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Pholus's Journal
Pholus's Journal
July 11, 2013

Snowden helps fund DU with libertarian money!

After another thread this morning with the tedious "hate dragnet surveillance and you are a Randroid" premise I had a revelation that there might actually be an upside. There on the screen at the bottom of a thread is a DU ad for Ron Paul grinning at me.

After a moment of "huh?" I got it .... When several posters' whole argument is "you must love the Pauls" the word Paul comes up a lot. Same with the attempted broad brushing of Snowden. And that word frequency controls what ads are served.

So the most beneficial aspect to all the NSA apologist tarring of their opponents as libertarians ends up being that DU is now getting paid ad revenue from the libertarian party that might have went elsewhere more effectively!

So please. Carry on! Call me a libertarian because you can't actually discuss the issue of dragnet surveillance. It does end up serving a greater good that I can accept. You are still clueless however, I just find you somewhat more useful.

June 27, 2013

"or how I learned to stop worrying and love Bush's TIA."

Remember the days of Total Information Awareness? With that cool Orwellian logo and "Yer either wit us or agin us?":

It is alive and well, at least 75% of it and probably more. Here is a scorecard. Please help me refind this list with what you know.

I started from the wikipedia article describing the program:

Then I searched to find evidence of the program still continuing. Codenames might come and go but buzzwords/jargon are forever. Just search google for the technology and add DARPA to cut down the commercial products offering the same things.

So how much of Bush's legacy are we dealing with and even defending here?

1) HumanID -- Continued

2) Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery -- Continued

3) Genisys -- Continued

4) Scalable Social Network Analysis -- Continued Given this at least...

5) Futures Markets Applied to Prediction (FutureMAP) -- Stopped?
Actually seems to have closed down.

6) TIDES -- Probably continuing?
Folded into Babylon's successor it would seem.

7) Genoa / Genoa II -- Continuing

8) Wargaming the Asymmetric Environment (WAE) -- Unknown, but this seems to apply

9) Effective Affordable Reusable Speech-to-text -- Certainlty
Siri came from somewhere.

10) Babylon -- Continued

11) Bio-Surveillance -- Continued

12) Communicator -- Possibly?

June 18, 2013

When it involves *reasonable* suspicion of wrongdoing.

That pretty much includes both foreign and domestic spying.

The tortured parsing of legal terms that justifies the current programs we actually are being told about is not in the best interests of our democracy. See Krugman's commentary on this week which basically explains there would be two ways to do domestic surveillance: in an open, limited "democratic" fashion in which the data collected is limited and the populace informed and in a closed, secretive "authoritarian" manner which is the opposite. We have so obviously chosen the latter route, with rumor and whistleblowers having to motivate the conversation instead of an open and honest discussion. This is not the way a democracy functions. I did not have a say, even one overwhelmed by popular opinion on the other side, in this matter and I resent that.

And once this data exists, it will certainly find new uses which we will not be told about up front. Yesterday the Washington post ran a story about drivers license photo databases. Originally created solely to prevent fraudulent use of the licenses, they are now being used to conduct "virtual lineups" of suspects and also being used to match surveillance video with facial recognition technology. This means every US citizen in that database, regardless of circumstances, are de facto suspects in police investigations now. So much for presumptions of innocence.

And even now, the facts about what is being done are still being hidden from us "in the name of national security." I see estimates of a trillion phone calls per year in the US. If each call has 80 characters of "metadata" (number called, duration, only a couple other things as we've been told), 80 trillion bytes would be 80 Terabytes/year. This "database" would easily sit 4-5 blade servers in someone's office. Furthermore if we are to trust what we were told just yesterday, only 300 numbers were targeted. My personal research data takes 20 TB so I can say with certainty that the project officially described is easily capable of being run out of a single office room on a single server by a team of 4-6 people.

So why do we need a bunch of new multi-billion buildings in Utah capable of holding 5 zettabytes (10 years of EVERYTHING by a quick pencil and paper calculation) if the program truly is this small? Why are there stories about the U.S. government being interested in all kinds of commercial databases? Why does a quick perusal of the DARPA website talk about opportunities to do "anomaly detection" in massive databases.

