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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.

Comment Re:Islam is the problem, not encryption (Score 1) 446

It is a belief system that needs to cease to exist.

How do you suggest we achieve that?

There's this remarkable thing that humans are capable of. It's called education. Not just the education of fact, but of modes of thought; of critical thinking; of evidence-based reasoning. Lift minds above the chaos of superstition, fear, and ignorance. Religion exists because it fills the intellectual and emotional void: it is the way humankind has sought to explain the world around them before science, and people today continue to cling to religion because it purports to provide easy answers to everything.

The scourge of religion is eradicated only through our collective and tireless pursuit of rational knowledge, and the free dissemination thereof; but more importantly, we must teach each other the means of proper reasoning; the natural consequences of which is the abandonment of dogmas, violent or otherwise.

Comment Re:At the risk of getting downvoted into oblivion. (Score 4, Interesting) 534

I wonder if, in forcing users who are blocking ads to load them anyway, Facebook is willing to accept liability for the inevitable occurrence of embedded malware infecting users through a browser exploit. This is no joke: we know for a fact that ads containing malicious code have been served to users, who then have their systems compromised. If Facebook makes money from selling these ads to users, then they should have a legal obligation to not circumvent ad blocking software as a security measure.

Of course, Facebook and its customers (read: the advertisers) will accept no such responsibility for their shitty security practices. It's all on the users. It's your fault, and yours alone, if there are any negative consequences of choosing to share information about yourself through the site; your fault if your system is compromised through an advertisement that hides malicious code, even if you try to protect yourself by blocking ads. And while many people who refuse to use Facebook (myself included) on principle might say caveat emptor and that you don't have to use Facebook, the practical reality is that that horse has long since left the barn and that the only logical position for ourselves is to protest Facebook's practices, because if our acquaintances get hacked, that has clear ramifications for the security of our own personal information even if we did not share it with Facebook.

Comment Re:Regulatory enviornment is only a small factor (Score 2) 112

Your knee-jerk reaction is overly simplistic. We in the US constantly read about patent trolls and the abuse of intellectual property law by various entities; however, this does not necessarily mean all notions of intellectual property as a legal construct should be abolished. Clearly, the issue goes both ways: some companies use IP as a cudgel, smashing down anyone who might dare to compete or innovate beyond them; but at the other end of the spectrum, you have for example Chinese copycats, who steal the inventions of others to make their own lower-quality knockoff products that frequently hide serious defects in workmanship.

To call the Chinese "wise" to ignore IP law because they prefer to copy the ideas of others fails to consider the fact that their copies are almost invariably inferior to the original. Some are actually fairly decent. But in the computing hardware/software space, I would not trust a Chinese manufacturer or developer any further than I could spit. They have consistently demonstrated that they make complete crap, and if it's not crap, it's infested with malware. Need I remind you of how major Chinese iOS app developers (WeChat, for example) infected their apps by using a compromised version of iOS developer tools? That is the kind of shit that you can expect from Chinese companies: everything is about taking as many shortcuts as possible, copying everyone else, and not speaking up when you find a problem for fear that you will become a scapegoat. It is ingrained into the culture. That's not to say non-Chinese companies are never guilty of the same. It's just that in China, this is the rule rather than the exception. There's zero focus on quality.

Comment Regulatory enviornment is only a small factor (Score 3, Informative) 112

The overriding issue with doing business in China is corruption and intellectual property theft. In plain English, that means (1) the government runs on bribery, and (2) Chinese cultural values do not regard things like corporate espionage, patent infringement, bootlegging, and knockoffs, as being unethical. This is why non-Chinese companies tend to fail, because they allowed to enter the market only long enough until a Chinese company can copy their ideas and property.

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