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Comment At the end of the day, nobody cares! (Score 1) 195

I am someone who does actually read the TOS for websites. I rarely like what I see and as a result, Slashdot is one of the very sites to which I subscribe.

However, the plain fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people don't read them and (here is the vital fact) almost always they don't subsequently feel that they have been disadvantaged as a result. For some strange reason, criminals and the generally dishonest are not setting up web sites, getting users to subscribe and then legally fleecing them. I am not suggesting silly things like First Born, but simple strategies like firstly including a clause saying you can unilaterally change the terms later (practically everyone does this) and then when you have a good few users change the rules to impose huge retrospective fees. Would this not work? I presume many people would challenge the bills in court and I have no idea what the courts would rule. Anyone know any case law?

It is clear to me that governments aren't interested either. Here in the UK, when you go into a shop you might often see a sign describing such things as their returns policy. At the bottom it will invariably say "Your statutory rights are not affected". This is because here consumers can't contract out of their basic consumer rights (e.g. if the product is faulty you are entitled to your money back and don't have to accept a voucher instead). There are some similar protections for buying things online (distance selling regulations) but none so far as I know that govern the contracts on web sites.

I strongly suspect that most smaller organisations don't even read their own TOS and simply copy them from someone else. I have often felt that with the vast majority of websites for which one might need to sign up being basically the same, it would be a good idea for the government to create three or four boilerplate TOSs to cover say 90% of cases. Web sites could then simply have a sign saying "Our web site is governed by UK Gov TOS 3" (I am sure a catchier title could be invented). Consumers wouldn't need to read the TOS because they were all the same and had been carefully checked, but web site owners would also benefit by knowing that their TOS had been well written (at someone else's expense) and would therefore be more likely to stand up in court than one they copied from another similar site and then got their nephew doing law at high school to tweak.

Comment Perfect? No. Better? No idea! (Score 1) 609

So far as I can see, these articles express the view that a society based entirely on objective decision making wouldn't be perfect and therefore shouldn't be considered. Well, Duh! Surely it is completely obvious that it wouldn't be perfect, not least because there are large areas of the human condition not amenable to the scientific approach.

But, surely the question is not whether such a society would be perfect, but whether it would be better - on average - than other arrangements currently on offer. I have no idea what the answer to that question is, but may I submit that if one is to postulate such a society then that is precisely the question which needs to be asked.

Comment Re:Awful (Score 4, Informative) 208

Firstly, the Prime Minister can be a member of the House of Lords, although that hasn't happened in modern times. Lord Salisbury was the last Lords PM (1886 to 1892). He had previously been an elected Member of Parliament but had been elevated to the Lords (1868) before becoming PM. Cabinet Ministers can be from the Lords, although the only current full such cabinet member from is Baroness Stowell of Beeston who is the leader of the Lords. There are however several current 'deputy' ministers from the Lords including Baroness Joanna Shields who is the Minister for Internet Safety and Security (I think that means internet censorship).

Also, the Prime Minister doesn't have to be the leader of the largest party, but in practice they always are since Parliament can throw out any Prime Minister they don't like and clearly the biggest party will like their leader best.

Comment Re:Founding Fathers (Score 1) 983

While I agree with some of your statements and assertions, your conclusion and proposed solution is flawed. Yes, the founding fathers distrusted standing armies and envisioned the 2nd Amendment as a remedy for this. However, some of the founding fathers felt the entire bill of rights as superfluous as the constitution already granted sovereignty to the people, not the elected government. By extension, the notion that there should be a "well armed militia" instead of a standing army is also a contradiction IF (caps on purpose) the army reports to the people. I have no idea how that would be accomplished in practice, but I do know that the order of soap box to ballot box to ammo box is that way for a reason. Power determines the course of civilizations and national and international politics. Money and guns equal power and the federal government started out with neither. Alexander Hamilton provided money to the feds and they use it expertly to influence supposedly sovereign states to bend to their will in small and large ways. Ultimately, it was as you pointed out, the standing army that secured the federal government as the prominent power in our federalism experiment.

Now here is where your conclusion is flawed. Power cannot be taken without power. It can certainly be given up, but that is an idealistic dream. There is not one single case of that ever happening to a nation state without the threat of greater power forced upon it. Machiavelli was right that it is better to be feared than loved and we are proving it again in the USA. The problem is not having guns (power), it's having too many and allowing them to be used for things that they shouldn't be used for. England is an example of what I consider too far to one extreme -- where only hunters are allowed guns and even the police don't regularly carry firearms. I'm not a flag-waiving NRA member, but I do believe that we must uphold the laws of the land, which includes the 2nd amendment. I also believe the US is too far to the other extreme with a militarized police force with too-lax provisions in place to allow them to kill citizens. The founding fathers provided checks and balances at the highest levels of government and I believe this model should be followed down to the lowest levels. If power is the problem, then balancing it is the solution.

