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Comment Re:I can breathe easier now... (Score 1) 484

Hell, read the whole of Ezekiel 23 sometime.

Seriously: the prodigal son? Spent his money on booze and whores. Jesus' death on a cross? About the most brutal, sanctioned way to die in that time period. Noah's daughters got him drunk so they could get themselves pregnant by him; Jacob lied and backstabbed his way through life and stole his brother's inheritance; and Abraham whored out Sarah so he wouldn't have trouble in Egypt. Not for kids. Lego Bible? Definitely not for kids.

Comment Re:Blame the greenies (Score 3, Interesting) 118

Actually, the concerns you raise are serious for not just urban planners but urban politicians. The twenty-somethings of this generation are moving to the cities and want to stay there in a way their parents didn't, and city leaders are desperate to have them stay. The District of Columbia, for example, is doing its damndest to improve its schools, as it's already done a lot to improve the crime situation. One of the political barriers is the memory that people who came of age in the 70s and 80s have of cities: rotten, crime-ridden slums aching under decay. Those people generally left the city for precisely the reasons you give and would rather not see tax money go to what they remember as a black hole of waste, corruption, blight and crime.

American cities have come a long way in the last decade and will keep moving back towards the good this coming decade. Many are growing again, and almost all are growing in their downtown cores. Even downtown Detroit has a housing shortage. Anyway, I think you'd be surprised how fantastic some cities are and just how far they've come. They're not as bad as you think.

Comment Re:Welcome to the Obama economy (Score 1) 518

Bungling a recovery means that the various attempts to rescucitate the economy have gone poorly, as many predicted they would: Keynesians said the stimulus wasn't big enough, while Randians said any stimulus just hurt things, for example. But mishandling an economy in good times with favorable political winds? That's what created the problem in the first place. So the current situation is Obama trying to fix the Bush economy and not doing a very good job at it. Who do you blame for a car which has been running on old oil - the previous owner or the mechanic that's trying to fix it?

Comment Re:And now that it's all over the internet (Score 1) 183

Oh please - $50k/year in New York is extremely doable. The recommended amount spent on housing monthly on $50k is $1,388. That's enough for a one bedroom (okay location) or studio (nice location), or half of a two bedroom (really nice location) with 2/3 left over. Given that the individual wouldn't need a car, that means that 2/3 of the income goes to just what you were describing: vacation, groceries, gadgets, and the like.

Comment Re:Central planning doesn't work. (Score 3, Informative) 422

The US is at 10% unemployment with more families living with fewer funds, resulting with many people who do not have minimum food or shelter. It is unclear if China has such a problem.

Well, let's look at the economic stats, according to the CIA World Factbook:

- Unemployment is at 4.3%. Not bad, and certainly less than what we have.
- GDP per capita (PPP) is $7,600. That is hardly the rich power we think of when we think "China". It's middle-income, with vast disparities in their society. While some live in fabulous apartments in Shanghai or Beijing, others live in third-world poverty in Urumqi or Lanzhou.

I think it's clear that China has a problem with poverty generally. The US has a temporary unemployment problem; China has a structural wealth problem.

Comment Re:About. Fucking. Time. (Score 1) 422

Yes, they are. The difference is they can do long-range planning with a simplicity we lack. They can form a plan internally, whip the Party to agree, then implement that plan. Whether it's a good one or not, that's another story. We have to consult outside a single party, need to balance the input of countless interest groups and hundreds of policymakers, and make a plan that meets the various checklists and regulations we have in place. Not exactly designed for engineers, but at least the citizens get a say in what happens and can vote against those they feel are incompetent.

Comment Re:Invest some time and money in fixing this. (Score 4, Insightful) 130

7. Find out what members or staffers deal with this issue.
8. Send them letters, too.

Trust me on these last two. If a member doesn't have much authority over a relatively obscure issue, their office probably won't have any knowledge on the issue and won't be swayed as much by constituent mail, as there's no intellectual context into which they could slot it. Lobbyists will meet with staffers first, members much later. If you educate or intrigue the staffer, it'll get processed properly by them and percolate upwards. And that follow-up is essential. Good luck, junior lobbyists!

Comment Re:reform (Score 2) 130

A corporation has the millions, yes, but members of Congress really do listen to constituents. Here's the thing, though, about letter-writing: depend on the member, they may not realize what's being sent to them if it's a one-off. When I worked on the Hill, I answered an email to my Senator that was about DIRECT. I thought it was a fantastic idea, but I also knew that NASA had examined the issue, that my boss didn't deal with space issues, and, after some research, hadn't said anything on the subject. Therefore, I sent an email thanking the constituent for his input, reiterated that "I" trusted NASA to make the right decisions on this matter, and encouraging him to write again.

