Basically people are remarkably stupid (or irrational) when it comes to risk analysis.
As the Cato Institute observes the probability of being killed by a police officer is about eight times the probability of being killed by a terrorist, but we will cede more and more power to the police (increasing the likelihood of dying in a misplaced no-knock raid) to "protect" us from terrorists. Ingredients in food or medications which on balance in small doses have beneficial health effects are banned if massive doses of the same chemical cause cancer in rats. I trust the reader can multiply examples almost ad infinitum.
In each case, the overblown risk is invariably used as an excuse for the expansion of government (in the American context, most often Federal government) power. Woe to politicians if the populace ever develops the ability to rationally weigh risks: as H.L. Mencken observed, "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
Glad to see someone besides mathematicians doing this
Now they need to follow the lead of the editorial board of Topology that resigned en masse: start a new open-access journal published by a professional society (or better still existing entirely online with all the copyright of all articles retained by the author except for permission to the journal to permanently maintain online and archive copies and to all parties to download and print copies from personal use the way Theory and Applications of Categories does).
Great article, except for the use of "IP" in place of copyright.
The phrase "intellectual property" and its acronym "IP", while that latter may have the virtue of brevity in comparison to the phrase "copyrights and patents" (or "copyright and patent" as appropriate) cedes too much territory to the maximalists.
Government-granted monopolies are not property, no matter how many times the lie is repeated. At least those of us who revere the original purpose of copyrights and patents (both under the U.S. Constitution and in the original British instantiations of the modern notions, the Law of Queen Anne and the Statue on Monopolies of 1648) and abhor their corruption by rent-seeking publishers, movies studies, patent trolls and the like, can stop repeating the lie and stop using the phrase "intellectual property" or "IP" except when quoting others. And when we quote them, if at all convenient to the flow of our rhetoric, we should follow with a deconstruction of the notion of "IP" as a corruption of the purpose of copyrights and patents.
It seems to me this "remedy" -- continuing to charge users for a service you are no longer providing, rather than canceling their accounts -- is more worthy of the name "piracy" than sharing copies of electronic files whose content is the object of a government granted monopoly.
Of course health care is not provided by a free market. It is provided by a collection of state-granted monopolies. The latest medical advances (both drugs and medical devices) are all sold under government granted monopolies called "patents". Physicians collectively function like a medieval guild-monopoly -- the state licenses those who can practice medicine (yes, arguably for good reason, though there are places around the margins like delivering healthy babies and a good deal of primary care that can be provided equally well by non-M.D.'s but most of the several states shield physicians from competition) and the profession constricts the supply to keep rates up. In many places a local hospital has a genuine monopoly on providing many forms of health care, as there are no other facilities capable of doing the same for hundreds of miles around.
Even where hospitals in theory should compete, they do not, because third-party payment for most medical services prevents an effective market from developing (and the services are being provided as a front for the guild-monopoly of physicians and the monopolies of medical and pharmaceutical manufacturers).
And all of these monopolies, unlike utility monopolies, have their rates unregulated.
Don't look for anything to fix this. Just as in copyright and general patent matters all of us who read TechDirt are familiar with, the incumbents in the market like things just the way they are, have a lot of political clout, and now, rhetorical cover from the phrase "health care" having been turned into a Newspeak phrase that means any of "health care", "health insurance", "government-run/regulated health insurance", or probably one or two other things according to what the Party needs it to mean at any given moment.
Whatever you think of the Obama/Pelosi reform of health insurance, it didn't do anything to reform health care. What's needed is the recognition that health care is provided by state-granted monopolies and the will to regulate those monopolies as to rates charged.
This somehow reminds me of a former student's science fiction writings, which included a sentient race who knew they were designed, rather than evolved, because their genome and DNA-to-protein mechanisms were based on error correcting codes.
The argument that a DDoS attack is analogous to a sit-in is valid only in the case where the DDoS attack is implemented by lots of people logging onto the site (and hitting their refresh buttons repeatedly) all at once. If automated scripts are used to hit the refresh button or a botnet is used, it's more analogous to some sort of vandalism, say dumping a pile of trash in the entryway to a business.
It would be reasonable to protect hand-implemented crowd-sourced DDoS attacks on First Amendment grounds, while still treating automated DDoS attacks as hacking. (Treating DDoS attacks as terrorism is absurd: If any server is simultaneously running programs so critical to public safety that shutting them down might reasonably be considered a terrorist attack and programs that make it susceptible to DDoS attacks, whoever designed such a system should be sacked for incompetence, the functions split between two servers, and our civil liberties left relatively unmolested.)
Dollar coins, but fewer coins in your pocket anyway
Dollar coins are economical. Pennies (and arguably nickels and even dimes) are uneconomical and pointless -- we abolished the half-cent coin when its purchasing power was greater than that of a present-day dime.
To do it right, besides stopping production of one dollar notes, ramping up production of dollar coins, and abolishing pennies and nickels and adding rounding lines to all cash transactions, we need to introduce a two dollar coin.
The Pro-Market (faction of the Republican) Party speaks!
