Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:Warrant after probable cause established? (Score 1) 270

by JesseMcDonald (#49494449) Attached to: FBI Accuses Researcher of Hacking Plane, Seizes Equipment

They need a warrant to perform any search or seizure—the warrant is the authorization to perform the search or seizure; you can't have one without the other. It isn't "either the search is 'reasonable' or you have a warrant", applying for a warrant is how you document that the search was reasonable in the first place, by providing probable cause supported by oath or affirmation. A blanket authorization for so-called 'reasonable' searches and/or seizures is just another way of issuing an unconstitutionally broad warrant which fails to document the probable cause or to particularly describe the place to be searched or the persons or things to be seized.

However, you are correct that they probably wouldn't have any trouble getting a warrant after his comments. If you make a credible threat, even if your intent was humorous or sarcastic, you shouldn't act surprised when people take you seriously.

Comment: Re:Just get rid of democracy instead (Score 1) 327

by JesseMcDonald (#49489481) Attached to: Gyro-Copter Lands On West Lawn of US Capitol, Pilot Arrested

Perhaps, just get rid of districts. If someone from across my state represents me better than someone local, then perhaps my appointment should not be limited by borders drawn for an election system that would no longer be in place.

Why even restrict the choice of representative to someone in your state? I'd just let anyone interest in the job apply to serve as a representative, provided they could meet some minimum number of votes nation-wide—perhaps 0.1% of the eligible voting population, so there could be at most 1,000 representatives. In practice it would probably be much less than 1,000, with a few individuals representing the major factions but plenty of room for minority positions. Each eligible voter gets three votes, and thus up to three representatives, which they are given the opportunity to change at regular intervals (e.g. quarterly, or when one of their representatives steps down). The votes are persistent until changed, and can be concentrated or spread out according to the voter's preference. A representative's influence in the House is determined by how many votes he or she currently holds.

This would, of course, be separate from the states' representatives in the Senate, to be appointed by the state legislatures. Popular representation is all well and good, but someone has to look out for the long term. Under my system the House would be able to approve any short-term (discretionary) expenditures unilaterally out of existing savings, but a 2/3 super-majority in the Senate would be required for anything requiring new debt (to include any increase in the money supply), speculation on future revenues, or a commitment of more than a few years. Finally, all laws would be required to maintain the approval of a simple majority in both the House and the Senate or face immediate repeal following a call for a vote.

Comment: Re:People are tribal even when they don't realize (Score 1) 247

by JesseMcDonald (#49481931) Attached to: EU To Hit Google With Antitrust Charges

But then, (democratic) countries are the commonal property of their citizens, whose interests are represented by the Government.

Several problem with this. First, the claim to communal ownership of the entire country is extremely suspect. Was it homesteaded from unowned land or purchased? If purchased, did the seller have the right to it? Governments generally move in to a country by conquest, i.e. theft on a grand scale. They don't homestead the land they rule, or purchase it from the rightful owners (though sometimes they do purchase territory from another government). Second, unlike shareholders in a company, citizens can't cash out if they happen to disagree with the direction taken by the board of directors. Citizenship is non-transferable, and even abandoning it is very heavily penalized. Citizens are opted-in involuntarily at birth and aren't allowed to opt out in any practical sense—being forced to give up everything you've earned, move to another country, and never see your family again doesn't count. (And even then the U.S. will try to keep claiming you owe taxes.)

Comment: Re:A first: We should follow Germany's lead (Score 1) 700

by JesseMcDonald (#49481841) Attached to: 'We the People' Petition To Revoke Scientology's Tax Exempt Status

Right. You don't have to be a charity to be a non-profit. Anyone can form a non-profit so long as the organization itself isn't intended to make a profit (i.e. to enrich the owners/shareholders or pay dividends—paying employees is fine, but they do get charged income tax on that pay). You do need to be a charity to allow your donors to write off their donations as charitable expenses on their taxes, but that's all that's really at stake here.

Comment: Re:A first: We should follow Germany's lead (Score 1) 700

by JesseMcDonald (#49481813) Attached to: 'We the People' Petition To Revoke Scientology's Tax Exempt Status

The whole point of the tax exempt status is to advantage groups that are beneficial to society.

That's not entirely correct. While there are some minor differences between non-profit charities and other non-profit organizations, the real point of having tax-exempt non-profit organizations is to avoid double-taxing the income of organizations which aren't structured as profit centers—in other words, those which don't accumulate market value for their owners or shareholders, and don't pay dividends. There are plenty of non-profits which have nothing to do with charity and are only intended to benefit their members, e.g. industry organizations like the RIAA or MPAA. This is not a loophole; the system is working as intended. It's all a matter of simplifying the paperwork, really: if the associations were forced to file as for-profit organizations they would still pay little or no income taxes, because—by design—they have no net profit. They may keep some savings on hand to facilitate cash flow, but everything else they receive is channeled directly into expenses related to their charter.

