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Comment Re:The Goldman talks... (Score 2) 313

This makes no logical sense. If Clinton or Obama or the Democrats couldn't get Ecuador to give up Assange in the first place, what influence or leverage would they have to push Ecuador to cut Assange's internet? Like I pointed out already, it isn't as if doing such a thing would even be effective, and the US government knows this. Cut Assange's internet? It would only look bad and accomplish nothing to curb any leaks because any such data would be held in multiple locations.

As for deliberately waiting to release the most damning material, that also doesn't make sense. We have already seen real evidence that demonstrates significant and long-term impact of actual scandals surrounding a candidate--e.g., Hillary's email server, and Donald Trump's profane sexism. What doesn't make sense is to do what you describe, which is to wait, because these things take time to percolate through the mainstream media, get discussed and disseminated among the voting public, and sink in and shape opinion. In the case of various allegations Trump supporters have made against Clinton, the rationale for waiting is even more patently absurd, because she isn't being accused of things that are of a salacious nature: their accusations are more deeply political in nature, and if true, would benefit more from an extended period of time to investigate their credibility. Unlike a video where it takes 30 seconds for an average person to understand what was said in a sound bite, Trump supporters' accusations would have their best impact with more time, not less, and this again is supported by the email server controversy, which they have used to maximal advantage.

So, no, I don't buy your argument. Assange is not credible; his vendetta is personal, and he lacks the standing to make good on his claims. That is not to say that Hillary is free of corruption. But there is proof that Trump is a vile and lecherous individual, by whose own admission has not paid his fair share of taxes. Put another way, I don't believe any major players in this election at this point are clean, but there is one individual who everyone can see is not only dirty to his core, he openly brags about it as if it's a selling point.

Comment Re:The Goldman talks... (Score 3, Interesting) 313

The announcement of internet access being cut by a "state actor"--insinuating that this is somehow Clinton's doing--fails to pass basic scrutiny:

1. If it was cut, why not cut it before the transcript leaks, rather than after?
2. What would be accomplished by having parties sympathetic to Clinton cut Assange's internet access when everyone knows that such actions would be ineffective?

The whole thing strikes me as an attempt by Assange to exaggerate his claims. If he had real dirt on Clinton, he would not need to be so coy: it would be plastered all over the headlines. The Russians have been working nonstop to discredit Hillary and the Democrats, and this is the best they could come up with? If anything the result of their attempts would seem to suggest that there's nothing meaningful to be uncovered.

Comment Re:It's not the intrusion per se (Score 4, Insightful) 45

In some sense, yes: the government really shouldn't have secrets, at least in the context of withholding information that is needed to maintain their accountability to the American public, who are in principle the source of the government's power. This is the essential meaning of the famous conclusion of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "...that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

The NSA is a good example of what happens when the government is entrusted to monitor the scope of its own secret-keeping. Their testimony to Congress after the Snowden revelations proves that they regard themselves as not accountable to the people, choosing to directly lie under oath to public officials, even if they believe that doing so ultimately serves the public interest.

To address your more specific case of "how do we catch terrorists or other enemies via their communications if we are obligated to announce how we are monitoring communications," one could just as easily turn the argument around and ask how police can catch criminals if they are obligated to have probable cause and obtain warrants. That is to say, the constraints imposed upon the enforcement of the law are not defined by what is technologically or physically possible or expedient, but from the rights and responsibilities guaranteed by the law itself, and that it is the duty of law enforcement to work within the legal framework they are sworn to uphold, rather than to define that framework and not only choose what tactics are permissible, but prevent anyone but themselves from knowing what is permissible or not. Otherwise, we have no rights, and the government can act with impunity (e.g., extrajudicial killings, summary executions, warrantless search and seizure, all in the name of rooting out crime and terrorism). And we can easily point to contemporaneous examples of the consequences of such policies and see how this is essentially tyranny of the state and the collapse of democratic governance.

