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Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

next_ghost Re:Are you kidding (793 comments)

Wow lots of people seem to think I'm a Yank today. Sorry but I'm British

Looking at you Brits from continental Europe, I don't see much of a difference ;-P

2 days ago
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Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

next_ghost Re:Are you kidding (793 comments)

While this is true, there are generally two large parties that garner 60-80% of the seats, and these tend to be centrist parties with the same sort of minor differences that we see in the USA between Republican and Democrat.

Here are the combined results of two largest parties in lower house elections in Czech republic for the past 20 years:
1996: 56%
1998: 60%
2002: 55%
2006: 68%
2010: 42%
2013: 39%

In all elections since 1996 up to 2010, the two largest parties were Social democrats (scandinavian-style liberal left) and Civic democrats (conservative right). In 2013, Civic democrats fell to 7.7% (5th place out of 7 parties that got into lower house), which is about 1/3 of their previous result. The second place was taken by a completely new party (populist party led and funded by a local billionaire), but I don't expect them to survive the next lower house elections, just like the previous two newcomer parties didn't.

One drawback to the parliamentary system that I've seen is that fringe parties can have a disproportionate influence since neither centrist party has enough votes to form a majority on its own and needs to bribe them to join a coalition. At least, this is what I saw in Israel, and bribe is precisely the correct word. At one point it got so sickening that the two major parties formed a coalition instead.

This problem isn't caused by proportionate election system. The cause is that the winner doesn't have the balls to form a minority cabinet and play the democracy game all the way through. Running a minority cabinet is hard but the results are difinitely worth it.

2 days ago
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Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

next_ghost Re:Are you kidding (793 comments)

There's a slight problem with your idea: Every single supplier on the market has only one goal: destroy the market by becoming a de-facto monopoly. And while it may take decades, some companies do succeed even without government regulation. Huge corporations and weak government result in corporations becoming the new government.

2 days ago
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Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

next_ghost Re:Back to One Man, One Vote (793 comments)

Czech republic requires any endorsement of political parties or candidates by a corporation to be declared as non-monetary donation to the political party. We don't have any contribution limits but the law requires that political parties have to make all donation records public at the end of the year, including names, addresses and birthdates/corporation ID numbers. If the political party doesn't have all that information, it has to either return the donation in question or give it to the state. Giving money directly to individual candidates or elected officials is prosecuted as bribery.

2 days ago
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Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

next_ghost Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (431 comments)

To be blunt: black people

You should call it "ghetto culture." Black people are a much more diverse group than your post implies. Ghetto culture is also very common among Czech and Slovak gypsies, with very similar crime, education and economic statistics and widespread prejudices among the majority population.

3 days ago
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Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

next_ghost Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (431 comments)

I think you're exaggerating their limited participation. But I don't blame you, the parents themselves probably believe that they play much less active role than they really do, simply because they don't keep track of everything they do to help their kids learn. And just to be clear, I'm not talking specifically about reading. I'm talking about their entire education (including mathematics, science, history, etc.). The younger the kids are, the more guidance they need, whether direct or indirect.

If we focus exclusively on reading, creating environment that encourages kids to try is more than enough. When there's plenty to read around the house and kids see their parents reading often for themselves (not just reading to the kids), the "monkey see, monkey do" principle will drive them crazy about reading. I know because I was like that as a 5-year-old.

But let's go back to education in general. I started teaching myself programming when I was 10 years old. Now I have a degree in Computer Science. So I can see in hindsight how much time I wasted learning useless crap simply because I didn't know better. I also felt for a long time that I was missing something important - it turned out to be the whole theory of algorithms, complexity and proving correctness that I've later learned at university. If I had a mentor early on who would point me in the right direction every once in a while, I could have learned much faster and avoided some bad habits that I still struggle with today.

I also have another personal experience with learning on my own: English is my second language. I had to take 11 years of compulsory English classes (since 5th grade all the way up to second year at university). I got my first computer after the first year of English. Another year or so later, the classes became complete waste of my time because I was learning much more from computer games. I've also learned some key insights that I'm successfully using to learn a third language at the moment.

3 days ago
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Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

next_ghost Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (431 comments)

The point is that not all Unschooled kid have parents who are doing everything right, yet they still learn to read. We live in a society that makes it extreamly difficult to not have text around. Even when the parents don't have books around the house, they will generally have a TV, or the kids are outside of the house. Both of these will bombard children with reading.

I've never said that parents have to do everything right. They just need enough insight to realize that what their kid is doing doesn't work and that they have to step in and give some advice. If that advice doesn't work either, they need to step in again and try yet another way, over and over again. This is especially important for pre-teen kids who may not be able to try a different approach on their own yet or they might waste a lot of time exploring dead ends.

