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Ask Slashdot: Should I Fight Against Online Voting In Our Municipality?

uncqual Re:How about no (92 comments)

You want it to be "secure"? Have it be as an Opt-In program then, where they send you a CD, containing a Live version of a modified Linux distro, putting it in your PC will make it boot to it and thus your viruses no longer matter, from there you can just connect to the voting site and enter your information.

Don't forget the part where you have them figure out which BIOS they have and which key to hit and what to type/click to put the CD drive first in the boot sequence - perhaps because someone removed it to "keep grandpa's machine safe". No, that won't generate any support calls or anything like that.

It might not be so bad if the NSA would share the detailed information about voters' computer with the municipal government so each person gets "personalized" instructions ("If you run this on 'MomsOfficePC', press and type 3 at the first prompt; If you run this on 'DadsPornPC', press and type 2 at the first prompt; If you..."). However, I doubt the NSA will share the necessary data (although I don't doubt they might have it).

about an hour ago
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NASA Announces Mars 2020 Rover Payload

uncqual Re:Why do we do these things? (66 comments)

The tangible benefit of this boondoggle is that today, we have the Internet, the direct descendant of ARPANET.

And, without that, we couldn't have /. -- and that's a benefit?

3 hours ago
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NASA Announces Mars 2020 Rover Payload

uncqual Re:Why do we do these things? (66 comments)

The "eventually we will run out of room" argument doesn't make a lot of sense to me.The cost of, relatively safely, putting one human on even another planet in our solar system, let alone an unknown planet in another solar system in our galaxy, is enormous. Yes, the cost will come down, but seems unlikely to ever be less than several times the average person's lifetime net contribution to mankind unless that net contribution increases incredibly (which, in turn, seems unlikely to happen if we are suffering from overpopulation - as resources become scarcer, more effort is consumed extracting those resources -- but these high extraction costs don't translate into a better life for the average person -- it's just increased overhead).

Birth control and education is a much cheaper and sustainable solution to the "eventually we will run out of room" problem. Barring that, mass famine, war, genocide and natural selection will take care of the the problem quite efficiently.

If the concern is to address the "the Earth may become inhabitable to humans and we want to preserve the species" problem, space exploration could be a component of a strategy to address the concern. Except for a cataclysmic event such as multiple strikes from many very large asteroids, that concern is unlikely to need an answer for many millions of years. But, in any event, the answer to that concern almost certainly will not be to ship billions of humans off the planet (due to the expense and resource consumption of that activity). Instead, sets of breeders (either select humans or, more likely, a few caregivers along with artificial wombs and a diverse set of human genetic material to create a decent sized first generation of humans) will likely be sent to various promising celestial bodies in hopes that a few communities can be established and survive propagating whatever the "human" species is at that point (of course these communities, as well as those that remain on Earth, will independently evolve and probably would not recognize each other as "humans" in a few hundred thousand years -- so it's not clear what the point is).

Both of these concerns are, of course, predicated on an assumption that the human species is somehow special enough to the universe to bother to preserve except in an archeological record. I'm doubtful this is the case myself. However, I support NASA because it's got good spinoffs and, at least in the past, motivated kids to go into the science and engineering fields which is generally helpful to society. Space exploration may also help inform the answer to the question of if the human species is worth going to great effort to sustain past its natural (probably short compared to many species that surround us) extinction on Earth.

3 hours ago
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Amputee Is German Long Jump Champion

uncqual Re:No, no unfair advantage at all... (175 comments)

The same rules must apply to all for a competition to be fair.

Since I'm under 6 feet tall, should I be able to join an NBA team and every time I attempt a slam dunk, should the hoop be lowered for me? Or, should I be able to use a drone to drop the ball into the basket? Of course not.

In a coding competition, should people with IQs under 100 be given the problem three hours before those with IQs over 100?

Athletic contests are, by nature, partially a test of the athlete's native "good luck" at the lottery of genetics, disease, environment etc. To introduce artificial equipment which is arbitrary and only usable by a small number of athletes destroys the entire notion of a fair competition.

Suppose the top ten long jumpers world wide ended up being double amputees with high tech prosthesis, wouldn't that suggest that the event had become "double amputee, technology assisted, long jumping" rather than what we think of as "long jumping" now? What response would we have to that? In order to preserve what little interest there already is in track and field, I'd guess governing bodies would then either ban prosthesis or would reduce their effectiveness with arbitrary rules to "fix" the problem -- but then what is the "right" number of top hundred world wide long jumpers that utilize a prosthesis -- would we just set a quota? Perhaps if x% of the population are single amputees and y% are double amputees -- that's the exact percentage of such people who would be allowed in the "top hundred" recorded long jumps?

Why not allow athletes to use steroids? How about just ones with a muscle mass below some point? Why, why not? The argument that "steroids are harmful' seems weak if you're going to allow prostheses in long jumping -- cutting off your leg(s) to allow you to use a prosthesis in competition seems pretty harmful also. Are we going to judge how someone lost their leg(s) to avoid people from having their leg(s) amputated in order to wear high tech prosthesis? If it was in an accident with a piece of industrial equipment, do we have to judge if it was intentional (and hence the person didn't qualify to wear a prosthesis in competition) or accidental (allowing a prosthesis). What if someone is trapped by a rock pinning their leg in a remote location by themselves -- if they cut it off to escape, is that a "qualifying" amputation?