It comes to me as no surprise that Republicans are speaking up on behalf of copyright reform of the sorts most of us who frequent Techdirt have been calling for. There has always been a pro-market faction in the Republican party -- as distinct from the pro-business faction. If you don't understand the difference, read Luigi Zingales' book A Capitalism for the People. What is surprising is that the pro-market faction carried the day in a body that represents the entire House GOP caucus.
Maybe the GOP will actually become the pro-market party.
Secular Fasting (a.k.a. Meatless Monday) vs. Christian Fasting (Wednesdays and Fridays and....)
In the Orthodox Church, we are bidden to fast on almost every Wednesday and Friday, throughout the 40 day Nativity Fast, the 50 day Great Lent, the variable length Apostles' Fast, and the 15 day Dormition Fast. Fasting consists not in not eating (though there are periods when the strictly observant do that for a day or a few days running) but in eating less than usual and abstaining from all products of vertebrates (meat, milk, eggs, though on certain days fish is permitted), from olive oil (some say all cooking oils) and from wine (and strong drink, some hold beer counts, some don't).
I and my coreligionists jolly well aren't going to go meatless on the Mondays when Holy Mother Church allows us to eat meat just because the USDA or some pack of officious we-know-what's-good-for-you health nuts or "save the planet" do-gooders tells us we should eat less meat for the health and environmental benefits. I invite anyone who thinks people in general should eat less meat to join us on our schedule of not eating meat, from which they will gain more of the same benefits advertised for meatless Mondays (albeit without the alliteration -- of course, "Lunes sin carnes", "lundi sans vivande",... don't alliterate).
The notion that the company having an annual document shredding period called "shred days" or "shredding days" is any proof of wrongdoing is absolute nonsense. It is common practice in many organizations (witness as example, Kansas State University where I am employed) to have periodic "shred days" (called just that in our case) to encourage the timely destruction of confidential records for which the statutory requirement for maintenance has lapsed (e.g. in the university circumstance 6 year old final exams) or for which there was no statutory requirement for maintenance (e.g., again in our case, last semesters' homework papers students didn't claim, but which are still confidential records under FERPA). Surely in the corporate world there are lots of analogous documents which folks idly keep in their files, and for which annual shred days are entirely appropriate and indicate no connivance against potential litigants.
It may well be in the present case the documents that shouldn't have been shredded were reduced to confetti during the prior annual shredding days, but the shredding days themselves is neither here nor there as a point of fact, and hardly indicative of malicious intent on the company's part.
Naturally in any online forum, some nitwit will try to make a moral equivalency between Christianity and Islam to drag the discussion away from the topic at hand to launch attacks on his or her own crabbed view of Christianity.
Have you lost sight of the fact that the producer of the trailer is a Copt, as are the vast majority of Christians in Egypt? Since the seventh century Copts have had to live with persecution by Muslims, sometimes the persecution-lite of paying the jizya, not being able to build churches or fix their churches, having their testimony in courts count for less than the testimony of a Muslim, not being able to answer insults no matter how puerile hurled at them by any Muslim, sometimes the full-on persecution of rape, murder and pillage.
Apparently the producer of the trailer (I, too, doubt there's a full film) is a bit of a low-life, but low-life or not, I can hardly blame him for giving back a bit of the sneering and abuse his ancestors (and perhaps he, if he emigrated here from Egypt) endured now that he has the freedom America offers. The opening, the Coptic family hiding from Muslim fanatics while the police stand by doing nothing, is a representation of a reality of life in Egypt even before the Muslim Brotherhood took over.
Oh, but no, he's a Christian, and according to you because some Christians misbehave in defiance of the basic teachings of their faith and bomb abortion clinics; or because Christians (like everyone else, religious or not) want to see their concept of right and wrong codified in law; or maybe because in defiance of the teachings of Jesus, Christians fought wars of religion almost as bloody as the wars between the Sunnis and the Shi'ite back in the day; or because Christians launched a series of defensive wars called "the Crusades", or [fill in the rest of the list of standard post-"Enlightement" complaints against Christianity here] he should shut up. And, what's more the poster to whom you replied, who drew a valid distinction between the reaction of Christians and Muslims to insults to their respective faiths has no argument because he's drawing a distinction in favor of those awful Christians.
I'm not so sure the fact that Ebersman not being on his way to a job making license plates (i.e. not being prosecuted for fraud) is any evidence of lack of wrong-doing in the representations made in the Facebook IPO. After all, no one has been prosecuted for representing collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) full of sub-prime mortgages as AAA-rated investment instruments.
The Obama Administration, using its very flexible notion of seeing that the laws of the United States be faithfully executed, doesn't seem to feel like prosecuting financial wrong-doing. There is strong evidence of this in comparative rates of prosecutions for financial crimes between the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations, even assuming the underlying rate of exposed financial wrong-doing is constant. When the amount of apparent wrong-doing involved in the 2008 financial crisis is considered, the prosecution rate should have skyrocketed after Obama came in, but instead it collapsed.