How do we catch terrorists? To put it simply, good old fashioned detective work. Build and earn trust between the public and law enforcement. Rather than relying on the government to institute secret panopticon tactics, recognize that the public itself is a far better observer of illegal activities. There will be, of course, vehement criticism of such ideas as "naive" and "wildly idealistic." But it is actually eminently realistic because it begins with the recognition that not every threat can be stopped. What is unrealistic is the notion that a government can detect and respond to all threats through a sophisticated, secret, and pervasive surveillance network. That is the stuff of spy-thriller and dystopian sci-fi fantasy movies.

Comment It's not the intrusion per se (Score 5, Interesting) 45

As I have always maintained, what is most troubling is not the government's surveillance itself, but the complete lack of accountability and oversight with respect to such policy, and that this deliberate opacity is used to hide government malfeasance under the pretense of protecting national security.

In a recent NPR interview I listened to on the radio, this is how the conversation played out: the interviewer kept focusing on drawing comparisons to situations where companies that collect and relay personal data might filter or flag such data for legitimate purposes (e.g., child pornography), and the interviewee did a remarkably poor job of addressing the real issue as I have mentioned above. So long as we focus on the legality of the surveillance itself, such discussions are a losing battle for advocates of privacy and personal liberty, because there are always persuasive moral, legal, and ethical arguments to be made in favor of some kind of broad but algorithmic surveillance without explicit human intervention or judgment. The real point of attack, then, is to bring attention to the fact that the government does their spying on the general public in a way that so totally removes any liability on their part that in the vast majority of cases, we either (1) do not know or cannot confirm the existence of such surveillance in the first place; (2) private corporations are coerced to cooperate and are prevented from divulging the methods used by the government to spy on users; (3) individuals who are subjects of surveillance are unable to defend themselves in a court of law because they aren't granted access to evidence; (4) there is no oversight of such surveillance programs to ensure no abuses take place or that it even operates as is claimed; (5) no results are ever shown that demonstrate the utility or effectiveness of such programs.

In short, if the government wants to throw our constitutional protections out the window in the name of keeping us safe, they could at least do it in a way that makes it clear that it's happening. But since they don't, the only logical conclusion is that they are entirely aware that their programs are illegal, hence the need to lie and hide. And this, I argue, is the root of the problem.

Comment Re:Please file a bug report (Score -1) 132

I think it's worth noting that although this article about the App Store, and you can disable automatic downloads in MacOS System Preferences, the GP post was actually talking about iOS, in which this behavior CANNOT be disabled through any settings available to the user. A device running iOS will automatically download an OS upgrade--and bug you about it every two weeks until it upgrades--whenever it has network access. If you do not disable downloading through your cellular network, it will download 200 MB of data without your permission. If you DO disable downloading through your cellular network, it will download as soon as it connects to wifi, and without your consent.

If you delete the download (which is buried in the Settings menu in iOS), Apple will push the update to your device again, unless you disable all app updates--and even then, it will still download whenever you sync your device. Once the update is on your device, the nagging alerts keep popping up every two weeks.

When Apple brags about iOS adoption rates with each new major release, the reason why the numbers are so high is because they essentially force these updates on all iPhone users that can run the newest version. They do it in a sneaky way by giving users either a choice of "reminding me tonight" or "update it now." No choice to say "I don't want to update at all." It makes Windows 10 look almost user-friendly by comparison, and speaking as a long-time Mac user and iPhone user (I've only used iPhone since their first version back in 2007), I think it's a dick move by Apple, especially after the shitshow that is iOS 10.

Comment It's not about data usage per se (Score 0) 222

It's about consumers not having to monitor their usage so that they don't get screwed with insane overage fees that are calculated per additional MB.

The wireless industry makes a lot of money by penalizing people who go over their usage caps, and that's what this is about. Once you take away that fee structure--whether it's through throttling or unlimited plans--the wireless providers no longer get that huge profit. They say it's about ensuring nobody overwhelms their bandwidth, but this is a complete lie, and Verizon's claims are evidence that they know they are lying. This is about the industry's desire to profit by making it inconvenient for customers to continually monitor their usage, then slamming them with overage fees when they use "too much," despite the cost of such service being no greater than it was when the customer was below their usage cap.

