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Comment: Re:Problem, Reaction, Solution... (Score 1) 158

by IamTheRealMike (#49630085) Attached to: French Version of 'Patriot Act' Becomes Law

You hardly need to be mentally ill to reach this conclusion. Sure, it's not like there's a grand master plan nailed to a wall somewhere. But to conclude governments helped create this situation all you need to do is read about the background of the attackers. Their radicalisation started due to the US invasion of Iraq. When the attackers tried to go to Iraq to fight against the occupation they were arrested and thrown in prison, where they met a radical Islamist.

No war? Probably the chain of events that led to the attack would never have happened. Our governments will continue to be in denial about this because politicians feel they should be able to engage in arbitrary foreign "policy" (i.e. invasions, occupations, picking winners in regional conflicts) without any kind of repercussions or blowback at all. When reality refuses to go along with this notion they claim it's an outrage and the solution is to record more telephone calls.

From the article:

The Buttes-Chaumont group’s jihadi aspirations were directly linked to the second Iraq war in 2003. They would sit in apartments watching footage of the US-led invasion. “Everything I saw on TV, the torture in Abu Ghraib prison, all that, that’s what motivated me,” one of Kouachi’s friends told their trial.

But under Jacques Chirac, France had refused to intervene in the Iraq war and the young cell’s stance wasn’t really a movement against the French state. It was more a rage directed against the US. Some of the group stated that jihad wasn’t done in France. The focal point was fighting a foreign invader in Iraq.

“They were the pioneers of French jihadiism,” said Jacques Follorou, a journalist at Le Monde and author of the book Democracy under Control, the Posthumous Victory of Bin Laden, about security issues

A bit later in the same article ....

Kouachi, who scraped a living delivering for El Primo Pizza on the other side of the ring-road that serves as a moat around Paris, was arrested in January 2005 on his way to catch a flight to Damascus, believed to be ultimately heading for Iraq ..... He got a relatively light prison sentence, three years with 18 months suspended, as there was little hard evidence against him except a plane ticket for Damascus.

After his arrest while trying to fly to Damascus in 2005, Kouachi was on remand in the notorious Fleury-Mérogis prison south of Paris, a super-size decaying concrete mega-jail, which is Europe’s largest prison ..... He added that when the young men were arrested and held on remand before their case in 2008, prison gave them access to a universe never known before. “If the Butte-Chaumonts was an informal school of jihad, prison was the superior diploma.”

....

One of the prisoners involved in publicising the terrible conditions [in the prison] was Amédy Coulibaly. He was an armed robber on his third sentence, this time for robbery, receiving stolen goods and using false number plates. Coulibaly met Kouachi inside the prison and they became close during seven months on the same wing – prisoners from similar backgrounds and affinity were kept together on the same blocks, which allowed them to convene. Less than a decade later, Coulibaly joined the Kouachis in last week’s terrorist attacks .... In prison together, Kouachi and Coulibaly found not only friendship but a mentor who radicalised them

Comment: Re:Not law yet (Score 1) 158

by IamTheRealMike (#49629929) Attached to: French Version of 'Patriot Act' Becomes Law

I also use Gandi but only for DNS. As far as I can tell there's not much useful that intelligence agencies could do with that, except get IPs of ISP resolvers that are looking up the names. So I will probably leave things be for now. But I wouldn't buy any other more critical services from them. Shame - seems like a good company.

Comment: Re:the rigamarole is political, not diplomatic (Score 1) 105

by IamTheRealMike (#49629885) Attached to: Extreme Secrecy Eroding Support For Trans-Pacific Partnership

Yep. These things don't seem to be as complex as you'd imagine.

When the Doha round failed at the WTO, lots of trade negotiators gave up. They thought it was hopeless. Eventually they narrowed the scope dramatically and produced a new deal (the Bali round) on reducing red tape imposed on importers/exporters. It was one of those "negotiators up until early hours of the morning, multi-day cramfest" kind of things. So I figured it'd be some horribly complex document I'd need years of legal training to understand.

Lol, nope. The agreement is here. The requirements are unbelievably trivial. Some of the things agreed to are, for instance, that import rules should be available on the internet, and if they change whilst a ship is sailing, the rules at the time of departure apply not the time of arrival. Other rules specify that when governments make decisions they should actually be issued in writing, and ports should do customs inspections on perishable goods before non-perishable.

The mind-numbing obviousness of what was agreed is sad. Reading it is quite depressing as it makes you realise how hopelessly inept and corrupt some countries must be.

Apparently one of the reasons the Doha round failed was an inability to agree on what units to use when weighing things. I mean seriously, wtf?

