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Comment Re:There are good reasons for gvt bureaucracy, rem (Score 1) 275

Nation-wide railroad network: To incentivize its' construction, the US government gave away huge land grants (much of it land of various Indian tribes) to corporations. The US maintains a federal bureaucracy to support rail transportation.

The rail companies kind of cheated this idea, too. If you've ever explored the American West, you probably came across various and sundry ancient rail sections inexplicably placed haphazardly all over the place. These rails were never connected to the rail network system, and were certianly ever useful to anyone in any meaningful way. Want to know why? Railroad land grants. You see, the rail companies initially would got an odd section of land on each side of the track for every mile of track built, resulting in a kind of checkerboard pattern if you looked at it on the survey.

The idea being the rail companies would subsidize track building through selling real estate near the track. Seemed sensible enough, right? What happened was this: in any place that was reasonably habitable (water, fertile land, the usual things that make life nice), the rail companies would build track alongside the main track such that the checkerboard was filled in, giving them 20 miles on either side of the main rail. They received the deed to the land, and often came along and recuperated their materials to use on yet another section of track, repeating the process. This allowed them to quickly and cheaply become the legal owners of huge swaths of land.

Eventually, they'd sell the granted land, making a tidy profit. They'd usually retain the mineral rights, however. Interestingly, the several rail companies to this day retain more mineral-acres than anyone, and still make insane amounts of cash on mineral leases to this day.

Comment's the LAW! (Score 1) 423

And how. It wasn't so long ago that being gay was thought to be a mental illness, and not long before that, having a vagina and being subject to the estrous (the word even implies being driven mad) cycle was basically an open indictment against one's mental state.

In a fit of circular logic, a certain subset of the anti-2A crowd pretty much imply that wanting to own a firearm for whatever purpose is equivalent to being crazy.... and so... Oh, you want a gun huh? Oops. DENIED. I bet if we were to come up with an ultimate political Venn diagram, these folks would strongly overlap with uber-feminists who believe that having a penis means you're a rapist, you just haven't been caught yet.

Comment Re:Hillary Clinton says: (Score 1) 271

Ms. Clinton was then "able to seize on loopholes" to help who she represented.
Indeed, this seems to be an ideal trait to have in Washington. Whether or not she would chose to be representative of "us" except for increasingly limited definitions of "us" is, however, another question entirely.

Comment Re:Frosty (Score 1) 141

OK, I agree that having dealt with the problem is a good reason not to name them. Thank you for explaining.

But if they were systematically giving this information out to parents, how could the parents not have known about it?

If a university offered to give me that information on my kid, I'd suggest that my kid make their lives hell over it, and offer to fund the project.

Comment Re:Mass Murder (Score 1) 249

How would one go about that peacefully?

It wouldn't be easy in practice. Such distinctions are nonetheless extremely useful, because they let you tease out why you think something is wrong. And having that kind of understanding is important, because of real rhetorical tricks used all the time by real people in the real world.

It works like this: you find some word/concept that people equate with something they consider horrible. So you notice that people use "genocide" interchangeably with mass murder, mainly because the most mentally accessible examples of genocide are mass murder. Pretty soon everybody is happy to say genocide is horrible, because mass murder is horrible.

Then you quietly shift to using a different meaning of the word "genocide", one that might apply to some non-mass-murder activity you don't like. And you expect and desire the horrible associations to come along. You're trying to associate this other activity with mass murder.

At that point, it doesn't matter whether the other activity is likely to succeed at causing genocide or whatever. You can still claim that it's a tactic of genocide, or that it goes in the direction of genocide. You can rely on at least some people to mentally treat it like the "canonical" tactic of genocide, i.e. mass murder. It's very hard to avoid falling into that kind of connotational trap, because of the way human brains work.

For extra credit, you create the negative connotation, and then exploit it. You'll find people doing that all the time in political debates, switching back and forth between different meanings of the same word, at one point pumping up the negative associations, and at another point attaching them to something different.

All that matters, because rhetoric influences how people treat others and their behavior, up to and including outlawing things and reacting violently.

And this happens all the time with the word "genocide", specifically.

