announced "Hillary" super delegates in 2008 in the South switched their support after she got waxed in their state's primaries. She had a huge lead in them going into the primaries in 2008, and they mattered not at all then either.

Historically, they have NEVER changed the outcome of a primary race, and have never seemed in any serious danger of doing so. So any problem with them is indeed totally theoretical.

Comment Re:Why do people still go there? (Score 2) 344

Death Valley isn't really anything special. The Grand Canyon, othh just cannot be adequately depicted in pictures. It was probably the inspiration for Douglas Adams's Total Perspective Vortex, which would drive people mad by showing them their actual importance in the universe.

FWIW, I can remember a time when the US was indeed relatively lax, and it was Europe that it was a total PITA to travel in due to all the border security theater. Interesting that the shoe is now on the other foot.

Comment Re:Criminal (Score 1) 516

This is ONLY because the system has been rigged by the two parties to be a two party system.

No ... just... no.

We had two parties naturally form from the very first national election, when the "founders" thought parties were evil. Multiple times viable new parties have been formed, and every time within an election or two all but the strongest two had died out. Nothing more nefarious than human nature is at work here.

Any voting system with a first-past-the-post vote automatically has 2 parties as its stable state.. The only way to "fix" that is to get rid of all first-past-the-post votes (eg: No president, nationwide proportional representation for everything, people vote for parties rather than people).

Railing against "stupid" voters is as futile as railing against "greedy people" who won't let Communisim work. If you want people to behave differently, you need a completely different system that rewards them for behaving differently. Otherwise, you may just as well go to the beach and complain about the tide.

Comment Re: Criminal (Score 1) 516

They might poll better next election which helps get them onto national televised debates, increasing their exposure.

The only possible endgame of that of course is that one of the other two parties dies out, so that we are back to two parties, but one of them has a new name and possibly a new coalition of voters. That's what happened in the mid 1800's when the Republicans killed the Whig party, and its what happened in the early 1800's when the Whig party killed the Federalist party.

As long as we have first-past-the-post elections, we by definition have a two-party system. That's just mathematically (and historically) how it works.

You can think of USA parties as like coalitions in multiparty Democracies. What is a "party" in those countries, is a "wing" in the USA. Wings can and do switch parties. For example, the Dixiecracts, who used to be the spine of the Democratic party, switched to the Republican party at the end of the 20th Century, and with this election now seem to be running it.

The two major parties compete for voters from the various wings. It works very much like a multi-party parlimentary Democracy, except that its before and during the campaigns that the ruling and opposition coalitions are formed, instead of after.


whoosh. hint if they require massive subsidies to be viable then they are NOT competitive. anything can be claimed as competitive if you ignore the costs of generation.

There are an impressive amount of issues with this statement, considering its only 3 short sentences. In rough order of importance...

  1. The subsidies expired. They don't exist any more. The "if" part of your second sentence evaluates to false, so there was really no point in writing that it down in the first place.
  2. Carbon-burning technologies are getting huge subsidies unique to their industry (that have not expired). There are official ones, like oil exploration tax breaks, and unofficial ones, like being allowed to simply dump their waste carbon into our air for free. If they had to pay their own production costs, and taxes on their own profits, and to clean up after themselves like the renewables do, the carbon burners wouldn't even be close to competitive with the renewables.
  3. That's not how "whoosh" is used here. Its for jokes or sarcasm that the poster bit on, not for simply being wrong. S even if your criticism was right (hint: it wasn't), "whoosh" would not apply here.

Comment Re:If you meant ugly when you said stunning (Score 2) 219

Those of you who don't live near one let this Tulsan tell you, the unsightly looks of an oil refinery having nothing on the nasty smell. There's a whole quarter of our city that most folks don't want to live in if they can avoid it because the typical prevailing winds blow air from the Tulsa oil refineries that way.

I've never smelled a wind farm, but I'm guessing it isn't nearly as bad.

But hey, our gas is $1.78 a gallon here today because of those refineries. Vroom vroom!

Comment Worse is Better (Score 1) 671

The prototypical example comes from the 1991 Usenet post The Rise of Worse is Better. The basic idea being that its better to push out something simple and get it into user hands than to always be trying to do the Right Thing. Sort of the larval stage of the concept iterative design (but without any formal planned iterations).

I and just about every designer of Common Lisp and CLOS has had extreme exposure to the MIT/Stanford style of design. The essence of this style can be captured by the phrase ``the right thing.'' To such a designer it is important to get all of the following characteristics right:

  • Simplicity-the design must be simple, both in implementation and interface. It is more important for the interface to be simple than the implementation.
  • Correctness-the design must be correct in all observable aspects. Incorrectness is simply not allowed.
  • Consistency-the design must not be inconsistent. A design is allowed to be slightly less simple and less complete to avoid inconsistency. Consistency is as important as correctness.
  • Completeness-the design must cover as many important situations as is practical. All reasonably expected cases must be covered. Simplicity is not allowed to overly reduce completeness.

