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Comment: Re:Space weapons (Score 4, Informative) 110

by spauldo (#49723563) Attached to: Robotic Space Plane Launches In Mystery Mission This Week

Space weapons aren't illegal. You just can't have orbital weapon platforms for weapons of mass destruction (think nukes).

It's perfectly legal for any country to send up a satellite that could attack other satellites or space stations. It's even fine to put one up there that uses conventional warheads or kinetic weapons against targets on earth.

It's also perfectly legal to put up weapon platforms that are capable of launching nukes from space - it's just not legal to arm them with actual warheads.

The reason we don't do much of any of that is because a) we have no reason to attack anyone in space (yet), b) we can shoot down satellites from earth just fine, and c) we can attack other places on earth more efficiently and with less cost without orbital platforms.

Comment: Re:I wonder why... (Score 1) 289

by spauldo (#49722811) Attached to: North Carolina Still Wants To Block Municipal Broadband

I don't have any sympathy for the Confederacy. My state wasn't around then, and Indian Territory (which fought for the south) wasn't actually the precursor to Oklahoma (it just took up the same land). That said, there is a very sound basis for the requirement for slavery.

Slavery being a state-by-state option doesn't work. A person has rights, even non-citizens, that slaves do not. The US Constitution (and both federal and state laws) had to bend over backwards to make a viable legal framework for this.

That's because the status of a person isn't a state issue. It's a federal one. The federal government determines if you're a citizen, a resident legal or illegal alien, or a nonresident foreign national. Crossing state lines does not change your status.

By requiring slavery, the status of "slave" became equal in all states.

There's also the notion that since slaves were property, a slaveowner would be able to take his property with him anywhere in the country.

The general framework of the constitution would have worked well for the Confederacy, although I'd be surprised if (had they won) they wouldn't have made amendments shortly after the war. They were a bit pressed for time when they adopted it. State rights would probably have been a key issue.

Also, from a practical standpoint, given how much trouble slavery had caused for the US government, the CS probably wanted to avoid unnecessary infighting. And there's the point that no state was actually required to sign on with the Confederacy - if Georgia, for instance, wanted to be its own country, it was certainly free to do so.

Comment: Re:Where's the Tea Party When You Need Them? (Score 2) 333

by spauldo (#49722563) Attached to: Genetically Engineered Yeast Makes It Possible To Brew Morphine

1) Your idea of a republic doesn't resemble any actual government in the world. Idealism is nice, I suppose, but that's just not the way things work. Also, I've met quite a few libertarians who believe (as did pre-civil war Democrats) that the government shouldn't be responsible for public infrastructure, such as roads. The free market - that magic bullet that fixes everything - will take care of it.

2) I was not arguing that the government would force addicts to seek treatment, only that libertarians would offer no assistance in doing so. And from what I've seen, many libertarians fully believe that no, they should not help addicts.

3) You saying this doesn't happen? Also,

4) The idea that those with money shouldn't be responsible for those without money (at least insofar as taxation is concerned) is one of the core principles of libertarianism. Anything else would be wealth redistribution. To quote one libertarian I know personally, "that's what churches are for."

Just as an aside, I do generally agree with the libertarian ideas on social issues. Too bad the rest of the Republican party doesn't.

Comment: Re:Qustion on US views (Score 1) 289

by spauldo (#49721291) Attached to: North Carolina Still Wants To Block Municipal Broadband

It's a complicated issue, but a lot of it boils down to what level of government is doing it.

In the case of municipal ISPs, it's a local government. Local governments provide all kinds of services to the public as a matter of course. Around here, they provide electricity, water, a library, police, fire, trash collection, sewer, landfill, permitting, zoning, street maintenance, free WIFI (which sucks), and all kinds of other things.

The federal government can't provide most of those things, by law. States can, depending on their constitutions, and local governments can depending on state laws and their own charters. This is basically what the "states' rights" debate is all about. It's been going on since this country was founded, and will likely continue until the Canadians finish their war machines, stop acting so polite to everyone, and take over the world (at which point we'll get decent health care and maple syrup).

Health care is contentious because most proposals for an actual decent healthcare system involve taking our current federal health care system (medicare) and extending it to everyone (it currently only covers people of retirement age). Medicare is considered "socialist" by a lot of groups on the right, but since it benefits the elderly, and the elderly vote, it won't be going away. Extending it out would mean more power in the hands of the federal government (a big no-no for the libertarians) and higher taxes (a big no-no for Republicans in general). Plus it would shake up the medical industry, which pulls in money hands-over-fist with the current system and doesn't want to see it change (and can afford lobbyists).

You have to understand that most people here don't actually understand what "socialist" means. The older generation grew up with cold-war era anti-communist propaganda, so "socialism" has bad connotations among a lot of the population. The right and their media mouthpieces use the word all the time in manners that Europeans (who actually do understand what socialism is) would find baffling. It's the nature of politics.

Comment: Re:Where's the Tea Party When You Need Them? (Score 2) 333

by spauldo (#49720929) Attached to: Genetically Engineered Yeast Makes It Possible To Brew Morphine

We could spend one quarter of the money on treatment programs and end up with fewer drug abusers than we've managed with the "War on Drugs".

That's not how libertarians work.

It's more like:

1) Abolish laws that make drugs illegal, thus saving money on prisons and law enforcement, and lower taxes accordingly
2) Let addicted people pay for their own treatment, "entitlement" and whatnot
3) Wealthy Americans install better security or live in gated communities, paid for by the savings in taxes
4) Who cares about everyone else? If they were important, they'd have money.

Comment: Re:A poorly made point, but still a point (Score 1) 616

by spauldo (#49711449) Attached to: Editor-in-Chief of the Next Web: Adblockers Are Immoral

What we're seeing here is akin to evolution.

