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  • Mar 26th, 2014 @ 11:05pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Derek, of course they do. The point of the article is that even when the so-called drugs aren't drugs, they can press charges anyway, if they feel like it. There are enough vague statutes on the books to let them do that.

    So if you stay clean of illegal drugs, you can be snared anyway if the authorities decide they want you to take a fall.

  • Mar 26th, 2014 @ 10:45pm

    Imitation Drugs

    In an authoritarian state, the law is whatever the authorities say it is. This is aided by the existence on the books of laws so vague, they can mean anything.

    If the authorities decide they want you, they'll get you. Trumping up charges is easy.

    Many of us have substances in our homes which *could* be mistaken for illegal drugs. I certainly do. I've got an eight-ounce package of a fine, white, odorless powder secured in an ammo can (to protect it from stray bugs). I use a tiny amount in my tea several times every day. What is it?

    Stevia extract powder. Not a controlled substance. It's a natural, no-calorie, non-toxic sweetener.

    But it *looks* like a controlled substance. So any time the authorities decide to put me away for fifteen years, they can do it.

    Intent to distribute? Check. A few years ago I gave my neighbor a package of it.

    The authorities aren't currently after me. But if they decide I'm a nuisance, they'll have no difficulty finding something to charge me with. If not fake drug dealing, something else. They can make up any charge. Vague statutes will back them up.

    Welcome to America.

  • Mar 26th, 2014 @ 8:37pm

    Density of Errors

    Okay, I'm impressed. The density of misconceptions and errors in this paragraph-length post is nearly unprecedented. Amazing, truly.

    The article says, "Population growth trends have not proven to follow a continuously exponential path..."

    That is true if we regard only short-term trends (year by year). But Malthus was talking about generations, not years. This is exactly like saying that you can divine climate truths out of short-base analyses. Problem: you can't.

    Plotted on the larger time-scale represented by generations - which is to say, over a course of centuries - population growth has indeed been exponential. It's a grave error to get lost in the noise of year-by-year changes in the rate of growth, just as it's a grave error to think that the world is warming because it's snowing.

    The article continues, "...so we've easily avoided previous calls of Malthusian catastrophe."

    Um, no. The reason we have *thus far* averted Malthusian catastrophe is food production and distribution has kept pace with population growth, more or less. Not perfectly, but well enough. Avoiding a population die-back has nothing to do with short-base trending and everything to do with food.

    The article continues, "However, it's still possible that we've only managed to postpone the sixth major extinction event..."

    The author clearly thinks that the 6th major extinction event involves people dying off, and since we haven't died off yet, we've postponed it. This is frighteningly ignorant.

    The extinction event is well underway, and it refers not to a single species but to a great many of them. Species are being extinguished at a rate which is matched only by five previous extinction rates in the geological record.

    Then the article says, "...and our technological cleverness won't be able to save us next time."

    Technological cleverness might save *our* species, for a while. It's very unlikely to save *all* species. We're notoriously bad at preserving ecosystem diversity, and more tech almost certainly isn't going to affect ecosystem diversity in a positive direction.

    Please, Techdirt. I like your site, but if you are going to write about subjects with which you are unfamiliar, then at least consult some subject matter experts before you publish. Otherwise you will spread misinformation, and that doesn't help at all.

  • Mar 14th, 2014 @ 11:16pm

    Illegality

    Releasing malware onto the internet is explicitly illegal. So why isn't the Justice Department prosecuting those who do it?

    The answer is obvious. We are no longer a law-governed democracy. Government can do whatever it wishes - assassinate citizens and foreign persons (far from any battlefield), torture, incarcerate with no due process for as long as government wishes, spy on Americans, and infect hundreds of thousands of computers (with more intended) with malware. These are all symptoms of an authoritarian state, which is rule by fiat, not rule of law. And citizens 'have no standing' to challenge government's illegal actions.

    This is a sad day in America.

  • Feb 26th, 2014 @ 8:48pm

    Re: Re: stare-downs and power games

    That is precisely my reaction.

    My hat's off to people who record the police in public spaces, knowing full well that some of them are going to act illegally as a consequence. It's a public service. Let's find out which cops are law-abiding and which are not, and let the public know.

  • Feb 26th, 2014 @ 8:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: stare-downs and power games

    Personally, I agree. I like tact. I like respect.

    But it's not a crime to be untactful. To legally detain and arrest, the officer must witness a crime or have reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed.

    Photographing police in a public space from a respectful distance is not a crime. Swearing is not a crime. Asking an officer who is exceeding this authority illegally to 'get out of my face' is not a crime. At no point did the photographer commit any crime at all.

