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L.A. Police: All Cars In L.A. Are Under Investigation

sampson7 Re:No expectation of privacy (405 comments)

Sorry, but this is BS. I have such an expectation of privacy.

That is so cute! YOU have an expectation of privacy -- but sadly, the U.S. government does not share your view. But why?

The reason is that the U.S. uses something called the "exclusionary rule," whereby evidence seized or derived from an unconstitutional act are suppressed. In other words, during a criminal trial, the court will disregard any evidence collected by the government in violation of the Constitution, or derived from an unconstitutional act. This is often summarized as "fruits of the poisonous tree" are themselves poisonous and shall not be used. Of course, what this really means is that many (though clearly not all) people asserting a constitutional defense during a criminal trial are guilty -- at least in the sense that they committed the crime they are charged with.

The search and seizure cases that come before the Supreme Court therefore usually involve a guilty person getting off on a "technical" violation of the 4th Amendment. The Supreme Court then bends over backwards to find some exception to the 4th Amendment to allow the police to put the guilty person away. It's human nature for the Justices to side with the cops over the robbers. But it's also enormously destructive to our social fabric.

This is where the story gets political. The Supreme Court justices most eager to surrender our freedoms in the name of punishing the guilty are overwhelmingly "conservatives" appointed by Republican presidents. I hope you will all remember this when you go to vote for the next president.

about 10 months ago

"Terrorist" Lyrics Land High Schooler In Jail

sampson7 Re:NRA sedition^H^H^H patriotism (573 comments)

"Even if you give the Armed Citizenry 100% credit, you have to ask how they'd beat the US Army today?"

Members of the United States armed forces are also CITIZENS of this land. Each of them has a home, located in some city or town, located in some state or another. Each of them (well, the overwhelming majority, anyway) has loved ones, whom they probably value more than they value the US government.

I'll remind you of General Robert E. Lee, who didn't want to see the states fight each other - but decided that if there were to be a fight, he would fight for his home state of Virginia.

If revolution should happen, you cannot rely on the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force to remain intact as fighting units, to be used against the people of the United States. Nor can you rely on the government's ability to retain control over all the hardware, command infrastructure, or much of anything else.

This. This is what I never understand about the conspiracy theorists -- from the "government covered up Roswell types" to the gun toting nut jobs in the NRA -- the part of their advocacy that I find so distasteful is their refusal to recognize that the American government is made up of Citizens. From the federal employees to the military to the police, in America, we are all citizens first. As a formal federal employee, there was never any question that my allegiance was to the people. (Don't get me wrong -- as a paper pusher, this was unlikely to have tangible form, but still....)

Do we really think that our military would do what the Chinese military did in Tienanmen Square? Yes, there have been individual incidents of government-sponsored violence against the people (Kent State, battles against Segregation, etc.) where people in uniform have forgotten that they work for the people --- but those incidents are (a) limited in scope, (b) rare, (c) generally recognized as mistakes after the fact; and (d) largely repudiated by the country as a whole. I'm not trying to whitewash American history -- it's complicated and not always pretty. But I see no evidence that some shadowy element of the federal government is going to swoop down and seize our "liberty." Our volunteer citizen military in particular is about as freedom loving as they come, and I have zero doubt that a coup would fail spectacularly as soldiers recognized what was happening.

And then we have this. *face palm* Really? I think of little of DHS as the next guy, but do we really think they are traitors laying in wait? Good grief. They are just citizen-employees, like every other federal employee.

For this reason, and others, the Department of Homeland Security was formed. The government hopes to retain control of DHS if and when the shit hits the fan. Unfortunately for the government - DHS consists of mostly incompetent buffoons, far less capable than agents from any other agency. Further, the loyalty of Napolitano's troops remain untested.

Anyone can sit around and make up scenarios about how a revolution would evolve, and the results of said revolution. History proves one thing: civil wars are fucking MESSY!!

about a year and a half ago

Layoffs Hit Washington Post Mobile Team

sampson7 WashPo Mobile Staff SHOULD be Fired (108 comments)

I am a DC refuge and was a dedicated Post dead-tree reader for decades. These days, I primarily access the Washington Post through their website (which I would happily pay for, by the way). As an avid consumer of online media, I can personally attest that the Post's implementation of "mobile" content is just abysmal. Their iPad app was, until a few months ago, a total embarassment. Many of their "special" mobile features (of which I have downloaded and deleted more then one within minutes of downloading them) crash more often then they work. Frankly, if I were the editor-in-chief, I would have fired the mobile division staff for sheer incompetence long ago.

