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Ello Formally Promises To Remain Ad-Free, Raises $5.5M

jfengel Re:Wonder if their time hasn't already passed... (165 comments)

In the case of a general social networking tool, there kinda can be only one. People won't check every site every day, and the one they check most often will be the one with most of their friends. If you have "Ello friends" and "Facebook friends", odds are you'll visit one site much less, and your friends there will drift further away.

There's room for various niche sites, but they need a differentiator. I can imagine Ello wanting to be the social networking site for those who want privacy, but strikes me as being kind of counter to the point of social networking. People go to Facebook *because* it violates their privacy. It does so a bit more than most realize, perhaps, but really they only seem to notice the monetization of their lack of privacy, rather than the lack of privacy itself.

2 days ago
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Google Announces Inbox, a New Take On Email Organization

jfengel Re:More changes I don't want ... (172 comments)

Yes, but they're not improving it, and the new Maps doesn't seem to be replacing the features of Classic Maps that I really liked. Any interface needs improvement, and while I like the older interface, its failures become more grating over time.

3 days ago
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Hungary To Tax Internet Traffic

jfengel Re: Nah, this is just stage 1 (324 comments)

Other factors have kept inflation low for quite some time. The Treasury and Fed have been pumping money in at a rather alarming rate, and the inflation rate remains in the target range. Occasional spikes in oil prices notwithstanding, it's been under 2% for most of the last few years. (The September figure was 1.7%; the average for 2013 was 1.5%.)

I don't understand how we're currently having falling unemployment, low inflation, a record GDP, and a booming stock market. Some of that, of course, is dubious statistical measures, but they're the same measures we've always used (more or less). All that fiat currency should be producing huge amounts of consumption and inflation, and it isn't.

I've got a sneaking suspicion that we're looking at another crunch over the next few years as the Baby Boomers start to collect Social Security in earnest, though the first wave of it is already 67 years old. That has already caused us to to briefly deplete the Trust Fund a few years ago, and its growth has leveled off. That's gonna be bumpy.

3 days ago
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First Evidence of Extrasolar Planets Discovered In 1917

jfengel Re:Actually... (58 comments)

He was the one who kicked off European colonization and exploitation of the place. Other Europeans who came made only a tenuous foothold. Columbus was the one who said, "There's a place over there, and it's worth living in and taking stuff." He's the reason Europeans in general came to know about it.

It's not entirely out of keeping with other uses of "discover". The OED's first definition is "To disclose, reveal, etc., to others". The fact that it's first is historical, rather than a matter of present usage; the present use "to find out" is also very old. But it also includes notions of "finding out for oneself", i.e. not necessarily being the very first.

All told the OED gives over a dozen different shades of meaning for "discover", and I don't think this one is entirely wrong. It can be misleading, since as you say there were already people there and other Europeans had lived there, but he was an important "first" whatever word one applies.

3 days ago
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Hungary To Tax Internet Traffic

jfengel Re: Nah, this is just stage 1 (324 comments)

Still, the Trust Fund seems like a rather odd concept. It's a government promise to pay for... something it had already promised to pay, namely Social Security benefits. If the Trust Fund runs out, it's still on the hook to pay those benefits.

The program was intended to be pay-as-you-go. The SSTF was supposed to be a way to save against the Baby Bust being unable to pay for its parents, but where can you really save that kind of money? No bank can handle it; it would badly skew any stock market you tried to invest with. Effectively, they just dumped it into the general Treasury coffers, where it was all spent. The Boomers are starting to demand it back, and the burden falls right in the place the SSTF was supposed to avoid, their children.

The net effect was just to establish a highly regressive tax (since Social Security money is capped) that Reagan used to pay for a massive expansion of the US Government, doubling spending during his time in office. I used to think the SSTF was just a bad idea, but I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that it was a deliberate attempt to screw over the poor and the Gen Xers.

3 days ago
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In UK, Internet Trolls Could Face Two Years In Jail

jfengel Re:So what qualifies? (488 comments)

In Germany, it's written all the way into the Constitution. The very first article reads (in official translation), "Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority." The second article, about personal development, specifically limits it to development that doesn't contradict the previous part.

That doesn't make the definitions any more concrete, but it does suggest that it's a country which takes it seriously, and the requirement pervades the rest of the national law. I don't know if that can be adopted into a country like the US, where a great many people want their First Amendment rights to trump everything else. I can even see the case for it. It's just that I hear it defended most vocally by people who aren't in a position to be harassed and don't see the way it can interfere with the rest of their lives.

5 days ago
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Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

jfengel Re:Let me get this right (838 comments)

They say that, but I don't believe it. The FairTax still needs to be computed, since some transactions are subject to it, and others aren't. The "prebate" system is begging to be gamed.

