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Comment Re:Why are states enforcing federal laws? (Score 1) 884

You know...there's plenty of people out there needing work

And some of them will get work providing goods and services for illegal migrants. Send the illegal migrants home and there's fewer workers, but also fewer jobs. It's not immediately obvious whether this would help the unemployed or hurt them.

Last time I saw studies on this the conclusion was that the two effects cancelled out so that migration was neither particularly good or bad for unemployment. But that was a long time ago, in Australia, and included legal migration. So if someone else has more applicable studies they can quote, I'd find that interesting.

Comment Re:too much regulation! (Score 1) 251

If anything you might expect less Christmas promotion in the US than in some places. The US at least has other events late in the year - Thanksgiving, Halloween - that in principle could serve as distractions to break up the Christmas takeoff run. Here in Australia we don't do either of those - or much else, Australia's really quite a boring place from the point of view of festivals - but my impression is that Christmas nonetheless starts rather later here than in the US. Anyone have a theory why?

Comment Re:Over hyped (Score 1) 126

we can consider Chihuahuas, Old English Sheepdogs and Irish Wolfhounds the same species

All dogs and wolves are, by some definitions at least, considered the same species because they can collaborate in producing a fertile descendant. Chihuahas can't mate with Great Danes, but the Chihuaha can mate with a smallish dog, which mates with a medium-sized dog, which mates with a largish dog, which mates with a Great Dane, and that's enough to make them the same species.

If we killed all the dogs in the world except the Chihuaha and the Great Dane, the survivors would be two separate species. In other words an act that reduces diversity can increase the number of species. This is one problem with using species number as a proxy for diversity. So when we say Neanderthals and humans are the same or different species, we're not really making a statement about whether they are similar or different. At least not entirely.

Comment Re: Immigration and Customs are dangerous (Score 1) 271

I have relatives in the US in a similar position [...]

If these people were to swear to defend the US they could become citizens. Then if someone demands they actually do some defending they explain they are pacifists and they'd be OK. Nobody would force them to fight because US laws on conscription etc. recognise conscientious objector status.

In other words, the arm of the US government concerned with demanding violence from its citizens (the military, etc.) doesn't mind them declining to commit acts of violence, but another arm of the government (the citizenship authorities) does mind because it feels obliged to protect the interests of the first arm. The second arm is being overly zealous, providing assistance beyond what the the first arm wants or needs, and causing unnecessary side effects in the process.

The moral of this story is that there's a bug in the citizenship procedure. Conscientious objector status ought to extend to the citizenship laws as well - someone who can prove conscientious objector status, to the same standard as demanded by a conscription board, ought to be allowed to swear a citizenship oath that does not demand defence, at least not in a violent way.

Caveat: Assuming the parent's information is all accurate.

Submission + - New analysis shows dinosaurs not as heavy as previously believed. (

Cognitive Dissident writes: has an article on a new study using computer modeling to estimate the actual amount of flesh needed to cover the skeletons of dinosaurs. Based on a comparison with modern animals, it indicates that these animals could have weighed dramatically less than has been previously estimated. "A huge Brachiosaur, once thought to weigh 176,370 pounds, is now believed to have weighed 50,706 pounds." That's only about two-and-a-half times the weight of a modern African elephant. If other evidence can be reconciled with this, many estimates of the ecosystems dinosaurs lived in will also have to be revised.

Comment Re:Wow. Just wow. (Score 1) 640

not that engineers need to believe in intelligent design; but the belief that complex systems were intelligently designed isn't exactly crippling when your job is intelligently designing complex systems...

Unless a software engineer looks at the design of the human body, notices it is a kludge of spaghetti code, and decides that if God does it that way then it must be the best way to do it.

Comment Going to space might still be a waste of money (Score 4, Insightful) 46

This is another point against anyone who claims NASA, and going to space in general, is a complete waste of money.

It might prove NASA has some use. But it doesn't sound like going into space was necessary for this research, so that could, in principle, still be a waste.

Comment Re:Well that's okay (Score 1) 650

Australia's I understand is different again

Australia is basically a hybrid of the British and American systems - an American structure (states, house of representatives for people generally, senate based on states) with the British model (indirectly elected executive, figurehead head of state). If you know both Britain and America then Australia holds few surprises.

A big part of this 'is it a democracy' kerfuffle stems from terminology differences. The classic American definition is that to be a democracy you need to be deciding things by town meeting or referendum, like in ancient Athens. So modern western 'democracies' are by the American definition actually republics, with only a small admixture of genuine democracy (i.e. referenda). Even Britain is a de facto republic by this definition. Whereas by the British definition these countries are representative democracies. There's a similar problem with the word 'government' - In the US this means the legislative, executive and judicial branches, whereas in the Westminster system it refers exclusively to the executive branch. The differences between the systems are smaller than they sometimes seem to be, because we are divided by a common language.

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