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Comment: Scientific Research about Women & Stem (Score 1) 254

by sampson7 (#49055667) Attached to: What Intel's $300 Million Diversity Pledge Really Means

So I'm a white male that's actually done a little reading on the issue of women and STEM. Folks should recognize that there's a vast literature out there about the impacts of both conscious and unconscious bias in testing, hiring and performance of minorities and women in STEM fields. Like many of you out there, I never personally experienced these issues (being a white male), and it was illuminating for me to read about the weird ways in which the human brain internalizes various societal cues about how women and minorities fit into STEM. Anyone who wants to comment on this topic seriously should at least read through this research:

* Book - "Whistling Vivaldi," written by Claude Steele . Professor Steele isn't the best writer in the world, but the experiments he describes are just fascinating. I challenge anyone to look at his results and not refine their views on these issue. Nice mix of pop-psychology and scientific research.

* Planet Money Podcast - "When Women Stopped Coding", very much pop-psychology, but thoroughly entertaining and I certainly found some basic truth in their theory.

* Article in the journal "Nature" on what the GRE test actually measures, Also see a partial refutation of the initial (which I found less convincing, but I put it out there anyway):

* Recent pop-science article citing a meta-analysis about "Genius" in male and female professors (interesting, if somewhat anecdotal):

Reading this research (even at the cursory level pop-science perspective) certainly got me thinking about women (and minorities) in STEM. Personally, it turned me from a skeptic of the type of program Intel is purposing into .... well, I'm not entirely sure. Read the research and I think you'll see what I mean.

Apologies for bringing actual science to a flame war.....

Comment: Re:No expectation of privacy (Score 1) 405

by sampson7 (#46564755) Attached to: L.A. Police: <em>All</em> Cars In L.A. Are Under Investigation

Sorry, but this is BS. I have such an expectation of privacy.

That is so cute! YOU have an expectation of privacy -- but sadly, the U.S. government does not share your view. But why?

The reason is that the U.S. uses something called the "exclusionary rule," whereby evidence seized or derived from an unconstitutional act are suppressed. In other words, during a criminal trial, the court will disregard any evidence collected by the government in violation of the Constitution, or derived from an unconstitutional act. This is often summarized as "fruits of the poisonous tree" are themselves poisonous and shall not be used. Of course, what this really means is that many (though clearly not all) people asserting a constitutional defense during a criminal trial are guilty -- at least in the sense that they committed the crime they are charged with.

The search and seizure cases that come before the Supreme Court therefore usually involve a guilty person getting off on a "technical" violation of the 4th Amendment. The Supreme Court then bends over backwards to find some exception to the 4th Amendment to allow the police to put the guilty person away. It's human nature for the Justices to side with the cops over the robbers. But it's also enormously destructive to our social fabric.

This is where the story gets political. The Supreme Court justices most eager to surrender our freedoms in the name of punishing the guilty are overwhelmingly "conservatives" appointed by Republican presidents. I hope you will all remember this when you go to vote for the next president.

Comment: Re:NRA sedition^H^H^H patriotism (Score 1) 573

by sampson7 (#43655225) Attached to: "Terrorist" Lyrics Land High Schooler In Jail

"Even if you give the Armed Citizenry 100% credit, you have to ask how they'd beat the US Army today?"

Members of the United States armed forces are also CITIZENS of this land. Each of them has a home, located in some city or town, located in some state or another. Each of them (well, the overwhelming majority, anyway) has loved ones, whom they probably value more than they value the US government.

I'll remind you of General Robert E. Lee, who didn't want to see the states fight each other - but decided that if there were to be a fight, he would fight for his home state of Virginia.

If revolution should happen, you cannot rely on the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force to remain intact as fighting units, to be used against the people of the United States. Nor can you rely on the government's ability to retain control over all the hardware, command infrastructure, or much of anything else.

This. This is what I never understand about the conspiracy theorists -- from the "government covered up Roswell types" to the gun toting nut jobs in the NRA -- the part of their advocacy that I find so distasteful is their refusal to recognize that the American government is made up of Citizens. From the federal employees to the military to the police, in America, we are all citizens first. As a formal federal employee, there was never any question that my allegiance was to the people. (Don't get me wrong -- as a paper pusher, this was unlikely to have tangible form, but still....)

