Quotulatiousness

October 23, 2017

It’s legal to sell 2×4 lumber that’s not actually 2″ by 4″

Filed under: Business, Law, Woodworking — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Not only is it legal, that’s the way construction lumber has been marketed and sold for decades. A recent Illinois case against US DIY chain Menards was dismissed recently:

A federal judge has slammed the door on the Illinois lumber shoppers who sued Menards claiming it deceived them about the size of its 4x4s.

Saying no reasonable consumer would regard Menards’ descriptions of its lumber the way plaintiffs Michael Fuchs and Vladislav Krasilnikov said they did, the judge last week dismissed the would-be class action lawsuit against the Wisconsin-based home-improvement chain.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang throws out a case in which Menards was accused of deception because it marketed and labeled its 4x4s without specifying that the boards measure 3½ by 3 ½ inches.

So-called dimensional lumber — 2x4s, 4x4s, 2x6s and such — is commonly sold by names that do not specify the measurements of the pieces. The longstanding industry convention is recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce, which distinguishes between the “nominal” designations for pieces of lumber and their actual size. The department says a 2×4, for example, can measure 1½ inches thick by 3½ inches wide.

The distinction between the name and the actual dimensions stems from the fact that lumber, when it is produced, typically is trimmed to smooth it after the initial rough cut, Chang said in his decision.

October 20, 2017

Quebec’s niqab ban

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Chris Selley on the Quebec provincial government’s latest anti-Muslim legislation:

It’s mostly about the Quiet Revolution. That’s what we’ve been assured by wise owl pundits about all this intolerant-looking rigmarole in Quebec. When polls show far more Quebecers than other Canadians hesitant to vote for a turban-wearing Sikh like NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, the owls exhort us to contextualize: Quebecers’ rejection of the Catholic Church’s outsized role in their society left them suspicious of all public displays of religiosity (except Catholic ones, weirdly). This explains higher levels of antipathy toward other religious symbols as well, we are told: kippas, kirpans and hijabs. Hijabs specifically are antithetical to a uniquely French brand of feminism, the owls explain. We must understand that French Canadians, like the French, simply do not believe in multiculturalism; other cultures must adapt to and exist within the dominant one. Without understanding all this, we cannot comprehend what’s really happening.

Well, here’s what really happened Wednesday: after years of dithering, the Liberal government in Quebec City made it illegal to provide or receive government services with one’s face covered — which is to say no niqabs on university campuses, no niqabs at the police station, no niqabs on the bus or on the Métro. Not even the Parti Québécois’ much-loathed values charter proposed the latter. So what are we to make of this, owls? Was the Quiet Revolution, this proud rejection of church influence over the state, really about bestowing upon the state the power to tell religious people what they can and cannot wear on buses and trains? Shall we sing Gens du Pays?

How stupid do the Liberals think people are? How stupid do they think Canadian judges are? Stupid enough, apparently, to believe that this isn’t really about niqabs, but about a general outbreak of people riding public transit without their faces showing. Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée said the rule applied equally to niqabs, balaclavas, dark sunglasses and anything else that might obscure all or part of the face. It’s a simple matter of “security, communication and identification.”

October 10, 2017

This is not what unions are supposed to do – getting bad cops back on the job

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Law, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ed Krayewski explains why it’s so tough to fire a police officer who is proven to be dangerous to the public:

Since 2008, the Philadelphia Police Department has fired more than 150 cops, of whom at least 88 had been arrested and at least 48 were eventually convicted on charges like murder, rape, and extortion. Seventy-one of those officers tried to get their jobs back, and of those 71, at least 44 were successful.

In reviewing 37 of the nation’s largest police departments, including Philadelphia, the Post found that since 2006 at least 451 of about 1,800 fired officers got their jobs back, thanks to provisions in their union contracts. Campaign Zero, an effort of a group of Black Lives Matter activists, tracks union contracts and their content; it finds that such arrangements are guaranteed in some way in virtually each contract they reviewed. That ubiquity makes many efforts at reducing police violence futile. Cities must have the ability to fire cops who are unable to do their jobs without resorting to excessive force.

[…]

Public employees have a right to associate and assemble, of course. But public unions have the power they enjoy today only because of expansive privileges granted to them by government. Labor unions in the private sector must be careful not to make demands that would make their employers fiscally unsustainable. With public-sector unions, by contrast, the government will always be there for a bailout. And no matter how much a service declines in the public sector, the “customers” often have no other place to go. There is no competitive pressure for institutions like police to be responsive to consumer demands. Single-party rule in most major cities offers additional inoculatation from facing consequences for subpar performance.

