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Comment Re:Soft Power (Score 2) 365

And when Europe decides to ignore a whole lot of American drug patents in return?

The reason the WTO exists is to try and avoid tit-for-tat trade wars like what you're suggesting. Ultimately they make everyone poorer.

The US has an uncompetitive tax system for corporations. It's not even about the rate, it's about the fact that they're double taxed on worldwide income, something no other country does. Instead of coming up with creative ways to try and "punish" people who develop life saving drugs for getting sick of American tax exceptionalism, why not find ways to make them want to stay?

Comment Re:What idiocy (Score 1) 311

To which I ask, what's your point? I accept that risk in the name of freedom. You can have freedom or the illusion of safety, which would you prefer?

The idea that guns lead to freedom is based on a simple assumption: an overly oppressive government could be overthrown through some sort of armed uprising. This is a fantasy. Nobody in America has any chance of overthrowing or resisting their local government through force of arms. If you attempted it alone, you'd be immediately killed by armed police and written off as just another guy with mental problems. If you tried to coordinate a group bigger than 10 people you'd be detected and classified as some sort of domestic terrorists, and most likely end up in a firefight with a much larger, better armed and better armoured group than yourself (US police have access to ex-military equipment from Iraq, right).

But there are literally no scenarios in which a government passes a law, a bunch of people start shooting up police stations or senate buildings, and that government says, "oh ok, I guess that was kind of oppressive, we'll repeal the law" and everything goes back to being peaches and cream.

So it's a false choice. Guns do not equate to freedom and the cultural link between the two is an American-specific phenomenon.

Comment Re:Next step? (Score 1) 111

There are apps for Android that claim to do exactly that. I believe some of them warn you if you were downgraded to 2G unexpectedly or if encryption was switched off by the cell site.

Two problems. One is nobody uses such apps. It needs to be integrated with the OS really. And another is that apparently the makers of the Stingray devices have a device that can attack 3G networks as well. This latter device is only rumoured and last time I researched it, I concluded almost nothing is known about how it works, assuming it actually works at all. It's possible it's doing something like exploiting bugs in radio firmwares or something like that.

Comment Re:Praise be to Putin (Score 1) 291

Putin has staged terrorist acts against his own citizens before.

Although some of those events look pretty bad at first, there's nonetheless significant criticism of that theory from neutral third parties.

The biggest criticism of it is that the entire conspiracy theory makes no sense, as it revolves around the idea that Putin's FSB bombed its own people to create support for the war in Chechnya. Except that war had already been started by Yeltsin with the full support of all the power structures and Putin's 1999 attack on Chechnya was preceded by the insurrection in Dagestan. There was no need for apartment bombings to get an excuse to engage in military action in Chechnya. The claimed motive just doesn't line up with the actual timings of events.

The second biggest criticism is that the people who suggested the possibility had no evidence for it good enough to stand up in a court.

The third biggest criticism is that whilst the motive of the Kremlin to do this was rather garbled, a Chechen rebel leader had actually said "[they would] set off bombs everywhere", "Russian women and children will pay for the crimes of Russian generals." and that "this will not happen tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow" ..... and two days after he said that, an apartment building was bombed. And after fighting in Dagestan was concluded the bombings stopped.

So you have two possibilities - Islamic extremists bombed the apartment buildings in retaliation for their insurrection being put down. That possibility is a simple one. Or the Russian government engaged in a conspiracy to bomb its own people in a false flag operation. Given the history since 1999 of Islamists blowing shit up, I say ... go with Occam's Razor.

Comment Re:Praise be to Putin (Score 1) 291

He is not fighting against ISIS, he is fighting for Assad

Because Putin is not an idiot.

The idea western governments seem to have is that they can air-strike IS out of existence. Reality check: you cannot bomb a state out of existence short of using nukes and killing everyone within its territory. The idea that they can drop bombs on a few buildings and get rid of IS is about as realistic as the 9/11 hijackers idea that they could destroy America by destroying a few office buildings. Who cares? Countries and governments are spread out, and stronger than that.