The significant advantage charitable non-profits have is that their donations can be written off on their donor's taxes as charitable expenses. If you donate or pay dues to a non-charitable organization you're still on the hook for income taxes on that money, unless you can classify it as a business expense.

Comment: Re:Should be micro kernel (Score 1) 209

by JesseMcDonald (#49475399) Attached to: Linux Getting Extensive x86 Assembly Code Refresh

In a monolithic kernel, none of these problems exist. Every application request that enters the filesystem layer automatically continues in its own independent thread. When it hits an area that requires synchronisation, it briefly acquires a lock (usually without contention), does the work, and releases the lock. This is a much simpler design, with higher performance.

Any particular reason you couldn't do the same thing in a microkernel? I'm envisioning some form of IPC primitive that automatically spawns a lightweight thread to handle each incoming message, which isn't too different from the monolithic kernel approach apart from not having a fixed 1:1 correspondence between the client and server contexts. You would be able to use your shared data structures and locks just as you would in a monolithic kernel, at least within the filesystem code. For anything else, of course, you'd need to use IPC.

Comment: Re:Break the key apart? (Score 1) 134

by JesseMcDonald (#49459949) Attached to: U.S. Gov't Grapples With Clash Between Privacy, Security

You could use Shamir's Algorithm, but the recommended way to create a multi-signature Bitcoin address is to use a transaction script which separately checks each of the desired keys. That way each key holder can sign the transaction independently of the others, and—more importantly—there is no need to get all the key fragments together in one place to reconstruct a master key.

That last point, incidently, happens to be one of the problems with this proposal; once the master key has been reconstructed, anyone with access to it would have unrestricted access to every backdoored device. Key-splitting is really only intended for cases where the master key need only be used once, not on a routine basis as can be expected in this scenario. Rather than splitting a master key, a better approach would be to have a number of separate keys and require a certain number of signatures on a digital "warrant" which specifically identifies the device to be decrypted. (It wouldn't hurt to include the other Constitutionally-mandated warrant information, either, just for future reference.) The device would then need to validate the device ID in the warrant and check the signatures against a list of known public keys before decrypting itself.

Comment: Re:Lower taxes (Score 1) 312

You've got it all backward.

All truly competitive free-market prices are (at least said to be) set at whatever the market will bear.

And contrary to what you say, an established and monopolized source of goods and/or services doesn't have that problem: They can charge whatever they feel like charging, and people will either pay it or be without that good or service. With a strong, non-competitive monopoly, it doesn't matter what the market will bear: You can provide minimal services at maximal pricing and reap maximum profits at the cost of those who can afford your good or service that you offer at a very self-serving price.

Somehow you managed to say exactly what I said while pretending to disagree and maintaining a needlessly condescending tone. I'm impressed.

Of course, this sort of absolute monopoly we're discussing only comes about when exclusivity is guaranteed by law, or otherwise backed by force. In very rare cases it can happen if someone legitimately owns the entire supply of some rare good, a.k.a. a natural monopoly. A mere de facto monopoly which results from favorable economies of scale and/or network effects always has to worry about the next up-and-coming competitor; if they abuse their position or become complacent there is always someone else waiting to move in with lower prices and better quality and undermine their market share. The incumbent enjoys a natural advantage over the challengers, but not an unlimited one.

Comment: Re:Lower taxes (Score 1) 312

In some areas, we already have multiple private hospitals and doctors and ambulance companies competing with eachother.

This doesn't seem to have any great impact on prices.

I wasn't trying to imply that prices would necessarily be lower than they are now, merely that they would be governed by supply and demand like any other market good. The medical industry in particular isn't very price-sensitive; if you need to go to the E.R. you're going to check in to the closest hospital first and worry about the bill later. The fact that most pay for their medical costs, even routine expenses, via monthly insurance premiums and thus don't directly feel the impact of high prices at the E.R. or doctor's office doesn't improve matters. However, people aren't completely insensitive to pricing, even for medical services, especially the less urgent variety; generics vs. name-brand medicines, for example. Some individuals with above-average foresight also take into account the quality and cost of the local hospitals when choosing where to live.

Just consider what the costs would be like if there was no competition—a single monopoly provider of medical care, regardless of where you chose to live, free to set its prices at whatever the market would bear. What would you be willing to pay for life-saving medical treatment, if the only other alternative was death? Probably a lot more than what they actually charge. Competition clearly does have an effect on prices, even in medicine.

