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Comment: Left unmentioned about smart guns (Score 3, Insightful) 431

by MikeRT (#47901669) Attached to: High School Student Builds Gun That Unlocks With Your Fingerprint

Is that none of the politicians demanding them, most of whom are big city liberal politicians, are saying "well if we had smart guns, of course we'd let all law-abiding citizens carry in public." It's just a measure intended to further lock down legal gun ownership disguised as a way to keep criminals from using stolen weapons. Even though theoretically smart guns should make it easier for police to account for gun crime, the people pushing this aren't going to let up because their goal isn't even really to balance freedom and security.

Comment: Re:No, no. Let's not go there. Please. (Score 1) 705

by fyngyrz (#47900443) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

Agnosticism is about knowledge. the Theism / Atheism poles are diametric opposites: belief and non-belief. There's no middle ground definable by knowledge, or lack thereof.

Agnosticism is not a third position. You're either a theist -- that is, you hold some measure of belief in a god or gods -- or you're not, and you don't. From there, you can, if you like, assert a state of knowledge to bolster your choice, or a lack of a state of knowledge to do the same thing. But your position is still either you believe, or you don't.

The whole point about belief, or not, is that it is contingent upon faith. Knowledge is not.

Hope that helped some.

Comment: I have a more effective method (Score 1) 117

Tell them that the leadership has had it with this culture and will start directing the Inspector General to arrest employees who behave in this fashion and charge them with defrauding the federal government. Throw their ass in prison, don't fire them. Contractors get charged with defrauding the federal government and it's no better when a federal employee does it, especially when overtime is involved.

Everyone bitches about fraud, waste and abuse, but the majority of the people who'd unleash the various OIGs and FBI on the civil service are on the right. The moment that, say, a President Rand Paul ordered the OIG to decimate the workforce of the USPTO via prosecutions, you'd have every moderate and left-wing leader howling about how he's "anti-government" and this or that. How the poor civil service is under fire from those evil right wing, corporation-loving conservatives and libertarians.

Look at the VA. The only people who want to bust the VA hard on the right.

Comment: Re:What are the bounds of property? (Score 0) 152

by fyngyrz (#47899291) Attached to: Justice Sotomayor Warns Against Tech-Enabled "Orwellian" World

An interesting issue is, the photons that formed the image were not on their property at the time, nor do they have a legitimate claim to ownership of those photons just because they happened to bounce off their stuff. They probably bounced off a lot of other stuff, too. "My photon! MY PHOTON!" has more than a little bit of the ring of insanity about it. :)

If you don't want a photonic record of your actions, the sensible answer is to avoid photons that can form such a thing, i.e., stay inside your dwelling with opaque curtains drawn, erect a fence and a cover, etc.

Comment: No, no. Let's not go there. Please. (Score 5, Informative) 705

by fyngyrz (#47899243) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

The big challenge for atheism is not God; it is that of providing an alternative to Spock-ism. We need an account of our place in the world that leaves room for value."

Atheism is the lack of belief in a god or god. Nothing else. It's not about science, it's not about ethics, it's not about morals, it's not about values. When you say you're atheist, you're saying you do not hold any belief there is a god or gods. That's all. There's no dogma, no book, no set of "therefore we believe these here other thingamajigs", nothing.

If you want to know what an atheist thinks about something other than belief in a god or gods, you really must ask them, or you're simply letting your imagination paint a false picture of the world.

Comment: Re:Homeland Security FTW! (Score 1) 94

by john.r.strohm (#47897745) Attached to: Drone-Based Businesses: Growing In Canada, Grounded In the US

Using a drone would be an easy way to deliver an explosive device to someone.

The phrase you are looking for is "cruise missile".

You can deliver much nastier things than explosive devices.

Weaponized anthrax comes immediately to mind. Or VX. Or quite a number of things.

For real nastiness, you'd use something like smallpox. Or a modified influenza.

