Mason Wheeler’s Techdirt Profile


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  • Oct 2nd, 2015 @ 2:07pm

    (untitled comment)

    In other news, reports are pouring in of mass hysteria, human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together...

  • Oct 2nd, 2015 @ 10:02am

    Re: Re:

    This is exactly right. Retroactive copyright extension is blatantly unconstitutional, because the Constitution says, in perfect plainness, that we can't pass any ex post facto (retroactive) laws. But that hasn't stopped publishing interests from getting them passed...

  • Oct 2nd, 2015 @ 6:49am

    (untitled comment)

    If an agency wishes to punish a particularly tenacious FOIA requester, it can do so by unceremoniously dumping requested documents into the public domain, robbing him of any exclusivity.


    The point of the law is to make the government accountable to the public.

    In light of the latter point, what's the problem with the former? Exclusivity is counterproductive whether it's a government agency or a third party exclusively holding the data...

  • Oct 1st, 2015 @ 12:34pm


    That's unquestionably breaking their oath of office. It's arguably treason.

    You could argue that--anyone can, and frequently does, argue anything--but you'd be objectively wrong:
    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.
    No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
    -- US Constitution, Article III, Section 3

    Sound like they committed some really serious crimes, but not treason.

  • Oct 1st, 2015 @ 9:58am

    Re: Exercise caution on this one

    Not sure what exactly you're insinuating here, but if there was some conspiracy of powerful Mormons to take over the government, why is Mitt Romney not President right now?

    Just asking...

  • Oct 1st, 2015 @ 8:08am

    Re: Re:

    However it's worth noting that the only possible use for these lists is abuse.

    Not necessarily. Consider:

    - Guy goes to work for what he thinks is a company that runs legitimate summits.
    - Guy finds out that they're actually running a scam.
    - Guy is horrified and quits.
    - Guy goes into business running legitimate summits. Notifies "clients" of old business that were taken in by the scam that they were taken in by a scam, and quite helpfully points them to a business that runs legitimate summits.

    Assuming that the response of the "clients" is not of the "fool me once..." variety, this is a win-win scenario. Everyone wins except the parasites, who end up losing, so basically the best possible outcome.

    Not saying that that is what happened, but it does appear to be a possibility at least.

  • Oct 1st, 2015 @ 7:33am


    Technically speaking, no they're not, because they're not participating in this market and technically speaking that ought to be grounds for nullification of their trademark.

  • Oct 1st, 2015 @ 7:23am

    (untitled comment)

    That doesn't mitigate the alleged damages. Theft of a client list is still theft, no matter how little actual value the list contains.

    1) Making a copy of something is not theft. (Why am I having to point this out here, to an author?)
    2) Is it really a client list if they're not actually clients because there's no business being transacted with the people on the list? Reading this, I was under the impression that no actual summits were taking place.

  • Oct 1st, 2015 @ 7:07am

    Re: Re: But you're okay with Facebook's arbitrary insane pages of unfounded legalese that says it can grab any and all content it hosts?

    Yeah, the standard "if you don't want to be on Facebook, just don't use Facebook" refrain sounds really great, right up until you find out about uber-creepy stuff like shadow profiles...

  • Sep 30th, 2015 @ 4:06pm

    Re: You're going to have to explain that to me.

    Fact: Alcohol is a highly addictive substance, and addiction poses severe negative consequences to both physical and mental health. This alone is enough to establish drinking as objectively immoral, because dealing with situations where non-intuitive long-term harm arises as a consequence of things that seem pleasurable or beneficial in the short term is the most important task, if not the entire point, of morality.

    Fact: Alcohol reduces inhibitions and behavioral filters. This is the source behind both the ancient proverb "in vino veritas" and the modern stereotype of the "mean drunk." It causes you to say and do things you would not say and do otherwise because you (when you're clear-headed) know that they are harmful. (There are those who would claim that this lowering of inhibitions is actually a benefit. It's worth noting that such a belief is positively correlated with actions that courts in just about every jurisdiction these days consider to be rape.)

    Fact: Alcohol reduces cognitive abilities, both in the short-term and the long term. This is much more relevant in modern times than in ancient days, for two reasons: the "knowledge economy" (which a good percentage of Techdirt readers are participants in) and automobiles (I don't think I've ever heard anyone even try to say with a straight face that drunk driving is in any way morally acceptable.) But even laying these two points aside, who in their right mind would say it's OK to destroy your brain?

    Those are all completely objective and non-controversial facts; I don't even have to begin to get into statistics on a moral question this basic...

  • Sep 30th, 2015 @ 3:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Gun panic is still moral panic.

    That's a very interesting question. I'm actually not aware of any such study.

    A couple intuitive points worth noting, though:

    1) it's a lot easier to dodge a baseball bat than a bullet
    2) it's a lot easier to hit someone with a baseball bat in a way that won't kill them than it is to shoot them non-lethally.

    The same points apply, though to a lesser degree, to knives.

  • Sep 30th, 2015 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Gun panic is still moral panic.

    The acting persons who did bad things, not his weapons of choice.

    Ah yes, the old "guns don't kill people; people kill people" canard. I was wondering how long until someone would trot that out.

