Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Right idea, wrong argument (Score 1) 381

I'll assume by you continuing to muddy waters that you've no actual interest in discussing the case or International law, but are comfortable to just bitch about other people's understanding of it.

The points not referring specifically to Manning referred specifically to incidents Manning revealed and which - upon knowing - would have had to conceal (a violation of the law) or expose.

No, I've not been under fire. My father was, and was under fire from both Greek terrorists and Turks during his time running a SIGINT post there. My grandfather was, I have his medals now from the times he was bombed and shot at. My great uncle was in the unit holding the German army at bay at Dunkirk whilst everyone else fled. (His MI9 file is fascinating.) Another was a Spitfire pilot that was held at Stalag Luft III. My landlord at University was a tailgunner for the Dambusters. The guy across the street was a Wellington bomber pilot.

Then, of course, there's the entire branch of the family wiped out in World War I - some at the Somme, others at Galipoli. They were evenly split - pilots and ground troops.

So, no, I couldn't possibly have any information that might be pertinent to knowing what pilots can and cannot see, or what soldiers face in war.

Comment Re:Right idea, wrong argument (Score 1) 381

An axe to grind against the US? Wikileaks has shown no favoiritism towards anyone and has treated all leaks against any nation as being of equal merit.

As for Article 5, it is immaterial as to whether the people came storming out. The laws are written such that you must POSITIVELY identify beligerants, you cannot merely asume.

Oh, and hiding bodies is considered permissable under the Hague Conventions (which explicitly permits the control of information).

True, I wasn't there, but neither were you. I made it clear that I was going by my reading of the text, you offer nothing but muddy waters in return. As bad as my reading may be, I hold it is superior through clarity.

Comment Re:Quantity, not quality. (Score 1) 535

I see you didn't even bother to read the line you quoted, I said nothing about increased neural activity. Nor did I say anything about physical lifespan. Oh well, morons happen.

A medical explanation? Sure, no problem. The brain has two mechanisms for storing new information - neurogenesis (growth of new brain cells) and new connections between those brain cells.

Forming new brain cells is a little tricky, but you don't need to. The neurological fact is that the brain grows excess brain cells before birth. The unused ones die off, leaving what is actually used. There is then a second surge in brain cell numbers at around age 12, which peaks at 18-20. The die-back begins 25-30.

This is hard-and-fast medical science. It is simply not in dispute.

Now, it is known that learning increases the number of neural connections, and that learning new languages increases the neural connections significantly. Learning from different language families - as it's the most complex task involving learning the most - can reasonably be taken as adding the most neural connections.

"Ah! But wait!" Some might say. "This only proves that there's more connections, not connections between more brain cells."

True, so you have to add in further studies. This one and this one show that intensive learning connects more brain cells.

The more you learn before the brain starts to die back, the more room for connections you will have and the more possible paths you will end up with. This is simple mathematics.

Ok so far?


The brain's capacity to self-repair is impressive (as demonstrated by Scott Adams' regained ability to speak, for example) but it is finite. The more brain cells you have and the more neural connections you have, the more of those can be damaged without seriously impacting the performance of the whole. Thus, aging effects will be mitigated. However, the above studies also suggest that the rate of naturally-occurring cell death from age is also reduced.

Health problems? Sure, but I said nothing about health problems. I stated, quite clearly, "functional lifespan" - the lifespan the brain is going to be capable of functioning at some given level of capacity. This should be considered in relation to the mean functional lifespan of the brain of mono-linguists in the same environment.

(Thus, a polyglot in the construction industry should have the mental speed and agility necessary to work in such conditions for longer than a monoglot, where the extended ability is roughly a linear function of the languages learned.)

In short, if you want to critique me, be VERY VERY sure of your facts because I am going to rip any pseudo-scientific bullshit to shreds.

Comment Re:Goes both ways... (Score 1) 645

No, that there is no "you". Your conscious mind is nothing more than an elaborate computational trick. Which you would have found out had you read TFA. Calling hard science "nonsense" before knowing what the hard science is is a technique used by the religious fringe. Shame on you for adopting it.

Comment Re:Quantity, not quality. (Score 1) 535

Not necessarily. Most of the best work comes from a person aged 20-30. If you've not made your great discovery or invention by then, chances are you're not going to.