This is in contrast to an email-writing campaign on some changes being made to the financial taxation system (this was when I worked for a Member of Parliament there). I got about 100 emails and it was coupled with some personal interactions. At that point, it caught the ear of my boss and he started paying attention. In summary, you don't need millions; you just need cohorts and a good sales strategy.

Comment Re:Of course (Score 1) 538

If a company wants to false-advertise, its need is to advertise well. Legal should say no but should give back, as part of the review, what should change. If management understands the risks, and there's a paper trail with Legal for CYA purposes that management is overriding the opinion of its legal department, then we have a problem. Given the more technical nature of translating a request to a technology solution, IT should always present alternatives. Your job is, first, to inform management of the costs of translating the request to reality, and, second, to provide the desired outcome. How is often not important as long as the widget works with the other widget as requested. Legal's job is to provide advice and to manage the legal side of the organization. IT's job is to manage the IT side of the organization and provide advice.

Comment Re:Duh (Score 1) 538

I think you could substitute the IT/manager divide for any other technical/nontechnical interaction and you'd still be right. I'm thinking that maybe lawyers who spend years on legal training but get criticised for being shady, bureaucrats who work 12+ hour days on hardtak and a medical plan but get criticised for being lazy, and politicians who have teams of underpaid overworked staff studying specific issues but get criticised for avoiding the 'obvious solution' would qualify.

Comment Re:too bad this country can't do the same (Score 1) 387

Portland-SF wouldn't get much action, unfortunately, as it's just a bit outside the optimal range and there isn't a good in-between city to make it worthwhile. But, if you're building HSR along that stretch, it should extend from Vancouver to Tijuana, as those border cities are highly integrated with the American cities on the other side.

Comment Re:why it'll never happen in the USA... (Score 2) 387

Cars are not as efficient as short-haul aircraft, which in turn are not as efficient as short-haul HSR. We're huge, yes, but it's a relatively short drive from one city to the next throughout most of the country. 6 hours SF-LA; 4 hours St. Louis-Chicago; 6 hours Raleigh-Washington; 3 hours Seattle-Vancouver. If we want to maximize efficiency in our economy, maximizing it in transportation seems like a winning place to look.

Actually, the I-5 corridor from San Diego to Vancouver is a good example of why density along the whole line isn't as important as the integration of the local economies. Along that line are a number of population centers with a lot of space in between. Overall, the density is not terribly high, but there is a lot of traffic. Unlike some places in the West, I never once have been the only car on the road. Far from it, a drive from San Francisco to LA on I-5 is dense with cars and trucks despite the fact that it's mostly farms and low-density "cities". Points north have less traffic, but it's still substantial. If the roads are packed in the middle of nowhere, there is demand for transportation between where they're coming from and where they're going. Route density doesn't matter; it's the endpoints that do.

Comment Re:China to lose even more money on high-speed rai (Score 2) 387

Some people choose cars because of a cost/benefit analysis, but that assumes there is a viable choice. Living in an East Coast city means I have the choice to own a car and I choose not to. If I lived in Dallas, I wouldn't have a real choice, and would need a car to survive. A better comparison is railways and the Highway Trust Fund, as both are responsible for maintenance of their respective transportation networks and both lose money: the Trust Fund doesn't earn enough in gas taxes (indirect user fees) to break even and the railways don't earn enough in ticket sales (direct user fees) to turn a profit. Car manufacturers make money because most customers live in places like Dallas, those customers don't grasp the full cost of ownership to their pocketbook, and because they're buying the product of a car rather than the service of transporation.

Anyway, high-speed rail in China is a glamor project, but it's not going to last terribly well: it's built somewhat poorly and somewhat hastily, which will mean an expensive maintenance budget. As long as their economy is roaring they'll be fine, but once it levels off they're going to feel the crunch.

Comment Re:False flag (Score 1) 404

You definitely do. Tangentially linking the two things because they're related is the nature of tinfoil-hat thinking.

A good way to examine whether a theory is nutty or serious is to think about the end you're purporting the government is trying to achieve, and think of the best and simplest way they could achieve that. In this instance, a far better thing to do would be to tout a how authorities narrowly thwarted a major attack on a well-known, beloved landmark, and toss in a detail or two about wiretaps. Ensure security hawks know the details, that security doves sound silly, and let the campaign shake out as it always does. Hiring hackers is too risky, and too fringe, to shift public opinion, not to mention far removed from the center of opinion. Something tells me your hunch is wearing a particularly shiny hat.

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