Also, it's not enough that there's text around. The kids need to explore it at their own slow pace. That pretty much rules out TV. And while you can learn to mechanically read from a McDonald's menu, you won't develop any functional literacy from it. (Functional literacy is the ability to understand the meaning of written text. Functionally illiterate people can read text out loud but they'll have no idea what it means unless somebody repeats it back to them.)

4 days ago
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Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

next_ghost Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (431 comments)

Keep in mind that this isn't a self selected group of kids who's parents spent extra time educating them. These are kids who parents left the kids to figure out their education on their own. Only being their to answer questions that the child initiated.

Obviously not everyone becomes literate when left in a vacuum. So, what is the explination? I have thought pretty hard on this, as it is an unexpected and facinating situation. The best theory I have come up with is that it is hard to actually be illiterate in large parts of the US. I am not saying that it is hard being illiterate, which it most certainly is. I am saying that one needs to actually put effort into not becoming literate, or it will happen by accident.

It's not that simple as you think. The obvious advantage of "unschooling" I can see is that it takes full advantage of kids' natural curiosity. The traditional education of the shove-boring-facts-down-kids'-throats kind completely obliterates any curiosity very fast. But. Parents have to provide guidance in order to make unschooling work. When parents don't or can't provide guidance, kids can easily take the wrong approach to the task, become overwhelmed and lose interest. Parents also have to provide intellectual stimulation in order to point their kids' curiosity in the right direction (at least indirectly by asking the right questions or buying the right books).

So I do believe that it's completely possible to raise a naturally curious kid into illiterate adult even without any abuse. When kids grow up in an environment which completely lacks any intellectual stimulation and parental guidance (specifically of the intellectual kind), they'll turn their curiosity towards some other activity and give up on intellectual achievements. Later, when they start going to school, their late start will bring them bad grades, which will demoralize them even further and make them hate education. Kids can't get curious about reading when there's literally nothing to read in their home. And they'll begin to hate reading if you force them to read under threat (of bad grades). But again, the problem is in learned behavior, not genes.

4 days ago
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Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

next_ghost Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (431 comments)

let me rephrase then smart guy... in a language you don't speak/read?

And european languages don't count since there are too many similarities.

I can figure out spanish, italian, german, etc and I don't speak or read any of them. But we share a common macro culture and there are enough similarities.

That's how I learned English. My native language (Czech) belongs to the Slavic family so it has very little in common with Germanic and Romance languages. I strongly recommend this TED talk about learning languages: How to learn any language in six months. When you play games where you don't need to understand a word of the text to get the meaning (e.g. the first Diablo, various shooter and action games, etc.), you slowly learn vocabulary. When you soak up enough vocabulary, you'll start figuring out the grammar. And then you're ready to play language-heavy RPG games like Fallout (1 and 2, I've never played Fallout 3) and various adventure games.

And since you're probably not familiar with Czech, here's the previous paragraph one more time in Czech (loosely translated sans accents because unicode makes /. barf) so you can try for yourself if you can understand it:

Takhle jsem se naucil anglicky. Muj rodny jazyk (cestina) patri mezi slovanske jazyky, takze s germanskymi a romanskymi jazyky nema moc spolecneho. Vrele doporucuji tuhle TED prednasku o uceni jazyku: Jak se naucit libovolny jazyk za sest mesicu. Kdyz hrajete hry, ve kterych nemusite rozumet ani slovu, abyste pochopili vyznam textu (napriklad prvni Diablo, ruzne strilecky a akcni hry atd.), tak se pomalu ucite slovni zasobu. Kdyz pak nacerpate dostatecnou slovni zasobu, zacnete postupne chapat i gramatiku. A potom muzete zacit hrat jazykove narocna RPG jako Fallout (1a 2, Fallout 3 jsem nikdy nehral) a ruzne adventury.

4 days ago
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European Court of Justice Strikes Down Data Retention Law

next_ghost Re:Good for them. (77 comments)

UK and Poland didn't adopt the EU charter of fundamental rights so they can just ignore this ruling. But the rest of EU must follow it, including Czech republic which finally decided to adopt the charter as well.

about two weeks ago
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European Court of Justice Strikes Down Data Retention Law

next_ghost Re:Good for them. (77 comments)

Well, here in Czech republic, the previous prime minister's party went from 2nd place with 20.22% of votes in 2010 (with tiny difference between 1st and 2nd place) to 5th place with 7.72% in 2013 early elections, barely making the election threshold of 5%. So yes, there's still hope at least for my country. It doesn't guarantee that the next guy in power will be sane, but at least it's nice to know that voters can actually kick the worst ones out really hard when they run out of patience.

about two weeks ago
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Why Darmok Is a Good Star Trek: TNG Episode

next_ghost Re:Bullshit Made Up Language (512 comments)

The words come through, but I have no idea what they could possibly mean.

