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Everything posted by padren

  1. I agree, but I want to point out that a citizen has to be able to report something they find dangerous, regardless of whether they are correct. My concern is saying "You can but you will be sued if your wrong!" will only scare more conscientious people into feeling unqualified to report anything at all. Likewise gross negligence that results in harm should always be persuadable for the victim - but we can't use a legal flowchart to find the answers when the only solution I see (correct me if I'm wrong) is a higher accountability between officers and citizens to ensure mutual respect and proper adherence to our rights under the social contract. This means proper listening and checking presumptions so amicable resolutions have a real chance of occurring where they are possible. I'm basing this on the presumption that most "bad experiences" that lead to lawsuits for bad search & seizure practices are generally the result of the authority figures making assumptions about the guilt of the other party. When an officer treats you as a person of some interest that they have to talk to but are respectful of your time, person and presumed innocence - things usually go respectfully well. When authority figures jump the gun and treat a suspect as a guilty party (in body language, words and tone) for actions they did not even personally witness everyone is guaranteed to be upset enough that any false allegation will be grounds for a lawsuit. Yet - the person making the allegation has no control over how the officer handles the investigation... so they could get sued because an officer is bad at their job even if they passed on information in good faith.
  2. Thanks for the clarification on how your algorithm finds matches. It sounds straight forward and I definitely support using modern technology to better ease consensus forming among citizens, but I'm still concerned about the manner in which it would likely play out. Specifically, it sounds like your algorithm would match "long statement" assertions as a higher order than "short statement" assertions, despite the fact that shorter statements may have more grounds for real consensus forming. Another factor, is even common consensus on an issue like "We need resources to prevent floods" may rank high, but have very different meanings to people in New Orleans, vs people loosing homes in California to water erosion. A politician on the national stage could easily rank high on matches but have a very centralized approach to how to "prevent floods." If the essayists are also after a centralized solution (ie, they both share the same convenient pretext that centralization is the best solution) then the algorithm could produce some useful analysis, but if it's blind to that issue it can result in deep perceptual dissonance between the politicians and the people. For example: perhaps people know how to use common words to describe flooding, but don't know how to use common words to describe the nuanced relationship of federal and state responsibilities. If I was going to tackle the flooding issue for instance, I'd mostly write an essay on how we need to rebuild the National Guard at the State level, so young people can join up without immediately being sent to a desert. This of course requires a change in how we decide to send members of the National Guard overseas, and probably a legislative change to how we define our foreign conflicts so young people have better control of what they are signing up for. By addressing the issue of the National Guard (which is not and has never been a national organization - each State runs it's own) we could help ensure that people who grew up around levies and trained in disaster relief around those levies, are still in their home state to respond in a natural disaster. Simply growing up in the same area helps crisis workers spot the difference between a potential looter and a potential survivor. Likewise, dealing with flooding in California is so different from New Orleans it is best handled by the people who grew up in that Californian environment and made it their home. However, if I was a politician or citizen in the era of "essay algorithmic analysis" I would feel like my free speech was lessened, because your algorithm would artificially inflate less comprehensive ideas in favor of "long but easy to parrot" catch phrases. Edit: Consider what goes on now to create "useful" search engine rankings for websites based on current algorithms, and how much marketing departments get paid to modify company text into high ranking patterns. We literally pay people to make information less cogent to humans in order to increase algorithmic value. Anyone who tries to get "honest" rankings from their searches understands how easily this approach often adds more noise than signal, and requires "meta meta" properties to re-skew data back towards usefulness. When SEO marketing works for keyword tuning on a website and consumers are happy - it's not because the algorithms work - it's because the company that pays the most to work the algorithms also happen to generally spend more money on their services and products. We end up seeing a correlating factor that tends to be true, but is not a causative factor, and it creates blind spots where websites with good content and services vanish from high order search results due to their limited SEO budgets despite message quality. I know your goal is to "properly rank" these values to correct for such problems but even companies like Google can't create algorithms that aren't immediately profiled and gamed. BTW - I appreciate your comment about my writing style and I am always trying to refine for clarity... so feel free to give any feedback you like on the topic
  3. Just to add a slight curve-ball to the equation - what if the false police report is made in good faith, but is based on flawed conclusions of what the person thinks they saw? You can see a wealthy white couple arguing in English outside a fancy restaurant, and then witness the same conversation verbatim (but in an unfamiliar language) between a poor black or Hispanic couple and draw entirely different conclusions as to what was observed. It doesn't even require the observer to be racist - if they observe unfamiliar people and cannot identify the familiar social clues that they are used to looking for, the end result is a much more suspicious and critical encounter. I really feel the key to this issue is how "tips" are handled and integrated into the information police use to do their jobs. Tips that result in suspicion may warrant investigation, but require the officer to keep an open mind and treat the individual they pull over as "innocent until proven guilty" while ensuring the matter is resolved accurately and with as little disruption to everyone involved. While it doesn't prevent the damage a person suffers due to unwarranted investigation (when the just cause ultimately proves false) a simple basic respect for the social contract among both parties (officer and person of interest) goes a long way to mitigating most of the harm endured. Likewise, it can reduce the number of occurrences where harm is sue-worthy by simply treating the subject as a person, instead of assuming they are just a crime in progress.
