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Supreme Court Refuses To Hear EPIC Challenge To NSA Surveillance

ubernostrum Re:No surprise (227 comments)

Well, as I understand it (as an amateur watcher of the Court), EPIC wasn't so much attempting to "jump the line" as to force a decision on jurisdiction. There are other challenges to surveillance in other federal courts, but the government's position includes an argument that those courts have no jurisdiction to hear such challenges or to issue orders overturning/voiding actions of the FISC. EPIC's line of reasoning here is to try to constrain the government's position into arguing that no other court can review FISC, which would essentially give FISC Supreme-Court-like power, and hope that the Supreme Court, which tends to be jealous of its own power, would smack that down.

1 year,9 days
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Is Poor Numeracy Ruining Lives?

ubernostrum Re:If you can't (489 comments)

Hit it on the head. Insurance isn't about odds, it's about turning unpredictable liabilities into predictable ones.

more than 2 years ago
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Android Source Code Gone For Good?

ubernostrum Re:FUD Alert. FUD Alert (362 comments)

No, this is precisely the same sort of criticism that gets leveled against any company which has a history of adopting open-source code without obeying open-source licenses, which justifies a default position of "I'll see it when I believe it" for Google making promises to release code. Or do you happen to know someone who has a device running Honeycomb and was able to follow up on the legal requirement that the source be made available to them?

more than 3 years ago
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iPhone and Location: Don't Panic

ubernostrum Re:The Point (362 comments)

It's a cache that doesn't overwrite itself or roll every x days.

Meh. You want to nitpick semantics, go ahead. But like I said: how often is the location of a cell tower going to change? You really think that X days from now the tower might have been moved somewhere else, so that you'd better flush your old data and figure out the location again?

more than 3 years ago
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iPhone and Location: Don't Panic

ubernostrum Re:Blinders (362 comments)

2/10, you forgot to get the Bilderberg Group and the reptilioids involved. Try harder next time.

more than 3 years ago
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iPhone and Location: Don't Panic

ubernostrum Re:The Point (362 comments)

because this information exists when it should not

So far as I can tell, this data is basically just a cache of the stuff the Assisted GPS would otherwise have to go fetch via slower means. That's a tradeoff I'd happily make as a developer (since, really, how often is the location of a cell tower going to change, that you'd need to manually figure it out every time?), and that I have no problem with as an end user.

more than 3 years ago
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Court Rules Website Doesn't Have To Remove Defamatory Comments

ubernostrum Re:but it was false anyway? (145 comments)

What if you could be sued for saying something that someone disagreed with?

You can't. "But what if you could" isn't a relevant question, then. If you want to play "what if" I'll just ask what happens if a motivated, well-organized group of people get together and push through a Constitutional amendment (it's happened before -- see the 18th Amendment) repealing freedom of speech? This is actually more relevant because it's something legal scholars actually worry about: technically, it's possible to repeal the whole Bill of Rights, all the bits about voting and representation and then, constitutionally, set up a permanent dictatorship.

Do you even know what free speech is? Speech without limit. The constitution mentions no such limits.

Do you even know what a court is? The Constitution isn't a cut-and-dried "take the literal meaning of the literal text and nothing else" document, and courts can and have upheld punishing people for merely uttering threats. Though perhaps you can point me to the part of the Constitution which explicitly denies to federal courts the right to rule on cases arising under the Constitution (oh wait, it actually has a part that says exactly the opposite, which is why courts get to determine whether laws are in accord with the Constitution or not).

This is about speech, not actions which actually do harm.

If I make up some posters with your name and address on them, and a warning saying you're a registered sex offender who molested children, and then put them up all around your city, all I've done is "speech" -- I've just strung together some words and published them for all to see. But you can bet your ass that speech would do actual harm to you, and you'd be able to sue me to recover damages.

This is why civil law recognizes the idea that speech, by itself with no other actions, can do harm and require a remedy. Which is what slander and libel are all about. But since we've already established that you'd flunk first-year Constitutional law, I don't know that it does me any good to try to explain it to you.

more than 3 years ago
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Court Rules Website Doesn't Have To Remove Defamatory Comments

ubernostrum Re:but it was false anyway? (145 comments)

Sorry, but if I could be sued for saying something someone disagreed with, my speech has been effectively limited, in no small part due to the government allowing it.

And you possess no reading comprehension skills whatsoever, because I pointed out that you can't be sued for saying "something someone disagreed with". You can be sued for causing harm to another person, and made to pay damages for that harm, and enjoined from doing further harm.

More to the point, you seem to fundamentally misunderstand what "freedom of speech" means; it does not mean that every sequence of words someone might utter or publish is always and forever immune to intervention. For example, not even the most expansive reading of the First Amendment would protect the sequence of words "give me all your money or I'll shoot you" when uttered to someone you've just walked up to on the street -- in fact, that sequence of words can easily land you in jail.

