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Comment Re:It's much worse than that. (Score 2) 413

There is nothing you can do to defend yourself against an agency that knows everything you do. What are you supposed to do? Tell them no and hope they play nice?

I've said it once and I'll say it again. "Enemy of the State" is a movie that gets more scarier and more precient with each passing year. It's only a matter of time until a senator really is outright murdered.

Comment Re:We can't win without eliminating FISA. (Score 2) 413

The only way to win this is to get FISA eliminated. Without first eliminating the gag orders and the Star Chamber...I mean FISA courts, we cannot succeed on the whole.

You don't have to eliminate the gag orders. They're blatantly unconstiutional.

I see a lot of people taking the attitude of basically "wait and see" when it comes to these gag order. This is absurd in the extreme. All such actions do is reinforce the fear and thrid hand authority of these "orders".

The best thing everyone in reciept of such a gag order can do is publish or publisice it in the same way as any ordinary warrant served. They will try to prosecute, but in so doing they will have to put their law to the test. They don't want to do that -- yet. So, I'd hurry up and publish.

Comment Re:Great country you have over there (Score 1) 771

That's what most Americans who've never left the US would say. In practice, there are few places worse. You'd have to work hard to land somewhere worse. China is better than the US, so long as you don't spend time and money opposing the government.

My Chinese friends who live in China certainly don't think it's better. Some of them desire more political freedom, specifically a true multi-party system that would offer some choices. I hear a ton of complaints about corruption in government officials. In the US this gets punished enough that there seems to be a big incentive against it as the fear of getting caught is high. In China, few government officials fear getting caught and they have the idea that the odds are that they either won't get caught or if they don't go too far with the corruption, they can just bribe their way out of it. My friends also have expressed some fear about food contamination with the idea that those responsible will likely never be punished, even if people die from it.

Comment Re:Interesting (Score 1) 520

It will be interesting to see how they will handle this. When I visited China, computer security didn't seem to be one of the top priorities among the computer users, so the majority of the population might just not care much about updates.

I can confirm this. My previous job was doing customer support on an email product my company sold (had anti-spam and various other features). We used to host customer mail domains on our servers, so all mail involving our email customers went through us, both from them and to them. We were always getting servers on blacklists because some stupid customer in China had a compromised PC that was sending spam through us. We'd have to contact the customer with some kind of nasty warning email that they if they didn't clean up their servers that we'd have to shut down their access. The impression I got was that nobody in China cared anything about patching their PCs or security in any manner.

One of the reasons that XP might still be widely in use was that it was the last version of Windows that could easily be cracked and distributed and made to look legit to Microsoft's validation servers. Microsoft has backed down from every previous deadline on stopping support of XP so while I do understand why it would be in their best interests to stick to the deadline this time, their reluctance to do so previously makes me think that they'll likely push this one off by yet another year or two as it gets closer to the deadline.

Comment Re:Stuck?? (Score 1) 366

The problem is the economic instability it would create, as so much of the world's production capacity is devoted to a vanity project useless to 99.99999% of the population.

The gross world product in 2012 was something like 85 trillion US dollars. If you built the whole thing in one year, it would represent about 1% of the global economic output. Even if we assume (incorrectly) that we just took the $800 billion in cash and then set it on fire, a 1% bite out of GWP falls into the category of "slowed economic growth", rather than "unmitigated global catastrophe".

In practice, the project wouldn't happen in one year. For a space-based engineering project of unprecedented scale and cost, a ten-year process is probably more realistic (though still optimistic). Eighty or a hundred billion dollars per year - 0.1% of GWP - is a barely-perceptible economic drag. In terms of per-year expenditure, it's a bit less than what the U.S. goverment has poured into their global war on terror over the last decade or so.

And yes, it would be an enormous vanity project, but most of the economic return from it would take place on Earth--not be burned, or trapped forever in orbit. The contractors who would build the space station components and rockets all live right here on Earth. Every stage of the project from mining the raw materials to building the modules and fabricating the computers takes place on terra firma. The billionaires get a habitat in space, but they leave their dollars on Earth.

