Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Justice and Prison

I have thought for some time that our prison system was unjust. It turns out that it's also unneccessary. An article in the New Yorker addresses both the injustice of our prisons, and what reduces crime.

One problem is that our justice system is misnamed. It is a criminal prosecution system. Its interest is not in justice and common law, but in statues, regulations, and procedural correctness. Prosecutors do their best to ensure that exculpatory evidence is never introduced, and work assiduously to avoid jury trials (to save time and money), and juries are never told to consider justice in convicting and giving sentencing recommendations. Is this a prudent way for a just society to order their priorities? Are time and money more important than justice?

A more just punishment would involve restitution, not incarceration. Stealing should involve not just paying back what you stole, but being forbidden the opportunities you used to steal. Embezzlers should not be allowed to go back into positions where they have authority over money.

Crime is prevented by simple things like reducing opportunities to commit them. Dr. Ruwart pointed out almost 20 years ago that if you reward police for reducing crime, instead of convicting criminals, they will act to do so -- and save us money in the process.

Another simple way to reduce crime is not punishing people for owning or using a little weed. (No, I don't use or approve of weed. I'd rather have a drink myself, even though I can readily recognize that ethanol causes a lot more adverse medical outcomes, that can easily be a lot more serious.) Relegalizing opioids and cocaine can come later.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

So-Called "PIPA"

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal webcomic, 2012-02-02

The inoffensive guy in the glasses more or less represents Rep. Lamar Smith. The things he's talking about in the third and fifth panels are provisions of HR 1981, the so-called "Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act", aptly nicknamed the "Keep Every Americans' Digital Data for Submission to the Federal Government Without a Warrant Act." (You can sign a petition opposing HR 1981 here.) More information from TechDirt here and here.

Studios and Samizdat

Just read a couple of great articles on copyright infringment over at You Will Never Kill Piracy, and Piracy Will Never Kill You and Lies, Damned Lies, and Piracy.

They both mostly cover the same ground: one of the biggest reasons that people use samizdat rather than buy content is because it is easier. The MPAA could build something like Steam or iTunes, and blow giant holes in the number of samizdat downloads. Another is that movies are grossly (and grotesquely) overpriced, both in production and for the end-user. And studios and labels are increasingly profitable, even as samizdat increases.

On so-called Piracy

Words mean things. Piracy means ship-to-ship armed robbery and hijacking on the high seas, even today; witness Somalian pirates. There is piracy in the Carribean sea as well. The act involves threats to people's lives and property.

Samizdat (from "same as that") was a practice used to escape censorship in the Soviet union -- to type out a verbatim copy of a banned book, generally on a manual typewriter. It is a much better word than piracy to describe modern methods of copyright infringment, which threaten only royalties, not anyone's lives or actual property. You can expect me to use it instead. I encourage you to do the same, even though those in the networks will not, because they are beholden to the labels and studios.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What SOPA and PIPA are meant to do

I just saw a headline that has put SOPA and PIPA into perspective: BTJunkie voluntarily closes file-sharing website (more from ZDNet, Loopy Gadgets, and the Guardian).

The goal of SOPA/PIPA is not to stop piracy.

It is nothing less than to put an end to user-generated content on the Web.

That's the real goal of MPAA and RIAA in all their censorship moves and DRM strategies -- to ensure they have a monopoly on distribution of entertainment media worldwide.

They want to eliminate every form of competition. They want to ensure that all independent entertainers are crushed, so that everyone who wants any sort of entertainment will have to come to them, cash in hand. They want to ensure that every musician will have to come to them, cap in hand, to sign away all of their rights and money, in order to make the move from street corner busker/ garage band/ small local club band to the big time. They want to ensure that nobody ever successfully distributes a film without the studios getting their piece of the action.

And this plays into the hands of a censorious government. Never forget that big government and big business are in bed together and feed each other. Big business wants an unfair advantage. Big government wants to control personal expression. An oppressive government cannot afford free expression; it's far too likely to express, in a way that people can easily see and share, that the government is oppressive and corrupt.

BTJunkie's self-takedown is not ONLY stifling piracy, is not ONLY stifling Linux ISO distribution (most Linux ISOs are distributed over bittorrent to save costs) ... I have no doubt that it is also stifling the efforts of many independent artists, without labels or studio contracts, to get some market share and mind share.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Telling the Truth

John C. Wright posts about Christopher Stasheff, the only SF author who had the guts to put the truth about chastity into the mouth of one of his characters. Go and read it, as it is an EXCELLENT explanation of the spiritual dangers of fornication.