    The officer, on the other hand, far exceeded his authority. He harassed a citizen without any evidence whatsoever of criminal conduct, assaulted him, attempted to destroy evidence, and pressed false charges against him.

  • Feb 25th, 2014 @ 11:18pm

    Re: On this one, I agree with the police officer

    That's just insane, AC.

    It's *legal* to photograph or take videos of the police in public spaces. The photographer *in no way* interfered with the arrest he was photographing. The photographer was within his rights to ask the officer to move out of his face. And it's not a crime to say 'fuck.'

    The photographer baited the officer, sure. That's not illegal either - if he stays within the law. He did. The correct and legal response by the officer was to go about his legal business.

  • Feb 25th, 2014 @ 11:14pm

    Re: Makes you wonder

    Well, yes.

    What distinguishes authoritarian governments from democratic ones is this: the law in authoritarian societies is whatever those in authority say it is.

    We're in great danger in our own nation from this authoritarian trend. It's not just police departments, it's illegal actions taken by government behind the veil of secrecy, too. Assassinations, rendition, hacking and malware attacks, property seizures without due process, torture, refusal to prosecute torturers, refusal to prosecute Wall Street criminals, persecution of minorities, illegal spying which violates the 4th Amendment, on and on and on. The lawlessness not getting better, it's getting worse.

    The brave young man who recorded this confrontation represents the only real hope we have, I think. Our democracy is no longer functioning; both parties are advancing the authoritarian security state and answerable only to the wealthy elites. All that's left is to expose as much malfeasance as we can.

    NSA is able to compile dossiers based on our commenting at web sites and our e-mails, too, and they share with FBI and other agencies. Watch lists and targeted spying is the least we can expect. Even expressing nonviolent opinions is dangerous in America's security state.

  • Feb 21st, 2014 @ 8:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: FCC or FTC

    Internet standards are still evolving, but we don't have the same degree of confusion that surrounded the standardization wars of the early electricity age. Thankfully!

    To answer your question, no. We don't want to go through that business again. But if the 'internet of things' takes off, electricity suppliers *could* be in a position to determine which device is sucking how much power. Automatically, no meter readers required. And once they have that information, they *could* try to use their market power the same way Comcast wants to use its market power: to dictate terms to other market players who rely on their bandwidth.

    It's called 'monopsony' in economics: where the market power of a monopoly enables it to dictate terms, not just to consumers, but to suppliers.

    There is no conceivable way that the exercise of monopsony powers to enrich a monopolist is advantageous to either small startups or consumers.

  • Feb 21st, 2014 @ 3:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: FCC or FTC

    Hey, Andrew, that's an interesting analogy.

    Let's pursue it a bit further.

    Electricity is pretty much 'net-neutral.' It's sold in units having nothing to do with how it's used.

    What would electricity sales look like if electricity was *not* net-neutral?

    The supplier would be able to dictate different prices for different uses. If, for example, it wanted to encourage the use of Westinghouse refrigerators and discourage other refrigerator brands, it could manipulate electricity pricing by brand. It could even force refrigerator suppliers to pay a fee so that their products aren't disadvantaged.

    Why didn't this happen when the electrical grid was rolled out? Simple. It would have cost too much in metering devices and meter reading, given the technology at the time.

    And now it's sort of cemented in place. The public wouldn't be receptive to price manipulation intended to gouge more profits out of electrical device suppliers (and ultimately, of course, consumers).

    That's where propaganda like the Wired article might one day find value to electricity monopolists. Once electrical devices are internet-connected, there's no need for crude meters or meter-readers. Usage data can be collected automatically. This *could* give electricity suppliers leverage to extract money from electrical device suppliers - but first they'd have to bamboozle the public with propaganda telling them all the ways it would supposedly advantage *them.*

    All lies, of course.

    Alas, well-funded think tanks exist whose sole purpose is to find ways to exploit monopoly powers. I suppose this is one area they'll get around to in time.

  • Feb 21st, 2014 @ 6:14am

    Re: Re: Correct.

    Berin, you ducked the question of whether the article you wrote was funded by Comcast, Time/Warner, or a proxy for the cable industry.

    Just how independent was this journalism?

    It doesn't *look* independent. It *looks* like shilling for the cable industry. How else should we take an argument that strengthening monopoly powers for the cable industry will actually benefit small startups on the net, an argument supported by irrelevancies having *nothing* to do with small startups? Netflix has tremendous market power, therefore all the small startups have market power? Sheesh.

