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Comment: Hard to predict how this will turn out (Score 5, Insightful) 135

by binarstu (#49757261) Attached to: NSA-Reform Bill Fails In US Senate

It's hard to predict what the end result of this will be.

On the one hand, I can imagine that letting the mass spying provisions expire, and forcing the bulk data collection to stop, could actually be a win for privacy in the long run. After all, inertia is powerful, especially in politics. It is much easier and less controversial to say, "let's continue with our existing domestic spying program" than it is to say, "now that we stopped spying on everyone for a while, let's start spying on everyone again."

On the other hand, letting everything expire could create an environment where it becomes easy for fear to rule the day (or, easier than usual). We'll no doubt have politicians eager to scare us with stories of how letting bulk domestic surveillance expire makes us unsafe and vulnerable to terrorists, and so "we need to do something now before we die!" Then, new spying legislation could be hastily pushed through that is no better (or worse, depending on your perspective) than what we have now.

As I said, I think it is hard to predict the ultimate outcome, but if the recent past is any indicator, I sadly suspect that fear will win.

Comment: Re:Idiotic (Score 1) 591

If Slashdot was blocking your posts, then how were you able to post the comment with the link? The content itself was being blocked? Sorry, but I'm not interested in jumping to other websites to try to follow you on this thread. If you want me to see your reply, then please post it on this forum. It's up to you -- you've seen my last message (which I hope you found to be respectful and considerate) and I now really have nothing more to say on this matter. But I will give you the courtesy of reading your response if you want me to. As I said, totally up to you. In any case, take care and have a good weekend.

Comment: Re:I love my Packard Bell (Score 4, Interesting) 417

by binarstu (#49541029) Attached to: We'll Be the Last PC Company Standing, Acer CEO Says
One of my favorite "features" of some of the old Packard Bell models was the power switch configuration. The true power switch was actually a tiny little button that was soldered directly onto the motherboard. That is, they didn't have the two-pin power-on mechanism that has become common on most consumer motherboards, so there was no way to wire a switch on the case to start the computer. Packard Bell solved this problem by engineering a fairly complicated push rod system that mechanically linked the switch on the front of the case to the little button on the motherboard. As I remember it, the push rod mechanism extended for most of the length of the horizontal desktop case, too. It was really something to behold -- I wish I had taken a picture of it.

Comment: Re:california does need more infrastructure... or (Score 1) 678

by binarstu (#49540323) Attached to: William Shatner Proposes $30 Billion Water Pipeline To California
Okay, for the record, I'm not really serious about this. I don't actually believe that you cannot be a legitimate participant in the conversation without admitting a previous mistake. I happened to notice your comments in this thread, and after my long earlier comment to you, I meant my reply here as a tongue-in-cheek joke. After rereading it, though, I realized that it was probably not at all obvious that I made my comment in jest. I guess I should have added a smiley or something.

Comment: Re:california does need more infrastructure... or (Score 1) 678

by binarstu (#49540215) Attached to: William Shatner Proposes $30 Billion Water Pipeline To California

You, earlier: "I admitted my mistake when you pointed it out. That is the least that should be expected of a legitimate participant of a discussion."

As AC pointed out, you falsely accused a previous commenter of an ad hominem. Either admit your mistake or accept that you are no longer a legitimate participant of this discussion. Your choice.

Comment: Re:Cautionary Tale? (Score 3, Informative) 182

by binarstu (#49534831) Attached to: Chinese Scientists Claim To Have Genetically Modified Human Embryos
Just to clarify, there is no "gene for ... Downs Syndrome". Down syndrome is caused by a partial or complete extra (i.e., third) copy of chromosome 21. Thus, it is caused by a failure of meiosis during gamete development, not by a particular allele of any one gene or group of genes.

Comment: Re:Idiotic (Score 1) 591

For some time now, it has not been clear to me whether your comments were sincere, honest attempts at meaningful dialogue, or if you were merely trying to incite anger or frustration. I assumed the former and tried to take you as seriously as I could until my patience has finally run out. Judging from some of your exchanges with other slashdotters, I seem to have hung in there a lot longer than most.

