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Comment Re:Interstate commerce anyone? (Score 1) 609

If the U.S. federal government already had rules in place regarding energy efficiency standards for TVs, that would be true. However, at least I don't know of any federal regulations that exist. In the absence of federal law on regulating certain products, Congress has typically let states set their own laws. Once Congress passes federal legislation, states can't pass their own laws on that subject unless given explicit permission by the relevant federal law.

If California or any other state attempted to set fuel efficiency standards for automobiles over and above CAFE's requirements, an automaker would very likely be able to get such a state law overturned by the interstate commerce clause and/or the constitutional provision for federal law's precedence over state law.

In the case of the Clean Air Act of 1970, California's pollution laws were allowed to remain in place since the state enacted them before 1970, at least to the extent that they did not contradict the Clean Air Act. However, the Clean Air Act prohibits any other state from enacting their own pollution control legislation subsequent to the act aside from allowing states to adopt California's rules in as their own law to supplement the federal requirements.

Comment Re:And file sharers may be violating copyright law (Score 1) 339

The extra tiny cost is worth that warm fuzzy feeling, knowing that even if I were to *accidentally* put some unlicensed media on those disks, I don't have to worry at all about cheating those RIAA executives out of their second summer home.

Do you think that you're immune to RIAA action in the United States just because the media on which you're using for "accidental" copyright infringement was purchased in Canada? While the Canadian tax on media may provide for safe harbor in that country (I don't know that to be the case, but I'll assume it's true for the purpose of this post), saying that having a copy of Britney Spears' latest album (which you had not already purchased) fresh off BitTorrent on a CD is OK because you paid a tax on that CD in Canada is not going to get you very far in an American courtroom. From the MPAA/RIAA's perpsective, copyright infringement is copyright infringement, regardless of whether it takes place on media purchased in the U.S. or in Canada.

From a purely moral standpoint, your argument is solid. The **AAs are in fact compensated when you buy that media in Canada. However, for those Americans with any legal worries, I would suggest that you discuss the implications of putting unlicensed content onto media purchased (and on which the "pircay" tax appropriately was paid) in Canada with an American lawyer before trying to use the Canadian flag to shield your infrignement activities in the USA.

Comment Re:NASA's shoddy (fraudulent?) work (Score 1) 167

From the Telegraph article linked to by the parent:

This was startling. Across the world there were reports of unseasonal snow and plummeting temperatures last month, from the American Great Plains to China, and from the Alps to New Zealand. China's official news agency reported that Tibet had suffered its "worst snowstorm ever". In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month, and ranked it as only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years.

This is effectively using a single data point (the month of October 2008) to argue that the theory of global warming is false. Claims like this are just a red herring on this issue. Episodes like this can be consistent with global warming, provided that averaged across time and space they are the exception rather than the rule.

The theory of global warming states that on average the world's temperature will rise as a result of increasing concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases generated by human activities. A downward tick in temperature over the course of a month or a year will not refute global warming, provided the world's average temperature resumes its increasing trend soon thereafter. Using local incidents to refute global warming is also spurious. Even in the long run, there may be parts of the world that will have a lower average long-term temperature as a result of changes in ocean or atmospheric currents. Such locations, provided they are not common enough to counteract increasing temeperatures in the rest of of the world, will not refute global warming.

An analogy that I like to use to people who don't understand this fact is that of a casino. Many patrons who play blackjack, slot machines, or other games against the house do leave the casino winners after a given session. However, to claim that these winning patrons are sufficient to dispute the claim that the games are in the house's favor would be ludicrous to almost anybody regardless of whether they've set foot in a casino. Yet the Telegraph and the parent poster are effectively trying to do the same thing by taking a very limited dataset and claiming that a theory is false based on that dataset. Using 1998 (in which one of the world's highest temperatures was recorded) by itself to claim that global warming is real and occurring would be equally specious.

In order to refute global warming, you would need either (a) to identify a cause dominant over increasing greenhouse gas concentrations that is demonstrably increasing the earth's temperature, or (b) a long-term data set of stable or decreasing temperatures in the presence of increasing greenhouse gas levels. In order to prove it, you need (a) a long-term dataset of both temperatures and greenhouse gas levels increasing, and (b) a sound explanation as to how the greenhouse gases are contributing to the increase in temperature (to establish causation). What "long-term" means depend on whether a person believes in global warming or is a skeptic, but most people would want at least 20 years worth of data, preferably more, before deciding on the truth or falsity of the theory. To use a single month or a year to make a claim on it is irrelevant to the discussion and such claims distract people from really finding out what's going on.

