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Comment Re:Thoughtcrime (Score 1) 410

Which of the socialisms was Orwell advocating?

The cited text (Lion & Unicorn) would explain better than I could hope.

From the point of view of Marxism (and I'm obviously not a Marxist) neither of the situations you describe are socialism. The first, I believe would be dismissed as "primitive communalism." The second seems to be a self-defeatingly histrionic* description welfare state ideology. It is a common these days to confuse the welfare state with socialism. Historically, however, the modern welfare state was the invention of conservatives (esp of Otto von Bismarck) and was explicitly an anti-socialist measure. It is an accident of history that the welfare state has become associated with nominally 'socialist' parties (long after the imminent threat of a socialist takeover faded, rendering the welfare state no longer necessary to conservative purposes).

Marxists view socialism as a "transitional state," as a the final form of state power on the path to their utopian (though Marxists would object strenuously to that term) vision of stateless communism. The famous motto "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need" which is meant to characterise communism is matched by the starker motto of socialism, "to each according to their contribution" (if memory serves me both come from Marx' Critique of the Gotha Programme). The idea was that the proletariat as the "universal class" (a imho mystical conception Marx inherited from the conservative philosopher Hegel who regard the bureaucracy as the universal class) would set up a self dissolving "dictatorship" in which the fruits of production would be shared only by those whose labour brought them into being. That is the owners of factories etc (the means of production) would be dispossed. Socialism then is most easily defined as the state ownership of the means of production as a path to the eventual state self-elimination which was to be communism. [Note that no country under Communist Party rule has ever claimed to be communist. They did claim to be socialist]

And that was their "scientific" socialism which they distinguished from "utopian" socialism!

But actually my main point was, notwithstanding the dig at the Soviet system, in 1984 Orwell was not so much describing a dictatorship of any political colour, but rather showing a state whose purpose served no ideological agenda at all, other than the exercise of power for powers sake. It is a very worthwhile read.

[*It is more persuasive to define a system first and then go on to show how aspects of that system ineluctably lead to poor outcomes rather than over-obviously writing the untoward outcomes into the very definition. Just an idea if ever you want a good essay mark.]

Comment Re:Well that's terrifying (Score 1) 410

To a free man it's not valid

To such a "free man" 7 need not be a prime number either.

... violates the first principle of human rights.

And the canonical example of what might constitute a "valid law" of the English Parliament, namely that "all blue-eyed babies be put to death" doesn't?! *

Prohibition was "duly enacted" in the US, too, but it was a stupid, ill-advised, and evil power trip.

It may well have been stupid, ill-advised and an evil power trip. It was nonetheless, as a matter of mere fact, a valid law. After all, Prohibition was repealed rather than being struck down.

[*Besides which, those so-called "human rights" which are actual rights rather than aspirations, are simply called "rights"]

Comment Re:If you want to write a book, just do it (Score 1) 221

Sure, yeah, you could take a few weekend courses and bang out some stuff and possibly even find a job paying decent money. But if you want to move up in the world you need to turn your hack and slash techniques into a refined art. The kind of crap commodity programmers write is the stuff that skilled developers get paid a lot of money cleaning up or just re-implementing. (...) If you want to work in the big leagues on important things, you need to be open to learning some things and respect the craft.

With all possible respect to all the CS experts of the world, that's not what they teach. Finding a good organization of your application that makes structures easy to break down, processes easy to follow and changes easy to implement doesn't involve deep, abstract mathematical formulations with optimal answers. It's about creating functional units (objects, layers, modules, services) with clear responsibilities that abstract away internal details, create well defined and narrow interactions, break up and explain complex logic, that everything behaves like and contains what you'd expect from common language definitions and naming conventions and with sufficient high level documentation that anyone of moderate intelligence can understand what bits need to go where.

Or to put it another way, if you sent the source code through an obfuscator the CS experts would probably be just as happy with the output as the input, after all the algorithms and functionality are all unchanged. It would make it an incomprehensible mess of spaghetti code and "there be dragons" that nobody understand how or why works, but those are practical concerns. The same is error and exception handling, CS is all about correct algorithms that never get called with invalid input or run into any of those practical problems that cause poorly written software to crash, often without leaving behind any useful reason why and if there's any possibility to just fail this and move on.

I think you're onto something about the craft and the art. If you want to make swords for an army it's a craft, if you're making a nobleman's fine blade it's an art. Most of the time what we want is robust craftsmanship, process as many passable swords as possible and discard any failures. Not very glamorous and not very artistic, we're not awarding points for style or elegance but whether the code you've built is a reliable work horse that gets the job done. Or maybe the difference between an institutional chef and a fine dining chef. One is serving a hundred people a good meal, the other can spend forever making a plate of fine art. Both are very different from being a poor chef, but being good at one doesn't really make you good at the other. And CS is the Michelin guide department.

Comment Re:fast, efficient code? (Score 1) 37

I was trying to respond with a perl code example showing some features it has -- which are admittedly optional -- to write readable code, but slashdot is refusing to let me post them because of it's "Lameness Filter", which I think has actually let quite a bit of lameness through.

Comment Re:fast, efficient code? (Score 1) 37

You've no doubt had much occasion to experience this shittiness in your 20 years of experience, but nevertheless you see, the reason I am objecting here is that the example that springs to your mind of a perl oddity is one of the things that in point of fact never causes a single problem, and it seems peculiar that you can't come up with a more cogent criticism, particularly when one takes into account your 20 years of experience.

Comment Re:Examples? (Score 1) 259

The older I get, the more I realize that everyone has an agenda.

Exactly. Everything is propaganda. Bias is a part of human nature. I prefer when people clearly state their biases as it's easier to see where they're coming from. I think a large part of the problem we face is people who believe that such a thing as "unbiased journalism" exists. There are people who don't think CNN has an agenda. And that agenda is not always congruent with the best interests of the viewers.

This is turning into a real problem. When Trump won the NH primary Huffington Post's cover page said "NH GOES RACIST, SEXIST XENOPHOBIC!!!" Literally that. All caps. I wondered what would happen if Trump wins the whole thing. Will people who believe Huffington Post wake up and realize "Oh, people in New Hampshire voted for Trump because they're tired of $10 heroin on their streets, not because they hate blacks and Mexicans and women, and Huffington Post has been lying to them." Or will they freak the ever loving fuck out because they believe there are secret nazis EVERYWHERE! From my FaceBook feed, the answer is the latter.

People need to read the narrative, read the counter-narrative, check the sources, and see who's lying about what in which cases. But instead here we've got the mainstream media trying to propagandize the people that anything that doesn't come from them is "fake news." Stay in that bubble kids! Never look for an alternative point of view! Do what we tell you vote how we tell you!

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