In any case, you consistently use the tactic of filling your posts with a variety of common logical fallacies. The effect is that you force your opponents to have to expend effort trying to keep a discussion on topic, defend themselves from straw man attacks, restate points made earlier, and so on. It appears that other slashdotters often either become hostile and angry, which makes them easy for you to attack, or they simply get exhausted with spinning their wheels and give up.

I am well aware that this might all be deliberate on your part, and you are merely trying to bait people into getting upset or angry. In the interest of giving you the benefit of the doubt, though, I will take a detailed look at several of your recent posts so you can see exactly what I'm talking about.

First, we have this comment, in which you make the following logical fallacies, among others.

Moving the goalposts:

If you executed anyone that would get a sentence of 30 years or more... would that not be as likely to deter people as simple imprisonment? You wouldn't claim that people would be less afraid of execution than imprisonment?

You previously claimed that execution is "a pretty effective deterrent". I provided objective evidence that capital punishment is not an effective deterrent (and not only in the United States). Instead of providing any comparable contrary evidence or acknowledging that you were wrong, you now expect me to prove my point by arguing against an unrealistic hypothetical scenario.

Statement of fact with no evidence:

Because we know for a fact that the criminals are a lot of more afraid of execution. Listen to the guys on death row. These are murderers... shitting themselves.

You've repeatedly made statements like this, without ever providing any supporting evidence.

Statement of fact with no evidence, contradictory position (sometimes called the "kettle logic" fallacy):

The thing is the most violent criminals are not deterred by anything.

Just a few paragraphs ago, you were arguing that capital punishment is an effective deterrent. And in an earlier comment, you said, "It is a pretty effective deterrent. You should see how these hard core multiple murderers break down and cry like babies when they think the axe is going to land on their own necks". Now, to make a different point, you are claiming that nothing is an effective deterrent to "the most violent criminals". (Of course, how you define "the most violent" is also not clear, but I am guessing it at least includes "hard core multiple murderers").

Moving the goalposts, shifting the burden of proof:

You can't argue against execution on the basis that it doesn't deter without addressing that imprisonment doesn't deter either.

Of course one can argue against the efficacy of capital punishment without simultaneously defending other forms of punishment. After having refuted your claim that capital punishment is "a pretty effective deterrent", you now claim that I must also provide an analysis of the efficacy of imprisonment. Furthermore, you claim that "imprisonment doesn't deter", give no objective evidence to support this claim, then expect me to refute it.

Misrepresentation, straw man, argumentum ad populum:

As to your statement that I just "know" executions are cheaper without the endless appeals. Anyone knows that.

I criticized your statement that the high cost of capital punishment is, and I quote you, "an artifact of the anti execution lobby". Neither you nor I said anything about "endless appeals". So you are misrepresenting me, changing the argument to something different, and then ending with an argumentum ad populum.

Then, there is this comment.

Straw man:

Cite the part of the constitution that says executions are either cruel or unusual.

I never claimed that the Constitution says executions are cruel and unusual, as I explained multiple times. You are asking me to defend a position I never held by telling me to do something that is impossible.

Moving the goalposts:

They executed people all the time in the years immediately after the constitution was signed. THat means the framers of the constitution did not regard execution as either cruel or unusual.

You originally claimed that "No official interpretation of the US constitution has been read to forbid executions in general." I showed you that several Supreme Court justices have, in official written opinions, interpreted the constitutional prohibition of "cruel and unusual" punishment as including capital punishment. You now shift the argument by limiting it to just "the framers of the constitution".

False dichotomy, argumentum ad hominem:'re either terrible at reading or you're intentionally misrepresenting me. I'm assuming the former.

No further explanation needed.

And then this comment.

False equivalence:

There is no government that does not assume this authority. Your government... which ever one it is... they are all the same in this... will absolutely kill you if it feels it has "cause" to do so. Maybe you're throwing babies into a bonfire? Maybe you're running around with explosives tied to your body...

You are conflating police use of deadly force with execution as a form of punishment. A state can reject the death penalty but reserve the right to use deadly force when doing so prevents immediate harm. This is what most modern democracies have done.

Straw man:

Yet apparently I'm a terrible person and you're a paragon of virtue. Neither is the case.