Instead of giving up power (guns), we should re-think how guns are distributed and used. I like the Israeli model, where all citizens are trained in the military, possess weapons and know how to use them properly. Their crime rate is famously low for a reason (terrorism aside). My proposal would be to require training for all gun owners (to encourage safe and sensible use), prohibit military weapons or tactics to be used by the police and to return to a state of balance. I could go into greater detail, but I'm neither a lawmaker or policy influencer -- just an armchair philosphizer.

Comment Re:This isn't about platforms. (Score 4, Insightful) 983

You're right. This isn't about platforms, this is about following the law and IMNSHO, DPD did not do that. Without any information except what has been reported on this and other websites, it appears that after preventing his ability to move, cordoning off the area and attempting to negotiate for hours, they made a judgment call to end his life. He may or may not have been a threat to the general population or to the officers on scene. Regardless, the power to end another life is precisely what is at issue in the mind of the shooter, the mind of the police and the mind of every US citizen that is aware of the increase in police violence. Civilian police forces should not be in the business of killing people and that's what the constitution is talking about with the phrase "due process". It's the military's job to kill people and the military are not peace officers, they are war officers. The distinction is important and bound by law, but increasingly ignored by police forces with the aid of the federal government. The militarization (not just a FUD word, but literally, the conversion of peace officers to war officers) of police forces is the issue and the reason why there was a protest in Dallas and the reason why Johnson went mental and decided to kill cops there. Assassinating him (look up the definition) only reinforces the feeling among Americans that the police are out of control. Did he deserve to die? Most likely, but it isn't the job of police forces to determine that. That is what a judge and jury are for and one of the reasons thirteen colonies because thirteen states after a long and bloody war. If there is not a strong legal reaction to DPD's use of force in this way, the situation will get worse, not better. If there is not a show of restraint by those who are sworn to "serve and protect" there will be escalation that leads to civil war. The USA has already had one and we should do everything we can to avoid another because it was the single great cause of American deaths, ever. If you say you care about people, then you should care about upholding the law, especially for those who are given guns by the government chosen "by the people".
Digital

Man Builds Giant Homemade Computer To Play Tetris (bbc.com) 127

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: A man has finished building an enormous computer in the sitting room of his bungalow in Cambridge. James Newman started work on the "Megaprocessor," which is 33ft (10m) wide and 6ft (2m) high, in 2012. It does the job of a chip-sized microprocessor and Mr Newman has spent $53,000 creating it. It contains 40,000 transistors, 10,000 LED lights and it weighs around half a ton (500kg). So far, he has used it to play the classic video game Tetris. Mr Newman, a digital electronics engineer, started the project because he was learning about transistors and wanted to visualize how a microprocessor worked. The components all light up as the huge device carries out a task. Mr Newman hopes the Megaprocessor will be used as an educational tool and is planning a series of open days at his home over the summer. You can watch a video demonstration of the monstrosity here.

Comment Re: How can this work with European smart cards? (Score 2) 181

So, the big problem with Chip+PIN is that you have to keep the card in for the duration of the transaction? Seriously? Good grief people in the USA must be short of things to be inconvenienced by!

I have to say that I didn't quite understand all of your explanation, but fortunately as I never to the the USA I don't need to (Phew!). Do I however deduce that before long mag stripes will be disappearing from your cards and the rest of us can then give them up as well?

BTW, why doesn't the candy store put up a sign saying "No card transactions below $5". Plenty of shops in the UK do, but perhaps you have a law (or more likely hundreds of different laws) against it.

I can confirm that the switch to Chip and PIN caused very few problems here in the UK. At least not that I as a consumer noticed, it might have been a pain for the shop owners.

Comment Re: How can this work with European smart cards? (Score 3, Insightful) 181

Therein lies the problem. Here in Europe (and practically all of the rest of the world) we have switched to CHIP and PIN which allegedly makes skimming much more difficult. Unfortunately, this technology appears to be too complex for Americans to understand so we all have to have mag stripes on our cards as well just in case we ever go there. I never go to the USA, so the mag stripes on my cards are entirely useless other than for skimmers.

Does anyone know of any UK banks which offer a "I am never going to go to North America so please send me a card with a blank mag stripe" service or even a "I sometimes go to North America so please send me two cards, one with mag and one without" service?

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