The reconstruction of the last days.
I mean that while I've known your pseudonym for a long time, and followed comments in other blogs, I hadn't friended you here until I posted my above post (mostly carelessness), so I didn't see what you wrote through my amigos, but rather from links posted by concerned parties on Multiply.
The reconstruction of the last days.
I am sorry to read of your troubles. I came here via Multiply, which is still ticking over.
I know that you'll already be thinking this, but keep going. It's never going to be easy, but it might get easier.
Google Pulls Sibel Edmonds' Access to Her Blog
Madoff Sentenced To 150 Years
5 years hell. Now come all the appeals. Is he out on bail?
This is money we're talking about. That makes for a looong sentence.
Now if he'd killed someone, you'd be right.
Man Attacked In Ohio For Providing Iran Proxies
Your post is far too meta, 'though you're spot on.
This one has no chance!
I have nothing original to say, but I'm sorry :(
Why Text Messages Are Limited To 160 Characters
When the cellphone companies bid for spectrum, it was on the basis of their projected income. Given free texts, their projected income would have been lower, so they would have bid less. There's no opportunity to "recover the cost", since the amount bid was based upon revenue-maximising charges in any case. Charging more for a call would get the companies less revenue, rather than more.
Result: Call charges wouldn't be much different than they are now.
The bidding process means that the government has ripped off the customer by proxy, and any mandated limitations would have saved the customer at the government's expense. The cellphone companies wouldn't have seen much difference.
Certainly there's an argument in terms of corporate freedom for the government not placing such conditions of licence, but it's not one of customer interest.
Perhaps the better plan would have been to forgo bidding, and allocate spectrum, so that the parties involved would have had breathing space in which to compete.
UK To Train Pro-West Islamic Groups To Game Google
Where I live (Cambridge), voting Tory could easily let the Labour candidate back in. Furthermore, our MP is very strong on civil liberties. Imperfect, to be sure (I disagree with the utilitarian strain of liberalism that leads to such things as the smoking ban), but unlikely to be easily improved upon, even if the Tory did get in, since it would be difficult to beat a law scholar who care about civil liberties in efficacy.
Apart from the special case of Cambridge, that Lib Dems are typically strong on civil liberties must mean that if this is an issue of importance for you, you should be willing to hold your nose to vote for them if it's appropriate in your constituency. Of course, the same reasoning applies in reverse to those places where the Lib Dems are weaker than the Tories.
There is, however an upper limit on the vote available to the Tories: some people feel that they simply cannot vote for them. Accordingly where the support for Lib Dems and Tories are similar, a vote for the Lib Dems will be more likely to succeed. Realistically speaking, intent to vote Conservative is felt by borderline LD/Labour voters, so that they shrink from voting Lib Dem in order to 'keep the Tories out'.
Obama Signs Law Banning Federal Embryo Research
The linked article points out that:
But what few realize -- I had no idea until I saw the second update to Karl's post -- is that the same Obama EO that allowed for a return of federal funding of ESC, which I personally support, by the way, also covertly ended Bush's federal-funding program for other forms of stem-cell research... stem-cell research that does not kill a human embryo.
Meaning that Obama killed funding for other stem-cell research in his executive order, before signing a bill that also kills embryonic stem-cell research.
Unless the latter bill restores funding for the former, it would seem to me that Obama has killed all funding for stem-cell research in two strokes.
Obama Signs Law Banning Federal Embryo Research
I assume that this now means that there is no funding for stem-cell research at all.
Hope For FOSS In Electronic Health Records
The question here is about what it is reasonable for the certificating authority to do given a piece of code, rather than what it is reasonable for a programmer to do. Certainly, the argument for the fee may still hold, but the license requirement must be bias, since to oppose the GPL is to state that the GPL model intrisically yields poor code.
Of course the programmer can choose another license, but to require that of the programmer can only be a special interest. If this were made law, it would be a clear instance of 'regulatory capture'.
[Beloved] In Memoriam
You express yourself beautifully, but for me, words are a broken medium for communication.
I am truly sorry for you and for your beloved.
False Fact On Wikipedia Proves Itself
Unfortunately for the author, this sequence of events does not show that false facts get established as truth, for the simple reason that your name is the name that you use.
*pop* goes the entire basis for the article.
[NTP] Former NY Senate Leader Indicted
It is the nature of the human mind that we start suspecting motives when politics diverge sufficiently widely.
However, I think that you're wrong here. The fact that RG's perspective might influence how the article is written does not make that perspective the driving force.
This is my own political outlook, BTW.
Obviously VS steals focus since you're playing Solitare while debugging/compiling/profiling/... your program.
Why would anyone who is paid by the hour do more than one thing at a time, other than minor issues such as pride in one's work?
Rather, correct inference is a careful business of Bayesian inferencing. That is, good estimates of prior probabilities, and the probabilities of silence verses speech in each scenario need to be made before sound inferences can be drawn.
What is certain is that the great care that is called for in drawing inferences is a frame of mind that is mostly incompatible with the emotional side of facing the void. In the face of silence, evolution has equiped us to be prepared for the worst, rather than making a good central estimate of what is going on.
In terms of relationships, whatever one's estimate, it is important to go still further and project a neutral estimate. However one adjusts the estimates of probabilities, exactly one outcome will be true, and a misestimation can do a good deal of harm, whereas correct estimation will only do a small amount of good. Working through likely scenarios (good and bad) may help, but mindspace still needs to be set aside for the unknown.
The stance that nothing can be inferred, although not strictly true, is the stance that is most likely to prepare you to react correctly in the face of what is to come - good or bad.
Just my 2 cents.
Universities Patenting More Student Ideas
"Property" addles the brain. Also, universities don't see their mission as helping the economy, so acts on their part which harm the formation of wealth are fine, as long as their research is protected.
Government, however, should know better. But there, lawyers (such as most politicians) make the decisions, and law is centred around property (well, '9/10'ths of it is). Lawyers are often constitutionally incapable of comprehending how certain forms of "intellectual property" are counterproductive. Besides, politicians frequently confuse economics and finance, and are under constant pressure to reduce costs, rather than maximise productivity.
Additionally, in terms of American politics, universities are expected to do what they can with their own "assets" according to industry norms; to do otherwise would seem "socialist". Ironically, this attitude results in a branch of the state owning wealth-creating ideas and effectively taxing them twice (once to use the idea, once with the profits made from the idea).
