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Montana Lawmakers Propose 85 Mph Speed Limit On Interstates

redlemming Re:Already been there done that (525 comments)

The major issue was the Susie safety nuts who felt that without telling people how fast was reasonable that it would confuse people, the court agreed.

When the government gets to tell people what is reasonable, you have lots of problems. You see, in this country, we have a Bill of Rights that provides for unspecified rights "retained by the people" (9th Amendment), and "reserved to the people" (10th Amendment). The highest law in the land says the people get to tell the government what is reasonable, not the other way around.

The "speed limit" should be instead taken as a "recommended speed", which should be based primarily on factors such as the engineering of the road, and the likelihood of animals or people being encountered. There will be circumstances when it is appropriate to drive faster than the recommended speed, and there are circumstances where it is appropriate to drive slower.

Let the police show that somebody is driving very differently than other people do on that road, and doesn't have a good reason for doing so (in the eyes of a typical person, informed of the facts, and with good judgement), then the government can take punitive action.

This approach is consistent with people driving at reasonable speeds, as defined by the people and not the government.

But the last thing the US legal profession wants is for people to realize the 9th Amendment exists, since that is the gateway into some very scary basic rights (for them), such as the right to ethical practice of law ...

Far simpler (for the legal profession) to just move back to the status quo, where people -- in practice -- drive as if the speed limits were merely recommended speeds, and hope the police are being equally reasonable*. It's a really bad policy, and hugely unethical for the legal profession. By effectively forcing people to routinely ignore one part of the written law, they make many people scared of the legal system. They also send the message that people can not engage in reasonable conduct: the legal system can and will punish them even when they are being reasonable. These two factors create an artificial demand over the long term for the services of legal professionals to "protect" people from their own legal system. Welcome to the Land of the Lawsuit.

In short, the court was in a position of ethical conflict of interest with respect to this ruling, and did the wrong thing (something that happens an awful lot in US law: except in extreme cases, the legal profession looks out for its own).

*Defunding the police helps here and seems to be popular, but causes all kinds of other problems. Not a good solution. There's also the ethics issues associated with government trying to keep the money it gets from fines, which increases the amount of ticketing going on, is also a 9th Amendment violation, and creates contempt for the police that makes their jobs a lot harder, but that ethics problem is a subject for another day.

about 2 months ago

Halting Problem Proves That Lethal Robots Cannot Correctly Decide To Kill Humans

redlemming Turning was wrong (335 comments)

In 1936, Alan Turing famously showed that there is no general algorithm that can solve this problem.

All programs will halt, due to entropy. Turing was wrong. His proof only works in a fantasy world.

That's the nature of mathematics: we create fantasy worlds (with assumptions and axioms), then try to determine the properties of those fantasy worlds using equations and logic (lemmas and proofs).

Sometimes the real world provides a decent approximation for the fantasy world (in which case the results are useful: subjects such as physics or engineering provide lots of examples of this), but in other cases it doesn't.

In this particular case, the authors still have not shown a convincing application of the math. It's not clear they understand the distinction between fantasy and reality.

about 2 months ago

Intel Announces Major Reorg To Combine Mobile and PC Divisions

redlemming Re:AMD wins again (75 comments)

I'm Sr sysadmin for a medium sized company and I haven't encountered a single person - outside of a geologist or engineer that needs real power - who prefers a desktop to a laptop in many years.

CPU power is not the only issue.

Desktops can be made really quiet, far more so than laptops of comparable power. There are a number of clever solutions to achieve this, each addressing different aspects of computer noise, such as the huge "NoFan" heatsinks. The lack of machine noise can be very useful in many work environments. Artists, for example, often value silence when they work.

Also, desktops can run really high end graphics cards: nice if you want good performance while running multiple big monitors (i.e. 30"). I'd really hate to develop software on even the largest laptop screen, after getting used to the convenience of the large desktop screens. One doesn't have to be a power-user (or be doing work requiring a high end CPU) to appreciate the large screens. A high end laptop might be able to drive these screens, but probably not very well.

Some jobs generate or work with lots of data, without necessarily requiring a high end CPU (i.e. data access speed, not CPU speed, limits throughput). It's much easier (and quieter) to cool a multi-hard-drive array in a big case, leading to longer drive life and better performance. Some of the better cases have 200mm fans, which can spin a lot slower than smaller fans while generating far better cooling. Laptops can't even come close to this, either in terms of cooling or drive size. The case for the array doesn't necessarily have to be the same case as one's motherboard, of course. But if you need the big case anyway, it might make sense to put the motherboard in it (and you'll probably have fewer issues with the RAID controller).

Physical security with desktops is much easier to enforce than with laptops, for those sites with stringent security requirements.

From a home use perspective, you won't get good quality graphics on multiple screens using a flight simulator, without a big case and real full-size graphics cards - no laptop can do this. For that matter, you won't get good quality graphics on even single screens for high end games without a really high end laptop (and one that isn't all that portable), which makes the (much less expensive) desktop alternative pretty appealing.