I remember a case where some rich person was funding voluntary sterilizations for poor people in the US. She wasn't forcing anybody. You had to come to her and ask for the money. I don't remember whether she provided any services for actually arranging the sterilizations. Her program disproportionately affected black people. She was therefore accused of genocide, or attempted genocide... and every attempt was made to trade on the association between that and mass murder.

That's not an isolated case. Do a Google search for "soft genocide", and you'll find a bunch of white supremacist loons claiming there's a conspiracy to wipe out whites. They're not so loony that they're actually accusing anybody of mass murder, but they are trading on the association of the word "genocide" with mass murder.

The tactic gets used by people with a certain amount of influence, too.

All of which means that, regardless of whether peaceful genocide is actually possible, it's important to keep it conceptually separated from the murderous variety.

Comment Re:Mass Murder (Score 1) 249

You know, I should know better than to respond to this sort of thing, but I will anyway.

Let's recap.

The post I was replying to claimed that the word "genocide" was defined in a very specific way, and alluded to certain countries having issues with including other things in that definition. Which makes it completely obvious that that post was referring to a formal definition arrived at in some treaty process, probably a UN one, since the UN has tons of conventions in that area and loves to make up definitions.

I pointed out that the word had an accepted meaning before that treaty negotiation (or whatever it was) ever started, and that the results of that negotiation didn't necessarily bind the rest of us to interpret the word in that way in ordinary discussions. The prior accepted meaning I was talking about was the one you mentioned, established by Lemkin's original use and the ensuing general discourse on the subject.

I did NOT say anything about the original etymology, only about people trying to redefine an existing word. Where the word and its meaning originally came from wasn't relevant, so I didn't talk about that. The point (actually a small side point) is that, wherever it came from, it had a meaning before "the USSR, Belgium, Sweden, and the Dominican Republic" (and whoever else) started trying to formalize it.

As I understand it, your source for the word is more or less correct, although in fact the Armenian genocide was not the only genocide that Lemkin had in mind, nor the only one he mentioned, nor even the first one he mentioned, when he first put the word out there. But, correct as it may be, your source is also irrelevant, because nobody, including me, was talking about the original source of the word.

For that matter, you seem to insinuate that I somehow suggested that the Armenian genocide wasn't genocide. I didn't do that. Read it again. For that matter, the person I was responding to didn't suggest it either. It's just plain not what we were talking about.

As long as we're giving each other advice, let me advise you to look at the whole context, read closely, understand what's being discussed, and think for 5 seconds before you type. It will make you look less stupid.

Comment Re:Turkey (Score 2) 249

“A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct.”
– California Governor Peter H. Burnett, January 1851

Source, with a shit-ton more similar quotes from politicians and leading citizens:

By the way, wiping people out has been pretty common in historical conquests in general. People only seem to have really even started feeling guilty about it in the last few hundred years.

Comment Re:Mass Murder (Score 2, Informative) 249

First of all, genocide had a well accepted meaning before a bunch of self-appointed lexicographers in the UN or whatever got in a room to come up with their own definition. Humpty Dumpty and all that.

Second, mass killing is the reason genocide has a bad name in the first place. Most people, other than politicians, patriots, and similar freaks, have a lot bigger problem with going around shooting people in order to destroy their culture than with, say, trying to reason them out of it. The mass killing is actually Wrong with a capital W. Genocide by truly peaceful means isn't in the same league, if it's even wrong at all.

But that's an inconvenient thing for the political class to admit, because it might force them to face hard questions about their wars and some of their punishments.

Comment Re:Well, that's a load of horseshit (Score 1) 212

There are two parts to this: "wiretap-like" ephemeral communication, and "personal-papers-like" data stored in devices (and, more importantly in this debate, in associated cloud services).

On the far more important personal papers side, there has simply never, ever been a time in the past when you could expect as a matter of course to get somebody's personal papers surreptitiously, from a third party. Yes, you might have gotten lucky and been able to do that, but in the vast majority of cases you were going to have to go directly and overtly to that person and seize those papers.

That's a HUGE change. It's new with cloud storage and remote device access. It's total bullshit to pretend that it resembles anything in the past.