  4. First, we are barely literate enough as a nation to have a "literocracy" as many people have trouble reading, and vote based on recognizable names of politicians they've heard converse in debates and speeches. We are no where near the level of scientific literacy that a "scientocracy" would require to be a representative democracy. Maybe the result would marginalize the votes of people you feel don't "help" democracy (the voters you feel responsible for taking our "control" away) but this is still just another form of gerrymandering, not an improvement of political discourse. I don't know the relevance of any "war on religion" and whether you think that helps or hurts political discourse, but I assume it has waned for the same reason the "war on low riding pants" waned - it's not a useful metric to wage any kind of war, and is obscenely dehumanizing while not addressing the individual problems of conduct that occur due to the behavior of said individuals. Any "aggregation of thought" is a lossy process, and when it's applied to people it we loose sight of people's real concerns. What you've really described (software wise) could be a useful open-source tool for community organizers and think tank groups to better reduce a coherent consensus from a body of concerned, participating citizens, but not only would it have to be limited to "raising relevant data and awareness" but it the results would have to be peer reviewed by friendly, competing, and even antagonistic criticism to ensure it doesn't turn into just another lobby-esque opinion piece. Regarding your software specifically: "All I did was put the alphabet in math, how is that biased?" If that's all you did, then you only created a system to generate coherent noise from mathematical data - which while capable of showing "coherent variances" does not actually make it not noise. Any attempt to reduce signal from such an algorithm requires weighting not just the alphabet, but entire words. Additionally, any attempt to measure word value is pure noise unless you can separate context. Words like "clean" and "air" are great, but they have entirely different meanings when put together and even when combined, they have different meanings to different people. For one person "clean air" means no high-risk carcinogens, and to others it means no soot. To another, it means no unscrubbed carbon emissions at all. To another, it means reasonable carbon control measures balanced against reasonable industrial interests. To yet another person, it simply means "just stop using diesel for school buses" but it cannot be reduced mathematically without looking for the nuance in question, and that requires awareness of the nuance in the first place. This creates an inherent bias dependency - hence, useful for crowd-consensus munging, but only within limits and not at all suitable as a political autocratic flow-control component within a democratic society.
  5. I think it's really hard to nail down exactly what we call "metadata" and even harder to be certain what that word will mean over time, but for the moment I think of it like this: 1) Metadata can mean routing information which physically *has* to be public to propagate through a physical or digital third party network. examples: - physical mail with external address, return address, postage and time stamp. - HTTP/HTTPS GET requests, including any data parameters in the URL (page=3&search=foo, etc), and headers - HTTP POST requests, (header and body) which due to their plaintext nature, are essentially like writing data on a postcard and mailing it - HTTPS POST requests (URL, headers, data like content length but excluding message content) 2) Metadata can mean preference information, which doesn't need to be public but for convenience, often is. This may be a publicly visible HTTP header cookie passed in plain between a server and a client for session management (identifying the session, if not the user), it could be a language preference flag, or geolocation data, or even mobile screen size data to fine-tune returned content. Preference data may or may not be private, because it's up to the telco or webservice provider how to manage preference data. Since web browsers and smart phones are "thin client devices" the provider has to transmit their own architecture (HTML and JavaScript, to dynamically build a sessionable client) which can use any number of supporting technologies - each with physical, real world impacts on data promiscuity. If a telco or webservice chooses to push personally identifying information over public networks (or within the routing layer (headers) of HTTP requests) then all that data becomes public, whether it is strictly considered metadata or not. 3) Aggregate metadata - meaning new data reduced from usage summaries can be in two forms: a) aggregate data targeted against single user/device/ip/cookie/hashcode showing their statistics, whether they are named or not. b) aggregated data from multiple users, targeted against a search term, a location, or some other numerically reducible factor. In the case of aggregate metadata, it uses existing data - then applies one binding constraint to one "open tally" so you can usefully get a wide net of data about the usage of one target, or a wide net of targets utilizing the constrained parameter. Examples could be a specific phone's total local calls, total overseas calls, total overseas calls to a specific country, or all the phone numbers in region A that called region B and the sum total of calls each placed that matched the criteria. We wouldn't have to be so worried about privacy if we as individuals felt like we were personally part of the conversation when we "decide" what data we transmit in order to cope with the stresses of the day... but we rarely can even make sense of ToS and privacy agreements, let alone participate in the conversation with our providers. Due