Desktops are still far more upgradable than laptops. A good case and power supply can outlast many motherboards, and give a net cost savings compared to purchasing multiple laptops.

Laptops tend to fail more often than desktops, and are harder to repair.

In my experience, the overhead types like the managers and marketing people prefer the laptops for convenience, but the savvy technical folks often still like the desktops.

about 2 months ago

Group Tries To Open Source Seeds

redlemming Re:More power to you (100 comments)

But I wonder if the food we grow are always based on scientifically optimal choices or often based on other factors. Like one crop being grown more widely because it commands a higher price. Or changing food habits and inordinate preference to certain grains and veggies.

As a gardener, I can tell you that there is a surprising amount we don't know about the things we grow. Every time I start working on learning to grow a new fruit or vegetable I rediscover this.

For example, take strawberries. The conventional wisdom is that a strawberry plant will bear well for a few years, then needs to be replaced. And yet I hear people claiming that they have strawberry patches which they've basically done nothing to maintain, which have produced lots of fruit for decades. As far as I can tell, nobody knows what governs and limits the production of strawberry plants with any degree of scientific accuracy.

For another example, the conventional wisdom is that one should not grow blackberries and raspberries in close proximity, because of the risk of disease being transmitted from one to the other. But I know people in my area that do just that, and have done so for decades without any problems. Again, nobody seems to have studied this to see under what circumstances this is possible.

The whole subject of diseases and pests is an area where it seems our scientific knowledge is pretty limited. There are lots of major pests we don't know how to control or prevent, with reasonable certainty that the approach will be safe over the long term. In some parts of the country, goats are being used for weed control, because they do a better job than anything humans have been able to come up with!

The tools available for making measurements are very primitive as well. For example, getting soil samples analyzed is not too hard if one sends the sample off to a lab, but the availability and capability of measurement tools that work on-site is still quite limited. One can not simply buy a tricorder-like tool to measure soil, identify insects, detect harmful fungi and microorganisms, and so forth. Many of the tools that are available (such as automated weather stations) are plagued with reliability and quality control problems.

Since science is based on measurement, limitations on measurement mean we have limitations on the science. Perhaps someday we'll have nanotechnology devices that can be embedded in plants or fruit trees to monitor various aspects of their health.

In short, there are all kinds of basic questions we don't have scientific answers to, and thus there is no reasonable to suppose we are even close to being "scientifically optimal" in our food production.

about 2 months ago

Americans Rejoice At Lower Gas Prices

redlemming Re:Let's have a $7/gallon fuel tax (334 comments)

Taxing fuel at such an astronomical rate will certainly lower the amount of fuel use, but how many businesses will have to shut down because customers can't afford to blow $14 on fuel that they weren't spending before just to patronize those businesses?

This is actually massively under-stating the problem. The costs of all kinds of things go up proportionate to the tax on fuel, and these costs primarily impact the poor and the middle class (effectively increasing concentration of wealth in the super-rich).

It's not just customers that have to spend money on fuel, it's all the people that keep the public and private infrastructure of society in working order: the utility workers, the plumbers, the carpenters, the electricians, the safety inspectors, the fire fighters, the police officers, the medical personnel, and so forth. In most cases, it isn't practical for these people to do most of their work remotely (or even to live close to their jobs).

There are also people who need to move around as part of keeping the natural environment healthy, such as forest rangers (doing all kinds of jobs), scientists, hunters (hunters help to keep animal populations under control), and volunteers doing all kinds of things. All this requires vehicle transportation.

In some parts of the USA, goats are used at sites overrun with noxious and invasive non-native weeds, as a form of weed control that doesn't involve man-made chemicals (with their unknown and potentially disastrous long term environmental consequences). The goats need to be moved from site to site, and taken care of, which requires movement of people and supplies. If we increase the cost of innovative approaches like this to dealing with environmental problems, we force the use of more man-made chemicals. A gas tax policy intended to help the environment could actually end up harming it!

Then there's the issue of bringing food to the markets. This applies both to the big commercial markets, and to the small farmers markets that are so important to getting fresh, organic food grown by people one actually knows (and also helping independent farmers outside the corporate farming system -- with all its well documented problems such as over-use of anti-biotics -- to survive).

There's also the issue of needing transportation to get to places where one can do healthy exercise (such as swimming pools), thus maintaining the physical fitness of members of society and reducing the negative health and economic impacts of obesity. The poor have a lot less time available to include exercise in their lives than the rich, and anything that makes it harder to do this has negative consequences to society.

There's also the issue of getting to school for classes, something particularly important not just for the young, but for all those that need re-training or need to develop new skills to have reasonable prospects of improving their lives over the long term (and improving their children's lives). Much of this education, such as trade school education, can not be conducted remotely because of the need for hands on activities (we should be vastly improving our capability to do remote education, but that is a separate issue). The poor and the middle class have the most need for continuing education, and thus are hurt the most by these policies.

