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Comment Re:The Bush Administrations argument... (Score 1) 321

As a /. reader, you're probably fairly intelligent, so I'll keep this high-level: A corporation is not simply "people acting together;" under our legal system it has its own existence and legal identity distinct from the people who operate it. The people associated with a corporation can all be replaced, or even all leave, and the corporation retains its unique legal identity. The Citizens United is based on the dubious precedent that this fictitious legal identity has the same Constitutional rights as a natural person.

But a corporation is in reality just a legal structure; it is operated by people. The people operating a corporation retain all of their individual Constitutional rights as citizens, but now they can operate using the corporation's rights under the Citizens United ruling. In theory, anybody can form a corporation and operate it to take advantage of the extra "rights" to be gained thereby, but in practice, you don't have much influence without money. The Citizens United ruling opened up vast new avenues for people with gobs of money already to put that money to work for their interests using the corporate identities that they control, with little to no transparency.

An opposite ruling in Citizens United would have restricted the "rights" of an entity created by action of law and existing independently of the people that comprise its operations. How would restricting the political activities of that entity-in-law have in any way affected the Constitutional rights of the people operating it?

Comment Re:Can someone remind me? (Score 4, Insightful) 321

A well-armed and coordinated populace can throw out a well-trained and well-funded military. All you need to do is coordinate the American gun-owners into an organized resistance, which in a country this size, you'll have to do via telephone, email, text message, postal mail, or simply physically travelling around.

And we all know that the government can't track you when you.... aww, crap!

Comment Re:Can someone remind me? (Score 2) 321

The US is using its national intelligence agencies to obtain intelligence on terrorists trying to kill people.

Yes, and obtaining intelligence on political movements like Occupy Wall Street.

The intelligence agencies themselves don't have police powers.

Oh? What's that you say? TFA is about warrantless surveillance undertaken by the FBI, which is the federal agency with explicit domestic police powers.

The suspect in this case is accused of assisting a terrorist group.

Under the USA PATRIOT Act, providing "material support" to a terrorist group can be as simple as expressing support for it. And having a terrorism suspect browse your web site is enough to spark a secret investigation of your organization which scares away many of the donors who keep it in operation.

East Germany's secret police had both an intelligence function and police powers.

The FBI, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Agency, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, at least, are agencies with police powers and intelligence operations. Heck, even the NYPD is in on the deal.

Their primary purpose was to keep the East German Communist party in power.

Given that NSA snooping hasn't indisputably foiled even a single terrorist plot, and the FBI instigated virtually all of the "terrorist" plots they've busted, I have to wonder what is the primary purpose of these agencies. Surely not to intimidate political dissidents!

You could be arrested and imprisoned for such things as making jokes about the nation's leadership, wanting to form a new political party,

Here in the U.S., they've at least figured out that making jokes about the leadership is essentially harmless and does nothing to erode their power. If people started to rise up to challenge them, we might see that change; the architecture of oppression is in place. As for forming a new political party, it does no harm to talk of it, because it's essentially impossible due to the laws in most areas which protect the two incumbent parties.

being a member of an unapproved church,

Like a mosque?

trying to leave the country without permission (could get you shot on the spot)

It won't get you shot, but you apparently can't leave without permission. The U.S. apparently has more finesse than East Germany did.

and many other possible infractions.

There are plenty of other infractions that'll get you in trouble, like walking while black, carrying too much cash, refusing to identify yourself to an officer, contempt of cop, making a funny move when the SWAT team breaks down your door when executing a drug warrant on the wrong address, and much more.

Basically, just because the U.S. doesn't match East Germany in all particulars, the resemblance is far too close for a country that fancies itself the "Land of the Free."

Comment Re:Good! (Score 1) 323

We're also always subject to the far, far greater threat of disease, traffic crashes, gunshots, drownings, or weather events. I, for one, choose not to live in utter, pants-shitting terror every moment of every day over the possibility. If you wanna obsess about some vanishingly small probability, that's fine, just don't impose your neurosis on the rest of us.

Comment Re:personhood (Score 3, Insightful) 420

I don't understand this argument, unless a corporation is a Borg-like entity to which the component persons surrender their individual rights and indepedent intention. That is not the case in our society, so granting "free speech" rights to corporations gives the leaders of those corporations all of their individual free-speech rights, plus extra free-speech privileges through the corporate structure. Put another way, the government (which creates corporations to begin with) could regulate the ever-livin' hell out of 'em, and that wouldn't affect an actual human-person's free-speech rights one whit.

On the other hand, when a certain American political party advances that argument, I tend to take it as further evidence that they really do want workers to have no rights...

Comment Re:hipaa violation as well? (Score 5, Interesting) 590

That's not how our legal system works, though. With limited exceptions*, juries are the finders of fact and judges are the finders of law. In this case, the question of whether the man committed the tort of intentional infliction of emotional harm is a question of fact and thus would go to the jury. If they said yes, then the remedy for the damage caused be the tort is a question of law and thus is a matter for the judge. (In this case, the remedy is enjoining him to delete the blog and to refrain from further writing about the particular topics relating to his ex.) It is entirely appropriate, in our court system, for the judge to make such orders.

