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Comment Re:not afraid (Score 1) 186

Ledow raised the issue of a case where the police use the tapped phone conversation in their investigation and then find solid proof that the defendant is in fact guilty. Just because the police may not have looked there without the illegal information doesn't change the fact that they can now prove beyond resonable doubt that he is in fact guilty.

But it's still illegal.

What you are saying, effectively, is that the ends justify the means. Unfortunately, once you start down that road, even a little, you can justify all the acts that I pointed to in the previous post. I mean, if the defendant lied about his alibi, he must be guilty, right? And now that you know he lied about his alibi, you can apply pressure to the person providing his alibi (without telling them why you know the alibi is false), who will admit the falsehood, and you can now show in court the the defendant lied. Coupled with the other circumstantial evidence, that's easily enough to get a conviction... Of someone who is innocent.

I know this is a very TV drama sort of example, but these things really do happen all too often. We have these laws in place for a reason. They are not there just to hamstring the prosecution, they are there to protect the innocent. As soon as you start saying it's ok to break the rules since the outcome is positive, you are also accepting the fact that it's OK to send a few innocent people to prison in the name of catching the bad guys. Unfortunately, there is no happy middle ground in this case.

Comment Re:not afraid (Score 1) 186

Loopholes in the system? Illegally monitoring someones private conversations is not a "Loophole", it is a crime . A loophole is when a search warrant was issued, but no one noticed that the court clerk typed the wrong address making it invalid.

The word Immoral may be a tiny bit strong, but this much is true: Any police officer or prosecutor who knowingly uses illegaly obtained evidence in their case against a subject should be fired. Not only do they risk convicting the wrong person (Just because some evidence points at someone doesn't necessarily mean they are guilty... Other evidence may exonerate them), but they also risk having their case thrown out and the real criminal getting away if their shortcut is discovered. Watch the movie In the Name of the Father sometime to see what can happen when a prosecutor gets overzealous.

I expect your reply will be something like "but in this case, you're dealing with the words of the defendant, so they aren't false evidence, just illegally obtained". That would be a reasonable argument in the case of an outright confession on the phone line. In many cases, though, the evidence they gather could simply be something that reinforces their case but doesn't actually prove guilt by itself. For example, his alibi is not real-- maybe he was doing something that he doesn't want his wife to know about at the time of the crime. The lack of an alibi already makes him a suspect, but his lying about his alibi makes him even a stronger one... But neither even remotely -prove- that he committed the crime. If that information is illegally used against an innocent man, he could easily be imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit.

This sort of thing happens all too often in the US. I'm not in the Netherlands, but I suspect that it happens there, too. I completely understand your desire to convict the guilty, but that has to be balanced by the desire to protect the innocent, and locking up the wrong guy for a crime fails that on two fronts: An innocent man is punished, and the guilty man remains free to commit more violence. No one benefits from that situation.

Comment Re:I don't think so... (Score 1) 237

If MS Word were to send a copy of your document over the Internet to have it manually spell-checked by some guy in India, then yes, that guy (or his employer) would presumably have some copyright interest in the final text.

Umm... No. By this standard, if an author gave me a copy of his book-in-progresss to review and I gave him feedback that affected the final book, then I would have a share of the copyright. I suppose there are circumstances where that could be true, they would only be in the most extreme circumstances (such as I re-wrote an entire section of the book). As an example of the complications that your scenario would create, companies like Pragmatic Programmers, who often sell "beta" access to their books before publication, would have to give a share of the profits from any sales to anyone who sent in feedback. For some reason, I doubt the beta books programs would last long in your world.

As has been noted, editors, whether they work for the publisher or the author, are doing work-for-hire and do not have a copyright claim. The ownership of the copyright of a book normally rests with the author, but it is entirely subject to the contract between the author and the publisher. On the couple of Apress books I have on my shelf, the copyright is held by the book's authors. Checking a random sampling of other publishers that's not always the case-- O'Reilly, Sams, New Riders, Que and Pragmatic Programmers all claim the copyright for the company. In addition to Apress, Peachpit and FriendsofEd books seem to leave the copyright with the author (Note: in all cases, my conclusions are only from checking one or two books and may not be consistent across all books from the publisher).