Comment Amber alert in my state (Score 2) 380

I live in the eastern US and also am an AT&T customer. A few months ago I got blasted awake by an Amber alert in the middle of the night. It was the loudest sound I ever have heard coming from my iPhone. I honestly did not know it was possible for the phone to produce a sound that loud. I was less than thrilled at having received no warning about this being implemented. The next morning I read up on how to disable the alerts. If you haven't received an Amber alert on your phone, disable them now because you definitely do not want your first experience to be your phone screaming like a banshee in the middle of the night.

Comment Alright then. Carry On. (Score 5, Insightful) 382

Oh I see. The man searched thinks it was all just a misunderstanding. I guess that makes it OK then.

I guess it also covers the costs in time, money, equipment and paperwork spent on a search that should never have happened. I guess it also makes up for any useful work the men involved could have been engaged in like looking for actual terrorists or investigating organised crime in the banks. I would worry about how the NSA's Ur-dragnet/Informer hotline is throwing up so many false flags that law enforcement is now too busy to deal with actual problem, but this splendidly chipper blog post had allayed all of my concerns.

I'm glad that's all cleared up then.

Comment Re:Dear God (Score 1) 124

Skilling's Enron sentence was cut from 23 to 14 years recently. It'll probably be reduced further before he serves his remaing 8 years. I estimate he'll be out on parole in 10 years.

When you think of the sheer amounts of money he could have been skimming off during Enron's "golden years", I'd consider 10 years a pretty good deal.

Comment "Ratfucking" (Score 4, Insightful) 96

A similar dynamic of student-election "dirty tricks" graduating into general election bugging and sabotage of election opponents played out during the Watergate scandal. Donald Segretti cut his teeth in election fraud during his USC days, and later applied his skills in Nixon's reelection campaign, the resulting "Muskie letters" effectively knocking a democratic senator out of the campaign. Karl Rove came from the same school of campaigning.

These incidents are as perfect an example of "Broken Window Theory" in politics as you are likely to come across. "Shenanigans" in college, if left unchecked, lead inevitably to outright election fraud. If you permit criminals to train their skills, operate unpunished, and indeed enjoy the rewards of their misdeeds, they are unlikely to change their ways in a hurry.

On a related note, I regard most student politcs in universities as a wholly illegitimate process. The resulting bodies and persons do not represent the student body or its values. At best, they organise drunken festivals and serve as a training ground for the corrupt and incompetent cadre currently in charge of the western world.

Comment Re:What problem is this solving? (Score 5, Insightful) 266

The argument seems to hinge on the fact that quite young kids are accessing this, and growing up with a very distorted view of sexuality -- google for "Rainbow Parties" as an example.

"Rainbow Parties" are the invention of neurotic adults with awful sex lives, not the internet. They are the sex-obsessed housewife's version of a teenagers "cleveland steamer" -- a ludicrously absurd sexual practice which says more about the mind that considers it than it does about reality.

I don't buy the idea that children are growing up with a skewed idea of sexuality. You show me studies revealing higher incidences of sexual dysfunctions, neuroses, or crimes in present day youth compared to past decades, I might think differently. But if your arguments center around "Rainbow parties" and 11 year olds thinking "bukkake" is normal, then I think the problem is You.

Comment Re:Our culture (Score 3, Interesting) 1029

In all fairness this is one you can't blame on our culture. Blockbuster movies need to be international. International means they can't have as much culture.

Bollocks. Lazy studio thinking. Lazy thinking in general. You're assuming that audiences are uneducated and want neither to think nor to learn, and that because it may be difficult or more challenging than scripting a gunfight, that it is impossible for writers, directors, and actors to communicate a story effectively in a world with slightly different cultural norms and expectations.

Many Hollywood films - indeed, entire genres - are deliberately placed within cultures (and/or against cultural backdrops) that are separated from the expectations and standards and mores of the early twenty-first century USA -- sometimes by a little bit, sometimes by gaping chasms. When well-executed, the audience is immersed in the film's cultural context, and able to follow the plot despite their lack of (initial) familiarity with the setting.

This is the bread and butter of science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, even of the political thriller. One does not need to have flown a starship or know how to cast magic spells to appreciate Star Trek or Harry Potter. One does not need to be indoctrinated into the world of high finance to enjoy Wall Street, nor deeply study geopolitics to grasp the fun of The Hunt for Red October.

And honestly, those international audiences have been consuming the output of the United States' cultural industries for decades. The typical foreign filmgoer is probably almost as familiar with the genre conventions and tropes of American filmmaking as any American.

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