pallas's recent activity

  1. Comment on Jitsi Meet: Secure, fully featured, and completely free video conferencing in ~tech

    pallas
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    Jitsi Meet is not secure by most modern definitions. It is not end-to-end encrypted, and so unless you are running your own server, 8x8, the company running the default server, has access to all...

    Jitsi Meet is not secure by most modern definitions. It is not end-to-end encrypted, and so unless you are running your own server, 8x8, the company running the default server, has access to all of your audio and video.

    This is in the Jitsi Meet readme:

    WebRTC does not (yet) provide a way of conducting multi-party conversations with end-to-end encryption. Unless you consistently compare DTLS fingerprints with your peers vocally, the same goes for one-to-one calls. As a result, your stream is encrypted on the network but decrypted on the machine that hosts the bridge when using Jitsi Meet.

    The Jitsi Meet architecture allows you to deploy your own version, including all server components. In that case, your security guarantees will be roughly equivalent to a direct one-to-one WebRTC call. This is the uniqueness of Jitsi Meet in terms of security.

    The meet.jit.si service is maintained by the Jitsi team at 8x8.

    It appears there's some disagreement about this.

    10 votes
  2. Comment on The right is using COVID-19 to wage war on reusable grocery bags in ~enviro

    pallas
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    I'm a bit confused as to why the reusable and disposable bag question is somehow connected with political ideology. Without considering the environment at all, my reusable bags are far nicer to...

    I'm a bit confused as to why the reusable and disposable bag question is somehow connected with political ideology.

    Without considering the environment at all, my reusable bags are far nicer to use than any disposable bag is going to be. They're much sturdier, they have more comfortable handles and are more comfortable to use overall, they can hold much more, many of them will nicely sit upright, they won't stretch or break, and so on. Why would I want my groceries held by some bags of cheap, flimsy plastic film that will promptly spill everything if I set them down wrong, will stretch and break, and if they have handles at all, will probably stretch and break? Or some paper bags that risk disintegrating with the slightest bit of water, and where you have to constantly have to worry about the paper tearing, or the tacked-on handles falling off? When both are available, there really don't seem to be any advantages to disposable bags.

    It's one thing, maybe, to want disposable bags to be available if you don't happen to have bags with you at the moment (though everywhere I go, disposable bags are so cheap that it's not a significant cost increase), but to try to actively discourage the use reusable bags at all seems weirdly pointless unless you're, say, a plastics marketer trying to increase plastic consumption by any means necessary.

    Besides, don't many people with conservative views complain about things no longer being sturdy and built to last, usually in relation to Chinese manufacturing? Why would they want to demand to be be given cheap, disposable things for free?

    6 votes
  3. Comment on All European travel to the US will be suspended for 30 days, with exemptions for the UK and Americans who undergo screening in ~health.coronavirus

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    It doesn't seem to make any sense from a containment perspective, particularly given the UK exemption. It would appear primarily meant to be a petty attack on the EU. It's appalling that the US...

    It doesn't seem to make any sense from a containment perspective, particularly given the UK exemption. It would appear primarily meant to be a petty attack on the EU. It's appalling that the US President would unilaterally use a global pandemic to promote his anti-EU stances.


    Update: It appears that Trump was not particularly accurate in describing the ban. It applies to anyone who has been in the Schengen area within 14 days of planned travel to the US, not simply to flights from the Schengen area, so this at least makes a bit more sense from a containment perspective, though the UK exemption doesn't: the way he described it, flights connecting through Heathrow would have been fine. It also doesn't apply to cargo, which makes a bit more sense as well.

    14 votes
  4. Comment on Oil prices just fell 31% (and counting) with single biggest drop since Gulf War in ~finance

    pallas
    Link Parent
    In some sense, they can raise or maintain oil prices, if they all agree to cut production enough to keep prices high, but that won't necessarily let them stay profitable, as they'll be selling...

    In some sense, they can raise or maintain oil prices, if they all agree to cut production enough to keep prices high, but that won't necessarily let them stay profitable, as they'll be selling less: it will help with per-unit costs, but not fixed costs.

