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Comment Re:69, 70, by some.... (Score 5, Interesting) 518

Actually, while that's true about Korean birthdays, in this case people actually aren't sure. Older reports said he was born in 1941, but his official biography says 1942. The general assumption is that he was born in 1941, and 1942 was made up for propaganda. His father, Kim Il-sung would have been 30 in 1942, meaning that, by altering the date, they can celebrate 10 year anniversaries together (so next year they can have a big celebration for Kim Il-sung's 100th birthday and Kim Jong-il's 70th). Since part of how Kim Jong-il held onto power was by trying to absorb some of his father's reflected glory, that made sense as a propaganda move. So he's probably 70, but might be 69 if his "official" birthday is actually accurate.

Also, with regard to age complexity, don't forget that most Koreans literally don't know how to say "forty years old" or older because the numbering system used for ages is only for sequential counting (there's a different numbering system for things which are not always sequential). When necessary, they'll use the other (Chinese-derived) numbering system for ages above 39, but generally will simply avoid talking about it.

Comment Re:So what is the point here? (Score 3, Informative) 190

Actually, while I'm not a lawyer, I am a law student (though this is not legal advice, retain your own counsel, etc.), and it's actually even less than that. Under most circumstances, contract violations provide for damages ONLY. I believe the 3x damages bit you're remembering is for RICO violations, which I doubt would apply here (however, I haven't studied RICO, so I honestly don't know). Had the guy been unable to find anyone else willing to run the same deal, he'd have an argument for expectation damages (damages for not receiving the benefit he expected from the ad), but since he ended up getting the same deal from someone else, there were no real damages.

This sounds shocking to a lot of people, I know, but the courts generally view contract violation as a value-neutral situation. Courts refuse to "punish" breachers, their only interest is in making the other party whole (and even then, only if the party has done everything they can to mitigate their own harm). Again, in this case he was able to go to someone else and get the same deal, so the only conceivable harm is the trivial amount of time and effort to approach a competitor and ask them for the same deal. The courts are not your daddy, here, where you run to them crying "but he promised!" You're expected to be an adult, do your best to solve the problem yourself, and turn to the courts only to resolve any real material harm you suffer from the contract breach.

Comment Re:Sigh (Score 1) 1070

Let's make sure we note what some of those "other countries" are. So not just Australia and Japan, but all of Europe (including Russia), most of East Asia (notably China, which has 1/3rd of the world's population), the United States (highest birth rate of the industrialized world, but still essentially only 2.1 children per woman, about replacement), and most of the largest nations in Latin America (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico). What does that leave? India, Africa, the Middle East, and most of Southeast Asia. That's it. Those are the only regions currently projected to add to the world's population, and their birth rates are falling too. The total worldwide fertility rate is currently only 2.5 children for women, down from 2.8 ten years ago. Global replacement rate is 2.33 (higher than for an industrialized country because it includes poor countries with higher mortality rates), so we should reach steady state in 10 years. Population growth is over, folks, there's nothing to see here.

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: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.

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