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Comment Read Plato's "Republic" (Score 1) 609

Plato's classic work "The Republic" does what I think is a pretty good job of analyzing various forms of government in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. His analysis of the weaknesses of democracy is, I think, particularly insightful. His conclusion - based on the evidence of history up to his time (early 4th century BCE) - is that reprensentative democracies are extremely responsive to the will of their citizens in their early days, when the voters are afire with enthusiasm for the task, and mostly knowlegeable about the issues to be addressed. However, as time goes on, the citizenry tires of the demands of informed governance and begins paying less and less attention, until only an active few bother to study the issues and evidence needed to govern wisely.

At that point, demagogues arise, offering simplistic solutions to the now-largely-uninformed electorate, with the goal of empowering themselves and/or their patrons at the expense of the commonweal. The result - inevitably, in Plato's view - is either a demagogic tyranny (which eventually either becomes a monarchy or sparks a revolution against the tyrant), or an oligarchy or plutocracy, thinly disguised as a nominal democracy (but which is entirely anti-democratic in actual practice).

Unfortunately, Plato's proposed solution to the array of sub-optimal government models is an ant-like, essentially communist state, led by a council of "philosopher-kings". The society he advocates is based on a rigid caste system, with strict rules of conduct, enforced by Draconian penalties for what he defines as subversive activities (including the death penalty for poetry and music!). It employs a ubiquitous secret police force to continuously spy on the "citizens" of his misnamed "republic" - which is, in fact, the most repugnantly repressive model of a dictatorship by central committee I can imagine. Plato's entire rationale for this hideous excuse for a government is that philosophers are obviously the wisest members of society, and thus the fittest to rule.

And, yes, if it sounds familiar, that's because Lenin based his governance model for the USSR on a blend of Marxian economics and Platonic leadership ideas.

I'm a fan of Dr. DeGrasse-Tyson, but I suspect he has not read "The Republic". At least, not recently ...

Submission + - Study finds udio fingerprinting being used to track web users (

thomst writes: Natasha Lomas of TechCrunch reports on a Princeton University study on a new tracking technique that uses the AudioContext API to create a machine-unique signature. The researchers used an open-source tool called OpenWP to scan the top million websites (as determined by Alexa) for clues to trackinhg companies that use the technique.

The good news is that the audio-fingerprinting technique is not yet in wide use by data miners. The bad news is that none of the most commonly-used tracking blockers detects or can prevent its use to stalk users.

Comment Re:Darrell Issa is a perfect example (Score 1) 306

cat_jesus noted:

Darryl Issa is an intelligent guy. He's also a well-educated guy.

Unfortunately, he's also a grandstanding, profoundly partisan hack who doesn't give a damn about facts, because he represents a redder-than-red district, so he only cares about getting more face time on Faux News ...

Comment Re:SEC block? (Score 1) 303

swalve insisted;

There are only two signals you can send to your cable company: giving them money or not giving them money. When you keep giving them money, you are telling them that you approve of their behavior and wish them to continue. Continuing to pay them for a service you don't think is worth the money is utter stupidity.

So, your proposed solution is that I either give up Internet access altogether, or switch to using my ILEC (which means giving up my VoIP landline) for access?

Purely symbolic personal actions are easy - as long as you don't care about self-harm.

The problem is that I have no other choices of ISP. This is not just my personal problem. It is a problem of US national policy. Depriving TW of my monthly fee won't accomplish ANYTHING useful. Changing national policy - making cable ISPs common carriers, being the most obviously useful immediate change - WILL. So I argue in favor of that change, because pursuing that change by publicly advocating it as a response to Comcast's bid to become an effective monopoly player in the US cable industry IS useful.

Denying Comcast's attempt to acquire TW would also be useful - but only in the short run. Making acceptance of common carrier status for their combined ISP business a condition for approval of their merger would be more useful, long-term.

Comment Re:SEC block? (Score 1) 303

swalve sneered:

Then cancel your service.

