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Comment: Re:Militia, then vs now (Score 2) 1431

by j-beda (#46772509) Attached to: Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

Pardon my reading comprehension problems, but I don't see that in the referenced article. I see a reference to the "proportion of armed robberies involving firearms has declined", but not that violent crimes has an overall trend down.

Mostly I was trying to address the blanket "the second Australia did [remove easy access to guns], violent crime statistics went up" idea that there is a strong causal connection between lack of easy access to guns and increased violent crime. Snopes rightly said "it ain't that clear" and that statements of that nature are intellectually dishonest. One should be clear about what one is stating, and when using statistics one should have an understanding about what expected variations (for example is 12.8% actually a "marked increase" or just noise?) are likely.

Drawing any strong conclusions between the US and Australia, which have vastly different demographics and cultures, is not an easy task. The US murder rate is about eight times that of Australia, and scores about 10 points worse on crime rates and safety scores that Australia. Australia also has less than 7.5% of the USA population, so the statistics are going to be a lot noisier for the smaller population. Then again, the variation in the USA from state-to-state and region-to-region are quite large making country-wide comparisons less valid in the first place.

Comment: Re:WTF?? (Score 3, Informative) 773

To be honest, this story comes across as a bit sensational. Two minutes of research shows an *out* from the wire taping statute.

Necessity is a defense, although quite tough to use in practice; it's a bit like successfully using an insanity defense -- possible, but highly unlikely. Also, the necessity description you provide is a general statement of the principle, not the language Pennsylvania has adopted. As a common law defense, the state courts adoption is what controls. Moreover, necessity isn't always a defense (even if you prove the elements) -- it depends upon how the statue is written.

Turning to the OUT I mentioned above, there is an exception built right into the statue. Full text can be found here:

In relevant part, the wiretapping statute provides:

  5703 Provides "**Except** as otherwise provided in this chapter, a person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if he: (1) intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept any wire, electronic or oral communication;"

  5704 Contains a long list of exceptions. For the most part they apply to police, telecom, or telemarketers (go figure). Subsection 17 is relevant here ...

  5704 (17) Any victim ... to intercept the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication, if that person is under a reasonable suspicion that the intercepted party is committing, about to commit or has committed a crime of violence and there is reason to believe that evidence of the crime of violence may be obtained from the interception.

If the bullying was as bad as the article describes, the student could surely have reasonable suspicion that the party was about to commit a crime of violence.

You can read more about this here:

Good point!

Comment: Re:No time limit != liability for debt (Score 1) 627

by j-beda (#46753265) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

Just because the time limit has been raised, that doesn't incur a liability for the debt on the part of anyone who isn't already liable for it. And generally children aren't liable for their parent's debts unless their signature's on the contract. The parent's estate might be liable, but good luck collecting from that once the estate's finalized and closed out. I suspect this'll be what any competent attorney will raise as an issue if the victims get one: "Regardless of anything else, this is not my client's debt and the debt being collectible doesn't on it's own make my client liable for it.".

It is possible that if this was social security benefits paid to surviving children, then even if it was paid to the child's guardian, it could still be the child's debt. But what do I know?

Comment: Re:McCarthy the Playmate? (Score 1) 584

by j-beda (#46750173) Attached to: Jenny McCarthy: "I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'"

I have heard, from a recently minted M.D., the opinion that "it doesn't matter if breast cancer screening causes breast cancer, because once we detect it, we can treat it." I, lacking a medical degree, am obviously not smart enough to fathom this reasoning, how we should go around breaking people because we think we know how to fix them later?

Are you trying to say that screening for breast cancer is the only possible cause of breast cancer? Even if screening increases the number of cases by 1% (to use an arbitrary percentage), but reduces the death rate by 75% (to use another arbitrary percentage), that's still a net win.

It doesn't take a medical professional to understand simple math.

Unfortunately, the math and the concepts involved in screening decisions is not that simple. There are a number of situations where early or widespread screening can result in greater loss of life, and even more where the costs do not justify the expense. Currently there are debates worldwide over the "best" methods of screening for colon cancer as well as breast cancer because of this. Some factors that come into play for the breast cancer screening is what fraction of the detected cancers would prove to be fatal if untreated? What fraction of those undergoing treatment die due to the treatment (surgery, infection, anesthesia, etc. all have death rates). What is the false positive rate? Going beyond the simple death counting rate - how many "lives saved" should be balanced against the costs (money, time, fear, etc) that the screening produces?