Nope, this is so obviously about more than a limited collection. Someone, somewhere made the successful sales pitch to these guys that you could build a system like the ones we see on CSI on teevee. When you know the name of the bad guy, press a button and on those massive floor to ceiling monitors on the "command center" wall up pops their picture and every significant bit of data ever collected on that person like you'd had a gumshoe on their tails for a decade. Worse, there are probably promises that you can take all that data, put it in a pot, wave a magic wand and out pops all the bad guys (people who don't fit the mean behaviors of the population). Once again, we are all suspects who will need to prove our innocence rather than them proving our guilt.

The problem is oversight at that point -- given that of those in "the know" have split opinions about whether oversight is sufficient I am not mollified. It is too easy to remember the massive misuse of the limited resources available in the 60's to ever think that this will not grow into stifling anyone who might become a threat to the power structure in place now. Already, both Snowden and DiFi outline procedures which seem to indicate that an individual analyst has a lot of query power on the data available. The potential for personal and systemic abuse is massive, the stakes and payoffs high so it *will* happen.

I love the quote from Orson Welles' movie: "The job of a policeman is only easy in a police state." By that criteria, what does big data represent?

May 4, 2013

What a big, unfounded, assertion there sparky!

I'm amused how you gunners love to describe yourselves as the "nonemotional, logical" ones even as you spew "truthiness" filled homilies such as this. So okay, Mr. Wile E. Coyote, Genius. You pointed at a year with 500 "successful" murders as proof that gun laws "fail every time." Of course, according to Crain's Chicago Business there were 7,400 illegal guns seized in the same period of time. Your assertion is unfounded but provable -- all you have to do is convincingly show that those 7,400 guns would not have increased the number of murders and it's YOU FTW!!!!! You can't of course. That's why you're full of bullshit here.

But I can't stop marveling at your your inductive masterpiece. It's the gundamentalist gift that just keeps on giving! Intellectual laziness is only my first charge against you. The second charge, sir, is nihilism. So let me trivially extend your argument to show you why it is unworthy of a passing score even in an InstandDegrees.com freshman comp class.

So you just took a list of murders and used them as proof that stringent gun laws don't work.

Similar arguments can be made:

So a handful of successful tax cheats mean tax laws fail, right?

And a handful of successful speeders do the same for speeding laws, right?

And a handful of successful pedos do the same for child sex laws, right?

And a handful of successful drug lords do the same for drug laws, right?

I henceforth dub your completely moronic argument "the Crowley" because you simply have tried to conclude that the existence of any crime means laws have utterly failed. So we have to go back on Mr. Crowley's version of what the whole of the law is. Of course, in our brief association I figure you actually would consider that a feature and not a bug. My advice, dude, is that "Mad Max" was a movie. A very old, very bad movie. Come out into the daylight once in a while.

And about your all-so-important rights you're mewling about. Your right to swing your arm ends at my face. Keep that in mind and we might get along. But the past years have shown that you guys are waaaaay too self-absorbed to keep your end of the bargain.

December 29, 2012

When I was young, the fundies went after D&D.

Of course, being a geek I played at the time. Thinking myself to be a good christian it bothered me of course to suffer the various harsh pronouncements. After a while I noticed a critical assumption in their arguments as they concluded that people who played D&D were certainly closet Satanists who would destroy our country.

That of course is that we have a difference between fantasy and reality. Just because I talked about magic doesn't mean I do it, nor is the wanton violence something I'd condone in real life. Actually, thinking through the false equivalence they presented was one of the major events in my development as a critical thinker and a Democrat.

So I guess what you're saying here is that there actually are many people who can't separate fantasy from reality. I am disturbed to think that they might be buying these guns for realsies because they have been totally brainwashed by Hollywood into thinking that the movie version of life is something real that should be aspired to.

That sounds like a problem! But problems are made to be solved. We have imaginary guns and real guns here. Probably it would be effective to concentrate on putting some restrictions on the ones that do actual damage.

December 17, 2012

The NRA and news cycles.

So 31 pro-gun senators didn't want to talk on a national show about this?

The NRA site went dark?

I sense PR teams exerting damage control.

I figure the game plan is to get past Christmas and the emotions the shootings brought out for parents so close to the holiday. Then it's back to the usual arguments and congressional tactics.