Nor is it new that the target of an investigation can obscure or obfuscate the content of those papers, or destroy those papers when you come after them, or hide them and refuse to tell you where they are, or any number of other things. People hid their letters all the time. There's nothing new in kind here.

As for matters of degree, well, yeah, modern encryption is easier and more effective than old methods of securing your papers. On the other hand, the "papers" being secured are incomparably more detailed, information-rich, and difficult to avoid creating, and you carry all of them with you all the time. What you would have gotten on somebody if you managed to find their hidden letters even 20 years ago is not even close to what you can get on somebody burrowing through their phone today.

So if there has been any change in the practical circumstances recently, it's that searches of "personal papers" have become more productive, not less. And encryption would only partially undo that.

On the less important wiretap side, yes, there have been wiretaps for about 100 years. They were pretty controversial even in those illiberal times, but they crept by the US Supreme Court (1926, I think it was). However, in the WaPo article, we had talk[1] about "standard American practice for the past couple of hundred years".

That puts the time before wiretaps into play. And I choose to look at all of the time before wiretaps, which includes most of the time during which the common law developed, the time during which legal expectations about privacy evolved, and the time at which the US constitution was written. In the context of that time, wiretaps are a pretty damned recent blip. They were a technological windfall for spooks, and spooks' addiction to them doesn't justify perpetuating that windfall when the technology changes.

[1] The person who made the "last couple of hundred years" comment was admittedly not Rogers, who apparently confined himself to disingenuously advocating for technical measures he has to know can't possibly work, and which would be suspiciously amenable to exactly the sort of abuse his agency is famous for. The "couple of hundred years" comment was from deputy AG David Bitkower. So maybe I should have named Bitkower as a sack of shit, too.

Comment Re:Well, that's a load of horseshit (Score 1) 212

There's no point in my replying to such total clueless incomprehension of my three paragraphs of explanation.

But I do want to correct this misapprehension, because I can see where it might come from:

You can't just call anything you like a sack of shit without providing any sort of argument to the negative.

The "sack of shit" I meant was Mike Rogers, personally. I wouldn't want anybody to think I hadn't meant to insult that sack of shit.

Comment Re:Hell No Hillary (Score 2) 676

trying to put together some sort of scandal or conspiracy, or even flat out making things up ("Obama is coming for your guns!")

Whatever your views on the issue, I find it curious that of the laundry list of nasty things the Rs said/did to smear Obama's campaign, you pick the one that was, by all metrics, objectively true.

His views prior, and up to his bid for president contrasted to...four days ago The same man who in 2008 promised among other things to increase government transparency, eliminate domestic spying, and not to go after guns...did what again? Did his part to make government more opaque, tolerated if not tacitly endorsed increased domestic spying, and went after guns at every major opportunity (often impotently).

Comment Well, that's a load of horseshit (Score 4, Insightful) 212

There's no "centuries-old social compact" or whatthefuck ever, let alone one around warrants.

  • There's no problem getting data access using warrants, no matter how much encryption you have. It's just that you have to get the data from the person who owns them, rather than sneaking through a third party. If the owner doesn't cooperate, you have a process to compel them. You know, just like warrants and other court orders have worked for hundreds of years. It's really unprecedented to be able to get access to somebody's personal papers without that person even knowing it.
  • There's no long-established ability to get access to people's ephemeral communications without physically following them around. That wasn't even possible until the telephone came along. For hundreds of years before that, you had to actually engage and gain people's individual confidence to spy on them.
  • Rogers' agency (the NSA) has never used warrants, not ever. It was given warrantless powers it probably should not have been given, arguably illegally because you can't do it under the constitution. It has then repeatedly gone beyond those already excessive powers over the entire course of its existence. It takes a lot of gall for somebody like Rogers to whine about lawful authority to do anything, let alone about warrants.

What a sack of shit.

And, yeah, the idea that you're going to have this magic key that only good guys can use is also technically and operationally impossible... as every single person in the NSA or anywhere else in the federal intelligence or law enforcement agencies knows damned well. I assume they want to create it so that they can steal it and use it for mass attacks. If they don't want me to believe that, well, they need to overcome their decades-long pattern of established behavior.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.