Reducing the decline in brain function won't significantly extend that range, it will merely mean that older people will be more functional in society. This will place a lower strain on society and will increase the return on the investment in the citizenry, but for the number of languages typically learned anywhere, that's about it.

If we look at the US, Social Security is going bankrupt and the older generations are frequently mentally incapable of extending themselves to newer technologies. I would expect there to be more Germans or Swiss in their 70s and 80s to be using Linux than Americans of equal age, most of whom won't be comfortable around computers in general.

My guess, and I admit it is only a guess, is that if you were to analyze the "likely potential" of a pool of people in formative years, then look at how that potential changes over time, that those who learn more languages will accumulate more potential and that learning languages in different language families will increase it the most.

Nonetheless, even if my conclusion is wrong, experimental evidence DOES show that more languages makes for greater brain function and a greater delay before mental degeneration sets in. You can call it what you like, but an ounce of observation is worth a ton of objections. If you can't explain the data better, your call means nothing.

Comment Right idea, wrong argument (Score 4, Interesting) 381

IANAL, so the below opinion represents a non-legal reading of the various treaties, obligations and rulings. A judge may well reach a different conclusion. In fact, were Judge Pickles involved (different country so he can't and he retired anyway), any judgement might be possible. The guy was living proof of the razor-edge between genius and utter insanity. However, I feel that even if my reading is legally incorrect, the cited texts should still be taken into consideration.

The Supreme Court has long decided that the Declaration of Independence is just so much scrap paper with no legal backing whatsoever. The argument needs to be stronger.

Now, under US law, all International Treaties that the US has signed up to have the weight of US law. Maybe that will offer some possibilities.

Article 29 of the Second Hague Convention: An individual can only be considered a spy if, acting clandestinely, or on false pretences, he obtains, or seeks to obtain information in the zone of operations of a belligerent, with the intention of communicating it to the hostile party.

Well, there's no claim that he used false pretenses to access the material or that he did so clandestinely. Nor is there any claim that he communicated it to the hostile party.

Article 31 states: A spy who, after rejoining the army to which he belongs, is subsequently captured by the enemy, is treated as a prisoner of war, and incurs no responsibility for his previous acts of espionage.

So if he, after giving the information to Wikileaks, acted correctly under the commanding officer and committed no offence at the time of his arrest would not qualify as a spy as he had "rejoined the army to which he belongs".

Nurenberg Principle II states, "The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law."

Nurenberg Principle IV states: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him".

Taken together, this would mean that if Manning's silence would be a crime under international law, then it would be a criminal act even if it was (a) legal in the US and (b) ordered by his superiors. Thus, we now have to establish if his silence was a criminal act.

Principle IV also states:
(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

Under (ii), silence would be partitipation in a common plan or conspiracy, provided the acts he was aware of were indeed illegal.

Article 5 of the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded on the Field of Battle (Red Cross Convention) states: Inhabitants of the country who may bring help to the wounded shall be respected, and shall remain free. The generals of the belligerent Powers shall make it their care to inform the inhabitants of the appeal addressed to their humanity, and of the neutrality which will be the consequence of it.

Thus, bombing civilians rendering aid, regardless of who they are aiding, is an illegal act. Which would make Manning's silence an illegal act under Principle IV above.

So, from this we can reasonably conclude that Manning (a) is not a spy or guilty of espionage (regardless of any US law to the contrary, since international law supercedes it), and (b) would have been guilty of a war crime had he not released the information.

This does NOT make him innocent of any crime. It merely makes him innocent of the crime that is popularly attached to him. There may well be legal grounds for disciplining him for his method of non-silence, but legally he was obliged under international law to be non-silent.

Comment Re:Sad (Score 2) 535

Every language you know boosts your brain's capacity to learn, to think, to grow and to survive the ravages of age. So those who are divided die young and stupid, whilst those who are united - not by a single common tounge but by a thirst for flexible communication - will be the supplanters. I don't see the problem.

Do you use a single language on the computer? Probably not. Your OS is likely written in C, you'll have applications in C++ and C#, possibly Java. If you've high-power numerical apps, there's a good chance Fortran will be there as well. The web apps you use will be in Java, Javascript, ASP, PHP and Ruby. Is this a problem? No. It is a strength. Those developers get to pick the best language for the task, they aren't limited and closeted.