Bad cops will keep getting rehired as long as public sector unions are among the most powerful forces in government, setting rules that protect public employees at the expense of the people they’re supposed to serve.

QotD: The base conditions for democratic society

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, Middle East, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The absolutely vital elements of a successful democratic component of government (note – component of a system, not the entire system): is that there be a literate population; a free and enquiring press; a well developed and just rule of law; and a tradition of give and take being acceptable to the society.

Tribal societies have none of these things. That is why democracies have consistently failed in African countries where tribalism is still the most important element. (In fact politics in some of these places is still largely a competition between which tribal groups served in the imperial militaries, versus which served in the imperial civil services. With very bloody competition between the two.) The fact that illiteracy is rampant; free presses almost non-existent; and the rule of law where judges are not beholden to tribal interests, or simply threats, doesn’t exist: makes democracy impossible to sustain.

Muslim culture has none of these things. A system where a woman’s evidence in court is one third of a man’s – and dhimmitude is recognized even if slavery officially isn’t – is unlikely to have these things. And for literacy, free press, or rule of law, see Africa, but doubled.

It is also possible to suggest that without a clear understanding of the logic of natural laws, you can’t have a democracy. The fact that Muslim scholarship specifically rejects natural law on the basis that Allah can cause anything, so there are no ‘natural laws’, means you cannot have these things. The reason the Muslim world lost its scientific supremacy of the 11th and 12th centuries relates specifically to their decision to turn their back on empirical evidence. Without that basic understanding, I do not believe democracy is possible. (In fact that basic approach helps explain why democracy is actually anathema to good Muslims, and why Boko Haram literally means ‘Western education is evil’!)

So the concept that an ‘Arab Spring’ could work in the Middle East is a sad indictment on the Western media and ‘intelligentsia’s’ failed understanding about how democracy works.

In fact the entire deluded Western project of attempting to impose ‘republics’ on tribal societies as part of post-colonialism, is an indictment on the western fantasy that republics are workable, let alone good things.

Let’s face it, no western republic, even in the most educated, literate, and rule of law-abiding parts of the Anglosphere, has survived a first century without a collapse and or bloody civil war. The most ‘successful’ Western republics have included the American (see above), French (see above), Weimar (heard of the popularly elected Adolf Hitler?), Italian (50 governments in 50 years), Greek (how’s that brilliant financial planning going?) and Polish (are they on their 3rd, 4th, or 5th?). Those are the good ones. 90% of all republics ever founded in Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, have collapsed into dictatorship, civil war, mass murder, or ethnic cleansing, within 20 years of being set up.

And that’s what we thought would work in the Middle East?

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s”, Rethinking History, 2015-09-19.

October 8, 2017

Limited liability isn’t magic

Filed under: Economics, Humour, Law — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

John Hasnas has a Princess Bride problem:

In the much-beloved movie, The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya has spent his life seeking revenge against Count Rugen, the man who murdered his father. When he finally confronts Count Rugen, he keeps repeating, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Finally, in utter frustration, Count Rugen yells, “Stop saying that!”

I know just how Count Rugen felt.

Everywhere I go, people begin arguments for a wide variety of normative conclusions with the premise, “Corporations have the special privilege of limited liability.” Thus:

  • “Corporations have the special privilege of limited liability; therefore, they have social responsibilities that individuals and other businesses do not.”
  • “Corporations have the special privilege of limited liability; therefore, government regulation is required to level the competitive playing field.”
  • “Corporations have the special privilege of limited liability; therefore, they are obligated to manage their company in the interest of all their stakeholders.”

I encounter this statement in so many contexts, both inside and outside the academy, that, like Count Rugen, I want to yell. “Stop saying that!”

However, in my case, it is not because I fear death, but because the statement is so patently false.

Corporations Do Not Have Limited Liability

Shareholders have limited liability. If a corporation contracts a debt that it does not pay or is found liable for a tort, one hundred percent of its assets are available to satisfy the debt or judgment. If it does not have enough cash on hand to pay what it owes, its creditors may force the firm to liquidate and sell off its physical assets to discharge its debt. The corporation is fully liable for all the debts it incurs and all the torts it commits.

It is the corporation’s shareholders who have limited liability. They are liable to lose one hundred percent of their investment in the firm, but no more. The firm’s creditors may not collect the corporation’s debt or judgment out of the shareholders’ personal wealth. Thus, the shareholders’ liability for the debts of the firm is limited to the size of their investment in the firm.