I have no inside information -- but I wonder if there's a positive take from all of this: the Washington Post has long been behind the curve in reaching out on mobile devices. Perhaps this isn't the end of their efforts to improve their web presence, but the beginning of a more serious effort. Just a thought. Time will tell.

about 2 years ago

Texas School Board Searching For Alternatives To Evolutionary Theory

sampson7 Re:The theory of gravity is under review :) (763 comments)

Yes. I was going to cite to Mercury as well as one of the known problems with Newtonian physics. There is an excellent little movie called Eistein and Eddington, which really does a beautiful job discussing the Mercury issue. Not great cinema exactly, but quite enjoyable for science nerds.

about 2 years ago

You Can't Print a Gun If You Have No 3D Printer

sampson7 Re:Did Stratasys open a box of worms? (632 comments)

That's an interesting question. I suspect that a clevel plaintiffs' attorney would suggest that this action suggests that the manufacturer in conceeding that it has a duty to the of care to the end-user. The company would argue back that it isn't appropriate to use proactive safety measures against them.

(For your reference, there are four elements of a classic tort case:
1. Demonstrating that the defendant had a duty to observe or protect the safety of the plaintiff
2. The defendant breached that duty and endangered the health and safety of the plaintiff
3. The plaintiff suffered injury in some form
4. The plaintiff's injuries were caused by the negligence of the defendant.)

I suspect the manufacturer would contest the idea that it had a duty of care, but I think the courts would infer some duties (perhaps, for example, the duty to warn) anyway. Note: I am by no means a products liability lawyer, so take my analysis with several shakers of salt.

To me, though, the really interesting question will arise when a 3D manufacturer develops internal software that physically disables the printer from being able to print potentially lethal items. I understand certain copiers already detect currency and refuse to copy it. The fun case will be when one printer company demonstrates that those controls are physically possible, but another company does not implement similar controls, and someone injures themselves.

more than 2 years ago

You Can't Print a Gun If You Have No 3D Printer

sampson7 Are Slashdotters Really so Ignorant of the Law? (632 comments)

Reading these comments makes me dispair about basic understanding of the law and government's role in preventing "censorship" by a private corporation.

Question: Is a company engaging in censorship somehow violating the constitution or the law?

Answer: No. The Constituton limits the governments' actions. It is designed to protect the people from government infringement of certain delineated rights. There is nothing in the Constitution or federal law that prevents private corporations from expressing an opinion about the desirable use of their own products. Government may regulate certain behaviors (i.e., discrimination in hiring or health and safety), but is prohibited from picking winners and losers based on political belief. Corporations are subject to no such restrictions.

Question: Is it "illegal" for a company to revoke a lease because the lessee is using the lessor's product in a manner that the lessor thinks is disagreeable?

Answer: No. The lessor is a private company with rights to its own personal political positions and beliefs. There is nothing "illegal" about the company enforcing its contractual rights because it dislikes the use its product is being put to by this particular lessee. (Again, leaving aside certain lawful restrictions on a company's conduct). Instead, it is the terms of the lease that will govern the relationship between the parties.

Question: Is it legal for a lease to differentiate between political views?

Answer: It's very much up to the individual parties to craft a contract that governs the lessee's and lessor's rights. The point is that the parties have complete freedom to arrange the lease as they see fit. In fact, it is common for a lessor to include very broad re-take rights into the contract. If the lessee believes that the lessor has repossessed the equipment in violation of the contract, then he or she has rights under contract law, and the appropriate remedy is to sue (or not agree to the lease to begin with).

Question: Even if we assume it is legal to print a gun under federal law, the law of all fifty states and every local jurisdiction, does the legality/non-legality affect the rights of the lessor to repossess the printer under the lease?

Answer: No. The legality of the finished product has no bearing on the contractual rights of the parties to enforce the conditions of the lease.

Question: Does the 3-D printer manufacturer have legitimate legal concerns, even if the printed guns were unambiguously legal?

Answer: Absolutely. The manufacturer could easily be the target of a law suit for negligence on the part of a victim of the printed gun. The civil liability claims could be enormous. Even the potential threat of such litigation could raise his insurance premiums or cause existing insurers to rescind their coverage. Remember -- in America, each party typical pays its own legal costs. A law suit does not have much merit to bankrupt a small business. And here, the manufacturer was on actual notice that the lessee wanted to make a gun, which would help any plaintiff in establishing that the manufacturer knew or should have known that his product could be used to harm people.

The manufacturer could also be subject to some far-fetched legal theory advanced by a prosecutor in some random jurisdiction. Or he could find his product subject to import/export restrictions in the US or other jurisdictions.

