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  • Jul 30th, 2020 @ 8:45am

    Masks... (as DnY)

    F: Why do you wearing a mask? Were you burned by acid or something like that?

    W: Oh, no. It's just that they're terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.

  • Jun 9th, 2020 @ 10:10am

    If the police really want to be like the military...

    While the militarization of police has indeed been a very bad thing, I think it should be pointed out that there are some aspects of the U.S. military's procedures, culture and relationship with the public, which if copied by police would improve policing in America:

    There would be fewer unjustified police shootings if our police had rules-of-engagement as restrictive as those we give our soldiers in counter-insurgency theaters. The moreso if consequences for killing a non-combatant (read innocent civilian in the police context) by breaching those rules-of-engagement was a severe for police as it is in the military.

    Police would be more wary of misconduct if being discharged from a police force for cause was regarded as a blot comparable to dishonorable discharge and followed you in your employment history the way a dishonorable discharge from the military does.

    Generally, having a prisoner die while in one's custody is a prima facia basis for court-martial proceedings in the military because killing POWs is a war crime. Something analogous for the police would be a good thing.

    Our military has an intolerance of racism that does not seem to be paralleled in all police departments. (Yes, it was a long process and is not yet perfect, but the top brass got with it as soon as Truman ordered them to integrate the services and it's worked fairly well).
    Police departments should learn how this was accomplished an imitate it.

    All of our military has civilians at the top of its chain of command which besides setting policy is able to overrule even operational decisions. Police departments should be the same.

    There are, of course, lots of other reforms that should be undertaken (abolishing or severely restricting qualified immunity, requiring a criminal conviction as an underlying basis for civil forfeiture, requirements for the use of body cameras during all interactions with the public (leaving aside undercover operations) possibly with the invalidation of arrests not captured on camera, training in how to deal with mentally ill suspects,. . .) that don't involve emulating the military. It just is striking how the cops have imitated the worst aspects of the military and none of the best.

  • Jun 4th, 2020 @ 9:39am

    Qualified Immunity and lack of duty to protect

    ...two things that would be easy to fix by statute. The first simply requires Congress to modify 42 U.S.C § 1983 in such a way that the negligent violation of Constitutional rights by police officers and other agents of the government is plainly included in what is forbidden, thereby vitiating the basis for the Supreme Court's construction of "qualified immunity".

    The second can (and should) be fixed by statutes at the state level (or even ordinances at the local level) creating an affirmative duty to protect the lives and property of innocent civilians on the part of police.

    Surely we can get a one-time alliance of convenience between progressives who would want such changes in the interests of racial minorities and the libertarian-leaning and Constitutional Conservative factions of the right to get the second sort of measure through at least one state legislature. Getting the first though Congress and signed into law is more dubious, but someone in Congress from one or both sides of my proposed alliance of convenience should surely be trying!

  • Apr 8th, 2020 @ 7:16am

    Re: For some people...

    Personally, I favor the contrapositive formulation of Clarke's Third Law:

    Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.

    We're getting close with 5G, but not quite there yet.

  • Apr 8th, 2020 @ 7:10am


    We have to wonder is Harrelson channeling his character in Wag the Dog?

  • Mar 14th, 2020 @ 8:14am

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant

    Another case that commends for consideration a proposal I have made repeatedly: that each of the several states pass laws making the validity of police actions depend on the police having a working body camera with voice recording operating at the time of the action -- if the officer's camera is "broken" or not turned on, the ticket is void, the arrest invalid and the accused must be released, and neither sovereign nor qualified immunity applies in cases of use of force or rights violations. I'd allow exceptions for undercover police, but would require a court order for the undercover operation.

  • Feb 29th, 2020 @ 8:26am

    Internet sites allowing all content, or just 8chan?

    I think the point of 8chan was not that internet sites, qua internet sites, ought to allow all content, but that there ought to be one which does.

  • Jan 14th, 2020 @ 2:52pm


    "Self-plagiarism" is an absolutely absurd notion if one regards what is being stolen by a plagiarist as ideas or wording. What is really being stolen by the plagiarist is credit for originating the idea or wording. (cf. Copying is not theft. My using an idea or turn of phrase does not deprive anyone else of its use.)

    Even with a correct understanding of plagiarism "self-plagiarism" is a ridiculous notion except in the context of the academic "publish or perish" environment, where it represents "double-dipping" trying to get credit for the same work twice when coming up for promotion or tenure or (an vanishingly rare event anymore) a merit raise.

  • Dec 21st, 2019 @ 5:19am

    Some Federal laws recognize that anonymizing data isn't enough

    The notion that anonymizing any sort of detailed data about people is sufficient to protect privacy is risible.

    The Federal laws governing Federally collected longitudinal data bases for educational research, all of which are anonymized, require that the data be kept on non-networked computers, accessible only by persons who have taken oaths not to attempt to find the identity of any person whose data is included, and to only release the results of statistical analyses with clearance from a Federal office of data security with authority over the data.

  • Nov 1st, 2019 @ 6:41pm

    Rules of engagement

    The greatest scandal here is that our police operate with less restrictive rules of engagement than do our soldiers engaged in counter-insurgency operations against enemies who often pose as civilians, and with less severe consequences to their careers for unwarranted killings of civilians.

