Mason Wheeler’s Techdirt Profile


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  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 2:13pm

    (untitled comment)

    Google itself, when it showed up entered a very crowded market and was laughed at for being such a small player in a market dominated by established companies.

    Who laughed? I remember the very early days of Google, and right from the start everyone I knew who was using it was basically saying "wow, this Google thing is soooo much better than [insert other search engine here]!" and "you've got to try Google; they've actually figured out how to get relevant search results right!" That was the general mood: all those other search engines are obsolete now, because someone just showed up who actually accomplishes what they've been trying and failing to do for all these years. There might have been people laughing, but I don't recall a single one.

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re:

    Well, the constitution says for a limited time. While retroactive extensions may technically still be for a limited time, hence following the letter of the law, they certainly violate the spirit of the law.

    Those are two separate things. The Constitution says that congress MAY create copyright laws for limited times, but it also says that Congress MUST NOT create any retroactive law (on any subject, including copyright). So how does retroactive term extension survive even the most cursory judicial review?

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 12:52pm

    (untitled comment)

    retroactive expansion of copyright terms is a concept that should never have been allowed.

    I still have trouble wrapping my head around that one. Doesn't the Constitution explicitly prohibit any ex post facto (retroactive) law?

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 11:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No, the only difference is that the one is a subset of the other, because drug abuse does cause a great deal of harm to people other than the user. (If you don't believe me, talk with someone who grew up with parents who abused alcohol or other harmful drugs.)

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 10:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Which do you think people are going to want to buy from more, some random guy they meet who may or may not be offering a pure product, or a company that is required by law to have their product checked for quality to make sure it's as safe as it can be?

    Which company do you think will have an easier time getting production up to speed? Lilywhite Pharmaceuticals, who is new to the business, or Cartel Inc., with their decades of pre-existing experience in growing, harvesting, refining and distributing the stuff?

    There's also the matter of scale, what costs an individual dealer a significant amount to make a company can make much cheaper, which means they can undercut individual dealers in price, leading to yet another reason for people to buy from them.

    Sure, this might drive street-level dealers out of business, but they're by no means the entirety of the drug distribution problem. Most of them don't even make the product they sell; they get it from someone bigger, who gets it from someone bigger, who gets it from the massive cartels who would laugh all the way to the bank if legalization actually happened.
    With regards to real world examples of how the legal status of something affects the criminal element, I'd say you'd need look no further than the US Prohibition period.

    Alcohol is made from sugar and yeast, and in a pinch you can literally make yeast out of thin air, so anyone could make booze in their basement. Stuff like cocaine and heroin are a completely different story on the production side, so no, that's not a good comparison at all.

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Like all prohibitionists, you are conflating addiction (chemical and emotional dependency) with the actual substances themselves.

    And what's wrong with that? They're called addictive substances for a reason: Causing addiction is an inherent property of "the actual substances themselves."
    If we don’t have dominion over our own bodies, then we have no rights that matter.

    More libertarian nonsense. That line sounds good at first sight, until you realize it can be used to legitimize essentially any crime at all: It's my body; am I not inherently free to use it to [insert horrible thing here]? The answer, of course, is no, you are not, not when it causes harm to others! And there are few things that cause as much widespread harm as drug abuse.

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 8:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Cognitive dissonance? You're the one using the R-word here.

    Recreation is harmless fun. Watching a movie, going out dancing with friends, or hanging out and playing video games... that's recreation. Drug use is not harmless, and it's not "only harmful to the user" and therefore the next best thing to harmless. It does massive, widespread harm to all of society, because no man is an island.

    My beliefs are completely consistent. Yes, I'd like to see liquor stores vanish from the face of the earth just as much as I'd like to get rid of any other class of drug dealers, but I know that attempting to do so is not politically feasible, due to alcohol being legal. But that doesn't mean I have to accept that it's desirable, or even acceptable, to make the problem worse.

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 8:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Not sure if serious or trolling.

    Simply because it's not politically feasible to roll back the serious legal drug problem we already have doesn't mean that we ought to be actively making it worse. If you can't understand something as simple as that, please go away and let the adults talk here.

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re:

    So just to clarify, because I've got to be reading that wrong(or at least I hope I am), are you saying that drug dealers should be allowed to be shot on sight? Something that we don't allow for any other crime?

    Not exactly. I'm saying that if we're not willing to take it that far, we need to stop claiming that such a thing as "the war on drugs" exists, because it does not.
    We have laws in place that can put people behind bars for life for drug use or even possession, and people still use them.

    Where did I ever say we need to punish users? Why are you trying to attack me on that point? That makes exactly as much sense as locking up mugging victims for assault, and I agree it needs to be changed. What I said is that dealers are the worst kind of scum, and that what they do is worse than violence or even murder, because it is.

    Legalization pulls the rug out from under organized crime, drastically reducing their power and crime rates

    Don't be ridiculous. Legalization legitimizes them. Suddenly you have a bunch of experts with experience in producing and distributing harmful drugs that no one else has; who do you think is going to take the lead in the newly-opened legitimate markets? Russia had a similar problem with the fall of the Soviet Union. When capitalism and free markets were suddenly legitimized, the only people with experience in free markets were shady black market types, hardened criminals who very quickly took over the economy and have been causing widespread financial oppression and corruption in Russia ever since. (Not that free markets are like drugs; just that this is a real example in the modern world of what happens when you take something that only criminals have experience with and legitimize it: the experienced criminals go legit and take over, but they're still criminals at heart.)