PS - It's not clear to me what the law says on whether printing guns is legal. I'm a lawyer, and spent maybe 10 minutes reading a couple of the various rules. It was enough to determine that it's a complicated patchwork of federal and state rules. In anyone has a lawyer willing to say that such behavior is unambiguously legal under all federal, state and local laws, without any thought or research, should find themselves a new lawyer.

Summary: I'm trying to keep this post a-political and just about general legal concepts. We as educated Americans (or interested foreigners) really need to appreciate when Constitutional rights are at stake and when the Constitution has nothing to do with the underlying issue. This is one of the latter situations imho.

And yes - I am a lawyer - I am not your lawyer. So please don't rely on this posting for legal advise; merely commen sense.

more than 2 years ago

Supreme Court: Affordable Care Act Is Constitutional

sampson7 Re:First dissent (2416 comments)

Just to be clear - are you suggesting that private hospitals (a) should be forced to bear the costs of treating uninsured persons in extremis and pass through those costs to shareholders; or (b) should turn away a bleeding child because he or she doesn't have insurance? If (b), I admire your adherence to the free market, but question your humanity. If (b), then I question why individual shareholders should be required to finance a public policy mandate. Passing through these public good costs to society makes good sense to me, but I'm curious what exactly you are advocating.

more than 2 years ago

Supreme Court: Affordable Care Act Is Constitutional

sampson7 Re:First dissent (2416 comments)

This I do not understand: you are not required to purchase anything. You can elect not to purchase health care. However, there is a tax consequence.

Moreover, I don't understand why otherwise pro-market folks are opposed to this. The more you contribute to governmental healthcare costs, the higher your taxes go. It's a pretty straightforward cause/effect analysis.

more than 2 years ago

'Nuclear Free' Maryland City Grants Waiver For HP

sampson7 Takoma Park Kid (277 comments)

Takoma Park has long been a center for the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and 7DAs tend to be pacifists.

Just FYI, Takoma Park's liberalness (which includes a bead store, vegan restaurants and the rest) has little to do with the Adventists, who aren't really a force in town. Instead, Takoma Park has a long hippy tradition and is filled with aging boomers who moved to the community because of its reputation as a liberal enclave. It's often referred to as the "Berkely of the East" and other such monickers.

My favorite nuclear free story growing up was that the police department looked for a while like it was going to have to buy Volvo squad cars, because every other major manufacturer had some toe hold in nuclear weapons. Not sure how they managed to avoid that, but they did. Similarly, when the transit authority wanted to build a major highway right through the middle of Takoma Park (which at that point was a sleepy middle class suburb full of WWII bungallos), the local community rallied together and killed the massive highway plan on the Maryland side of Washington, DC. Those techies in Northern Virginia who enjoy the Mixed Bowl during their morning commute see what could have happened to Maryland. Of course, nothing's that simple -- but it's refreshing that there's still a place that combates global warming by banning gasoline-powered lawn mowers.....

Takoma Park was a great place to grow up. Crazy as they are, it's refreshing to have such a community of idealists. Even though it seems like the whole community has gentrified over the last few years, I still love it, even as I've transitioned to the Dark Side (business! Eeek!)

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Introduce Someone To Star Trek?

sampson7 Re:My advice (634 comments)

Garak was a traitor?? Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Stopped watchign after a few seasons, always knew he was a double/triple agent, but it never occurred to me he would have real allegiance to one side or the other. *sigh*

more than 2 years ago

New York Times Halves Monthly Free Article Views To Ten

sampson7 I suscribe - and I'm annoyed! (178 comments)

But probably not for the reasons you think.... I have been a subscriber to the Sunday dead-tree edition of the paper for several years now. This, in theory, gives me free access to all online content. But the login system never remembers me. Not on my work computer, not on my iPad, not on my home computer. And the login is often squirrely too.

So I typically use my "20 free articles a month" rather than login each and every freak'n time. I know, this doesn't exactly rise to the level of suffering that really warrants a post - but it's pretty damn annoying. Going to 10 just makes the site even less user-friendly than it already is. Is it really that hard to develop a login system that works???

more than 2 years ago

Judge Doesn't Care About Supreme Court GPS Case

sampson7 Fundamental Misunderstanding of the Law (202 comments)

The summary of this article is just wrong. The Supreme Court has not said that the issue is unclear - it has merely agreed to hear a case about whether a specific decision made by the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia conflicts with existing Supreme Court precedent.

To the extent that you can infer anything from the Supreme Court's grant of certiorari, it is equally likely to conclude that they took the case in order to slap down the D.C. Circuit's novel approach to the 4th Amendment.