October 5, 2017

QotD: Legalizing drugs

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It is not the business of the State to tell adults what to do with themselves, or how they interact with other consenting adults. Where drugs are concerned, any disadvantages in leaving people alone are greatly outweighed by the costs of the War on Drugs, which has reduced large parts of the world to violent chaos, and corrupted every law enforcement agency involved in fighting it, and been made an excuse for the destruction of due process rights in England and America.

Sean Gabb, quoted in “Wayne John Sturgeon talks to Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance”, Sean Gabb, 2013-08-26.

October 2, 2017

Is it becoming time to let the NFL’s “chips fall where they may”?

Filed under: Business, Football, Law, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The modern NFL as we know it enjoys a legal privilege through an act of Congress, allowing the league to negotiate TV rights as a single organization and sharing the revenue equally among all the constituent teams. In City Journal, Steven Malanga recounts the history of how that privilege was granted:

Many sports fans know that Major League Baseball has a unique exemption from the nation’s antitrust laws, thanks to a 1922 Supreme Court decision, which perplexingly ruled that baseball teams do not engage in interstate commerce. Less well understood, however, is that the National Football League retains its own federal exemption through legislation that has allowed the league’s teams to cooperate on television contracts — a gift from Washington that has been crucial to the development of the modern NFL. Over the years, the exemption has proved controversial, though bipartisan calls to revoke or narrow it have never gained much traction. The exemption deserves a fresh look with the players’ extreme politicization of the league, in which they have been aided and abetted by the owners, who have allowed and even taken part in unprecedented partisan posturing — broadcast to the nation via Congress-approved TV deals.

According to NFL mythology, the league’s success is the result of the vision of its mid-1950s and 1960s leadership, including the marketing savvy of former commissioner Pete Rozelle. But the real cornerstone of the NFL’s rise was successful Washington lobbying by league leadership, after a court ruled in 1961 that NFL teams could not negotiate broadcasting rights as a group, because such power would violate antitrust laws against monopolization. Rozelle got a New York congressman, Emanuel Cellar, who chaired the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Anti-Trust and Monopoly, to introduce what’s become known as the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, which provided limited antitrust exemption, allowing teams to pool their efforts for the sake of negotiating TV deals. When President Kennedy signed the legislation, it permitted a $4.65 million broadcast deal that the NFL had crafted with CBS for the rights to televise football games. The price of broadcasting packages quickly accelerated, especially after the merger of the NFL and the old AFL, and the antitrust exemption allowed for such singular NFL successes as Monday Night Football, introduced in 1970.

Though the act also applies to professional baseball, hockey, and basketball teams, its significance to the NFL came to outweigh the benefits to other leagues, because pro football—with many fewer games per season—exclusively and collectively sells all its TV rights through monopoly pooling, then distributes the revenues to teams equally. Without this exemption, each team would have to negotiate its television contracts individually, which would be fine for powerful teams like the Dallas Cowboys that could probably arrange to have all their games broadcast nationally, but less advantageous for weak teams such as the Cleveland Browns, which might struggle even for local coverage.

[…] The majority of companies in America would not, and do not, allow demonstrations at work by individual employees on political issues unrelated to their employment — just the sort of demonstrations begun last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and carried on through this weekend by more than 200 players. That the owners have tolerated and lately even encouraged such protests over an issue — charges of police brutality — that divides many Americans is a business risk that they seem willing to take. But the league’s use of its platform — created by its federal antitrust exemption — to broadcast its message across the country is more than a simple business matter. It represents an improper use of resources made available to the NFL by special federal legislation. It’s past time to revoke the Sports Broadcasting Act — and let the “chips fall where they may.”

September 21, 2017

“Once Obama and his allies launched their domestic surveillance operation, they crossed the Rubicon”

Filed under: Government, Law, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Daniel Greenfield explains why the recent news on wiretapping Trump associates might yet bring about a Watergate for the 21st century, only with Obama team members in the defendant roles:

Last week, CNN revealed (and excused) one phase of the Obama spying operation on Trump. After lying about it on MSNBC, Susan Rice admitted unmasking the identities of Trump officials to Congress.

Rice was unmasking the names of Trump officials a month before leaving office. The targets may have included her own successor, General Flynn, who was forced out of office using leaked surveillance.

While Rice’s targets weren’t named, the CNN story listed a meeting with Flynn, Bannon and Kushner.

Bannon was Trump’s former campaign chief executive and a senior adviser. Kushner is a senior adviser. Those are exactly the people you spy on to get an insight into what your political opponents plan to do.