Comment: Especially: The paint. (Score 1) 113

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47895641) Attached to: Liquid Sponges Extract Hydrogen From Water

The gas bag itself was flammable; it wouldn't have mattered what gas was in it, when it disintegrated

In particular: The paint. It contained a mix of powdered aluminum and iron oxide pigments, in sufficient concentration to maintain a redox reaction.

You and I know this mixture as "thermite". It's really hard to get the reaction started - but an electric discharge can do it. (They tried to tether it with an electrical storm approaching. That would make one hell of a spark when the charged envelope comes near to connecting to the grounded mast - which is about when the fire started.) Once it's started, the reaction is essentially impossible to extinguish. The aluminum steals the oxygen from the iron oxide. The heats of formation of the two oxides differ so much that the energy released leaves the resulting elemental iron as an orange-glowing liquid and the aluminum oxide incandescent white-hot.

Comment: That is a misreading of the Supremacy Clause: (Score 4, Informative) 208

You are bound by the treaties your country signed.

Yes: You, and the states, and their courts, are bound by them (to the extent they are clear or were implemented by federal enabling legislation).

In fact, they have more legal weight in the US than laws passed by your own Congress.

NO! They have EXACTLY the same weight as federal law. Both treaties and federal law are trumped by the Constitution, and both are also creatures of Congress, They can be modulated, and destroyed (at least in how they are effective within the country) by congressional action.

The idea that they're any stronger or more permanent than federal legislation comes from a (very common) misreading of the Supremacy Clause:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

This says that the Constitution, Federal Law, and Treaties trump state law in state and federal courts. It says nothing about the relative power among the three.

The misreading is to interpret "all treaties made ... shall be the supreme law of the land ..." to mean that treaties effectively amend the constitution. This is wrong. You can see it by noticing the same kind of misreading also makes federal law equivalent to a constitutional amendment - which it clearly is not.

In fact the Supreme Court has spoken on the relation between the Constitution and treaties: In Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957), the Supreme Court held stated that the U.S. Constitution supersedes international treaties ratified by the U.S. Senate.

Treaties are abrogated, at the federal level, all the time, and there are a number of mechanisms for doing so.

Comment: Re:The Microsoft Tax can buy you... (Score 4, Interesting) 236

by gfxguy (#47894835) Attached to: City of Turin To Switch From Windows To Linux and Save 6M Euros

I agree... even 5 or 6 years ago, my father was visiting and asked to use my computer to check some things online... he sat down, ran the browser (Firefox at the time, which looks like the Firefox he has installed on Windows); he had to print out some PDFs he'd created that had his travel documents (hotel reservations and stuff), plugged it in, the window opened, he double clicked - they opened, he printed. Later I asked what he thought about using Linux, he said he didn't realize it wasn't Windows.

Of course, that's a simple example - he didn't do anything complicated, just double-clicked the Firefox icon and everything else was the same user experience, double-clicked some PDFs and the UX was the same... but while there are of course differences, anyone that can use MS Office could probably figure out Open/LibreOffice with little effort for all but pathalogical special cases.

Comment: Re:... and back again. (Score 4, Informative) 236

by gfxguy (#47894791) Attached to: City of Turin To Switch From Windows To Linux and Save 6M Euros

Ubuntu user here... unless I'm installing something really odd (which, if you work for some municipality you probably shouldn't be doing on your work computer), software installation is just as easy - sometimes easier - than using Windows. The days of downloading something that won't install because of missing dependencies, so you download them and they won't install because of missing dependencies.... etc., etc., is long gone with pretty much every distribution.

Don't know how this will turn out, of course, they are all pretty much test cases, and I think some of them make these announcements just to get MS to make them really great deals, and I'm not saying it will definitely work... but when you whittle things down to what a company computer should have installed in it - office software, email clients, browsers, etc., then there's no fundamental reason why Linux shouldn't work (except that it's not MS... which is what most arguments seem to boil down to).

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