Comment: Re:Shifting the tax burden to others (Score 1) 312

By avoiding substantial tax burdens these companies are forcing the government to either borrow more money to cover the shortfall or raise taxes on everyone else.

What these companies are doing is legal. That means that the tax burdens you refer to don't exist. If the government over-estimated how much tax revenue their tax codes would bring in because the companies found a more efficient way to comply with the law, that's the government's problem. They should have put more effort into analyzing their own tax codes and come up with a better estimate. The expectation, apparently, is that these companies will send in extra tax money which they aren't legally obligated to pay. When is the last time you did that? Why would you expect anyone else to do so?

Anyway, there are at least two other options which you didn't consider besides borrowing or raising taxes. The government could change its tax codes, and/or it could reduce spending to meet its budget given the actual tax revenues. As politically difficult as it might be, you could cut the expenditures of almost any government in the developed world by at least 75% without the slightest impact to any of the "fundamental" services—courts, police, emergency services, a reasonable level of national defense, public education, public transportation, basic consumer protections—considered by some to be impossible or impractical to provide any other way.

Comment: Re:Legal != moral (Score 0) 312

Don't confuse legality with morality.

Don't make that mistake yourself. Taxes are a matter of legality-by-fiat and the application of force to deprive people of their rightful property "for the greater good". Morality in this case favors the corporations, and would continue to do so even if they implemented some hypothetical scheme to successfully avoid paying any taxes anywhere.

Comment: Re:Lower taxes (Score 2) 312

If you think the government gives you nothing back, you're right to be annoyed. I get free health care, free education, free social care, a welfare system...

None of that stuff is free; it's bundled. All or nothing—and if you choose "nothing" they make you move out of the country, among other costs. You're still paying for everything you get, and more, but you're deprived of your right to decide for yourself whether a particular service is useful enough to justify its cost, who supplies it, or how it's implemented. That's plenty of reason to be annoyed even if you do feel that you get some value back in exchange for what the government takes in taxes.

It's not like any of those services would go away if the government didn't provide them. You would just move from paying for them through political and bureaucratic middle-men to paying for them directly, with a choice of suppliers catering to your specific needs and competition to keep the prices down.

Comment: Re:Of course they can (Score 1) 71

by JesseMcDonald (#49423947) Attached to: Has the Bitcoin Foundation Run Out of Cash?

The target and difficulty aren't set by voting, they're set based on the time required to mine the last 2016 blocks—which should be about two weeks at the nominal target of 10 minutes per block. More than two weeks and the difficulty decreases; less than two weeks and it increases.

The biggest problem with the concerns over a mining pool having over 50% of the hashing power is that the pool operators are only coordinating the effort; they don't actually own all that hardware, and the owners can decide independently which pool(s) to slave their mining rigs to. If a pool operator tried to abuse their position the fact would be noticed, and miners would quickly switch to some other pool.

There is also no reason why individual miners couldn't track transactions as they're broadcast like any full node and validate the candidate blocks the pool sends out, rejecting any which involve possible double-spends or other attacks. I don't think they do that currently, but only because none of the major pool have tried to abuse their position that way.

Comment: Re:Good (Score 1) 278

by JesseMcDonald (#49399387) Attached to: 9th Circuit Rules Netflix Isn't Subject To Disability Law

What dignity could there be in a life where you have to ask someone to *carry* you every time you go into a shop... multiple times per day.

The alternative appears to be asking the government to employ force on your behalf to continually coerce every provider of so-called "public accommodations" into taking your disability (and every other possible disability) into account, regardless of actual demand, and at a far greater expense than simply providing you with individual assistance as needed or working out some alternative method of providing the service. Perhaps the coercion feels more "dignified" to you, but I find it quite the opposite. There is nothing undignified about asking for help when needed. It seems like you've simply found a way to take for granted as your right (and others' obligation) that others will make accommodation for you without being asked. That makes you more dependent, not less. Finding ways to induce others to help you voluntarily would be a form of self-sufficiency, which would be much more dignified than stooping to force or manipulation.

Comment: Re:Your justice system is flawed, too. (Score 4, Informative) 1081

by JesseMcDonald (#49258975) Attached to: How To Execute People In the 21st Century

There is something called "The Social Contract", which is something of a "shrink wrap license" you agree to by being born into a society, that by doing so, you agree to abide by that societies rules.

Ridiculous. You can't agree to anything just by being born; you aren't even sentient at that point. There is no meeting of the minds, no clear agreement. If this so-called "social contract" existed, it would be a contract of adhesion which no human being in history ever explicitly agreed to, and any competent court would throw it out with prejudice after a cursory hearing.

"In the face of entropy and nothingness, you kind of have to pretend it's not there if you want to keep writing good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer