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Comment Re:tax dodgers (Score 1) 526

We live in the USA. We are citizens of the empire, we speak the international standard language, and if you have the skillz to hang out on Slashdot, you probably make a wee bit more than the (already very high) median income.

Yeah, it's a smart-ass moniker, but on the color-coded 1-5 global offense level, this doesn't even hit a 2. Give it a rest.

Comment Re:What are parents so paranoid? (Score 4, Informative) 610


If I had mod points I'd mod you up...

Here's how it breaks down (courtesy of National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

About 800,000 kids go missing each year.
The vast majority of those are either family abductions (200,000/year), younger girls running off with older and bolder men, younger boys running off with older and bolder women, disgruntled teenagers who hitch a bus to Seattle to start a band and get real big, or whatever disgruntled teenagers do these days.

Number of honest-to-god stranger abductions? 115 last year. In a country of 300 million people.

I'm not quite sure, but I think your chances of running into an honest-to-God flying saucer are better than that.

Comment Re:So when did... (Score 1) 433

I can't really say very much about this other than:

a) Yes, postpaid data plans are EXTREMELY profitable under the current terms.

b) There are various forms of pay-per-unit pricing. The per-unit cost is quite high, and the profit levels are considerably lower than for postpaid data plans. As such, they're generally pushed towards the lower end of the market, rather than towards customers with money who know how to do math.

c) This system will likely remain in place until a disrupting force comes in which changes the premises of how those terms are offered. My general sense of what is fair and just in the world would love to see such a disrupting force in place. Unfortunately, the world of mobility is a lot different from the world of software. No quantity of caffeine or code will generate spectrum licenses. Only really massive chunks of sweet sweet cash do that. The cost of entry into the market tends to dampen a lot of the "Hey! This is really crazy but let's try it and see how it works!" ideas which create disruption. If you or one of your friends wakes up with half a billion dollars, do let me know. I have some thoughts on this subject... ;-)

Comment Re:So when did... (Score 5, Informative) 433

Will I argue that it's reasonable? Errrm. Maybe. Before I start, two things:

Disclaimer 1: I work in the backbone at T. My opinions are my own. Randall Stephenson gets paid more in a day than I'll make in my entire career to voice Ma Bell's opinions.

Disclaimer 2: It's fairly hard to calculate what bandwidth costs. The capital expenditure of the large telcos to build their networks runs into tens of billions of dollars. The operational expenditure to keep it running once the costs are sunk is considerably less. We have people who think about this stuff. They don't talk to me.

From the telco point of view, there are 3 segments to your Internet connection.

There's the backhaul between the data centers and the Internet. I think most Slashdotters are fairly familiar with the economics there. That bandwidth is cheap as dirt.

There is the cost of running a dedicated leased line to every fool tower in the US. Not as cheap as dark fiber, but still reasonably cheap.

Then there is spectrum over the air. That's a very limited commodity. There is a lot of chatter as to whether T (or other telcos) are making the best use of the spectrum they have, but the fact is, we have a certain quantity of it. Once it's gone, there is no more. Neither T, nor VZ nor Sprint nor you or your mom can write a check to make more spectrum appear. It's the long-term opinion of T's upper management that users will exhaust the spectrum capacity we have.

Another issue was that under unlimited data plans, a very small (i.e. 2% or less) of the customer base were using an inordinate (i.e. 50-60%) of the total bandwidth. Capping customers makes them mad and post angry messages on Slashdot. Thus, let marker forces take over. :-)


Endangered Species Condoms 61

The Center for Biological Diversity wants to help put a polar bear in your pants with their endangered species condom campaign. They hope that giving away 100,000 free Endangered Species Condoms across the country will highlight how unsustainable human population growth is driving species to extinction, and instill the sexual prowess of the coquí guajón rock frog, nature's most passionate lover, in the condom users. From the article: "To help people understand the impact of overpopulation on other species, and to give them a chance to take action in their own lives, the Center is distributing free packets of Endangered Species Condoms depicting six separate species: the polar bear, snail darter, spotted owl, American burying beetle, jaguar, and coquí guajón rock frog."