    The problem is, actual data suggests that's not true in any but the most technical, literal sense. Yes, people kill people, but they're doing it with guns. Put two pairs of people in the exact same Bad Situation, with the same problems, the same tempers flaring, everything equivalent, except that in one of them there is a gun available and in the other, there isn't. The chance of the victim ending up dead in the first version is much, much higher; there are tons of studies demonstrating this.

    In light of this, there's nothing "irrational" at all about a bias against guns.

  • Sep 30th, 2015 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not as basic concept as you would think

    Did I say that I, personally, was somehow affected by that? Please don't put words in my mouth. But if you can't see how that can have long-term negative effects on others, particularly people you know personally and interact with on a regular basis, then please go off and play; the adults are trying to have a real conversation.

  • Sep 30th, 2015 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not as basic concept as you would think

    No, you have an opinion concerning it and I have facts concerning it. As much as you may wish to believe that the two are somehow morally equivalent, (no pun intended,) they're not.

  • Sep 30th, 2015 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not as basic concept as you would think

    That's not a dictionary definition, (and the second one you cited from the dictionary is circular and therefore kinda useless,) but it's the role that morality fills. That's why, regardless of which religion you look at, moral prescriptions and proscriptions tend to focus almost exclusively on subjects that have non-obvious long-term consequences: because that's what morality is for.

    Those sound very personal and subjective to me.

    Personal beliefs are personal and subjective, but "the degree to which something is right and good" is most definitely not. That's where we start to get into "you're entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts" territory.

  • Sep 30th, 2015 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not as basic concept as you would think

    that still does not give me the right to determine the morals of other people

    Do you even know what "morality" is? Because anyone who holds to the idea that it's something that a person should determine their own version of is completely missing the point. Morality is the aggregate lab notes of human experience regarding issues of long-term causality. By definition, if you're creating your own you're doing it wrong, because you haven't lived long enough to have personal experience with the long-term effects of the causes covered by moral codes. (Yes, I'm making a few assumptions about your age here. Unless you're old enough to remember WWI, they're almost certainly correct.)

    Why do you think you can or should dictate what other people choose to put into their own bodies?

    No man is an island, that's why. If all it affected was "their own bodies," that would be one thing, but that's not even remotely true and you know it from personal experience, don't you? So please don't trot out a disingenuous line like that. We are talking about something that has been directly responsible for more death, misery, and poverty than every war in the history of mankind put together. Knowing that, how could any reasonable person say it's not inherently immoral?

  • Sep 30th, 2015 @ 12:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not as basic concept as you would think

    I didn't say "guns have no other use than for hurting other people"; I said they have no other use than as a weapon. You ever hear of someone hunting without a weapon? Me neither.

    The interesting thing about that particular strawman, though, is how easily it falls apart under scrutiny. If you look at weapons made for hunting animals, and weapons made for murdering people, they tend to be very different creatures, particularly with regard to size. A hunting rifle (or shotgun) needs to be accurate at a long range, which requires a long barrel for stability. If you saw someone out hunting for deer with a pistol, or an assault rifle, you'd think it looks very strange, wouldn't you?

    But when your goal is to kill people... well, people tend to live and interact with each other in close quarters, and they don't spook when they see a human being approaching the way game animals do, so you don't need long-range accuracy. People do, however, tend to spook when they see a human being approaching with a gun, which is why killing-people guns very rarely have long barrels: making them smaller makes them easier to conceal until the moment of truth arrives. (With the notable exception of sniper rifles, whose entire use case revolves around staying hidden anyway.)

    It's almost as if hunting-tools and murdering-tools were two completely distinct classes of guns, no?

  • Sep 30th, 2015 @ 12:07pm

    (untitled comment)

    Tennessee, eh? Why am I not surprised?

    It wouldn't be the first time that a Southern state has attempted to frame the practice of wealthy business owners preying upon ordinary people as a protected "states rights" issue...

  • Sep 30th, 2015 @ 11:45am

    Re: Not as basic concept as you would think

    The anti-gunners have been dying to go after gun manufacturers for decades. MADD would love nothing more than to go after the beer/wine/liquor mfgs. We have a long, disgraceful history of going after 3rd parties for the actions of an individual.

    Guns have no other use than as a weapon. Booze has no other use than to make someone intoxicated. (Once upon a time it had medicinal uses as an antiseptic or an anesthetic. These days, we have actual antiseptics and anesthetics for that, and no one uses liquor for it anymore.) When you're creating and selling a product that has no other use than something immoral and harmful, there's a huge difference between that and creating a platform that enables speech, which has plenty of potential uses that are moral and helpful.

  • Sep 30th, 2015 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The real answer to hate speech

    I really do hate that kind of cop out. What it does is to paint morality as some kind of subjective thing that cannot be quantified, discussed logically, or expressed in any kind of scientific terminology, which I think is laughably false.

    Wow. When did you suddenly start making so much sense? o_0

    Having said that, ironically enough I find that "good" is somewhat tricky to define in an objective, definitive sense, but "evil" is dead easy: any act whereby a person places their own interests above the well-being of others to such a degree that they are willing to knowingly cause harm to others in order to achieve their goal is an evil act. Defining "good", though... what's the objective opposite of "cause harm to others"? It's not simple.

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