Now the latest CNN spin piece informs us that secret FISA orders were used to spy on the conversations of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The surveillance was discontinued for lack of evidence and then renewed under a new warrant. This is part of a pattern of FISA abuses by Obama Inc. which never allowed minor matters like lack of evidence to dissuade them from new FISA requests.

Desperate Obama cronies had figured out that they could bypass many of the limitations on the conventional investigations of their political opponents by ‘laundering’ them through national security.

If any of Trump’s people were talking to non-Americans, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) could be used to spy on them. And then the redacted names of the Americans could be unmasked by Susan Rice, Samantha Power and other Obama allies. It was a technically legal Watergate.

If both CNN stories hold up, then Obama Inc. had spied on two Trump campaign leaders.

Furthermore the Obama espionage operation closely tracked Trump’s political progress. The first FISA request targeting Trump happened the month after he received the GOP nomination. The second one came through in October: the traditional month of political surprises meant to upend an election.

The spying ramped up after Trump’s win when the results could no longer be used to engineer a Hillary victory, but would instead have to be used to cripple and bring down President Trump. Headed out the door, Rice was still unmasking the names of Trump’s people while Obama was making it easier to pass around raw eavesdropped data to other agencies.

No matter how bad the information gets, I doubt that Trump will go after Obama personally — ex-Presidents have an unwritten constitutional privilege that way, I understand — but some of his former cabinet and sub-cabinet officers might well be sacrificed to minimize long-term damage to the Obama administration’s various legacies.

On the other hand, CNN hasn’t been having a lot of luck with their big breaking stories lately … this might be another one of those “lots of smoke, but no fire” situations. Democrats facing tough races in 2018 will be hoping that there’s no “smoking gun” there as far as criminal prosecutions are concerned.

September 19, 2017

Ontario is getting exactly what they deserve in legalized marijuana

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Pessimists, you can collect your winnings at the till. Optimists? Haven’t you learned yet? You expected a vibrant, dynamic free market in pot where your favourite budtender would be able to offer you a wide selection of high quality product to choose from? Forget it, Jake, it’s Ontario. Chris Selley explains why the pessimists got it right in the betting on how Ontario would choose to implement the legal marijuana market in 2018:

For nearly 15 years, I and other free market lunatics have been trying to impress upon Ontarians just how insane our liquor retail system is. Yet we still hear the same ludicrous arguments in its favour. “The LCBO makes tons of money for the province.” (Alberta makes tons of money from liquor sales too, without owning a single store.) “Public employees can be trusted to keep booze out of children’s hands.” (The Beer Store isn’t public. Nor are the scores of privately run “agency stores” in rural areas across Ontario.) “The LCBO provides good jobs.” (Not to real product experts it doesn’t — they would be far better off in a free market jurisdiction. And if the government’s role is to make good retail jobs, why not nationalize groceries?) “LCBO stores are pleasant. Liquor stores in the U.S. are gross.” (Nope! You’re just going to the wrong liquor stores.)

This hopeless mess is the foundation for Ontario’s new marijuana plan — and we’re hearing the same arguments in its favour. Last week, two columnists in the Toronto Star and one in the Globe and Mail spoke approvingly of the fact it would create “good unionized jobs.” The two Star columnists also mentioned the money that would accrue to the treasury.

“I’m fine with the profits going to the public purse instead of private businesspeople,” wrote one.

“Why wouldn’t the government seek to maximize revenues in the same way that it profits from alcohol and tobacco sales?” asked the other.

Even after all these years, it makes me want to tear my hair out: for the love of heaven, the “high-paying jobs” motive and the “profit” motive are at odds with each other. You cannot claim both as priorities. One way or the other, the government will take its cut on marijuana sales. The overhead costs of running its own stores, paying its own employees government wages, will simply eat into that cut.

If you can live with Ontario’s liquor situation, but you think your favourite budtender should be able to get a government licence to keep her “dispensary” up and running after legalization kicks in, my sympathy is non-existent. You either support consumer choice or you don’t. Ontario doesn’t, and that will never change until tipplers and tokers take up arms together.

September 16, 2017

It’s “as if Justin Trudeau had just invented marijuana, and the stuff’s mystical properties are unfamiliar to every police officer in the land”

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Law, Liberty — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

As the old joke had it, marijuana can cause paranoia, confusion, and total loss of reality in people who’ve never taken them. Canadian police organizations are desperate to keep legal marijuana from becoming a thing:

I cannot be the only one who feels the world is a little upside-down after Wednesday’s hearings on marijuana held by the House of Commons standing committee on health. The day’s proceedings were essentially broken into two parts. First, high-ranking Canadian police came before the committee to complain that they didn’t have the technical resources or the training to deal with legalized marijuana. They pleaded for the passage of the Liberals’ Cannabis Act to be delayed.

