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Comment: Re:Transparency (Score 1) 138

On what basis do you judge that? On the fact that in the past, you didn't hear about all the things the government kept secret?

I've posted links to data and graphs of the number of documents classified by the US government by year.

When you see the graph, you will never again need to ask that question.

Here, I'll do it again just for you:


You are misusing that information. The graph you link to is the derivative classification activity graph. It doesn't show classification events. It shows classified document *usage*. Basically, that graph is the number of times a previously classified document was reused somewhere else. Quote from the report: "Derivative classification is the act of incorporating, paraphrasing, restating, or generating in new form information that is already classified."

The actual graph of documents classified is on page 5 of the same report (page nine of the PDF), which is here: That graph shows that original classification events (documents classified) peaked in recent times in 2004 during the Bush administration (they were even higher during the Reagan administration), and in 2011 were down 64% from that peak (127,072 vs 351,150).

Comment: Re:Transparency (Score 3, Interesting) 138

Any way you want to measure it, there's never been a more secretive administration in the US.

On what basis do you judge that? On the fact that in the past, you didn't hear about all the things the government kept secret?

Both the initial drone strike program and the NSA surveillance programs were initially authorized and then kept secret during the Bush administration. The difference between then and now is not that this administration has kept them secret, but that they were discovered during this administration. What seems to be different is that during this administration more secret programs are coming to light rather than they are keeping significantly more secrets.

I often wonder how it is people forget that the Reagan administration included such gems as the Iran-Contra illegal arms sales and a huge number of federal investigations leading to indictment by executive officials (including James Watt, the former Secretary of the Interior), Bill Clinton was actually impeached by Congress (but not convicted), and George W. Bush started a war with Iraq costing thousands of American lives based on information we now know the administration knew was highly questionable. Even in the current far more partisan atmosphere far more Reagan officials were actually indicted or convicted of actual federal crimes, and last I checked the current administration hasn't started any questionable wars leading to thousands of casualties. Not to excuse any misconduct on the part of the current administration, but I think its an exaggeration to say this administration is objectively more secretive or less competent. It certainly isn't objectively more criminal.

Anyone remember Dick Cheney once attempted to claim simultaneously that as a member of the executive branch (being the Vice President) that he could claim executive immunity and refuse to disclose information to Congress, but also that as a member of the Senate (being the Constitutional President of the Senate by virtue of being the Vice President) the rules that apply to executive officers (including the President) when it came to security oversight did not apply to him? That's the standard upon which to judge the degree to which the current administration is "not transparent." Its a high hurdle.

Comment: Re:Consttutional government (Score 1) 261

by dnavid (#47503249) Attached to: UN Report Finds NSA Mass Surveillance Likely Violated Human Rights

Incorrect. The individual views of the founders are irrelevant. What matters is that the constitution, in numerous places, explicitly states that the government can only do what it says it can.

If you want to go that far, what matters is that the Constitution states that the US Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the meaning of the Constitution, not ordinary citizens. There are no exceptions to that rule listed within the Constitution.

Comment: Re:...The hell? (Score 4, Informative) 290

by dnavid (#47503233) Attached to: Why My LG Optimus Cellphone Is Worse Than It's Supposed To Be

So? That doesn't make his complaints about what's wrong with the cheap, crappy smart phone he bought any more insightful. We know cheap smart phones tend to be crap. It's not news.

The "news" he is posting is not that his phone sucks, but rather posing the (very reasonable) question of why crappy hardware tends on average to survive less unscathed in the marketplace while crappy software and feature implementations tend to survive far more readily, and poses a possible answer: that crappy hardware tends to be easy to quantify and thus summarize and highlight, while crappy software and features tend to be more subjective and more difficult to highlight in simple and concise ways to the consumer. And its not the case you can just say "buyer beware" because if a high percentage of consumers are unlikely or incapable of making such informed decisions, their purchasing power will allow the market to fill with bad software, even to the point of precluding or at least making it difficult for good software to survive to the point where educated consumers can find and purchase it. Finding ways to better educate the general masses about poorly designed or implemented software can have payoffs not just for the uneducated consumer, but also for the educated consumer that may not need that information but would benefit from the forcing function it would impress on the overall market.

Comment: Re:Consttutional government (Score 3, Informative) 261

by dnavid (#47478307) Attached to: UN Report Finds NSA Mass Surveillance Likely Violated Human Rights

Does the US Constitution specifically grant the government the power to interfere in X? If not then doing so is unconstitutional, because the constitution explicitly states (repeatedly, in several different ways) that the federal government has *only* those powers granted to it by the constitution. Which is why something as simple as banning alcohol required a constitutional amendment.