Personally, I have no problem with this order. A ruling by a court is a very, very different thing than an act of an executive or legislative body. Rulings by courts of original jurisdiction generally have little precedential power (i.e. they don't bind other courts; one ruling does not stare decisis make) and they are much easier to fight and undo than a statute or executive order. Also, it is entirely consistent with centuries-old doctrines regarding harassment and innumerable previous rulings which have not destroyed free speech. Adding "...on the Internet" does not make it a new and troubling concept.

* Trivia: Wisconsin's constitution makes juries the finders of fact and law in libel cases.


Submission + - Faster-than-Light Neutrino Mystery Likely Solved

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "It's now been three weeks since the extraordinary news that neutrinos travelling between France and Italy had been clocked moving faster than light and more than 80 papers have appeared attempting to debunk or explain the effect. Now Ronald van Elburg at the University of Groningen has made a convincing argument that he has found the error. The OPERA team says it can accurately gauge the instant when the neutrinos are created and the instant they are detected using clocks at each end but the tricky part is keeping the clocks at either end exactly synchronized using GPS satellites, which each broadcast a highly accurate time signal from orbit some 20,000km overhead. But there are two frames of reference: the experiment on the ground and the clocks in orbit. If these are moving relative to each other, then under special relativity "from the perspective of the clock, the detector is moving towards the source and consequently the distance travelled by the particles as observed from the clock is shorter," writes van Elburg. How big is this effect? Van Elburg calculates that it should cause the neutrinos to arrive 32 nanoseconds early but this must be doubled because the same error occurs at each end of the experiment accounting for 64 nanoseconds, almost exactly what the OPERA team observes. "If it stands up, this episode will be laden with irony," according to the Physics arXiv Blog. "Far from breaking Einstein's theory of relatively, the faster-than-light measurement will turn out to be another confirmation of it. ""

Comment Re:the US and Israel butchers assassins torturers (Score 4, Interesting) 676

Yes, the 40 million or so people who voted for Dubya had nothing whatsoever to do with his win.

But could you explain to me again how it is Ralph Nader's fault that the Democrats have the White House, the House of Representatives and a super-majority in the Senate and still can't get much of anything worthwhile done?

Comment Re:Citizens United (Score 1) 379

Anyone who disagrees with the Citizens United decision is dreadfully confused about what free speech means.

I respond that you are confused about the nature of a corporation, and that your opinion is not based on facts, however forcefully stated. The fact is that a few friends can start an organization with the goal of promoting their political views, and without the government telling them anything about what they may say. That organization is not a corporation.

A corporation in our legal system is a legal fiction, a tool designed to promote free enterprise usually by shielding the people involved from liability for the actions of the corporation. Thus, e.g. a small businessman doesn't lose his house and savings when his company craters. The government creates a corporation as a creature of the state by granting a charter, and that charter gives the corporation certain special rights and responsibilities compared to the hypothetical group of friends getting together, as above.

A corporation in our legal system -- and this is key to understanding objections to Citizens United -- has a legal identity separate and independent of the people involved. This is a useful concept in some ways. For example, in bankruptcy liquidation, a receiver may fire all the employees and disband the board of directors, but the corporation still exists in the eyes of the law.

People criticize the Citizens United ruling because it gives this independent legal entity some of the same rights as people, although it has many privileges granted by the government that people do not have. Crucially, the people in a corporation do not lose their individual free speech rights just because they are associated with the corporation. As individuals, they can speak out and give money to political campaigns. There are certain rules limiting the financing of political campaigns, ostensibly to protect the integrity of the democratic process. However, because it opens the door for the independent legal identity of a corporation to pour money into the political process, Citizens United gives the people who control that legal identity an easy end-run around the campaign-finance rules. Remember, the corporate officers still have all the rights to participate in the political process as individuals, but now they have a new, enormous avenue to participate in addition to their individual rights.

Perhaps you don't have a problem with that, but plenty of us do feel that it is wrong to inject the profit motive directly into the political process, in addition to the innumerable indirect ways it already (allegedly) harms people by distorting the process. That's a valid point that can be argued without dismissing your opponent's views categorically.

Comment META Re:We promise we won't hurt you. (Score 5, Insightful) 628

Uhhhh - I didn't see the same video you saw. I saw an Apache firing on a group of armed men, located in an area from which our ground troops took fire.

The thing that I find most interesting about this argument is that the predominant sides of the argument consist of the side that says, "These guys were irresponsible/criminal Rambo-types. They/we need to do better!" versus the side that says, "These were good soldiers doing the best they could in trying circumstances. Bad things happen in war."

Now, considering that the fighting in Iraq is an anti-insurgency campaign, and the U.S. military is supposed to be winning "hearts and minds," dead civilians, dead reporters, wounded/dead children foster hatred of the U.S. and undermine the mission. Therefore, the people defending those soldiers and saying that mistakes happen are essentially saying this:

"This war cannot be won."

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