Do we really think that our military would do what the Chinese military did in Tienanmen Square? Yes, there have been individual incidents of government-sponsored violence against the people (Kent State, battles against Segregation, etc.) where people in uniform have forgotten that they work for the people --- but those incidents are (a) limited in scope, (b) rare, (c) generally recognized as mistakes after the fact; and (d) largely repudiated by the country as a whole. I'm not trying to whitewash American history -- it's complicated and not always pretty. But I see no evidence that some shadowy element of the federal government is going to swoop down and seize our "liberty." Our volunteer citizen military in particular is about as freedom loving as they come, and I have zero doubt that a coup would fail spectacularly as soldiers recognized what was happening.

And then we have this. *face palm* Really? I think of little of DHS as the next guy, but do we really think they are traitors laying in wait? Good grief. They are just citizen-employees, like every other federal employee.

For this reason, and others, the Department of Homeland Security was formed. The government hopes to retain control of DHS if and when the shit hits the fan. Unfortunately for the government - DHS consists of mostly incompetent buffoons, far less capable than agents from any other agency. Further, the loyalty of Napolitano's troops remain untested.

Anyone can sit around and make up scenarios about how a revolution would evolve, and the results of said revolution. History proves one thing: civil wars are fucking MESSY!!

Comment: WashPo Mobile Staff SHOULD be Fired (Score 2) 108

by sampson7 (#42937913) Attached to: Layoffs Hit Washington Post Mobile Team
I am a DC refuge and was a dedicated Post dead-tree reader for decades. These days, I primarily access the Washington Post through their website (which I would happily pay for, by the way). As an avid consumer of online media, I can personally attest that the Post's implementation of "mobile" content is just abysmal. Their iPad app was, until a few months ago, a total embarassment. Many of their "special" mobile features (of which I have downloaded and deleted more then one within minutes of downloading them) crash more often then they work. Frankly, if I were the editor-in-chief, I would have fired the mobile division staff for sheer incompetence long ago.

I have no inside information -- but I wonder if there's a positive take from all of this: the Washington Post has long been behind the curve in reaching out on mobile devices. Perhaps this isn't the end of their efforts to improve their web presence, but the beginning of a more serious effort. Just a thought. Time will tell.

Comment: Re:The theory of gravity is under review :) (Score 1) 763

by sampson7 (#42911273) Attached to: Texas School Board Searching For Alternatives To Evolutionary Theory
Yes. I was going to cite to Mercury as well as one of the known problems with Newtonian physics. There is an excellent little movie called Eistein and Eddington, which really does a beautiful job discussing the Mercury issue. Not great cinema exactly, but quite enjoyable for science nerds.

Comment: Re:Did Stratasys open a box of worms? (Score 1) 632

by sampson7 (#41537991) Attached to: You Can't Print a Gun If You Have No 3D Printer

That's an interesting question. I suspect that a clevel plaintiffs' attorney would suggest that this action suggests that the manufacturer in conceeding that it has a duty to the of care to the end-user. The company would argue back that it isn't appropriate to use proactive safety measures against them.

(For your reference, there are four elements of a classic tort case:
1. Demonstrating that the defendant had a duty to observe or protect the safety of the plaintiff
2. The defendant breached that duty and endangered the health and safety of the plaintiff
3. The plaintiff suffered injury in some form
4. The plaintiff's injuries were caused by the negligence of the defendant.)

I suspect the manufacturer would contest the idea that it had a duty of care, but I think the courts would infer some duties (perhaps, for example, the duty to warn) anyway. Note: I am by no means a products liability lawyer, so take my analysis with several shakers of salt.

To me, though, the really interesting question will arise when a 3D manufacturer develops internal software that physically disables the printer from being able to print potentially lethal items. I understand certain copiers already detect currency and refuse to copy it. The fun case will be when one printer company demonstrates that those controls are physically possible, but another company does not implement similar controls, and someone injures themselves.

Comment: Are Slashdotters Really so Ignorant of the Law? (Score 1) 632

by sampson7 (#41530059) Attached to: You Can't Print a Gun If You Have No 3D Printer

Reading these comments makes me dispair about basic understanding of the law and government's role in preventing "censorship" by a private corporation.