In short, a sales tax on gas not only hurts the poor and the middle class directly in terms of getting to their jobs and to places where they can buy food, but hurts these folks (and society in general) in all kinds of indirect ways.

A lot of folks in our society are making claims that a tax on gas is friendly to society and the environment, and producing all kinds of propaganda to support these claims, but they don't seem to have the intelligence to be think about the negative consequences of doing this. These policies are not necessarily friendly to society, and in some ways they aren't even friendly to the environment. Perhaps we should view people that favor these taxes as people that hate society and hate the environment!

If we're going to have sales taxes at all, these should only be imposed on a very small set of luxury items such as commercially produced alcohol.

A far better approach to the fossil fuel issue is to tax based on income, with the wealthy paying more, then use that tax to fund research and development of technologies that will allow society to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels over the long term. In addition, we might allow tax deductions for money donated directly to such research and development (since government is not always the most intelligent or efficient at allocating funds, letting people have some say in where their money gets spent makes a lot of sense). If there is a need for more government control over the oil companies, that can addressed as a separate issue.

about 3 months ago

Undersized Grouper Case Lands In Supreme Court

redlemming Re:If they're going literal.... (251 comments)

Ultimately, SCOTUS decides what the Constitution means, and if they get it wrong, the only recourse is a civil war or a constitutional amendment.

This is not entirely true. The civil rights movement of the 60's, for example, produced a complete turn-around with respect to the willingness of the US legal profession to tolerate segregation and the "Jim Crow" laws. Members of the press, members of the public serving on juries, and many others have the ability to influence things, in a small way, over the long term. A number of key Supreme Court decisions have been reversed over the history of the Court as a result, and in other cases the policies of the legal profession simply get ignored (which shows some people in positions of authority have internalized the lesson of Nuremberg).

Further, I believe that many of the current unethical practices in law can only exist in the shadows: as public awareness of the problems in law grows, this makes it harder and harder for these practices to continue. In some sense, public awareness can assist the Supreme Court in making decisions that would otherwise require an army.

I've overheard people speculating that things have gotten so bad that we might require another civil war to fix them. Inaction by the Supreme Court and others, or a refusal to face these issues, in itself could be a factor that precipitates that civil war.

The bottom line is that these issues are not as easy as you suggest. The problem is not so much ethics, but the mismatch between the English language and the real world.

I don't for a moment think these things are easy: if they were, the problems would have been solved a long time ago. To some extent, while the technology has changed from the 18th century, we're still dealing with many of the same fundamentally hard problems, because human nature has not changed. For that matter, one can go back to Thucydides and see some of the same issues we deal with today, simply expressing themselves in different forms appropriate to the technology and social structures of the day!

The details of the problems faced from one era to the next are different, but the underlying issues have many parallels, and thus the mechanisms created in the past to deal with various kinds of problems -- such as the 9th Amendment -- are still very much applicable.

I'm also quite aware of the ambiguity of natural language (probably a large percentage of the Slashdot community has some experience with that, since it has so much impact on what so many of us do). Any system human beings develop and maintain must deal with the ambiguity of natural language, so it is important not to let this issue deter us from making necessary and desirable changes to the system we currently have. We should not let the issue of human imperfection in language deter us from acting, because nothing human beings do is perfect.

It seems to me that some ethical conflicts of interest which (apparently) nobody paid any attention to during the WW2 era would not be tolerated today. This shows that progress in ethics is possible.

It is possible that the Internet will provide an opportunity to help correct a lot of problems with the US legal system, by providing educational resources that people are actually willing to use, and by helping people who might not otherwise ever meet get together to solve problems they might not otherwise be able to solve! Perhaps the Internet will become a tool to help fix some of the ethics problems in law that prior generations could not address.

We of today look back at the past and wonder how they could have tolerated slavery, or the Jim Crow laws and segregation. Hopefully the future will look back at us and wonder how we could have tolerated so many ethics problems in our legal system!

about 3 months ago

Undersized Grouper Case Lands In Supreme Court

redlemming Re:If they're going literal.... (251 comments)

The only real hope is a constitutional amendment limiting the interstate commerce clause.

We've already got one: the 9th Amendment.

James Madison wrote the 9th Amendment to deal with the objection of the Anti-Federalists that the original Constitution had no Bill of Rights, and that any Bill of Rights would be incomplete. He cleverly wrote the federal Bill of Rights to be open-ended, allowing the people to assert rights as needed when the government attempts to act against individual rights. This is how we have the 9th Amendment.

The history of the writing of the Bill of Rights shows clearly that it supersedes the original Constitution in all respects: it IS the highest law in the land.

After all, two states refused outright to ratify without a Bill of Rights, and in others promises were made by men of honor who were trusted that a Bill of Rights would be added, and ratification was made with respect to those promises (and in full knowledge that it was neither militarily nor politically feasible to force a state to remain part of the Union -- at that time -- and that the states had already discarded one system of government and were certainly able to do it again).