to the flexibility communication providers have in what metadata is pushed through which mechanism (thereby creating physical data exposure) we easily find their decisions result in whether we have an expectation of privacy regarding that data. We as users discover that certain communication frameworks do more or less work handling the data, and as such create "effective public ubiquity" out of "metadata" that would otherwise be very private. A secondary agitating factor, that creates a huge impact, is how we as users agree to install software (like browser extensions, free video games, etc) that are built on data mining models. They push often sensitive data through less than secure mechanisms, which then store and resell that data - allegedly anonymous, yet valuable and easy to tie to specific users when desired for marketing. When "the market speaks" and people want free stuff in exchange for their data habits, it makes incredibly easy for private companies, foreign governments (or even Chinese hackers) to acquire these mountains of personal information about American individuals. Since we as citizens have no control over this beyond "opting out of the net" we get stuck between trying to keep our government out of our data, while allowing far less reputable entities access to its deepest depths. This creates an impossible mandate for the NSA, because if hackers can get top secret files from pentagon contractors, they can get any amount of data-mining material they want as well. If the American National Security apparatus wants to be aware of the data foreign agencies use to make their decisions, it's next to impossible under our current infrastructure to not include lots of data on Americans. It's also worth noting: While we discuss what privacy we are sacrificing in the name of "ubiquitous security" that programs like PRISM create very severe weak-points, such as the inability to track Apple's iMessage contents, due to end-to-end hardware embedded encryption. This is like having a massively intrusive gun registry, while allowing gun registry loopholes for anyone who knows how to find them. Had any of the "50 prevented terrorist attacks" cited by the PRISM proponents used iPhones with iMessage to pass their data, the entire security apparatus would have been preoccupied with the data it could read from benign sources, while oblivious to the fact that they still face physical data barriers in the manner of physically embedded encryption that can entirely circumvent the data dragnet. To highlight just how bad this problem is, consider former CIA Director David Petraeus: * he shares private messages via gmail with his mistress by using the "drafts" folder and overwriting the contents of a single message, to "discreetly" communicate. * his mistress sends a threatening email to another woman he is involved with. * the other woman calls a friend in the FBI to find out who sent the email * FBI finds out that not only the woman behind the threatening email, but that she is having an affair with Petraeus as documented in their shared gmail account. The most disconcerting thing - is that the Director of the CIA tried to hide is personal communications, and not only did he get caught in the data net, but even basic awareness of the iMessage "dragnet hole" could have guaranteed him physical privacy. If we cannot trust the Director of the CIA to be aware of what data ends up in the net, and what data is "identical in nature to what we want to track - but physically untraceable " how can we have a cogent conversation about metadata?
  6. I've never understood the politics of secession - even if you have a 75% majority wanting to secede, how do you tell patriotic, hard working war veterans and the families of those who died for the stars and stripes that they have to choose between giving up their home and everything they've built... or accept that they no longer can fly the American flag, are no longer protected by the US Constitution, and will simply be annexed by an entirely new government. While people who fit that bill may be a minority and of course, the demographic is loaded with qualifiers to maximize emotional appeal - I cannot imagine a solution to political conflict that simply discards the concerns of such people.
  7. I'm sure some objective third party news reporting from Fox would easily prove every single donor was a Chick-Fil-a scarfing Real American Conservative too. Regardless of how easily politics taints everything - at least those funds that are raised will do some good.
  8. While it's not a lot, I am glad things like this happen: http://www.indiegogo.com/svdp-soupkitchen?c=home Huff Po on fundraiser When it comes to Fark's hyper partisan and incredibly trollish political section, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy - but people can still agree to help raise $15k (so far) for the soup kitchen that was just caught in the middle.
  9. The magic number in Romney's plan is the economic growth that will supposedly result, which according to them will bring in the vast majority of the tax revenue that will be needed to pay for their extra spending - cutting things like PBS, Planned Parenthood, or closing loopholes no one filibusters over are purely ideological and really don't impact the bottom line. I'm pretty sure it's the same magic number that George Bush was told by his advisers when he went forward with his tax cuts - and whatever it is, it always works out to making back a lot more money by lowering the tax rate. The problem with the magic number is it's never worked, but the cause is always debated to death and is either attributed to the fact that it is, indeed magic, or that it would have worked if not for over-regulation and big government Democrats. In all truth, the loop holes and "deep cuts" that Romney proposes are only a thin, distracting layer of icing on a very "Bush Era Economics" cake.