These things don't seem to justify the elaborate theatre that goes into them.

Comment: Re:What has been leaked is not encouraging either (Score 1) 105

by IamTheRealMike (#49629753) Attached to: Extreme Secrecy Eroding Support For Trans-Pacific Partnership

Yes. It has to be this way. Otherwise investor-state dispute settlement is meaningless.

ISDS gets a bad rap. Let's review why it's there. In the best case, governments are elected by local citizens. In the worst case they're just totalitarian dictatorships who stick around until they get overthrown in a revolution. In both cases, governments still care more about their local people than foreigners, who typically have no power at all.

In a world that gets ever more connected and in which peopl rely on "foreigners" ever more, this can cause big problems. Governments are strongly incentivised to be nice to foreigners until they're invested deeply enough in a country that they can't easily get out, and then start whacking them / exploiting them / taxing the bejeezus out of them / generally changing the rules of the game after it's started and screwing them over. For example, what stops a government just seizing a foreign companies factories and then selling it to a local competitor? Well, nothing. What incentivises them to do that? Money. Power. Lots of things, really. That company will slowly pull out of the country and other companies would be put off from investing in the first place, but that's a slow and largely invisible process that local citizens won't notice. On the other hand beating up foreigners and claiming they're yukky and inferior is always a good way to score political points.

There's a nice idea floating around that governments and regulators are never unfair and only ever act against companies that deserve it. Only people who have never watched the regulatory process in action would really believe this, but even if you do, consider that many countries are not as saintly as your own. Arbitrary confiscation of assets is a real problem in large parts of the world. There's always some nice sounding excuse, of course - the dirty foreigners weren't up to our exacting local standards, or they were playing the system, or whatever. Sometimes the complaint may be legitimate, but sometimes it's just opportunism.

Regardless, the end result is the same: less foreign investment, which is another way of saying, less international collaboration on complex projects. We like international collaboration, don't we? Integrated economies are less likely to declare war on each other. We like the advanced technology it enables, like smartphones with components from dozens of countries around the world. We like the wealth it generates.

So .... ISDS. The idea is simple. Governments are free to change the rules of the game after it's started in any arbitrary or unfair way they like. They can continue to treat foreign companies as disposable assets. But .... they have to pay for it. If a company starts on a 4-year factory construction project with a 10 year payoff horizon, and after two years the local government decides that a new 95% tax should be applied to that precise industry whereas before there was none, then this is confiscation of assets and under the treaty, the state has to compensate the investor. This should (in theory) radically reduce the risk of foreign investment by smoothing out unpredictable business environments, and thus lead to more investment/collaboration.

If ISDS didn't at least try to include potential future earnings then it'd be much less effective, because the risk would still be very large. If the factory was nationalised and the business was relying on it as part of its business plan, then it'd potentially get a chunk of money for the physical assets but now it's got to start all over again and is four years behind its competitors, potentially fatally wounding it.

ISDS has plenty of downsides as well. Notably, that local citizens rather like being able to tax and seize stuff from foreigners - it looks a lot like free money which is a short term pleasure hit, whereas the long term rot of becoming an unattractive place to do business is much harder to reason about. So ISDS is always a rather hard sell in democracies, for similar reasons as political fixes to climate change are ...

Comment: Re:nonsense (Score 5, Interesting) 272

by IamTheRealMike (#49629603) Attached to: The Medical Bill Mystery

Health care is socialism, even in the USA, so pussyfooting around and pretending it's not just gets you the worst of all worlds.

It's inherently the case that medical care is socialist because in any civilised society, the idea that someone dies of a preventable illness just because they're poor is unacceptable. Wealth comes and goes, illness is random. Even rich people would not accept stepping over bodies of people who just dropped dead in the street because they couldn't get basic medical care. Even rich people would not accept their child being infected with TB because they happened to wander into a ghetto of poor people where disease was rampant, and even rich people do not accept the idea that if in a couple of decades when their awesome corporation has been outcompeted in the market, bought by a competitor and they were then fired, that they might be left to rot at home, being eaten by a treatable cancer.

The moment a society accepts that someone who turns up at ER with an injury gets treated even if they can't afford it, that country has accepted a socialist idea. America has accepted that idea, which is why hospitals have to provide emergency care to even uninsured people and they pay for it by effectively taxing people who need other kinds of work. At that point you don't have a free market any more - free markets are not defined by customers who cannot negotiate and governments that step in to pay whatever price is demanded at the last second. So you might as well go all-in and just get it over with.