As such, any rights asserted under the 9th Amendment, as part of the highest law of the land, supersede the interstate commerce clause.

Hence, the federal government can only act under this clause when it does not infringe any rights the people might reasonably want to assert as being "retained" by them.

Rights retained by the people being retained by the people, by definition it is not within the authority of any entity of government to deny or limit these rights. The phrase "any entity of government" necessarily includes the Supreme Court. It is also not within the authority of any profession to deny or limit these rights, including the legal profession. Any assertion to the contrary necessarily contradicts the Bill of Rights.

The issue is not that we don't have an amendment to deal with government abuse of power, the issue is getting law enforcement officials, legal professionals, legislators, and so forth (i.e. all those people who swear oaths to uphold the Bill of Rights) to remember the 9th Amendment exists.

The big problem here is the US legal profession has an ENORMOUS ethical conflict of interest with respect to doing this. Supreme Court justices are every bit as subject to ignoring their ethical obligations here as any other lawyer. Indeed, there is good reason to suppose that nobody gets selected for the Court unless they have proven their willingness to do so.

Legal ethics is the bogeyman of US law, since enormous portions of the current legal system can reasonably be supposed to violate the 9th Amendment right to ethical practice of law (a point that has been made numerous times on Slashdot with respect to all kinds of issues).

With the legal profession going astray, it becomes very hard to deal with law enforcement and government agencies when they go astray in turn. Think of a system of dominoes, where one falling causes the next to topple.

It's not clear what the solution is to this problem in general, but it is clear that dealing with the ethics issue will have to be part of any practical solution.

In this specific case, both the law and its application have some fundamental problems. Good luck getting the US legal profession to acknowledge that, or act appropriately in response to those problems. The precedent set at Nuremberg has yet to sink in with these people.

about 3 months ago

Ferguson No-Fly Zone Revealed As Anti-Media Tactic

redlemming Re: While I hate the media circus... (265 comments)

Actually, the first amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting..." As far as I know, a temporary flight restriction is not a law, and was not published by Congress. Therefore, while this may still be illegal, it's likely not unconstitutional.

Incorrect. The 14th Amendment extends the 1st Amendment to cause it to apply to state (and local) governments.

In fact, it more or less -- here's where you need a lawyer -- extends every federal protection to limit state and local governments. In practice, there is a long history of this being ignored!

The 14th Amendment was deliberately written (after the Civil War) to close loopholes that the Southern states had taken advantage of (or even created in the first place) to protect the slave system.

For example, in James Madison's original text of the Bill of Rights, what would eventually become the 1st Amendment was explicitly written to cover BOTH state and federal governments (a fact which nicely kills the myth that the Bill of Rights was intended only to apply to the federal government). The wording was changed when the Bill of Rights went through the Senate, but as far as I know there is no documentation giving the reason the wording was changed. It was probably done by the Southern states, who then took advantage of the loophole in passing laws authorizing them to imprison people that spoke out against slavery (that happened on several occasions).

Getting the 14th Amendment approved required some sneaky and underhanded stuff to make sure the southern states (this was just after the Civil War) could not block it (not the mention the need to run over the opposition of the President: Lincoln's successor had VERY good relations with many slave holders, and almost managed to undo the effects of the Civil War). Garrett Epps book on the 14th Amendment ("Democracy Reborn") covers this in detail.

It shouldn't have been necessary to write the 14th Amendment, of course, since the 9th Amendment by itself should have been sufficient to assert any right needed that was not explicitly stated, even against state and local governments. That's why it was included, after all!

In practice getting government (and the US legal profession) to acknowledge the limitations on their actions created by the Bill of Rights is often difficult, and that is just as true today as it was back then.

about 3 months ago

Virginia Court: LEOs Can Force You To Provide Fingerprint To Unlock Your Phone

redlemming Re:Passwords Shouldn't Be Protected (328 comments)

The anomaly here is due to the idea that fifth amendment protections should apply to passwords.

The anomaly is much more fundamental than a mere Fifth Amendment issue.

Under the written text of the 1st Amendment, Congress can pass no law infringing freedom of speech. The 14 Amendment can reasonably be taken to extend this limitation to state and local government. But no judge can coerce any form of testimony without a law authorizing that coercion. Hence, we have a contradiction, between an explicit "no law" and the existence of laws that do exactly what the "no law" text prohibits.

Contradictions in the legal system inherently represent unethical practice of law on the part of the legal professionals writing, judging, using and enforcing the laws. Failure on the part of legal professionals to recognize reasonable interpretations by non-professionals also constitutes unethical practice of law. In both cases, the legal profession is in a position of ethical conflict of interest with respect to decisions that increase the complexity of the legal system, thus artificially increasing the demand for the services of legal professionals.