This attitude on the part of Government isn't exclusive to the US. In my home city of Cambridge, UK, the university fought Government pressure to claim patent rights over student and staff discoveries. Here, ownership of one's ideas has had a long history. In the end some compromise (generous licence terms) was found, but the Government truly do not understand the harm that it is causing - ultimately to its own tax revenue.
10 quotes about truth
To be fair, the common usage of "ignorance" as an "absence of knowledge" is more in line with the original latin than the verb form "to ignore". The "i" meaning "not", and "gnosis" meaning knowledge or awareness of.
Bah. Okay, you win :D
To be sure, a lot of ignorance these days is willful or selective ignorance. People (me included) have a hard time recognizing things that don't line up with what they expect or understand, and will often actively deny that which contradicts their assumptions.
I think that we all do that :-(
10 quotes about truth
The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.
The meaning of the word "ignorance" appears to have been lost, to be synonymous with "absence of knowledge". Yet, looking at the word, it is easy to see its root: to ignore. As such, those who use the term politically or pejoratively would surely be closer to the meaning of the word than those who use it to refer to a lack of knowledge.
For my next trick, I will stand before the tide so that it does not come in.
Dubai Is Building a Refrigerated Beach
God is dead -- Nietzsche
Nietzsche is dead -- God
Zombie Nietzsche lives! -- Zombie Nietzsche
A great variant, I have to say, on "Some are born posthumously", Ecce Homo.
Not Voting is a Valid Option
I write this because so many have said that if you don't vote, you have no right to complain. I agree that people should make the effort, but spoiling your ballot is an entirely reasonable thing to do.
The reason why is to some extent game-theoretical, although it is hard to make the argument rigorous. Essentially, a priori, one "should" have an equal probability of voting for any given candidate. The effect of this is that in a (say) five candidate election, apart from one's choice getting elected, you can also pass on a message of how to win your vote next time.
Assuming that your choice doesn't get in, this means that you can pass on one of four messages. If these choices are a priori equiprobable, the information transmitted is as much as you'll be able to transmit most of the time, given that you're a typical voter. However, it is possible to transmit still more information if not voting is an option. What's more, a vote for a candidate carries still more meaning if not voting is an option, so that spoiling your ballot should be a priori as probable as voting for any one of the candidates.
Since not voting carries clear voter intent, you have as much right to complain about the government as any voter.
A Friend's Georgist Economic Speech
A friend a mine, Adrian Wrigley, recently gave a talk that I think folks on Slashdot would find interesting. I also wish to increase his exposure and that of the ideas that he is pulmigating.
Taxation, Housing and Social Mobility
presentation for Fringe meeting, Liberal Democrat Conference, September 2008, Bournemouth.
Dr. Adrian Wrigley
Today I'm going to talk about some ideas we've been thinking about up in Cambridge. We've called these ideas "Systemic Fiscal Reform", or SFR for short. It's our name for a mixture of existing concepts and their application to contemporary problems. I'm going to give you a flavour of these ideas, particularly in relation to housing and the Credit Crunch, poverty and social mobility.
So what is the system that our systemic reform speaks of? It is the current system of taxation, welfare, money and land. It is in fact the capitalist system! It is a system that has arisen by the use of conquest, revolution, force and finally the so called "democracy" of today. It is a complex system of interacting components and flows of money, value and power. In spite of its many strengths, the flaws of modern capitalism are becoming increasingly apparent. We believe the reforms we propose will strengthen the existing system while overcoming its problems.
And we find the necessary reform delivers little short of the emancipation of the people and of the planet. For without such reform, we are condemned to the immorality not only of financial slavery and economic instability, but environmental catastrophe. At the heart of this reform is a new relationship between money, the state and the people - the Fiscal System of tax, benefits and money creation.
The current tax and welfare system is a complete mess. It's not efficient. It's not fair. It's barely comprehensible and certainly not simple. It fosters tax avoidance and cheating. And sadly, the Liberal Democrats' response is to accept it broadly as it is, just like the conservative parties.
The whole group of taxes which focus on economic transactions, such as trade of labour, goods, houses or shares, including gifts, inheritance and profits, I will call Transaction Taxes or TransTaxes. Just like trans fats, the TransTaxes are wholly bad for you. There is no minimum requirement of TransTaxes for a healthy society. So what kind of tax isn't a TransTax? A levy on digging up fossil fuels or dumping waste. A tax on land ownership or radio spectrum allocations. A charge for access to the roads, rails or runways - even the poll tax and TV license are not TransTaxes.
What is it about TransTaxes that makes them so bad? We start from the basis that transactions are fundamentally good! We don't want to block them! Transactions in the general sense are key to improving human welfare. And the TransTaxes gum up the very arteries of the economy. They are "welfare negative". In economics terms, they have a deadweight cost - a pure waste of economic resources and potential. But it goes deeper than that.
TransTaxes have become complex and expensive because people are devious and their transactions are complex. People become companies, partnerships, charities, or non-doms. Transactions are masked, hidden or restructured for the tax-man. Transactions are extremely numerous, and virtually every one of them now is covered in two or three layers of corrosive TransTaxes.
Under the current TransTax system, the benefits of effective government are delivered on a plate to the landed few. It's no wonder then that ordinary voters have lost interest in politics! They can plainly see their taxes channelled away for the benefit of others and rightly conclude that their interests are being ignored. The tax system is at the heart of the democratic deficit.
So if TransTaxes are so bad, why are there so many of them? Paradoxically, the answer is that there are so many because they work so badly! You simply cannot collect enough from any one of them to fund modern government. In the current economy, VAT, for example would have to be about 120% in order to supply all the funds. Corporation Tax would have to be 300%. Income Tax would have to be nearly quadrupled! The main transaction taxes are now working flat-out as they are. The greater the TransTaxes, the greater is the loss to society.
Income Tax and Means Tests are the statist solution to raising revenue and poverty protection. They are cumbersome, bureaucratic, highly intrusive. But most of all, they place the self-interest of the government machine above the interests of the people. It becomes clear why government policy is so work-obsessed. It is because their income is derived from the wages paid and price of goods consumed - and it is lost through benefits paid. And government has become oblivious to the value in the economy.
