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Comment Re:Prisons are fail. GPS is fail, too (Score 1) 545

It doesn't reward them. It turns their tough-on-crime initiatives into something that won't bankrupt the state.

If you take their idiot policies as a given, this is the best we can do to avoid the negative consequences of those policies...

(a) let marginal offenders have a life
(b) reduce the cost to the state.

But I agree with the underlying spirit of your post, which (I think) is that we shouldn't be reduced to finding workarounds for dysfunctional policymaking.

Comment Re:I don't think it'll work (Score 1) 545

You can be stopped from going to the places where drugs are dealt. You can also be stopped from spending time with anyone else wearing a tracking device.

The devices are now able to constrain you not only to specific locations, but also to certain locations at certain times of the day. You can be at home, go to work, and go to your local store, but the store and the workplace are only "open" to you at specific times, and you can only go there by specific routes.

Deviate from the route, or leave the locations, and the police are called to pick you up. Get picked up too many times, and you lose the limited freedom of being out in the world and go back behind bars. So there's plenty of incentive to play ball, and you're not exposed to the other criminal elements in the prison or costing the state nearly as much money while you're out in the world. You're also able to earn your own money, buy and cook your own food, and share the burdens of housekeeping and child-raising.

Stealing from shops only works if you expect to avoid getting caught, but since the police will know exactly where you are at any given time, your alibi is going to be a bid harder than usual to fabricate.

Prison is only about punishment from the point of view of the victim. From the point of view of society, it's about protection of society from those who refuse to conform to certain laws and the deterrence of others from adopting a similar behaviour. The best deterrent is the one you don't have to use, or failing that, the one that doesn't bankrupt you. We shouldn't spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year per inmate for the pleasure of hurting them back, even though the victims would like it if we did. The only legitimate reason to spend that much of the taxpayer's money to constrain someone is it they're a danger to society when you leave them their freedom.

Comment Re:Or we could save 25% off the bat (Score 4, Insightful) 545

No they're not, the poster and the article talk about total drug deaths, there is no underlying assumption of equality in the size of the populations.

The article referenced is also focused on the trend : a rapidly increasing number of deaths from prescription drug overdoses, which presages a significant problem in the years to come.

To use your example, and using the numbers in Jah-Wren's post, its as if 8700 people died from car crashes and 10-13K people jumped off the tower wearing a pink hat, and the 10-13K is increasing rapidly year-on-year. That's a pink-hat-and-tower problem, regardless of how you slice your statistics.

Comment Re:Prisons are fail. GPS is fail, too (Score 2) 545

This is the key point. A mom locked up because she sold her excess painkillers to someone to make ends meet ends up in state prison if there are two prior offenses from when she was a delinquent teenager. Someone who isn't really a threat to anyone ends up costing the state a fortune. That's who you target.

Stop assuming this is to do with child rapists and serial killers, or doing away with the prison system as a whole.

The issue people are struggling with in policymaking is that its impossible for a candidate to say (s)he's going to reduce mandatory sentencing because that makes them "soft on crime" and therefore unelectable. So everyone's playing a game where the mandatory sentencing rules merely get strengthened from term to term. Next you have ten-year mandatory sentences for irrelevant offenses under 3-strikes rules, or ridiculous situations in minor embezzlement cases where the FBI gets to charge each separate e-mail as a separate case of wire fraud and puts away someone who stole 5000 bucks from an insurance company for 700 years. The judge has no latitude as the sentence is mandated by law, and the prisons are overcrowded with people who enter as idiots who made a mistake, and exit with a better network of criminals than the team that pulled off the Italian Job. Assuming they exit at all, and we don't pay for some foppish pen-pusher to spend his life living at the expense of the taxpayer.

This alternative isn't about shutting down the prison system, it's about finding a way around idiot politicians who would have you put in jail because you looked at a banknote in the wrong way because that makes them look "tough on crime". Sentencing is only going to increase, so we have to find a way that means sentencing no longer automatically equals prison or certain states will go bankrupt, starting with California some time next month. Again.

Alternatively, all you people voting for "tough on crime" politicians might want to take a closer look at the effect of the "tough on crime" policies that follow and vote differently. But that's never going to happen, so this is the next best solution.

Comment Sounds like an opportunity... (Score 1) 148 create a "secure" IT gateway between confidential submissions to the market authorities and the general public, which can then be downloaded to a DVD by some employee wanting to "look at it at home", which is then accidentally left lying around in a car somewhere shortly before billions of personal financial transactions end up in a file torrented on the PirateBay with edited highlights providing Julian Assange with another headline.

Comment Re:nice (Score 1) 578

The first part of my phrase was what I meant, "handling stolen documents". I ad-libbed too aggressively when I put words in their mouth.

That having been said, I think that if a (for example) British citizen decided to disclose the names and addresses of families of US troops deployed in Afghanistan and someone got attacked as a consequence, there would be decent grounds to mount a case against that individual, under British law if necessary, or under US law if they set foot in the country.

On a less legalistic note, my personal opinion would be that the person bore some share of the responsibility (moral, logical, whatever) for the attack, and that they should be aware when dealing in such sensitive information that their actions have consequences on the lives of others. The alternative (that the person bears no blame at all) seems unreasonably lenient on people dealing in stolen information.

