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Comment: Re:Put a fork in it, it's done. (Score 4, Interesting) 539

Opium was outlawed to prevent Chinese and Filipino immigrants from bringing their bad habits to the USA:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Narcotics_Tax_Act#Domestic_Background

I suppose in your world, oppressing a specific group of people is not at all political.

Comment: Re:Put a fork in it, it's done. (Score 1) 539

The drug laws were passed to reduce illegal drug trade and use, not voting for the "wrong" political party.

So why were the drugs made illegal in the first place? Maybe you are not aware of the history of the drug war, but before the 20th century recreational drugs were legal -- one could buy cocaine and heroin over the counter.

Comment: Re:Put a fork in it, it's done. (Score 2) 539

Marijuana is not the only illegal drug. Cocaine has a longer history of being illegal, and the prohibition of cocaine has been a pretext for arresting black men since it was first banned. The arguments for banning cocaine were not merely absurd, but shockingly racist, with claims about "cocaine niggers" being driven to attack white women and talk of how black cocaine users became more accurate with a gun. Southern police forces used cocaine as a pretext for upgrading their guns, claiming that "negro cocaine fiends" could not be stopped with a shot through the heart using standard police calibers.

Not only that, but despite the recent progress on legalizing marijuana, numerous other drugs have been banned -- including several that were simply declared to be illegal by the DEA before Congress even voted on the issue. So do not let yourself be distracted by marijuana any more than by alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine -- the war on drugs is alive and well, and the police are as heavily armed and as violent as ever.

Comment: Re:Put a fork in it, it's done. (Score 1) 539

  1. It is well known that drug laws have been and continue to be used as tools of political oppression. One need only look at the arguments presented to Congress in the early 20th century during the debate on criminalizing cocaine, opium, and marijuana to see that these laws were intended to target certain unpopular minorities, especially black men. Much of the lobbying for the drug war has come from business interests and, disturbingly, from law enforcement agencies themselves -- literally, the executive branch using the drug war as a way to expand its own power.
  2. Also typical of police states are the systematic denial of civil rights, the broadening of laws to the point where trials are pro forma only, and a vast and powerful police force. The USA exhibits all of the above -- the vast majority of cases never go to trial, defendants who intend to exercise their rights must wait years and are often bankrupted in the process, and it is rare for defendants to face only a single criminal charge. Additionally, laws are passed specifically to give the police and prosecutors greater authority to arrest and imprison people who would otherwise have walked free. Increasingly, paramilitary police teams are deployed at all levels of government to serve routine search-and-arrest warrants -- with the use of such teams being motivated by a focus on the safety of the police and the successful execution of the warrant, rather than on the safety of the public or the protection of civil rights.

In other words, the only reason we have to say that the USA is not a police state is that our police are more tame when compared to infamous governments like the Soviet Union. Sure, the police will face penalties if they cross certain lines when interrogating a suspect and sure, civil rights do occasionally matter to the courts, but at the end of the day we are a police state -- a mild one, perhaps, but a police state nonetheless.

Comment: Re:Put a fork in it, it's done. (Score 4, Insightful) 539

What is the nature of this so called "police state"?

Does being the world leader in imprisoning people count? We have more people in prison than China, North Korea, Iran, etc. -- and that is more people in prison period, not merely per capita.

Comment: Bad specs (Score 2) 275

by betterunixthanunix (#45585859) Attached to: How Much Is Oracle To Blame For Healthcare IT Woes?
It is one thing to say that the spec is incomplete, but when the spec is bad there is not much a developer can do. If you are told to make the wrong thing, well, either you make the wrong thing or someone else will be paid to do so. There is only so much a developer can do in that situation.

Comment: Re:FTFY (Score 2) 329

Why does a country need coal to become industrialized? This comes to mind:

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/10/kamwamba-windmill/

Obvious recycling alternators from old cars is not a solution that scales well enough to industrialize a nation, but at the same time this was being done by a teenager with only rudimentary knowledge of engineering.

Comment: Re:blame equality (Score 2) 325

It seems to me that the problem is the brown-skinned people, Arabic-speaking people, or whatever group that hates us. We hate them because they acted on their hate. They hate that too.