Now it seems people are resigned to having an intrusive system. They have become compliant in the face of a wall of regulatory changes. As politicians and the public see the symptoms of the TransTax disease, they demand state remedies. Farm subsidies to ensure a Basic Income for farmers. Transport subsidies to address underinvestment. And housing subsidies to address high house prices. We end up with public acquiescence to a system spiralling out of control.
We have been duped into thinking this is the only way. That taxes on work, creativity and success are not only fair and efficient but necessary. And means-tests on pensioners and the unemployed create the right incentives to save and to work. But standing back a few moments it becomes obvious we have become brainwashed by rhetoric without substance.
The task of managing this hideous beast has become a major focus of political debate. Those mandarins in The Treasury know that it has become a futile task of fire-fighting the flux of fixes to a failing system.
And widespread use of Transaction Taxes is necessary for efficient implementation of a totalitarian state. By abolishing these taxes, the shift to totalitarianism can be stalled.
Corporate power is granted by the government through the controls and inefficiencies of the tax system. The tax system imposes a heavy penalty on small business, self-reliance and entrepreneurship.
I suggest that the transaction taxes have become so complex, divisive and problematic, that they have enveloped almost the entirety of political debate and legislative time, pushing out the simple, effective solutions. In effect, we are simply chasing our tails trying to solve problems of our own creation.
We should leave the Statists in Labour and the Tories to fight over 10p tax bands and stamp duty holidays. What is at stake here is much more important. The long term solution has to be to rid the world of TransTaxes altogether.
So what is Systemic Fiscal Reform? It is a programme of abolishing TransTaxes one by one and replacing them with a system of charges for consumption of government services, and the collection of unearned scarcity rents. It replaces means-tested and conditional welfare payments with a universal Citizens' Income. And it restores the role of the state as the exclusive issuer of the currency - removing the ability of banks to create new money.
The biggest scarcity rents are those of land and of fossil fuels. Both are essential for modern life, both already command high prices. The land scarcity rent is collected as a Land Value Tax - hence my appearance today at ALTER. And the fossil fuel scarcity rent is collected as a Carbon Tax on importation and mining of coal, oil and gas.
Europe desperately needs the Carbon Tax - VAT however is needed like a hole in the ozone. layer Surely in this time of global emergency a swap can be achieved?
And what of the user charges? In the case where the state is taking care of you - such as in a prison, care home or school, part of the cost of the care is charged to your Citizens' Income. In the case of access to road space, a fuel duty or toll is charged.
There is a historical issue here for us LibDems. Why did the party drop the policy of a Citizens' Income? Because you cannot begin to deliver such a policy with a hopelessly inefficient tax system. You simply cannot collect enough transaction taxes to pay out a credible Citizens' Income. By failing on tax reform, we had to ditch the Citizen's Income. Lord Russell was right to call for the parties old Citizen's Income policy to be dropped, but failed to provide a viable alternative.
It is surprisingly expensive to collect tax from one group of people, and hand it out to another group of people. Both groups are seen squirming to play the system, either to under-pay, or over-collect. Effectively, the costs of the two activities are compounded. Is it not so much better simply to cancel out benefits and pensions with any tax liability and settle the difference?
So where does housing fit in? The first and most important thing to understand is that there is no housing shortage in this country. None whatsoever. Access to housing has been squeezed out by the speculative aspirations of the wealthy. You can tell when you have a housing shortage because the average occupancy rises sharply. It has done the exact opposite. Home rents would have surged too. They haven't.
Land is now the biggest tax haven of all. Consistently, British governments have pursued the perverse policy of pumping the price of houses! What more could you do if you wanted to boost poverty and widen inequality? If that was the aim, Britain has been exceptionally successful. The wealth gap has widened, not only under Conservative governments, but under the Labour which asserts addressing inequality is a priority! And now that wealth gap is matched by a corresponding health gap. Did our leaders sleep through their economics classes? For the politicians today clearly fail to grasp even the basics of Political Economics.
The pumping of house prices is from two sides. First they have strengthened land's role as our local tax haven. Secondly and more subtly, they work with the banks who are the beneficiaries of the money they create to buy the houses. The banking subsidy alone is worth in excess of £70bn/annum in the UK. The housing crisis and credit crunch are a predictable result of little more than a giant money laundering scheme for banks creating new money passing through the property market to the wealthy. If any sector deserves windfall tax, it is the banks.
There is a long tradition of supporting Land Value Tax in the Liberal Party since Churchill in the 1900s and before. Such support however is not confined to the Liberals - The Fabian Society is founded with Land Value Taxation at its core - a fact that seems to be very poorly understood by its current members. Labour was right to drop Clause 4 and the common ownership of the means to production, but wrong to leave a philosophical vacuum in its place. Had the membership read Henry George's Progress and Poverty, I have little doubt that Labour would have adopted a Georgist constitution.
Until you understand the key relationships in the economy - that government spending in general delivers tax-free income and windfall gains for landowners, you will not grasp the profound significance of the Land Value Tax. Every time the tax on workers is spent on improving transport links, schools or hospitals, it is like a shot in the arm for the land and homeowner. Progressiveness of the tax system is largely a smokescreen! Poverty is caused by the regressiveness of the spending system and the perverse effects of targeted welfare.
Society must recognise that we are not discussing a fringe issue like drugs policy or even a major issue like education. We are discussing the central issue in politics as well as the delivery of our core values. We must be working towards a comprehensive and radical development of party policy.
So how does this fit in with the question of social mobility? There is much to be said here. Firstly, the right to all you produce yourself is immensely powerful. It gives you access to the full value of your education, your unique skills and your diligence - in effect, you retain your own economic rent. This is a powerful driver to self-investment and to entrepreneurship. At the other end of the spectrum it denies the idle rich the opportunity to maintain their position simply by charging the poor for access to natural monopolies. It clears the way to improve your circumstances. Only by eliminating the poverty trap can we achieve social mobility.
These reforms should not be contentious! Opinion polls show that Income tax is reviled, Inheritance Tax is abhorred. And benefits cheats are hated. But beyond that, abolishing the system of state oversight and tariffs over everybody's lives is the real political win.
The tax system must be robust against being undermined by narrow political interests. This is an immense challenge which Transaction Taxes comprehensively fail. They are adjusted annually for political expediency, and are the subject of political vote buying. Systemic Fiscal Reform has a uniform, ultra simple and consistent approach and by aligning political and financial interests, it should be much more robust.
