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Comment: Socialism myth (Score 5, Informative) 752

by denoir (#45398741) Attached to: Sweden Is Closing Many Prisons Due to Lack of Prisoners

I'm not sure why there is this weird myth in the US about Sweden being "socialist". We've had a right wing government for the past 8 years. There has also been in the past two decades a sharp turn towards libertarian ideology in Sweden (our right is not socially conservative) and this is also true for the social democrats who have very little of socialism left in them.

Health care isn't free, nor are child care and social services. They are in some cases heavily subsidized, but definitely not free. It is accessible to everyone and it works very well for most people and their needs. It sort of sucks for more advanced medicine: If you are going to have a child for instance, it's superb while if you have say lung cancer, your chances are much better if you have the operation in the US.

The rather dysfunctional medical care system in the US is not a socialist/capitalist thing - it's just a system that doesn't work very well for a lot of people. The insurance model of financing healthcare is for instance very questionable etc.

As for other stuff such as taxes, I could mention stuff like that Sweden has no inheritance taxes, no real estate taxes or that the financial system is orders of magnitude less regulated than the US one etc Sweden is also somewhat of a corporate tax haven - with the right corporate structure you can get away with paying very little taxes. The bottom line is that from a Swedish perspective at least in in some respects the US is far more socialist than Sweden.

Ideologically you could say that the typical Swede is a pragmatic individualist who thinks that the role of the state is to protect, liberate and enable the individual. Unlike a 'pure' socialist system the role of the state is limited to problems it actually can solve. Unlike a 'pure' capitalist system the state has an enabling role as well (positive freedoms) rather than just a protective role (negative freedoms). If you things those concepts are muddled, you are quite right. Hence the pragmatism. And it sort of works. It's far from perfect. It's very disappointing to those that wish to classify it ideologically. There are many small issues and some huge ones (integration into society of immigrants is one example) but on the whole it is a decent society - and much better off than 30 years ago when it was much easier to classify ideologically.

Comment: Bayesian statistics (Score 5, Interesting) 375

by denoir (#36798738) Attached to: Facial Recognition Gone Wrong

I work for a company that develops neural network software which is used for face recognition on a number of airports. The problem we've had over and over again is that government officials and airport security personnel have great difficulty understanding some elementary statistics.

Let me give you an example. One version of the software offers 99.99% accuracy (symmetrical true positive and true negative), a number that always seems very impressive to various officials.

What they don't understand and what we have to remind them all the time is that they need to take into account the large number of faces that are scanned by the software and that a 0.01% false positive rate isn't something you can ignore.

For instance in a large airport that has say a million people getting scanned yearly it means that 100 people will be incorrectly flagged by the system. The prior probability that a traveler is a 'person of interest' is less than 1/100,000. Plugging the number into Bayes' theorem you get that when the system flags a passenger, the probability that the passenger was actually a person of interest is around 9%.

The officials typically only listen to the 99.99% figure and ignore the reality of the relatively large numbers of false positives when dealing with huge numbers of people. Subsequently they treat the people the systems flag much worse than they would if they realized that the probability of a 'catch' being correct was less than 10%. We've done our best to try to educate them but usually they don't want to listen as it's an uncomfortable truth and it's much more convenient to say that the system has an accuracy of 99.99%.

Comment: To understand this one must understand EU politics (Score 5, Informative) 342

by denoir (#34859034) Attached to: US Twitter Spying May Have Broken EU Privacy Law
On the face of it this may be silly as EU law obviously doesn't apply to US companies. That however would be misreading the whole thing. The EU is controlled by two entities the European Parliament and the Commission. The latter writes the laws and proposals and the former votes for or against them.

