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Comment Re:Buuuuuullshit (Score 1, Insightful) 725

Nowhere do you talk about what is actually true. Which means you're not particularly interested in what's true. You're only interested in putting every "point-of-view" on equal footing. Because after all, who are you gonna believe? The "failing" NY Times? Why not take brietbart seriously? It's much more emotionally satisfying.

Pointing out the fact that social media has become infected with weaponized viral click-bait is not a conspiracy of losers. It is exactly what all journalists do, which is to look into all the reasons why such a historic event took place. The fact that light is shined on such practices means journalism is still alive and well.

The internet is undermining our ability as citizens to discern fact from fiction without resorting to specialized research most do not have time for using tools most do not have. And BTW, yes fascists and fake news outlets are the enemy. Go look up who calls themselves alt-right. Or maybe you only read brietbart?

Comment Re:And to think the DNC wanted to face Trump... (Score 1) 2837

Simple answer: Because voting for Trump is a choice to look the other way and reward someone who sees women as - to put it lightly - lesser humans, while voting for Clinton in part because she is a woman is an attempt to redress THOUSANDS of years of female disempowerment.

And for the record, very few are voting for her BECAUSE she is a woman, most believe a woman president would by definition be more interested in women's issues than a man - especially one like Trump. And unlike you apparently, most people consider women's issues to be worthy of attention.

Finally, the fact that you consider the nature of one's genitals to be the primary difference between men and women demonstrates a shallow understanding of human nature.

Comment Re:This'll end up in court... (Score 1) 558

Why can't the market decide this? Why should this end up in court? ... [It] only works if a critical mass of retailers actually stand up to the currently dominant players

They would of course love to have a competitor for payments, but they cant take the risk of short term retaliation.

Apple will not bring anything new to the retailers. Anyone using Apple Pay already has a debit/credit card they are already quite willing and able to swipe and sign/press. They wouldn't have a phone in the first place. Plus the advantage to the consumer is still theoretical at best. I still remember wondering why swiping is so much worse than near-field "tapping". The effect was exactly the same and there was less that could go wrong with the tech (plus the security risks inherent with broadcast).

Even more importantly, large credit card companies can insinuate a rate increase of a few tenths of a penny and low-margin, high-volume outfits like CVS and Rite Aide will cry uncle and ask what they can do to help. That's power.

If the courts were to give the retailers cover by slapping the CC companies with fines and/or directives for monopolistic behavior that harms the consumer, they might be more willing to push the changes through.

Comment Re:Radicalization (Score 1) 868

First of all, you're an ignorant blow-hard who could not be more wrong about other nations in the region. (Given that you're likely a "low information" Fox viewer, this is not surprising.) The Lebanese president, half of the cabinet, and half of the parliament are Christian. Fully 10% of the Jordanian parliament are Christian (even though they are only 7% of the population). Before the current civil war, Syria had a strong Christian presence in their culture and government. There are even Christians in the Palestinian Authority (although none in Hamas). So you're A Idiot on that front.

Second, why should the US maintain a "special" relationship with Israel if they are only marginally better than their neighbors when in comes to tolerance and human rights? This is not to say that Muslim-Israeli citizens are treated badly per se (although they do not have much power), but the fact that Israel claims that Gaza and the West Bank without offering any rights to it's residents looks a lot like apartheid to the rest of the world. While the US is unlikely to cut aid significantly (or even at all) in the near future, until they drop either the notion of a Jewish state and grant the Palestinians citizenship or cut Gaza and the WB loose, they are going to continue to feel pressure until they are completely on their own.

It is not all Israel's fault, but they do share the blame and have the power to stop it. And it does have to stop.

Comment consequences (Score 1) 822

While the consensus here appears to be that the "ends justified the means", what mechanism should be used to actually label someone a whistleblower vs a criminal/traitor? After all, not everyone thinks the NSA should be barred from reading emails or keeping meta-data. (I tend to agree that they overstepped their mandate and should have more explicit limitations, but not that they are an out-of-control menace that must be stopped at all costs).

If, for example, someone working for the NSA thinks a particular program is "bad" and leaks details that leave it hobbled, should they be given a pass because some percentage of the US population agrees? Should it be based on opinion polls? Maybe just /. commenters? Should we mimic the Romans when they honored Passover by letting the crowds pick a criminal for pardon? We can pardon a Turkey and a whistleblower for Thanksgiving.