  10. I am really not sure if this is an accurate depiction of math education in the US but I've heard from college students that "this really happens" and screws them on their math skills. Essentially, it appears to be an attempt to teach conceptual fundamentals but even then it seems to really fail in this regard - spectacularly. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/10/its-not-just-writing-math-needs-a-revolution-too/263545/ The video in the article shows a third grader trying to do a simple addition problem and you can tell right from the start that she's jumping past the initial "conceptual" steps and goes straight into procedure, which is horribly burdensome and clunky for the problem she's trying to solve: I'm including this in politics because this does seem to be an issue with public education, but before I let my brain implode entirely I'd really like to know what the community here thinks and make sure I'm not just getting trolled by some agenda pushing misrepresentation. I also don't have kids, so I'm pretty far removed from what education looks like. A friend of mine that's studying to be a math teacher sent me this and I'm still trying to figure out what to make of it.
  11. I'll requote exactly what you said then: In your own words you claim that adult discourse with "this faction" is not only wasted, but dangerous. That is an entirely different claim than simply saying "they've done horrible things with power" - which is all you seem to be able to say. You are quite literally warning that it is dangerous to have a dialogue with them - that it's dangerous to acknowledge and respect them as human beings and citizens within our nation. And what do you propose in the place of dialogue? Is that how you want to handle public discourse? Can you really say that you believe either that what American discourse needs is more vitriol and haughty bullshit intimidation tactics? Secondarily, do you really believe that when "normal, decent folk" see someone like you mocking and deriding other American citizens that they'll actually respect you and your arguments more for it? It doesn't matter how justified you feel your reasons for throwing shit are - when you throw shit, even the people who generally agree with you no longer want to shake your hand. Of fucking please already - if you don't support a traditional, democratic dialogue because "their ideas are too dangerous" you are advocating the effective disenfranchisement of these people. You are the one who said it's dangerous to discuss their political views and goals in a democratic setting. If you are going to advocate stripping people of their political power by means other than respectful democratic discourse you better have an answer as to how you are going to do it without merely succumbing to mob mentality. When you advocate ganging up and shouting people down until they are too scared to talk to people you better have a good explanation as to how you feel this fits with American values, because you advocate a plan of action that succeeds not based on merit, but on how well a mob of people can shout down and intimidate others until they stop talking. What is most maddening is you genuinely recognize that these tactics are wrong and unhealthy for a democracy - you actually and correctly criticize them for using these tactics - yet you advocate their use in this case. When you are asked to defend the intellectual integrity of this strategy you just list all the reasons why these people are scary. Have you forgotten the last time we had this conversation already? The right wing would go on and on about how we couldn't even afford to give accused terrorists/enemy combatants any due process, any respect, or any regard as human beings, and every time they were asked to defend that policy they just reiterated how scary and dangerous those people are, and now you are doing the exact same thing. So "they are already insular and cultish" they "did it to themselves" and "they did it to themselves deliberately" So "they are already bad" They "did it to themselves" and "they did it on purpose" I guess that means we can wash our hands of them just as easily as if they were drug addicts, or sick without insurance, or alcoholics - because that works just so well. News flash: People who are cultish can in fact become more or less cultish. What you are proposing would only make them more so. People who are insular can also become more insular, which would also further degrade American politics even further. So you think you can bully these people into abandoning their beliefs? You must if you think this strategy will "shrink their core" but you give absolutely no basis for this belief. All you have given is anecdotes as to why it's not worth treating them with the same respect other citizens deserve, which all depend on guilt by association. Are you trying to invoke Poe's law or are you just that intellectually lazy? Nobody is talking about disenfranchisement except me? Are you fing kidding me? It's the only thing you've advocated in this entire thread FFS - read your own posts! There are only two ways to impact political change: Through improving consensus, or by overpowering the opposition enough to not require consensus. If it was any other group you'd be up in arms but because these people are somehow beneath you and undeserving of your respect you advocate bullying. What is most angering in my opinion, is not just the hate and bullying but that you actually seem to believe you can separate your actions from the results: "Disenfranchise? Moi? No. " No. Only in your head do those pieces fit together like that - and when you get to assign the labels, when you get to assign who's the "shadowy reincarnation of evils past" and when you get to decide when it's okay to abandon adult discourse and resort to bullying tactics then the conclusions you reach in your head are just as subjective as the