The only actual way to expunge IS from the world without literally glassing half of Syria is to have boots on the ground, an army that is close enough to the action to separate friends from foes, and a credible replacement for IS once it's gone. Western powers are unwilling to provide either of those things: they won't put soldiers on the ground, and they don't know what would replace IS if it was gone. Oh, wait, maybe those "moderate" rebels (lol).

Russia and Putin, whether you like them or not, are clear thinkers. To get rid of IS they need an army. Assad has an army. Check. They need a credible replacement for IS. Assad is such a replacement. He may not be a good leader, indeed in many ways he's incredibly bad, but there don't appear to be any good leadership candidates in Syria and Assad is at least a good old fashioned mostly secular dictator, as opposed to a crazed death cultist.

One problem - Assad is on the verge of losing against the "moderate" rebels (like al-Qaeda) who are being armed by the CIA. The CIA doesn't have a fucking clue what will happen if Assad falls, they just aren't capable of thinking that far ahead, but it's fair to say that the bits of Syria where women can walk around dressed like westerners will quickly become .... not like that.

So Russia props up Assad. That mostly means hitting the "moderate" rebels. If Assad manages to stabilise his position and regain control over the areas currently controlled by the non-IS rebels, then there's a credible battle tested army that's fighting for its own existence ready and waiting to go to war against IS.

Comment Re:How effective is this (Score 1) 274

I understand that cutting of the money supply for terrorist is very effective

Based on what? Have there been any successful financial actions against terrorists, ever? I know the US Treasury likes to claim there has, but whenever you look at the details you discover that by "terrorist" they meant something like "someone wiring money to Cuba or Iran". Not actual terrorists of the kind that blow themselves up.

The blunt reality is that terrorism is very cheap. The entire cost of 9/11 came under the $10,000 reporting threshold for cash transactions.

The idea that you can attack terrorism through finance doesn't make much sense. It just has too little to do with money.

Comment Communities? (Score 2) 91

I went and took a look at the Game of Thrones community, seeing as that's apparently an example they wanted to highlight about how great this aspect of G+ is. It consists almost entirely of image macros. That is not what the word 'community' implies to me.

I don't see how G+ can possibly ever get good at communities whilst it revolves around Facebook-sized pieces of text with giant images attached, and especially not whilst it insists on clipping posts and comments to just a couple of lines. When I'm on the internet I want to see WORDS and not endless idiotic memes posted over and over. I wish to be entertained and informed. G+ has no chance of doing either unless it redesigns a heck of a lot more than the stylesheets.

Comment Re:Do-it-themselves (Score 1) 202

Terrorists have tried to develop their own encryption systems before. "Asrar" is one that I vaguely recall. They all suck and can be broken almost immediately by any professional cryptanalyst on the back on a napkin.

As skilled cryptographers are very rare and tend not to be the type of people who think blowing things up is a good plan, this means they more or less have to use western developed products. Moreover if they do find "Islamic" encryption apps on the net it's often unclear if they were really produced by Jihadi's or whether they're developed by western intelligence. But then their problem becomes that they don't know which mainstream products are any good and which ones are backdoored.

It's odd that PS4 is considered harder to monitor than WhatsApp. I suspect the reason is that PS4 communications isn't tied to a phone number, and that the messages aren't in the form of easily searched text.

Comment Re:Easier to address aging than its symptoms. . . (Score 1) 101

Also, people will put off having kids longer and everyone is going to start to care a lot more about the "longterm" of things. Seems like a positive direction for humanity. . .

Not obviously so. It also means that old ideas will hang around for a lot longer because people who are mentally stuck in their ways will take even longer to die off.

Comment Re:doubled murder, rape, and total violent crime (Score 2) 728

No they did not. You didn't read my post, did you? Reporting standards changed around that time so all crime figures went up, but that's a statistical artifact: the BCS figures show there was no spike around that time and crime started to steadily fall around the late 90's.