    Rehabilitation allows you to wean those that are addicted off of drugs, and combined with legalization people who would otherwise have kept silent for fear of being incarcerated will likely be willing to step forward to get the help they need.

    Or we could stop incarcerating drug victims without throwing the baby out with the bathwater by legalizing drug dealing and thereby creating millions of new drug victims. Just a thought.

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 8:15am

    Re: Re:

    From what I've read, Portugal's policy is about helping the victims of drug dealers be able to find safe and effective treatment more easily, which I'm all for. There's nothing about that that's incompatible with thinking that drug dealers are scum that need to be eradicated.

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 8:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Why the sarcasm? We already have a precedent in alcohol: a highly addictive, harmful drug that's fully legalized in just the same way the libertarian morons want to do with other drugs.

    Just look how our culture treats it: drinking is a right of passage. Everyone knows what it means that "you're legal" on your 21st birthday, and for millions of kids, having a drink literally on the first day they become legal is considered an important tradition. And the drug dealers (breweries, wineries, and so forth) make billions of dollars off their backs, and meanwhile we lose about 15,000 people, and rack up tens of billions in societal costs, every single year, from drunk driving alone. (source: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) Plus all the other damages, in the form of drunken violence, non-traffic accidents due to intoxication, deterioration of health, and deterioration of quality of life, caused by alcohol.

    You really think we should extend that pattern any further?

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 7:53am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Does this surprise you? We're talking about people who will brick your phone if you dare to get it repaired by a third party and have the audacity to call it a "security feature." The iPhone was deliberately designed, from beginning to end, to limit what you are able to do and take away your right to control your own property. Keeping you locked out of the file system is a fundamental, necessary step in that process.

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 7:17am

    (untitled comment)

    Still, Apple's rejection of the app on the grounds that it contains "violence against children" would be on much more solid ground if the god damn source material, known as the various iterations of the Bible, didn't have an entire section on Apple's book store dedicated to it.

    That's funny. I don't remember any dungeon crawling, psychotic mothers, deformed monsters, or people naked and weeping, curled up on the floor in a dungeon, in the story of Abraham and Isaac.

    This sounds like you bought into a manufactured controversy. Again.

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 7:08am

    (untitled comment)

    Wow, looking over this article and the comments... so much wrong here. The stupid, it burns!

    Dimitris Avramopoulos is absolutely right, and this article is completely missing the point. Reducing the violent risks associated with something that is even more harmful to society than violence, which removes a strong disincentive for people to participate in it, does not constitute a net benefit for society! Trading "the social and economic consequences of violence on the streets [and] the long-term damage caused by poor-quality products" for the long-term social and economic damage of a great abundance of freely-available high-quality addictive, destructive substances is a loss, not an improvement.

    The reason "the long-running and totally futile 'war on drugs'" has been so destructive is that we've never actually had one. Sure, they use the term, but when's the last time you heard of drug dealers being treated as enemy combatants? If you try to fight a war like it's not a war, of course you're going to lose. (Just look at Vietnam!)

    How many of the people spouting Libertarian idiocy about drug legalization on here have ever actually been friends with an addict? That really opens your eyes. Violence can kill you, but drug addiction is quite literally a fate worse than death, because it enslaves you, strips you of your dignity and your humanity, destroys your relationships with family and friends, impoverishes you, destroys your health, and all too often drives you to crime, before finally killing you. Anyone who thinks we need more of that, rather than considering it a pernicious evil to be utterly eradicated, needs to have their head examined.

  • Feb 12th, 2016 @ 6:46am

    (untitled comment)

    It's right there in the name: it takes a century to link you up with the data you want.

  • Feb 11th, 2016 @ 7:53am

    Re: Re:

    I didn't say that. More like the inverse: you can't even claim, as a point against it, that they were surveilling an innocent person.

  • Feb 11th, 2016 @ 7:04am

    (untitled comment)

    I don't really see the problem here. Does it take a warrant to run a stakeout? This is not indiscriminate mass surveillance we're talking about; it was a single camera targeted at a single bad guy, watching and looking for evidence. (You know, exactly the sort of thing Techdirt says we need to be doing more of with technology, instead of mass surveillance...) And they found exactly what they were looking for, so it's not like they had it wrong or something. What exactly did the cops do wrong? By Techdirt's own standards it seems like they did everything right.

  • Feb 10th, 2016 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Precisely. Error 53 is pure anticompetitive spite on Apple's part, and there are laws specifically prohibiting analogous behavior in car repairs. Apple really needs to face charges over this, both because they did something obviously wrong and to set a precedent.

  • Feb 10th, 2016 @ 8:14am

    Re: Re:

    For the 'infotainment' system now being deployed: that should be a completely separate system from the car's controls.

    That's easier said than done. For example, the "infotainment" computer in my car also manages the backup camera. When I put the car in Reverse, it displays the camera view on the screen, and overlays lines on it that curve as I turn the wheel, to indicate my path of travel. That's an incredibly useful safety feature that couldn't exist if the computer didn't have access to the steering wheel.

  • Feb 10th, 2016 @ 7:49am


    That's really not a good question to ask, since trying to run a government like a business is a bad idea in general, and occasionally a catastrophically bad idea. Just ask the residents of Flint, Michigan.

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