I never said, or implied, either of those things. Claiming I did makes me look unreasonable and allows you to "defeat" a position I never held.

Argumentum ad hominem:

You're just not a very clever person. You're not a thinker. And this is a complicated issue beyond your reach. Nothing more.

No further explanation needed.

To further prove my point with comment exchanges that did not include me, here is a quick look at two of your other posts from the same story. First, there is this exchange that begins with a simple comment from someone else, which I quote in its entirety.

When someone is imprisoned, and it turns out he is innocent, we set him free. It's not perfect, but it is the very least we need to do.

When we start reviving those innocent people killed, we can compare the two. Until then, killing an innocent person is killing an innocent person, no matter which legal term (execution or murder) it falls under. Legal terms are for the lawyers to argue about, they to not influence the morality of killing an innocent person.

And now for your response.

False dichotomy:

Either you have faith in the legal system or you don't.

One may have faith in some aspects of the legal system, but not others, or one may have faith in the legal system in some circumstances, but not others, etc.

Straw man, red herring:

We might as well just let all the doubtless innocent people out of jail right now, fire all the lawyers, fire all the judges, I'm not sure what the point of police are since they probably only exist to shoot random black people for no reason.

You advance a preposterous conclusion as if it were the previous commenter's position, and throw in an irrelevant racial reference.

Straw man:

You are saying that because the justice system is bullshit we can't give it the power to execute people.

The previous commenter never said "the justice system is bullshit", or anything like that. You present a caricature of his/her argument to make him/her look unreasonable.

Argumentum ad hominem:

I'd like to hear and contend with an honest argument rather than one cloaked in misinformation and half truths.

No further explanation needed.

Red herring, false equivalence:

This sounds very much like the vegan anti eating animals arguments. I'm going to eat bacon. It is going to happen. I'm also going to vote in favor of putting murderers down.

Here, you conflate the previous commentor's reasoning with that of a "vegan" and claim that opposition to the death penalty is comparable to choosing not to eat meat.

And, for good meaure, here is another exchange.

The original commenter gave a set of objective reasons for opposing capital punishment, and an ethical argument that the state should abandon capital punishment to eliminate the possibility of executing innocent people.

Let's look at your response.

Red herring:

As to your religious views on executions, that's super but I don't care any more for that then I do about some other religious person's views on homosexuality.

The previous commenter never made any reference to his/her "religious views", or gave any evidence that his/her opposition to capital punishment was motivated by religious beliefs.

Slippery slope fallacy:

Second, you have the various pissing contests between nations. Any society that thinks killing is wrong is going to find a slave collar slapped around their necks sooner or later.

There is no logical reason to conclude that a society which rejects capital punishment will end up with "a slave collar slapped around their necks". And if you meant killing in general, not capital punishment, then you are commiting a false equivalence fallacy.

Statement of fact with no evidence:

Ask any culture outside of our privileged bubble what they think of this issue and they're going to come down the on the side of executions.

According to what data?

Argumentum ad hominem:

You don't like cutting someone's throat. I get it. But that is squeamishness. You get over it. And then when the stars align... yeah, you run that knife from ear to ear. You just do it or you sit down and let the adults handle it.

No further explanation needed.

Now, if your intent in all of these threads was merely to be annoying and to try to frustrate or anger people, then of course you will not care one whit about anything I've said here. On the other hand, if your attempts at conversation really are sincere, then I hope you will seriously consider my comments. I know it is a long post, but I wanted to make it as clear as I could that these problems pervade the comments you leave on Slashdot.

I think you do have some interesting ideas that are worth discussing. But the problem is that your rhetorical style ends up making the signal-to-noise ratio of your comments so low that it becomes all but impossible to have any sort of productive exchange. From what I have seen, most people either eventually get frustrated and angry and then become easy targets for you, or they simply lose interest and leave, giving you the false impression that you've somehow "won" the argument.

In an earlier comment, you expressed the opinion that you "get dog piled by ideologues and trolls with some consistency" on Slashdot. You do sometimes express unpopular opinions, so it is possible that there is some truth to your perception. However, your getting "piled" upon might also be a response to your style of argumentation, which, as I have tried to illustrate, relies heavily on a variety of common logical fallacies.

