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Comment: Re:Solve Problem by Legalizing Child Pornography (Score 1) 223 223

I think there needs to be a distinction drawn between footage of actual child molestation, which certainly should be illegal, and those who provide consideration for it should be gaoled, on the one hand, with other types of images which are far less harmful, on the other.

Photos of under-age girls in swimwear taken on a public beach, for example, should be treated like any other image taken in similar circumstances. (Personally, I wouldn't be very likely to find a picture of anybody merely hanging around in bathers pornographic, but other people have different tastes and standards, so let's be as general as is reasonable.) Likewise, the photo of Miley Cyrus discussed elsewhere in this page sounds (without seeing the image) like it would fall inot this category. This approach does get us into a mess when we consider images from countries with lower ages of consent and more relaxed public decency laws, but I would be tempted to say that if the photo was legal to take and publish, it is legal to possess (although there is a question of burden of proof here).

Then we have "sexting" and similar images, which are often self-portraits. Here we should treat the images as we do any other private message of a similar level of intimacy, whatever the age of the person involved, since that seems like the most consistent and logical approach. Certainly no-one should be prosecuted for taking or releasing a picture of himself. Relatedly, the age of consent for pornography should be the same as the age of consent for sex, since you otherwise end up with the silly situation of it being legal to have sex with someone but not to look at a picture of yourself having sex with them.

Lastly, we have the question of images of nude children taken in a private setting. This is the main grey area, both now and under any sane changes to the law, because someone has to decide if the images are pornographic. A good test for that would, IMO, be for the defence to select a group of images previously decided to be non-pornographic, and then to add some of the images to be decided on (selected by the prosecution if we want to use only a sample), split up enough to ensure that it isn't obvious which images are the new ones. The groups of images can then be shown to jurors for unrelated cases (preferably scattered across the jurisdiction), and we ask them to identify which ones are pornographic. If enough choose the new ones (enough to be unlikely to be guesswork), we can proceed with the trial without risking prejudicing the jurors with any other images.
If the images are non-pornographic, they should be restricted exactly as any other images taken in that situation would be.

Comment: Re:Solve Problem by Legalizing Child Pornography (Score 1) 223 223

For those things that would be legal if not for the camera, you could modify the law to say that before releasing the images you have to wait until the subject is 18 or whatever the age of consent is and then ask for consent. Then either release or destroy the pictures/video.

If you were going to do that (and I'm not sure if it is a good idea), it would probably be best to require the images be archived by some government agency in an encrypted form with the key held by the model and then the owner is billed on a cost-recovery basis until model comes of age and decides to either claim the images or destroy them. It would probably be a good idea to have special rules about the ownership of such images, to help prevent any unfair contracts.

Also, I would say that providing consideration (in the contract law sense) for material which was produced by committing a crime should be illegal by analogy with laws against receiving stolen goods. This would include some CP, but would also cover rape videos, snuff flicks, or anything like that, but would not cover, for example, anything with consenting actors, or no people at all (cartoons or written material, for example), no matter how distasteful the content.

Comment: Re:The "fairest" thing since affirmative action (Score 1) 375 375

Perhaps an improvement to approval voting would be to number the candidates as in ranked systems, so that if two or more candidates achieve an equal number of votes the one with the lower total score (who is more preferred) would get the seat.

Comment: Re:Ranking system (Score 1) 375 375

It isn't just that people don't think Brown, Fielding, whoever runs the Democrats these days, and so on are PM material (although the latter two aren't). Part of the problem is that anyone who isn't green or Christian right and who wants a political career, will want to be a part of either the ALP, the LPA or the Nationals, because they know how important the marketing power and media connections of the major parties are. Unless something can be done about that, the two-party system will remain, at which point we would get alternative parties holding more seats under the current system anyway.

Comment: Re:Single Transferable Vote (Score 1) 375 375

The trouble with the party list in a PR system is you get the opposite problem: you don't have anyone who has to look after your local interests, and if, say, the government wants to build over most of the open space in an inner-city area you don't have anyone in the house to stand up for you (or to vote out when he doesn't). This is a problem of any single-electorate system, but under an STV quota-based PR system (the South Australian Legislative Council uses one, the Australian Senate uses a slightly-broken version) you can more easily vote in a local representative if you have an important issue.

Of course, a multi-electorate system suffers from the problem of split demographics in an electorate, if you have n winners and >n distinct demographics. For example, my seat has both the urban lower-class (who usually vote centre-left or Christian nutcase) and farmers and rural upper-middle class commuters (who usually vote centre-right), but since the lower-class urban area contains about 75% of the voters they get 100% of the representation for the district. Because of this sort of situation, I think that electorate boundaries should be adjusted based on socio-economic demographics as well as geography.

Comment: Re:Sigh... (Score 1) 375 375

The trouble is, we get the leaders they deserve too. There is a saying, attributed to every quotable Prime Minister from Wellington to Churchill (and probably a good many others as well) that "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter". The trouble is, there's not much which can be done about it, without risking entirely breaking democracy.

Comment: Re:The Illinois experience (Score 1) 375 375

Children and recent immigrants (and, in some countries, prisoners and the mentally incapable) don't have the right to vote, and yet still must obey the law and pay taxes, so that argument doesn't hold. Some countries have a citizenship test, which immigrants must pass before gaining citizenship, and it would make sense if citizens by birth also had to pass that test before voting, serving on a jury and so on. Alternatively, requiring that people pass either the educational certificate taken at school-leaving age or a set of equivalent exams including $LOCAL_LANGUAGE and maths would be a reasonable requirement for full citizenship, although in countries without national standardisation of exams that would make things difficult to administrate.