The existing precedent, by the way, is that we have no reasonable expectation of privacy in our cars. As a result, it is not an "unreasonable" search or seizure to attach beepers or other devices to our cars in order to monitor our movements.

In fact, the judge in this case does an excellent job summarizing and applying the relevant case law. He points to a case from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (which is the relevant circuit for St. Louis) clearly stating that putting a tracker on a car and then later retreiving it is not a constitutionally prohibited search or seizure.

Agree or disagree on whether we have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our cars - the judge in this case acted properly. It would have violated another constitutional right - the one to a speedy trial - if he had simply delayed the issuance of his opinion until after the Supreme Court issues its (entirely discretionary) opinion.

What a silly article.

about 3 years ago

RIM Gives Up After Losing Initial Battle Over BBX Trademark

sampson7 That's a huge favor... (90 comments)

Blackberry 10 is so much a better name than BBX. I mean, really - what the ****! That's a terrible name! Why would you engage in litigation over it? Maybe if they start losing more cases, they'll start doing better....

more than 3 years ago

Google Releases Geothermal Potential Map of the US

sampson7 Re:Why is electricity not free? (401 comments)

I can't tell whether you are serious or not.... Just as one example, building those wind farms is very expensive. Averaged over the expected life time of the turbines, it probably costs around 10 cents per watt - which, depending on where in the country you live - is probably more than you are paying now.

I won't even talk about the cost of transmission lines, distribution lines, or the price of backup power when the wind doesn't blow. They said nuclear would be too cheap to meter too... They were wrong. Nothing in this life is free, my friend.....

more than 3 years ago

Help Shape the Future of Slashdot

sampson7 Re:Tech problems make the site less fun.... (763 comments)

We are also paid to have a sense of humor about when we read /.....

But more to the point - do you really think burger flippers, on their feet 24/7, have more downtime than lawyers?!? Now that's funny.

more than 3 years ago

Help Shape the Future of Slashdot

sampson7 Tech problems make the site less fun.... (763 comments)

I filled out the survey, but I will share my major concerns here as well. I use IE 7. My company mandates its use and locks things down fairly well. I am a lawyer interested in science and tech policy, but with no actual computer skills (i.e., I programmed a few lines of HTML in my youth, but that's about it).

Over the past few years, my user experience has gone into the gutter, with very few corresponding benefits. Boxes often overlap, and the whole site freezes on a regular basis. Most other sites are fine.

As a result, I show up less. Sure, I could read it on my home computer, but eh. What's the point if you can't sit on a conference call while reading?

more than 3 years ago

Did HP Bilk Its Shareholders?

sampson7 What the heck? This is idiotic! (144 comments)

Wait a second - people are faulting HP from diagnosing a problem and then (god forbid) taking time to put together a business plan and roll out the anouncement of said business plan?!? God forfend! No, instead they should continue on their pre-annointed course, never deviating, regardless of market conditions. (Iceberg dead-ahead? Pshaw. That's not what we decided three weeks ago!) Any major company-shaping (or company-shaking) decision + short-term loss in stock value = Law suit. My reasonably large company takes many bold positions/reinventions as the industry changes. Companies like mine get sued all the time. They are all frivolous (just like this one). They all allege massive insider conspiracies (just like this one). They allege you-made-a-decision-a-certified-moron-wouldn't-make (just like this one). The only news here is who is doing publicity for the law firm - they are apparently good at their job and maybe should be hired in the future. Otherwise, what a joke - carry on.

more than 3 years ago

The Copyright Nightmare of 'I Have a Dream'

sampson7 More to the Story.... (366 comments)

The entry/non-entry of Dr. King's speech into the public domain is a famous case in copyright circles - and in fact, was one reason the copyright laws were changed. It's a fascinating story.

First you need to realize that prior to 1976, unless you put a copyright mark on a document and properly registed it, it was presumed to be in the public domain as soon as it was made public. This led to a number of problems and disputes, and today is widely viewed as being overly punative to people who simply forget to put the mark on a document before releasing it. Today's copyright laws eliminate the "all or nothing" nature of the 1909 Act, and sensibly declare that copyright rests with the author, regardless of whether they properly marked it.

Second, there's an interesting history behind the I Have a Dream speech. While the factual accounts of exactly what happened differ, Dr. King and his associates apparently distributed advance copies of the speech without the copyright mark on them to a group of journalists. Recognizing that this was a serious error, others within Dr. King's circle reportedly re-collected each of the advance copies, and then redistributed them with the copyright mark hand written on the document. So there was a factual question as to whether the textual copy of the speech was put into the public domain or not registered with the copyright office correctly.