Until then, talk radio will fight a delaying action and float some talking points to see if any have traction.

I was heartened by the President's words last night. Because from where I am sitting only his constant pressure from the bully pulpit will keep their tactics from working.

December 17, 2012

Respectfully disagree. Being "polite" led us exactly to this point.

Half the reason we're in this mess is because we allowed right wing loonatry to go unchallenged. I certainly consider this my fault.

I have stayed silent to ensure that holidays went well and as a result I have given the impression that I have no valid counterarguments to my teabilly family's rantings.

I stay silent at work to maintain "professionalism" even as my coworkers spout off and apparently they have decided that my silence is acceptance of their ideas.

Was the tactic successful? Did these occasional outbursts go away as people regained their senses. Not by a long shot. In fact it just accelerated as they felt validated.

So we don't need to stay silent -- in fact the opposite is needed. These idiots need to be cut off at the fricking kneecaps every time they start talking stupid. If it socially awkward for all concerned so much the better. There needs to be trauma involved for people who talk before thinking.

Here is my new year's resolution a bit early this year. I don't care how many family gatherings are ruined. I don't really care anymore if I damage professional relationships. If you're wrong, you're wrong and I'm going to call you on it regardless of social consequences. I will start by telling them exactly why socially they should just keep their dumbassed opinions to themself and then I'll rip into what they said. If it means that acceptable conversation gets cut down to weather and the task at hand, frankly it will suck less than having to hear regurgitated Rush.

And I disagree about the House.

I see some right wingers are understanding exactly what their position is this morning. Joe Scar is floating a trial balloon on MSNBC about some gun control. The only way this doesn't move forward is if people say nothing and this can "outlast the news cycle." That's what the NRA is banking on with their silence right now.

So in the end, if it is wrong, it is wrong. Proliferation of firearms has caused massive problems. I am done with the bullshit of pretending "well you have a point" anymore. Past it. People with large gun collections have enabled a culture of violence that needs to go away. Now.

August 9, 2012

Hey, by your OP we're just trading "tips." Can't you handle one coming back?

My state has been described as "one of the most restrictive regimes in America" on handgun possession by John Lott. Despite that case of the vapors, it took a SINGLE hour of effort and a pathetically small waiting period for me to buy a handgun. Oooooooh, just smell that oppression!

I'll make the comparison again because you guys constantly love to detail the process that MUST be followed to buy a gun in excruciating detail (down to form numbers). In fact, that was the major theme of your tips 1 and 2 in the OP for example. Having lived through it now, I will forevermore be substantially unimpressed by that talking point -- sometimes the best bullshit makes the detail look formidable I suppose. Look Trixie, the forms were TWICE as long for me to get a recent medical specialists' appointment and I waited THREE TIMES the waiting period. So stop snivelling about how much of a burden you face.

So back to my tip. And I give this tip as "one of you" now, since I am a certified gun-owning member of the club, no matter how whimsically I became one.

1) Stop pretending that there is any rigor whatsoever applied to the purchase of a handgun. I have been through the process and found it startlingly convenient compared to just about every other modern administrative process I have ever been through. If anything, it begs for a greatly enhanced training and testing program that requires a demonstration of both dedication and minimum competency.

August 8, 2012

One big old tip back at ya for 2A apostles...

Your minimum training requirements to buy guns are a joke. *Never* try to imply that as a group you guys have gained any particular knowledge from the process cause I just joined your ranks. Yup, as a joke perpetrated on the liberal by a couple of right wing "2A advocate" buddies, I can now buy handguns and rifles in my home state. And the process leaves me with nothing but scorn because it took exactly a single hour of effort -- travel time to and from a local cop shop included. And that hour was completely intellectually devoid. Kind of like hours two and three (and four and dear god really? five? don't you guys get bored?) on the range were.... I do kind of like tweaking the scopes but honestly shoot/reload, shoot/reload, shoot/reload replace the target gets old fast. And amusingly I performed as good as my supposedly infinitely more practiced buddies when they wanted to compete. They were quite disappointed at that cause of course liberals can't shoot. But let's face it, inherent hand-eye coordination is something you got or you don't and it takes a LOT of practice to make up for lacking that. I also think they also were going to make jokes about me not knowing what to do, but 10 minutes with the Google and the basic mechanical operation of a gun is pretty simple. Ooooh the mad skillz I now possess...