Comment Re:The Bigger Problem *is* European law (Score 4, Informative) 728

The U.S. does not have shootings happening every day - and France just surpassed years of U.S. mass shootings of innocents.

Yes it does, actually more than one in 2015. As of August 26th the number of "mass shootings" (defined there as at least four people getting shot) had passed the number of days in the year. Multiplied out that's 247 shootings * 4 people == 988 minimum but those stats are for "at least" four people: each incident could have had more than four. So it's in reality higher.

So that's say around a thousand people, vs 129 people in this Paris attack. It simply is not comparable. Your attempted rebuttal is based on fiction, which is never a good start.

The U.S. has more gun deaths per year but almost all of that is gang violence, who aren't buying guns legally anyway so I'm not sure how you plan to stop them...

You seem to think that gangs are somehow special. The UK has gangs too. They're the ones renting the same gun to shoot at each other with because they can't obtain their own. Gun control, properly implemented, takes guns away from everyone. Or did you not read any of what I wrote above?

Over the next few years Europe will have a vastly higher death toll at the hands of guns, precisely because the populace has been disarmed and pacified.

You are delusional. What do you think is going to happen, some sort of mass EU-initiated genocide? Although the events in Paris are tragic, they don't fundamentally change anything: Europe isn't about to experience a "vastly higher death toll at the hands of guns". Even if the occurrence of Paris-style attacks becomes 10x more frequent, that'd merely bring it into the range of US mass shooting deaths, not exceed it.

Comment Re:A self-fulfilling cycle that must be quashed (Score 0) 728

If Europe had American style gun control laws then it'd probably have an American style problem with mass shootings happening every day due to ordinary white citizens going crazy, instead of every few years or so due to poorly integrated Muslim men who are radicalised by the blowback from foreign military campaigns.

Somehow that would not seem like an improvement.

It looks like every time someone finds a gun and pulls the trigger in Europe (a place larger than America), crazed yanks immediately pop up and start saying it could have all been avoided if only literally everyone was carrying guns including in cafes and rock concerts.

The reality is a lot more boring. The combination of strong borders and gun controls do work. The experience of the UK is unequivocal. Gun crime is virtually unheard of, guns being involved in merely 0.2% of all crimes, and that proportion has been steadily falling for a decade. Guns are so hard to obtain in the UK that gangs have been observed using antique 19th century weapons and the few that do still exist tend to be owned by professional "armourers" who rent the guns out, often to opposing sides in the same dispute. Gangs literally rent the same gun to go shoot at each other with.

I've noticed that the UK experience is sometimes dismissed by US gun advocates using misleading statistics. For example it's commonly pointed out that after gun controls were tightened in 1996 the number of gun offences went up. Actually that's an artifact of changed police reporting standards that increased all types of crime figures simultaneously and it doesn't show up in the British Crime Survey, which gives an independent measure of crime by polling randomly selected people instead of counting police reports. Also there tends to be an assumption that merely passing a law immediately implements working gun control, whereas in reality it can take police forces quite some years to drain the supply of weapons even when they have all the tools they need.

Nonetheless, the outcome 20 years on is quite clear - mass shootings are so rare they're basically non-existent, gun crime in general is falling towards extinction, and the local people are happy with it.

Why is this not happening in France? Well, France is inside the Schengen border free zone and that zone has recently accepted a number of former communist states where there are large stockpiles of Soviet era weaponry still easily accessible. West Europe can't implement UK style gun control even if they wanted to (actually, French gun control law isn't even as strict as the UK anyway). There isn't any easy solution to that beyond waiting for the eastern countries to step up gun law enforcement and track down/destroy the remaining weapons, which could easily take decades. Americans should therefore be careful about over-generalising from the mainland European experience to all gun control everywhere. In island nations like the UK and Australia it tends to work a lot better.

Stellar rays prove fibbing never pays. Embezzlement is another matter.