    Once again: if Comcast is handed more monopoly power, and if government fails to regulate its prices and activities, as so often is the case in the US with respect to monopolies, then it *will* exploit its market power to suck money from consumers and other net suppliers alike.

    It's disturbing to me that a disingenuous front of pundits has arisen in recent years whose main purpose seems to be to encourage market monopolization, as if that were somehow a good thing for an economy. It's a good thing *only* for the monopolies in question. That's basic economics, which if anyone on this good Earth should understand, it's you, with your legal and economic educational background. But somehow, having gotten that wonderful education, you ignored all of that and became a champion for monopolies.

    There is no justification to be found in economics for your advocacy. It's not merely a case of there being weak justification. There's *no* justification. So why are you advocating this way?

    Who paid the bill for this piece?

  • Feb 20th, 2014 @ 3:49pm

    Correct.

    I caught the article on Wired and commented there. Crazy damned Wired. Increasing market power of cable companies through augmented monopolization does not help net startups.

    The only reason I can imagine that the article survived editorial review at Wired is the authors sponsored the article. Paid Wired handsomely to publish it. Which, if true, means the authors themselves were hired guns on behalf of the cable companies involved, Comcast and/or Time Warner. None of which was disclosed at publication.

    Follow the money, journalists, and I think you may find some juicy dirt.

  • Feb 18th, 2014 @ 12:00am

    Proud Cord Cutter Here

    I don't own a TV. Well, I do, but it doesn't work - it's an old analog set that doesn't receive digital signals. I have cable internet but not cable TV.

    The only TV I see is over the internet in small chunks: sometimes Comedy Central's The Daily Show, occasionally a video slice on HuffPost or MSNBC or whatever. It doesn't add up to much.

    I'm perfectly happy to have the TV ecosystem ignore me. I don't really care if advertisers think they are getting more audiences than they are.

    In the years since I stopped watching television - starting in 2003, it was - I have learned to think again. (Doesn't mean I'm always right. But I am thinking.)

    Television is hypnotic. It does our thinking for us when we plug into it, which is why advertising commands the big bucks. Ads literally program our attitudes and proclivities. TV is the most powerful propaganda medium ever invented - and it's frighteningly effective.

    People who can't think, can't challenge the status quo. Our inability to challenge the status quo is why we are losing our rights under our own Constitution. If you ask me, it'd be a big step in a positive direction if all TV-watchers cut their cords. Some of them might wake up.

  • Feb 17th, 2014 @ 11:45pm

    Re: fusion gets good but undeserved PR

    So, your argument is 'they're all nukes, what's the big deal.'

    Fission produces large amounts of radioactive waste material with dangerously-long half-lives, and we have *no* plan in the works for making those waste products safe. Fission (as currently implemented) risks dangerous melt-downs. Fission plants are expensive relative to coal-fired electrical plants for the electricity we can harvest from them.

    Fusion, on the other hand, doesn't work. But if it did, it would produce short half-life waste products in small amounts and pose no risk of melt-downs. As to cost, well, fusion doesn't work. We can't set a cost for something that doesn't work.

    It's pointless to set up a false equivalency between fission and fusion merely because they're both nuclear.

    Incidentally, fusion *might* be closer than TechDirt imagines. Last year, Lockheed Martin announced they are working on a fusion concept; they plan to have a prototype reactor by 2017 and a commercial product by 2022. Sounds pie-in-the-sky to me, but if it works...

    Their concept calls for 100 MW reactors small enough to mount on a truck trailer, able to be mass-produced. They *think* they will be able to produce enough of them by 2045 to meet the base load power requirements of our entire civilization. No risk of melt-downs, minimal production of radioactive waste with only short half-lives. Cost? Nobody is talking about cost. Still, a 100 MW reactor that's trailer-mounted might turn out to be cheap compared to competing energy sources. Maybe.

    Unfortunately, Lockheed isn't sharing many details about their design. So... maybe it won't pan out. But if it does, it'll be a far sight better than fission plants. A far, far sight better.

    Either way: fusion is not fission. The two aren't equivalent, and if you can't grasp that, you're spouting nonsense.

  • Jan 18th, 2014 @ 11:08pm

    Bleeding Eyes

    "Over the years it became apparent to me very quickly..."

    Seriously, get an editor. Or edit it yourself. Or something. Mkay? You made my eyes bleed with that one.

    I think your points are good ones. But a little judicious editing would have been good.

  • Dec 18th, 2013 @ 6:42pm

    Speech Versus Service

    Wedding photography is art, which is speech. It's a service, which isn't speech. Which is it primarily?

