Tools to block political BS

5 Ways to Spot a B.S. Political Story in Under 10 Seconds
http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-ways-to-spot-b.s.-political-story-in-under-10-seconds

I highly recommend reading the whole article, but for those of you too busy (or lazy) to read it, here are the highlights…

#5. The Headline Contains the Word “Gaffe”
#4. The Headline Ends in a Question Mark
#3. The Headline Contains the Word “Blasts”
#2. The Headline Is About a “Lawmaker” Saying Something Stupid
and
#1. The Headline Includes the Phrase “Blow To”

Since it appears that the whole point of modern political reporting is to amplify the left and right’s need to suppress the moderate and independent voter by drowning them in bullshit, this article serves as a handy guide for those who still want to read the “only 17 percent of stories are about stuff that matters”.

Face Off!

How to hide from face-detection technology
http://whatsnext.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/29/how-to-hide-from-face-detection-technology/?hpt=hp_c3

It pains me somewhat to have not thought of this before reading the article, but there you go. Sometimes the obvious only becomes so once articulated and this is one of those cases, at least for me.

Just like the whole CAPTCHA thing, there will be an on-going arms race between the designers seeking to defeat the facial recognition systems and the programmers seeking to account for variation and I doubt there will ever be a lasting winner on either side. I do think that the ‘war’ is in its early stages as I suspect the programmers haven’t been giving a lot of thought to people actively attempting to defeat the algorithms, but the cat is out of the bag now and I am sure that even common criminals (apparently facial recognition in England (London in particular) is a very standard thing) can apply makeup well enough to defeat the current algorithms.

It seems that nearly all these algorithms work on the assumption that the image is a plane (i.e., is two dimensional) and as such it is fairly easy to trick them. I have pondered how I would try to build a 3d representation of the view from the 2d images, but sadly (but not surprisingly) no one seems to care about my ideas (I have tried to read several computer vision books and get lost in the math generally in the first chapter, so those people who are good at groking the current paradigm would naturally consider me a moron). It would be interesting to do that sort of research, but it won’t happen on my own time, I already have too damn many projects to take on something like this.

Repeat the lie often enough and it become Truth!

Behind the Right’s Phony War on the Nonexistent Religion of Secularism
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/behind-the-rights-phony-war-on-the-nonexistent-religion-of-secularism-20120425

This quote kind of says it all:

“Mothers have long observed that after the first child starts school, the rest of the family starts catching more colds and flus. But other forms of disease are not so evident. What about the personality traits that start developing? What about the dissatisfaction with family rules and routines?… Why do children suddenly begin to complain about responsibilities toward little brothers or sisters? Why do they resent doing unaccustomed chores? Why does off-color language or unfamiliar slang suddenly crop up in a child’s conversations?”

Clearly the solution is to never let your children ever experience anything outside the home, that way they will never have a novel thought in their heads and will, generation after generation, get dumber and dumber, just, I am quite sure, God had intended (that is sarcasm for you too dense to realize).

I guess the goal is, by labeling non-religion as a religion, they (the nebulous ‘they’ of the right wing GOP extremest nuts who believe this shit as managed by the unscrupulous uber-rich oligarchy that knows how easy these morons are to lead) can now make the separation of church and state itself a religious war. We all know how well religious wars turn out and the evils done in its name, but hey, if our god is on our side then all the appalling injustice we met out is all OK, right?

The oligarchy clearly knows that the more fragmented any opposition is, the more each fragment thinks that any other fragment is immoral, the lower the chance that any of them will come together and agree on anything, let alone challenge the oligarchy. So easy to see for me, yet, apparently, so difficult for the sheeple to see.

Liberals, of course, can be just as easily lead and believe just as many lies as conservatives do (moderates, also, are prone to believe whatever lies are repeated, but since we aren’t represented in our laughable excuse for a democratic government, it matters not the least). We all be sheeple at some point, some are just sheeple more often than others. It is ironic that today, with so many information sources so easily accessed, that people seem even less interested in doing research. It won’t shock me at all to see Romney successful in his efforts to reinvent himself (al la etch-a-sketch) because despite there being YouTube video of him staking out his extreme right-wing positions, the average voter will simply ignore all that as the lies are repeated over and over and over again.

This is why my favorite curse word remains ‘human’.

Analytical thinking incompatible with religion?

Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds
Those who think more analytically are less inclined to be religious believers than are those who tend to follow a gut instinct, researchers conclude.
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-religion-analytical-thinking-20120427,0,5374010.story

Something sure to rile up the religious right, I am sure, since there are already reports circulating that conservatives tend to do less analysis than their liberal counterparts. I haven’t delved into the primary literature on either report, largely because social science seems a wee bit of an oxymoron to me (yes, I have heavy ‘hard science’ biases), and as is often the case in the science I am more familiar with, these studies could either be seriously flawed or, due to reporter’s bias, might actually even be concluding the opposite (as is often clear to me from my reading on science research reporting).