Comment Re:Come on GM, at least make the lie BELIEVABLE (Score 1) 1006

Well, sure... But you're comparing apples to oranges. The Volt is a mid-sized, four-door sports sedan, the Leaf is a compact hatchback. The leaf also has a fixed range of approximately 100 miles per charge, while the Volt has an unlimited range, though that comes at the expense of carrying around a lot of extra weight in the form of a gas engine and gas tank. All things considered, I think a 35% or so difference in fuel efficiency is quite reasonable when you consider the advantages the Volt has.

Comment Re:Can someone explain this guy's logic to me (Score 1) 367

Your analogy seems reasonable to a point, but it falls apart upon deeper examination. In fact, it has a number of flaws, any one of which makes it irrelevant to the current context. First off, in some cases, yes you are charged a 'cover charge'. As another poster already pointed out, membership stores such as Costco charge an anual fee that is the same whether you buy one loaf or a thousand, but in exchange for the fee, you get much better prices on most items and superior customer service.

But ignoring them, unlike the electric companies, grocery stores are not a legal monopoly. Grocery stores operate in a competitive marketplace, and therefore they will adjust their pricing and service levels at their own discretion, as the nature of the marketplace changes. Electric utilities are legally established monopolies, who cannot simply adjust their rates as the market demands, they usually need to get permission from a government agency. What they are doing here is simply requesting permission to adjust their rate structure to compensate for the changing nature of the market.

A retail store has no 'uptime guarantee'. If they aren't making enough profit to stay open, they can go out of business, and no one will really care. Some people may be inconvenienced by having to drive a bit farther to a different store, but it's not the end of the world. An electric utility has a different set of standards. While they can't guarantee 100% uptime, they do make every effort (under law) to see that the uptime is as high as possible, and they react quickly in the event of downtime. That guarantee costs money, and it is unfair to place the responsibility for implememnting that guarantee only on the customers who do not have solar.

As to the electric industry being 'a dying business', I think you are dreaming just a bit here. I would be VERY surprised if home generated electricity accounts for more than 20% of all electric usage anytime in the next 20 years. Even going out farther than that, I doubt that we'll ever see more than 50% home generated electricity, barring breakthroughs such as cold fusion or similar technologies.

But, as I've stated several times already, even if I'm wrong (and I hope I am), the groups who will continue to get the majority of their electricity from the grid will be poor homeowners and renters. However, the vast majority of those who do have solar or other home generation capabilities will still expect their power connection to be available 24/7 in case something goes wrong or their needs increase, even if they aren't actually paying anything for the power.

Once again, anyone who doesn't want to pay this fee has a very simple way to legally avoid it. They can simply give up on that guaranteed uptime-- in other words, they can go off the grid. They won't have to pay for the grids reliability, but they won't be able to take advantage of it, either. But I don't expect that there will be many takers on this savings.

Comment Re:Can someone explain this guy's logic to me (Score 1) 367

You are right, there are always unrecouped costs that are shifted onto others. For example, in my example I am NOT advocating that only the customers on the block paying for the repair. All the utilities customers will absorb the expense, so the actual cost to any given customer is only a fraction of a penny. Right now, the few customers with enough solar capability to not pay significant electric bills are getting a free ride, but because there are so few of them, they aren't costing the other customers any significant amount.

But you are not projecting the current scenario down the road twenty years or so. As solar costs drop, the solar installation rate will quite likely increase dramatically. Fewer and fewer people will be paying in to the pool, so the maintenance costs will suddenly start being a significant part of the bills of those without solar. To make matters worse, the people who will be the least likely to have solar will be poor homeowners and renters, the two groups least likely to be able to afford the increased costs.

I'll state this much again: I'm not arguing in favor of this fee as proposed by Xcel. But a fee like this will probably be necessary going forward, whether we want it or not. Obviously we can't predict the future to know what percentage of people will be using solar in a decade or two, but the number is certain to grow, and the effect their not paying for the upkeep of the grid will eventually become a noticeable one.

