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Comment Re:Problem is a matter of Fraud. Rent vs Sell (Score 1) 243

Look, if I offered to sell you a home, but after putting down a downpayment you read the contract and it turned out to be a hundred year lease, you would be damn upset.

Dunno about America, but in the UK that's exactly what does happen, and nobody is particularly upset. I "bought" my house on a Leasehold basis; after 125 years, ownership reverts to the Freeholder (or, more likely, the lease is extended for a fee). The property was described as "For Sale", but with "Leasehold" prominently displayed on the advert. I was happy enough to go through with it, because although it won't increase in value as fast as a Freehold would, that difference was priced in to the initial "purchase" price. Nobody has any problem describing that as a "sale", and it's certainly not fraud; it's just a different type of contract. I guess technically what was sold was not the property, it was the lease contract to the property. But if both parties are fine with the arrangement, what's the problem?

Comment Re:disney are idiots (Score 1) 363

Reality, we could simply take the entirety of the Middle East within two weeks, spend about a year fighting a ground war wiping out every possible bit of opposition using our advanced satellite technology to track targets and scan for them, and then that area is simply ours. Assuming one had a competent leader and plan for them to execute

And... y'know... assuming we were comfortable with all the civilian deaths that such an attack would cause. That, fundamentally, is why recent American wars have tended to drag on for so long; it's not an issue of competence or planning (those aren't perfect either, but they're secondary) - it's that the entire approach is based on trying to win while doing as little actual damage as is humanly possible.

And the real danger to America is the prospect of a commander in chief who equates that approach with weakness or lack of resolve, and decides to do it differently. Because at that point, the "America is the new evil empire" meme stops becoming the exclusive preserve of teenage Trotskyists, and becomes something the whole world has to take seriously.

Comment Re:Where the fuck is the problem? (Score 1) 532

unfair competition (i.e. individuals opting out of safety equipment to make themselves more employable).

So, in your world, someone who smokes 2 packs a day and works as a bartender would not have the option of saying to an employer, "hey, a little extra second-hand smoke is not going to make any difference to me; how about you don't bother with all that expensive equipment, and I get a job where I don't have to go outside every time I want a cigarette?" - because that is somehow being "unfair"?

Comment Re:The point (Score 1) 532

Some people a born sick. In places without social healthcare, people often can't get the cover they need before they reach a certain level of income.

Yes, and as I've said, it is perfectly legitimate to make a utilitarian argument that taking money away from some people in order to spend it on other people's healthcare is morally permissible. But a) It is dishonest to pretend this is "insurance", and b) It is dishonest to pretend that when you take money away from one man in order to pay for the health care of another man, you are not doing harm to that first man. Acknowledge that you are. Argue that the good you're doing for the second man outweighs the harm you're doing to the first, sure, but don't just pretend you're not doing any harm.

Hell, you can even argue that, in some roundabout way, paying for the healthcare of the second man ends up benefiting the first man by more than the cost of what you've taken. I think that's a tough sell, and even if you could prove it in financial terms it still wouldn't necessarily solve the moral problem (if I break into your house, steal all your furniture and leave behind other stuff which I think is worth as much or more, am I not committing a crime?), but I'm perfectly willing to listen to your arguments. But my point is: You need to actually MAKE those arguments. You can't just assert that free healthcare is an "absolute" moral right.

Comment Re:The point (Score 1) 532

If tax is taking time away, the stuff it pays for more than gives it back.

Read my post again. This is one of the possible second-order effects that I mention! But you seem to be treating it as axiomatic, and it's very much not. There's no such thing as a free lunch - everything has both costs and benefits; and while you can certainly argue that the costs might outweigh the benefits, you can't just assume that.

Insurance that covers existing conditions, for example.

I'm afraid that that is a contradiction in terms. Insurance that covers pre-existing conditions is not insurance, it's just paying for the treatment of the condition. The whole point of insurance is that it's about pooling risk - if in any given year there is a 1% chance that my house will burn down, and I know I couldn't afford to rebuild it if it did, I (or more likely, an insurance agent) find 99 other people in the same position and we each put 1% of the value of our houses into a common pot each year, and that money is used to rebuild whomever's home happens to burn down. That, at its essence, is what insurance IS. But if my house is already on fire, the probability of me needing to claim the money from the pot is 100% - so my contribution TO the pot must be the full rebuild cost of my home, or what I'm doing is not buying insurance, it's taking other people's money.