The article is quite interesting, though, as it could easily be modified to discuss the fairly simple ways to encourage people to change from hunch-driven decision making to analytical-driven decision making and leave the whole bit about religion aside. I often find myself working to validate my hunch (or gut) driven decisions with analysis (and often get quite frustrated when my hunches fail to measure up) and it could be interesting to try to trigger analytical thought patterns with some of the ‘tricks’ mentioned in the article. I generally find it difficult to think analytically (in my college standardized tests that is always where my lowest scores were, sometimes as low as the median (and a source of frustration to more than one professor I did research for)) and tend to make decisions based on inspiration (which is not to say that I don’t perspire a lot, just the opposite, I tend to perspire more because I often don’t find analysis easy). It would seem from the article that I would be the type of personality that would lend itself toward strong religious thought patterns, but I don’t feel that. Now, if you strip out the religious angle, I am a pretty damn good fit for what the article describes, though I bet there would be vastly fewer readers of the research if they left that angle out.

It seems kinda obvious now

Kay Hymowitz: Why Women Make Less Than Men
In studies from the U.S. to Sweden, pay discrimination can’t explain the disparity. Women earn less because they work fewer hours.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303592404577361883019414296.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Well, duh! Women (in general) tend to work fewer hours than men once they start to bear and raise children, so if women work 23% fewer hours then that would exactly explain their being paid at 77% of the rate of men. Now, I got no idea if women do indeed work that many fewer hours on a weekly or annual basis (I haven’t observed that in the women I have worked with), but I suspect that on a life-time basis there might be some solid bias going on. Men just don’t have to carry a child around for 9 months to become fathers (it is _considerably_ less work that that!) and I am always amazed (bordering on shock) at the women late in their third trimester still getting about as if nothing untoward was going on. Heck, I probably carry less weight than they do and I am barely up for the activity I see so many engaged in!

Still, I strongly suspect there remains a significant bias that is leading women to have lesser wages (on average) than men. I think there is a substantial cultural element involved, but I also think women (in general) are less aggressive about maximizing income and thus are less likely to insist on top pay.

Law for the 99%

Obama Justice and medical marijuana
The President’s justification for his crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries has to be heard to be believed
http://www.salon.com/2012/04/26/obama_justice_and_medical_marijuana/

I keep hearing this talk about Obama being the most progressive/liberal President in recent memory (whatever the hell that means), but I totally fail to see it. It is just possible that _candidate_ Obama spouted the most liberal/progressive words in recent memory (I am quite sure that would be a very short memory indeed, even if that were the case), but President Obama is Bush Jr., 2.0: new and improved and as badassed as ever. As far as I am concerned (and I come from a conservative Republican background) Obama isn’t even left enough to qualify as a moderate Republican, let alone ‘the most liberal President ever’.

This article above is also a perfect case in point (it also perfectly illustrates the yawning chasm between the justice applied to the 99% vs that applied (well, ‘apply’ implies that there is actual impact, I see almost none) to the 1%. Glenn perfectly captures the idiotic double speak that Obama engages in. When it is convenient for him to adhere to the law, then the law is paramount, at all other times is ‘what law?’.

My Patent Reform Ideas

It is a slow news day and in an effort to keep my regular reader(s) regular I decided to finally write down some of my thoughts on how I would implement patent reform. Note that there is zero chance of any of this happening, so this is really just nonsensical wishful thinking…

The original intent of offering patents (the legal monopoly right for an invention or discovery) was to _increase_ the rate of innovation. Sadly, our current patent system has evolved (devolved?) into a system that _decreases_ innovation because corporation’s primary use of patents is to block competitors rather than to make money. Personally I consider that a crime against society, but like so much other crime (whether there be legal statutes behind it or not) by the ruling oligarchy, nothing is ever done. My proposal is a rather radical solution compared to what we have today, and is specifically intended to foster innovation and is clearly tilted to the ‘little guy’ who today finds it nearly impossible to make money off any innovations.

Today all a patent gets you is the legal right to sue someone for infringing, which naturally means that those with deep pockets can go ahead and infringe all they want against the little guys (and companies) intellectual property. Since the whole point of having a monopoly on a product is to gain outsized profits, the bare fact that an infringer is successful means the inventor is losing access to (potentially) vast revenue and in the case of small startups, without that revenue they basically dry up and blow away. Thus, the infringer knows that by simply tying up the case in court for a few years the IP holder will have gone bankrupt and while the IP rights might be bought by some vulture investor, the infringer likely won’t be hit with significant punitive damages, certainly not enough to make up for the damage they have done.

So, in addition to patents primary being used to stifle innovation, patent holders are often forced into years of expensive litigation just to protect their turf (unless, of course, the invention is worthless, then no one cares). I propose to resolve these two problems by turning the whole process on its head, in a manner of speaking. First, patents will no longer give rights of litigation to the patent holder, those rights will instead be held by a non-profit organization that will manage the IP on behalf of the IP holder. Specifically, once a patent has been granted the inventor will get license fees from the IP management organization and will no longer have any say in who makes use of his or her IP. Naturally companies will scream bloody murder at this since it completely strips them of the ability to block competitors from using their IP, but that is the beauty of the thing, _anyone_ can make use of the IP and, since the IP management organization has as its goal the maximization of revenue through licensing, innovation is actually intensified because anyone can make use of the invention. Second, since the IP will be owned by the management company, any litigation against infringers will be done with their resources (which I expect to be substantial) which will go a very long way toward eliminating huge corporations strategically infringing.