5 days ago
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Amputee Is German Long Jump Champion

uncqual Re:Nudity (175 comments)

Sure - if there as a national standards body that accepted ladders in the "Ladder Assisted High Jump" event. In such an event, it's likely the ladders would have standards relating to factors such as height, weight, elasticity and all competitors in that event would be able to use ladders meeting those criteria.

5 days ago
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Ode To Sound Blaster: Are Discrete Audio Cards Still Worth the Investment?

uncqual The difference isn't the card. (502 comments)

People who know and value quality audio are willing to buy discrete audio cards even though it costs them more money.

However, they don't realize that the improvement they see is because they are also willing to pay more money for quality cables. It's the solid gold Monster Cables that they buy because the salesperson at Fry's recommends them that is really the source of the improved audio quality.

about three weeks ago
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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

uncqual Re:A win for freedom (1330 comments)

Yep, Congress (with the consent of the President or with a veto proof majority) can change the law so the SCOTUS Hobby Lobby decision is moot. Until then, it stands.

It's not clear to me why employers should be, effectively, forced to provide health insurance coverage. Fortunately, if I recall correctly, they have no requirement to subsidize coverage.

about 1 month ago
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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

uncqual Re:No right to breech, pollute, destroy, ... (1330 comments)

The RFRA is a restriction on incursions on religious beliefs. It's name being Religious Freedom Restoration Act might have been a hint. Hence it can really only be used for "faith based" challenges - that's its entire point.

If the PPACA and related regulations require coverage for blood transfusions, a business owner who is a Christian Scientist and touts her faith on marketing materials may challenge that clause of the PPACA regulations. The courts would decide, in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision, if the requirement violated the RFRA (perhaps because the government could have found another way to cover transfusions - such as by paying for them from the general fund).

As far as vaccines, I'm not sure (beyond those who dismiss medical treatment for religious grounds) that any religion has a specific aversion to vaccines. But, if someone has sincere religious beliefs that prohibit use of vaccines, the above would apply to that case as well.

about 1 month ago
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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

uncqual Re:A win for freedom (1330 comments)

If the government denied you the right to seek an abortion or forced you to have an abortion against your religious beliefs, yes, it would likely be be unconstitutional in most cases. That's not the case here.

BTW, I'm an atheist and have no moral problem with abortion. However, as an civil libertarian, I want the government to keep their nose out of religious issues whenever it's feasible. If I want my employer provided insurance to cover abortion, I should ask about that before joining the company and go to work elsewhere if I don't like the answer.

about 1 month ago
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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

uncqual Re:But now... (1330 comments)

It's interesting that she simply notes that "no decision of this Court recognized [...]". The fact that she didn't cite SCOTUS cases that accepted her apperant point of view suggests that the SCOTUS simply never ruled on the matter so I don't understand why this fact was worth mentioning. If a justification for not reaching some finding is that "the SCOTUS never recognized" something before, the court would grant cert in almost no cases except a circuit split (where they sort of are obligated to resolve a split). Cases that are not of first impression (i.e., not previously ruled on by the SCOTUS) are unlikely to be granted cert.

I find her comment rather circular.

about 1 month ago
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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

uncqual Re:But now... (1330 comments)

The law that was passed wasn't limited in scope to American Indian worship sites. It is reasonable to presume that this was not an accident and the law passed was the one the lawmakers intended to pass. It may be that some that voted for it wanted it limited in scope, but that doesn't matter, they voted for it as written (and maybe that was because a law singling out a particular religious group for special treatment wouldn't have passed).

about 1 month ago
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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

uncqual Re:Supreme Court did *not* say corps are people .. (1330 comments)

Then change the Dictionary Act so "person"/"persons", unless otherwise stated in the text of Federal Legislation, do not include corporations and associations.

You may believe there should be some sort of tradeoff the law doesn't recognize. That's for you to take up with the legislative bodies to get recognized, it's not for the courts to inject their beliefs rather than merely interpret statutory law passed through a democratic process and apply it correctly to specific cases such as this one.

There are people, for example, who believe that all corporations should be disbanded and the workers should, themselves, own all means of production. The burden is on them to get such a structure enacted through the democratic process, it's not for the courts to impose.

about 1 month ago
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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

uncqual Re:No right to breech, pollute, destroy, ... (1330 comments)

This case was decided based on statutory law (the RFRA and the Dictionary Act largely), not the free exercise or free speech clauses of the First Amendment.

about 1 month ago
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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

uncqual Re:Supreme Court did *not* say corps are people .. (1330 comments)

I take this to mean you would have no problem with this ruling if instead of Hobby Lobby, the plaintiff had been a business that was not incorporated and whose owners, on religious grounds, objected to providing "morning after" contraceptive products to their employees?