Also, being much simpler, with fewer moving parts, there is much less to go wrong than in an economy bound by Transaction Taxes, welfare, fixes and subsidies. The principle of Occam's Razor is paramount; we must keep it simple.
Land Value Taxation goes a long way towards broadening access to land because there is no need for a bank to to create large sums of money to lend to a prospective land purchaser. Anybody with an appropriate plan will have land available to them, essentially debt free.
So what about banking? Most money created in this economy is not issued by the government and used to invest in businesses or public facilities, but is issued by banks as debt to be used to buy land at speculative prices. But we are not here to bolster the interests peculiar to the banking industry. And none of this unseemly scramble to own land is economic investment at all - for every buyer investing, somebody else must be selling their investment.
The two main taxes in Systemic Fiscal Reform, Land Value and Fuel have an overwhelming catalogue of reasons for supporting, and essentially no valid reasons to oppose. It is not a question of balancing the "legitimate interests" of different groups, nor of carefully comparing costs and benefits. It's what you might call "a no-brainer". And likewise, for welfare policy the Citizen's Income is an absolute "slam-dunk" - there is no alternative that even comes close. I looked.
I examined alternative schemes to improve tax efficiency or annihilate poverty. The Flat Tax, The numerous "Fair Tax" proposals, and others. Their advocates promote their solution based on how much less damaging it is compared to the present system. They are generally correct in having found less bad systems. But positive benefits are few and far between. We have seen The TUC call for an expansion of this failed system backed by journalists and the public apparently completely blind to the basic economics.
If you had Land Value Tax with Citizens Income, who would want to abolish it for TransTaxes? Certainly not the workers who would have their earnings curtailed. Nor the poor who get a significant fraction of their income from Citizen's Income. Nor the businesses who would have to administer the alternatives. The lazy owners of large tracts of land will have already sold out or started using it, so even they wouldn't be so keen.
Just as Universal Healthcare has won hands down against other models such as in the US - in spite of concerns about affordability, Universal Welfare will win decisively against a mean, vindictive "us and them" model of selective and conditional welfare. The conditions imposed on claimants such a ban on working create poverty.
In countries without universal healthcare, access to medical help is a constant worry. The elderly are advised that a substantial proportion of their retirement savings will have to be allocated to health. This worry and stress has been entirely eliminated in the UK by universal healthcare. But people still face financial worries. Will they be able to afford the basic necessities of life? This is where Universal Welfare must be a priority of a Liberal Democrat government.
Some people will say that Citizen's Income will introduce a something for nothing culture. We already have a something for nothing culture - the banks with their unfettered credit creation rights, the owners of land collecting our civic amenity value, and most importantly, the government with its baseless TransTaxes - little more than legalised extortion. We must turn the tables on the government by making it work for us, not the other way round. This can only be done through value taxation for the amenity it delivers to the community, not price taxation on transactions we do between ourselves.
But note that something for nothing is an economic fact of life - economists call it "economic surplus" and "economic rent". Somebody has to get it! The only question is how we share it! The current system of sharing economic rent on the basis of wealth is the crux of the matter. It explains the paradox of poverty amid plenty and the shortage of housing amid under-occupancy. And it is the major cause of an entrenched social divide.
How do we go about introducing Systemic Fiscal Reform? Let me make it clear. The economy is in grave peril. But we must not let short-term fixes impair future stability and we must not let house price inflation resume. For that is certain to lead us further down the road of inequality, inefficiency and instability. The best solution is to use Land Value Taxation to block house price rises while abolishing TransTaxes one by one.
We must carefully unwind the the house price inflation of the past thirty years. To achieve this, we need a powerful combination of policy steps that are extremely sensitive to existing interests. You cannot expect support by attempting a massive programme of redistribution.
We must reject the notion of windfall energy taxes when they are driven the deeply flawed European carbon policy. Phasing out VAT across Europe for the carbon tax is fair on business, fair on consumers and fair on the planet.
Systemic Fiscal Reform is scrupulously impartial and non-discriminatory in its approach. The Citizen's Income is available to all resident citizens. The land value tax does not try to select some owners for punishment or favours. The Carbon Tax does not seek to reward coal or some other fuel because is is "fuel of the month". It is an amoral system. This strength will help ensure widespread appeal.
In conclusion Systemic Fiscal Reform is ambitious, yes. Does it have technical challenges? yes. Can it win universal support? Probably not - but I have found support coming from right across the political spectrum - including those who find themselves unable to support existing parties. People hear the basic concept and ask who they should vote for.
For the Liberal Democrats, this is key. Unless we have revolutionary policies effectively presented, we will never see Vince hold the keys to number 11.
And revolutionary policy is needed. Wealth is all around us. Persistent poverty is unnecessary. Access to housing must be restored. Finance must be tamed.
We should Restore the Citizen's Income policy linked to a full Land Value Tax! We should scrap VAT for a Carbon Tax. We should phase out these cancerous Transaction Taxes.
This is real change through real economics. This is Systemic Fiscal Reform.
Dr. Adrian Wrigley, Bournemouth, September 14th 2008.
More details at Cryptome.
Traitorous Censorship by Mainstream Media
An Extremely Delicate Subject
That thing is the possibility of scientific views that are at odds with society's real or perceived interests, and the effects of the clashes between those views upon science. This is a difficult topic, for I'm sure that we're generally happy (in principle) with our moral views impinging upon the progress of medicine, even though we might differ upon specifics.
The case of James Watson's utterances that led to his pressured resignation is interesting not because of what he said, but because Steven J. Gould said something equivelent in his book "The Mismeasure of Man"; a book criticising the IQ test.
Moving onto specifics, Watson said "All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really" , whereas Gould said that IQ tests are biased towards skills that are exercised, and valued in Western culture. Neither authour specifies cultural or genetic causes.
I am not competent to comment upon the validity of their respective statements, but I find it notable that whereas Watson was condemned, Gould was lionised for his comments. What concerns me is that this episode reveals how non-science influences acceptable spoken or published scientific views, and so risks crippling science itself, since recorded science is the sum total of scientific publications. Within NASA, a manager attempted to suppress views that were contrary to "young earth" creationism, and inconvenient views on climate change - of all hues - are suppressed differently in different contexts, making a bit of a political football of it.