If the regulatory agencies grew a pair and decided to force the wireless companies to bill proportionally to the actual data used regardless of amount used, then we can have a fair discussion about what constitutes "unlimited" data and what the market actually wants. If I pay $35 for 5 GB of data/month, I should pay about $70 for twice that amount; similarly, I should pay about $7 if I only use 1 GB in a month. The whole idea that I pay $X for Y GB/month, and if I don't use all of it, I still pay $X, yet if I go over, I am penalized $Z for each additional GB or fraction thereof, is plain robbery.

Comment Re:I hope Reddit is happy. That dude is probably d (Score 5, Insightful) 137

You seem to have magnified the import of my original statement in your mind.

In relative terms, Americans are indeed far more diverse in their viewpoints and backgrounds than virtually all other nationalities on the planet. And yes, in with respect to access to information, Americans do have the ability to investigate on their own and are, again, relatively much more free to express their own ideas and positions.

However, many (which is the exact word I used in my previous post) Americans are horribly susceptible to propaganda. It is also true that there are many Americans who are smart enough to detect such sophistry. Of course, the United States is not unique in this; any nation's citizens are vulnerable to the machinations of those in power. This has been demonstrated throughout American history and more broadly, world history; but it is all the more evident in the current geopolitical climate. Free access to information and freedom of expression are only parts of the story; these are not in themselves sufficient to inoculate society against the persistent threat of tyranny, as the Founding Fathers had recognized. What they perhaps did not anticipate was the slow encroachment of ignorance upon the public; the systemic failure to educate people, to teach them how to think and reason for themselves. (The familiar saying, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" applies here.)

Consequently, political partisanship in the US has recently led to explicit jingoistic, xenophobic, and racist violence. This is only possible for the reasons I already explained. And the notion of American exceptionalism is merely one manifestation--albeit a rather stark one--of the more fundamental inability to accept facts that contradict an existing worldview when the emotional and cultural investment into that worldview has been considerable and lifelong.

To circle back to North Korea, then, we can see through the lens of history that despotic regimes do not simply appear de novo in a society. They come to power through the exploitation and manipulation of fear, and the slow but steadily increasing intellectual disenfranchisement of each passing generation. We saw this in China during the Cultural Revolution; Russia in the rise of the Soviet Union and more recently, the collusion of the oligarchs to permanently place Putin in power; and Germany post World-War I. The United States, if it is not careful, is just as susceptible, despite the protections afforded by the Constitution, so long as some Americans wallow in their own self-delusions of greatness and superiority. In the course of human civilization, 240 years is but a blink of an eye.

Comment Re:I hope Reddit is happy. That dude is probably d (Score 5, Insightful) 137

You can't blame Redditors for being responsible for a despotic regime's policies of executing anyone who upsets or embarrasses the leadership. The blame lies squarely at the top. It always has, and this is precisely why it is a basic human right to live in a free and just society.

But while we're at it, I dare say that the blame for North Korea's situation also lies with its people. I know that the people are brainwashed, poor, coerced. The Western media likes to characterize the DPRK as a tyrannical government enslaving its hapless citizens, because doing so conveniently focuses the blame on the regime. But that same regime does not operate in a vacuum, as isolated as it is from the rest of the world. The reality is that a large segment of North Korean society actually believes the propaganda that is fed to them, much like how many Americans believe the propaganda they are exposed to. Being shown stark evidence that their worldview is wrong, such people actually redouble their fervor in supporting the narrative they have been led to believe. This phenomenon, carefully exploited, is the seed of fascism.

Comment I don't get the fuss (Score 0) 311

After endless frustration and annoyance at having to deal with tangled cords and accidental yanking on the cord (leading to dropped devices, damaged headphones, or earbuds ripped out of my ears), I bought a pair of Jaybirds a long, long time ago and have never looked back. I've not had any issues with Bluetooth connectivity, and what minor inconveniences there might be, or perceived loss of sound quality, is more than made up for by the freedom from having my ears tethered to my phone.

If you're complaining about Bluetooth headphones in 2016, it's because you've bought crappy ones. Those $40 Plantronics or no-name brand you bought off Amazon are shit. While we're at it, Beats are shit too. I will never buy any Beats product. Ever. Apple can plate every last Beats product in Rose Gold and stuff it where the sun doesn't shine.