Comment Re:The point (Score 0) 532

Absolutely right? No, I think you're off track there. I could go with "on balance, in utilitarian terms, of overall benefit and therefore acceptable", but "absolutely right" it most certainly is not.

When you take money away from someone, you are effectively taking away the time that person spent earning that money. If you earn X dollars an hour, and I take X dollars from you, I am taking away an hour of your life. There is no moral difference whatsoever between doing this and forcing you to spend an hour working for me. But for some reason, we are more squeamish about "forced labour" than we are about "forced payments". Both are, in fact, absolutely wrong.

However... if that X dollars I am taking away from you results in another person living more than one hour longer, from a pure first-order utilitarian perspective, on balance I am doing good in the world.

However... there are second-order effects that need to be taken into account; and the nature and strength of these effects are what the whole debate is all about:
- Does taking money away from you discourage you from working as hard as they otherwise would, so my confiscation of X leads to >X loss?
- Does the fact that the transfer is forcible rather than voluntary make you extremely unhappy (or "create additional negative utility" - humans being notoriously loss-averse)?
- On the other hand, does extending the other person's life allow them to spend their time productively, creating >X of value?
- Does this create some kind of multiplier effect that eventually circles round and ends up indirectly compensating you for some or all of what I've taken?

I'm sure a few minutes of thought will come up with a whole load of other second- and third-order effects that play into the essential calculus; and these will be shifting constantly as conditions and attitudes change.

My point is that, while after intensive debate and discussion we might all come around to the view that forced payment for the health care of other adults is morally permissible, we can NEVER say that it is "absolutely right". That is the language of ideological blindness, not reason.

Comment Re:The point (Score 3, Interesting) 532

in the UK the costs of lung removals, limb amputations etc. etc fall on the NHS

Total taxes collected in the UK annually on cigarettes: £12 billion
Total budget of the entire NHS: £120 billion

Unless you're going to tell me that you think that cigarettes on their own account for a full 10% of all healthcare-related costs, I think it's safe to say that the "burden on the taxpayer" argument doesn't stand up even on its own merit (setting aside the moral question of whether offering people free healthcare gives you the right to control their behaviour).

For what it's worth, the Department of Public Health at Oxford University estimated that burden at £5 billion (in 2009, so let's adjust for inflation and call it £6 billion). Sounds to me like smokers are contributing about twice as much as they're costing, right?

Comment Re:No Sympathy (Score 5, Insightful) 532

"I have no sympathy. Smoking is entirely unnecessary."

That, I'm afraid, is the perfect totalitarian mantra: "I think it is unnecessary, therefore I will ban it."

"People keep doing it only because they are addicted to it, not for any other positive reasons."

[Citation Needed]

What you seem to be saying is actually "*I* don't enjoy it, so it is impossible that anyone else does."

"It can go entirely without any objectively negative impacts whatsoever."

So, you're the sort of crude utilitarian who assumes there are objective standards of which activities are enjoyable and which are not? And moreover, that your judgement of these "objective" standards is objectively perfect? Wow. Just wow.

I don't smoke, have never smoked, no stake in this game; but your post is a crime against logic and reason.

Comment Re:Fails The Sniff Test (Score 1) 745

I think the likelihood of nuclear strike one way or the other is MUCH higher with Trump as president than any of the past several.

I don't disagree, but that's not the point. The point is, this is a DOOMSDAY clock, and the prospect of a nuclear strike leading to doomsday has fallen dramatically since the Cold War ended.

Let's just say Trump really is so irrational as to nuke most of the middle east, or North Korea - what would the result be? Millions dead, sure, and hundreds of square miles of uninhabitable land. But unlike in the Cold War, there would be no ballistic missiles heading in the other direction. None of that Mutually-Assured Destruction. The human race would have a dark chapter in its history, but that history would continue. Forty years ago, that would not have been the case.