Members of European Parliament (MEPs) are democratically elected. Their primary problem is that nobody in Europe cares what they do or what they say. The EU decisions are in practice always complex compromises. The UK may vote for privacy laws the Netherlands wants in exchange for increased fishing quotas and the Netherlands wants it because the Dutch government can use it as a political tool for some other purpose. In short political ideology does not exist in the EU. This is a big problem for MEPs as they can't get reelected unless they get enough publicity and look as if they are doing something the voters care about. The system works against them and so on occasion they make loud noises about any issue they think will be of interest to the voters. Given the complex nature of compromises in the EU they seldom have the opportunity to do this. In this case the opportunity they saw was in the word "twitter". They know that voters recognize it and have scrambled to make themselves look like they are doing something decisive in the public interest. It's not real, it's just collecting brownie points from the public and getting their name in the papers. So you can forget about it. It has nothing to do with EU privacy laws or the US or twitter - it's strictly a PR thing.

The other branch of the EU executive and legislative power is the Commission. It has two functions. One is to act in the interest of the entity that controls it - the EU's civil service and the other is to provide a mechanism for national level politicians to get unpopular decisions through. The EU is run and controlled by the EU bureaucracy - it's civil servants. The Commissioners represent primarily the interest of their departments. The interest of the civil service is entirely self serving. They are for sending SWIFT data to the US as it will mean many fact finding trips to the US and other countries for the people in the departments. They are strongly for the introduction of checks and balances for sending the data as it creates more work for the civil service and ultimately increases their budget. The politicians on the national level have no problem with this as their use of the Commission is to get through unpopular legislation. When something popular is introduced it's always handled at the national level and the local politicians take credit for it. When it's something unpopular they simply say "we hate it too, but it's EU legislation, we can't do anything about it".

That's how the system works and it's not easy for the MEPs as they are not civil servants, they are politicians and need publicity and votes while they are not really meant to have any significant political power. That's why there was such an outrage at the EP rejecting a gay bashing candidate for the post of the Commissioner for Justice a few years back. Things like that are not supposed to happen and as a rule they don't. So when you hear that the EP is making an inquiry or that MEPs are making noises about something, you can safely ignore it. It doesn't have to make sense as nothing will ever come of it - they are just trying to get themselves noticed in order to get reelected.

Comment: Info for non-Swedes (Score 5, Informative) 234

by denoir (#34351810) Attached to: Pirate Bay Trio Lose Appeal
Since little information is available in English, here are some points of clarification:

-The main charge was "aiding copyright violation". The decision of the court is mainly based on the fact that TPB did nothing to prevent it and that they in every way advertised that you could download copyrighted stuff on their site. The fact that this can be done with Google or any other search engine is beside the point according to the court. Google cooperates at least to a limited extent with copyright holders while TPB made a point of pissing them off.

- According to the court indifference to the possibility of the copyright violations occurring is not enough as an argument to let them off the hook. This is not so much a controversial point in the guilty verdict but a very controversial one when it comes to sentencing.

-According to Swedish law you can be found guilty of aiding even if the perpetrators of the main crime (i.e copyright violations) is unknown and the full extent of the crime is unknown as well.

-According to the court information provider neutrality as defined in among other things the EU's e-commerce law does not apply to TPB. Their main argument is that TPB was not a general service provider but a search service largely aimed at facilitating downloading copyrighted material.

-The most controversial point is the sentencing. The basic question is if the three specific persons could really be sentenced for crimes that they did not and could not have had information about (each individual download). The court's answer is yes and the reasoning behind it is fairly vague and general in nature. When it comes to the damages the reasoning is rather strange: Basically they say the following: The industry claims X million Euros in directly lost profits. This is clearly absurd as not all who download would have actually bought the product in question. So we'll split the difference and put the damages to X/2. X/2 turned out to be 46 million Swedish crowns. (€5 million)

Apart from the questionable reasoning one should put into context that a premeditated murder will in Sweden cost you on average 5 years in prison and 100,000 (~€10.7k) crowns in damages to the relatives. So although the guilty verdict of the court may be reasonable, the sentencing is very extreme by Swedish standards. As a rule damages are never in the millions and the idea is that the guilty party should have a chance to actually pay them. The sentence of 46 million crowns in damages is simply outside any Swedish legal practice.