There was less dispute over the video and audio. As others have noted, Dr. King improvised/departed from the prepared text a number of times. So there was an argument that, even if Dr. King had lost the copyright on the original text (which is itself debatable), he maintained the copyright on the "performance" of the speach, and was thus entitled to a separate copyright (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estate_of_Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.,_Inc._v._CBS,_Inc.).

I also believe that the speech is freely licensed to anyone engaging in educational activities - so it's not quite as eggregious on the part of the family as many have suggested.

more than 3 years ago

Carbon Trading Halted After EU Exchange Is Hacked

sampson7 Emissions (not just carbon) are traded every day (228 comments)

Let's stop conflating the whether an emissions market is mechanically sound from the politically-charged question of whether it is wise to have established an emissions market for carbon. Emissions markets are common and typically function well. There are established markets in the United States for SOx, NOx, Particulate Matter and other various pollutants emitted from large stationary sources (i.e., power plants, cement factories, etc).

These markets are an excellent way of determining the marginal cost of complying with a particular regulatory regime. I emphasize that last statement because that is what we are really asking is what is the marginal cost of complying with a particular set of rules? Emissions markets are very effective at determining that marginal price.

Of course, the function of the market says nothing about (i) the social utility of complying with the particular rules or (ii) whether the market will actually limit the non-desirable behavior regulators are attempting to stiffle. Whether the market is going to increase that social good depends on on your base-case assumptions. Is global climate change real? Is it exascerbated by CO2 emissions? What is your assumption of CO2 emissions today? What type of compliance regime is utilized to police participation in the market? How strong is the evidence that purchasing and retiring a ton of CO2 from the market actually leads to a ton of CO2 not being put ito the atmosphere?

Personally, I think the evidence suggests that global climate change is happening, and that it is highly likely that man-made emissions are driving the process. But regardless of whether you share my opinion of the science -- you should agree that an emissions exchange is an excellent way of setting the marginal price of complying with a specific set of rules. In short -- just because you are a climate change skeptic doesn't mean you should ignore the rules of economics as well as chemisty.

about 4 years ago

California County Bans SmartMeter Installations

sampson7 Re:Two SmartGrid dirty secrets (494 comments)

Not advertised: the utility can replace fast-response generators like natural gas with slower response generators like coal, because they don't need as much fast response generation capacity to deal with their now smaller peaks. Of course, coal has a bigger carbon footprint than gas. Too bad.

Wow. So much wrong. It's hard to know where to start. The output of a coal plant does not vary over the course of the day -- and no amount of smart meter activity is going to change this. Electric markets dispatch on a least-cost basis; that is, they turn on the cheapest power plants first, and the next most expensive next, etc. A picture is worth a thousand words in this case. Here you can find a typical dispatch stack -- with nuclear on the bottom, coal just above that, natural gas combined cycles above that, peaking natural gas turbines above that, and other technologies like fuel oil and karosene above that. http://www.treepower.org/outreach/stackdispatch.jpeg. (By the way, wind, hydro and solar would be down there by the nuclear, but don't change this analysis.)

The key point that the AC misses, is that the energy usage on any given day fluctuates between the high priced and low priced natural gas plants; in utility parlance, a natural gas unit is the "marginal unit" on the system. Every once and a rare while, the system will run out of natural gas, and have to move up the price stack and dispatch fuel oil -- but that is rare. Likewise, every once in a great while, load will be so low that coal dispatches are decreased.

In short: no amount of smart meter activity is going to decrease (or increase) the amount of power coming from a coal plant. That would imply that someone had an underutilized coal plant just sitting around.... Just doesn't work that way. (Even that ignores the fact that coal plants aren't designed to move up and down; doing so creates a host of technical problems with the plant.)

The second bit of moronity:

One. Advertised: if the utility company is having trouble delivering the demanded power, they can reduce the voltage a little bit and buy/generate a little bit less (expensive) peak power. Your lights will burn a little less brightly, but you probably won't notice.Not advertised: if the utility company is having trouble making money or needs a place to sink their spinning reserves during off-peak demand, they can use SG to raise the delivered voltage to end customers. Your lights will burn a little brighter, but you probably won't notice. It will also cost you a little bit more. Too bad.

This is half true -- but has nothing to do with smart meters. Yes, the operator of the electric grid will fool with the voltage to avoid a cascading failure of the transmission system. Voltage stability, by law, is kept within extremely tight tolerances. During times of over- or under-generation, the voltage may flicker slightly. However, any serious deviation represents a threat to system reliability -- which is paramount to grid operators -- and is simply not allowed. Again, nothing to do with smart meters.

about 4 years ago


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