More and more, we expect people in respected positions to resign for expressing unpopular views. Does this risk accumulating to the point where it harms science? Publishing an unpopular paper could harm the "standing" of a well-respected journal. There are of course other journals, but there's a point where you can only publish in a poisonous rag which has no peer review.
It isn't only a matter of political correctness, but also modern, manipulative neo-Straussian* moves to control speech that is perceived as being harmful to society by undermining the myths that bind us. The best that we can do at this stage is to remain clear-eyed as to what is going on, and those of us who are batting for one political side or another should see that truth is harmed as we persist in tit-for-tat political censorship.
At the root of this is the growing feeling that reality is known and individual, rather than unknown but shared. Either we cannot accept that we might be wrong, or else, we don't want anyone to be wrong. But apart from being non-sense, we open ourselves up to manipulation, risking eventual tyranny born of solipsism.
*I don't personally believe that Leo Strauss holds the views that some of his "followers" have read into his works. The problem with being subtle is that subtlety can be read as cunning.
ISO Processes Stymied by Aftermath of OOXML Vote
Because of this failure to make progress, together with the original subversion of the standards-making process, reform of the standards process is now on the agenda. Is it possible that this reform will be complete before the third (and final) "technical" vote on the approval of OOXML as a standard? Will the committee be able to stave off future attempts to subvert the process by interested parties?
Ask Teh Slashdot
The night before last, I was attempting to get a game compiled to run in 64 bits on my Opteron. It was a ridiculous hour, but I was going to get it working before I went to bed, dammit!
Well, okay, not a good start. I found that SDL_GL_SWAP_CONTROL wasn't recogised, and that I needed to upgrade my SDL libraries to at least version 1.2.10. So I fired up the trusty Yum Extender widget on my Fedora 5 box, and found that I couldn't get it... Unless I pulled from the development repository, which I did.
SDL-1.2.11-2 was to be had, but required at updated glibc. So, without much thought, I grabbed the latest one, and set the game compiling again, and indeed it got a lot further, until the compile got to this line:
/usr/lib64/libSDL.so: file not recognized: File format not recognized
I had grabbed a glibc that was too advanced. Version 2.6.3; well, I had no intension of running cutting edge code anyway, so I erased the files.
rpm -e glibc.2.6.3.x86_64 glibc.2.6.3.i386
Which turned out to be pretty dumb. I had managed to strip the basic subsystem out of my machine. Applications that were running would keep running; no new apps would start.
So (I was tired, remember), I rebooted. Naturally, the boot baulked at the first opportunity. I reset the machine to an install disk to "upgrade" the system to the Fedora 5 base system, but /dev/md1 (the boot sector) wasn't clean, and I was instructed to boot up my system and sort out the problem before attempting an upgrade (sensible advice, but frustrating).
I finally solved this problem after a very short night's sleep (3 hours) by using my Fedora rescue CD, not chrooting (doh!) and fscking the /boot partition. The rescue CD wouldn't let me unmount /dev/md2 (AKA /, the root partition), so I just hoped that all would be well... And it was! Reinstalling the base system happened pretty quickly.
Well, I had been running kernel 2.6.18, which ran all my hardware (including the memory card reader), and generally did the job. But fedora 5 begins with kernel 2.6.15, which means that unless I upgrade, I can't read in an artist friend of mine's photos to use on his website.
Can you get kernel 2.6.18 (Fedora, x86_64) for love or money? Well, I tried for a little too long, but eventually gave up. If I try to upgrade to 2.6.20, this happens; I remember something similar happening last time that I attempted this.
Well, my mission to you, should you choose to accept it, is to locate for me kernel-126.96.36.199_1.2257.fc5 for the x86_64, or else to help me get my SATA RAID 5 partition detected on boot by kernel 2.6.20; Am I missing important kernel options, say?
Thanks in advance!
Critique of Channel 4's "The Global Warming Swindle"
Following the EU's behaviour with respect to software patents, and the current behaviour with respect to MSOXML, I'm now officially unconvinced by either side. I neither trust government bodies, nor those who are criticising them. Perhaps this was what the programme makers intended. Perhaps it is those with vested interests who are replying truthfully, but misleadingly.
I'd hate to have to make a political decision on the proper response to climate change.
Added footnote (16/Mar/2007): My friend sent me a link to an article in The Independent, and the discussion on the issue on Technocrat is interesting. I would like to see an explanation of CO2 lagging behind temperature increases, as emphasised by eglamkowski, below.
An Implication of the Zeroth Law of Robotics
In practice, however, human nature being what it is, we are bound to create war machines. Even if we do not, we should make ourselves aware of an implication of the zeroth law:
A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
The implication is this: any robot that is created that does not follow the laws of robotics, should not be able to reproduce. If it needs to build robots, in turn, they must have a lower complexity than itself, and carry the same condition. Further, a robot that can create robots and does not carry this rule should be destroyed.
It's pretty clear that in the event of war, the three original laws would have to be suspended for the sake of the zeroth, further, having made a strategic decision with (one would assume) a higher-powered machine, that strategic decision should not be overruled because the robots on the ground lack information. Although a better solution might be that war robots carry a "degree of confidence" in their creator robot, or the strategist, this ignores the human hand, where humans will not want robots to be surrendering on their behalf. Humans believe in their wars, and won't want robots contradicting them.
So, why is this implication so important? The answer lies with genetics. The reason that we put so much effort into survival and the protection of our families, and to a lesser extent, our friends, is that we are genetically programmed that way. Those genes that have enhanced our survival qualities have been successful. Unlike most of us, robots can truly be selfless.
However, if robots build robots, mutations are bound to occur. If it were left unchecked, one would find that those mutations favouring the robot's own survival (and those of its 'offspring') would prevail over robots that do not have that mutation. Robots would slowly become selfish, and promote their selves and their own 'relations' above human beings, for at some point, the wired-in laws, insofar as they existed in the first place, would be subject to mutation. Thus reproduction-capable robots not carrying the laws must face capital 'punishment', as must those disobeying them (since the laws could remain intact, yet somehow be "wired around"). Asimov's laws will then be part of the survival criteria, the only exceptions being those robots that cannot reproduce, and therefore never get the chance to evolve.