Comment: Re:Am I the only... (Score 1) 602 602

I think the English and Germans both pale in comparison to the Milanese a few years ago, in an Inter Milan versus AC Milan match, when Molotovs and fireworks were fired at opposing supporters in the stadium.

The difference between English and German hooligans seems to be that the Germans are nominally political and there are a few of them who all do a lot of damage, whereas English hooliganism seems to be more about raging at the opposing team and the referee, and seems to be a large number of very drunk men doing a relatively small amount of damage each, although this impression does come mostly from news reports, not from first-hand observation, so it could be wildly wrong.

Comment: Re:No they are not (Score 4, Interesting) 329 329

If I was to follow you around everywhere you went in public, saw every item you looked at in a shop, logged everyone you talked to and had someone following them and all their contacts, and so on, I would be able to build up a fairly good profile of who your friends were, your political, religious, and sexual orientation, whether you were cheating on your wife if you have one, and a lot of other personal information which most people would prefer wasn't stored in some government database for whatever purpose they decide this week. If I were working for a private entity, they would be able to guess most of the information a government already has (but which private entities probably don't), such as whether you had children and roughly how much money you have. All that information can be gathered without you saying anything, if you or your friends speak, their tails can gather even more data.

You then get problems because this data never goes away, so if, in one's student days, one were friends with someone who sold drugs or untaxed booze, or had a now-embarrassing political affiliation, that wouldn't go away, and worse than that, if too many one's current friends had slightly questionable pasts which they were keeping quiet about now, that would potentially tar one with the same brush. (And if you think that's purely hypothetical because you are careful about who your friends are and never did anything embarrassing, think of those from smaller cities: in two degrees of separation (a friend of a friend), I can get to both some of the most respectable names in my country's social and political life, and to people who are almost certainly active members of criminal gangs, and that is perfectly normal in this city.)

This isn't practical in the real world yet, but with technology like the Australian centre for Visual Technology's surveillance system which is currently undergoing medium-scale testing which would, with a suitable database to store the gathered data, enable nearly complete tracking of everybody who is within the area of camera coverage, it would be relatively easy to implement.

There is also the problem of missing, garbled, and incomplete data, which will almost certainly lead to false positives, leading to even more perfectly innocent people getting added to no-fly-lists and the like. This isn't just me being paranoid: if they have data, the media will crucify them for not using it every time there is a shooting or terrorist attack.

Because anyone could have been there to see you, it's simply the case that potentially MORE people may see/hear what you did - but that makes NO DIFFERENCE because they could have done so without the camera/microphone.

They could have heard me, but, without cameras and microphones, I know they didn't because I can see there is no-one watching.

100 years ago, if I simply checked there was no person hanging around (fairly easy to do), I would know no-one was listening. Even now, in the real world, if the nearest person is 100m away, he probably can't hear you, and he is very unlikely to be able to, say, lip-read you, so you can talk with a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, if there are hidden microphones scattered all over the place, then it means one cannot speak freely not anywhere except in a private house where you trust the owner, because there is no way you can tell if anyone is listening. Surely you have had conversations in public places where you have checked that no-one is listening: well, with microphones everywhere, this would be effectively impossible (remember, it was originally an analogy, in which the microphones are invisible). In such a scenario, it would also be easy for third parties to claim that, since you have no expectation of privacy, they can record your conversations too.

Comment: Re:Privacy? Really? (Score 1) 329 329

In addition to what fuzzyfuzzyfungus (SP) said, there is also the fact that we just don't know which particular places have plainclothes G-men waiting to follow you. We all know that some do, and we can guess some of those, but is there a mob of feds reading every post on here? What about digg, or reddit, or all the major blogging sites? There are probably some watching some boards on major news sites, but which ones? What about other protocols, like IRC? With ssl, I know that if I trust everyone in the room I just have to be able to trust the server operator, but if there are police scanning the conversations at the server it is like if you are talking to some friends in the middle of a park, check there is no-one around to overhear, and find that there is a microphone up a tree listening to you.

This sort of thing means that we can't assume that we aren't being spied on anywhere online, which means that there is basically no reasonable expectation of privacy from being tracked and watched anywhere online, so that in turn increases what they can watch without a warrant.

Comment: Re:Hypocrisy (Score 1) 244 244

I think it is mostly an emotional and political point: many people who say no abortion except for children conceived by rape want to ban abortion entirely but don't think they can win popular support if they don't make that exception. Most of the others are almost certainly of the "pregnancy as punishment" school of thought, which probably comes from an interpretation of part of the Book of Genesis combined with a puritanical view on sex, which is pretty unreasonable but fairly widespread.

Comment: Re:Hypocrisy (Score 1) 244 244

Part of the problem is that not only is there the question of whether a foetus is alive is when it become alive. I think that most people would consider partial-birth abortions unacceptable, but at the same time a lot of people consider a morning-after pill perfectly fine. Those who hold that view must then choose a dividing line somewhere in the middle,the most reasonable being implantation, when it can feel pain, when it has a central nervous system, and when it has reached a point where it could be kept alive outside the womb.

The other main problem is that people ar generally fairly emotional about issues like this, which makes sensible debate difficult because extremists from both ends of the spectrum tend to distract everyone else.

If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong. -- Norm Schryer