    But right now, they can't even agree to cut production. Some of them tried to get everyone to agree, but it didn't work, and so instead Arabia, which tried to craft an agreement, and Russia, which rejected it, have decided they are going to go into an economic battle by increasing production, flooding the market and crashing prices until one of them falters.

    But this means that North American producers are doomed, as their per-unit costs are high enough that they can't sell at a profit at all in this market. The only reason they were viable at all was from high oil prices caused by producers with lower costs (but smaller overall reserves remaining) not producing as much.

    2 votes
  5. Comment on Elizabeth Warren is ending her presidential campaign in ~news

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    Somehow, it appears that essentially nothing on that page involves any political issues at all. Instead, it's a bunch of photographs of senators chosen and edited to be ominous and ugly...

    Somehow, it appears that essentially nothing on that page involves any political issues at all. Instead, it's a bunch of photographs of senators chosen and edited to be ominous and ugly (particularly with the ridiculous dark grey outlines and the dismaying fad of using awkward mid-talking photos to make people look bad), along with various hyperbolic and rather childish attacks that have little to do with why the senators are actually problematic.

    Is their intention to become enough like Trump to be able to replace him? Are the sorts of people who would be motivated by such a site really the sorts of people who should be "texting and building capacity to win," because they are "angry" and want to "get even," and so want to join a "growing grassroots army on the ground" to go "all in" for "payback", doing more than just "trashing" their "targets"? Is this the modern language of decent politics? That of some sort of team-based militancy and violence, with only a tenuous connection issues?

    I can't accept that the best way to confront Trumpian political strategies is to copy them.

  6. Comment on Live election results: Super Tuesday 2020 in ~news

    pallas
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    I certainly know people with the accelerationist view that Trump is making things bad enough, and making problems so visible, that people will be more likely to recognize the problems. While I...

    I still can't quite believe lots of progressives would sit out rather than vote against Trump in November, whatever they say now.

    I certainly know people with the accelerationist view that Trump is making things bad enough, and making problems so visible, that people will be more likely to recognize the problems.

    While I don't agree with this overall, I do think that there's the argument that Trump makes climate change matters more visible through his absurd denialism than they would be under Biden, who does not deny it but clearly does not see it as a significant issue warranting focus or serious responses, and thus Trump compels state and local governments to address climate change more strongly than they would with the complacency generated by Biden.

    I get a certain sense that, in the US, the Republicans would like to loudly deny climate change, while the Democrats would like to quietly ignore it, or use it to support the policies they actually care about.

    7 votes
  7. Comment on QAnon now has its own super PAC, established by the owner of 8chan in ~misc

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    What's often fascinating about these sorts of conspiracy theory groups is how they take numerous individual beliefs that are generally fashionable at the moment, and, while wrong, are not...

    What's often fascinating about these sorts of conspiracy theory groups is how they take numerous individual beliefs that are generally fashionable at the moment, and, while wrong, are not intrinsically nonsensical, and combine them into larger theories that don't make sense.

    The belief that vaccines cause autism is wrong, but it isn't a nonsensical claim: one could envision a universe where it is true, it just isn't. The belief that there are groups that want to reduce population is similarly not intrinsically nonsensical. But combined, the idea that groups are conspiring to reduce population by causing autism in a small part of the population makes no sense. If a group existed that could dictate vaccine contents in order to harm people, and their goal was mass depopulation, why would they choose autism, of all things? Why not, for example, use a prion-transmitted disease?

    Similarly, suppose COVID-19 is actually a biological weapon. If you wanted to create a biological weapon to harm Trump's reelection (and why, of all things, choose that method?), why would you release it in China? And, with that level of power, why make a disease that is much milder and less threatening than it could be?

    There seems to be this fundamental assumption, amongst many conspiracy theorists, that every popular belief is somehow true, and somehow linked to the fundamental beliefs of the theorist. Their task is not to distinguish true and false beliefs, but to find how each belief supports their fundamental beliefs. You thus rarely see a conspiracy theorist describing only a simple, self-contained conspiracy, even though those are probably the most likely to be true. Instead, the conspiracies almost always become something like a religion that is syncretic to the point of incoherence.