Comment Re:The Great Circle of Hack (Score 1) 555

Of course, that frustration is well worth the bribe money, kickbacks, golf junkets and lucrative post-retirement corporate positions...

I think you're confusing the radicals that get into office with the professional hacks. The radicals usually wind up on the city council for one term where there aren't any particularly good goodies up for grabs. There they find that the one issue which they are completely passionate about is 5% of their total job portfolio, potholes need to be filled, sewers need to be maintained, etc. There's no money to do those jobs properly, and the pet project you campaigned on? There's no money for that either.

I know one professional trouble-maker who was able to get on the gravy train (wasn't her name Tina Fey or something like that?), but I suspect that train will be pretty short, and she'll be back feeding iron dogs with her husband in a few years.

Comment Re:The Great Circle of Hack (Score 2, Insightful) 555

The government need not fear real elections as it has already brainwashed the voters into voting for the establishment every time.

Ah, the good old "We the sheeple" argument.

The United States has somewhere around 130 million voters. As much fun as it would be if it were otherwise, people's political philosophies do not rocket from left to right and back again every four years. The national candidates will generally reflect the center of the bell curve, and will thus wobble just a bit to one side or the other.

The other issue is that running for any office beyond the council of a small town is expensive. There's money involved, sure, but that's just part of it. You need people to go knock on doors, stuff envelopes, make phone calls, etc. If you don't have a fairly large group of people helping you along, you aren't going to get very far along on the process. The larger your group of people, the fewer wild-eyed crazies you'll be able to keep.

Frankly, the older I get, the less enthused I get by radicals, even ones who I'm philosophically aligned with. The ones who do make it into office generally get frustrated with the day-to-day realities of governance. The ones on the other side of the fence probably get burned out and frustrated too, but manage to scare the wits out of us in the process. Establishment hacks are boring and hopefully somewhat competent. That's supposed to be the point.

Comment Re:Why fear terrorists... (Score 3, Insightful) 689

In a negative light, this means "find the people saying things we don't like and replace them with people who say what we want."

I'm sure it depends a lot on how you look at it. The devil is in the details.

There are a lot of echo chambers out there where some pretty odd ideas get kicked around. I define this in the "ZOMG! OBAMA IS A SECRET MUSLIM AND WANTS THE WIMMIN OF AMERICA TO WEAR BURKAS!" category. If you think the US government is spending too much, borrowing too much, or that the health care plan is a Really Bad Idea... Well, we have freedom of speech and you're allowed to say that. I suppose you're also allowed to say the president is a secret Muslim.

What Sunstein is advocating requires a very close reading. He is suggesting that subject matter experts go into these groups to set the record straight. He also says that SMEs MUST be kept at arms-length from employees of the Federal government. The minute that anyone in these areas gets the idea that someone is a bought and paid shill for the government, the game is over. That person is branded a shill and their word is worthless.

It seems to me to be an interesting thought experiment, but almost impossible to implement as policy. We're talking about a group of people with VERY sensitive antenna about the comings and goings of the Federal government. If there is an open information program with a budget and a line item to buy the time of SMEs to "get the story out", the game is up. If there's a secret program, it has to stay secret. The moment anyone says anything, not only will the intended targets go ape, a lot of people like me who don't reflexively mistrust the government but are wary of state power in general will also get upset.

End result: Nothing Happens

Comment The most important line of air defense... (Score 2, Informative) 582

was completed by early morning on 11 September 2001.

Once upon a time, people hijacked airplanes. Airplanes were flown to Cuba, Russia, Taiwan, Mainland China, Africa, wherever people wanted to go for whatever personal or political axes they had to grind.

After this, the ICAO convened a treaty in 1970 which required that any country that flew airplanes treat hijacking as a felony. No exceptions. In the old days, if an airline pilot flew from (China/Taiwan) to (Taiwan/China), he would get gold, women, his name in the paper, etc. as a propaganda tool to show that (Capitalism/Communism) was a superior form of government which people yearned for. No more. Do that today, you go to prison. Period.

Even wacky countries we don't like much like Libya, Cuba, North Korea, etc. are signatories to this treaty. Hijack an airplane, go to jail. No exceptions. Anywhere.