It's a tricky subject to be sure, the UK had to deal with it when tabloid newspapers starting publishing the names and addresses of individuals who were on the sex offenders register and these people began getting attacked in their homes. It's hard to feel sympathy for people who are on such a list, but at the same time screaming mobs throwing bricks at their houses isn't really the answer either. The tabloid wasn't attacked because, I seem to recall, there was an argument made that the list was essentially in the public domain anyway, just not particularly easy to piece together.

Comment Re:Bayes (Score 1) 179

Yes, it's part of the modern method of communicating. Volume of mail isn't, however, perfectly correclated with the importance of a subject. It's correlated with the degree of organisation of the special interest group promoting the letter-writing campaign, and it damages the signal-to-noise ratio because all the letters on this subject become statistics.

A well-written letter with 300 signatures gets read. 300 letters that are all treat the same subject just get counted. It's not communication anymore, it's bandwidth control.

Comment Ads as social media? (Score 4, Interesting) 281

I quite like the idea that you could use ads that you pay for (that don't cost much) to advertise your party or to post silly messages to your friends. Of course the privacy implications of what google needs to know in order to be able to do this are absolutely terrifying, but the idea remains cute.

Additionally, I liked the idea when they turned it on its head, saying that certain individuals can agree to receive adverts of a certain type and you can then pay to have your adverts targeted to those people... such as recruiters.

I wonder the extent to which these ideas are just that : great ideas, but completely impractical in the real world, but this kind of brainstorming is what gives rise to the really good ideas in the end anyway, so its not surprising that they should be having this sort of discussion internally.

Comment Re:economic growth through government regulations! (Score 3, Insightful) 242

Or they're saying they don't like where the economic optimum will take them (i.e. inefficient factories burning massive amounts of energy in a period of rapid growth in energy demand), and would prefer to pre-empt the energy crisis this would create by intervening now.

The alternative is to leave these factories alone. What happens then?

1) China can't increase energy production fast enough to meet demand.
2) Energy prices increase.
3) New, more efficient factories gradually enter, taking over the business of the inefficient factories as they are forced out by rising energy prices.
4) Meanwhile, the increased energy prices affect the rest of the economy, slowing economic growth and raising prices for consumers.

This way is better, because they're creating room for the competition without waiting for the energy price to do it for them. This will reduce the consequences of future energy shortages on the rest of the economy, and accelerate the adoption of more efficient technology in heavy industry.

Comment Re:nice (Score 2, Insightful) 578

True, but any assistance by the government in redacting the documents can be interpreted as a partial authorisation to leak the unredacted bits.

I would have sent back documents covered in black ink with a couple of conjunctions and a few bits of punctuation unredacted.

The US goverment's point is that the documents were illegally obtained, that they are protected as official secrets and that therefore their dissemination is a criminal offense, and no, they're not going to play ball.

While there's an argument that says they could have limited the damage, there's an argument that says WikiLeaks shouldn't be publishing classified government documents in the first place.

If even one thing published by WikiLeaks turns out to have aided an enemy of the US, I would imagine (IANAL) that this would put the members of WikiLeaks in a highly dubious legal position vis-a-vis the US authorities, and any allies they may have. They're handling stolen documents, saying "we gave you the opportunity to help us redact the documents we stole from you" doesn't actually exonerate them in any way.

Comment Re:nice (Score 1) 578

Faulty logic: Defending something bad by pointing at something worse doesn't work, they're still both bad. If Wikileaks are, in fact, responsible for endangering civilians, then that's a bad thing, regardless of what the US military has or has not done.

That's leaving to one side the highly contentious basis of your argument. Militaries exist to deter, and where that fails, to do violence, and they are supposed to minimise the impact of that violence on non-combatants. The members of wikileaks probably don't even own guns. The comparison makes no sense.

Furthermore, Wikileaks has been around for a short while. The US Military for a somewhat longer while. The impact of wikileaks is still being measured on a leak-by-leak basis, and the potential to do harm is massive, even if it has not yet materialised (and hopefully won't). I can understand why having an organisation staffed by volunteers of various nationalities and of unknown affiliations, who's daily job is to sift through classified information that they shouldn't normally have access to, who decide what secrets to divulge and when, and who distribute these secrets on a global and publically-accessible platform, might be a little worrying to members of the defense establishment.

Comparing the two on the basis of which has killed more people makes no sense. WikiLeaks worries certain people because of its potential to do harm. The harm done by the US Military is as relevant as the number of road deaths in Arkansas, the point is that if Wikileaks puts people in danger, then that is objectively a bad thing, and who is Julian Assange to make decisions about whether the value of the transparency he provides is worth the risk to human lives that is the by-product of certain disclosures?

Comment Re:Bayes (Score 1) 179

Are you sure that "from your website" wasn't shorthand for "people sent me mail because your website asked them to"? In this case each email would come from a different domain.

The way many of these campaigns work is that a group organises a mass mailing effort to swamp a member of parliament with emails on a single issue in order to force them to deal with the question. It's basically not far off a denial-of-service attack via email.

I agree that it can probably be dealt with using simple filtering because these websites typically provide the draft to be copy-pasted in the email, so the text is always very similar. It's still a fairly unpleasant political tactic, better to have a petition signed and send one document with a few thousand signatures.

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