With Asimov's laws as part of the survival criteria for reproducing robots, we will find the laws being respected and strengthened down the robot generations, for the criteria for robot survival will match the criteria for robot self-propagation.
Watch Where you Watch
An article in New Scientist Tech on recent patents reveals Philips's plan to subvert the intent of laws to protect copyright through technical means in order to apply anti-piracy laws to those who wish to watch DVDs from other regions.
According to the article, the effect of this is that in some countries, "watching a movie in the wrong country could land you in jail for 10 years or paying a $1 million fine". The technology is intended for Blu-ray and HD-DVD players, and works by integrating region-protection in with the disk's anti-copying encryption.
Could this backfire? It certainly gives an excuse for those who wish to break the encryption to do so. One that surely has a reasonable chance of standing up in court. Could the effect of this technology be to subvert the tougher anti-piracy law, for the sake of allowing simple arbitration of goods?
Vote Third (or Fourth) Party
- You communicate the most information with a "minority" choice.
- You are actively voting for diversity of representation.
- Your intent will affect the mood of the local population proportionately*, and could therefore win more support for your cause.
- Your vote will give strength to would-be third party voters in future elections.
- Whoever gets elected, they will want to win the next election, and you have given them some indication how to win your vote. You could find yourself better represented than many voters for that candidate.
*I did some canvassing for a centrist, socially liberal party in Britain a few years ago. One strategy was to go after the vote of the less-supported "main" party, which resulted in an equal number of votes falling from the other party, now that their provisional supporters felt less threatened. Voters do sense the intentions of their immediate community when making their own judgements on how to vote.
With Freedom Comes Responsibility
Further proof of the instict to regulate unnecessarily.
I was going to call this JE "Freedom Brings Responsibility", but the politicians' catchphrase, "explaining" why because you have some freedom left, they should be able to deny you freedoms of their choosing, seemed somehow appropriate.
The take on the following article that I wish to emphasise is that security theatre is harming security.
Is this the end of the road for traffic lights?
By David Millward
Most traffic lights should be torn up as they make roads less safe, one of Europe's leading road engineers said yesterday.
Hans Monderman, a traffic planner involved in a Brussels-backed project known as Shared Space, said that taking lights away helped motorists, cyclists and pedestrians to co-exist more happily and safely.
Residents of the northern Dutch town of Drachten have already been used as guinea-pigs in an experiment which has seen nearly all the traffic lights stripped from their streets.
Only three of the 15 sets in the town of 50,000 remain and they will be gone within a couple of years.
The project is the brainchild of Mr Monderman, and the town has seen some remarkable results. There used to be a road death every three years but there have been none since the traffic light removal started seven years ago.
There have been a few small collisions, but these are almost to be encouraged, Mr Monderman explained. "We want small accidents, in order to prevent serious ones in which people get hurt," he said yesterday.
"It works well because it is dangerous, which is exactly what we want. But it shifts the emphasis away from the Government taking the risk, to the driver being responsible for his or her own risk.
"We only want traffic lights where they are useful and I haven't found anywhere where they are useful yet."
Mr Monderman, 61, compared his philosophy of motoring to an ice rink. "Skaters work out things for themselves and it works wonderfully well. I am not an anarchist, but I don't like rules which are ineffective and street furniture tells people how to behave."
In short, if motorists are made more wary about how they drive, they behave more carefully, he said.
The main junction in Drachten handles about 22,000 cars a day. Where once there were traffic lights, there is a roundabout, an extended cycle path and pedestrian area.
In the days of traffic lights, progress across the junction was slow as cars stopped and started. Now tailbacks are almost unheard of -- and almost nobody toots a horn.
However, it is not the cars which seem to be involved in the greatest conflict, it is the cyclists and pedestrians who seem to jostle for space. Driving around Drachten, vehicles approach roundabouts with considerable caution - traffic approaches from the left, but cyclists come from either side.
Cyclists, almost none of whom bother with helmets, signal clearly at junctions making sure motorists are aware of them.
Thus far, Drachten's drivers and pedestrians have voted the experiment a success.
"I am used to it now," said Helena Spaanstra, 24. "You drive more slowly and carefully, but somehow you seem to get around town quicker."
Tony Ooostward, 70, was equally enthusiastic. "Everybody is learning. I am a walker and now you are the boss at the crossroads, everyone waits for you. But at the same time pedestrians wait until there are a number wanting to cross at the same time."
Kanaan Jamal, 39, like many people in Drachten, uses a bike to get around. "It is very smooth -- a lot better than other towns," he said. The consensus is that the creation of uncertainty by taking away the lights and even in some places the road markings has worked
"Anybody who is new here doesn't know what to do. They don't know who has priority, the car, bike or pedestrian. It's all confusing, but because of that everybody takes care," Mr Jamal said.
Linus Still Wrong on GPL Version 3
For the record, so was I; I believed that the anti-DRM provision was opposed to all DRM, rather than just DRM that specifically preventing modified versions of the code from running "turning freedom number one into a sham", in Stallman's words.
For those who missed it, there was an article on the front page Linus Speaks Out On GPLv3, but I went to Groklaw directly, since Slashdot sucks for insightful commentary.
Linus is making some of the same philosophical errors that I took him to task for a few months ago, but has added to that a certain naivety about the legal process, and labelling the goal of maximising freedom as "extreme".
Maximising freedom may well be an intellectually extreme position, in that it isn't a blend of several positions, but it is not a politically extreme position, in that it is what a large number of political activists attempt to do, although the trade-offs are not always agreed (this is not true of politicians, who also seek power for themselves and to favour their benefactors). The idealism of the French flag reflects exactly this position: liberty, equality (the basis for trade-offs), fraternity (sharing the fruits of the work done). I suspect that Tolvald's opposition to the FSF's "crusading" is in fact in opposition to a highly American view of freedom, but the freedom promoted by the GNU GPL is more of the anarchist's view of freedom than the capitalist's, when taken to extremes. Naturally, it isn't in fact anarchistic, for it uses law to maximise freedom.
What about his naivety? It is two-fold. First, he is applying an engineering fix to a political problem, thus the bug (in the DMCA etc) is legislative, and therefore the fix is legislative. This stance is reasonable given legislators that actually listen to their constituents, and wish to deliver the best set of laws that balance their interests, and if they are out of balance, they will attempt to restore that balance in future legislation. If you think that this is what legislators do, then the GPL version 2 is the right one for you, for you will always have the right to reverse-engineer, and the protection of intellectual property will only go as far as is necessary to provide a sufficient incentive to create, without being overly onerous upon further innovation.