It was a very effective treaty. As a result, a set of "rules of engagement" came up around hijacking. Keep calm. Don't make any sudden moves. Fly the airplane wherever in the world the hijackers want to go. Wherever you land, there will be negotiators if they play nice, and SWAT teams in reserve if they don't. Getting in a fight in the air can only endanger innocent people's lives.

After 2001, nobody is EVER going to follow those rules of engagement again.

Comment Re:What's up, eh? (Score 0) 227

I heard it was pretty good, but then it turns out they must be dumping oil in the rivers and feeding toxic waste to seals.

It's good in the national mythology. Beautiful soaring mountains, pristine lakes. Verdant forests. I saw it on the CBC, so it must be true! (All those things do exist. I've been to them. They're really cool).

The reality is that British Columbia is a giant clearcut once you go more than 100 km from Vancouver, and the prairie is being torn up as fast as possible in Alberta to get to the black gold that lies beneath.

Comment Re:Worth about as much (Score 1) 227

Well, you do need to work on that bit in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which allows for prior restraint. (i.e. you have freedom of speech until a judge rules that you don't).

The issue here is that an ISP outside of Canada got a nastygram from the Government of Canada and folded like origami paper rather than saying "We're sorry. This is not Canada. Please feel free to seek legal remedy from a court in this jurisdiction and we will comply with that request immediately!"

Comment Re:because no one wants to define the right (Score 1) 565

Once someone can define universal health care in appropriate terms instead of just being a buzz word maybe those of us who don't favor the idea will think twice.

Sure. I'll take that one.

Most of it comes down to that the economics of health care are unlike normal social services.

If you are a "hardship case", you get a bag of rice, a gallon of milk, and a block of government cheese. Want a steak for dinner? Good. Go out and get a job. We have decided as a society that it's better if you not starve, but don't see any need to subsidize you in high style.

The way the health care system works right now is the opposite of that. Have a toothache? Need to see a dentist to get it worked on? Can't help you there.

Once your toothache turns into a full-on abscess, and you're in danger of dying from it, yes, you can go to the ER to have it worked on. Rather than being the "government cheese" version of medical care, this will cost many multiples of what it would have cost to have the problem worked on when it was a garden-variety toothache.

But wait, it gets better! Of course, being indigent, the person who gets their abscess lanced, filled with antibiotics, and a day or two of bed stay at the hospital won't actually PAY for that. That is an unreimbursed expense that the hospital bears. Someone does pay for that of course. That "someone" is you and me, people with proper jobs and good insurance.

The economics of the current system discourage preventative care, and provide incentives for both the providers and the patients to seek out expensive treatments. While I'll cop to being a bleeding-heart liberal in a lot of respects, the argument for universal care can be cooked down to dollars and cents. The so-called "market-based" plan that exists now is not particularly competitive, and does not do a good job of providing financial efficiencies.

One of the biggest lies in the current debate is the line that "nobody should come between a patient and their doctor". Unfortunately, doctors are a lot like software engineers. If left to their own devices, they'll go for complex and gorgeous solutions rather than simple and effective ones. If left on a project without any oversight, they'll keep fiddling to wring out that last little bit of speed.

Software engineers generally have managers who tote a whip and say "that's wonderful. The milestone is in 3 weeks, and you will have code to ship at that point." Doctors are seldom managed at all, and if they are, it's by other doctors. If we translate "doctor" to "software engineer" and imagine a project where a bunch of engineers are turned loose with money flowing in to pay their salaries as fast as possible and no oversight, that's a recipe for disaster. In health care, it's "letting the free market do its job".

Comment Re:79% accuracy ... (Score 1) 132

.. you notice that it's backed up by similar interviews on video all over the net? Americans who think that the US invaded Israel, who point to Australia and think it's Iraq, etc...

I'm not going to stand up for Americans' knowledge of the world beyond their borders (of their country or their county), but remember that the interviews you often see on the net are the result of hours of interviews cooked down to the 4 minutes which are the funniest and most outrageous.

The reality IS bad, don't get me wrong, but it's not THAT bad!

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