Then officials and scholars from the states of Colorado and Washington appeared to talk about their initial experiences with legalized marijuana. The contrast was remarkable. Canadian cops are behaving as if marijuana is a new problem for them—as if Justin Trudeau had just invented marijuana, and the stuff’s mystical properties are unfamiliar to every police officer in the land. The general thrust of the American testimony was not in conflict with the police demand to delay the legislation. Indeed, their major messages included going slow, getting it right, and learning from the history of the pot states. But none of the American witnesses, particularly the Washington and Colorado revenue bean-counters, showed any particular appetite for going back to the days of prohibition.

They could have come to Canada and said, “Oh, God, what are you crazy SOBs thinking?” There was little evidence of any such sentiment. I think it is safe to say that committee members who favour legalization, or who are anything other than implacably hostile to it, must have come away from the testimony broadly reassured.

Washington and Colorado have not descended into a nightmare of chaos because they have legalized “recreational marijuana.” By most social measures these states are about what they were before legalization. Youth use of pot is being watched closely, and it appears to be steady, possibly reduced. The states’ coffers have seen a modest benefit, and some of the money from pot taxation is made available for general drug education and abuse prevention—not just the more intensive outreach to young people about weed.

September 1, 2017

The complex dance of supply, demand, scarcity, and price

Filed under: Economics, Environment, Government, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Tim Worstall explains why laws against “price gouging” are denials of economic fact and actually work against getting urgently needed items to the people who require them:

Those little diagrams at the start of the Econ 101 class (supply, demand, price) are not optional extras to our universe, they are instead accurate descriptions of how we humans interact with it. If and when demand rises then price rises, this in turn encouraging an expansion of supply. Thus why we desire to have price flexibility in the face of either changes in supply or demand.

Consider Houston right now in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. It seems a good bet that the tapwater supply is disrupted — flooding has a tendency to do that. We would therefore assume the demand for bottled water has risen – the sensible who normally hydrate from that wondrous invention, the municipal water supply, will not be able to do so, thus increasing the demand for the bottled stuff. Equally, on the other side, there’s going to be a certain difficulty with supply at present — roads 5 feet underwater don’t exactly help trucking.

We thus desire to do two things simultaneously. We want to restrain demand to only the really important things and we want to incentivize greater supply.

Which is exactly what a price rise does for us.

With water at (just to make up a price) $99 a case, people are only going to buy it for drinking water, perhaps only in sippy cups. Which is excellent — we want whatever limited supply of potable water (we’ve really plenty of non-potable around, that’s the basic problem) there is in place to be used for that most valuable use, being potable. We’ve achieved one of our goals therefore, by allocating that scarce resource to its most valuable use: keeping people alive.

We also want to increase supply, though, and being able to sell in Houston for $99 something bought for $9.99 in Beaumont (again, just to invent an example) might well get a few boats carrying loads in – although quite possibly not from Beaumont. Thus, by allowing prices to rise, we’ve at least potentially increased supply.

Our price system, operating without constraint, is thus achieving the two things we desire, a curtailing of demand through rationing to only truly important uses, and a rise in supply.

“But,” goes the cry, “this isn’t fair!”

Indeed it isn’t, and ain’t that a shame, fairness not being a notable feature of this universe we’re struggling to inhabit. All we can do is the best we can. Which is, again, why I insist that there should be variable prices, why there should be no laws against price-gouging. Because this really is a disaster, there really are significant shortages in Houston right now, we really do want to solve them. Which means that we should be using all of the tools at our disposal.

August 17, 2017

Safe injection sites go rogue … to save lives

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the National Post, Chris Selley wonders why the federal government has been so slow to come around to accepting the overall harm reduction offered by legal safe injection sites:

I suspect this generation of policymakers, and the previous one especially, will struggle to explain to their grandchildren just what on earth they thought they were doing about opioid addiction. I don’t mean the likes of Donald Trump, who seems to think a get-tough policing approach — a “war on drugs,” perhaps — might get the job done. I mean smart, reasonably compassionate Canadians, by no means all conservatives, whose worries about safe injection sites in particular look bizarre even today, when people are still using them.