If you've been around for a while, you've seen how ads have gotten consistently worse since the beginning. Adblocking is a normal response.

Remember, spam is a type of advertisement. You don't see very many people advocating it. Telemarketing is another. Hardly anyone cries about the do not call list.

Google's approach (tracking aside) is the right one. Their ads generally don't bother people. Contrast that with the last few years of video ads (with sound!) or the "darken the page and load some stupid thing in the middle" thing that's getting so popular.

Advertisers have to deal with the fact that being annoying is going to lose them customers. This is a good thing. Without people adblocking to keep them in check, the internet would be unusable.

Comment: Re:Great for free software (Score 1) 212

You may find this interesting reading.

In old versions of UNIX (not open source, but only because there was no such distinction at the time - the source was very much available) the compiler would add code to any program you tried to compile named 'login'. You could look at the source for the login program all you want and never see the backdoor. You also would have a hard time finding the code in the C compiler.

And this was just something Ken Thompson did to prove that he could. Imagine what the NSA would be capable of.

Comment: Re:What a wonderful unit! (Score 1) 332

by spauldo (#49458765) Attached to: California Looks To the Sea For a Drink of Water

Umm... Perhaps metric never evolved a common unit there (e.g. decimeters) because it's really unnecessary? Just like you don't need specific units between inches and thousandths of an inch (3 orders of magnitude), metric folks somehow manage to deal with 2 orders of magnitude quite easily without an intermediate unit.

I don't need to convert thousandths of an inch to anything because I'm effectively not measuring the same things with them.

For instance, I would measure a table leg in inches, but never need to convert that to thousandths. I might measure the amount I need to trim off a tenon to fit into a mortise in thousandths (I generally don't - I hit it with a plane or chisel a few times and test the fit again - but that's down to style) - but again, I don't need to convert that anywhere.

That's kind of the point - metric units are a "one size fits all" solution. For a woodworker, it makes sense to have units around the size of feet and inches. For a farmer, yards, acres, etc. make a lot more sense. You use the units that most closely match the areas you need. I could certainly do all my woodworking using fractions of a yard, or a farmer could measure his field in square feet, but it'd be silly when there are much more appropriate units available.

I'm certainly not suggesting that it's impossible to do common tasks in the metric system. What I am suggesting is that they're not using units tailored for the purpose they are being applied to.

What possible reason do you have to laugh at the metric system, other than the rather arbitrary feeling that you specifically want a measurement unit equal to about 1/3 of a meter?

What's funny (only marginally, but still) is what I've stated above; they're using units that are inappropriate for their purpose. Measuring lake volume in acre-feet makes a lot of sense for the people that use that unit; using cubic meters seems downright silly. It's like seeing someone climb mountains in ballet slippers.

Comment: Re:They are going at it wrong (Score 1) 44

by spauldo (#49458673) Attached to: Google Battles For Better Batteries

Why?

Since when is Google primarily a power utility?

What Google products (other than datacenters, which it builds where power is already available) would benefit from gen IV reactors? Hint: you're never going to get a phone with a thorium reactor built into it.

I'm certainly not against development of smaller reactors - lead-cooled fast reactors have a lot of promise for powering remote areas, for instance - but why would it make sense for Google to invest in them rather than technology that directly impacts its business?

Comment: Re:What a wonderful unit! (Score 1) 332

by spauldo (#49458395) Attached to: California Looks To the Sea For a Drink of Water

It makes a lot of sense when you consider what it's meant to measure.

Lakes (and more importantly, reservoirs) are measured in acre-feet. We measure the land in acres. When a reservoir fills up, we can see how much land is covered for every foot the water rises. You create a table for that and you can tell the volume of water based on the depth.

Acre-inches is also commonly used, especially when figuring things like water release from a dam. It's generally not used for things like water in a river, unless an upstream dam is discussing water release with a downstream dam. For water in a river, we do cubic feet per minute.

Yeah, I know, it's not base 10, but we've been using these measurements for a long time and it's not like conversion is terribly hard when necessary - and it's generally not necessary. Ease of conversion is overrated. For example, I do woodworking as a hobby - I have very handy units of feet, inches, and thousandths of an inch (which I rarely use myself, but some woodworkers do). I can convert between inches and feet easily, but I have no need to convert any of my measurements to yards or miles. With metric, I could do these conversions easily, but I'm stuck with a measurement system that gives me no widely-used unit between something a bit less than half an inch and something a bit longer than a yard.

It's the same with most things. How often do you actually need to convert units in daily life? Unless you're an engineer or something similar, you probably don't*.

So you continue to laugh at our measurement system, and we'll continue to laugh at yours.

* obvious exception of cooking inserted here. The metric recipes tend to use measurements of mass rather than volume for many ingredients, mostly because you don't have a very good selection of volume units. Still, anyone that's been cooking for a while knows how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon, and how many tablespoons are in an ounce - and cup->pint->quart->gallon isn't very difficult, either.

Comment: Re:Energy use (Score 2) 332

by spauldo (#49458095) Attached to: California Looks To the Sea For a Drink of Water

The Russians have designed an interesting nuclear-powered desalination setup using floating nuclear plants set off the coast. Here's the wikipedia article on it.

It might be a good option for California, depending on how deep the ocean is off the coast. If placed in deep enough water (and assuming the shoreline isn't shaped wrong), it's almost immune to earthquakes and tsunamis.

I'm sure the US could come up with a similar setup (we did, in the 60s), but the Russians have done most of the legwork already and could have it deployed in a much shorter timeframe.

"You're a creature of the night, Michael. Wait'll Mom hears about this." -- from the movie "The Lost Boys"

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