The point I am trying to make is that Snowden may deserve leniency based on "mitigating circumstances", but he is not accused of "political" crimes. He is accused of leaking state secrets. Such cases cannot be left to trial by Twitter. Yes, trust in government is at an all-time low, but that does not make it irrelevant. And it certainly doesn't make it wrong on everything. If people get to do whatever they want in the name of "fighting tyranny", we will end up with a kind of "Stand Your Ground" precedent for leakers - "I felt threatened by the NSA spying on penguins in Peru, so no criminal charges should be brought."

Comment Re:Unwise (Score 1) 324

Ok, so what good is the NSA without an enforcement mechanism? The armed services are only there to thwart a revolution by "Real Americans", so should be disarmed and dismissed. Oh, and we should dismantle our spy satellites because they might look into your backyard for the AR-15s you stockpiled under the rose garden. Obviously the national guard should be disbanded since they are only there to keep us in, not keep others out.

You seem to believe all of the most extreme rhetoric one finds in a Tea Party/Libertarian pamphlet. Do you have any actual proof that the NSA's mission is to control US citizens? Paranoia is defined thusly: "A mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically elaborated into an organized system."

In the world I live in, Elizabeth Warren is now a Senator, NYC elected a borderline socialist as mayor, President Obama just raised taxes on the "1%", and the problem of inequality is being discussed more and more. It does not sound like the NSA is doing a very good job of squelching debate. But perhaps we're just not as good as the Chinese seem to be.

I understand your concern about the scale and power of the intelligence community. It is in fact the duty of all citizens to be vigilant in the defense of freedom. But I suppose if you believe the whole "drown the govt in a bathtub" thing, there's not much more you'll have to offer in this discussion. But we'll see. Unless of course the NSA gets a look at this and we both hear the black helicopters coming...

Comment Unwise (Score 1) 324

I have been largely sympathetic to Snowden, especially given the scope of the NSA's domestic spying. But I have a real problem with this disclosure. Assuming it is true that none of these devices were meant for US machines (a dubious assumption, I agree, but the use of these tactics domestically is a separate issue anyway), then exposing NSA capabilities to our adversaries is quite simply "aiding and abetting".

Is there any doubt that the Chinese, Russians, Iranians, etc are right now examining their equipment for the presence of this device? And when they do find something, what good does that do US citizens? None.

If the net result of Snowden's leaks are that the NSA is hobbled in its actual job - acquiring foreign intelligence - then we should not be so quick to congratulate him. It is obvious that the domestic issues must be addressed, but the idea that the NSA is an unnecessary evil is stupid and dangerous. The new sport of trashing the intelligence services should be tempered with a sober look at the real threats we face. Whether it is guaranteed trips to heaven via high explosives or nation states with an agenda, we are not out of the woods yet. What if N. Korea or Iran now knows we're tapped into their nuclear infrastructure? What if Syria or the Taliban now knows we've been intercepting military communications? What if this was all about China and we lose an important window into their thinking?

Yes, there can be legitimate doubts about the effectiveness of a given technique (and domestic use should be verboten), but does that make all of them worthless for all time? The world is still a very dangerous place, and while vigilance in the protection of our basic rights is essential, we must also remain realistic and pragmatic.

Comment Re:Hold up. (Score 5, Interesting) 600

Check out Richard Feynman's lecture regarding space-time and his analogy of bugs on a sphere. If you tell them that the rule for making a square is to go N units in one direction, then turn 90 degrees and repeat until you complete the square, they would find that they cannot actually make a square. This leads them to conclude that there is "something wrong" with their space.

The point is that while the underlying nature of their universe as a sphere is unavailable to them because they cannot escape it to see the bigger picture, they can still infer that because Euclid's rules of geometry don't work there must be something going on that they can't see. Moreover, they should be able to guess that there is curvature - without knowing for sure - because of exactly how the rules break down.

This is essentially what people talk about when they refer to the difference between larger objects like clumps of atoms and smaller ones like electrons and quarks. For some reason our 3D (technically it's 4D according to Einstein) universe only behaves "normally" until we start measuring it at a small scale. Then we start seeing where our rules about the behavior of "observable" objects - i.e., the stuff we can perceive with our senses - break down and are replaced by the true nature of the subatomic universe. In other words, when we look at quarks do stuff, we can no longer make the square.

