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Comment Third parties should pursue voting reform (Score 1) 627

When you have a winner-take-all system of voting, third parties tend to siphon support from those who are ideologically closest to them. That's not a good way of choosing representatives of the public.

Libertarians, greens, tea partiers and progressives should join hands and support Instant Runoff Voting, Approval Voting or any number of more rational election schemes. Until they do, it's appropriate to dismiss minor parties as spoilers. Absent such reforms, I support the decision of ABC. Otherwise, I would say that there should be one debate for those polling above 2% and another debate for those polling above 20%.

Comment Re:Party loyalty means you can be ignored ... (Score 3, Insightful) 376

Generally speaking, that's a reasonable position. The twist is that the US system is designed for consultation and compromise. So the Republicans want one thing, the Dems the other and they're suppose to split the difference.

What the Republicans have discovered is that compromises tend to make the President look good. So they've stopped compromising. Mitch McConnell has been pretty explicit about this: he will only sign off on a Dem proposal if it's something, "...I and my members would do anyway..." Most Democratic systems work this way: members of the majority coalition support each other and the minority lodges objections. Therein lies accountability: if you don't like the coalition, throw them out.

The problem in the US is that the minority party can sabotage and obstruct and reap electoral benefits when the other side fails to get anything done. Indeed, economic sabotage becomes a viable strategy, which explains Republican resistance to stimulus packages and textbook economics: what's in it for them?

At any rate, if you truly believe what you say, you should vote for Romney, a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. That is, throw the bums out in the legislature *and* the executive. Frankly, I find this nuts: I only support pro-Science parties which for the past 10+ years excludes the GOP. Too bad our winner-take-all voting system blocks the emergence of more choices: a European style conservative party would earn my consideration.

Comment No the science doesn't unequivocably support Yucca (Score 1) 226

It is by no means clear that Yucca Mountain is the proper site for radioactive waste disposal. From the article:

"It is still not completely clear whether Yucca Mountain would be a good place to bury radioactive waste. Despite the Energy Secretary's 2002 seal of approval, there are legitimate scientific concerns about the suitability of the site. An independent US Nuclear Technical Waste Review Board said PDF it had "limited confidence" in the Energy Department's performance estimates for Yucca Mountain because of "gaps in data and basic understanding." As Gary Taubes observed in Technology Review in 2002, "By choosing Yucca Mountain as the only option for a nuclear-waste facility, Congress put the DOE in an untenable position. In effect, it sent the department out to prove that Yucca Mountain would work as a repository, rather than to do a dispassionate analysis of whether it could work or was the best possible site." "

Yucca Mountain, IRRC, is rather close to Vegas and the site actually has some history of water migration, even over the past 50 years. Admittedly I'm working off of a memory of a report I read a decade ago. Here's the link FWIW:

Comment Re:Stop (Score 1) 694

If people face the full cost of burning oil, they will consume less of it. Demand curves slope downwards. And alternatives to oil (natural gas now, solar later) will gain customers. Really, it's better if people pay for the burden they put on the economy directly, be it the burden in the form of labor and capital, health expenditures or climate adaptation.

Comment Re:Stop (Score 1) 694

Tax breaks mostly. Giving such special privileges to the oil industry shifts resources away from sectors with proportionally less pull in Washington, DC: software design is a prime example. There are also R&D and federal loan guarantees.

Oil gets $41 billion, coal gets $8 billion, nuclear gets $9 billion, ethanol (not a fossil fuel, more like a handout to farmers and a tax on food) gets $6 billion and wind and other renewables..... $6 billion.

By my thinking, extractive industries should pay royalties to the commonwealth: they should be taxed, not subsidized.

Comment Re:Stop (Score 1) 694

Oh c'mon. The fossil fuel industry is subsidized to the tune of $40 billion per year +. Meanwhile you can dump all the CO2 in the air you want with zero cost. Nada.

In my world, you would charge people for the damage they do to others or to the environment and let the market take care of the rest. But let's not pretend that conservatives are opponents of governmental subsidies: if they were, they would have no problem with meaningful campaign finance restrictions, to take one of many examples. (There are even 1st amendment friendly means of doing that. You could put a tax on electronic advertising and transfer the revenues to their political opponents. Sure, there some knotty issues involved, but the status quo is hardly an environment of calm and detached debate anyway.)


Comment Bad science journalism: what it lacks (Score 1) 193

Here is what's missing from a bad piece of science journalism. There will be no discussion of whether the study had a control. There will be no indication that some methodologies are more powerful than others -- the reader is assumed not to know or care about gold standards such as "Double blind" and the like. There's no attempt to recapitulate the scientific argument; the reporter need only lamely report the conclusion. Obvious questions arise from the reporting, but are left unaddressed.

The New York Times and The Economist magazine tend to do better than that. AP tends to be awful.

Comment Re:Start laughing now... (Score 1) 381

The government wouldn't have to choose. They could simply distribute subsidies on the basis of circulation or hits. Sure, there's scope for hit-fraud, but advertisers have dealt with this problem IRL for decades.

The newspaper model depends far more on advertising than subscription revenue: anyone who doesn't think that this leads to slanted coverage is hopelessly naive. If anything distributing revenue in proportion to circulation would fight oligarchy, not enhance it.

The Brits worked off this model for years with the BBC. Everyone who owns a TV pays an annual fee. The result was that the BBC produced a range of shows where everyone would have at least a couple that they loved. In contrast, the advertiser-driven eyeball model encourages production of everyone's third choice. You don't have to like the show, you just have to keep the channel knob tuned to it.

All that said, this proposal is a nonstarter in the US: it's the stuff of academia and white papers.

Comment Re:Who cares? (Score 1) 659

I got a 40 out of 70, implying that I'm a callous asshole.

Maybe they are correct. But I can say that " When I'm upset at someone, I usually try to "put myself in his shoes" for a while." That describes me very well. I hope that I reflexively consider the POV of those I disagree with.

But then, I don't feel pity or tender feelings for those less fortunate than me. Feelings shmeelings, what people need is a hand up. So yes, I do donate to charity.

In short, I'm cerebrally empathetic, but not especially softhearted. Hence my lousy score.

Comment Re:They want the tech (Score 2, Informative) 429

I'm not sure what they want, but they are getting the tech, the brand, the manufacturing plant and let's not forget the distribution network.

The buyer, Sichuan Tengzhong, looks like an interesting company. They manufacture heavy equipment, special-use vehicles, highway & bridge structural components, construction machinery and energy facilities. That's a varied mix, but I don't see passenger autos in there. They've been in business since 2005. They are a private company; I'm not sure where they get their funding or their origins.

Comment Re:Digital vs. analoge photo's (Score 1) 358

I agree that no-cost photography is a helpful development.

In the 1970s and 1980s budding photographers were advised to spend more money on film than on equipment. And the pros would routinely throw out the vast majority of the pics they made.

The difference now is that these practices can now be conducted on a far smaller budget.


Submission + - Which equation editor is best?

forgoodmeasure writes: "What's the best software for producing reports with equations?

Of course, there will be trade-offs between accuracy (advantage: LaTeX!), steepness of learning curve and eventual speed: I've found that typing code tends to be quicker than working with a clunky menu system.

For myself, Wordperfect 9 (from Corel's Office 2000 suite) was far superior to Word 2000, with or without the third-party plugin. Today, Open Office beats Wordperfect 9. How does Word 2007 fare? Finally, which implementation of LaTeX in Windows (or Linux, et al) is best?"

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