Picard listening to Tamarians before his camping trip.

about three weeks ago
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Overuse of Bioengineered Corn Gives Rise To Resistant Pests

next_ghost Re:O RLY (259 comments)

my biggest concern is that they start creating what can only be described as "generation time-bomb crops", in a pathologically-insane effort to further save money. "time-bomb crops" would be those which you plant once, they grow, seed, plant twice, they grow, place a third time and they FAIL.

now imagine such insanely-dangerous crops pollenating and cross-pollenating world-wide and it's not so hard to imagine a scenario in which world famine occurs within a five to eight year period in which all food crops world-wide completely fail.

Sorry but you don't understand even the complete basics of genetics. Time-bomb crops wouldn't be that dangerous in the wild even if they actually existed. It's extremely unlikely that a significant portion of normal crop population would become contaminated by time-bomb genes in just a few years. And two plants with both normal and time-bomb genes still have 25% chance of producing completely clean offspring.

Also, the chance of infertile hybrid turning into multigeneration time-bomb is practically zero. It's much easier to simply break the reproductive system completely than to build a generation countdown into it.

about a month ago
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Sons of Anarchy Creator On Google Copyright Anarchy

next_ghost Re:Sour grapes (381 comments)

Also, can you imagine what it would be like to have your song suddenly appearing in all sorts of ads for products you hate? For publishers to start paying hacks to write new stories for the characters that you breathed life into?

I know too many artists that would be shattered by the experience. However, I'd not argue it as a matter of morality. Just a matter of preference.

MAFIAA does all of the above all the time. MAFIAA holds copyright to everything they've funded, not the authors (while most authors technically own the copyright, they had to assign complete control over it to MAFIAA to get funding). So I fail to see your point.

about 1 month ago
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Sons of Anarchy Creator On Google Copyright Anarchy

next_ghost Re:Sour grapes (381 comments)

Neither of the above options.

about 1 month ago
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Sons of Anarchy Creator On Google Copyright Anarchy

next_ghost Re:Sour grapes (381 comments)

The law should be written so that commercial distributors need to sign a contract with the author and the author can't block it by making absurd demands. The law should be intentionally vague so that judges have enough space for punishing the side that's being unreasonable. If the distributor is trying to avoid paying anything, the judge should include every last cent that can be linked to the work in question in the base revenue from which the author will get a share and set the author's percentage high. On the other hand if the author is trying to block the contract, the judge should set a very low percentage and exclude any money from the base revenue where the link with the work in question isn't absolutely clear. In case of orphan works, if the distributor puts into escrow the usual percentage he pays to other authors, judges should uphold that as "good enough" when the author later shows up and asks for more (but that doesn't mean the author can't negotiate a higher percentage of future revenues or some other formula for calculating payments in his contract).

BTW, payright is equally clear in what is and isn't covered - commercial use is covered, anything else is not. The only thing that isn't clear is how much it will cost the distributor if he doesn't sign a contract first. On the bright side, the judge can't make you pay millions when you didn't make a single cent.

about a month ago
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Sons of Anarchy Creator On Google Copyright Anarchy

next_ghost Re:Sour grapes (381 comments)

Before you start speaking about ripping artists off, read this article. Nobody is entitled to hold our culture hostage for his own profit. If the law says otherwise, the law needs to change.

about a month ago
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Gates Warns of Software Replacing People; Greenspan Says H-1Bs Fix Inequity

next_ghost Re:An overview, IMHO: (516 comments)

Most of the poor get richer slowly as technology raises their standard of living.

This trend stopped in the USA and many other western countries sometime in the late 1980s. According to official statistics, real wages of poor and middle classes have stagnated since then. In other words, the poor and middle classes lost as much actual income as they gained indirectly through technology.

about a month ago
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Gates Warns of Software Replacing People; Greenspan Says H-1Bs Fix Inequity

next_ghost Re:Greenspan's right (516 comments)

No, his point was that wealth is relative.

Yes. Give everybody more cash and you get inflation. Take cash away from middle class and you get deflation. But the vast majority of economists is scared shitless of deflation. The government and central banks have tools to curb inflation if it gets out of hand. But if deflation sets in, the only thing they can do is sit back and watch things falling apart, because they'll be completely powerless.

about a month ago

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