The results or decisions to widely screen depend on: how common the problem being screened for is; how effective the screening is; what the false positive rate is; what the effectiveness of the treatment is (for both those with and without the condition); what the risks of treatment are (for both those with and without the condition); how dangerous the condition is untreated; how long it takes for the condition to progress; what the demographics of the group potentially being screened are; and a myriad of other factors.

As we should all know: Math is Hard!

Comment: Re:Why do people listen to her? (Score 1) 584

by j-beda (#46749883) Attached to: Jenny McCarthy: "I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'"

It is a shame that some parents are scared. I am glad that the research has shown the standard schedules are both safe and effective.

I hope that this focus on autism and vaccination has not caused such as shift in research focus so that actual causes and possible therapy have not been overlooked.

Comment: Re:Stopping a billionaire's car (Score 1) 324

by j-beda (#46738211) Attached to: Can You Buy a License To Speed In California?

It's Finland that is indeed known for that and as a Finn, I don't consider it crazy at all - especially if you know how it works

If you are doing 180mph in a 60mph (sorry, I'm American - that's like 300 in a 100 kph ;) I totally agree with you, in fact put them in jail as that would be a much more effective deterrent than money. But if you are doing 45kph in a 35kph you should not be paying a 6 figure (in any currency) fine no matter your income, that's just idiotic.

I don't know.

One (8 hour) day of work at minimum wage in the USA is 8 x $7.25 = $50. so if some McWorker gets a speeding ticket, it seems likely it is going to cost him at least one day of income. Having everyone pay "one day of income" seems like a fair way of doing things, at least from one perspective. Sucks to be Bill Gates in that situation perhaps, but arguably it sucks much less for Bill to lose a day's wages than for our poor McWorker. Bill might feel sad, but McWorker might feel hungry.

Comment: Re:IANA Physicist, So... (Score 1) 630

by j-beda (#46711279) Attached to: Navy Debuts New Railgun That Launches Shells at Mach 7

The nitrogen under pressure remains inert, but the oxygen will coumbust at those levels.

Combustion is when something (rapidly) combines chemically with oxygen. Oxygen gas (molecules of two oxygen atoms) does not combust.

I would not be too surprised if other parts of the air (N2, H2O vapour, other gasses or particulate crap that might be around) underwent chemical changes due to the sudden shock of being pushed out of the way of the projectile, and some of those things might burn. The projectile seems to have a bunch of packing fall away as it leaves the barrel - maybe some of that stuff burns.

Comment: Re:Careful now (Score 1) 408

by j-beda (#46707387) Attached to: Australia Declares Homeopathy Nonsense, Urges Doctors to Inform Patients

And the placebo effect has no side effects...

I think it can have side effects. People in double-blind studies often report a variety of side effects regardless of their status as in either the "active" or "control" group. I would not be surprised to learn that placebos with strong tastes or more warnings of side effects also have more reports of side effects and also more therapeutic effects too.

Comment: Re:Homeopathy Works (Score 1) 408

by j-beda (#46707253) Attached to: Australia Declares Homeopathy Nonsense, Urges Doctors to Inform Patients

Australia has officially declared that homeopathic remedies are useless for human health. The body today released a guide for doctors (PDF) on how to talk to their patients about the lack of evidence for many such therapies.

Anyone else see the problem? Declaring something is "useless" because of "lack of evidence" ? That's not the way science works. Lack of evidence is not considered "evidence" in itself unless it directly contradicts another piece of evidence.

The studies sited in the documents are evidence for lack of efficacy. In situations where there have been no studies that show a lack of efficacy, there have been none that show efficacy (because they have not been studied presumably). Thus it is perfectly valid to state that there is a lack of evidence. Absent a plausible mechanism for any effect, it is reasonable to put the burden of proof onto the proponent. If I start claiming my magic stick can cure people, I hope that local doctors advise their patients about the lack of evidence for my therapy.

Comment: Re: diminished placebo effect (Score 1) 408

by j-beda (#46707043) Attached to: Australia Declares Homeopathy Nonsense, Urges Doctors to Inform Patients

I know that the placebo effect exists and is effective, so believing something can heal me will indeed heal me.

...unless you have a real disease, in which case the "cure" won't last very long.

Well, improvements in conditions attributable to the "placebo effect" are actual improvements you know. The human body is capable of self-healing a vast array of problems. Some people recover from virtually every physical ailment without medical intervention.

I think your point is that for many serious medical conditions, the use of "evidence based medicine" gives vastly better outcomes than other treatments. Unfortunately for all of us, there are a huge number of medical conditions (many of them fairly minor) where modern medicine has only a slightly better outcome than no treatment at all. Thus the need for careful large double-blind trials to prove efficacy and the difficulty in showing that various forms of quackery are in fact ineffective.

There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman? -- Woody Allen