We are marginally closer to doomsday than we were in 1990, I would guess; but we are so much further away than we were in 1960 or '70 or '80 that the difference is frankly laughable. So a Doomsday clock that says otherwise is not one worth paying attention to.

Comment Re:Fails The Sniff Test (Score 1) 745

"Trump will probably order an immediate nuclear strike on the Middle East for the destruction of Trump Tower."

...and that will be Doomsday, how? A terrible event, certainly, but not one that is going to end with the extinction of the human race, now is it?

The point is, even if Trump turns out to really be the kind of cartoonish, childish villain that some people seem convinced he is, we are NOT closer to Doomsday when the prospect of global nuclear war was a genuine one.

Comment Fails The Sniff Test (Score 5, Insightful) 745

This is a *Doomsday* clock, yes? As in, something that measures how close we potentially are to Doomsday - that is, an event that leads to the total extinction of the human race.

Can anyone - anyone! - say with a straight face that we are closer to that scenario right now than we were, say, at the height of the Cold War? That was a period when two nuclear superpowers were genuinely considering launching thousands of nuclear warheads at each other; where one bad day might literally end the species.

I don't disagree with the assessment that the world has become less stable recently. I think the prospect of some rogue dictator or terrorist group setting off a nuclear bomb is high and increasing. However, the retaliatory aspect is missing: If Russia had nuked New York, America would have levelled Russia in response. One nuke would have lead to thousands. But if, say, ISIS nukes New York... what target is there to hit back at? Any response would almost certainly be in the form of conventional weapons. There would be chaos and war, sure, but not outright extinction.

The truth is, we are waaaaay further away from Doomsday than we were in the '60s.

Comment Only 455? (Score 4, Insightful) 189

FX are *way* under-counting. There are an awful lot more than 455 scripted television shows out there. Hell, there are more than that on YouTube alone.

Their mistake is to assume that something only "counts" as a TV show if it's in standard half-hour-with-ad-breaks format, and it's "broadcast" on something that they recognise as a TV channel. But a looser definition - say, "scripted video content released on a recurring basis" would include literally thousands more, and it's a bad sign for FX that they apparently haven't acknowledged this fact.

What FX are doing is the equivalent of an oil company not realising that they're in the *energy* business (and therefore subject to competition from solar power and the like), or a car company not realising they're in the *transportation* business (and therefore subject to competition from rail, motorcycles and so on). Or perhaps a better comparison is the phone company not realising they're in the *communications* industry, and therefore failing to expand into mobile and internet provision until it was too late.

Comment Re:Too much TV, yeah right (Score 3, Interesting) 189

"That's how all shows are going to be once the network model fully dissolves."

Couldn't agree more. I realised the other day that roughly 50% of the "shows" I regularly watch these days are my YouTube subscriptions. And most of the rest are on Netflix. The era of running "TV channels" is all but over; the concept of "primetime" is on the way out too. Now it's all about content producers going directly to their target audience, who watch as and when it suits them.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that *broadcasting* is dead. Rather than one single signal going out to millions of people, we have millions of individual signals, which may or may not have the same content. And of course that's going to encourage diversity.


DNA Testing For Jobs May Be On Its Way, Warns Gartner ( 228

Reader dcblogs writes: It is illegal today to use DNA testing for employment, but as science advances its understanding of genes that correlate to certain desirable traits -- such as leadership and intelligence -- business may want this information. People seeking leadership roles in business, or even those in search of funding for a start-up, may volunteer their DNA test results to demonstrate that they have the right aptitude, leadership capabilities and intelligence for the job. This may sound farfetched, but it's possible based on the direction of the science, according to Gartner analysts David Furlonger and Stephen Smith, who presented their research Wednesday at the firm's Symposium IT/xpo in Orlando. This research is called 'maverick' in Gartner parlance, meaning it has a somewhat low probability and is still years out, but its potential is nonetheless worrisome to the authors. It isn't as radical as it seems. Job selection on the basis of certain desirable genetic characteristics is already common in the military and sports. Even without testing, businesses, governments and others may use this understanding about how some characteristics are genetically determined to develop new interview methodologies and testing to help identify candidates predisposed to the traits they desire.

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