What the First Amendment protects is the expression of beliefs and opinions, and it actually goes well beyond just protecting sequences of words. But it does not grant a right to threaten or do harm -- as one of our greatest judges said, my right to swing my fist ends where someone else's nose begins.

more than 3 years ago
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Court Rules Website Doesn't Have To Remove Defamatory Comments

ubernostrum Re:but it was false anyway? (145 comments)

I certainly wouldn't support (for example) the ability for someone to sue someone else merely because the other person said something that they disagreed with

Fortunately, "I disagree with this" is not grounds for a defamation suit. To sue for defamation you have to show that the statements were false and that they caused actual harm to you.

And while "the government" is involved, it's a civil court, which exists to act as an arbiter in disputes between people, rather than to prosecute and punish crimes. "You have to pay this person damages/restitution for harming him, and stop doing the thing that harmed him" is a very different thing than "you go to prison for committing a crime".

more than 3 years ago
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Court Rules Website Doesn't Have To Remove Defamatory Comments

ubernostrum Re:but it was false anyway? (145 comments)

Except not really.

Slander and libel are civil torts; basically, when you say or publish something false about someone, and your false statements cause harm to that person, they can sue you. And you can be ordered to pay them for the harm you caused, and ordered by a court to stop saying or publishing the false things that harmed that person.

And this isn't government restricting speech; it's basically no different than, say, a court ordering you to pay someone because you threw a brick through their window, causing damage to their property, and ordering you to stop throwing bricks through the window and maybe even to stay away from that person's property.

This case boils down to, basically:

  1. Person A posts some false things on a website, which cause harm to Person B.
  2. Person B sues Person A.
  3. Person B wins the lawsuit, and gets a court order to have the false things taken down.
  4. The website says "wait a minute, we weren't the ones who got sued, and the court just ordered us to do this without letting us show up and present an argument".
  5. Appeals court says "yeah, you're right" and that's the end of the court order.

This doesn't mean websites are immune from defamation claims. It means that if you want, as part of your lawsuit, to get a website to take down defamatory material, you'd better be suing the website. Which does complicate things a bit if somebody goes on a spree posting defamatory material about you on a bunch of sites, but if you've sued that person and won, and have the documentation, then -- one hopes -- most sites wouldn't make you go to the trouble of suing them too. RipoffReport, then, isn't standing up for free speech or any sort of high moral principle; they're just being douchebags and saying "too bad this other person screwed you over royally -- now we're gonna do it too, hope you've got a good lawyer and money to pay him!"

more than 3 years ago
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Apple Hires Antenna Engineers. Really.

ubernostrum Re:Reading into it? (417 comments)

So, you might want to read first this article, by a guy who actually does this for a living, to get a feel for the actual issues. Then you might want to read this section of Anandtech's review in which they take several phones -- among them the iPhone 4 -- and do science to them.

The things you'll learn might surprise you: yes, there's loss of signal, but it's not unique to the iPhone 4 (though it does appear to be worse with the iPhone 4). And that's far from the whole story (hint: the iPhone 4's antenna, it turns out, may be better at coping with low signal strength than previous models).

more than 4 years ago
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America Versus the UFO Hacker

ubernostrum Re:This is why he has to be tried over here (452 comments)

It really does look as though its a nuke the intruder response to somebody who walked in, without forcing entry, into somewhere they should not have been.

IIRC he was originally offered a pretty sweet deal in return for information on how he did what he did and possibly some help securing things, and he basically responded by thumbing his nose at the US officials who made the offer. Which, predictably, resulted in them deciding to throw the book at him.

more than 4 years ago
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First Pulitzer Awarded To an Online News Site

ubernostrum Except not quite (60 comments)

Unless you carefully restrict your definition of "online" to rule out any online publication owned or operated by a company which also happens to have non-online ventures, this doesn't hold up: Politifact, a political fact-checking site, won a Pulitzer last year for fact-checking the 2008 US federal election campaigns. Maybe you can make the argument that, because it's operated by a company which also prints papers, it's not really "online", but given that the whole operation was on the Web (and utterly dependent on the Web to work) I'd have a hard time accepting that.

more than 4 years ago
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White House Claims Copyright On Flickr Photos

ubernostrum Re:Does this fall under Public Domain? (169 comments)

Which they can't do, because the photos are in the public domain. They have no ability to manage the rights on them at all.

If I find a public-domain photograph of you, photoshop it to show you using my product and then run an ad campaign using your name and likeness to promote my product, you know what? You'd get to own my ass in court, because copyright and likeness rights aren't the same thing. And, really, that's what this whole thing is apparently about: people are seeing "public domain" and thinking "that means I can have President Obama in my advertisements!" Which, um, no, no they can't.

more than 4 years ago
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Obama Appointee Sunstein Favors Infiltrating Online Groups

ubernostrum Re:Wow, you can't get better sources than WND? (689 comments)

I see it differently. All 350 million "Americans" are expendable to me. I won't go out of my way to harm anyone, but I'll never sacrifice myself for "you". I do not exist for your benefit, or to be sacrificed for you as you see fit.

And yet you're basically demanding that I sacrifice for you and your children.