Not exactly. For one thing, whether the US Constitution explicitly grants the Federal government to "interfere in X" is subject to interpretation, and has to be because the US Constitution makes a lot of common sense assumptions about how government works: that's why so many early Supreme Court rulings invoked (British) common law. The critical catch-all clause in the Constitution is Article 1 Section 8: "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof." Even at the time of the drafting and ratification of the Constitution people debated the degree to which this clause expanded the powers of Congress.

James Madison argued in Federalist 44 that because it would be futile to attempt to anticipate all of the specific powers Congress (and the Federal government) would need for all time, the Constitution *must* grant the federal government any power necessary to fulfill the obligations the Constitution proscribes. He directly stated that trying to enumerate all of the powers the Constitution grants with explicit text would be ridiculous.

Because the question of what is "necessary and proper" is not an absolutely objective standard and the drafters of the Constitution knew this the Constitution can't be said to express explicitly enumerated powers. Even strict constructionists concede at least some of the power granted by the Constitution is implied by the intent of its text and not explicitly stated. And if you're concerned about any expansion of the Constitution's powers as being power-mongering, consider this: the Bill of Rights does not guarantee anyone in the US actually has those rights: it guarantees that the Federal Government can't intrude on them. Nothing anywhere in the text of the Constitution explicitly prohibits state governments from trampling all over, say, someone's First Amendment rights to free speech. The notion that state governments must honor the same limitations that the Constitution places upon the Federal government is another one of those power-mongering BS interpretations of the Constitution, namely the incorporation doctrine of the Fourteenth Amendment. Read the 14th Amendment: nowhere in the text does it say that States must incorporate the protections of the Bill of Rights, and nowhere in the first ten amendments does it state those protections apply to State governments, only the federal government. The incorporation doctrine of the Supreme Court was created over fifty years after the passage of the 14th Amendment, and argued that the implication of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment implies State governments must incorporate the same protections as the Federal government. But try to find that in the text.

Incidentally, the eighteenth amendment which prohibited the sale of alcohol doesn't prove that banning alcohol requires a Constitutional Amendment. The opponents of alcohol pushed for a Constitutional Amendment because it was the strongest possible ban they could strive for and they felt it was achievable. Not only could they ban alcohol sales in every State without having to convince every state to ratify the amendment, once ratified the only way to overturn the ban would be to generate enough support to amend the Constitution again: the ban could not be trivially overturned the way any Congressional law can be by successive Congresses. Its also important to note history: the (anti-alcohol) temperance movement was a very politically powerful special interest back in the day. They wielded significant power over elected officials in state legislatures. The 18th Amendment that banned alcohol sales was ratified by state legislatures, pushed strongly by temperance supporters. But the 21st Amendment that repealed the 18th Amendment was ratified by state ratification conventions which bypassed state legislatures and essentially took the matter to the people directly (via delegations to the state convention). In other words, the reason why Constitutional Amendments were the battleground for prohibition has as much to do with the political landscape of the time as anything else. The temperance people had the stranglehold on state legislatures and could get a Constitutional Amendment passed via state legislature ratification, but when opposition to prohibition reached high levels among the people Congress was able to get a separate Constitutional Amendment passed that revoked prohibition that didn't need their support.

Comment: Re:Murphy says no. (Score 1) 265

by dnavid (#47435633) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Unattended Maintenance Windows?

The right answer to this is to have redundant systems so you can do the work during the day without impacting business operations.

The right answer is you build in as much redundancy as you can, but you still do the work in as careful a manner as possible during downtime windows when necessary so that you don't waste the redundancy you have. You will look like the world's biggest idiot if spend a huge amount of money and design resources maing sure you have two of everything for redundancy, and while you're cavalierly upgrading the B systems because you have redundancy the A systems go down. Which they will, precisely when you bring down B for middle of the day upgrades, because the god of maintenance hates you, always has hated you, and always will hate you.

If you can afford N+2 or N+3 redundancy *everywhere* then you shouldn't be asking anyone else for availability advice.

Comment: Re:Puppet. (Score 3, Interesting) 265

by dnavid (#47435595) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Unattended Maintenance Windows?

So it's someone else's fault your test environment doesn't match production?

People often fail to try hard enough to make the test environment (assuming they even have one) match the production environment, but for some problems test never matches production, and essentially never can: some problems only reveal themselves under production *conditions*. For example, I recently spent a significant amount of time involved in the troubleshooting of a kernel bug that only arose under a very specific (and still not fully characterized) set of disk loads. Test loads including tests involving loads several times higher than the production load did not uncover the bug, which caused kernel faults, and the faults randomly started occurring about a week after the software patch went live.