    Is this inevitable for conspiracy theorists? One could suggest that the fundamental credulity required to start believing in a conspiracy theory makes it very likely that the theorist will be similarly credulous for everything else.

    Interestingly, you see this in many low-brow and popular works in the fantasy and science fiction genres as well, where there is a common trope that every folk belief is linked somehow to the fictional world's reality. Every creature exists. Every superstition has an underlying modicum of validity. Few, if any, beliefs that exist within the real world are, in the fictional world, simply wrong in their entirety.

    One could wonder how much this "everything has some truth, and everything is connected" trope in fiction of the 20th century in particular has impacted popular belief in conspiracy theories, or whether the reverse is true: that the popularity of conspiracy theories resulted in this trope in fiction.

    I am particularly reminded of Eco's satire and investigation of this in Foucault's Pendulum. And yet, somehow, even there, Wikipedia points out that some people eventually came to describe Foucault's Pendulum as "the thinking man's Da Vinci Code" (after the latter, much later work, became popular), even while Eco frustratedly tried to explain that his work was trying to point out the problems with such works, and that it would be better to say "that Dan Brown is one of the characters in my novel Foucault's Pendulum".

    10 votes
  8. Comment on Changing e-mail and cleaning up my Internet presence in ~tech

    pallas
    (edited )
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    I use paid subscriptions to Fastmail, ProtonMail, and Google (Gsuite), at the moment. Fastmail has worked reasonably well, and I have been using it as my main email provider. It's just a...

    I use paid subscriptions to Fastmail, ProtonMail, and Google (Gsuite), at the moment.

    Fastmail has worked reasonably well, and I have been using it as my main email provider. It's just a traditional email provider, and it supports standards reasonably well. As others point out, it's an Australian company, and has servers located in the US. This can be a problem in some circumstances, and I know some organizations that are not willing to consider using them as a result; I'm similarly somewhat uncomfortable having my data outside of GDPR's jurisdiction.

    I've been evaluating ProtonMail for the last month or so, and have not generally had a great experience with it. It seems heavily built around trying to convince you to get others on their service, and only superficially supports PGP outside of it. The IMAP/SMTP bridge doesn't support PGP at all: you can use their clients, or you can get all PGP stripped from all your emails as punishment. It also seems, very unsettlingly, to have no source available, though it appears that a few years ago they said they would release the source within six months. The pricing structure has some problematic aspects, as well: for example, if you have many domain aliases, you pay an extra fee per alias per month, whereas almost all other providers do this for free, and there doesn't seem to be any cost incurred by the provider for this.

    I have a free Tutanota account. I would not use it seriously, because it seems to have serious problems with lock-in: for example, the suggestion for data export and backup is to shift-select all your emails manually. The only advantage it would have would be for communicating with other people on Tutanota, or secure communications via their link-and-password features.

    Also: in the last few weeks, I've set up a personal mail server to evaluate that option, and to resolve some organizational email problems I've been having. It has actually worked surprisingly better than I expected. A few years ago, this was essentially impossible, because you would be completely spam-filtered, no matter what you did. Now, however, it seems like even major providers may be trusting SPF+DKIM+DMARC more.

    On Signal: for years, I had Signal installed and absolutely no one to use it with. Then, within the last year, my partner started using it (and now communicates with far more people on it than I do), my mother started using it to communicate with me, and now my sister as well. It seems to have become reliable and easy enough to use recently, and to have attracted enough popular attention, that many people are actually starting to use it: I've gradually seeing more people from my contacts show up when I open it. For my mother, I think she appreciates it because it reliably does what it does (video/voice/text) without annoying frills or dark patterns: it won't push the new-service-of-the-week on you, or insist on trying to show up everywhere on your phone, or start spamming notifications if you don't use it enough, and so on... that it is run by a non-profit not really interesting in selling things to you can be a useful point, when compared to free services by for-profits that need to try to make money off of you somehow.

    4 votes
  9. Comment on Charleston Democratic debate Discussion thread in ~talk

    pallas
    Link Parent
    If I might give some responses other than skybrian's: Some people really do have specific self-interest considerations in politics. If you are working in the health insurance industry, even if you...

    If I might give some responses other than skybrian's:

    • Some people really do have specific self-interest considerations in politics. If you are working in the health insurance industry, even if you realize that the industry is unethical and most of the work being done is completely needless, supporting someone who will do away with your current livelihood is difficult. Even if there are plans to help you transition to another industry, now that involves far more trust, not just in the candidate's plans, but in their ability to carry all of them out, when it is very possible that instead, they would get their major policy through, and then not be able to get the less-popular consequence mitigations through later. Hillary Clinton, similarly, had a problem like this with coal miners (though coal miners are more sympathetic characters than insurance workers, to say the least, and thus a larger political problem). It doesn't matter how much the government is willing to help you move to something else, or how necessary it is that your job end: when you've spent your entire life doing something (and for coal miners, perhaps see it as an important part of your identity), it's difficult to accept giving it up.
    • On student debt, I think there are concerns that are separate from tuition. Even accepting that tuition should be free, a question of student debt could be whether cancelling all student debt amounts to an unfair benefit people who chose to take on student debt vs people who either made other choices for their education, or weren't able to obtain a college education, because they were unwilling or enable to take on student debt, or took on much lower amounts. I know quite a few people who struggled while working through college, harming their academic performance, or chose the colleges they went to on the basis of cost, so that they wouldn't need to take on much debt, while I know others who didn't care, and took on large amounts of debt, often receiving a better education as a result. The view of student debt is also skewed somewhat by current college tuition situations, while cancelling debt would involve past situations: I think that as late as the early 2000s, it was quite possible for most people to get a good university education from a prestigious public university without taking on debt, while other universities, even public ones, were already charging enormous tuitions that essentially required debt or independent support. I feel that too great a concern for "fairness" is often an obstacle to resolving problems, as completely fair resolutions to bad situations are often impossible and fairness is rather subjective, so I don't think this should be a priority in these considerations, but I can see why some people would be upset by cancelling student debt.
    • There is, finally, the climate-change-above-all perspective, though I don't think it's a particularly widely-held view in the US, which disagrees with proposed climate policies as being too weak. It is not an entirely unreasonable view: that climate change represents enough of an existential threat to humanity that many other concerns are petty, and that even Sanders considers it at far too low a priority, below things like healthcare or fair wages. I think Steyer and Yang were, however, the only people who even hinted at this view. In Europe, this view seems to be taking hold a bit more, and climate-changed-focused parties are showing a willingness to support even far-right coalitions if they allow for stronger climate actions: they might argue, for example, that it's better to let far-right parties abuse immigrants than to have no stable civilization left for the grandchildren of those immigrants. I know some people who would likely be willing to overlook genocide in exchange for climate policies. I don't agree with these views, especially the more extreme ones, but I do expect that they will become increasingly strong as climate change continues to be essentially ignored by moderate candidates, or seen as secondary to immediate quality of life considerations by progressive candidates.
    2 votes
  10. Comment on Coming soon: A new site for fully free collaboration in ~comp

    pallas
    Link Parent
    I assume their goal is to make it possible to use their forge without Javascript, not to avoid using Javascript entirely, as they also discuss licensing considerations for Javascript. The GNU...

    I assume their goal is to make it possible to use their forge without Javascript, not to avoid using Javascript entirely, as they also discuss licensing considerations for Javascript.

    The GNU project has an article about licence concerns with Javascript. As is rather typical for them, they combine rather reasonable points with an approach to addressing them that seems likely to be dismissed by many as annoying (writing a browser extension to intentionally cripple Javascript that doesn't include their preferred licensing comment style, and encouraging users to send their manifesto to websites), even if it may be one of the few approaches that would actually have a chance of making the problem better known.

    10 votes
  11. Comment on Stop using encrypted email in ~comp

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    I expressed no belief that encrypted email is secure against a hostile mail server administrator, or against anything; the point you were responding to was with regards to potential opportunities...

    See, this is why the article is written. Your belief that encrypted email protects you against a hostile mail server sysadmin is plausible, and true in certain extremely limited circumstances, but generally wrong.

    I expressed no belief that encrypted email is secure against a hostile mail server administrator, or against anything; the point you were responding to was with regards to potential opportunities of alternatives to email. This sort of tone is not constructive.

    I expect, in writing something rather rambling and disorganized, that I didn't do a good job of making my central point clear: that encrypted email is fundamentally flawed, yes, and the instant messaging alternatives are great, but the longer and more organized message alternatives are not.

    While it would require an entirely different protocol than email, there would seem to be no fundamental reason why a messaging system with email-like messages could not be just as secure and easy to use as Signal or Matrix. It simply doesn't exist right now.

    And while I use age personally, CLI-only utilities are not reasonable secure alternatives to email. I can easily get other board members to use Signal. It's unlikely many of them would even know what a command line is.

    1 vote
  12. Comment on California state lawmaker introduces bill to create universal basic income of $1K a month in ~news

    pallas
    Link Parent
    By comparison, 20% VAT is completely normal in Europe.

    I'm not sure how I feel about an additional 10% tax on top of the state's already 10% sales tax. I'm not one of these people who's normally opposed to taxes, but our sales tax is already quite high and doubling it is extreme.

    By comparison, 20% VAT is completely normal in Europe.

    3 votes
  13. Comment on California state lawmaker introduces bill to create universal basic income of $1K a month in ~news

    pallas
    Link Parent
    50% was meant as a low guess, but it's also important to realize that the total population number includes children, while the proposal doesn't, and that is a significant factor in that percentage...

    50% was meant as a low guess, but it's also important to realize that the total population number includes children, while the proposal doesn't, and that is a significant factor in that percentage eligibility. Percentage eligibility for adults could well be much higher than 50%.

    I do think there is a reasonable argument for excluding children from UBI.

    3 votes
  14. Comment on Stop using encrypted email in ~comp

    pallas
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    One can look past the needlessly patronizing, insulting, and unconstructive tone that I feel people in the computer security community often think adds weight to their statements, but instead...

    One can look past the needlessly patronizing, insulting, and unconstructive tone that I feel people in the computer security community often think adds weight to their statements, but instead lends a sense of childishness to what are otherwise reasonable statements. Many of the technical points made do have merit. However, I am particularly and increasingly frustrated by the way the author, and many others in these discussions, are either unaware or dismissive of ways email is used in fields other than their own. As a result, these people make suggestions for alternatives that make sense, given common modes of communication in their field, but are unconstructive or outright ridiculous for many others.

    I use Signal, and think it works very well, as an instant messenger designed for phones. The way I use email in technical fields and for scholarly collaboration is also such that systems like Matrix could reasonably replace it. But in general, the email alternatives usually recommended are various forms of instant messengers. That makes sense to people who primarily use email as a means of informal, instant communication, and I find that this is quite common in technology-related fields. In this case, systems like Signal, or E2E Matrix, or E2E XMPP, and so on, make sense as encrypted alternatives, if your primary means of communication are through short, instant communications written spontaneously.

    However, many people, particularly those outside such fields, instead use email as a more formal communication method, meant as an alternative to letters or published statements. This is a very different usage, with different priorities and needs, for which the recommended alternatives are completely unsuitable. In fact, it seems that there is neither a viable alternative for this use of email at the moment or any plan, by anyone, for a viable alternative. And that's likely because the people making these sorts of arguments don't communicate in that way, and so therefore don't think that anyone communicates in that way.

    Quite often, in business matters, when I am sending an email, the content of the email has at least some level of organizational or legal weight, and political implications. I need to be able to write a draft, review the draft, and make changes before I send it; in some cases, I need to send the draft to others for comment before sending it. It is often vital that the text I am writing is not accidentally sent prior to editing. In some cases, emails I write might take hours or days to finally compose. I'm not having a conversation: in many cases, I don't actually want people to respond, and I want the email to be seen as an individual message, as a letter would be. If necessary, it should be printable as a single message, and it should certainly be readable regardless of its length. It may contain some amount of formatting, lists, tables, images, and attachments. Cryptographic signing (even without encryption), usually ignored in these discussions, is often something that would be very useful, because people should be able to rely on my having made the statements that I made in the email.