conclusions drawn by tea partiers. You know full well that you are using every dirty trick to paint a very diverse group of people with a single dirty brush. I don't care how justified you feel for doing it - feeling justified doesn't change what you are doing, just how you feel about it. It doesn't give you the right to make up your own version of reality. I wasn't playing dumb, you posted word salad. You have clarified yourself enough that I can at least understand what you seem to be trying to say: If I read you right - you are saying we don't have to worry that "honest, old school liberals and the like" will follow your advice for bullying and deriding and ostracizing these people because they wouldn't do that to them.... only people like you and "me" would (since apparently we must, according to you) and of course the TPers themselves - hence they deserve it. Honestly, forget about who "deserves" contempt and disrespect and hold yourself to a higher standard for your own bloody sake. If you genuinely believe you can decide when you can afford to be lazy in your thinking regarding other people, simply because "you" judge them to be inferior of respect for some reason - your arguments suffer, your thinking suffers, and your ability to rationally relate to the world around you suffers. The last thing we need is more people doing that.... which sadly is the whole reason you propose it. If you can't see that I honestly don't know how to explain it any more precisely than I already have, it just sucks (IMO) that you'd abandon reason in favor of the textbook definition of demagoguery simply because... you are sick and tired of all the demagogs.
  12. How do you propose we effectively disenfranchise them then? You could strip them of their rights to free speech, but that would only result in the same conversations happening outside of public view - other than stripping them of their right to vote, I am not sure they can be "kept away from power as much as possible" to any degree that has a serious impact. How do you determine "influence US politics any more than can be helped" and how do you decide what that amount is? What qualifies a group as "not productive to treat with respect" and how do you qualify individuals as within those groups as not being worthy of respect? This is all new territory for me, how are we supposed to ensure "the baddies" are disenfranchised within a democratic framework? I understand how it can work if we respect everyone, but if we have to label groups as too dangerous to respect as people there's a whole other level of democracy I just must have missed out on. I agree with what you said about "political discussion on their terms" but it's a red herring - a discussion that isn't on equal terms it's more of a decree, really. I don't mean "equal credibility" as per the arguments within the discussion (weak arguments are always weaker than strong arguments, etc), but the discussion itself only suffers if it's on special terms for any specific side. How many do I need to see for what to happen, exactly? Is there a magic number where I get to abandon my responsibilities and concerns for what happens when a large segment of the population is ostracized and disenfranchised? You tell me what the magic number is before I am supposed to start living by a "guilt by association" policy, because all those things you listed are indeed horrible things. I just don't understand why it justifies the very tactics that we condemn them for using. I'm sure it all does fit just fine, but so do Rorschach prints. It's not that I am assuming you're wrong in your comparison, it's that even if I drew the same conclusions as you it would still be just as subjective and worthless regardless of my conclusion. The only concrete thing you can really nail down is what people do, and what they say - not who they sound like, and who they act like. If they are bad enough people that you would compare them to other bad people - and if the comparisons are valid - their actual actions should be condemnable entirely on their own lack of merits... without having to compare them to other evils. If that's the case, why do you want to apply that policy to the Americans that scare you? Thanks for the assurance (I hate worrying) but I have no idea what "because they are the ones who would react like that to such a label" means... can you clarify that statement please? This is a very dire warning here, do you mind if I ask... based on what? You realize that regardless of what we do, or who we talk to, they will still have power and influence and capabilities at local and state levels, the only difference is the more socially and politically isolated they become, the more cult-like and fervent they behave. I must? How am I supposed to tell which ones I'm supposed to mock? Do I just assume that everyone that "says retarded stuff I think is retarded" is a tea partier? What's the policy on collateral damage? There are some libertarians out there that hate the tea party, but have some pretty whacky ideas. I am pretty sure the "normal, decent folk" are capable of critical independent thought on their own, otherwise you wouldn't have used that qualifier and they'd be labeled as Tea Partiers already. As horrifying as the idea of a "Tea Party White House" is, your capacity for dramatic hyperbole actually distracts from the genuine threats TP policies would result in. The way you are writing about these guys, it sounds like the only thing that prevented Joe McCarthy from being a True American Hero was that he went after commies instead of confederates. Your whole post reads just like the same sort of screed the Tea Party espouse - with all the you musts, you can'ts, and doom for anyone silly enough to regard the opposition as human beings, let alone citizens.
  13. Until affirmative action is ended within the prison system, it feels ridiculous to consider ending it within higher education.
