Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! ×

Comment Re: Thanks Hillary! (Score 1) 109

The legislation in question, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, was not concerned with "granting free speech to some corporations and not to others", which is the way you are trying to frame it. It was concerned generally with campaign finance reform, and specifically with putting limits on how much and what types of contributions corporations are allowed to make to political campaigns and what must be disclosed when they do so. The part of the legislation that made it vulnerable to the Supreme Court decision was its effort to regulate issue advocacy ads, or so-called "soft money" influences on political campaigns. The legislation had some issues, but it was more or less reasonable: it defined "electioneering communications" as broadcast ads that name a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or caucus or 60 days of a general election, and it prohibited corporations and unions from paying for such ads. That's really it. Fairly narrow in scope, not a blanket ban on free speech or talking about politics or any such thing.

Regulating corporate influence on our political campaigns has a long history. It is not a new idea invented by liberals to suppress conservatives. In addition to the BCRA, there is the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which has been amended several times and regulates contributions to political campaigns, parties, and PACs. It also implements disclosure rules. Before that there were several smaller bills, including the Federal Corrupt Practices Act of 1910. What I'm trying to say is, the influence of money on the political system has been recognized as a problem for more than 100 years and there have been many efforts by both major parties to regulate it.

Before the Citizens United decision, campaign finance reform was not considered an issue of free speech, and it did not specifically favor one corporation over another. It targeted all corporations. It prevented a specific narrow type of political ad from being distributed in broadcast media channels during specific time frames leading up to major federal elections. It being 2002, the Internet was not a medium of much concern (so anything on the web would have been exempted, including political blogs). The Act in effect only targeted TV and radio. The FEC has a nice summary of the bill posted.

Electioneering Communications

An electioneering communication is any broadcast, cable or satellite communication that fulfills each of the following conditions:

        The communication refers to a clearly identified candidate for federal office;
        The communication is publicly distributed shortly before an election for the office that candidate is seeking; and
        The communication is targeted to the relevant electorate (U.S. House and Senate candidates only).


The regulations at 11 CFR 100.29(c)(1) through (5) exempt certain communications from the definition of "electioneering communication":
A communication that is disseminated through a means other than a broadcast station, radio station, cable television system or satellite system. For example, neither printed media-including newspapers, magazines, bumper stickers, yard signs and billboards-nor communications over the internet, e-mail or the telephone are included;

The Supreme Court decided to overturn all of this, not just with Citizens United, but several other similar decisions as well. The advocates say "hey, free speech is free speech", and the detractors say "hey, this is opening the flood gates to unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns". However you choose to see it, it is not a simple problem with an easy solution.

So to answer your question,

Just in general, if you give the government the power to decide which corporation is and is not in some special category when it comes to free speech, you've ended free speech. Surely you can see that?

Yes, I can see that, but that is not what the BCRA or the Citizens United decision are about. Can you see that?

Comment Re: Thanks Hillary! (Score 1) 109

Citizens United was a specific corporation, but the ruling applies to all corporations. Normal corporations cannot directly contribute to campaigns, that is still prohibited. But they don't need to. They can just independently buy five hours of prime-time TV spots to exercise their free speech....

The electioneering legislation was flawed, and its implementation justly criticized, but one can argue that the principle was sound. Don't allow corporations, which generally have much deeper coffers than individuals, to buy media spots to support particular candidates or parties near an election. Keep in mind that the restriction was also against unions. It has been ruled unconstitutional, which I don't disagree with, but it leaves us in a tough situation. Media spots cost money and corporations have more money to spend (as well as a more vested interest) than individuals or even loosely associated groups of individuals. Why should Tim Cook use his personal wealth to buy media spots to help Apple when he can just get his board to agree to budget a few billion a year to funding political speech to serve its interests. The most influential super PACs have corporate backers. They are not loosely associated Joe Blows like yourself and I or the local PTO.

If you allow newspapers to run political commentary at all, then the very rich can get their message across by simply buying the whole thing.

Another point the court made is that the New York Times is a corporation, and does quite a bit of political speech, as directly permitted by the 1st.

Agreed. However, there is an important distinction to be made between a media company like NYT, CNN, FOX, or CPB that publishes news (you don't want the news to be controlled by the government, so that means it is going to be run by a corporation, whether that be for-profit or non-profit) and a media company like Citizens United that exists solely to influence political opinion. News includes world events, local, national, business, weather, stock market, science, tech, arts, and yes political coverage. One can argue about political bias, and we do, a lot, but coverage of politics in the news is not the same thing as airing a front-page advertisement in support of a particular candidate leading up to an election.

Since you mentioned the NYT, notice that this election cycle they did publish prominent advertisements and official (ie: NYT editorial board) opinion pieces in support of HRC and against DJT. It was the first time ever, and they can do it now because of the Citizens United decision. I can't say I'm particularly thrilled with that development.

Comment sunset mode (Score 1, Funny) 118

Prominent new features of the GNOME 3.24 desktop environment include a Night Light functionality that promises to automatically shift the colors of your display to the warmer end of the spectrum after sunset,

Please tell me you're joking. ....
OMG, you're not joking! Seriously, why is this a thing?