I believe most people would agree that these are good characteristics. I will call the use of this philosophy of design the ``MIT approach.'' Common Lisp (with CLOS) and Scheme represent the MIT approach to design and implementation.

The worse-is-better philosophy is only slightly different:

  • Simplicity-the design must be simple, both in implementation and interface. It is more important for the implementation to be simple than the interface. Simplicity is the most important consideration in a design.
  • Correctness-the design must be correct in all observable aspects. It is slightly better to be simple than correct.
  • Consistency-the design must not be overly inconsistent. Consistency can be sacrificed for simplicity in some cases, but it is better to drop those parts of the design that deal with less common circumstances than to introduce either implementational complexity or inconsistency
  • Completeness-the design must cover as many important situations as is practical. All reasonably expected cases should be covered. Completeness can be sacrificed in favor of any other quality. In fact, completeness must sacrificed whenever implementation simplicity is jeopardized. Consistency can be sacrificed to achieve completeness if simplicity is retained; especially worthless is consistency of interface.

Early Unix and C are examples of the use of this school of design, and I will call the use of this design strategy the ``New Jersey approach.'' I have intentionally caricatured the worse-is-better philosophy to convince you that it is obviously a bad philosophy and that the New Jersey approach is a bad approach.

However, I believe that worse-is-better, even in its strawman form, has better survival characteristics than the-right-thing, and that the New Jersey approach when used for software is a better approach than the MIT approach.

Let me start out by retelling a story that shows that the MIT/New-Jersey distinction is valid and that proponents of each philosophy actually believe their philosophy is better.

Two famous people, one from MIT and another from Berkeley (but working on Unix) once met to discuss operating system issues. The person from MIT was knowledgeable about ITS (the MIT AI Lab operating system) and had been reading the Unix sources. He was interested in how Unix solved the PC loser-ing problem. The PC loser-ing problem occurs when a user program invokes a system routine to perform a lengthy operation that might have significant state, such as IO buffers. If an interrupt occurs during the operation, the state of the user program must be saved. Because the invocation of the system routine is usually a single instruction, the PC of the user program does not adequately capture the state of the process. The system routine must either back out or press forward. The right thing is to back out and restore the user program PC to the instruction that invoked the system routine so that resumption of the user program after the interrupt, for example, re-enters the system routine. It is called ``PC loser-ing'' because the PC is being coerced into ``loser mode,'' where ``loser'' is the affectionate name for ``user'' at MIT.

The MIT guy did not see any code that handled this case and asked the New Jersey guy how the problem was handled. The New Jersey guy said that the Unix folks were aware of the problem, but the solution was for the system routine to always finish, but sometimes an error code would be returned that signaled that the system routine had failed to complete its action. A correct user program, then, had to check the error code to determine whether to simply try the system routine again. The MIT guy did not like this solution because it was not the right thing.

The New Jersey guy said that the Unix solution was right because the design philosophy of Unix was simplicity and that the right thing was too complex. Besides, programmers could easily insert this extra test and loop. The MIT guy pointed out that the implementation was simple but the interface to the functionality was complex. The New Jersey guy said that the right tradeoff has been selected in Unix-namely, implementation simplicity was more important than interface simplicity.

The MIT guy then muttered that sometimes it takes a tough man to make a tender chicken, but the New Jersey guy didn't understand (I'm not sure I do either).

Now I want to argue that worse-is-better is better. C is a programming language designed for writing Unix, and it was designed using the New Jersey approach. C is therefore a language for which it is easy to write a decent compiler, and it requires the programmer to write text that is easy for the compiler to interpret. Some have called C a fancy assembly language. Both early Unix and C compilers had simple structures, are easy to port, require few machine resources to run, and provide about 50%--80% of what you want from an operating system and programming language.

Half the computers that exist at any point are worse than median (smaller or slower). Unix and C work fine on them. The worse-is-better philosophy means that implementation simplicity has highest priority, which means Unix and C are easy to port on such machines. Therefore, one expects that if the 50% functionality Unix and C support is satisfactory, they will start to appear everywhere. And they have, haven't they?

Unix and C are the ultimate computer viruses.

A further benefit of the worse-is-better philosophy is that the programmer is conditioned to sacrifice some safety, convenience, and hassle to get good performance and modest resource use. Programs written using the New Jersey approach will work well both in small machines and large ones, and the code will be portable because it is written on top of a virus.