Anyway, your training requirements are a complete and pathetic joke.

1) Gun safety training was less rigorous than my mandatory email training at work. Half the time requirement, no comprehension quiz. Pathetic, minimalistic check the box crap obviously arranged that way cause you bunch of whiners wouldn't probably shut up about it if you actually faced a situation where you could FAIL, now right? What. A. Crock.

2) Those "reams of forms" you need to fill out that sound so onerous? Yeah, got them. Less pages to fill in than the insurance and background forms for my recent SINGLE doctor's appointment. By a factor of two so it isn't even really close. Also, unlike the doctor's form I only had to look a single time at a supporting document for a number. Once again, I figure they had to tone down on the level of the stuff or they'd probably get several banker boxes of NRA form letters full of pathetic snivelling every day. Per office, of course. One thing about you guys, you can cut and paste with the best of them!

3) And then for a background check that takes on order of a single work week when I'm busy anyway. Ooooooo, what government oppression!

So let's recap: all the onerous government regulation you guys whine about and it took me like 60 minutes to complete it all and frankly I don't think I'm *that* much smarter than you. You guys make it sound like it's cleaning the flipping Aegean stables or something! Sorry, not by a long shot. If anything it is deliberately shoddy and I think it's because the regulators have been cowed by 40 years of your pissing and moaning. That needs to change!

Anyway, now I've decided to look into CCW classes too just so I can advance to the upper educational echelons of your little culture. Found one place that claims a single day is all it takes for the training. One class in a neighboring state claims to get that down to four hours "to meet the minimum requirements." And let's face it, the training is the only obstacle because I'm apparently REALLY good at your forms and my record is squeeky clean, yessir! So, after all that bragging by some about how CCW holders as a group have more training and discipline than many cops I can complete the training in a single day of effort? Really? Oh I can't wait for the endless line up of future "but I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night" jokes I am going to make once I got that little bit of paper too...

So. You're right. Grabbing guns is a bad thing. Of course, I have yet to see anyone actually seriously propose it but I figure you see it as a required starting position in a negotiation to "prevent the slippery slope" and all that. But I think training should have a minimum 80 hour supervised requirement including hands-on practicum before a person is allowed to even buy a 22 in Walmart. Including a RIGOROUS test at the end about safety AND law. Chapter and verse kind of stuff with trick situational questions drawn from 40 years of real world examples. Really mean assed trivia so you HAVE to know your shit and if you fail you don't get to try again for three months. Kind of like a driver's license which come to think of it took longer to prepare for as well. And I had to actually study for THAT...

January 2, 2012

The section of Clinton's "My Life" describing the GOP asking him to delay running comes to mind...

The exact reference escapes me since it was a gift "book on tape" that I listened
to on a cross country drive but I remember the part where the GOP came to Bill
and said in effect that they liked him and could work with him but they wanted
the presidency in 1992 so if he would delay running they'd help him in later.
When he said he was running anyway they said "Nothing personal but we will
destroy you."

Another theme of that book was that many of the "clowns" in the opposition had
a different, more reasonable personality when the doors are closed. That doesn't
mean the positions change, but they are more logically presented. We the people
get the WWF version of each personality because they need to ham it up for the voters.
None of these guys are as stupid as we think they are. Period. Well, except Bachmann
but even Jon Stewart has caught her making sense on things where she works on
a relevant subcommittee.

Anyway, my takeaway for this election is that the GOP is willing to let their crazies eat
themselves. Why not? First, it shows the crazies that they cannot win by themselves
and puts them back in their place as reliable voters and contributors who don't get
what they want. Second, if they find the President someone they can work with
(and face it, he has been a VERY generous negotiator) it is a waste of money
to fight him (which is GG's point). Third, they might look at the hard choices that need to be
made in the near future and realize that the person who makes them will be incredibly
unpopular and easier to unseat with an establishment Republican later. Fourth, they have
a big reputation mess to clean up after GWB and it takes time for those memories to fade
or to be easily argued as "in the past."

You may not like hearing it, but I think they elite old-boys-club guys in the GOP think they can
get what they want with President Obama and so they have no great desire to try and
take him out of office. So we get the clown car.

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