Question: Is a company engaging in censorship somehow violating the constitution or the law?

Answer: No. The Constituton limits the governments' actions. It is designed to protect the people from government infringement of certain delineated rights. There is nothing in the Constitution or federal law that prevents private corporations from expressing an opinion about the desirable use of their own products. Government may regulate certain behaviors (i.e., discrimination in hiring or health and safety), but is prohibited from picking winners and losers based on political belief. Corporations are subject to no such restrictions.

Question: Is it "illegal" for a company to revoke a lease because the lessee is using the lessor's product in a manner that the lessor thinks is disagreeable?

Answer: No. The lessor is a private company with rights to its own personal political positions and beliefs. There is nothing "illegal" about the company enforcing its contractual rights because it dislikes the use its product is being put to by this particular lessee. (Again, leaving aside certain lawful restrictions on a company's conduct). Instead, it is the terms of the lease that will govern the relationship between the parties.

Question: Is it legal for a lease to differentiate between political views?

Answer: It's very much up to the individual parties to craft a contract that governs the lessee's and lessor's rights. The point is that the parties have complete freedom to arrange the lease as they see fit. In fact, it is common for a lessor to include very broad re-take rights into the contract. If the lessee believes that the lessor has repossessed the equipment in violation of the contract, then he or she has rights under contract law, and the appropriate remedy is to sue (or not agree to the lease to begin with).

Question: Even if we assume it is legal to print a gun under federal law, the law of all fifty states and every local jurisdiction, does the legality/non-legality affect the rights of the lessor to repossess the printer under the lease?

Answer: No. The legality of the finished product has no bearing on the contractual rights of the parties to enforce the conditions of the lease.

Question: Does the 3-D printer manufacturer have legitimate legal concerns, even if the printed guns were unambiguously legal?

Answer: Absolutely. The manufacturer could easily be the target of a law suit for negligence on the part of a victim of the printed gun. The civil liability claims could be enormous. Even the potential threat of such litigation could raise his insurance premiums or cause existing insurers to rescind their coverage. Remember -- in America, each party typical pays its own legal costs. A law suit does not have much merit to bankrupt a small business. And here, the manufacturer was on actual notice that the lessee wanted to make a gun, which would help any plaintiff in establishing that the manufacturer knew or should have known that his product could be used to harm people.

The manufacturer could also be subject to some far-fetched legal theory advanced by a prosecutor in some random jurisdiction. Or he could find his product subject to import/export restrictions in the US or other jurisdictions.

PS - It's not clear to me what the law says on whether printing guns is legal. I'm a lawyer, and spent maybe 10 minutes reading a couple of the various rules. It was enough to determine that it's a complicated patchwork of federal and state rules. In anyone has a lawyer willing to say that such behavior is unambiguously legal under all federal, state and local laws, without any thought or research, should find themselves a new lawyer.

Summary: I'm trying to keep this post a-political and just about general legal concepts. We as educated Americans (or interested foreigners) really need to appreciate when Constitutional rights are at stake and when the Constitution has nothing to do with the underlying issue. This is one of the latter situations imho.

And yes - I am a lawyer - I am not your lawyer. So please don't rely on this posting for legal advise; merely commen sense.

Comment: Re:First dissent (Score 1) 2416

by sampson7 (#40483405) Attached to: Supreme Court: Affordable Care Act Is Constitutional
Just to be clear - are you suggesting that private hospitals (a) should be forced to bear the costs of treating uninsured persons in extremis and pass through those costs to shareholders; or (b) should turn away a bleeding child because he or she doesn't have insurance? If (b), I admire your adherence to the free market, but question your humanity. If (b), then I question why individual shareholders should be required to finance a public policy mandate. Passing through these public good costs to society makes good sense to me, but I'm curious what exactly you are advocating.

Comment: Re:First dissent (Score 1) 2416

by sampson7 (#40481295) Attached to: Supreme Court: Affordable Care Act Is Constitutional
This I do not understand: you are not required to purchase anything. You can elect not to purchase health care. However, there is a tax consequence.