  14. That's fine and all, but what do you actually "do" with them? What do you do when you've made several years of attempts at reason, open and transparent dialog, and rational honest debate with the homeless alcoholics that show up at ERs around the country? If we can't "reason" with them, should we just say "well all reasonable discourse has been exhausted" and let them continue to ring up about a million a year per person until they eventually die young? I find the idea that we can just "shun" these people until they get bootstrappy enough to teach themselves rational thinking skills is as out of touch as expecting homeless people with alcohol addictions to get bootstrappy and shape up on their own. Of course I don't think they should have the political clout they do or that their irrationality should be indulged - but it's even more irresponsible to ignore them. Since when is it okay to lower the bar to the standards of our opponents? Isn't that exactly how that faction started justifying torture, water boarding and the suspension of due process for any person suspected of those sorts of crimes? I agree it's more or less apt, but I also think it's counter-productive and can only lead to further isolation and radicalization of these people. You aren't going to "shame them" into seeing how horrible they are by applying such labels, you'll only reinforce their view of how much liberals blindly hate all things wholesome and American and Godly and how utterly shameless they are, and how all the "super church pastors" etc were right all along about how liberals want them isolated, reeducated or eradicated. It's not that it's any old label - using the label of what is effectively a terrorist organization says everything about how we regard them. I am not saying you are supporting drone strikes on the tea partiers, but as far as rhetoric goes I am very hesitant to label any American political group with such a charged label. The Taliban isn't just a group of people who are wrong, they are a group who are so wrong that (according to contemporary foreign policy) they deserve no concessions, no due process, no negotiations, no civil rights, and no presumption of innocence if there's any suspicion of guilt even by association. I'm still waiting for the day we can pull ourselves back from that sort of thinking, not looking towards how to bring that way of thinking into our domestic politics at home.
  15. Why is NATO coming up so much in regards to the EU getting this recognition? I don't understand the connection. Personally, the only way I can think about the Nobel Peace Prize without getting into fights over it is by cutting them a whole lot of slack - peace is by far the most difficult human endeavor, not because there's so many scary violent people but we all suck so badly at objectivity that it's hard to even talk about progress towards greater peace without it becoming a source for angry derision. I am not saying their decisions shouldn't be criticized or that they are always good - it just strikes me that we really don't have much of a clue on how to recognize and promote peace in our time. These guys are trying and they really should suck at it, and if they don't give up and continue to get support, constructive criticism, they should suck less over time much to the betterment of us all.
  16. If schadenfreude is the enjoyment obtained from the pain of others, there should be a word for the enjoyment obtained from the pain of those who have pained us - after suffering through Tea Party members constantly comparing Left-Of-Thems to Stalin and Hitler, seeing them labeled "The American Taliban" with all that entails (as in how we deal with Islamic extremists, versus political activists) it can feel like just deserts... but it is certainly not productive. If we could write them off as extremists and never have to worry about them in politics it may offer a sense of relief from that specific pain, but these are people who are voting and (for better or worse) are part of the Union - we have to reconcile our differences well enough somehow that neither group feel like they are living in an occupied country. We should soundly reject the methods of deception, distortion, fear mongering, bigotry, intolerance, etc when any group uses them and we should notice when a group uses them notoriously - but that has to go farther than just nullifying their political impact. It's not just the people they are electing it's the people electing them who are clearly upset, frightened, and considerably angry. Whether or not they can articulate it well or even if their fears are played on and built upon for political gain, they are still freaked out and clearly won't get any useful answers from their usual sources. All I can see happening from labeling them "The American Taliban" is it will reinforce further "us vs. them" thinking and further alienate them from the mainstream. The more they are isolated from the rest of us, the more they depend on reactionaries, mega church ministers, and anyone else still willing to talk to them. I can't see that being helpful.