    None of the recommended alternatives I'm aware of are at all suited for these needs. Drafts simply don't appear to exist: systems are designed for messages written and sent immediately. Everything seems designed to treat communication as a conversation of either sentences, or, at most, a few paragraphs. For the most part, sending or receiving something in letter form via any of the systems is difficult. Encryption is always a higher priority than easily visible and heavily controlled signing.

    And all this is unfortunate, because email does have significant problems in this usage as well, and if there were a good encrypted-and-signed alternative, there could be an opportunity to address them. For example:

    • Forwarding and poor understanding of reply recipients is a problem even ignoring encrypted and plain texts. Chains of replies with modified recipient lists make it easy for senders to think people are no longer receiving emails that they actually are. For example, I have witnessed several instances where questions brought to supervisors by employees have been discussed by higher-ups without a realization that, at some point in the replies, the employee ended up being included again. While in the instance I remember most, I think it was good that the employee did read the inappropriate opinions being expressed, this confusion meant that comments were unintentionally sent to them that were likely legally actionable.

    • E2E encryption would be useful, even disregarding state-level adversaries. For example, an E2E-encrypted system would allow users to have conversations without concern that the system's administrators could access them. Consider personnel discussions regarding the administrators, for example.

    • Widely-used signing could improve email for formal purposes enormously. It would make it possible for it to replace, for example, the practice commonly seen among lawyers of sending scanned and hand-signed PDF letters as email attachments, and the signatures would actually verify the authorship and signing of all the contents, which hand signatures do not do.

    In short, to take on some of the childishness of the author, stop saying instant messengers are a suitable replacement for encrypted email.

    3 votes
  15. Comment on California state lawmaker introduces bill to create universal basic income of $1K a month in ~news

    pallas
    Link Parent
    That would make sense, but unless I'm confused, the bill's text appears to state the exact opposite: anyone over 18 who isn't receiving other benefits would receive UBI, regardless of their...

    That would make sense, but unless I'm confused, the bill's text appears to state the exact opposite: anyone over 18 who isn't receiving other benefits would receive UBI, regardless of their income. The bill appears to exclude the most destitute and include the affluent.

    I'm not sure how my numbers are significantly off. Medi-Cal is the largest excluded group, and covers 13.2m residents, but the majority of those appear to be children. CalWorks covered around 1m residents in 2017, but 80% were children. CalFresh covered around 4m residents in 2017. There are likely around 1m recipients of UI. I can't find statistics for CMSP, but it appears to be significantly smaller and doesn't appear to cover most of the highly-populated counties of California.

    Even assuming that none of these numbers overlapped (they likely have significant overlaps), 50% eligibility appears not to be completely unreasonable, unless I'm missing something. And as the numbers appear to be outside of viability by an enormous amount, the eligibility would need to be enormously lower for it to make sense, eg, less than 5% eligibility.

    Am I missing something about the eligibility requirements in the bill?

    8 votes
  16. Comment on California state lawmaker introduces bill to create universal basic income of $1K a month in ~news

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link
    This does not seem as though it is intended as a serious, viable bill with a chance of passing, and is more likely to be a bill meant only for political campaigning by its author. Most...

    This does not seem as though it is intended as a serious, viable bill with a chance of passing, and is more likely to be a bill meant only for political campaigning by its author.

    Most importantly, I'm not sure how the proposed tax would cover the cost of the system generally, and seems to fail even order-of-magnitude approximations:

    • California's population is around 40m. Let's assume, optimistically, that only 50% of the population would actually be eligible.
    • In 2019, sales tax collections at 7.25% were around $13b, so let's optimistically assume that a 10% VAT would actually collect around $20b (I'm a bit unclear as to whether the $13b number is from the 7.25% total collection or 6% state allocation, so this covers both).
    • Thus, the added VAT would allow a UBI of $1000 per year, or $83 per month. The remaining 92% of funding for the UBI would need to come from somewhere else.

    Additionally, as California uses sales taxes, the introduction of a VAT, rather than the more viable options of using an additional sales tax, or switching everything to VAT, would double bookkeeping requirements, incorporating the disadvantages and removing the advantages of both systems. I suppose that, for political purposes, VAT sounds exotic and modern.

    In fact, using a consumption tax rather than an increased income tax also seems unusual: using a consumption tax of X% to fund a UBI of $Y requires that the taxable purchases of each resident be, on average, $Y*100/X, eg, in this case, the average taxable monthly purchases per resident would need to be $10,000. Even accounting for corporate taxable purchases, that doesn't seem at all reasonable.

    From an income tax perspective, using the same 20m eligible residents number, the proposal would require $240b per year in funding. To fund it from personal income tax, this would require increasing tax revenues by around 600%. For corporate income tax, it would require increasing tax revenues by around 4,800%.

    The personal income tax approach isn't necessarily impossible, but it would involve a massive change in how California's economy and government operated, likely making CA income taxes higher than US federal income taxes and, without control of US tax rates, possibly resulting in top combined marginal rates close to or even above 100%.

    It's also worth noting that California, as a state, has limited authority to prevent migration (something some California agencies already tried in the 1930s), which would likely become problematic. It also has no authority, of course, over federal taxes, and such a program would likely be subject to very problematic federal intervention.

    I'm not opposed to UBI, but trying to implement it as a US state doesn't seem viable.

    7 votes
  17. Comment on Las Vegas Democratic Debate Discussion Thread in ~talk

    pallas
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    There had been the argument that the DNC's rule change to allow Bloomberg into the debates was an anti-Bloomberg, not pro-Bloomberg move: that Bloomberg's unorthodox strategy of overwhelming...

    There had been the argument that the DNC's rule change to allow Bloomberg into the debates was an anti-Bloomberg, not pro-Bloomberg move: that Bloomberg's unorthodox strategy of overwhelming advertising while using his no-debts-to-donors policy as an excuse to avoid debates allowed him to gain enormously in the polls without any scrutiny, and that changing the debate rules eliminated his excuse and obligated him to participate in debates he would have preferred to avoid. After this debate, I'm not sure this view is wrong. After all, without being in any debates, this is a candidate who was doing quite well, and was likely the frontrunner, in the current competition to be the other candidate in an upcoming two-person race with Sanders.

    And in some ways, it was a brilliant idea to include a sexist, billionaire former Republican who won't release his tax returns because they are too complicated. Does the media want a gruesome fight in order to get high ratings? Look, here's a blood sacrifice on the stage. Does Biden have a problem with seeming too much like a Republican when surrounded by Democrats? Now there's a real Republican on the stage. Do voters want to see how the candidates will debate Trump? Now they've just been given a demonstration with a great Trump stand-in, and Warren has been able to show something she really couldn't show in previous debates. Do party insiders want to show people what happens when the party really dislikes a candidate? Some of that felt like it had to have been coordinated: Warren the prosecutor, Biden the everyman, Sanders linking the personal to the political. The attacks against Bloomberg, unlike many previous attacks against Sanders and other candidates, seem like the sorts of attacks where the other candidates don't care about hurting a potential nominee.

    11 votes
  18. Comment on Truth and lies: Henrich Schliemann's excavations at Troy | Curator's Corner with Lesley Fitton in ~humanities

    pallas
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    Schliemann was a fascinating person. This account seems very unusually glowing, however, and repeatedly refers to him as "controversial" without giving much explanation as to why. Schliemann was a...

    Schliemann was a fascinating person. This account seems very unusually glowing, however, and repeatedly refers to him as "controversial" without giving much explanation as to why.

    Schliemann was a Way We Live Now-style 'captain of industry', and I don't think such a description of him is even particularly controversial. He appears to have combined a talent for learning languages with a disregard for honesty in order to make a fortune in international trade. His first business on his own was buying and reselling gold in California during the gold rush. There's no proof that the business was a scam, he just suddenly became ill and left the country when others complained that there seemed to be discrepancies in the weights of gold they were buying. Then he went on to a career of commodity market manipulation.