People often argue that this would result in no accountability and the like, but the example of the UK seems to show otherwise. The NHS (national health service) is always a huge factor in elections. Politicians fight over who is best for the NHS constantly. In America politicians try and motivate voters by painting their opposition as weak on the war on terror. In the UK they motivate voters by claiming the opposition is engaged in a war on the NHS. Yes, the accountability is very top down and hardly local - it's a flawed system in many ways. But at least the UK calls a spade a spade.

The usual arguments as to why

Comment: No, they are categorically NOT doing that... (Score -1) 150

by daveschroeder (#49622049) Attached to: How the NSA Converts Spoken Words Into Searchable Text

...and your comment represents the absolutely fundamental misunderstanding that pervades this discussion.

The truth no one wants to hear:

The distinction is no longer the technology or the place, but the person(s) using a capability: the target. In a free society based on the rule of law, it is not the technological capability to do a thing, but the law, that is paramount.

Gone are the days where the US targeted foreign communications on distant shores, or cracked codes used only by our enemies. No one would have questioned the legitimacy of the US and its allies breaking the German or Japanese codes or exploiting enemy communications equipment during WWII. The difference today is that US adversaries -- from terrorists to nation-states -- use many of the same systems, services, networks, operating systems, devices, software, hardware, cloud services, encryption standards, and so on, as Americans and much of the rest of the world. They use iPhones, Windows, Dell servers, Android tablets, Cisco routers, Netgear wireless access points, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Gmail, and so on.

US adversaries now often use the very same technologies we use. The fact that Americans or others also use them does not suddenly or magically mean that no element of the US Intelligence Community should ever target them. When a terrorist in Somalia is using Hotmail or an iPhone instead of a walkie-talkie, that cannot mean we pack our bags and go home. That means that, within clear and specific legal authorities and duly authorized statutory missions of the Intelligence Community, we aggressively pursue any and all possible avenues, within the law, that allow us to intercept and exploit the communications of foreign intelligence targets.

If they are using hand couriers, we target them. If they are using walkie-talkies, we target them. If they are using their own custom methods for protecting their communications, we target them. If they are using HF radios, VSATs, satellite phones, or smoke signals, we target them. If they are using Gmail, Windows, OS X, Facebook, iPhone, Android, SSL, web forums running on Amazon Web Services, etc., we target them -- within clear and specific legal frameworks that govern the way our intelligence agencies operate, including with regard to US Persons.

That doesn't mean it's always perfect; that doesn't mean things are not up for debate; that doesn't mean everyone will agree with every possible legal interpretation; that doesn't mean that some may not fundamentally disagree with the US approach to, e.g., counterterrorism. But the intelligence agencies do not make the rules, and while they may inform issues, they do not define national policy or priorities.

Without the authorities granted by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), the United States cannot target non-US Persons who are foreign intelligence targets if their communications enters, traverses, or otherwise touches the United States, a system within the United States, or, arguably, a system or network operated by a US corporation (i.e., a US Person) anywhere in the world. FAA in particular is almost exclusively focused on non-US Persons outside the US, who now exist in the same global web of digital communications as innocent Americans.

Without FAA, the very same Constitutional protections and warrant requirements reserved for US Persons would extend to foreign nations and foreign terrorists simply by using US networks and services â" whether intentionally or not. Without FAA, an individualized warrant would be required to collect on a foreign intelligence target using, say, Facebook, Gmail, or Yahoo!, or even exclusively foreign providers if their communications happens to enter the United States, as 70% of international internet traffic does. If you do not think there is a problem with this, there might be an even greater and more basic misunderstanding about how foreign SIGINT and cyber activities fundamentally must work.

If you believe NSA should not have these capabilities, what you are saying is that you do not believe the United States should be able to target foreign intelligence targets outside the United States who, by coincidence or by design, ever utilize or enter US systems and services. If you believe the solution is an individualized warrant every time the US wishes to target a foreign adversary using Gmail, then you are advocating the protection of foreign adversaries with the very same legal protections reserved for US citizens -- while turning foreign SIGINT, which is not and never has been subject to those restrictions, on its head.

These are the facts and realities of the situation. Any government capability is imperfect, and any government capability can be abused. But the United States is the only nation on earth which has jammed intelligence capabilities into as sophisticated and extensive a legal framework as we have. When the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress, multiple executive agencies under two diametrically opposite Presidential administrations, armies of lawyers within offices of general counsel and and inspectors general, and federal judges on the very court whose only purpose is to protect the rights of Americans under the law and the Constitution in the context of foreign intelligence collection are all in agreement, then you have the judgment of every mechanism of our free civil society.