But I also don't get the hate and cynicism they've gotten for removing the headphone jack. It's a remnant of the ancient past. Like a lot of technologies, people cling to it because it's familiar, unchanged, simple. And while those are good values to have, there are better reasons to leave it behind, like not having to deal with tangled cords, and not having your screen shatter into a billion pieces because a sudden movement of your arm caught the cord, yanked on the phone, and sent it flying through the air. If you're one of those audiophiles who needs wired headphones, why are you listening to lossy compressed music on your phone, anyway?

People fear change. People hate Apple not because they desire change, but because they have a long history of forcing that change despite the resistance of users, and that resentment is more about the way it feels forced upon them, the lack of being given a choice. But in the end, Apple is proven correct more often than not. That doesn't excuse their heavy-handed tactics, of course, but this whole conspiracy-mongering is just stupid. People concocted equally paranoid theories surrounding their decisions about USB, Blu-Ray, non-removable batteries, and floppy disks.

Comment Re:If one employee had done this (Score 3, Insightful) 341

Corporate personhood absolutely lies at the heart of the problem, because it is this legal doctrine that grants corporations those rights, privileges, and protections normally granted to actual persons; and in turn, corporations are, as a single legal "person," able to wield their disproportionate economic power to influence policies, and more importantly the enforcement thereof, in their favor, regardless of politics. This is the very definition of plutocracy, and it is why, while partisans on both sides of the political spectrum bicker ceaselessly about who is to blame for systemic corruption, nothing has been fixed: because corporations have bought the favor of everyone in government whose favor can be bought, which of course is the overwhelming majority.

The real struggle in the United States is not about Democrat versus Republican. That ideological division is perpetuated by those who are in real power--the corporate plutocrats and the companies they control, from Silicon Valley to the mainstream media to traditional manufacturing and energy production. It is in their interests to continue to pit the voting public against each other in an ultimately futile battle, because it hides who really calls the shots.

Comment If one employee had done this (Score 4, Insightful) 341

If only a single employee had done this, they'd be sent to prison for fraud, right after being fired. But because this behavior was so widespread and apparently came from top levels, what is corporate person that is Wells Fargo to face? A fine that amounts to a slap on the wrist. After all, we can't jail anyone who might be rich and powerful enough to have allowed such fraud to be perpetuated, can we? Too big to fail = too big to jail. And this exposes the blatant hypocrisy inherent to the notion of "corporate personhood."

Comment Re:Ads have long been a risk to security (Score 4, Insightful) 120

Precisely. Your point is proven by the fact that these trojans are finding their way onto Google AdSense: it definitively shows that the only remedy is to block all ads because the content providers, ad networks, and other facilitators, cannot be trusted to not serve malware to the end user.

But, a little context is also worth mentioning. The original web ads used to be things like banners, or animated GIFs, usually with cheesy flashing graphics. These are still around of course. They used to be nothing more than static content that would serve a link if clicked. But as they became ubiquitous, users quickly to ignore them. So advertisers resorted to increasingly intrusive ads, like the dreaded pop-ups, which users quickly learned to close, followed by pop-unders or persistent pop-ups powered by scripting that would simply load another pop-up if the original window was closed. These resulted in browser-side blocking of pop-ups. Advertisers then escalated to overlays and interstitial ads, intercepting or obscuring the desired content. Of course, in all of this, there was always some share of shady ads, things that tried to trick the user in some way by pretending to be something it was not. But the trend has always been an arms race of increasingly intrusive and difficult to block advertising, versus increasingly more sophisticated methods to block.

This is why we are where we are today. Online advertising has a long and consistent history of being untrustworthy, malicious, and disrespectful of user preferences. Blocking is the natural reaction to such tactics. On the other hand, when people follow certain kinds of online content--product reviews on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter--this is the way online advertising must evolve. It must evolve away from advertisers attempting to force-feed ads to users whether they wish to see it or not. Even when I know what I'm watching or reading is a paid endorsement or sponsored content, if I *choose* to look at it, that is worth far more than being forced to click through an overlay. If I cannot unblock the content without running some shady JavaScript, I simply move on.

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