Comment Re:Missing option (Score 1) 340


For the past six years we have looked for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq, to no avail. It appears as though you have found the WMD that we have been seeking. If you could please provide us the address of the Taco Bell and the source of Old Milwaukee, it would be greatly appreciated. This information will allow us to create a lasting legacy for our campaign to advance Freedom during our last 68 days in office.

George W. Bush, outgoing President of the United States of America

Comment Re:Duh. (Score 2, Insightful) 1601

The point is being missed here: when the press is in the tank for a candidate and is not fair and balanced, everyone loses.

This case is pretty benign compared to some of the other issues for which the press has been "in the tank" for the past few decades. The media have had 20 years to report on unsustainable budget deficits, the massive Social Security and Medicare shortfalls we're on target towards realizing by 2020, human-induced climate change, the PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, and other defining issues and have at best paid lip service to them. And the most glaring example of the press being asleep at the wheel (or worse yet, intentionally taking their eyes off the road) has been the leadup to U.S. military involvement in Iraq in 2002-03.

Perhaps if the views of Sen. Obama and other opponents had been better covered by the press before March 2003 we wouldn't invaded that country, or at least constructed a sounder policy and gathered more solid intelligence and used a better-considered strategy for an invasion. I remember virtually no coverage of Bush's opponents by the major media outlets leading up to the war. My reading of the mainstream media was that Bush had, in hand, evidence of Saddam Hussein's regime being in current possession of nuclear and biological weapons, or at the very least hard proof that he had the materials necessary to build them. Hindsight allows us to see that this the evidence was shaky at best that Hussein had any type of WMD since the end of the 1990-91 war. I understand the fact that in many cases this type of information needs to be classified, but all that the media would have needed latch on to an anti-war argument would be a public statement by a member of Congress or the Bush adminstration is "Based on the contents of the $Briefing_Name classified briefing, I do not feel that we currently have justification to initiate hostilities in Iraq." I'm sure such statements to that effect were made, but media coverage downplayed these statements and these statements did not lead to very many follow-up stories.

In the 1970s, the press was vital to uncovering the Watergate scandal and pressuring Congress to pass reforms in its wake. If President Bush or President-elect Obama were found to have engaged in similar behavior, I'm not at all convinced it would even make a big story these days. Unless the scandal involves sex or drugs, the media now tend to downplay stories involving political figures and other notable people (and when sex and drugs are involved, the story is often blown up out of proportion). I don't know what's changed since then. Is it the fact that now entertainment content and journalism are more closely tied together in the corporate world then they were 30 years ago?

I'm not sure what agenda the press has, but journalists used to feel a responsibility to tell a story how it is and give it the importance it deserves (i.e. putting it at the top of the front page or on the bottom-right corner of Page B14 as the story dictates). Sure, TV ratings and circulation numbers have always been important, but now it seems to be the only factor. As you've put it, the press has been "in the tank" for some time.

Comment Re:Pedantic-Man(tm) to the rescue! (Score 1) 388

Though I really hate it when people put in unnecessary apostrophes. "CD's" for instance. Gack.

The use of an apostrophe after an abbreviation or acronym like "CD" to make a plural is borderline in terms of "correctness." Formerly, this use of an apostrophe was commonplace. Even as recently as 20 years ago I was taught to use the apostrophe that way in elementary school (as well as its other uses). Now it's considered unnecessary by most, but still acceptable by many people in the United States. (I don't know how this use is viewed in other parts of the English-speaking world).

Now using an apostrophe followed by an "s" to make a common noun plural is a different issue. I've only seen this online, where a sentence like "Lots of tree's and animal's live in the forest" can fit in well with the content of many sites. This usage makes me want to scream and I could imagine makes you nauseous. Then again, who could have imagined before the Internet and SMS the numeral "2" being ever used as a preposition?

Comment Re:"No victims" (Score 1) 402

Again, who is regulating these massage parlours? An ordinary business like a grocery store or a car parts factory cannot traffic people from China and keep them hostage. It would be difficult to explain to the tax authorities, health and safety inspections, the unions and all the rest of the framework society has developed to keep companies behaving responsibly.

In the U.S., it's same people that regulate the construction and agriculture industry, as well as retailers like Wal-Mart and various other businesses. While farmers, construction companies and stores do not usually import people illegally, they certainly often take full advantage of illegals that have entered on their own. Unhappy with what you're getting "under the table" and your working hours and conditions for putting up drywall, harvesting crops, or stocking shelves? Your boss is very willing to refer you to INS for these issues if you complain publicly or jump ship to a competitor. In the latter case, they'd be able to hit both your new employer and the employee for immgration issues by phoning in an anonymous tip.