Comment Re:Can someone explain this guy's logic to me (Score 1) 367

May I suggest maintenance fees are already included, and this is just an extra layer of profit?

Quite possibly. And if you had actually read my original comment, you would know that I said that such a fee would ONLY be equitable if accompanied by a rate decrease. To save you from having to go back and reread, here's what I said: "What isn't reasonable is for the electric company to use a fee such as this as a profit center. If they truly are doing this to be equitable to their users they should implement a reasonable fee, but lower their per kWH rate that users pay so the average non-solar user sees no increase in their current bill". Maybe you should actually read before commenting next time?

If you would like a more detailed explanation of why these fees are required, see this comment.

Comment Re:Can someone explain this guy's logic to me (Score 2, Insightful) 367

I call bullshit on you calling bullshit...

There is a problem with your reasoning, which is exactly the point the spokesman made. Suppose for a moment that a solar customer generates exactly enough energy to meet his energy demands, no more, no less. Say he does so for a full year. By your logic he should pay nothing to the electric company, which on the surface is perfectly reasonable.

But what happens if six months into that year, the line up the block from his house is taken down in a windstorm, knocking out incoming power to the homeowner and several of his neighbors? Who should pay to repair the connection? Clearly the power company has to make the repair, since more than one customer is effected, but should the cost of the repair be passed solely to those customers who actually use electricity, or should it be passed on to everyone connected to the grid? After all, even though this homeowner isn't using any incoming electricity, he probably appreciates the fact that the grid is there in case there is a problem with his system or his need increase.

Remember, the homeowner always has an easy way out of the proposed fee if they really object to paying it-- they can just go completely off grid. For some reason, I doubt that many people will be taking that route any time soon...

Comment Re:I have Xcel (Score 1) 367

I agree completely. I live in Seattle, where we are fortunate enough to have a publicly owned electric system, and we have some of the cheapest power in the US. Having the utilities owned by private entities only encourages graft and abuse as this situation exemplifies.

None of my comments were intended to endorse Xcel or this particular fee, however I still see the benefit of separating the cost of maintaining the connection from the cost of the electricity provided. While in the short term, this may seem unfair for solar users, in the long term, failing to implement such a system will mean that the expense of maintaining the grid that all electric users benefit from will fall primarily on the poor and renters, the two groups who likely will not have solar installations in their homes. Clearly that is not an equitable arrangement.

Comment Re:Can someone explain this guy's logic to me (Score 2, Insightful) 367

When you buy a loaf of bread, do you get billed for an oven maintenance fee?

Of course you do. The fee may not be broken out into an itemized statement, but I guarantee you that the bakery factors their oven maintenance expenses into the price that you pay for that loaf of bread.

So your entire premise is flawed to begin with, but on top of that your analogy is terrible. A loaf of bread is a one-time purchase, so there are no ongoing expenses involved. All costs involved in its production and delivery are factored into the price you pay at your grocery store. When you connect up to the power grid, there are ongoing maintenance expenses regardless of the amount of electricity you use or you sell back to the electric company. It is perfectly reasonable to pass on those expenses to the homeowner. Otherwise, as the spokesman notes, those costs are absorbed by the other system users who do not have solar, effectively increasing their rates.

Comment Re:Can someone explain this guy's logic to me (Score 5, Insightful) 367

Alot of people here are making various arguments about how the policy is either reasonable or not based solely on their own electric bill. Without knowing more about how Xcel Energy breaks out it's fees, it's not really possible to judge whether the proposed fee is fair or not.

This much is true, though: There are certain costs involved with building, maintaining and connecting to the grid that are present whether the subscriber uses a single watt of electricity or not. It is perfectly reasonable for the company to try to recoup those costs from all their customers, so making that portion of your bill a fixed fee as opposed to a percentage of usage is quite reasonable. Otherwise, the spokesman is correct that the non-solar users rates will eventually have to be increased to subsidize the infrastructure for those who have solar.

What isn't reasonable is for the electric company to use a fee such as this as a profit center. If they truly are doing this to be equitable to their users they should implement a reasonable fee, but lower their per kWH rate that users pay so the average non-solar user sees no increase in their current bill.

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