Is English not your natal language? Because I thought I was pretty clear about being stuck in a local duopoly where the alternative is the ILEC - whose upstream limit on DSL is ~100 kbps.

So, basically, you're suggesting I trade a shit sandwich for diahrrea soup?

Kindly fuck the hell off and die.

Comment Re:SEC block? (Score 2) 303

TrekkieGod warned:

In terms of competition, verizon buying time-warner is a much bigger deal than the blocked attempt of at&t buying t-mobile. This purchase can't possibly be allowed to proceed.

I agree.

An earlier version of the NYT story quoted Comcast's CEO as stating the combined company would only control 30% of the US pay TV market - a claim which purposefully conflates cable MSOs with SATELLITE TV providers. The difference (and it is crucial) between those two delivery models is that virtually every member of Comcast's customer base, and the 8 million net subscribers they expect to acquire from TW also depend on their cable operator as their broadband ISP, whereas almost NONE of DirectTV's customers also use it for Internet service. There's an excellent reason for that: their satellite Internet service is VERY expensive, AND IT SUCKS. It's dogshit slow, monthly data transfer quotas are ludicrously tiny, it's unusably laggy for online gaming and VoIP service (plus, your uplink requires POTS), and rain- or snow-storms make it impossible to use altogether.

Still worse, Comcast has already been caught extorting money from Level 3 Communications to keep Netflix from being throttled, and it counts Netflix streams against customers' monthly data caps, but does not do the same for its own Xfinity app for the Xbox.

Nor, in all fairness, is TW anything approaching a model corporate citizen. This month TW raised my Internet access bill by $5, from $39.99 to $44.99. That's in excess of an 11% increase. Has TW's cost of providing service increased to my rural duopoloy increased by any even marginally-significant amount recently? Oh, HELL NO. That increase was shoved down my throat purely to pump up TW's stock price, SO THAT COMCAST WOULD HAVE TO PAY MORE FOR THE COMPANY. And, of course, Comcast will insist on additional ratepayer robbery to increase the stock price of the combined company, because increased, short-term shareholder return is the ONLY goal of capitalism.

Just ask any MBA.

This scumbaggery must not be allowed to spread.

Comment Re:Deliberately crippled (Score 5, Informative) 118

icebike conjectured:

But it probably gets Google the sats it needs for free.

If google can build it, but only the military can use the full resolution, it sounds like google is probably getting huge piles of money from the US Military.

The summary is completely wrong (surprise!)

Google is NOT building the satellite (note the singular) in question. It will merely be a customer of DigitalGlobe - one of many, including the US government.

Not that the US goverment needs DigitalGlobe's images. After all, the NSA has a fleet of its own satellites with far better image resolution capability than the DigitalGlobe effort.

Slushdot: come for the misleading summaries, stay for the uninformed commentary!

Submission + - Sophisticated Spy Tool 'The Mask' Rages Undetected for 7 Years (

thomst writes: Kim Zetter of Wired's Threat Level reports that Kaspersky Labs discovered a Spanish-language spyware application that employs "uses techniques and code that surpass any nation-state spyware previously spotted in the wild." The malware, dubbed "The Mask" by Kaspersky's researchers, targeted targeted government agencies, diplomatic offices, embassies, companies in the oil, gas and energy industries, and research organizations and activists had been loose on the Internet since at least 2007, before it was shut down last month. It infected its targets via a malicious website that contained exploits — among which were the Adobe Flash player vulnerability CVE-2012-0773 — that affected both Windows and Linux machines. Users were directed to the site via spearphishing emails.

Comment Re:I always thought... (Score 1) 118

wonkey_monkey pointed out:

I maintained:

In the Standard Model, black holes are singularities.

To which wonkey_monkey responded:

Really? I always that the presence of the singularity is what causes the black hole to be, but they're not actually one and the same.

Comological Doctor AC agrees here.

Thanks for calling my attention to his post.

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He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.