Constructs like the one described above are the result of us trying to get our little bug heads around the way in which our every day rules break down when really tiny things are involved. It's a way for the bugs to correct Euclid to account for the spherical nature of things.

Comment Re:Snowden beware (Score 1) 250

Finding instances of bad behavior does not make the case that an entire nation over it's entire history has been a "bad guy" instead of a "good guy". Such a simplistic view makes you sound even more naive than the straw man you've set up.

It is the success of the US culture of individualism and free speech that is the foundation for it's "good guy" status - which was duly earned. Your Chomsky wannabe take on things ignores this fact in the hope of...well, what exactly? Are you suggesting that there is another superpower with a better record of human rights that the US should emulate? Ancient Rome? Medieval Spain? Elizabethan England? Prussia? Soviet Russia?

Being better than others does not of course excuse bad behavior, but please do not cherry-pick mistakes in judgement and ignore everything else. It is exactly the kind of simplistic view that sends people into a jingoistic frenzy.

Comment Re:No need for that anymore... (Score 1) 250

All depends on your perspective. To people outside the US, the CIA is the most well funded and brutal terrorist organization in the world!


Because the CIA regularly blows up markets full of people, poisons the drinking water in girls' schools, cuts journalists' heads off and posts a video of it online, etc, etc, etc, etc. Just because the CIA is feared does not mean it is a terrorist organization. The (over)use of the term "terrorism" to describe any kind of violence is the result of GWB's ridiculous use of the term "War on Terror". By declaring war on a tactic instead of an organization, he opened up the US to this kind of derision. Please do not fall into that trap because it does not reflect reality and only hurts the cause of peace because it foments exactly the kind of mistrust and fear that actual terrorists need to thrive. If you don't like drone strikes, propose an alternative and fight for it. Don't just take pot shots at the US's first line of defense against people who do actually want to kill indiscriminately so as to create terror in the general population.

Comment Re:Chill people (Score 1) 347

It is our worst dystopian nightmares made real. It is 1984 in 2013. Our government is behaving in a way that is indistinguishable from the very worst surveillance police states.

Wow, that is some serious hyperbole. Have you actually read 1984? Do you have any idea what it means to live in a totalitarian state like Soviet Russia or even modern China? A police state actually arrests people for what they say. Have you or anyone you know or even read about been arrested for what they've said to anyone anywhere? Even Manning was not arrested for saying something and Snowden is not being chased because of his opinions about the NSA. They were arrested for leaking state secrets - a fact which even they do not dispute.

In Soviet Russia (and even to some degree contemporary Russia), people are arrested for simply speaking out against the government. In China, people are regularly sent to forced labor camps for their political opinions and even their religious affiliation.

If you or I get caught in their dragnet we won't have anything to worry about either because they just do detection

What dragnet? They have no jurisdiction over citizens, and I dare you to find any evidence of anything more than people falsely put on a watch list (which is not maintained by the NSA, but by the DHS). Please provide evidence of these mythical dragnets. And again I emphasize the fact that were the US government to go fascist and actually start rounding people up a la USSR, the constitution and the courts would not help. The NSA is a tool of government, not the government itself. As long as we are vigilant in our oversight - and I stress that I think more oversight and transparency is necessary - we have little to be concerned about.

You are insulting and diminishing the struggles of people in China, Saudia Arabia, Iran, N. Korea, etc etc by claiming that life is the US is even remotely the same as life in those places. It's like saying that the cops busting you for beer in the park is the same thing as people in the south being beaten for speaking out against segregation.

In other words treating people as criminals only after they have done something suspicious.

Actually the definition of a criminal is someone who has been convicted of a crime, so the simple act of surveilling someone does not make them a criminal. But that is just you being a bit confused. My original point was that the idea that no information about a person should be collected until after they have been made the target of an investigation would mean that phone, financial and other transactional records would no longer be kept any longer than the organizations who generate them deem it necessary. Such record keeping is expensive, and there would undoubtedly be cases where actual criminal activity would go unpunished for lack of evidence. Consider the Swiss banks. Do you imagine that their habit of keeping records secret is based on some principle of privacy? No, it is based on the fact that people all over the world are willing to pay a premium to keep their money somewhere that legitimate law enforcement investigations cannot get to them.

Again, the NSA is an intel gathering organization that is charged with determining threats before they occur. Not charging people with crimes after they happen.