I don't whether these Chinese women are smuggled in or sneak themselves into the U.S., but in either case I would hazard to guess that they're not exactly on a level playing field in terms of employment once they're here.

Comment Re:FiveThirtyEight (Score 1) 1912

The actual votes are never counted while the polls are still open on election day for the very reasons you point out.

However, once all of a state's polls close, vote-counting starts and in many cases the results for more than half of that state's votes are counted within an hour. For states on the East Coast, that means that they can have preliminary or even substantially complete results available to the media while the polls in the central and western parts of the country remain open. If someone in Nevada who's decided to vote after work hears on the radio that either Obama or McCain has swept every state east of the Mississippi (scenario contrived to illustrate the point), my guess is he's going to be considerably less likely to bother stopping by his polling place on his way home.

I'm not sure what measures Canada, Australia, or other physically large democracies/republics have in place to try to address this issue. It's considerably easier to do keep these concerns at bay in Europe, where most countries either lie entirely in one time zone or straddle a single time zone boundary. If the U.S. had a truly national election, these problems would be much less pronounced. However, since there are really 51 state elections (since those in Washington, D.C. can vote for the president too) there's lots of synchronization issues in the system

Comment Re:FiveThirtyEight (Score 1) 1912

As others have said here, there is no national election for the presidency. There are in practice 51 (including D.C.) state elections. (In theory, the actual election takes place several weeks later as the slates of electors chosen by each state cast their ballots, but many states bind their electors to follow the state's popular vote and most others do so as well). The reason why people waiting in line in Florida went home is that they were under the impression that enough votes had been counted to have given Gore and insurmountable lead in Florida; that Gore would have won even if every single absentee ballot was for Bush and everyone still left in line voted for him. And since Florida's results are all that a Floridian could influence by his or her ballot, they decided there was no incentive to cast votes either to Bush to try to come back or to vote for Gore to increase his margin.

When the media combined Florida's electoral votes (25, more than all but 3 other states) with the others that had either already counted their votes (most of the East Coast and some of the CST states) or that the media had decided were virtual slam-dunks for the Democrats to carry (such as California's 54 electors, which Gore did in fact easily win), they came up with a total of more than 270 electoral votes and made Gore the presumptive president-elect. At that point, some people either in line in the Central time zone or deciding whether to turn out to polls in the western half of the country decided not to bother voting since they felt that regardless of whether their state's electors went for Gore or Bush the election was already decided. The number of people that did this is unclear, but in Florida's case even a few dozen across the state would have proved a significant number.

If votes aren't counted immediately after the polls close, there needs to be safeguards in place to minimize the added opportunity of tampering during the time the polls close and the votes were actually counted (e.g. in 3 hours someone with access to a ballot box could add votes for his favorite candidate or even substitute a ballot box with a rigged one containing the same number of ballots). However, you make a very good point about having a uniform reporting time for elections. I suspect that because of the First Amendment the best way to actually make this happen is by having all polls across the country close at the same time. If polls in the East closed earlier, passing a law that says the media could not report election results until a certain time would likely result in a lawsuit infringing on free speech rights, though as a non-lawyer I'm not qualified to predict whether such a lawsuit would prevail. The closest parallel that I can think of the presently exists are the way in which government economic data like the monthly unemployment statistics are reported, where the report is indicated as "embargoed" until a pre-determined time (watching CNBC and others it's obvious they have the information beforehand, but make sure not to report it until the appropriate time). Perhaps a constitutionally valid law can be crafted using as a model restrictions on economic data?

Comment Re:FiveThirtyEight (Score 1) 1912

If there's anything to be learned from the last elections, it's "don't count chickens before they hatch." In 2000, every major outlet that I heard (includes CNN, CBS, ABC) had awarded the election to Al Gore by 9:30 p.m. EST and having him take Florida by several percentage points. Voters in Florida and elsewhere left polling lines and went home; Republicans were resigned to the fact that Bush had lost and Democrats felt that their candidate was safely in without their vote. And then the real results came in. 2004 wasn't as dramatic, but Bush was still somewhat of an underdog entering the election.

Just because a candidate's deemed likely to win by the press or a website doesn't mean that it's destined to happen. If you haven't already, go to your polling place and put your choice for president, House of Representatives, and any other office on your ballot into the ballot box. That's the only way you can truly improve your candidate's chances.

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