Thus, as a consequence of the 9th Amendment right to ethical practice of law, no court can require a coerced password. Any court that rules to the contrary, including SCOTUS, is in violation of the oaths sworn to uphold the Bill of Rights. Such oaths being a precondition for holding such office, the judges involved immediately and permanently cease to be judges.

The only legitimate way in which the government could authorize coercion of passwords is to amend the Constitution, and even then the right to ethical practice of law (as an universal and inalienable right) would disallow amendment in some circumstances.

If you study the history of law in the USA, you'll notice the US legal profession is perfectly willing to ignore these kinds of ethics issues, and this sort of oathbreaking. This is why people don't trust lawyers. As the saying goes, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

One could reasonably assert another right another the 9th Amendment, namely that no person can be compelled to assist the police in any way, which would (in combination with reasonable limitations on the use of force by the police) neatly deal with the fingerprint issue.

about 3 months ago

Creationism Conference at Michigan State University Stirs Unease

redlemming Re: It makes you uneasy? (1007 comments)

and by what right would you keep them out? :)

I'm sure the university has a right to keep people off their property.

yes, it can say, please don't trespass unless student of faculty

Typical laws in the US regarding trespassing are overly broad. It is perfectly reasonable for people to travel across university grounds (and most other private or public lands), provided they do so in a reasonable manner (i.e. not obstructing or interfering with people, not making excessive noise, not littering, and so forth). Reasonable conduct is necessarily protected conduct, as an matter of fundamental rights.

It follows that Property Law in the USA, as it is commonly written, exists in violation of the right to travel, one of the rights arising under the 9th Amendment, and which federal courts have described as being subject to "strict scrutiny". This body of law, as it is commonly written, is illegal.

We can make an exception to the exercise of the right to travel in the close vicinity of a building that is primarily a home, as part of protecting the 9th Amendment right to privacy. Even then, a strong case can be made that private regions of a property should not be set up in such a manner as to obstruct access to areas of public interest (such as public lands or scenic locations).

Many areas of US federal, state, and local law involve violations the Bill of Rights in one way or another, particularly the 9th Amendment right to ethical practice of law (a point that has been discussed many times on Slashdot in the context of subjects such as patent and copyright law). That property law also ends up violating fundamental rights should not be seen as surprising.

Strong property law is necessary to successful capitalism, but overly strong property rights are tremendously harmful to a nation.

It seems likely that the current state of affairs came about in part because of the inheritance from English Common Law, which was set up by rich property owners (in the old days, wealth was primarily associated with land ownership), and the lawyers who wanted to make lots of money representing them, and thus unduly favors property owners at the expense of fundamental rights.

At this point, it is probably hard to find any major area of US law free of serious legal ethics problems. Like a cancer that has metastasized, ethics problems are now found throughout the body of US law, and curing the disease is proving to be incredibly difficult.

Ironically, Britain now recognizes the right to roam, after a 60 year long battle by hikers and others, in the form of the "Countryside and Rights of Way Act". Many other nations have similar rights, often going back centuries in practice but only codified in law recently.

about 3 months ago

First Commercial Mission To the Moon Launched From China

redlemming Re:China is more capitalistic than the USA (73 comments)

Socialism gets a bad rap because humans aren't yet evolved to make it naturally work voluntarily on a massive scale

Not true. Socialism involves group ownership of the means of production (i.e. wikipedia "Socialism is a social and economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy, as well as a political theory and movement that aims at the establishment of such a system").

The problem is that this removes the element of individual incentive that is necessary to deal with the complexity of the world.

This isn't something we can evolve to deal with on any reasonable time scale. Even with computers we have only limited means to deal with that complexity: the real world is non-linear and non-digital, even chaotic, and computers aren't good at dealing with any of those! Things simply get worse, of course, when you factor human contrariness into the mix.

Thus, socialism has a bad rap not because of evolutionary issues, but because it doesn't work, and we can't expect it ever to work!

This is clearly shown by the failures of socialism in the Soviet Union, in India, and in China. The failures of socialism are well documented in history. Look at the history, and one clearly sees how presumably well meaning individuals created disasters for their people because the systems could not deal with the complexity of the world.

Every socialist I've ever talked to doesn't have a clue about how complex things really are! The "means of production" of even relatively simple technology (such as the computers and cell phones made years ago, now obsolete) involved an enormous number of people doing all kinds of difficult stuff, subject to only limited automation. By "difficult stuff", I include not just design of technology, but logistics, manufacturing, test, distribution, all of which are far more involved than most people even begin to understand (there's other tricky stuff beyond that list, such as how law plays into things).

For that matter, go back and look at how complex a WWI warship was, or a WWII military aircraft! The number of parts and machining steps that went into these incredibly simple (by modern standards) machines is staggering!

Over time, things have only gotten more complex, and ever more specialized, and the socialists are too lost in their childish view of the world to see the implications of this. This leads them fundamentally astray in their reasoning, and they end up being highly delusional (a cause for a bad rap in itself!).