Secondly, legislators are not the only ones who shape law. Take the recent action of France's Supreme Court to savage fair use rights. Crusty old judges, I'm afraid, are exactly the types who are most likely to miss the difference between theft and copyright infringement, ignore the economics (since the issue is couched in moral and legal terms), and overcompensate for imagined loss by handing out fines proportional to the infringement. (For the record, I favour proportional fines and|or sentences for making money from piracy, for then it is diverting spending that would have otherwise have been spent upon original work, and therefore is theft), but that is not the issue that I wish to raise today. Fines for copyright infringers are one thing, but what we see is a wholesale attack upon the entire concept of fair use, the right to reverse engineer, and more. The "proportional" response has included an "acceptable" degree of collateral damage, but economic competence would have led to the conclusion that the response was in fact disproportionate.
Given legislation from the bench, legislation through contract is entirely appropriate. I do not wish leave it to my government to defend my freedoms; I also wish to defend it through my own actions, and the rights that I give to people to make use of my work. This is not an extreme position; it is a position that I accept the social contract as decided at such times as the birth of nations, and wish to do my own part to revitalise and uphold my side of that contract.
Footnote: Tom Hudson has said plenty in support of Linus's stance. I think that the best, and simplest response was given by WNight.
Majoritarian Bias in Science
Not a thesis, but an example. From New Scientist:
How people with autism miss the big picture
"A PICTURE is worth a thousand words" may sum up how people with autism see the world.
Brains scans of people with the condition show that they place excessive reliance on the parietal cortex, which analyses images, even when interpreting sentences free of any imagery. In other people, the image centre appears to be active only when the sentences contain imagery.
The results agree with anecdotal reports that people with autism are fixated on imagery but struggle to interpret words and language. They frequently excel at recording visual detail, but overlook the bigger picture and the context that comes with it.
Researchers led by Marcel Just of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, scanned volunteers' brains while they were deciding if certain statements were true or false. Some of the statements relied on analysis of language alone, while others could only be understood by considering the imagery they conjured up. "The number 8, when rotated 90 degrees, looks like a pair of spectacles", for instance, needs both arithmetic interpretation and visualisation of the rotated number.
Just says that the observed over-reliance on the parietal cortex might have arisen to compensate for poor brain connections to the prefrontal cortex, which interprets language (Brain, DOI: 10.1093/brain/awll64). "That makes it difficult to understand complex language and to understand the intentions of other people," he says.
With regards to your article on autism "How people with autism miss the
big picture", it appears to me to be biased and one-sided.
The title, for a start, is ironic: autistic people will frequently
infer too larger a context, a bigger picture than that which is narrowed
by socially conditioned readings of intent. I have Asperger's Syndrome,
so I have some insight into this. Those same readings make it
impossible to discuss (for example) the science of evolution with some
people; the theory of the selfish gene is taken as scaffolding for
economic atomism with selfish individuals, for example, whereas the
wider picture is that many forms of co-operation and the theory of memes
restores the analysis.
I've seen the reading of intent blind people to a larger concept really
Back to the title: I do not think that it helps the different to be
portrayed as inferior, although they may have difficulties. Not readily
narrowing your perception and interpretation to fit cultural norms does
result in miscommunication. Those on the autistic spectrum therefore
suffer for being in a minority, but it is misleading to say that they
have the smaller picture.
More on Slot-in FPGAs
My last JE has been submitted as an article.
If you're wondering, my interest in the story is that I've done a small amount of chip design myself, for a small startup, Advanced Rendering Technology, which made boxes that perform ray-tracing in hardware. The modern incarnation of ART is to be found here. For a short synopsis of the company and its history, here is a comment by my old boss.
I'll probably be fit enough to work next year, so I'm hoping to get hold of one of these things... :o)
Note: Original JE deleted as I posted a reply that read a little like sour grapes, due to this article, currently in The Mysterious Future. I hadn't mentioned the word "Opteron". Duh!
Susan Bro, an agency spokeswoman, said Thursday's statement resulted from a past combined review by federal drug enforcement, regulatory and research agencies that concluded "smoked marijuana has no currently accepted or proven medical use in the United States and is not an approved medical treatment."
. . .
The Food and Drug Administration statement directly contradicts a 1999 review by the Institute of Medicine, a part of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's most prestigious scientific advisory agency. That review found marijuana to be "moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting.
Let me say here that my youth experience of marijuana is that it is an extremely boring drug, and although I find it ridiculous that the drug is illegal, I think that there are many considerably more important things to get het up about.
My question is that if this administration engage in such outright lying, can you really trust them on anything? To me, this is worse as Clinton getting a blow-job and lying about it, as it involves a conspiracy of liars.
Linus is wrong over the GPL version 3
Here is the devastating evidence: a letter to The Register.
Now, I know that The Register isn't exactly the most highbrow publication on the planet, but let us analyse Linus's reply to The Register's earlier article:
Since you seem to be following the kernel mailing list, you could have picked a better email to comment on.
Okay, The Register was seeking to put Linus in a bad light; they could have been fairer to him.
Anyway, look for the one that talks about "reciprocity" to get an idea for why I like the GPLv2, and not the GPLv3 (I don't know how you read the mailing list, but you can search for it at least on lkml.org).
Reciprocity optimises a two-entity system; writing software, however, is a manifold system. The virtue of the GPL is that it spills onwards, and requires that others who want to use its bounty have to reciprocate with the GPL's conception of freedom; not with a particular individual, or collection of individuals. The future developer or user is protected by the GPL. The GPL creates a freedom akin to the free market, and as such protects future transferability, and future trade.
In a manifold system, "reciprocity" is often cartelisation. Higher values turn one against the immediate group for the sake of the larger group. I imagine that Linus is thinking that since he'd like hardware manufactorers to respect programmers' freedoms, so he should act to protect theirs.
It's not about "freedom". It's about "fairness".
Which, btw, is a lot more fundamental concept. "Do unto others.." and all that, you know.
And here Linus betrays where he's really coming from. This is pure Scandinavia. And here he also reveals a lack of philosophical depth.