“It’ll attract rubadubs” — as if Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside was a middle-class utopia before Insite set up shop. “There’ll be needles in the streets” — more than if the safe injection site weren’t there, you mean? And, of course: “Addicts should go to treatment instead” — as if people haven’t been trying and failing to get and stay clean this whole time; as if the alternative, on a day to day basis, might be not waking up the next morning to go get treatment.

To its credit, the Liberal government in Ottawa has loosened the regulatory reins. There are nine approved “supervised consumption sites” up and running across the country: five on the Lower Mainland, one in Kamloops, and three in Montreal. Six more, in Victoria, Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, are approved and awaiting inspections. An additional 10 are in the approval process; four in Edmonton applied more than three months ago; one in Ottawa has been in the works, officially, since February.

This looks like progress, and to a great extent it is. But on Sunday, a group of activists in Toronto implicitly asked another trenchant question: why does it take so bloody long to set up a supervised injection site? Why are we waiting? It’s just clean needles, chairs and tables, overdose treatment medication, a nurse and a phone.

August 12, 2017

Troll the Patent Trolls

Filed under: Business, Government, Humour, Law, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 11 Aug 2017

Patent trolls are on the run. Let’s finish them off.
———
It’s been a bad year for patent trolls, from a Supreme Court decision squelching their ability to funnel lawsuits to East Texas, to this week’s ruling that Personal Audio LLC can’t claim it owns a patent on the entirety of podcasting. In the latest Mostly Weekly, Reason’s Andrew Heaton explores what patent trolls are, the damage they do, and the next step in driving them out of courtrooms and back into dank caves.

Trolls camp out on piles of weak and frivolous patents, hoping to one day sue inventors and businesses. Many of the patents they register or buy are vague, representing novel ideas only insofar as trolls are innovative at finding things they didn’t invent to claim legal ownership of. It doesn’t matter that these patents wouldn’t hold up in court, because a business is more likely to pay off a troll than to hire an expensive attorney to fight them. Trolls suck more than twenty billion dollars out of the economy each year.

The parasitical nature of “non-practicing entities” (the PC term for trolls) has raised questions about whether the modern patent system helps or hinders innovation, and if the best solution is for comprehensive reform or just to burn the whole thing down.

Heaton has an idea to hinder patent trolls. It may not be a silver bullet, but it will definitely piss them off.

Mostly Weekly is hosted by Andrew Heaton with headwriter Sarah Rose Siskind.
Script by Andrew Heaton with writing assistant from Sarah Siskind
Edited by Austin Bragg and Sarah Rose Siskind.
Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.
Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

Why The Government Shouldn’t Break WhatsApp

Filed under: Britain, Government, Law, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 3 Jul 2017

Encryption backdoors – breaking WhatsApp and iMessage’s security to let the government stop Bad Things – sounds like a reasonable idea. Here’s why it isn’t.

A transcript of this video’s available here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/tom-scott/why-the-government-shouldnt-break-whatsapp/1378434365572557/

August 8, 2017

Civil asset forfeiture in Las Vegas – kick’em while they’re down

Filed under: Government, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

C.J. Ciaramella summarizes the findings of a new report on civil asset forfeiture in Nevada, where the Las Vegas police have been profiting nicely by confiscating even from the poorest members of society:

Photo by Thomas Wolf, via Wikimedia.

When Las Vegas police seized property through civil asset forfeiture laws last year, they were mostly likely to strike in poor and minority neighborhoods.

A report [PDF] released last week by the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI), a conservative think tank, found the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department raked in $1.9 million in asset forfeiture revenue in 2016. Two-thirds of those seizures occurred in zip codes with higher-than-average rates of poverty and large minority populations.

The 12 Las Vegas zip codes most targeted by asset forfeiture have an average poverty rate of 27 percent, compared to 12 percent in the remaining 36 zip codes. Clark County, Nevada, has an average poverty rate of 16 percent.

The 12 most targeted zip codes also have an average nonwhite population of 42 percent, compared to 36 percent in the other remaining zip codes.

Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police may seize property they suspect of being connected to criminal activity. The owner then bears the burden of challenging the seizure in court and disproving the government’s claims. Law enforcement groups say civil asset forfeiture is a vital tool to disrupt drug trafficking and other organized crime by cutting off the flow of illicit proceeds.

But a bipartisan coalition of civil liberties groups and lawmakers have been calling for the laws to be reformed, saying asset forfeiture’s perverse profit incentives and lack of safeguards leads police to shake down everyday citizens, who often lack the resources to fight the seizure of their property in court.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress