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Man Caught Trying To Sell Plans For New Aircraft Carrier

NicBenjamin Re:What in the hell was he thinking? (388 comments)

Don't bother becoming an expert. Certain Latin American countries are actually significantly more depressing then Africa, which is actually doing quite well at the moment. They had precisely the same opportunity we did to become ultra-rich global powers, and they wasted it in petty territorial disputes with each-other.

The ones who've moved on in the disputes (Chile, and Brazil) are doing great. Way better then us. They have peace on their borders, growing economies, democratic governments, and in a few decades they will be as rich per capita as the US. The others...

Let's just say it's really hard to grow your economy when your foreign policy of the last 50 or 100 years is based entirely on the principle that it's unfair that some other country defend it's territory from your righteous invasion force with modern weapons that cost money. Argentina's obsession with the Falklands is well known, and inexplicable to anyone who looks at the situation through the lens of what would be good for the two peoples involved (Falkanders, and Argentinians). Argentina is a temperamental Spanish-speaking Republic. The Falklands are people by sheep farmers who hate a) the Spanish language, b) change, and c) any form of government that does not include Her majesty the Queen.

about two weeks ago
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Overly Familiar Sci-Fi

NicBenjamin Re:Star Trek is a Great Example (367 comments)

Every 60s liberal voted for the guy who started that war twice. They voted for the guy who started on the path that led us to the war once. They strongly supported the war until the 60s were almost over because without the War Johnson doesn't have the credibility to pass any Civil Rights Acts, Medicare, etc.

70s liberalism's claims of pacifism are quite similar to current conservative claims that they're isolationists opposed to high government spending in principle.

about two weeks ago
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Overly Familiar Sci-Fi

NicBenjamin Re:Star Trek is a Great Example (367 comments)

I think you've got it backwards.

In 99% of fantasy the story is BS. Evil arose sometime in the past, a complex and confusing prophecy appeared telling how to defeat it, the prophesied one (who just happens to be a character who is sympathetic to most American teenagers) and a merry band of friends appear, have various startling adventures in which nobody important ever dies, and defeat the evil by fulfilling the prophecy. They fulfill the prophecy literally, which turns out to be subtly different then the way everyone thought. The only reason to read the story is the characters because it's a boring story. And that means that the series would suck if they killed one of the characters halfway through.

OTOH, George RR Martin's books are solely about the story. The story is a story of the total collapse of Westerosi society, the human destruction it leaves in it's wake, the difficulty of combining a system dependent on purely honorable behavior by all political players and the human reality of frequent dishonorable conduct, etc. The characters are important in that they make us care about the Red Wedding in a way that you don't care about the Black dinner. If he didn't kill off characters at fairly regular intervals he'd be telling a much different story, and while the characters would be much more rewarding, the story itself would be incredibly boring.

That said, I also stopped reading the books after I finished the one with the Red Wedding. I have torrented all the episodes, but I haven;t watched them.

about two weeks ago
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Overly Familiar Sci-Fi

NicBenjamin Re:Star Trek is a Great Example (367 comments)

That's part of the appeal for long-term readers. I like that you can figure out precisely which historical figure he is talking about from wikipedia and a hard copy of the book. As an American all I knew about the French Revolution was that a) the King died, b) Jefferson was for it, c) Adams was against it, and d) Napoleon was involved. Thanks to the Harrington books I actually read some on it, and it was fascinating history.

Game of Thrones probably has as much historical inspiration in it as the Honor Harrington series, but unless you've studied Medieval history (particularly the Wars of the Roses) quite thoroughly already you ain't gonna figure it out. You're just gonna think that it's a cool story.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Can a Felon Work In IT?

NicBenjamin Re:America, land of the free... (717 comments)

Their rebelliousness against hereditary privilege, monarchy, and all the other things we love to claim make America so much better then the UK is greatly exaggerated.

The highest ranking British Nobleman involved on either side during the war was Lord Stirling, who joined the rebels partly because the Brits refused to acknowledge him as his distant cousin's heir because a missing cousin with a better claim . In terms of noble rank he was actually outranked by at least one of his fellow American Major Generals, Lafayette, because a Marquis outranks an Earl.

about two weeks ago
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Man Caught Trying To Sell Plans For New Aircraft Carrier

NicBenjamin Re:Standard FBI followup (388 comments)

For the record, I have no clue what he's talking about either.

about two weeks ago
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Man Caught Trying To Sell Plans For New Aircraft Carrier

NicBenjamin Re:Standard FBI followup (388 comments)

I'm not suggesting it as a defence, I'm suggesting that it's very lazy policing to fabricate a false crime and charge for that in the first place instead of going after a real crime. Would the guy have done it otherwise? How the hell would we ever know? Going after real crime is harder, but the objective is not supposed to be to fill prisons, it's supposed to be to prevent or solve crimes instead of adding to the list with faked up ones.