Note that the Nordic countries do not practice socialism. Instead, they heavily tax capitalist enterprise to pay for social welfare programs. This relies on the capitalist systems producing a sufficiently large surplus on resources to be practical, of course. Further, a strong case can be made that these countries are to some extent free-riding on other nations productivity: it is far from clear that every nation could adopt identical programs without everybody suffering.

Thus, rather than advocating socialism, an experiment that has been tried many times and failed disastrously every time, we should recognize that successful capitalism is necessary to effective social welfare, and focus on improving the social welfare programs we do have. Similarly, to the extent that a society has issues with over-concentration of wealth, or unethical practices in law or business, or corrupt politics, and so forth, then it needs to address those problems directly, rather than wasting time on an approach that is never going to work.

about 3 months ago

Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes

redlemming Re:This is silly (720 comments)

Never mind that states with higher minimum wage have higher job growth [time.com].

This has been debunked many times. All kinds of stuff gets made up and/or misinterpreted by the press and politicians, as a result of political bias, meaning there is a lot of misinformation out there about any major political issue.

Social scientists have studied minimum wage at length, in many peer-reviewed studies. You can find extensive references in the book entitled "Minimum Wages" by David Neumark and William L. Wascher, also most of the major studies are published online and not behind paywalls.

The preponderance of evidence does show beyond a reasonable doubt that minimum wage results in price increases do get passed on to the consumer, over the long term, and that minimum wages affect employment in a negative manner for some categories of people, over the long term.

Note the words "long term". It can take a year or more for effects to show themselves. Businesses considering replacing employees with automation, for example, can not suddenly do this the day after a law is passed.

Note that this long term consideration makes measurement difficult, since a lot can change over a year in a local economy, creating all kinds of opportunities for biased politicians and members of press to mislead the public.

Ignoring these studies is like ignoring the research on climate change because one does not like science.

Note that none of this means that minimum wages are bad: if the economy is growing in an area, the negative impact of minimum wages can be hidden (growth can be expected to less than it would otherwise be, but most people don't notice or care about that kind of thing when things are going well), and there are some benefits to society from these policies. For example, high school students who expect not to get jobs may be motivated to get more education and build more skills before entering the workforce, a decision that can be of considerable long term benefit to both the individual and society.

Expecting minimum wage increases to hurt the super-wealthy is naive.

The big question is: Can we get the same benefits from other policies, with fewer disadvantages?

about 3 months ago

Michigan Latest State To Ban Direct Tesla Sales

redlemming Re:Maybe you can't (256 comments)

Title means you own the car.

Registration means you rent it from the government each year.

about 3 months ago

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

redlemming Re:Let me get this right (839 comments)

The vast majority of poor and middle class income comes from withholdings. So fixing the income tax
system would do nothing to stop the millions of rich people from dodging taxes.

These are two separate issues.

By "fixing the income tax system" I meant a) greatly simplifying it, and b) dealing with some well known loopholes that can't be addressed by mere simplification.

The big advantage to simplifying the tax system is it makes it harder to hide loopholes (as a side effect, it prevents bribing legislators for favorable tax status). Ideally the entire tax code should fit in a 5-10 page document, and a typical individual tax form should be a page or less. This is a huge win from a legal and governmental ethics perspective.

Dealing with certain specific loopholes (such as treating long term income differently from short term income, i.e. capital gains) would address the issue of rich folks dodging taxes. The trick would be to do this in a rational manner, which probably means only taxing when assets are sold (or transferred out of the country).

The new system could (and should) still be progressive (meaning the rich pay more, percentage-wise). We can also still have a withholding component to the system, to help those that benefit most from this (probably most of us!).

I think it's nieve to say that the income tax is the best we can do. Surely we can come up with something better.

The challenge is to come up with a tax that doesn't involve excessive government, excessive bureaucracy, or infringements of fundamental rights. Nothing else is really compatible with the ideal of living in a free country, an ideal that should determine all government. So far, nobody has come up with anything occur than income tax that can do a reasonable job of achieving this (assuming we don't want to tax imports, which would be the other option).

about 3 months ago

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

redlemming Re:Let me get this right (839 comments)

The point is to shift from taxing income which is hard to track and shift to consumption of goods which is easier to track and also is the bigger concern as the consuming more than your fair share is really the problem, not the making more than your fair share.

Consumption of goods (and services) is NOT easier to track. Black markets exist everywhere, especially near borders.

Border situations pose especially difficult problems for sales taxes, a point that has been discussed numerous times on Slashdot. Look up the prior discussions.

The Internet means the concept of what constitutes a "Border" has fundamentally changed. It used to be only a small portion of people in a given State would live near the border (but there were still border issues associated with city and county borders, and both these entities can potentially impose their own sales taxes).

Even in the old days, of course, there were serious civil rights issues involved in sales tax policy (issues which continue to this day) associated with the border problem. Again, prior discussions have gone over this at length.