Comment Re: Thanks Hillary! (Score 1) 109

I doubt you can pool enough money to offset Warren Buffet, the Koch brothers, Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Larry Ellison, Rupert Murdoch, or any number of other like-minded billionaires. Nevermind the most significant finding of Citizens United, which was that the above are not limited to their own personal wealth, but can also make use of an unlimited amount of corporate wealth as well, which is usually far greater. So if you're ever wondering what the billions in offshored tax-haven safe profits are being used for, it's that, and they don't have to disclose it.

Of course prior to Citizens United, limits on campaign finance spending was really just an illusion (super PACs and armies of lawyers can get around pretty much anything), so it has been a problem for a while, just more out in the open now. How do we fix it? Good question to be asking....

Comment Re: Thanks Hillary! (Score 1) 109

Agreed. The Citizens United decision states very plainly what has been obvious to many for a long time. If spending money to support candidates is speech and is protected as such, then those with the most money have the greatest influence. It is a shortcoming of our political system that will be hard to fix.

Globalism is great for multinational corporations.

The thing is, "Globalism" is more than one thing. It has upsides and downsides.The ratio of upsides:downsides depends on how it is implemented and who gets how much of each. The statement "Globalism is great for multinational corporations" is true, but it is an oversimplification. Speaking as a non-multinational corporation, I think globalism has benefited me and many people around me as well, but that doesn't mean it isn't without its downsides. I do think the overwhelming share of monetary benefit has gone to corporate profits, that those corporate profits have not contributed enough back to the betterment of society (tax evasion, corrupt local governments, etc), and as a result a majority of people feel that globalism has left them behind. However, the macroeconomic benefits of globalism are pretty clear, from a lot of very good data. The responsibility of governments and political leaders is to lessen discomforts, ease transitions, and distribute the benefits of globalism so that people do not get left behind. Attempting to stop it, in my opinion, is futile at best and severely detrimental to the economy as a whole at worst.

Comment Re: Thanks Hillary! (Score 2) 109

Ok, fair enough. I do agree that Trump's rhetoric has "emotional resonance". But I don't agree that it actually solves any problems. Do we need to solve problems? Yes. Do we need our politicians to get their heads out of their asses and make efforts to implement real solutions? Yes. Does polarization, manipulation, and scapegoating help us actually solve those problems? No.

Just one small example:
    Do people need access to affordable health coverage? Yes.
    Was the ACA a perfect solution? No. It was a compromise that attempted to adhere to free market principles that we value while also trying to protect the vulnerable and not balloon deficits.
    Did the ACA achieve at least some of its goals? Yes. Coverage was increased. Deficits did not balloon out of control. And the incentives for hospitals to seek ways to improve care and reduce costs were having some promising early results.
    Did the ACA have problems? Yes. The individual market was not stable, due to a variety of reasons. There was a gap in subsidy eligibility that caused some people to experience undue hardship with the increased cost of premiums. And medium-small business owners faced hardship providing health coverage to their employees.
    Can those problems be solved without scrapping the ACA entirely? YES. The causes to most of those problems are understood fairly well, especially the problems with the individual market. The ACA can be tweaked to solve these problems and achieve more of its goals.
    Is that what is currently being sought by the powers that be? No. Because, as you said, "repeal and replace" has emotional resonance. People fell for the rhetoric and are now demanding that promise be kept. However, it is not possible to keep all of the campaign promises. The proposed AHCA is a shitty plan that exposes the compromises that must be made (coverage, cost, choice), and almost nobody likes it. As Trump admitted himself, "health care is unbelievably complicated."

So what are we going to do? Are we going to set priorities and look at data to solve real problems? Or are we going to hype up our rhetoric so that we can keep winning elections, but ultimately fail at actually solving problems?

To partially answer my own question: a) we need a legislature that is willing sacrifice some ideological purity for the sake of practical solutions (the shortcomings to the ACA were known years ago, but Obama was unable to get congressional support to implement any fixes), and b) we need a more concerted effort by political leaders to work locally, so that proper two-way communication can occur (here's the legislative intent. is it working? what problems remain? what are the most important priorities?). Neither Democrats nor Republicans have done either of these things in LOOONNNGGG time.

Comment Re: Thanks Hillary! (Score 1) 109

Half the country is very concerned with job loss (and for some, increased crime in their neighborhoods).

There, fixed that for you. I (and probably most people) agree that job loss and increased crime are things to be worried about. Attributing both problems to immigration based on no credible data is not the way to solve those problems, though. It may not be overtly racist, but it is fear without fact.

Why is it in any way surprising he had a strong base?

He won because he is a good cheerleader, and masterful at controlling his message. Probably better than Obama was during the 2008 election. That doesn't mean his policy ideas make sense, are not contradictory, or will ever actually be effective. In the same vein, Obama may have been a good orator, but he (rightfully) gets a lot of criticism from both the right and left for being a fairly ineffectual President.