Good. Stopping one or two suicide bombers every decade is not worth giving up our privacy from government intrusion. If I had to decide between the terrorists and the NSA I'd choose the terrorists. They are far less harmful to us than than the NSA.

First of all, what makes you think it was "one or two suicide bombers"? Do you have evidence for this? Because the NSA is claiming that they have thwarted more than 300 plots with these programs. They may not possess the unfaltering trust of the people at the moment, but even if that's 10x the actual number, 30 attacks over the past few years would have been devastating to the both the American psyche and its well-being. Consider how much more power would be given to the NSA were that number of plots actually successful. Chilling.

Because freedom from tyranny requires it. Once the government itself becomes the true enemy of its people then I for one will be cheering for the terrorists. Let them blow up the white house and the pentagon. I'd vote for whoever did it.

And the people of the Middle East are very happy with how well Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban have worked out as governing bodies. When fear and intimidation is your only path to support, you cannot abandon that path once you gain power. Have you studied anything at all about how the National Socialists came to power? They blew things up, intimidated people and claimed that once they were in power the abuses would stop. How'd that work out?

Even if the NSA were keeping everyone's emails, how exactly does that make them the enemy of the people? It does go against many of the principles we have considered sacrosanct, especially in the face of actual totalitarian regimes like Soviet Russia and China. But it does not alone make it the enemy. Is it possible that the NSA is actually made up of patriotic well-meaning people who are doing their best to protect the US from the very real and continuing threats it faces? No, probably not because you are immature enough to say things like "...fuck Big Brother and fuck you." That screams "daddy can't tell me what to do anymore", so there is little chance that you can impartially judge any powerful institution.

Abuse is what they do.

Evidence? None. I am certain there have been abuses, but the kind of widespread abuses that would justify getting "rid of the NSA entirely or at least disable it during times of peace." And even if we did for some reason shut it down. What would you replace it with? Moreover, how exactly do you define "times of peace"? I understand that we are not at war in the way the Bush administration claimed. But would we have any chance at all of stopping a serious plot against, for example, a major American city without an institution like the NSA? Like Ron Paul, you want to shut the government down without any consideration for what would rise up the vacuum. I suppose since you are ready to root for terrorism, you would have no problem with people killing thousands in a NYC tunnel or a crowed stadium. Perhaps your desire for anarchy is more a function of your hatred for institutions you personally deem to be too powerful than any defensible reasoning.

Monitoring all online forms of communication and cell phones and landlines is just a start.

Did you even read the slide deck Snowden released? The NSA is not monitoring anyone without approval from a judge. Collecting data is not the same thing as monitoring someone. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a phone call's meta data is stored and no one ever looks at it, does it constitute monitoring? Each question is legitimate and each is open to different interpretations, but you must balance the cost and benefit of such data retention before simply judging it all with the harshest interpretation.

I have lived in Cuba, and I still think the US is somewhat fascist and things are accelerating in a nonlinear fashion toward complete totalitarianism. These new revelations about our 1984-ish surrveillance state is even more evidence that this is so.

Again, opinion is not evidence. I ask again, have you actually read 1984 or are you just imagining it to be whatever you want it to be? If you lived in Cuba, you must have a reasonable sense of why most people living there would prefer the NSA to Castro. The NSA does not round up political enemies and kill them. The NSA does not outlaw political opposition. The NSA is not Castro. You would truly relieve yourself of any credibility if you claim that it is.

Orwell wrote 1984 as a commentary on the nature of Communism in the Soviet Union, and was simply taking what was the current state of affairs in Russia and extrapolating it to its logical conclusion. He was not talking about surveillance alone. He was talking about the way in which a totalitarian regime must maintain complete control over people's lives in order to stay in power. The US needs no such control because people actually want to live the way they do in the US.

The simplest test for this is to ask yourself, "am I at risk for saying what I am saying about the NSA?" You are not. In the state of Oceania, you would be arrested and executed for even thinking that there was something wrong with the government.

Please point out the relevant section of the constitution where it states that only American citizens have human rights and that the US government is free to enslave or murder or otherwise mistreat any non-US citizen simply because they weren't born here. I'll wait.