  17. This is an example of an idea that - as an absolute amateur myself - I would be exceptionally reluctant to read up on, because frankly the sheer amount of ridiculousness in the idea suggests that "Either A) you are misrepresenting Kupiec B) Kupiec's contention is poorly articulated yet somehow carries a hidden grain of genius or C) Kupiec's contention is poorly articulated because it's idiotic drivel" I say this because the claim that cells, tissue and organs "rather exactly mirror" external environmental relationships is dead wrong - I do not have wild livers breeding, competing and killing each other within my body, nor can any cellular mutation that leads to a momentary improvement in function actually pass those improvements on - mutations in liver cells don't migrate down into the reproductive genes of the host. Now, I'm not a scientist, but I would generally give a person making that claim about 30 seconds to see if they can say something that would clarify the statement in a manner that is coherent, but not longer if the initial claim is already that inarticulate. I hear enough incoherent theories in a day (and I'm a laymen) that more than 30 seconds would become debilitating after a while. If there is scientific genius in the idea, then someone else will eventually discover it who is capable of articulating it, and if not then there's no loss. What the heck does quantum unpredictability have to do with this at all? Who claims unpredictable quantum randomness results in anything inconsistent with deterministic operations at all, whether in biology or anywhere else in nature? The only thing that quantum unpredictability results in is you don't know which set of deterministic outcomes will be observed, and the possibility that multiple potential outcomes may interfere with each other (such as double slit experiment) but I still don't see how it applies. If a theory demonstrated how particles maintaining quantum superpositions result in non-classically observed outcomes within biology I would find it very interesting - mostly because quantum computing requires huge amounts of energy to "isolate" particles from ambient heat and other factors that would reduce it to a classical single set of results and if this occurs in biological nature in some demonstrable way amongst the heat density and pressure of a living organism I'd love to know more. I won't hold my breath - not because I am dismissive of the idea - I am dismissive of the proponent's capacity to articulate any useful information... if the proponent fails then they can either get their thoughts together and re-propose their idea or someone else can stumble on the same observation and actually articulate useful empirical metrics. There is just too much white noise for any other approach.
  18. Without having given it much critical thought, my current thinking is that shows are rated and positioned based on "pilot impact" to such a over weighted priority that any type of show with a story that requires development gets abandoned because no one wants to take a risk on an expensive time slot, and no one will see the show enough to get into it if it just gets dumped into the cheap seats. So either they back it in the beginning and get cold feet about developing the viewership (because, if it doesn't grow enough over time it's money lost and they'll look dumb) or they require "that people get it right away" and you end up with something like the aberration that was the "V" remake. That's if you're lucky - more likely, the pilot will never get made because a new reality TV show will convey every last thing it's about in the first 20 seconds (10 if it involves Snookie) and be an "instant hit" or flop. On the bright side, shows are trending towards re-run value, and it's a lot easier to catch up on old seasons and get into a current show - which defies the conventional thinking on viewership growth. As a trend, it can only help shows that require some time to develop, which could help quality scifi make a comeback.
  19. It almost feels like cheating, but I have to go with Dr. Who because nothing really comes close to the sheer level of awesome that timelords get away with. Even Star Trek's Q who is a rather interesting character seems two dimensional next to the Doctor. It's a little unfair, because no other show could portray a Universe where you can set out to see all of time and space just for the fun of it and still give all the most horrible monsters a "choice" when they're being pests before they get themselves blown all up. It's centered around how fun and wondrous life's possibilities are, where even Neil Armstrong's foot can bring about a silent revolution. Star Trek is a big favorite but the whole genre just kept getting screwed movie after movie to the point where it's now just a Universe where any given day some "Big Angry Nemesisy Guy" wants some sort of revenge, and just happens to be a little scarier and deadlier than the last Big Nemesisy Guy. I don't think they've had a non-revenge centric plot since Generations, so it's really hard not to just be burnt out on it. Farscape might be the most compelling dystopia but Firefly is closely tied. Farscape wins overall just because the setting is so marvelous (living ships and Jim Henson's creature shop??) and as much as I love the dialog and characters in Firefly, not one of them ever wore a nuclear bomb with a deadman switch or made moonshine on a dying leviathan. Farscape's dystopic horrors are well offset by it's wonders, whereas Firefly has almost Bladerunner-esque levels of hopelessness. It's great because a single person or crew's minor victory to stay alive can be magnificent, but only because it's so stacked towards the Powers That Be. Stargate (SG1 & SGA) was exceptional for building Earth's "Intergalactic Age" under our noses, where every odd technological interface, gray alien crew member, or X-302 fighter had a backstory that evolved over 10 years instead of just a wall of narrative prologue text. Plus - even if you only watch it for the politicians the show is still worth it. Senator Kinsey was straight up prescient. The new(er) Battlestar Galactica was pretty fantastic but it would be a pretty ugly place to live. The story arc makes it very difficult to see it as a static Universe backdrop. I really do love scifi that has a gritty edge, but at least these days grit seems ubiquitous in daily life, and I really like the stuff that dares to look beyond that. As for missed shows: When you see "The truth is out there" do you still hear the tune in your head? Oh: Terminator SCC was surprisingly brilliant - very unexpected, but it's not really (imo) a very fun universe.