This belief is based, it appears, on the notion that corporations, unlike natural persons, don't have "rights". Is that correct?

However, this case was not decided on Constitutional grounds (i.e., the Free Exercise clause had nothing to do with the case) so "Constitutional rights" have nothing to do with it. It was decided based on the terms of Federal statutory law - the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) which raised the bar with respect to the level of justification the Federal needs to intrude on a person's religious beliefs coupled with the Dictionary Act's well known definition of how all Federal legislation is to be interpreted.

The RFRA refers to 'persons' without, as far as I can tell, any qualification to exclude corporations so the portion Dictionary Act which specifies

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise—
[...]
the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals;

applies and the therefore the protections in the RFRA apply to corporations as well.

This is a simple question of legislative interpretation and there appears to be little room for debate. There is much yammering about the effect of the decision, but the court's should not, in a matter of statutory law, pay much attention to that and clearly should not override the legislators except in response to Constitutional issues or cases where there is ambiguity, conflict, or vagueness in the law which they must resolve because the legislative process did not.

If it is the will of the people to neuter this opinion, it can be done the same way the RFRA and Dictionary Act were instituted and amended over time -- via the legislative process. If that doesn't happen, then in a democratic society we can safely assume that it is not the will of the governed to do so.

about 1 month ago
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That Toy Is Now a Drone

uncqual Re:2nd Amendment (268 comments)

Your characterization of Citizen's United is not complete.

Being "content neutral" (or, perhaps more correctly, "viewpoint neutral" -- fire, crowded theater and all that is considering content, but not of political speech) is necessary, but not sufficient, for a restriction that limits speech to pass constitutional muster.

Roughly speaking (I'm not a constitutional expert or a lawyer), there also has to be, at whatever level of scrutiny the court decides applies, sufficient (and, in practice, generally quite narrow) justification that a speech restriction furthers an important public good and that (depending on level of scrutiny applied) the one chosen is the narrowest possible restriction and there is no other possible solution that doesn't infringe on speech. Look to this week's abortion clinic buffer zone rejection. The justices decided that the ban was, in fact, viewpoint neutral (I don't agree with that, but then I'm no wearing a black robe so my opinion matters little). That didn't save the law though -- the flaw was that the ban was too broad and the government hadn't proven that it was the only solution or even a necessary measure.

In general, SCOTUS has upheld many campaign finance regulations (such as disclosure) on the grounds of preventing bribery and corruption -- NOT for the purpose of "leveling the playing field" (which is what most advocates of campaign finance regulations actually seem to desire).

I've not read Citizen's United in a while, but a main issue there, as I recall it, was that an individual living breathing human with a heartbeat can spend an unlimited amount of money backing a measure or a candidate -- as long as they don't coordinate with the campaign (unless, of course, they are the candidate spending their own money). Citizen's United decided that corporations and organizations had similar rights (being composed of, at their core, humans).

And, the ability and desire to prosecute someone for violating a constitutional law is up to law enforcement and proprietorial discretion. Ayers wasn't "allowed" to do what he did -- he just didn't get prosecuted for it.

about a month ago
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That Toy Is Now a Drone

uncqual Re:2nd Amendment (268 comments)

The political speech workaround won't work. Mostly because these rules by the FAA are content neutral. You can't burn down a government building and sucessfully claim a "free speech" exemption from arson laws just because you used lighter fluid to spell out your "I hate government" message on the building, lit it, and posted a picture of the start of the fire with your message clearly visible in flames.

about a month ago
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NYC Loses Appeal To Ban Large Sugary Drinks

uncqual Re:Let them drink! (532 comments)

That depends on how one defined athletic pursuits.

People get seriously injured (body casts, permanent significant disabilities etc) when skydiving due to, for example, hook turns w/o sufficient altitude, or partial malfunctions they misjudge and ride down, or dust devils they get caught in at low altitude. These sort of things are much rarer in sports such as soccer, tennis, baseball, golf (if that counts as a athletic pursuit), recreational skiing (vs. "extreme" skiing). Skydiving is not as high risk as the general public thinks it is, but risk of serious injury is higher than for most "usual" sports.

about a month ago
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NYC Loses Appeal To Ban Large Sugary Drinks

uncqual Re:Let them drink! (532 comments)

One has to consider not the general population (as a very small percentage of the general population skydives and only a fairly small percentage mountain bikes) but only the population engaging in the activity. And, I've seen a much higher injury rate among participants in both than in the sit at home and watch TV crowd.

As far as cigarettes, they are not nearly as harmful to old people who take up late in life as they are likely to die of something unrelated before of something related to smoking -- probably there should be a tax waiver for old smokers.

about a month ago
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NYC Loses Appeal To Ban Large Sugary Drinks

uncqual Re:Let them drink! (532 comments)

Well, flab is pretty well known to cause health problems - that ought to be taxed, then there would be no need to tax the activities that lead to it. A weighin once a year at your local revenue office (along with a DNA swab to make sure people are not cheating) should work well.

about a month ago

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