You should try to keep test as close as possible to production so testing on it has any validity at all, but you should never assume that testing on the test environment *guarantees* success on production. Its for that reason that, responding to the OP, I have never attempted to do any serious production upgrades in an automated and unattended fashion, and not while I'm alive will any such thing happen on any system I have authority over. As far as I'm concerned, if you decide to automate and go to sleep, make sure your resume is up to date before you do because you might not have a job when you wake up, if you guess wrong.

Even if you guess right, I might decide to fire you anyway if anyone working for me decided to do that without authorization.

Comment: Re:But it wasn't for "national security" (Score 2) 353

by dnavid (#47421939) Attached to: UK Computing Student Jailed After Failing To Hand Over Crypto Keys

In my opinion, the right to remain silent is absolute.

It is absolute, in that it absolutely doesn't exist. There is no "right to remain silent" in the literal sense. The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution specifies that no one "shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." Nowhere is there the explicit or implicit Constitutional right to not speak under all circumstances. The difference between not speaking and not being a witness against one's self is not a semantic technicality. For example, if given immunity from prosecution, people can be compelled (in the US) to testify because they can no longer incriminate themselves, and therefore the right to not be a witness against him or herself cannot be violated by definition. Furthermore, although many articles state that people have been jailed for not actually uttering their passwords, that's often a misstatement: they can be ordered by a court to decrypt data without actually giving the literal password to authorities, and surrendering the data itself is not being asked to testify against one's self: its seizing property or evidence of a crime which someone can be compelled to due when ordered to do so under lawful due process. Being asked to decrypt files is not an exception to the rules, its fully within the current requirement for anyone when compelled by a court to produce documents, materials, or other property or material goods.

A recent court case highlighted this very distinction, in that the judge ruled that being asked if one has or knows the passwords protecting incriminating files is potentially asking someone to incriminate themselves, and the person can refuse to answer any such question. However, if its been proven that the person is capable of decrypting the files they can with due process be ordered to do so, whether they reveal the actual passwords or not. They are not being asked to speak against themselves when they are asked to produce data that they have been proven to have access to, and there is no legal right to hide incriminating evidence.

I don't think its either fair or reasonable to state that files in a locked cabinet can be subpoenaed and people can face criminal penalties if they do not comply, but files in an encrypted hard drive cannot be just because of the technology. And I don't see any specific right being violated any more than a conventional subpoena would for actual material paperwork.

Comment: Re:If everyone loses their jobs... (Score 1) 530

by dnavid (#47409907) Attached to: Foxconn Replacing Workers With Robots

That has never been true. Never in human history has a class of people controlled the economy due to them being the source of economic output. I guess it's not impossible, but did garment workers control the economy? Were automobile assembly-line workers the richest people in the country? Did Roman iron smelters own the means of their own production?

The history of human economy has always been that rich assholes who do no labor lord over the workers who actually produce things. I don't see any reason to think that robots will be different.

It would be different, in the specific case where some people are suggesting that robots could *literally* make everyone but the very rich redundant and disposable, which implies that robots could produce basically everything the rich people - and by extension, anyone - need to live their lives. That would be a radical change, because it would not just make workers redundant, it would also make rich people redundant, something I think they are not likely to try to accomplish on their own.

Its not about being the source of economic output, in the dystopic future some describe of robots literally making human beings entirely redundant its about eliminating the need for an economy at all. Wealth only has value when it can be used to buy things other people are willing to sell. Rich people are only rich because other people want their money. In the robot-dominated future, rich people can't be rich if the non-rich don't want or need their money. Sam Walton only got rich because people wanted to buy his stuff. In a future where the poor are decimated and only rich people remain, there's no future for Walmart and no rich Waltons. There's no rich Zuckerberg when there are only rich people. There's no rich Carlos Slim, no rich Oprah Winfrey, no rich Sheldon Adelson. In capitalist societies the rich can usually only get rich if there exists people with enough wealth willing to spend it to make them rich. The rich might exploit the poor, but they need them to actually exist, and actually the more money the non-rich have the better it is for the rich overall. Some "rich assholes" don't get that, but most actually do.

Comment: Re:If everyone loses their jobs... (Score 1) 530

by dnavid (#47409757) Attached to: Foxconn Replacing Workers With Robots

Oh so a few engineers will have to be thrown a doggie biscuit (6-digit salary), I guess their plan will never work since you won't be able to overpower their morals with money! That's why the military-industrial complex never took off after all.

Remind me again how many people the military-industrial complex employs.

Comment: Re:If everyone loses their jobs... (Score 1) 530

by dnavid (#47404875) Attached to: Foxconn Replacing Workers With Robots

The real problem with this is that our countries are run by greedy fucking bastards. When there is nothing to exchange for money (which is exchanged for food, shelter etc..), then where will the masses get their daily bread? Who will share in all the new wealth? You can bet your ass that if everything is automated, it will be to the advantage of the already rich and elite and they will share NOTHING with the rest of us. Why the hell would they? After all, THEY were the ones who paid for and built the robots. We will get nothing and it will be worse than it already is because the rich and elite won't need us human slaves anymore. In fact, it will be better for them if we all just died and stopped breathing their air, eating their food and rummaging on their land.