But today, because of the Internet, everybody effectively lives near a border.

It is utterly impractical to track sales transactions across borders, especially electronic borders, without the government becoming a massive police state. At that point, the historical evidence from places like the Soviet Union indicates that we would have huge black markets! We would be far worse off than we are now!

Therefore, to implement the "Fair Tax" requires throwing out the Bill of Rights. This is why an earlier poster mentioned that the "Fair Tax" has been repeatedly debunked.

Problematic though it is, an income based tax is the only sane form of general taxation for a nation that chooses to support large amounts of government spending.

Further, most of the problems with income tax come from unnecessary complexity in the tax laws (laws which, because of this complexity, violate the 9th Amendment right to ethical practice of law, another point that has been made many times on this forum).

If the complexity was removed from the tax system, government would primarily be monitoring businesses for compliance (the vast majority of the tax income would come from withholding), rather than having to spy on every single individual, a far better situation from a civil rights perspective.

The clear conclusion is that should be focusing our efforts on fixing the problems with income tax (and completely getting rid of sales taxes), instead of wasting time and effort on utterly impractical diversions proposed by people unable to understand the consequences of implementing their ideas.

about 3 months ago

Silk Road Lawyers Poke Holes In FBI's Story

redlemming Re:Perjury (191 comments)

Sadly, too many people are blind to it because it doesn't affect them in their day to day lives...

Totally incorrect. Unethical practice of law, which is ultimately behind all of these abuses of government authority, or which allows those abuses to happen, is something that affects everybody, in their day to day lives.

We have laws that contradict each other, and laws that are overly complex, and laws that are ambiguous. If people can't easily understand the legal system, that creates an artificial demand for the services of legal professionals. Contradictions in the laws allow government entities to pick the version that favors them in any given situation!

Many of the laws we have either infringe fundamental rights directly, or allow those rights to be infringed indirectly. This creates a demand for legal professionals to protect people from their own legal system. It's a lot like an organized crime protection racket.

Unethical practice of law affects what can be in the contracts you sign, and what limitations can be placed on property you own, creating all kinds of interference with reasonable conduct. It creates quasi-governmental organizations such as HOAs that are immune to any standards of ethical behavior that might be expected of a government, and not subject to respecting the Bill of Rights, but effectively function as yet another layer government, creating enforceable rules and regulations (often really stupid ones that clearly violate fundamental rights).

Unethical practice of law raises the costs of every good or service people buy. It affects what people can build on their property, and how many bureaucratic hoops people have to jump though to get permission to build (and whether they need that permission in the first place). It massively increases the complexity of the tax system, and the amount of taxes people in low income jobs have to pay (overly complex tax codes lend themselves to the creation of a wide variety of taxes, which in turn results in regressive taxes such as sales taxes). It affects the ability of people who do creative work, as they always running the risk that some otherwise indecipherable patent will turn out, with an appropriate translation, to create ownership by somebody else of one's own ideas.

The right to ethical government can be asserted under the 9th Amendment (which would prevent the government from benefiting from abusive seizures), but since the right to ethical practice of law can ALSO be asserted under the 9th Amendment, and the US legal profession is terrified people might eventually figure this out, they pretend the 9th Amendment doesn't exist! This in turn creates all kinds of additional problems, that affect ordinary people in their day-to-day lives. For example, the right to travel and the right to roam certainly arise under the 9th Amendment (even backwards England recognizes the right to roam!), but property owners are allowed to block the exercise of the these rights since the 9th Amendment isn't respected (typically they do this because of fear of lawsuits, resulting from unethical practice of law in the tort system). This in turn means people can't hike in many places where they should be able to hike.

I could go on, but that's enough!

about 4 months ago

California Governor Vetoes Bill Requiring Warrants For Drone Surveillance

redlemming Re:What would be wrong with more requirements? (115 comments)

The constitution is there to limit government. There is nothing wrong with limiting government more than the bare minimum limits defined by the constitution. In fact, I would say there is a good case today for rewriting the constitution using far more strict, unambiguous modern language with far more limitations than it currently has.

A rewrite is not necessary (and would be dangerous, since it would almost certainly be under the control of a legal profession that routinely ignores many ethics issues).

When James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights, he had the difficult task of condensing a long list of proposed rights into a manageable list. He did this by providing for the assertion unspecified rights "retained by the people" in the 9th Amendment, and "reserved to the people" in the 10th. A document with around one hundred rights, after all, would please nobody but a lawyer (and an unethical one, at that).

Most of the problems we have with government today (and many historical problems) involve violations of fundamental individual rights reasonably asserted as being "retained to the people".

Probably the single biggest right that is routinely violated, affected every major area of law (and many of the other fundamental rights that get violated), is the right to ethical practice of law, a right applicable not just to legal professionals as individuals but to legal professionals as a group or class in society.