    I think it's primarily a service. The message being created isn't the wedding photographers - much. She picks her angles and exposures, which is art, but the message is determined mainly by the buyer. So it's a service more than it's her own art.

    An independent contractor/service provider should be free to sign contracts/provide services as pleases her. For example, a maid should be free to refuse employment with a particular rich employer if she doesn't like him. Her dislike is a good enough reason to refuse a contract and make it stick. It doesn't matter why she doesn't like him: he could be gay, or religious, or a reputed rapist, or has ugly children, or messes up the toilet seat, or maybe he wrote a book she hated. Any reason is good enough.

    It's different when a business opens itself to the public, like a restaurant. But this case is much closer to the maid analogy than a restaurant. So it makes no sense to me to compel the wedding photographer to sign a contract for people she doesn't want to serve.

    So I reach the conclusion that the ACLU is off-base this time, too - but not because the photographer is protected by the First Amendment. I don't see the First Amendment as having anything much to do with her right to refuse to serve the wedding couple.

    As for the Equal Protection Clause, I can't see how that would apply, either.

  • Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 11:56pm

    Re: Economic Activity

    Basic economic theory suggests that monopolization and rent-seeking have a depressing effect on economic activity.

    To be fair, though, it's not *quite* as clear-cut as that.

    Copyright ownership and management overhead can be dismissed. All of that is a drag on economic activity - enforcement, legal, administration. Get rid of that and the economy benefits.

    Where you have to go cautiously is with content creators. If we aren't going to protect their products, then we must be able to visualize a way for them to be rewarded for their effort.

    Techdirt.com is an example of a content creator which does not rely on copyright and still is able to reward content creation. It does this by attracting advertising. There are other examples large and small, but there are also counterexamples where lack of copyright protection will impede content creation, such as books. If anyone can copy a book and sell it, sidestepping the investment cost of creating it, then authors won't have much incentive to write books.

    Ideally, the law would be shaped entirely around the goal of incentivizing content creation. Where incentives are adequate without copyright, there is no compelling reason for the public to consent to monopolization. Long-duration copyrights, particularly copyrights which endure long after their content creators are deceased, have little to no incentivizing effect.

    Patents are a whole different ball game, but as your comment dealt mainly with copyright, I'll stop here.

  • Oct 14th, 2013 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Re: The state's incentive is to have more prisoners

    AC wrote, "No. They only have to pay for the unused beds."

    That isn't correct. A filled bed is (obviously) not free.

    I think what you were trying to get at is that their costs are fixed by the number of beds. But that isn't true, either. Unused beds means less direct costs associated with housing prisoners, such as food, medical, and water consumption, and possibly - if there are enough unused beds - guard salaries and even overhead.

    All told, a seriously incorrect answer, AC.

  • Oct 11th, 2013 @ 6:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay...

    There is no enforcement to prevent takedowns when 'Fair Use' applies. It's not in YouTube's algorithms, either.

    And it's a judgment call, which means that it's possible to win a civil suit by invoking it, but otherwise, as things stand today, for most users, it's more of a theoretical right than an actual one.

    The big IP holders regularly lobby against 'Fair Use' in Congress. They want it removed from the law. In their IP enforcement actions, they treat all re-use of their IP as infringing. The IP holders don't recognize 'Fair Use' as legitimate, despite the DCMA and other statutes which grant users that right.

    Because of the high cost of civil litigation, most users will simply give up and accept the takedown. I know of only one who has successfully fought YouTube takedowns using 'Fair Use' as a defense. There may be more like that user, but I think it's the exception, not the rule.

    But my point here was simply to make AC aware that just because an IP holder launches an accusation of infringement in a takedown notice, it doesn't mean that the user is automatically an infringer and undeserving of sympathy. You can't know until you dig into each case and see if the 'Fair Use' doctrine might apply.

  • Oct 11th, 2013 @ 4:31pm

    Annoying Man + Authoritarian System = Screwed

    Yeah, I get it. The judge found the guy to be annoying (for the record, so did I). So, like any good little authoritarian, the judge used his authority in an arbitrary way to punish the jerk. The judge had no difficulty finding vague statutes to let him do it. The books are full of them.

    That's how things work in this authoritarian version of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

    The end result sounds like something from the book 'Catch-22' - ridiculously absurd. Well, that's sort of the point Joseph Heller was trying to communicate. Authoritarian systems are capricious and clunky and produce endless absurdities, like cops shooting unarmed legless old guys in wheel chairs, or judges declaring obviously living guys legally dead. They do this shit because, obviously, they can.

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