As one might imagine, this greatly impacts the current system. In addition to companies no longer being able to block competitors from making use of the patented information (and thus wildly enriching patent attorneys), this allows the little guy to make a living by creating intellectual property and getting it patented. Since licensing will be done by this third-party (as well as any infringing litigation), the small-time inventor can focus on inventing yet still have a revenue stream. I can envision a situation where corporations simply eliminate their research departments since they can now rely on licensing any new invention and no longer have to worry about being blocked by strategic IP from their competitors. Little guys like me could develop a revenue stream that could allow them to work full-time on their inventions as well as supply the money needed for a workable lab.

I also think that there needs to be a distinction made between protecting an _idea_ and protecting an _implementation_. There are lots of ideas that are simple in conception (or at least simple once articulated), yet can be incredibly complicated to reduce to practice. If someone gets a patent on an idea, but is unable to make the product a reality, if someone else comes along and is able to actually realize a working product that person (or organization, there is no reason why companies can’t stay in the inventing business, they just can no longer use them to block competitors) would then have separate IP rights and would also get a slice of the revenue. Indeed, if multiple distinct ways are developed to implement the idea, then multiple people could get the same rights. Of course, if a licensee wants to use the IP, he would only have to pay the idea IP holder as well as one of the implementers, not all of them.

For any product that has the potential to infringe on any IP, the management organization would determine what proportion of which patents are involved in the product and assign some sort of per-unit fee that needs to be built into the price of the product. The management organization would then apportion the revenue generated between any relevant patent holders (or their designated beneficiaries).

This model is sort of built on the idea of University’s IP management. While I am sure that not all Universities are the same, I believe many of them operate in this fashion. It is a rare inventor who also has the business savvy and personal contacts to take an idea to economic reality, so the average inventor should focus his or her time on invention, not on sitting in courts trying to recover money from infringers. As mentioned several times above, most companies are interested in owning IP simply to successfully market their products or to keep their competitors from marketing theirs. By eliminating this dynamic I suspect a whole lot of derivative patents would never get produced since there would be no value in doing so.

So, whadyathink? I mean besides that this has no chance in hell of ever happening. Step out of the real world for a moment and imagine a clean slate where something like this can be put in place. What do you envision would be problems? How might this be twisted to stifle innovation?

Wow! A well thought out alternative!

Rethinking the War on Drugs
Prohibition and legalization aren’t our only choices when it comes to drugs. Proven programs can greatly reduce the harm caused by hard-core users—and reduce our prison population, too.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303425504577353754196169014.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

WTF is up with this WordPress interface? This is like the fourth or fifth time I have tried to publish something only to find it gets stuck as a draft…

Once again, and surely not by design, the WSJ comes out with another intelligent well thought out article on a controversial subject. I have commented earlier about my opinions regarding legalizing drugs (something I favor) because I didn’t see any daylight between our current moronic (and expensive to taxpayer and citizens) war on drugs and the alternative of making everything legal. This article at least demonstrates that there is room for something in between. By acknowledging reality (as opposed to stubbornly sticking with fantasy) the author shows that selective enforcement of current laws could have a dramatic impact on the overall health and well-being of society (not that I think society’s gatekeepers will go for it, I am sure we will continue our moronic drug war efforts; all this talk is theoretical). With the highly targeted strategy of going after the offenders who have the greatest negative impact on society the payback is huge (though recreational drug use would, by necessity, go virtually unpunished; why I am sure our nanny state will never consider something like this), though drugs still remain illegal so the prospects (which I completely overlooked) of corporate marketing creating a huge pool of addicts is eliminated.

Of course, part of the problem with our current police state _is_ selective enforcement of laws, but a key difference with a policy like this and the current reality of selective enforcement is it is formalized and is happening at the direction of society. If, say, speed limit laws were such that though the sign said 55 mph you wouldn’t get a ticket until you went 66 mph or faster, then society is saying that it is OK to speed 10 mph over the speed limit. If, however, automated tickets were given out to anyone who exceeds the limit by 10 mph (and the fine included those ‘extra’ violation mph) then the selective enforcement aspect has been removed. Thus, if society says that if you are a _violent_ drug dealer or engage in sales greater than a certain amount or engaged in obtrusive behavior then the long arm of the law can focus its attention on the biggest bang for the law enforcement buck while at the same time there is no unified commercial organization that stands to benefit by producing legions of addicts to drive their quarterly corporate profits. The more I think about it the more I like it, which naturally translates to the less likely it has any chance of having a place in our idiotic society.

Society selectively enforcing laws… I wonder what other areas this might have a dramatic impact?

‘Justice’ for the 1%

Jon Corzine is the Original George Zimmerman
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/jon-corzine-is-the-original-george-zimmerman-20120424

This article really has to be read to be believed (and possibly not even then). An outright theft of over a billion dollars, years of investigation and no charges, let alone bankers carted off for hard time in Guantanamo.

Welcome to the oligarchy!