Or we could just keep laying our intelligence sources, methods, techniques, and capabilities bare to our enemies.

âMany forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." - Winston Churchill (1874-1965), Speech in the House of Commons, November 11, 1947

"The necessity of procuring good Intelligence is apparent and need not be further urged â" all that remains for me to add, is, that you keep the whole matter as secret as possible. For upon Secrecy, Success depends in most Enterprises of the kind, and for want of it, they are generally defeated, however well planned and promising a favourable issue.â â" George Washington, our nation's first spymaster, in a letter to Colonel Elias Dayton, 26 July 1777

Comment: Re:Sort of dumb. (Score 2) 536

by IamTheRealMike (#49615521) Attached to: Recruiters Use 'Digital Native' As Code For 'No Old Folks'

The hardware knowledge argument has become virtually irrelevant in the EC2-world where you can spawn VM pretty much transparently

Right, we forgot, Amazon VMs are magical devices powered by hopes and dreams, rather than CPU cycles like old fashioned "computers" are.

Back here in reality cloud virtual machines are just a shitty containment mechanism that's sort of like an operating system process, only dramatically less efficient. Did you know that Google, not a company exactly famous for lacking clue, doesn't use VMs internally at all? Every internal program runs as a regular operating system process on top of a patched Linux kernel. The system is called Borg and they published a paper on it recently.

Why don't they use VMs, Amazon style? Because VMs suck. Running an entire OS inside another OS just to provide isolation is a great way to waste vast amounts of money and resources. It means sysadmins get to reuse their existing skillset instead of learning some new way of managing software, but that's about it as far as advantages are concerned.

Certainly your Amazon VM will suffer from cache line interference, limited resources, and other things that plague physical devices.

Comment: Re:Who will win? (Score 1) 175

Hardly. AirBnb and PayPal are both good examples of this sort of thing. PayPal got raided a lot and got sent C&D letters by various state regulators when they were rolling out across the USA. Eventually they had to sell to eBay (their primary competitor) to get enough money and political immunity to survive. There's a book about it called the PayPal Wars that goes into more detail on this.

Comment: Re: Why is is the material support provision bad? (Score 1) 121

lol. This is an administration that defines the word "militant" as meaning any male that isn't a child or pensioner. "Material support for terrorism" doesn't mean anything at all, given that the last 15 years have shown governments will happily label anything they don't like as terrorism. Bear in mind the primary roadblock that prevents the UN agreeing on a definition of terrorism is western nations (i.e. America's) insistence that people who resist foreign occupation of their countries must be considered terrorists, and Arab nations insistence that they mustn't.

+ - UMG v Grooveshark settled, no money judgment against individuals

Submitted by NewYorkCountryLawyer
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes: UMG's case against Grooveshark, which was scheduled to go to trial Monday, has been settled. Under the terms of the settlement (PDF), (a) a $50 million judgment is being entered against Grooveshark, (b) the company is shutting down operations, and (c) no money judgment at all is being entered against the individual defendants.

Comment: Re:Hostile environments (Score 2) 634

by IamTheRealMike (#49570869) Attached to: How To Increase the Number of Female Engineers

The hostile environment is sometimes present in subtle ways, such as important discussions that occur spontaneously in the men's restroom

Look, if you find your work environment to be hostile then that's entirely your opinion and none of us here can really judge except through what you just wrote.

That said, what you just wrote makes me wonder if I woke up this morning in a parallel universe. Important discussions happening spontaneously in the men's restroom? Seriously?

I have spent my entire life being a man. In this time I can remember exactly zero conversations that took place in the bathroom at work. I have never taken part in one, I have never overheard one happening whilst I've been doing my business there. I do not believe this is some bizarre fluke - there's a strong social convention amongst men that nobody interacts with each other in the restroom. This social convention is only slightly less strong outside the workplace: it's extremely rare for men, even friends, to dawdle or hold a conversation longer than a few sentences in the bathroom. This is one reason why men's bathrooms tend not to have long queues outside them.

In contrast if I had a pound for every time I've been out with a bunch of women and one stood up to say, "I'm going to the bathroom" and suddenly the others all decided they needed to go right at the same time ...... well, I'd be a rich man. The amount of girls-only gossiping that goes in female bathrooms is ridiculous.

If you seriously believe that men are frequently having important business conversations in toilets then I don't know what to say to you. You either work in an extremely weird office, or you live in a country with radically different social norms, or no such conversations are actually happening but you've already decided you're being excluded somehow and can't figure out how or when, so decided to blame potty breaks. In which case you're just paranoid.

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