It seems to me that they're comparing an existing system which has decades of accumulated cruft to a brand new one which will accumulate equal amounts of cruft. I'm all for sweeping out the existing system just to reset the cruft counter to zero, but there's nothing special about the FairTax that achieves that. Nor does it particularly explain how they're going to deal with the unfairnesses that come from removing deductions that people counted on to make long-term purchasing decisions. That's a problem any new simplified tax code would have to deal with, but the FairTax doesn't even make for a clear way to phase things out because of the shift from income to consumption as a basis.

Mostly, though, I think it's disingenuous of them to claim benefits that could apply equally well to any new tax code, and to claim that the cost will be zero when that's clearly not the case.

about a week ago
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Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

jfengel Re:Let me get this right (838 comments)

The "FairTax" isn't an income tax, but a sales tax. That's how it gets around the complexities of determining income.

And replaces them by the difficulties of determining a "sale". Stock sales aren't sales, for example. Neither are business-to-business sales. Only end consumer consumption is a "sale". (And it introduces vast new ranges of fraud. "Oh, we didn't eat that food. It was purchased by The Jones Household, Inc, which is a corporation and therefore not subject to tax.)

Making a progressive sales tax is harder than making a progressive income tax, because it's collected by each merchant, and there's no single record of how much you've paid so far. And the sales tax is very regressive, since poor people spend all of their money, while the wealthy make "investments". (Buying a house is a sale; buying a factory is an investment.) They combat the obvious regressiveness of it with a "prebate", a kind of guaranteed poverty-line income. (And a whole new realm of opportunities for fraud.) That means that the poor pay less. And the wealthy pay less. So to take in the same total revenue, the tax on the middle class goes up.

There are reasons to do a consumption-side tax, and it can be implemented more or less coherently with a value-added tax rather than a sales tax. (You set money aside every time you receive it, and pay it every time you spend. The net effect is that if you buy something and sell it at a higher price, the net tax is only on the profit. It applies on every single transaction, which is a lot of overhead but it eliminates a lot of meaningless distinctions.) It's still regressive, which can be fixed by a progressive income tax on high-dollar earners. I suspect that's what Gates is calling for. It's very different from the FairTax.

There are problems with that as well; there's problems with any tax system. But it's not the obvious attempt to shift the burden to the middle class, as the FairTax is.

about two weeks ago
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Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

jfengel Re:Let me get this right (838 comments)

Exactly. The FairTax is highly regressive, because it taxes spending. The poor spend all of their income; the wealthy don't. It tries to make that less obvious with its "prebate", sort of a guaranteed minimum income, which removes some of the burden from those below the poverty line.

If the burden isn't on the poor and it's not on the wealthy then it *must* rest on the middle class. Proponents seem to want to play a shell game, but the fact is that if you want to remain revenue neutral, somebody is paying. And if it's not revenue-neutral, then the deficit must go up, because shifting the income side doesn't change the spending side.

The thing I find most distressing is that it's not the tax brackets that make taxes difficult. Computing the brackets is simple arithmetic. The difficulty comes in computing what counts as income, what we want to exempt, and the myriad tax breaks we use to nudge the economy. It would be easy enough to design a progressive income tax that doesn't have all of those features, and it would be at least as simple as the FairTax (without its ludicrous and fraud-prone "prebate"). But of course they're not really about simplicity. They're really about shifting the burden away from the rich.

about two weeks ago
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Pentagon Reportedly Hushed Up Chemical Weapons Finds In Iraq

jfengel Re:The hushing wasn't very effective (376 comments)

OK, thank you. THAT is news. But that's wasn't the spin most sources seem to be putting on the article; they seemed mostly interested in rehashing the old news.

about two weeks ago
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Pentagon Reportedly Hushed Up Chemical Weapons Finds In Iraq

jfengel The hushing wasn't very effective (376 comments)

I heard frequently during the war itself that we HAD found chemical weapons, mostly from pro-war proponents. I gather that it was talked about all the time on Fox News and right-wing talk radio.

And the reply, even at the time, was that these were weapons from the first Gulf War, mostly inoperable or unreliable due to age, and likely forgotten about. They weren't part of an ongoing production effort, which is what we'd been told. There was widespread support for the war, at the beginning, based on that, which faded as we realized that the danger had been badly overstated.

So I'm trying to figure out what's new here. I had the impression that this was well known. Is it that it wasn't more widely, discussed because the Pentagon wanted it not to be?

about two weeks ago
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Can the Sun Realistically Power Datacenters?

jfengel Re:Obligatoriness Extraordinaire (237 comments)

Can't the dam guys just let the water go without having it go past the turbines?

about two weeks ago
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First Demonstration of Artificial Intelligence On a Quantum Computer

jfengel Re:Read the Paper, article is exagerating "Quantum (98 comments)

That's OK, you also misspelled "exaggerating", so I didn't notice ;-)

Mostly, yeah, it's pretty exaggerated as AI. It's potentially an interesting piece of work, but I always get skeptical when the PR departments feel they have to exaggerate.

about two weeks ago
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Navy Tests Unpowered Exoskeleton

jfengel Re:Speaking as ... (79 comments)

Holding a 36 pound tool at arm's length is gonna tire even you out, grandpa.

about two weeks ago
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Independent Researchers Test Rossi's Alleged Cold Fusion Device For 32 Days

jfengel Re:Why? (986 comments)

Why is it so fucking hard to get a team of reputable people, using a well designed experiment, test this thing?

