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Comment Re:I've Been Following This (Score 1) 847

She's not acting in the manner of a journalist, by which I mean that there is no goal to her coverage, no public interest being served, no story being pieced together. She's simply taking private information about private individuals who happen to work for the local government (albeit in a very private capacity) and making it public.

First, I don't think you're in any position to judge whether or not she's acting in the capacity of journalist or if the free speech she is exercising is worthwhile.

If none of us are in the position to judge anything, then I think we can safely shut down the /. commenting system, can't we?

The whole point of free speech is that no one gets to judge what is and is not worthwhile.

Yes, that's the point, but that's not really how it works out. Here in Virginia, for instance, we have a shield law that's been established by the judiciary. If a reporter follows around police officers for the purpose of writing a story in the public interest, that's not stalking, that's journalism. But if an individual does it in order to...well, in order to just harass them, that's illegal.

The only criteria is if the speech is infringing upon someone else's human rights as protected under the law.

"Human rights"? Um. No.

Second, isn't all the information she gathered public information. She just followed people around in public and gathered together public records that a lot of people don't know are public.

You haven't been reading Slashdot very long if you think that the gathering of lots of ostensibly public information about an individual and making it public isn't an abuse of privacy. A listing of all of the websites that you visit is public information, in the sense that it's probably possible for me to track it down, with a little sleuthing and calling in a few favors from friends at DoubleClick and Google. (I'm talking in the abstract here, obviously.) You don't post under your real name here, but I'll bet I could find it out. That's public. Hell, given that, I bet I could figure out and post your address, phone number, e-mail address, social security number, criminal history, home value, workplace, career history, educational background, etc., with some spare time and a big of legwork. But you probably wouldn't want me to make all of that public, because it would totally freak you out and definitely be a violation of your privacy...despite it being public information. One might even call it "stalking."

But then, equating a secretary at a courthouse and police officer in this instance is slightly disingenuous as they have different levels of authority and pose different levels of risk to the people from abuse of that authority.

It's not disingenuous, it's making the point that the notion that a "public employee" vs. a "private employee" is a false dichotomy. The fact that somebody works for the government (as do I, in a roundabout away) does not suddenly make their private life an open book. What a police officer does on his own time, provided it's not illegal, should as private of a matter as what a secretary does, or what anybody else does.

Further your selection of a position of secretary and pronouns indicating it is a woman while the stalker is a man seems like something of an emotional, fear based appeal.

That's right. The point being that we can't have laws that are different for different sexes. Is it OK for a woman to follow a man, but not a man to follow a woman? Of course not. You're paying attention -- that's good. :)

Comment I've Been Following This (Score 5, Informative) 847

I've been following this story for a few years, or rather following it as it developed.

Her ex-husband is Kevin Strom, a prominent white nationalist and white supremacist* who was arrested for possession of child pornography and beating his wife (while threatening worse if she testified against him) a couple of years ago. He'd been stalking a ten-year-old girl, regularly cruising by her house, giving her gifts, sending her love letters, and proposing to her. (The kid's parents were none too thrilled.) It turned out, bizarrely, that none of that is illegal -- but possession of child pornography landed him in prison for a couple of years. He was released earlier this year. He was also, incidentally, an inveterate troll of one of my blogs, so I've got a special dislike for the guy.

Anyhow, Elisha is every bit as much of a racist as Strom, only she's also a feminist, which means that racists think she's scum, meaning that basically everybody hates her. Based on her blog entries, commenters on my blog have come to the conclusion that she was having an affair with one or more of these police officers. To my knowledge, she's never had any interaction with JADEâ"that is, neither she nor her husband have been busted for drug possession by them. So her interest in them appears to be romantic. Spurned, she's started stalking them, and expanded her interest to include all members of JADE.

What I can't shed any light on is whether or not this arrest is appropriate. I've been involved in a couple of high-profile bloggers' free expression cases (as a defendant in both cases), and though you'd think I'd rush to defend somebody in her positionâ"cretin though she may beâ"I just don't think it's cut-and-dry enough. The fact that she's putting this stuff on a blog seems to be irrelevant, by which I mean it's not a special form of expression here. She's not acting in the manner of a journalist, by which I mean that there is no goal to her coverage, no public interest being served, no story being pieced together. She's simply taking private information about private individuals who happen to work for the local government (albeit in a very private capacity) and making it public.

The question here is simply, I think, whether stalking laws are meant to cover people who are public employees. If a racist who advocates violent rebellion against black Americans starts following the a black secretary who works in the county office building, documenting her every move publicly, can the police intervene? Or is that his right, because she's opted out of a right to privacy by working for a government agency? There is a legitimate argument to be made that it is his right, in order to be consistent with what is to be expected for more prominent public employees. But a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, after all, so maybe we should put less thought into being consistent and more into protecting our citizens. I'm not being vague to be cute -- I really don't know what's right here.

* I regret that covering these nutcases involves learning things like that there's a difference between being a white nationalist and a white supremacist.

Comment Good Choice (Score 4, Interesting) 252

I worked with Aneesh earlier this year on an open government project here in Virginia. He asked me to function in a very small role in developing, basically to serve as a programmer/open government guy to advocate from the inside for increased openness and strong adherence to public, open data exchange standards on the website and its API. Aneesh isn't a geek, but he "gets it," if I may return to that old chestnut that we all employed round about 2000. He might not know Unicode from Latin 1, but he surrounds himself with people who do know the difference, he gets the gist of it from them, and chooses the path that provides the most accessibility for the most data to the most people.