It is also possible that the regulatory regimes in place make legal certain behaviors on the part of those selling financial instruments which morally constitute fraud and need to be changed in the interests of investors and the proper functioning of the markets.
Suppose a rock group with the view that the age-long notion of marriage ought not be changed by either courts or religious groups to allow "same sex unions", or some other view disfavored by both Americas' political elites and liberal protestants, barged into the National Cathedral in Washington, uninvited, and performed a raucous prayer, calling on the Virgin Mary to rebuke both the Episcopal Church and the Obama Administration, accompanied by amplified guitars and a confederate who filmed the whole thing to post on YouTube. Anyone care to guess what charges our government would come up with against them and the likely sentence?
Bingo! The preeminent journal in my area of mathematics is now a peer reviewed free online journal that provides LaTeX style files so all the papers end up beautifully typeset in a uniform style, the main service scholarly journals provided back in the old days. The very small cost of running the thing is paid by a Canadian university that maintains a print copy of the journal in its library and hosts the server that maintains the online version. (I'd be happier if it had mirror sites based on a few other continents, but that would triple the donated cost required to keep it up and running.)
Oh, cut it out with the "corporations are people" schtick. The majority in Citizens United did not base the decision on the notion of rights of a corporation as a juridical person, but on the rights of the shareholders, employees and managers as natural persons: their rights codified under the First Amendment are not abrogated by having banded together for a commercial purpose. It just leveled the playing field with labor unions whom no one seems to think should not be able to engage in political speech, even though they,too, are juridical and not natural persons.
Actually it is equally obnoxious for corporate managers to use corporate (ultimately shareholder) resources to engage in political speech without a vote of the shareholders to establish a corporate position, and for union bosses to use union (ultimately worker) resources to engage in political speech without a vote of the rank-and-file to establish a union position.
The free speech rights of corporations are derivative from those of the shareholders, just as those of unions are derivative from those of the members. I suspect fixing both problems in one go, by enacting a law requiring that all political "speech" be approved by majority vote of the shareholders (for joint-stock corporations) or members (for membership-corporations like labor unions) would pass judicial review just fine.
Re: Teaching requires more than just knowing the subject matter
Classroom management I'll give you, though that's only really necessary because the courts have made real discipline in schools nearly impossible to impose and most folks can't keep order by charisma alone, but learning styles? There is no empirical basis for any meaningful instructional improvements based on "learning styles". Everyone learns best by doing, better by both seeing and hearing, and least well by only seeing or hearing. Brain development? Give me a break. I've taught ed majors (or "pre-service teachers" if you want the PC phrase), and the 85% of them who picked the major because it was the easiest on campus will forget whatever facts they memorized about brain development for the final before the start of the next term.
Most of American "teacher education" is indoctrination in Dewey, Vygotsky, "look-say" or "whole language" in place of phonics, the notion that self-esteem is a virtue (it's a vice -- read St. John Cassian or try teaching self-esteem-riden college students if you want to see why), and the latest baleful enthusiasm in math education, and is almost assuredly harmful to pedagogy.
Techdirt is a great bastion of good sense for folks of all political persuasions who see the downside of state-granted monopolies (patents and copyrights) now passed off as "property" rights with the incessant use of the phrase "intellectual property" by those pursuing monopoly rents.
A similar problem exists with state-granted oligopolies, such as the right to produce "qualified teachers" granted to colleges of education, or licensing requirements for virtually any category of jobs (be it physicians, dieticians, school teachers, plumbers, or interior decorators). The state restriction on supply stifles competition and innovation, and encourages rent-seeking behavior on the part of its beneficiaries.
In some cases, physicians, and perhaps dieticians (provided this isn't extended to trying to suppress diet testimonials by ordinary folks) and plumbers working in the context of new construction, the up-side in terms of quality control out-weights the downside. (Though arguably the state restriction on competition ought come with state regulation in the public interest of rates such professions can charge, by analogy to what is done with state grants of utility monopolies.)
In the case of K-12 teachers, I see no up-side. American higher education functions without state-imposed oligopolies being granted to Ph.D.-granting departments to produce "qualified professors", and is the envy of the world, esp. in mathematics and science. American K-12 education labors under such oligopolies and lags the entire developed world, esp. in mathematics and science.
Pirate it, see if you like it, then buy when you find it?
Yup. As Neil Young observed, "Piracy is the new radio." When the RIAA (and MPAA and academic publishers and . . . ) understand that and adapt their business models things will be good for the consumer and in the long run for "content industries". Unfortunately they all seem intent on making the "problem" of "piracy", which if it's not "the new radio" is really a black market in the face of state-created artificial scarcities, rather than "theft", worse by trying to defend their old business models with state power.
Great letter. The only criticism is that they (and we) should not be using the rent-seekers' phrase "intellectual property". Words matter. "Copyrights and patents" isn't that many more characters to type (and in some cases "copyright" suffices), and we should not cede the rhetorical ground that state-granted monopolies (even state-granted monopolies that succeed in some salutary purpose) constitute "property".