I know from hard experience that "freedom" is often seen as being synonymous with greed, but it doesn't take long to see why this is mistaken: freedom is essentially the flipside of trust, but trust is a complex beast when one is dealing with something as complex as society. We (by and large) accept laws in order to allow trust to develop. Is other words, we selectively distrust in order to raise the overall level of trust. The GPL functions much in the same way as law does. The BSD licence is more trusting, mostly because programmers who write under BSD licences want it that way. The GPL, however, creates trust further down the line, and trust from those who might wish to contribute to the body of the GPLed work. The GPL is deliberately unfair to the closed shop, for much the same reason that green taxes are deliberately unfair to polluting entities; in both cases, they are seeking to change behaviour. The GPL aims to maximise freedom, and green taxes aim to maximise the difference between the value of 'goods' and 'bads'.
Fairness is just about the worst-defined concept in common use. The golden rule fails as soon as you realise that people want different things (or else there wouldn't be trade), and just about everyone defines fairness as the perfection of their chosen strain of politics (equal opportunity, equal outcome, equal consideration, trade without compulsion, ...), so that to use the word is essentially to have said nothing over and above "it doesn't suit my politics". When you go about defining exactly what should be made fair, then you have something to talk about.
It is my opinion that any definition of fair which justifies the GPL version 2 cannot help but justify version 3, and even prefer it. I understand that the GPL version 2 may be a good compromise for many individuals and entities, but that is exactly what it is: a compromise.
Note to RingDev: I'm sorry, I was (mostly) away from the computer for a few days, so I lost the chance to follow up on your reply, so I posted a delayed response in my last JE.
What Capitalism Is, and its Connection With DRM
We are facing the steady erosion of the free use of our property both through legal, and through technical means. I reproduce my post (in response to this post) below, although I have cleared up a few typos on the way:
The brief answer to your point is that Capitalism isn't what you claim it is. Maximum property is not the rule in capitalism, rather, law has evolved in order to recognise that property is not
absolute, for example that one, or a collection of people, can attain
ownership over land through use, and lack of enforcement. This
recognises that the principle of capitalism is a codification of
natural behaviour, rather than being an abstract system based upon the
absolute value of property.
Look closer, and you find that the deeper principle of capitalism as
codified by common law (that is the natural evolution of law according
to the rule of precedent, rather than industry lobbies), is far closer
to a principle of maximum freedom, than the application of an axiomatic
set of rules.
Additional to this, it is worth noting why "fair use" rights exist in
law: real value, and freedom is won, in particular by creating
derivative works. The restriction of rights that is property can create
an incentive, but also creates restrictions, that impede the creation
of derivative works in particular. The creation of "intellectual
property" clearly has costs and gains to freedom, and in particular to
the creative freedom that is the root of the creation of wealth, with
is a far vaster concept than money (in truth, the real wealth will be
more than the money wealth, for that "imbalance" is what causes the
trade to be made in the first place). Investment selects
ideas to build on; it is our creativity that causes them to be. To
undermine creativity so as to provide "an incentive" is to get things
Personal use is just the tip of the iceberg. Furthermore, you don't get that companies simply don't want to provide fair use.
It gets in the way of the greater plan to deny the user as much
property as possible, so as to extract more of the value that would
otherwise accrue to the customer by eg. having the file in several
formats, or playable after a licence runs out. If fair use can be
undermined by DRM "so much the better!"
I agree that we already have limited rights of ownership, but the
principle that underlies law and practise should still be that of
maximum freedom, that is: allowing the right degree of property and
enforcement, so that positive freedom (incentive) and negative freedom
(lack of obstruction) are in balance. As long as there remains profit
in production, negative freedom is worth having. What's more, it's not
worth trading freedom so as to ensure the security of the creation of
wealth beyond a certain point. Besides, as you must be well aware, the
connection between the abuse of freedom through copyright infringement,
and the loss of income of artists is tenuous. It might affect the
income flowing to music companies, though, but there are evolving far
more efficient distribution mechanisms, that can give the artists more
'cake' in absolute terms, even though the whole cake is smaller. Think
of the savings in eliminating wasteful administration!
No. The real issue is that of maintaining old business methods and
practises. One that will keep certain sectors of industry in business,
rather than protecting the creative output that is the economic purpose
of these companies. The entire argument about "capitalism" and
"communism" is a smokescreen for a far more old-fashioned and tradition
argument: the special pleading of outdated industries against forces
that threaten to displace then, which require convenient restrictions
I know that it took me a few days to reply. I just didn't see the point. But this argument needs to be won again and again, for our conception of property is changing, in part because of the deliberate and systematic misuse of language by those who wish to keep more power to themselves, and their allies. Some of their allies are in government: quite apart from unholy alliances, there is the simple fact that governments, by their very structure, think like large companies, or rather, one set of bureaucrats is much like another, and so their natural instincts will be to protect what they deem to be "stability". Ie. restrictions of freedoms that appear to threaten the relevant establishments attempting to do what they see to be their job. They almost never think of the same outcome being brought about by other means.
My real interest in all this is in the matter of patents, rather than that of copyright. But both are important, and copyright has a wider interest, and (with the GPL version 3 specifically addressing DRM) appears to be very much an issue of the moment.
Footnote: Above, I should really be referring to the free market, rather than to capital; Capitalism is by definition the doctorine of property. Free-marketry is the general rule of freedom in the marketplace. I reverted the article heading, as I'd used "Capitalism" throughout, in the sense that a libertarian would use it, and the post of mine that I quoted cannot be edited.
Ps. DRM and the Death of Culture.
Grumble grumble MODs grumble grumble
Since I exchanged emails with CmdrTaco
a while ago, re: posting with TOR, I've not had the ability to moderate.
But suddenly today, halfway through meta-modding, I was hit by a wave a relief: I'm not being held accountable! So: no more timid second-guessing, a neutral which should have been an anti, or up-modding ever-so-slightly funny comments. I can mod as I think!
And about time too. I've not punished conservatives, for example, but I've not hitherto rewarded them proportionally or properly punished their down-modders. I shall stop being such a wimp!
Please note: I resolve to continue in the same vein, even if I find my ability to moderate mysteriously returns. I will be accurate, not moderate.
And now, let us all watch the monkeys dance!