Comment checked luggage only? (Score 1) 109

So, I read one news article here,

Apparently they are banning electronic devices in the cabin due to the possibility of concealing explosives in them in "a way that is hard to detect". Ok, let's assume that is true. Question from me is, what difference does it make if it is in carry-on or checked baggage? Once it is on the plane, wouldn't an attacker be able to detonate it remotely if it is in checked baggage? Am I missing something here?

Comment not "decoded" (Score 3, Interesting) 292

Scientists Successfully Decode the Genome of Quinoa

Ugh. I know this is a primarily a tech site, but why can't we make more of an effort to use the actual scientific terms instead meaningless stupid phrases.
It's kind of like saying "Company develops new method to talk to computers" instead of "Company develops new programming language, Rust"

"Scientists sequence and assemble the genome of Chenopodium quinoa (aka "quinoa")"

There, much better. Heck, that's lifted almost word-for-word from the actual scientific article, so it's not like it requires a ton of effort.

Comment Re:Gentetic modification (Score 1) 292

Breeding doesn't modify genes. You cannot breed two animals together or cross pollinate two plants and get arbitrary genes that weren't there to begin with.

Of course it does. I suggest you take a college-level Biology course and learn a little bit about mechanisms of genetic variation before saying things like:

The fact that you don't know that pretty much disqualifies you from any discussion here as you're not fooling anybody.

Comment Re:Am I supposed to hate this or not? (Score 1) 292

Those alterations have to already exist in order for breeding to get anywhere.

No, they don't. The process is just slower for non-GMO breeding. Random mutations can cause the plant to produce new chemicals that may or may not be harmful. In one case, you end up with oranges becoming blood oranges, in another you end up with a potato with way too much solanine.

Just to add to this. Humans may have accelerated the process of cross-Kingdom genetic variation by bringing organisms from very different geography and ecological context together, but that doesn't make it "unnatural." Breeding is also an acceleration of a natural process, unless you think hundreds of varieties of corn all grow in neatly ordered rows to facilitate cross-pollination in the wild.

Comment Re: Am I supposed to hate this or not? (Score 1) 292

You may have learned in your high school biology class that sexual reproduction is the only or primary method of introducing genetic variation within a species, but it really isn't. Genetic variation very frequently comes from other sources. It is no accident (or malfeasance) that one of the methods for introducing genetic modifications into plants uses a bacterium (Agrobacterium) or, for that matter, that naturally-occurring human viruses are frequently used to introduce mutations into human tissue-culture cell lines. Microbes are ancient and everywhere, and they are responsible for a lot of cross-Kingdom genetic exchange.

Comment Re:Am I supposed to hate this or not? (Score 1) 292

That's because you are letting the rules of nature determine the outcome.

Guess what? Genetic engineering is also subject to "the rules of nature" to "determine the outcome." It is not some magic wand that suddenly results in a new organism. The rules that determine whether particular genetic modifications are lethal (to the plant) or effective (change the phenotype), and whether effective modifications are "safe" (do not result in phenotypic changes that are toxic to humans) or not, are a complex system of interacting regulatory networks. How the DNA modification takes place is irrelevant to the outcome. It is foolish to assume that random genetic variation followed by selection (aka "breeding") is any safer or more controlled than directed and specific modifications to the genome. Is is also foolish to assume that the "safeness" of any phenotypic change to an organism is context-independent or immutable. See, for example, the increasing prevalence of type II diabetes, which is only now leading to concerns over past breeding-practices that produced then-desirable sweeter-tasting (ie: more sugar) and easier-to-digest (ie: less fiber) varieties of common staples (rice, wheat, corn, etc).

Comment Re: Multicore for spreadsheets..? (Score 1) 224

We have complex financial models that are coded in C# for production use but which also exist in spreadsheets for the purposes of documentation and independent model validation.

You might want to have a look at RMarkdown (http://rmarkdown.rstudio.com/index.html). It's pretty much designed for exactly that purpose. You get to use the very nice R framework, and be able to very naturally document changes to your models. You can use revision control if you want to. You can even embed interactive widgets if you want to go that far. This guy (http://vnijs.github.io/radiant/) wrote a business intelligence platform on top of R using Shiny. There is lots of cool stuff to do here. More importantly, you get to take advantage of a lot of very robust statistical models, a very active development community, and proper data management support (ex: relational databases). R project files are just text files, so it's pretty easy to archive and version control using whichever tools you have for those purposes.

Comment Re:Massive failure from all involved (Score 2) 169

No the point of the article was "questions whether more information is the same thing as more understanding."

No, that was not the point of the article at all. The point of the article was that there is an implicit assumption in the field that we just lack sufficient data. That the methodologies used to analyze that data are fine, but because we don't have enough data, we fail to successfully understand cognition. The authors argue that, no, there is not enough but data, but also that the methodologies are flawed; that the methodologies themselves need to be validated. But because we don't have a ground truth with which to study the brain, we have no way of validating on that data set.

So they are looking for a suitable stand-in, to validate the methodology. That is all. It is not their intention to learn anything about the brain from the microprocessor, just to replicate the known ground truth of the microprocessor using the "reverse-engineering" methods that are common and accepted in the neuroscience field to determine whether they are adequate.

Slashdot Top Deals

Time is an illusion perpetrated by the manufacturers of space.