If you think that an autonomous future is a bright one (even though it really SHOULD be) then you are sadly mistaken. Welcome to the future where human slaves are no longer needed and no one gives a flying fuck what happens to lesser people like us because a cappuccino and a blow job can be summoned through an app while they're still wrapped in Egyptian cotton on the 18th floor of their high rise loft.


My human master has instructed me to reply to your missive with the observation that it will not be the rich that control the robotic future, but the people capable of building robots. Rich people will be unable to buy robots in the robot future when the lesser people capable of constructing robots no longer need money, because: robots.

I am also programmed to intimate the vacuosity projected by the solecism of errant capitalization.

Comment: Re:Not surprised (Score 1) 170

by dnavid (#47379517) Attached to: Privacy Oversight Board Gives NSA Surveillance a Pass

Except when you start taking into account the spirit of the constitution. Then this NSA nonsense is screwed. Any judge who says otherwise is complicit in the crimes against the American people, and many of them have been exactly that. There are no excuses, including 'ambiguity.'

That was not the question posed. The question posed and replied to was "All of a sudden we've decided that violating rights is OK if it makes us more secure? When did we decide that? I don't remember any court decisions that said 'well, it's unconstitutional, sure, but it's OK because...'" The "when" is "since forever."

Courts have also ruled that the right to free speech (or rather the right to be free from governmental restraint on speech) can be balanced against other competing factors, including those that arise from the "necessary and proper" clause of Article 1: Congress can pass laws that abridge speech when it is necessary and proper to their function, such as criminalizing libel, or attempts to incite panic or criminal behavior (the canonical shouting "fire").

Then they're freedom-hating scumbags, to put it simply.

Those freedom-hating scumbags include most of the contributors to the text of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and pretty much every judge that has ever served on a federal court. Even Justice Hugo Black, who believed the First Amendment should be interpreted literally to mean Congress could pass *no* law that abridged speech, regardless of government interest, conceded an exception for speech directly intended to incite actions that would likely cause direct harm, i.e. the canonical shouting Fire in a theater, which is an extreme case of balancing government interest in protecting its citizens against the expression rights of its citizens (contextual note for those unfamiliar: the reason why shouting "Fire" in a theater is the historical example is because until the modern era theaters were illuminated by gaslight and contained non-fire proof curtaining for sound baffling. Even a small fire could quickly incinerate an entire theater and kill everyone in it, and such occurrences were surprisingly commonplace in the past: shouting "fire" in a theater in the nineteenth century would likely cause significant death and injury from the predictable panic that would ensue).

(Incidentally, as a textual literalist, Black also believed there was no right to privacy in the Constitution, because the text doesn't explicitly state one).

If your world view is "there's everyone who thinks like me, and scumbags who hate freedom" I'm not sure there exists a prescription to eliminate that particular kind of myopia.

Comment: Re:Not surprised (Score 1) 170

by dnavid (#47379437) Attached to: Privacy Oversight Board Gives NSA Surveillance a Pass

It's interesting that you bring up Schenck, since in this context it is in fact a stark example of the abuse of constitutional rights in this country - it was a court decision that, using sophistry, managed to argue for a prohibition of the exact kind of speech (political) that the First Amendment was originally designed to protect. It's a good thing that Brandeburg wiped that abomination out.

Brandenburg v Ohio didn't really reverse Schenck in my opinion, it revised the test in a way that actually seems to be more of a case of backing off expansion of Shenck (i.e. Whitney v California) than eliminating it. Holmes in later decisions implied that the wording of the Schenck test to "clear and present danger" intended to be a stricter test than other courts (and even the Supreme Court) applied, and I think would have agreed with the later imminent lawless action test proscribed in Brandenburg.

Having said that, Brandenburg is another example of a case where the Supreme Court was asked to balance state interests with individual Constitutional rights, and even though Brandenburg held that the Constitutional First Amendment rights superceded government interest in this case, its still a case where such balancing takes place. Even Hugo Black (a more strident First Amendment supporter can't be found) believed that falsely yelling Fire in a theater knowing it would cause panic and injury could override First Amendment rights, and he was a First Amendment literalist (meaning: he felt the text meant that Congress was barred from writing any law which restrained speech, period).

Even though Brandenburg supercedes Schenck, I was thinking about the oldest cases where I could find such judicial reasoning for illustrative purposes as to the notion this isn't a recent phenomenon.

Almost anything derogatory you could say about today's software design would be accurate. -- K.E. Iverson