It is important to remember that the initial virus has to be basically good. If so, the viral spread is assured as long as it is portable. Once the virus has spread, there will be pressure to improve it, possibly by increasing its functionality closer to 90%, but users have already been conditioned to accept worse than the right thing. Therefore, the worse-is-better software first will gain acceptance, second will condition its users to expect less, and third will be improved to a point that is almost the right thing. In concrete terms, even though Lisp compilers in 1987 were about as good as C compilers, there are many more compiler experts who want to make C compilers better than want to make Lisp compilers better.

The good news is that in 1995 we will have a good operating system and programming language; the bad news is that they will be Unix and C++.

There is a final benefit to worse-is-better. Because a New Jersey language and system are not really powerful enough to build complex monolithic software, large systems must be designed to reuse components. Therefore, a tradition of integration springs up.

How does the right thing stack up? There are two basic scenarios: the ``big complex system scenario'' and the ``diamond-like jewel'' scenario.

The ``big complex system'' scenario goes like this:

First, the right thing needs to be designed. Then its implementation needs to be designed. Finally it is implemented. Because it is the right thing, it has nearly 100% of desired functionality, and implementation simplicity was never a concern so it takes a long time to implement. It is large and complex. It requires complex tools to use properly. The last 20% takes 80% of the effort, and so the right thing takes a long time to get out, and it only runs satisfactorily on the most sophisticated hardware.

The ``diamond-like jewel'' scenario goes like this:

The right thing takes forever to design, but it is quite small at every point along the way. To implement it to run fast is either impossible or beyond the capabilities of most implementors.

The two scenarios correspond to Common Lisp and Scheme.

The first scenario is also the scenario for classic artificial intelligence software.

The right thing is frequently a monolithic piece of software, but for no reason other than that the right thing is often designed monolithically. That is, this characteristic is a happenstance.

The lesson to be learned from this is that it is often undesirable to go for the right thing first. It is better to get half of the right thing available so that it spreads like a virus. Once people are hooked on it, take the time to improve it to 90% of the right thing.

A wrong lesson is to take the parable literally and to conclude that C is the right vehicle for AI software. The 50% solution has to be basically right, and in this case it isn't.

But, one can conclude only that the Lisp community needs to seriously rethink its position on Lisp design. I will say more about this later.

Comment Re:raging asshole, maybe, but he is right you know (Score 1) 637

The main thing I'm thinking is if it were incorporated in-app, you could do things like visually indicate how often a user has been blocked right on their profile, have block settings so you don't see stuff from highly blocked users (or better yet, users highly blocked by feeds you follow), etc. There are all kinds of things twitter could do with their app, but all they have is one dumb block button, and otherwise its the wild wild west.

A "social media" app in the modern era absolutely must have a way to crowdsource moderation. You can't hire employees fast enough to keep up with banning all the jerks, and the jerks know that. However, there are more of us well-intentioned users than there are jerks, so we as users can do the job easily, if given good tools to do so.

Comment Re:raging asshole, maybe, but he is right you know (Score 1) 637

understand there is an effective blockbot for Twitter

I would imagine there are several. The one I've heard of is an app that allows groups of users to share block lists, which I think is an idea particularly well-suited to Twitter (where the same trolls tend to target the same groups of users). It would be nice if Twitter was capable of coming up with (and implementing) these ideas themselves though. Having support in the app is really important, particularly since they take the old "it ain't done until Lotus won't run" attitude towards supporting third-party apps.

Comment Re:raging asshole, maybe, but he is right you know (Score 1) 637

What they should do is create "" and "", and capture both audiences in their own spaces. Instead, they've at the very least disenchanted the people they censor plus a fair number of those who they don't censor but still care about censorship.

That's just not true at all. A large part of the value of Twitter is that its a place where people can interact with others whose real opinions they don't often get to hear. The problem is when people get upset that is happening, and a person with a black AVI wakes up daily to tweets calling them the n-word, a person with a female AVI gets snowed under with rape threats, a person with both gets both, etc.

I follow one palestinian guy who tweets about Arab Spring, and he gets harassment from everyone you can imagine. Both sides of every conflict sent him hate, and westerners do it too just because he's Arab. Atheists send him hate and death threats for daring to hold a religion, and extremist Muslims send him hate and death threats for not being extremist. How is your left/right twitter going to fix that?

This isn't a liberal vs. conservative thing. This is a listening vs. bullying thing.

What most people are missing is Twitter *already* has a moderation system: bullying. They just need a much healthier one.

Comment Re: Oh no (Score 1) 637

But I see how so many people teaching are there because they passionately believe in it, and they'd get higher salaries elsewhere for their skillsets, and the reaching sector doesn't attract regular people who chose jobs that pay competitively. None of it is commensurate with how I think learning and teaching should be valued in our society. I'm glad I'll (just barely) be able to afford to send my three kids to a school that does pay enough salary.

If you're talking about a private school, most of those actually pay less than public schools.

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