The 14th Amendment states that the government cannot "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". That means non-citizens living outside the US do not share that protection except under very specific circumstances. To claim that they do would be to say that people living in another country are subject to US law. Moreover, while there are certain universal rights assigned to "persons" living within the jurisdiction of the US, not all protections are granted in such a broad way. The 14th Amendment states that it prohibits "any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States." This explicitly states that these protections are for US citizens. Please understand that I believe these rights should be universal, but the idea that people living outside the US can plot against it with impunity is absurd. And this begs the question, what court would the US government acquire such rights under the rules of due process? The FISA court. Should it be more open and less of a rubber stamp? Absolutely. But the idea that the US is simply ignoring people's rights is simply wrong.

You really are a shill aren't you? I mean, you actually work for the NSA or some part of public relations responsible for defending them online. This sounds like it comes right out of some internal propaganda sheet. Traitor.

Ignoring the slander for a moment, I would suggest that you reconsider calling anyone who disagrees with your assessment of the situation a traitor. That is exactly what 1984 and a totalitarian state is all about. I find it quite amusing that your big finish involves claims of disloyalty to your cause and accusations of commiserating with the "enemy". You sir are the type of person who the average citizen should be concerned about. You are the definition of a zealot who considers opinion as fact, speculation as truth, and evidence as lies. What was the motto of the Oceanic government? Oh right, it was: Ignorance is strength.

Comment Re:Chill people (Score 1) 347

Did this great system tell them that the Boston Marathon was going to be bombed? No, it didn't. It should have, after all, that was what it is for. But it and the NSA have failed miserably.

So they should just stop trying? There is no doubt such a system is an effective intelligence tool or they would not use it and no one would even be afraid of it. A single failure does not justify scrapping what is otherwise a very effective system. Even if they're only telling the truth about 10% of the threats they claim to have thwarted, that's 30 terror plots that would have otherwise been successful. And perhaps even more to the point, it surely slows down the development of a plot when those involved must go to such great lengths to avoid detection.

Because right now it's being abused.

According to whom? Snowden? What evidence has he presented? He has exposed the existence and some portion of the nature of these programs, but I have yet to see a shred of evidence that it is being abused in any systematic way - or even by any individuals. He has made various claims about what he could have done, but does that mean he could have done it and gotten away with it? No. There are surely abuses of every such system and oversight is necessary, but claiming that it is being abused without evidence sounds a lot like what Daryl Issa is trying to do. Which brings me to...

And if you don't believe that, remember that the IRS targeted "by accident" various political groups recently.

You're kidding right? Read this or this or this and any number of other reports about the fact that the IRS targeted any group claiming tax-exempt status in the months leading up to the election. The whole "keyword" fracas turned out to be a wash as they targeted just as many if not more progressive groups as tea party groups. Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that anyone in Washington had anything to do with the Cincinnati office and their unfortunate use of keywords in group names to filter the thousands of PACs requesting exemptions. Why do you think no one cares anymore but Fox? And even they dont talk much about it anymore. The GOP in general has disavowed it and not even the leadership thinks that dog will hunt.

This database, as it stands now, is only being used for abuse, and/or for monetary/political gains by people with access to it.

Where exactly are you getting this ridiculous nonsense? The Weekly World News? The Enquirer? Oh, must be Newsmax. Did you see the one about Obama being an alien? (Not the foreign from space).

Comment Re:We U.S. Citizens Are All Criminals! (Score 1) 347

the only valid probable cause to surveil the entire domestic population is to declare them likely criminals

One question. Does a CCTV camera on a busy street mean we are declaring everyone on that street a likely criminal? I would suggest that no, it doesn't. What it does is collect information that can be used once an actual criminal investigation is started. Similarly, if someone charges something to their credit card, a record is kept and the data is protected as "papers" according to the Forth Amendment. Does that mean the government has no right to that information if the person is the target of a wire fraud investigation? No.

The point is, access to data is not the same thing as using it in a prosecution - see: Miranda Rights.

Moreover, email is special because it a transient medium. In other words, there is currently no mandate for SMTP hosts to keep emails, and even if there were, would a terror cell operating their own servers respect such a mandate? Of course not. And because the only access the NSA has to such data is over public networks, it has no effective way to filter messages sent to/from just the threats. It would slow the process to a crawl and render it useless. A more effective system is to collect all the data in bulk and only look at the bits (literally) that matter. In this way the process can follow standard probable cause guidelines. Is there room for abuse? Yes. But is the risk any greater than giving the FBI access to every financial transaction going through every US bank? Certainly not.

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