I chose only a very small number of your posts to analyze here. I leave it as an exercise for you to examine your other comments, and I hope you have the self-insight needed to see how frequently and consistently you use these tactics.

To close, I want to be clear that my intention here was not to lecture you. Instead, I am choosing to assume that your comments really are sincere, and I am showing you enough respect to kindly suggest you reconsider how you engage others in these forums. You recently stated in a couple of comments that you "worship logic" and that you consider yourself to be "a clever person". If those things are true, then I sincerely hope you have no trouble moving to a more intellectually honest, and logical, style of debate.

Best of luck to you.

Comment: Re:Idiotic (Score 1) 591

One other thing I meant to include in my last comment.

The vast majority of the human race accepts killing other people as a normal part of life. What is more, the state has an implicit right to do this sort of thing. They could not keep authority if they did not.

Yes, you keep saying that sort of thing: The state must have the right to execute its citizens; if not, then the state loses all authority. But can you provide any coherent explanation as to why this must be true, or provide any evidence to support it? Of course you cannot. The fact that nearly all modern democracies have abolished capital punishment, yet remain able to enforce their laws and prosecute criminals, amounts to a wealth of counterexamples that easily disproves your claim.

Comment: Re:Idiotic (Score 1) 591

As to your not especially widely held religious beliefs, I don't see why I need to care.

Are you responding to my comments or someone else's? At no point have I ever made any reference to my "religious beliefs", which you know nothing about. I truly have no idea what you're talking about.

As to your repeated citation of the US constitution... you're butchering the logic so badly on that point... and doing so with so little regard for any intellectual integrity that I don't have to respond to that bullshit anymore.

You really don't understand this? Then I'll explain it for a third time. The Constitution prohibits "cruel and unusual" punishment. Some people think capital punishment is cruel and unusual (including some Supreme Court justices; see below), which is why they think the government should not have the right to execute people. I have never claimed anything more than that. How is that "butchering the logic"? In this context, accusing me of lacking "intellectual integrity" is nothing more than a cheap insult.

As to an invalid court case that was largely regarded at the time to be bullshit... from your own citation: "Chief Justice Burger and Justices Harry Blackmun, Lewis F. Powell, and William H. Rehnquist ... argued that capital punishment had always been regarded as appropriate under the Anglo-American legal tradition for serious crimes and that the text of the Constitution implicitly authorized United States death penalty laws..."

Well, thanks for at least reading part of the article. Had you read the rest of it, you would have also seen, "Justices Brennan and Marshall concluded that the death penalty was in itself "cruel and unusual punishment", and incompatible with the evolving standards of decency of a contemporary society." So, as I said, U.S. Supreme Court justices have, in written opinions, interpreted the "cruel and unusual" clause to exclude capital punishment. So no, I wasn't wrong. On the other hand, your original claim? You said, "No official interpretation of the US constitution has been read to forbid executions in general." Unless you think the written opinions of Supreme Court justices don't count as "official interpretation", you are definitely wrong.

As to rejecting cruel and unusual punishment, of course not. I simply define such differently than you.

Excellent. Thank you for answering my question. So, let's review your earlier argument. According to you, if someone believes that the state doesn't have the right to execute people, but also believes that the state can impose other penalties, they are a hypocrite and an anarchist (an anarchist because they must believe the state doesn't have the right to do anything). Do you finally see why that doesn't work? You have just acknowledged that you also believe the state doesn't have the right to impose certain punishments, which, by your simplistic logic, must also make you a hypocrite and an anarchist.

In another variation of this argument, you claim that anyone who believes that the government can imprison, but not execute, is logically inconsistent. E.g., "You feel you have a right to lock me a box for 50 years but you don't have a right to shoot me? How do you figure that?" If it really is that simple, then why not substitute any other sort of punishment for the phrase "to shoot me"? Again, you've acknowledged that you do believe some punishments are off limits, so your criticism applies just as well to your beliefs.