Brown-skinned people do not universally hate America. Arab people do not universally hate America. If that is not clear to you, take a look at the enormous number of brown-skinned and Arab people who have immigrated to this country. Many of those people came here to escape the kind of people who attacked us. Many came here to escape persecution and corruption by their government. What do you think happens when they give up their old lives to come here, then face constant suspicion and harassment by the government?

It is no wonder the CIA has trouble finding Arabic and Farsi speakers. We are shooting ourselves in the foot, and we are doing so for no reason other than a popular belief that Muslims, Seikhs, Hindus, and anyone with brown skin must be connected to terrorists. In other words, outright stupidity.

Comment: Re:Accountability (Score 3, Insightful) 325

How are the incentives in the wrong place? The airlines need security theater; people are already fearful of flying, and fear of being killed by terrorists while flying only makes that worse.

The key is to remember that checkpoints do not keep you safe on an airplane. You can walk through a checkpoint with all kinds of sharp objects -- like all those sharp metal bits in your laptop -- all kinds of explosive chemicals -- like batteries -- and then you can buy more things that are easily turned into weapons on the other side of the checkpoint. We have checkpoints because the government wants to remind people that something is being done, and it works -- people were terrified to hear that the TSA would relax the knife rule to something approaching sensible, and nobody cared about the number of other dangerously sharp things people are allowed to carry through.

If airlines were responsible for security, this would all be simplified. No corrupt contracts for nude scanners, because the airlines cannot afford to dump money on that garbage. No nude scanners means no pointless groping -- the groping was always a punishment reserved for anyone who refused a scan (gotta make sure the machines are used, right?). Too annoying and the airline's profits suffer, as they should (and as long as there is a TSA, nobody should fly unless they have to cross a distance that is beyond driving / train range).

Comment: Re:blame equality (Score 1) 325

Racial profiling works

...to accomplish what? The TSA checkpoints are not going to stop competent terrorists. The 9/11 hijackers would have had just as easy a time using some glass shards (from, say, a bottle purchased at a duty free shop) as boxcutters. A laptop has plenty of long, sharp metal pieces in it, perfect for creating a makeshift knife.

That is why this is dumb. If a terrorist wants to blow up a plane, he can kill just as many people (if not more) by blowing up an airport -- maybe while standing on line for security, or at a ticket counter, or at a border checkpoint. If a terrorist wants to hijack a plane, he does not need to carry anything through security, and taking him aside to harass him for an hour will not stop his plot.

Of course, profiling is a great way to appease people who have a problem with brown-skinned people, Arabic-speaking people, or whatever group we decide we hate next. Meanwhile, the same people we are harassing could have been working with us to find the real terrorists -- if they moved here to America, it is probably because they wanted to escape the terrorists in their home country, and could have been allies in fighting those terrorists.

Oh well, there could not be a problem with having only a dozen Arabic speakers working at the CIA, right? It's not like we keep going to war in Arab countries...

Comment: Blame stupidity (Score 3, Insightful) 325

The checkpoints are a waste of time and money that have not stopped a single realistic terrorist plot. Profiling is irrelevant, already performed, and does not improve the effectiveness of the TSA checkpoints. This is a distraction from the real issue: billions of wasted dollars, millions of travelers intimidated into giving up their civil rights, and nothing to show for any of it.

Comment: Sounds like evil to me (Score 5, Insightful) 325

The TSA checkpoints, pat downs, nude scanners, and so forth are a complete waste. No competent terrorist would be deterred by such things -- and "competent" here means "able to do more damage in an airplane than out." It is easy enough to make a makeshift weapon past the checkpoints, and the 9/11 hijackers all used makeshift weapons. I am not even plotting an attack and I can think of a half dozen ways to arm myself on the other side of a TSA checkpoint.

Basically the TSA is cover-your-ass security theater. If there is any kind of attack, nobody wants to be the politicians who voted to remove the TSA from our airports, regardless of whether or not the checkpoints make a difference.

Luck, that's when preparation and opportunity meet. -- P.E. Trudeau

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