Moreover, I don't understand why otherwise pro-market folks are opposed to this. The more you contribute to governmental healthcare costs, the higher your taxes go. It's a pretty straightforward cause/effect analysis.

Comment: Takoma Park Kid (Score 5, Interesting) 277

by sampson7 (#40414073) Attached to: 'Nuclear Free' Maryland City Grants Waiver For HP

Takoma Park has long been a center for the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and 7DAs tend to be pacifists.

Just FYI, Takoma Park's liberalness (which includes a bead store, vegan restaurants and the rest) has little to do with the Adventists, who aren't really a force in town. Instead, Takoma Park has a long hippy tradition and is filled with aging boomers who moved to the community because of its reputation as a liberal enclave. It's often referred to as the "Berkely of the East" and other such monickers.

My favorite nuclear free story growing up was that the police department looked for a while like it was going to have to buy Volvo squad cars, because every other major manufacturer had some toe hold in nuclear weapons. Not sure how they managed to avoid that, but they did. Similarly, when the transit authority wanted to build a major highway right through the middle of Takoma Park (which at that point was a sleepy middle class suburb full of WWII bungallos), the local community rallied together and killed the massive highway plan on the Maryland side of Washington, DC. Those techies in Northern Virginia who enjoy the Mixed Bowl during their morning commute see what could have happened to Maryland. Of course, nothing's that simple -- but it's refreshing that there's still a place that combates global warming by banning gasoline-powered lawn mowers.....

Takoma Park was a great place to grow up. Crazy as they are, it's refreshing to have such a community of idealists. Even though it seems like the whole community has gentrified over the last few years, I still love it, even as I've transitioned to the Dark Side (business! Eeek!)

Comment: I suscribe - and I'm annoyed! (Score 2) 178

by sampson7 (#39427189) Attached to: New York Times Halves Monthly Free Article Views To Ten
But probably not for the reasons you think.... I have been a subscriber to the Sunday dead-tree edition of the paper for several years now. This, in theory, gives me free access to all online content. But the login system never remembers me. Not on my work computer, not on my iPad, not on my home computer. And the login is often squirrely too.

So I typically use my "20 free articles a month" rather than login each and every freak'n time. I know, this doesn't exactly rise to the level of suffering that really warrants a post - but it's pretty damn annoying. Going to 10 just makes the site even less user-friendly than it already is. Is it really that hard to develop a login system that works???

Comment: Fundamental Misunderstanding of the Law (Score 5, Informative) 202

by sampson7 (#38578780) Attached to: Judge Doesn't Care About Supreme Court GPS Case

The summary of this article is just wrong. The Supreme Court has not said that the issue is unclear - it has merely agreed to hear a case about whether a specific decision made by the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia conflicts with existing Supreme Court precedent.

To the extent that you can infer anything from the Supreme Court's grant of certiorari, it is equally likely to conclude that they took the case in order to slap down the D.C. Circuit's novel approach to the 4th Amendment.

The existing precedent, by the way, is that we have no reasonable expectation of privacy in our cars. As a result, it is not an "unreasonable" search or seizure to attach beepers or other devices to our cars in order to monitor our movements.

In fact, the judge in this case does an excellent job summarizing and applying the relevant case law. He points to a case from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (which is the relevant circuit for St. Louis) clearly stating that putting a tracker on a car and then later retreiving it is not a constitutionally prohibited search or seizure.

Agree or disagree on whether we have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our cars - the judge in this case acted properly. It would have violated another constitutional right - the one to a speedy trial - if he had simply delayed the issuance of his opinion until after the Supreme Court issues its (entirely discretionary) opinion.

What a silly article.

Comment: Re:Why is electricity not free? (Score 1) 401

by sampson7 (#37847242) Attached to: Google Releases Geothermal Potential Map of the US

I can't tell whether you are serious or not.... Just as one example, building those wind farms is very expensive. Averaged over the expected life time of the turbines, it probably costs around 10 cents per watt - which, depending on where in the country you live - is probably more than you are paying now.

I won't even talk about the cost of transmission lines, distribution lines, or the price of backup power when the wind doesn't blow. They said nuclear would be too cheap to meter too... They were wrong. Nothing in this life is free, my friend.....

The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made. -- Jean Giraudoux