I think you've finally come around to the point I've been trying to make for some time. Nearly all of us believe that a government does not have the right to impose cruel and unusual punishments upon its citizens. As you observed, you and many death penalty opponents simply draw the line for "cruel and unusual" at different places. Beyond that, there is no substantive difference. Opposition to the death penalty does not make someone a "hypocrite" or an "anarchist", any more than your opposition to a punishment that you believe to be cruel and unusual makes you a hypocrite or an anarchist.

Comment: Re:Idiotic (Score 1) 591

Skipping past the baseless personal attacks. :)

Fair enough. My apologies for that -- it was unwarranted.

As to no robust evidence that capital punishment deters crime, I know the murderers don't want to be executed. That is meaningful. I also don't see the point in keeping them alive.

In the face of actual data and evidence that capital punishment does not deter crime, you respond with "I know the murderers don't want to be executed. That is meaningful." And, "I also don't see the point in keeping them alive." So, as I said, your view on capital punishment is driven entirely by ideology. You have no evidence, no data, nothing at all except "I know" and "I don't see the point".

You keep using this argument that "if X doesn't work we must do Y which also doesn't work". Is there any robust evidence that life sentences deter crime?

Let my try again to explain the data to you. The comparison is not X versus Y. The comparison is (X + Y) versus X, where X = imprisonment and Y = the death penalty. That is the only comparison we can make with extant data. In other words, we can ask if adding the threat of execution to an existing threat of imprisonment has an increased deterrent effect. And, in general, the best evidence so far suggests there is no meaningful difference (e.g., read the link I gave you in an earlier post as a starting point). Get it? It substantially refutes your claim that the death penalty is a "pretty effective deterrent".

As to executions being more expensive, as I have said repeatedly that is an artifact of the anti execution lobby.

Once again, something you apparently "just know" with no objective data presented to support it. Saying something "repeatedly" does not make it so.

Comment: Re:Idiotic (Score 1) 591

Yes, poor Karmashock, always having to defend himself/herself from the ruthless "ideologues".

The amusing thing about your persecution complex is that your perspective on this matter is driven entirely by ideology. As has already been pointed out, there is no robust evidence that capital punishment deters crime to any meaningful extent, and it is a much more expensive proposition than the alternative of imprisonment. In other words, in the United States, we know that capital punishment does not make us any safer than does imprisonment, and that it costs a lot more. So based on this objective reality, there is no rational reason to persist with executions, at least in the United States.

The only reasons left to support executions are ideological. E.g., "they deserve to die", or some notion of justice as revenge. Whatever your reason for supporting state-sanctioned executions, make no mistake that you are motivated by ideology. Those who oppose the death penalty for ideological reasons also happen to have convincing, objective evidence on their side -- you do not.

Comment: Re:Idiotic (Score 1) 591

The US founders executed people quite freely so saying the constitution forbids it is a little rich.

I never said that. Let me remind you: "Many people and countries consider execution to be "cruel and unusual" punishment that can never be justified. It is widely accepted (including in the U.S. Constitution) that a government should never try to keep its people safe by threatening them with cruel and unusual punishment." If you actually bothered to read the rest of my post, you would see I am very clear about this -- the point of contention is whether or not the death penalty is considered "cruel and unusual", not that the Constitution literally forbids capital punishment.

No official interpretation of the US constitution has been read to forbid executions in general.

So that's just bunk.

Your claim that "No official interpretation of the US constitution has been read to forbid executions in general" actually is total bunk, unless you honestly believe that the written opinions of justices on the US Supreme Court doesn't count as "official interpretation".

As to your notion that you're not a hypocrite because you ideology thinks executions are icky and have cooties, that isn't a defense against a hypocrisy charge. You need to cite some logic here. Saying "but I have beliefs and opinions!" is no defense.

Huh? You are totally ignoring the substance of my rebuttal. Did you even read it?

As to limiting my statement, justice systems often don't have limits as to what they can do or rule upon. They limit themselves perhaps within their jurisdiction. But even then sometimes they presume to rule the whole world. It is the nature of justice that it is defined by the power and ambition of the people that wield it.

Again, what? Are you actually rejecting the prohibition of "cruel and unusual" punishment in the Constitution? You really believe that no form of punishment is or should be off limits to a government?

There are three kinds of people: men, women, and unix.