The guy is, incidentally, utterly exhausting to try to keep up with. I'm somebody to whom people say constantly "when do you sleep?", and even I find Aneesh an absolutely whirlwind of activity.

The only downside for me here is that Aneesh had expressed interested in me joining Governor Kaine's cabinet as "Senior Advisor for Open Government" (or something like that). I'd been in talks with my employer about taking a leave of absence. Now, of course, that won't happen. But since the (apparent) tradeoff is having Aneesh as the nation's CTO, that's A-OK by me.


Submission + - Year's Top Censors Receive Muzzle Awards (

Waldo Jaquith writes: "The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has announced the 'winners' of their annual Jefferson Muzzle awards, given to government entities that have done the most to quash citizens' rights to free expression. The honor (such as it is) this year goes to The Democratic and Republican National Parties, Camp Lejune Marine Base, three colleges, two high schools, and a pair of judges, all of whom violated egregiously the rights of individuals. My favorite is Yuba College, which told a student that he could assemble and speak publicly on campus, but only on Tuesdays and Thursdays between noon and 1 PM. They feel dumb now."

Comment Nearly Everything You Wrote is Wrong (Score 2, Informative) 77

There's so much about what you wrote that is simply wrong. Let's run down the list.

1. Rick Boucher isn't a member of the Virginia General Assembly, he's a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

2. There was never a heyday of Virginia politicians who spearheaded smart internet laws. You can tell because, if there had been, then we'd have smart internet laws. The closest that we ever got was Gov. Jim Gilmore, who created the Secretary of Technology cabinet position and created those asinine "@" internet license plates. Oh, and he required censorware on all school computers. That was the high point for Virginia.

3. You speak of the legislature as a single unit, wondering why "they" did something or "they" didn't do something. It's made up of 140 members, each of whom is free to introduce legislation on a given topic. Do you live in Virginia? Did you ask your legislator to introduce such a bill? Nothing is "on tap for next year," because it's not possible. It's not possible to prefile a bill until summer, some months after the veto session. If you have an idea for a better UCE ban, I wish you'd write up a proposal to share with the legislature.

4. In fact, two bills were introduced into the Virginia General Assembly to deal with UCE, both by Del. Manoli Loupassi (R-Richmond). HB1796: Unsolicited bulk electronic mail; penalty and Unsolicited bulk electronic mail (spam); penalty. (HB1797). The former was killed in a Senate Committee for Courts of Justice subcommittee, the latter was killed in a House Courts of Justice subcommittee.

Comment Good Reasons (Score 1) 297

There are lots of good reasons to do such filtering. Note the joking comment about 4chan elsewhere in the discussion. Managing an online community is a lot of work, but it's a great deal easier when its participants are a member of the same physical community. Those face-to-face encounters do a lot to defuse online anger.

He's not worrying about "what is of use to other people," he's worrying about what is of use to him. That's not self-centered, that's just smart product development.

Comment No Problem (Score 1) 183

They'll have no trouble with it at all. I'm yet to encounter a screen reader that reads the name element of an input field. Perhaps it would if the field was otherwise devoid of any descriptive text, but you'd have to be a real jackass to provide an unlabeled input field and expect anybody to know what to do with it. :)

Comment Nope (Score 1) 183

Im afraid you misunderstand me. Again, only the field name is affected, not the label for the field. I've used text-only browsers regularly since 1994 (Mosaic over a 14.4k modem, Lynx, and now Links), and I'm yet to encounter one that displays the name element of an input field to the user.

Comment Hidden Input Box (Score 5, Informative) 183

Third, do they fill out a hidden inputbox? This is sort of the reverse captcha.

This is really a very good test. As others have mentioned in this thread, it's the sort of thing that spammers will circumvent if it becomes widespread, but for now it's great.

There's something else I've found to be really quite effective: deliberately misnaming my form fields. For instance, give the input field that's labelled "First Name" an input name of "phone number." Humans don't use input names to determine what text to enter, but spambots do. Then check that inputâ"if the first name field contains a phone number, you know you've got yourself spammer.

I've used solely the combination of these two things to run one of my websites for two years now, and I get a vanishingly small amount of spam.


Submission + - Wild bird blinding Laser beacon announced

snot.dotted writes: "Southampton, UK. City council announced the construction of a Laser Beacon that will cost £249,000 or $487,590. To be constructed with four high powered lasers (5 watts, class 4) that will be visible for 20 miles and the lasers will be constantly running from dusk until midnight. Local astronomers pissed at the light pollution link to local news paper article, City council leaders unaware of diffraction and beam divergence! You can read their proposal here as a pdf Pidgeons and other wild birds likely to be blinded. Apparently a world first. Next, council to attach frickin' lasers to sharks. Dr Evil running for re-election again! more Beacon of the South Stories"

Submission + - What's hidden under Greenland ice?

Roland Piquepaille writes: "Ice has covered Greenland for millions of years. So what's hidden under this ice cap? Mountains and valleys? Rivers and lakes? Of course, we might know it sooner than we would have liked if the ice covering Greenland continues to melt. But researchers from Ohio State University have decided that they wanted to know it next year and have developed a radar to reveal views of land beneath polar ice. Their first tests of this new radar, which helps them to catch 3-D images of the ground under the ice, took place in May 2006. The next images will be shot in April 2007. Here are some images of the new GISMO device and what it can do."

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