Because he won't let them. He selects the team. That's why you get the snark and arrogance from the other side: the secrecy and vagueness are strongly indicative of a hoax. Not proof, but it would be so very easy to disprove the hoax, and he's conspicuously not allowing that.

about two weeks ago
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Password Security: Why the Horse Battery Staple Is Not Correct

jfengel Re:Every time XKCD 936 is Mentioned (549 comments)

That's correct, and I'd really like to see somebody actually test Munroe's theory. I don't think that "correct horse battery staple" is any more memorable than any other password with an equivalent entropy. It's easy to remember that one because it's that-ONE. If you have a different password at each of hundreds of sites, it seems to me you won't do any better at remember which combination goes with this site. There will be hundreds of words running around in your head.

The visual might help you keep the set of 4 of them together, but will you really be able to remember which ones you used when you established that password months or even years ago? Perhaps if you modify the technique to incorporate the site that the password goes to...

It seems like something that should be testable. Are CHBS-based passwords any more memorable than any other technique? They are more brute-force resistant than shorter passwords, but if web sites are allowing brute-force attacks then something is deeply wrong to start with. That's what this article is about: CHBS generates great passwords but it may not be solving the right problem.

about two weeks ago
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Password Security: Why the Horse Battery Staple Is Not Correct

jfengel Re:Strong passwords, yes ... (549 comments)

I find the whole notion of "secret questions" baffling. It's generally stuff that can be looked up. That reduces the security on the account, with the bonus that it has a chance of locking me out if I can't remember precisely the capitalization or punctuation I used, or which of my pets was my favorite.

about two weeks ago
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BitHammer, the BitTorrent Banhammer

jfengel Re:Alternative headline (429 comments)

I wouldn't have thought so. One could even deny that what they were doing was vigilantism. In this case he never used the word "vigilante" so I'd have said that he's explicitly NOT a "self-proclaimed vigilante". He was so proclaimed by a Slashdotter upthread.

He's certainly self-appointed, and vigilantes are by definition self-appointed, but that's different. (It's also not the same as saying that he's necessarily a vigilante, and the term doesn't exactly fit, but it's not entirely wrong, either.)

about two weeks ago
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Indonesian Cave Art May Be World's Oldest

jfengel Re:You mean... (77 comments)

I suspect the AC doesn't care much about Bishop Ussher, nor about theism in general, but according to a recent Gallup poll 42% of Americans agree with Ussher's conclusion.

That's a lot of people. People who deserve to have their feelings hurt, because they believe something stupid. Ussher was merely wrong; they are being stupid.

Not everybody proceeds to generalize that to every religious believer. That would be similarly stupid, an obvious fallacy. But the young-earth creationists are nearly a majority of Americans, and a prominently pushy bunch attempting to have their long-disproven dogma treated as fact. They deserve to have their feelings hurt 10,000 times, and more, until they stop doing it.

about two weeks ago

Submissions

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Executive order makes government data open by default

jfengel jfengel writes  |  about a year and a half ago

jfengel (409917) writes "Last week, President Obama issued an executive order titled "Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information".

Government information shall be managed as an asset throughout its life cycle to promote interoperability and openness, and, wherever possible and legally permissible, to ensure that data are released to the public in ways that make the data easy to find, accessible, and usable.

It relies heavily on a paper from the CIO, "Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People.", issued in February."

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Former Senator claims US government suppressing UFO evidence

jfengel jfengel writes  |  about a year and a half ago

jfengel (409917) writes "Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) says the White House has helped keep the truth about the “extraterrestrial influence that is investigating our planet” from the public. He was joined by five former Representatives. Paradigm Research paid each $20k to appear at a press conference, at which Gravel said:

“It goes right to the White House, and of course, once the White House takes a position, ‘well there's nothing going on’...it just goes down the chain of command, everyone stands toe. ... The smoking gun of the whole issue, which is when they saw hovering space craft in Wyoming and South Dakota over the ICBM missile silos that the missiles couldn't work.”"

Link to Original Source

Journals

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Theater

jfengel jfengel writes  |  more than 10 years ago Just on the off chance somebody comes to find out who I am, I'll stick in a plug for my theater group, The Rude Mechanicals. We put on really, really good Shakespeare in Laurel, MD. Half the cast reads Slashdot, and you've never seen Shakespeare until you've seen it performed by computer nerds. The other half are English majors. This is serious amateur theater.

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