  20. I have to agree with you on this 100%, and while I personally hope his more centrist ideas on healthcare and the economy get a chance to prove their benefit potentials, the civil rights side of his policies are unconscionable - especially the National Defense Authorization Act. His "serious reservations" about the bill are actually more offense imo, because he basically said he "knows it's wrong" but heck, will authorize a permanent executive power grab at the expense of both civil liberties and checks & balances because... well I don't recall him providing a reason. It especially bothers me because despite the complaints from the left during the Bush years on the erosion of civil liberties, it really appears no one has a dog in that fight today. It's bad enough imo that even Ron Paul would be a better President than either current candidate, despite the wide spread destruction he'd cause on account of his more delusional beliefs about economy.
  21. Absolutely on both counts, and I entirely dislike how government has gone about subsidizing industry - it's a flawed methodology that depends on convincing enough politicians that despite the broad cost, they'll get pork barrel benefits for their district. The glaring omission of course, is basing a decision on whether the broad costs lead to more broad benefits. Those who initiate the plan have their reasons for believing the program will be "buoyant" which hopefully will be based on empirical evidence, but then they calculate how much pork they will have to get it pushed through, and cross their fingers the whole thing will still float. If that's where we set the bar on government programs, then we may as well scrap 90% of them because they'll never get straightened out or make it into the black - but the problem isn't government involvement, it's pork barrel policy. We can't "not" invest in our military, but pork in military alone is detrimental enough that scrapping 90% of other programs won't come close to providing a solution. So, we do need to clean up those issues with pork politics anyway to be solvent at all, and if we do, we actually can have healthy government programs that do provide broad benefits that far exceed what private industry can do alone. I also agree about it being better to not break windows in the first place, but I'm looking at a lot of broken windows right now and weather damage is adding up. The broken glass is evident in our volatile energy prices and the concessions we make (politically, economically and militarily) to cope with our energy dependance on other nations. I don't see how a government program would be breaking more glass in this scenario unless it was just some sad pork laden innovative, in which case it would be doomed from the start.
  22. I thought the volatility in energy costs and their general progression upward had something to do with the supply side of the economic equation. If anything cheaper energy would be a boon to businesses, who have to build their entire models around the cost of energy towards production. There's another factor in the equation - all the people who are unemployed are devaluing just as readily as unmaintained foreclosed homes. There is a definite cost to ignoring the already broken window when it's leaking heat like a sieve.
  23. Once you get an object into Earth orbit, it is effectively cruising around the Sun once every 365.25 days already, and even the smallest impulse in the right direction should be able to push it slowly out of the solar system over a Very Long Time, but if you want it to happen within a lifetime it's really handy to use slingshot maneuvers, etc. My main concern about Curiosity on Titan would be the cold and humidity - it's much harder to maintain a working core temperature if there is near continuous contact with very very cold liquid methane rain and even very very cold free floating atmospheric particles than if you need to simply stay warm in a vacuum. I think the entire design would have to be rethought to reduce the surface area to volume ratio of the rover. Arms may be able to be extended for a short time to do work, but long thin arms are basically highly efficient heat sinks... not good for Titan. I'd like to see a probe designed to break the ice of Europa - if there's liquid water, that's warm enough to go swimming in what may be the most unique environment capable of supporting life in the outer solar system.
  24. A rich person can be good and believe in a regressive tax system - as long as they believe in it for a good reason. If you're a job creator and actually care about the careers and lives people have been good enough to invest in your company more than squeezing out every dollar you can - you might be good. If you don't care how many lives are destroyed as long as it improves your portfolio - you might just be bad. There are still employers and even rich people who care about their communities, and the country as a whole beyond it's capacity as a wealth generating platform. I don't even care if they are left or right, as long as they are honest about how they come to their conclusions and care about the quality of life across the country. If a rich person uses tax breaks because the tax code rewards investments that help keep moving this country forward - that's good. If a rich person buries as much of their money as they can into tax sheltering schemes simply because they can stick the tax bill with everyone else - that's bad. I don't even care if a rich person makes their money Bain Capital style if they genuinely take on risky companies and try to make them profitable (even through heavy layoffs!) because businesses do falter and shareholders can recoup a lot more that way than through bankruptcy. When the "failing business" is actually easy to turn around but gets cannibalized for a short term stock value push and dump - that's bad. I appreciate your ardent defense of the rich people who do have honest criticisms of liberal tax policy - I completely agree such a demographic is easily misjudged harshly, even boarding on bigotry at times. I do not feel however, that their unjustified sufferings justify turning a blind eye to those wealthy people who do game the system with no regard for who picks up the check or the impact it has on the quality of life for Americans as a whole.
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