Anyway, there are two problems here, I think. One is the old "what have you done for me lately" syndrome: the diseases which used to kill horrifying numbers of children haven't been prevalent for a couple generations, because we've been routinely vaccinating. There aren't hospital wards full of kids in iron lungs from polio anymore, for example, so the risk of the disease -- and it's a very serious, fatal or permanently crippling risk if you get polio -- seems distant, while that "one in (large number)" risk of an adverse reaction to a vaccine seems up close and personal. Given that, typical ass-backwards human psychology kicks in, does a flawed risk assessment ("I heard about someone who had a bad reaction to a shot, but I don't know anyone who's been crippled by polio") and makes a stupid decision.

The second issue is close to what economists call the "free rider" problem: if some other sucker's kid gets vaccinated, then you won't have to vaccinate yours. Your kid can just piggyback off the herd immunity of all those idiots who keep nasty diseases from spreading. Of course, there's a critical point where enough "smart" people realize they can freeload off the system and it falls apart: the UK's already seeing this with serious outbreaks of preventable diseases, brought on by refusal to vaccinate. And, predictably, kids are dying as a result, which will eventually -- once enough little coffins have been filled -- swing the risk assessment back and start people vaccinating again.

For your kids' sake, I hope they don't end up having to be the examples which convince other parents to act rationally (I would say "for your sake", but who am I kidding? I don't care much if your faulty thinking gets weeded out by a preventable disease, but it'd be a shame if you managed to get some kids killed instead).

more than 4 years ago
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Obama Appointee Sunstein Favors Infiltrating Online Groups

ubernostrum Re:Wow, you can't get better sources than WND? (689 comments)

Okay, thanks for straightening that out, but I think your analysis evades a crucial point: why does the government *care* about conspiracy theorists and what they think?

The newspaper I work for published an article the other day about a flu vaccination clinic being offered by the local health department. The first few comments posted to the online version were all copypasta from Infowars (a conspiracy-theory site) alleging that flu vaccines are deliberate mass-murder tools used by a shadowy one-world organization to engage in "softkill eugenics" and wipe out people who oppose them. This is an extreme example, of course, but it shows a real problem: if enough people believe even relatively mild conspiracy theories about flu vaccines, then they'll refuse to get vaccinated and public health -- something it's the government's job to promote and maintain -- will suffer. This means that rebutting and refuting such theories becomes a part of the government's job, as furthering the goal of public health.

more than 4 years ago
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Malicious App In Android Market

ubernostrum Re:Where is the evil DRM protection when you need (340 comments)

on any other platform, you wouldn't need to remove software from "Droid09", your overlord would remove it for you, along with any other subversive material that might be on the device that you're borrowing from them

I hate to break it to you, but Android Market has a remote kill switch which operates at Google's discretion. If they decide you shouldn't have that app, they have (and you've agreed to give them) the ability to remove it from your device regardless of what you'd like.

more than 4 years ago
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Air Canada Ordered To Provide Nut-Free Zone

ubernostrum Re:Not the case (643 comments)

Many people with severe nut allergies can suffer serious allergic reactions on contact with nuts, even things that come in contact with nuts. Your skin is quite happy to absorb many things that get on it.

And yet it's hard to escape the conclusion that a large part of it is not physiological in any way. Someone who's been told that they'll go into shock if they get within a hundred feet of a peanut will -- if they believe that -- display those symptoms regardless of whether they're actually that allergic. And there have been, so far as I know, no controlled studies to show that such sensitivity actually exists, just hordes of people told that they'll experience severe illness if they get within X distance of anything that's ever been in contact with a nut.

In some ways this is like the people in the UK who claim to be allergic to 2.4GHz radio, and who are, for example, perfectly happy and healthy using microwave ovens up until the moment you tell them that microwaves emit on that band. At that point they suddenly begin experiencing their "allergy", and it's hard to make the claim that it's not largely or even completely psychosomatic. IIRC one particularly nasty TV show conducted an extended interview with someone who claimed such an allergy, and only told him much later that he'd been close to a wireless access point the whole time (and then he suddenly "remembered" that he'd felt bad during the whole interview...).

more than 4 years ago
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First Malicious iPhone Worm In the Wild

ubernostrum Re:What, a worm on a platform with no market share (135 comments)

Doesn't this (finally) put to bed the notion that there are virtually no worms or viruses for Mac OS X simply because hackers don't want to waste their time on a platform with so little market share?

Well, my personal opinion is that OS X doesn't get as much malware because its security model is better then Windows' in at least one crucial way: it has the Unix concept of the executable bit, which turns the system from "default allow" to "default deny" and so locks out a huge number of traditional Windows vectors (the auto-executing email attachment, the auto-executing drive-by download, the auto-executing IM attachment, etc., etc.) in one fell swoop. As others have said, "default allow" is the dumbest idea in the history of computer security.

But as for people putting in their time, well, I don't know if you noticed but if you come up with a crack for something produced by Apple you'll end up with 5.75x10^600 pageviews from the resulting press coverage (see: pwn2own, which has basically become a luck of the draw contest -- if you get to go first, you win because you're sitting on a canned exploit you kept secret solely for the contest). And certain types of people love that sort of attention.

about 5 years ago

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