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Comment Re:Unrealistic for you, maybe (Score 1) 390

The US Govt (at least on the Federal level) is mandated by the US Constitution to provide for defense...that is one of its few enumerated responsibilities and powers.

That's for *defense*. We send almost half our budget on defense, but maybe about 5% of our budget actually goes to defense. The remaining 45% is for buying expensive toys from defense contractors to assuage our tribal concerns that the country is undefended. Although we pay our soldiers burger-flipping wages (partly to justify not raising the minimum wage for actual burger flippers), the Pentagon is actually complaining about being overloaded with so much expensive equipment that they can't even keep all of it out of the rain. We aren't safe if our military can only end life on the planet- it should be capable of destroying three or four planets, and at least ten by 2030. That's not defense, it's a parasitic industry that gobbles up nearly half the budget. But people are so entranced by it- guys like Brian Williams who ejaculate when they see a couple dozen Tomahawks being fired- that's almost always a cheap political win. Every government that does nothing for its citizens (e.g. North Korea) resorts to military displays. It's an opiate for the masses.

The Constitution was written when health care costs were not even a conceivable issue at all. For most of American history the Constitution has been considered a working document, designed to be amended as times change in ways that could not have been forseen. That was the 18th-20th century view of the Constitution, but it went out the window several decades ago. At this point, Americans have fetishized the U.S. Constitution like it's an appendix to the Bible, and they quote the Founding Fathers like they were apostles. When amending it is now considered sacrilege, it has completely lost its usefulness. You have the rights you have (and might have needed) up until this originalist attitude set in during the 80s. Now you will never be given any more Constitutional rights, no matter what changes in the near or distant future. Since health care only emerged as a serious problem in more recent decades, you'll never have a Constitutional right to free health care. But you can always kick a British soldier out of your house. That's fucked.

Comment Sure, Uber is evil. (Score 2) 257

It's an anti-social company that's a horrible place to work. Everybody knows that by now.

What nobody can know for sure is why an individual takes his life, or what circumstances would have to be different.

Take Google, which in several recent lists is the best company in America to work for. Google has just shy of 60,000 employees. Given the US suicide rate of 46/100,000, if Google were largely reflective of that you'd expect 28 suicides/year among Google employees. Of course (a) not all Google employees are Americans and (b) Google employees are economically better off than most people in their societies, so you'd expect there to be a lower rate of suicide. But it's safe to assume a dozen Google employees a year take their lives.

And if you look at them as individuals, you'd inevitably suspect work stress was involved, and if you'd look you'd probably find it -- because it's a chicken-or-egg thing. Suicide is a catastrophic loss of coping ability; when you head that way you will find trouble everywhere you turn.

When something like this happens to an individual, everyone feels the need to know why -- even strangers. But that's the one thing you can never know for certain. Now if suicide rates were high for Uber, then statistically you could determine to what degree you should be certain that Uber is a killing its employees with a bad work environment (or perhaps selecting at-risk employees).

I think its inevitable and understandable that this man's family blames Uber. And it's very likely that this will be yet another PR debacle for the company. But the skeptic in me says we just can't know whether Uber has any responsibility for the result.

Comment There should be a law... (Score 1) 187

For several years now, Amazon really has been leading the way toward making it impossible to tell the difference between joke product ideas and the real ones. Google/Apple/Microsoft have had some bad ideas too, but they all get totally left in the dust by Amazon. I mean, this is the company that sells buttons for buying stuff.

Is there a Poe's Law of consumer electronics yet? We're getting close to needing one.

Comment Re:It's true (Score 2) 257

Pixar was unique in Silicon Valley companies in that we had deadlines that could not move. The film had to be in theaters before Christmas, etc. I'd see employees families come to Pixar to have dinner with them. I took the technical director training but decided to stay in studio tools, first because Pixar needed better software more than they needed another TD, and second because of the crazy hours.

Comment Re:Yes but (Score 5, Interesting) 665

Thought experiment. Let's suppose you're a CIVIL engineer -- the type of engineer the regulations are intended to target. You're on vacation in Oregon, and you notice a serious structural fault in a bridge which means that it is in imminent danger of collapse.

Under this interpretation of the term "practice engineering" you wouldn't be able to tell anyone because you're not licensed to practice engineering in Oregon. In fact anyone who found an obvious fault -- say, a crack in the bridge -- would be forbidden to warn people not to use it until it had been looked at.

Which is ridiculous. Having and expressing an opinion, even a professionally informed opinion, isn't "practicing engineering". Practicing engineering means getting paid -- possibly in some form other than money. At the very least it means performing the kind of services for which engineers are normally paid.

A law which prevented people from expressing opinions wouldn't pass constitutional muster unless it was "narrowly tailored to serve a compelling public interest" -- that's the phrase the constitutional lawyers use when talking about laws regulating constitutionally protected activities. In this case the public interest is safety, which would be served by a law which prevented unqualified people from falsely convincing people that a structure was safe. But there is no compelling interest in preventing an engineer from warning the public about something he thinks is dangerous or even improper.

So if the law means what they claim it to mean, it's very likely unconstitutional.

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