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Comment Missing the point (Score 3, Insightful) 955

A lot of comments are about the morality of releasing the documents (constitution vs. obeying orders) seem to be missing the larger point. In Snowden's own words from his interview with the Guardian, the American people need to decide if this federal data collection problem is right or wrong. From all appearances, both major parties (Democrat and Republican) are firmly in the grip of the industrial-security complex. How can we change this? How can we make the government respect the will of the majority of its citizens with regards to individual privacy rights and due process? President Obama said that "he welcomes the debate". Would he have welcomed the debate last week? How can we have an honest public debate when anyone who provides documents is immediately threatened with life in the slammer?

As long as both parties tow the same common line on security issues, I hope that there will be more and more Snowdens and Mannings, because for a lot of these people, there is no other recourse than to go the press and hope that public opinion comes down on their side. If these programs really do save lives, the government needs to finally come clean and stop just saying "just trust us." I wish Snowden good luck and hope that he finds asylum somewhere safe, and I hope that if someday sanity returns to the federal government, he can come home without being threatened.

Comment in Germany (Score 1) 1215

In Germany, the government uses ELSTER, which is an online tax form. It only works reliably under a 32-bit Windows browser with 32-bit java. It doesn't work (at least in my experience) under OS X or Linux. There are some workarounds with WINE running IE though.

Comment Re:Taxes in the cloud (Score 1) 1215

Technically, there's no reason the government couldn't automatically file the tax returns for most americans. Once the FATCA (another "counter-terrorism" jewel) is fully implemented, the government could also file the returns of americans with foreign bank accounts, at least those who reveal their U.S. citizenship. So why all the paperwork? If you fill it out incorrectly, the government would know and could punish you.

Comment Work as a gear-head, but software skills help (Score 1) 190

I work on the mechanical engineering side of the house, but proficiency in coding helps with quickly automating routine calculations or adapting modeling software to better suit my needs. Mostly MATLAB/Simulink type scripting, but also have been known to use C or FORTRAN 77 from time to time. My interest in more modern languages is very limited at best, the attractive thing about classical programing languages is predictability. I've Toyed with Objective-C, but way too many frameworks and classes for the amount of time I have to invest, and it seems Obj-C is a user-interface centric language...I have no interest in programming UI-applications because I know that I lack the ability to design a workable user interface.

Comment Re:Energy a bit more important than Beer (Score 1) 325

The fracking process needs to be throughoutly tested imo, to my knowledge the company producing the liquid pumped in still didn't even disclose the contents of the liquid....

That's the whole point. If the (the extraction companies) disclosed what was being put into the ground, it would be possible to prove that ground water is contaminated by fracking.

Comment Re:Energy a bit more important than Beer (Score 1) 325

We shouldn't defend anybody polluting private water wells - that's an affront to property rights - but it's also silly to think that any of those wells contain 'pure water'....

Water never stays in one place, even underground the water moves. It's impossible to predict which ground water will be contaminated by fracking.

Comment Common topic in human factors (Score 1) 397

Not to use the flying car analogy again, but a lot of systems that used to be manual are now automated in aviation, shipping, or in power generation. On the surface, automation should make us all safer, but it creates new hazards. To take aviation as an example, earlier a typical aircrew consisted of two pilots, a flight engineer, a navigator, and sometimes a radio operator, etc. They were all very busy and involved in piloting the aircraft. With automation, that aircrew has been replaced by two pilots who are really there to monitor and make some good decisions when things go wrong. But many studies have shown that humans are really bad at monitoring things and a lot of modern mishaps have inattention, or lack of good airmanship as casual factors.

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"The urge to destroy is also a creative urge." -- Bakunin [ed. note - I would say: The urge to destroy may sometimes be a creative urge.]