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Comment Vermont? (Score 1) 252

Both sides of my family are from Vermont—Rutland, on one side, and the White River Junction area, on the other. I've spent a lot of time there, and I think I'm about as familiar as somebody who doesn't live there could reasonably be. And I can say that with fair confidence that Vermont's rural areas are no more rural or isolated than the rural areas of Virginia, where I live. (Compare Vermont's population density and Virginia's population density. While you're at it, compare the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Green Mountains. If you were blindfolded and kidnapped, when the blindfold was taken off, you'd be hard pressed to know if you were in Vermont or Virginia.) Good luck finding any USPS address that has no other USPS address within five miles.

And I'm not at all frustrated about the lack of universal postal service—it's no problem for me at all, having been the case for me for much of my life.

Comment That's Already How It Works! (Score 4, Informative) 252

Congratulations, you've just described exactly how the USPS works.

Bajillions of people who live in rural areas (like me) pick up their mail at the post office, because the cost of delivery to their homes is prohibitive. Universal service is not, in fact, universal, and never has been. Even UPS won't deliver to my house—I've got to pick up their packages at the post office (!), too.

Also, your example is ludicrous. Have you ever heard of a house so isolated that it's in a "neighborhood" (?) five miles away and yet, mysteriously, this five-mile-long stretch of road, devoid of any homes or businesses, has a 20 MPH speed limit on its road? Because I can't summon any scenario in which that would be the case.

Comment No (Score 1) 221

I've put a bunch of time into this for a project of my own. The short answer is, no, I have found no such program. I've experimented with a few older programs, but they're useless. Sorry.

Comment Not Appointed (Score 4, Interesting) 617

Actually, Cuccinelli wasn't "appointed" as attorney general—he was elected. He defeated Democrat Steve Shannon by a huge margin. We chose to have this guy as AG, and it wasn't even close. Any informed voter should have known what they were getting into with Cuccinelli. He's really, really far right, and he's never hid it. It doesn't speak well of Virginia.
Censorship

Submission + - Congressman Demands Parody Website Investigation (washingtonpost.com)

waldoj writes: First amendment group the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has handed out their always-amusing Muzzle Awards on the occasion of Jefferson's birthday, and the ten "winners" constitute a worst-of list of free speech violators in the past year. Of most interest to Slashdotters is likely the top spot, which went to Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), a hero of the far left, who tried to get the U.S. Attorney General to open an investigation to determine who set up a website parodying his own website. Also of note is Southwestern College prohibiting free speech on campus except for on their "free-speech patio" and Alabama barring the sale of a California wine with a painting of a nymph on the label.

Comment It's a Tool (Score 1) 624

Face it, a gun is purely designed to maim or kill. It is not a tool and is not designed for any other purpose.

Wrong. A gun is a thing that's designed to a put a hole in that thing over there. Just last week I was using my Mossberg to put holes in targets and, to spectacular effect, a full can of shaving cream. In a decade of ownership, I've never once used that particular gun to maim or kill.

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.

Portables

A Look Back At the World's First Netbook 143

Not-A-Microsoft-Fan writes with this excerpt from The Coffee Desk: "Netbooks are making huge waves within the hardware and software industries today, but not many would believe that the whole Netbook craze actually started back around 1996 with the Toshiba Libretto 70CT. Termed technically as a subnotebook because of its small dimensions, the computer is the first that fits all of the qualifications of being what we would term a netbook today, due in part to its built-in Infrared and PCMCIA hardware, and its (albeit early) web browsing software. The hardware includes the two (potentially) wireless PCMCIA and infrared network connections, Windows 95 OSR 2 with Internet Explorer 2.0, a whole 16MB of RAM and a 120Mhz Intel Pentium processor (we're flying now!)."

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 stimulus.virginia.gov, 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.

Censorship

Submission + - Year's Top Censors Receive Muzzle Awards (tjcenter.org)

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."

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