Transportation

Denver Airport Overrun by Car-Eating Rabbits 278

Posted by samzenpus
from the night-of-the-lepus dept.
It turns out the soy-based wire covering on cars built after 2002 is irresistible to rodents. Nobody knows this better than those unlucky enough to park at DIA's Pikes Peak lot. The rabbits surrounding the area have been using the lot as an all-you-can-eat wiring buffet. Looks like it's time to break out The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.
The Military

Pentagon Confirms 2008 Computer Breach — 'Worst Ever' 157

Posted by timothy
from the ok-ok-uncle-sam dept.
jowifi writes "The New York Times reports that the Pentagon has confirmed that, in 2008, a foreign agent instigated 'the most significant breach of US military computers ever' using a USB flash drive. While the breach was previously reported on Wired and the LA Times, this is the first official confirmation of the attack that led to the banning of USB drives on government computers."
Censorship

+ - Interview With Julian Assange of Wikileaks

Submitted by eldavojohn
eldavojohn (898314) writes "A few months ago, I got in contact with an administrator at Wikileaks named Julian Assange. He agreed to a Slashdot interview and can be reached by e-mailing his first name at sunshinepress.org if Slashdot wishes to interview him. You can find interviews with him for more information on Wikileaks (and to avoid redundant questions). He has also coauthored a book called Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness, and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier with Suelette Dreyfus that is available for free (gratis) electronically at Project Gutenberg. From Mormans to J.P. Morgan, Wikileaks has been distributing sensitive information (and making Slashdot headlines with it) with the consequences of lawsuits and litigation. I propose the Slashdot editors take him up on his offer for an interview here at Slashdot. Given the recent claims of harassment by the United States government, I would wager we could drum up some good questions."
Technology

Using EMP To Punch Holes In Steel 165

Posted by timothy
from the you'll-need-some-big-batteries dept.
angrytuna writes "The Economist is running a story about a group of researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology in Chemnitz, Germany, who've found a way to use an EMP device to shape and punch holes through steel. The process enjoys advantages over both lasers, which take more time to bore the hole (0.2 vs. 1.4 seconds), and by metal presses, which can leave burrs that must be removed by hand."
United States

Challenge To US Government Over Seized Laptops 246

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-the-computerless-people dept.
angry tapir writes "The policy of random laptop searches and seizures by US government agents at border crossings is under attack again: The American Civil Liberties Union is working with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to find lawyers whose laptops or other electronic devices were searched at US points of entry and exit. The groups argue that the practice of suspicionless laptop searches violates fundamental rights of freedom of speech and protection against unreasonable seizures and searches."

Comment: Re:Predictions of the future (Score 1) 295

by denoir (#29241809) Attached to: NVIDIA Predicts 570x GPU Performance Boost
Perhaps not all that unreasonable. The Geforce 3 was launched in 2001 and was the first real GPU that could do floating point operations.

2001: Geforce 3, 2.6 MFLOPs
2009: Geforce GX295: 1.78 GFLOPs

That's a factor of 680 in six years. Ok, the 295 is a dual GPU solution, but Nvidia is set to release the nv300 series this year that will have twice the number of cores. So he's actually predicting that the increase in computing power will be smaller than in the previous seven year period.

Comment: Government to blame? (Score 1) 272

by denoir (#28819849) Attached to: The Irksome Cellphone Industry
I'm not quite sure what it is, but it looks like that there is some government regulation in the US that makes the situation so bad. Compared to what we have in Sweden, the US mobile phone network is abysmal. In the US networks have poor coverage, high prices and long contracts that lock you in to one provider for a long time. If you thing it is geography, think again - Sweden has about the same population density as the US. We have some regions that are relatively densely populated but large parts of the country are not. Yet you can basically go to the point furtherest from civilization and you'll still have full 3G coverage.

Now to my point: Sweden has almost no regulations of the mobile phone market. Although we have a government that is rather regulation-happy, mobile networks and internet providers have been excepted. We have a large number of mobile providers (I would guess something like ten times more mobile providers per capita than the US) so you can pick and choose. Prices are low and coverage and speeds are good. All that is accomplished without any interference from the government (there has been some interference from the EU regarding roaming charges, but that's a different story).

Another example are mobile networks in Africa. Guess which country in Africa has the best and cheapest mobile networks? You probably guessed wrong: It's Somalia. Apparently mobile network companies thrive under anarchy.
So, as it seems to me, less government regulations of mobile networks seems to produce better results for the consumers. The question is what kind of government involvement is making problems in the US? Or is it something else?

Comment: Re:Wow (Score 2, Informative) 628

by denoir (#28739367) Attached to: UK Police Raid Party After Seeing "All-Night" Tag On Facebook

This is due to the neo-Liberal tenet that people are entirely selfish entities, plotting and scheming against one-another, the only way they should be able to express themselves is through the free market.[1] The point being that these raves were legal, but were not taking part in government-approved capitalist venues, people there were not consuming government-approved drugs (such as alcohol) and even more galling: they went against the principle that people are essentially selfish.

Wow indeed. You have been watching too many Adam Curtis movies. Even taking that into account it is still remarkable how many errors you can put into a few sentences.

Neo-liberals (or libertarians as they are called in the US) are as a rule against laws banning drugs. Their main tenet is that individual liberties should be maximized and government influence minimized. So they are generally vehemently to government regulations - be it of drugs or of the market. Saying that neo-liberals see people as "entirely selfish entities, plotting and scheming against one-another" is a very slanted and twisted version of the of their core belief: that each individual is an end in himself/herself. Put in other words that your life belongs to you and that nobody has the right to enslave you, be it for the benefit for one other individual or a whole society.

As for raves going "against the principle that people are essentially selfish" - i think it's rather difficult to find a more selfish activity than getting stoned and listening to music that you like. It certainly isn't something that neo-liberals would find offending.

Note: For those of you who haven't seen any Adam Curtis documentaries: He's like Michael Moore, but without the humor and with less fact checking. The documentaries are similar in style and quality to "Moon Hoax" documentaries and have the same ratio of facts to speculation.

Comment: The violent VHS generation (Score 4, Insightful) 473

by denoir (#28539213) Attached to: On Realism and Virtual Murder
In the early 80's when VHS became popular there was a strong movement in Sweden for banning all video imports. The reason cited was that the children would become hooligans at best and mass murderers at worst if they were to exposed to so much violence. Until the early 90's, there were no private TV channels in Sweden. There were two state owned and controlled channels that were very proactive in censoring violence. Movies in theaters were heavily censored as well.

In a way the fear of video was more justified than the fear of video games - there was no prior data on how people react in general when exposed to displays of graphic violence on a regular basis. As it turns out, photorealistic video did not make mass murderers out of the population, so there is really no reason why we should expect the video game generation to be any more violent than the VHS generation.

The video ban in Sweden? It was never introduced, but not for a lack of trying. The reason why it was scrapped was because a ban would have violated some trade agreements. It is a rather remarkable human trait - the desire to stop *other* people from doing something they like. Note that it's always stopping others for their own good. You'll never find somebody saying: Please pass this ban so that I'll stop doing that thing that I know I shouldn't be doing.

Comment: Wrong summary (Score 4, Informative) 443

by denoir (#27631421) Attached to: Why Is Connectivity So Cheap In Stockholm?
Stockab has fibers connected to municipal housing. That's about 20% of all fiber, and they cost more as both ISP and stockab get paid. The reason why it's so cheap is because of fierce competition between the different broadband providers. There was zero regulation and great tax benefits during the IT-boom era which led to a large number of broadband providers. That made a huge difference.

I pay (in Stockholm) about $7/month for a 100 Mbit connection and that's through privately owned fiber, not the municipal one. It also varies from city to city. In the case of Västerås (another Swedish city) they did actually build a full municipal fiber network and through laws and regulations made it a monopoly (the fibers, not the service). Prices there are about $30-40/month for a 20 Mbit connection.

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