The French find that rock music is best sung in English because the word structure and phonemes are perfect for very biting sounds. The French language doesn't have those harsh sounds, so other styles have developed there, which are themselves superb and could never be achieved in English. German is also good for rock, which is why Doro Pesch is rightly considered a Heavy Metal Goddess, but it's also better for brief speech, which may be an advantage if Internet traffic is charged per packet. Internet Telephony using English would be far more expensive than using German.

Variation is a strength, not a weakness.

Comment Re:Quantity, not quality. (Score 4, Interesting) 535

The French have tried to purify their language for centuries. They even have a committee to determine what words can and cannot be added. Which is ironic - when French was first spoken, the French aristocracy regarded it as an inferior Pig Latin. These days, French media outlets are obligated to carry a certain percentage of their output in French.

Now it is fair to say that language and culture are tightly coupled. It is also fair to say that multiple languages are important - current studies suggest that for each language you learn, you add 5+ years to your brain's functional lifespan and you add (an as-yet undetermined) degree of capacity to learn (it bulks the brain up, giving more room for more connections and more complex connections. It follows that preserving a large number of languages is not only socially a good idea but intellectually a necessity to produce the best thinkers.

However, you'll never achieve that through "language purity". (The term for an international language is Lingua Franca - guess who coined the term - and yet despite the language that sparked the term being kept very pure indeed, it is hardly spoken today. Indeed, one could argue that English is the modern Lingua Franca because it is impure and therefore highly adaptable to new situations.)

Language preservation and conservation is Good. Keep it up. But do so for the right reasons and in the right way. Purity is the short path to the Dead Language world. That which does not evolve is doomed to die.

Comment Re:Goes both ways... (Score 2) 645

Do you believe in free will? After reading this? How do you explain the contradiction?

I don't agree with Islam on virtually anything, predestination included, but the fact is that we all hold mutually contradictory beliefs. You wouldn't survive otherwise. To slam someone for such a belief is therefore a little hypocritical. This is not to say you should accept such errors. Nor would I claim that you cannot address one fault in isolation. Just don't pretend you're innocent of the very thing you blame them of.

Comment Re:Speaking of greed... (Score 2) 645

Which got people thinking about how to structure code to encapsulate the non-portable bits. I'd argue that poor portability forced software engineers to develop some excellent practices, and that since the improvement in portability, good practices have deteriorated.

Comment Re:ISP monopolies are the real problem! (Score 2) 945

You will never have a choice in ISP, whether you have regulation or deregulation. Do you have a real choice of telephone company? Chances are, no. You will have a choice of what sticker is on the bill, but the wires will be the same, the junction boxes will be the same, the trunk lines will be the same and the digital exchanges will be the same.

Do you have a real choice of cable company? Odds are, no. Video on demand will be outsourced to the same third-party vendors, the cables will be the same, the digital boxes will be the same, the codec will be the same, the channels provided (in total) will be the same, the backbone will be the same and the packages will be practically the same.

Let's say we had the days of the dial-in modem back, where mom-and-pop shops ran their own mini-ISPs. Were they different? In name, yes. But they used the same backbone, they used the same copper lines, they used the same modem protocol, they offered the same range of speeds. All you could choose was the veneer, the bundle was the same.

What will happen with further Internet deregulation? The same. Very few people can afford to install new fibre in the kind of quantity needed to seriously alter the ther 1 traffic flow. Certainly no potential ISP near you can. Only slightly more could afford to be tier 2. Odds are highly against anyone entering those markets. And since it is those markets that are affected by network neutrality laws (local ISPs are of no significance here, since their sphere of influence is insignificant), the argument about deregulation increasing choice is worthless. You won't see a single new tier 1 provider from deregulation and because those are the people who make the difference between a bunch of LANs and the Internet, they are the people who matter.

Like it or not, individuals are simply not important in the grand scheme of things. They never have been, they never will be. Freedom to choose between veneers is not freedom, it is an illusion of freedom. Freedom of an imaginary choice is a good way to pacify the fools - bread and circuces. Real freedom is actually quite rare and is best part of a balanced breakfast.

Slashdot Top Deals

Just go with the flow control, roll with the crunches, and, when you get a prompt, type like hell.