    Parts of his Wikipedia page read like a list of corrections to claims he made about himself. He stated that he became a US citizen when California became a state... he obtained citizenship in 1869. He claimed to have dined with the US President on his way to start his bank in California, clearly. He was in San Francisco during the fire of 1851, and published an eyewitness account... he was actually in Sacramento at the time. He obtained a divorce by pretending to be a resident of Indiana, then, aged 47, married a 17-year-old Greek woman apparently via either newspaper advertisement or by hiring a priest to find him a "black-haired Greek woman in the Homeric spirit". His PhD was dubious. He excavated with dynamite, and many people suggest that he probably destroyed much of Homeric Troy: while it's accurate to say that careful archaeological methods were not well-developed at the time, trained archaeologists didn't do the same amount of damage because they didn't have his resources and zeal.

    Thus, when people are sceptical about many of his scholarly claims and discoveries, that scepticism comes from the fact that essentially everything about him outside of archaeology was dishonest.

    Yet he was undoubtedly truly passionate about ancient Greek history, and was an aggressive publicist, something that academics tend not to be. As Lesley Fitton mentions, he named everything he found, and promoted it extravagantly. He took the jewellery from "Priam's Treasure" and dressed his wife in it for photographs as a publicity stunt. He published absurdly exaggerated stories of adventure in archaeology. Even if he simply took the discoveries of serious scholars and used his resources and marketing to pursue them, he made people care about Troy, and about historical links to Homer. One could argue that, with his aggressive methods, he may have caused considerable damage to the field of Homeric archaeology, but that without his aggressive methods, the field would have never been born.

    His home in Athens is now the Numismatic Museum, but the house has always been more interesting to me than the exhibits it contains, and is definitely worth seeing. He covered the walls in quotations, the floors in murals... the house is a testament to his obsession with ancient Greece.

    3 votes
  19. Comment on Has anybody changed their first and/or last name (legally or socially)? in ~talk

    pallas
    Link Parent
    Arguably two first names, two middle names, and four possible combinations of three last names. For the most part, the two first names are the only ones that are commonly used within the same...

    Arguably two first names, two middle names, and four possible combinations of three last names. For the most part, the two first names are the only ones that are commonly used within the same social groups and contexts, with a somewhat rigid social etiquette that has developed around them. The middle and last names in any given situation are largely dictated by context.

    2 votes
  20. Comment on Has anybody changed their first and/or last name (legally or socially)? in ~talk

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link
    I have always been referred to by several different names and combinations of names in different contexts. They have changed over time, and I have had a legal name change in one country. However,...

    I have always been referred to by several different names and combinations of names in different contexts. They have changed over time, and I have had a legal name change in one country.

    However, in thinking about how to describe the changes, perhaps the most important distinction is that they mostly didn't change how any particular person referred to me within a particular context. There was never a point where, for a person who already knew me by one name, that name, for them, could no longer refer to me. People who meet me might not be able to use previous names, but people who were already using them can. People in different contexts might use different last names for me, but they are all reasonably valid. And everyone generally knows all the names they might hear within the contexts where they know me.

    This means that, in some conversations, different people might use different names to refer to me (and might be socially obligated to), but it doesn't usually seem to cause confusion. In looking at other name changes, the major difficulty seems to arise when the name changes forces someone to stop referring to you by one name, and start using another: that can require quite a bit of effort for them. For people you already know, adding an alternative way to refer to you is likely much easier for them than forcing them to change. I think this is in part why many people who want to change the way they are referred to do so by adding a middle name.

    One of my cousins did change her first name, a change that appears to have been motivated by family drama, and is offended by the use of her old first name. We all try our best to respect her wishes, and support what we understand as her reasons for changing it. Yet I, for example, knew her by her old name from the time she was born and I was a child, until she was a teenager. I see her perhaps once a year at most, in stressful social contexts. I can consciously think of her new first name easily, but the old one will pop up alongside it in my mind, and it is very easy, especially if distracted by other thoughts, to use the wrong name, and then end up embarrassed. Her friends, of course, don't have this problem: they don't have the long association in their mind between her and another name.

    Ultimately, your names are identifiers negotiated between you and those around you. While you can change your legal names as you wish, you'll most effectively be able to change the names people associate with you if you give consideration to how they will perceive and remember the changes.

    2 votes