    The cops want military-style equipment, but not military discipline and military-style rules of engagement. They should be given military discipline and military-style rules of engagement, but not military style-equipment.

  • Oct 5th, 2019 @ 5:43am


    @Igualmente69 You ask: Why is no one pointing out the obvious, which is that claiming that you have jurisdiction over the entire world is essentially an act of war?

    Because we've all gotten so used to it when the United States does it. Remember Julian Assange? Australian citizen acting outside the U.S., but the U.S. wants to arrest him and try him for "violating" American law, which he has never arguably been subject. Or Manuel Noriega, head of state of the supposedly sovereign nation of Panama, arrested and brought to the U.S. for "violating" U.S. drug laws again, for actions taken outside the U.S.

  • Aug 28th, 2019 @ 6:15am

    Hypocrisy, or experiment to prove a point?

    Cc-ing Kampf's provost can only be seen as hypocritical if one thinks Stephens believes, contrary to all evidence, that an American university administrator would discipline a faculty member for insulting a public figure on the political right. Maybe it was an experiment to confirm what the evidence suggests.

  • Aug 23rd, 2019 @ 5:50am

    Duh? Really?

    In view of the increasing prevalence of antisemitism on the left both in the US and the UK, adding "Duh," after the sentence "Yes, the "conservatives" interviewed were "concerned" that hate speech designations might disproportionately impact them," seems to be an expression of anti-conservative bias here at Techdirt.

  • Aug 10th, 2019 @ 8:12am

    Re: It's past time for EVERYONE to boycotte Elsevier

    Oh, and TAC is free, free to publish in, free to users who want to download copies of the papers.

  • Aug 10th, 2019 @ 8:05am

    It's past time for EVERYONE to boycotte Elsevier

    It's not just time for ALL libraries to boycott Elsevier, it's way past time for everyone in academe to boycott Elsevier. Don't publish in their journals, don't serve on their editorial boards, don't referee for their journals, don't buy their journals.

    Some of us have already started. The Cost of Knowledge boycott has 17654 signatories.

    Libraries boycotting them might have more of an effect since it will hit their medical journals -- the signatories of the boycott mostly mathematicians and computer scientists -- but we've made a start.

    What is really needed to fix academic publishing now that beautifully typesetting and distributing scientific papers can be done from a laptop, rather than requiring a specialized typesetting equipment, printing presses, binderies and mailing infrastructure, is for every academic discipline to do what my own field of mathematics, category theory, has done: gather a goodly number of the éminences grises in the field as an editorial board, find a university willing to donate server space in perpetuity and start a free, peer-reviewed online journal that only requires authors sign over the right to maintain an online copy and create a few print copies of the paper.

    Theory and Applications of Categories is the flagship category theory journal, and operates on such a model. The online copies are on a server provided by Mount Allison University in New Brunswick and every issue has two copies printed, one for the MAU library and one for the National Library of Canada.

  • Aug 9th, 2019 @ 5:07am

    The Cost of Knowledge

    There is a reason of all the abusive commercial academic publishers Elsevier was selected by Fields Medalist Timothy Gowers for the Cost of Knowledge boycott.

    Any academicians who want to join can publicly do so at http://thecostofknowledge.com/ as some 17654 of us already have.

  • Jul 27th, 2019 @ 12:04pm

    One thing Gabbard may have on her side that most others don't:

    campaign finance laws.

    Gabbard may be able to argue that unequal treatment of her ads vis-a-vis her opponents' ads functions as an in-kind contribution to her opponents' campaigns. Rightly or wrongly (I'm inclined to think the latter) we have stronger laws governing the distribution of political speech/writing in the context of campaigns for elective office than in general debate.

  • Jun 27th, 2019 @ 9:13am


    Sorry, misread your comment.

    Why should Twitter be required to host white supremacist content? Because once you give them the right to suppress legal content, you can't put a bound on it. First it's white supremacist content, then the posts from feminists who object to transwomen competing in women's sport, then classical liberal critiques of affirmative action, then advocacy of some policy the management of Twitter fancies is bad for their bottom line, then when some right-wing billionaire gets a controlling interest all posts from queergender advocates, pro-abortion posters, etc.

    Twitter is a natural monopoly that purports to be an open platform. Regulate it to make it open.

  • Jun 27th, 2019 @ 9:04am


    If Twitter is a publisher, then it shouldn't have Section 230 protection. The whole basis for Section 230 was that the platform (note, platform, not publisher) is not responsible for the content posted by others.

    So, no Twitter should need to publish white supremacist content, but if it's a platform, not a publisher, I would suggest as a way forward on the issue of censorship by internet platforms it should be required to allow its users to publish any legal content they want.

  • Jun 25th, 2019 @ 2:16pm

    Re: 'You shut up when I'm talking for you!'

    Yup. Hawley has not taken the obvious approach of conditioning Section 230 protections on the platform mirroring the First Amendment's free speech/free press (and for that matter freedom of religion) stance, but instead is empowering bureaucrats to judge lack of bias in the political sphere (only).

    Conditioning Section 230 protections on commitment to First Amendment standards does not violate anyone's free speech or property rights, since Section 230 protections are a grant by the government of an unusual protection from liability, which the government can condition on whatever it likes -- anyone (individual or corporation) who wants to control what's on their servers is free to not accept and to control what's on their servers in any way they like.

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