Rather than writing more laws, or rewriting the Constitution, we instead need to be going after the legal profession for unethical practice of law, not just as individuals, but as a group (in the sense that many aspects of the current legal system create long term artificial demand for the services of legal professionals, something that benefits many members of the profession, arguably the majority).

Many of the unethical practices embedded in the practice of law only survive because the public is seldom unaware of the huge scope of the ethics problem (and is easily distracted, or deluded into thinking the problems are the result of the "other" party).

Correcting the systemic ethics problems in the US legal system would be a major step towards using the 9th and 10th Amendments as they were intended to be used. It is likely that this would in turn result in a culture change in government and law enforcement that would result in far fewer violations of fundamental rights over the long term. It could also result in a culture change regarding the conduct of business, solving another large set of problems (the right to long term oversight of business is certainly another fundamental right).

Putting this in other words, the principle that the government that "governs least, governs best", is as much as anything a statement regarding legal ethics. It is impossible for a people to control their government if they do not understand and pay attention to legal ethics.

about 3 months ago

Cuba Calculates Cost of 54yr US Embargo At $1.1 Trillion

redlemming Re:RT.com? (540 comments)

In neither Norway nor Sweden are the means of production owned by the state

Some people believe these are socialist states. That's a misunderstanding of the term socialism (just as it is grossly misleading to call systems such as the British health care system socialist).

It's more accurate to say these are capitalist states that use some of the surplus resources generated by their capitalism to fund social programs (such as the kinds of things you mentioned in your list). This does not make them socialist.

It's also worth noting that these small states depend in part in capitalism in other states with larger economies, since they can't even come close to funding the kind of research and manufacturing that the bigger states can, which affects all kinds of things (like health care). In a sense, they mooch off the larger capitalist states. If they had to fund everything themselves, they would not be able to provide high quality social services over the long term.

I'd go further and say that is it misleading and dangerous to claim these are socialist states, it simply encourages the true socialists, who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that socialism (as it is classically defined) has been tried many times over the past century and more, and has been a massive failure every time. Encouraging people this deluded is never a good idea.

Alternately, we can think of calling Norway and Sweden "socialist" as falling prey to socialist propaganda.

In fact, not only has socialism been a huge failure, the most successful anti-poverty or welfare program in the history of the human race was the Chinese switch from socialism to capitalism, which brought millions of people out of poverty. Similarly, India (while it still has a long way to go) has seen huge improvements in the standards of living of much of the population since switching from socialism to capitalism.

The right path forward for humanity (in terms of the greatest good) does not involve switching from capitalism to socialism, it involves for each nation figuring out how much of a nation's production can be allocated for the general good, then trying to spend those resources as efficiently as possible. Also, just as Adam Smith noted, some regulation of capitalism is necessary for the greater good.

If a nation takes too much of it's production to spend on social causes, it goes into debt, which is likely to cripple it over the long term (something the USA and Britain are struggling with now, yes I know the USA doesn't spend it's resources well but that is a separate issue).

There are two fundamental issues here that the true socialists do not want to understand, namely 1) that production is very inefficient under their system, and 2) that taking too much of the production of any system to fund social causes cripples the system and hurts everybody (creating a welfare state and/or massive levels of corruption). This is why encouraging socialists is a bad idea. Instead we should be focusing on finding a reasonable level of production of allocate to social causes, and then paying attention to spending that production with a reasonable level of efficiency.

about 5 months ago

Top EU Court: Libraries Can Digitize Books Without Publishers' Permission

redlemming Re:Legal Deposit (102 comments)

It would nice if this was extended to requiring source code for all software/web pages, and HDL for all hardware/firmware, to be deposited. It is, after all, part of the intellectual record and publishing heritage of the nation.

I suppose this material wouldn't necessarily have to be released to the public right away, to provide a reasonable period of time of protection for trade secrets.

Is anything along those lines being pursued?

about 5 months ago

Cuba Calculates Cost of 54yr US Embargo At $1.1 Trillion

redlemming Re:RT.com? (540 comments)

This is INDEPENDENT of any other economic axis. You can have capitalist socialist countries, fascist socialist countries, marxist socialist countries, and even free-market socialist countries.

You appear to be using some sort of non-standard definition of socialism and capitalism that you haven't provided. By the standard definitions, the above is not a correct statement, i.e.:

"Socialism is a social and economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy"


"Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industry, and the means of production are largely or entirely privately owned and operated for profit."

where both quotes are taken from Wikipedia.

Social ownership of the means of production is not compatible with private ownership: they are completely opposite things. Further, operating "for profit" of private owners is very different from operating with "co-operative management" for the benefit of society.

The existence of welfare or public aid programs in a state is not socialism. Many states throughout history have had welfare, e.g. the Roman "bread and circuses" and the British "Poor Laws" going back to 1536.

Were you trying to suggest that some sectors of an economy could be run in a socialist manner, while others were run in a capitalist way? Is there any nation that does this?

about 5 months ago


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