If he wasn't giving the info to a Federal informant he would not have been caught until he started taking pictures of the schematics. Even then he may not have actually gotten caught, if he could think of a good story. At which point our equivalent of the Death Star plans, with their one weak spot (he told this guy precisely where to hit the ship to sink it and kill everyone aboard), are already in the hands of some dude who knew Arabic, said he was Egyptian government, and had $3k.

Which is why we have an aggressive counter-intelligence service that has managed to convince almost all people with a) security clearance and b) common sense that c) the dude claiming to be a Finnish intelligence agent offering them money for information is actually FBI, and therefore d) they should immediately report him to their superiors. Which results in e) the one time those tricky Finns actually try some shit like this they get caught.

If this guy was some idiot who'd just converted to Islam, talked tough, and then went along with a government sting because the informant guilt-tripped him; I'd be more sympathetic to your argument. Native-grown Islamist terrorist-plots in the US are almost always some mentally unstable dude going on a rampage, and the operation I just described can't prevent those. OTOH, we do have plenty of foreign governments willing to pay our people for information. And we do need to deter that as much as possible.

about two weeks ago
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Man Caught Trying To Sell Plans For New Aircraft Carrier

NicBenjamin Re:What in the hell was he thinking? (388 comments)

It's almost entirely pining for a coastline. They didn't call it a Navy back in '65. It was the Army's River and lake force. It got promoted to "Naval Force," but was unofficially knows as the Bolivian Armada, in '66; and was made it's own service in the 90s.

Since then they've insisted on celebrating the "Day of the Sea," their regional allies curry favor by saying they want to "swim in Bolivian seas," Morales is still trying to get them a deal to access the sea, etc.

If you follow international news at all, much of the Bolivia news involves pining for the sea. Some of it involves Coca, indigenous bitching about America's excessive influence in prior governments, white bitching about America's lack of influence in the current government, but a whole lot of it involves somebody important in Bolivia claiming that the entire country's lives would be oh-so-wonderful if only those aforementioned rich white guys could have their own personal merchant fleets staffed by the aforementioned poor red guys.

about two weeks ago
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Man Caught Trying To Sell Plans For New Aircraft Carrier

NicBenjamin Re:What in the hell was he thinking? (388 comments)

I'm from Michigan. Titicaca is a glorified pond. Most countries with rivers don't call the dudes who patrol those rivers a "Navy." But then most countries with rivers have a coast-line, so they have a Navy.

If they want to call it a Navy that's their sovereign right. But the rest of us have the equally sacred right to look at them funny.

Now if they weren't still bitching about a War they lost in 1883 I'd be much more likely to take their Navy seriously, but as it is they just seem childish. They lost a war back before their grandparents were born (and they have a very young population, so for most of them it's probably before their great-grandparents were born), they don't have the military or diplomatic capacity to win the territory back, so they would be much better served focusing on fixing things they can actually fix.

about two weeks ago
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Overly Familiar Sci-Fi

NicBenjamin Re: Greg Bear (367 comments)

All Star Wars films really skimp on the Sci bit of Sci-Fi partly because it's set far in the past, it's still all about the time when it was made.

Luke is a rebellious teenager who acts just like the rebellious teenagers of the 70s. His family runs a "moisture farm" which really seems more like a water factory or distillery then a farm. The audience is supposed to identify with him because the audience always identifies with the farm boy whose trying to prove he's a man. The Death Star is clearly inspired by nuclear weapons, and shouldn't be that big a deal for a space-going civilization. Build a really big spaceship (at least 2-3 miles wide, so bigger then a Star Destroyer, but orders of magnitude smaller then a Death Star), program the navigation computer to ram the planet when you say "go," get the fuck off, say "go." The planet technically survives. The people, OTOH...

about two weeks ago
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Overly Familiar Sci-Fi

NicBenjamin Star Trek is a Great Example (367 comments)

But one thing that I always think is really weird when watching it is that all the cultural references are things that would be familiar to a late 20th century NPR-listening American. One of my favorite book series (Honor Harrington by David Weber) uses a lightly different period. It's references are almost universally to things that would be familiar to people who spend a lot of time with late 18th the early 20th century Western Military History.

It seems weird, but in a lot of ways that's the point. Star Trek isn't a sophisticated imagining of how culture could change if certain technologies appeared. It's about how a polity built on principles every 60s liberal would love (including a fairly muscular, militaristic, foreign policy that a lot of current liberals hate) acts IN SPACE. You don't hear anything about post 20th-century culture, shit that happened outside the main storyline, internal Federation politics (ie: who did Kirk vote for? why?), economic matters (for example once replicator technology exists almost all sectors of the economy are obsolete, because instead of spending months raising a chicken you can spend 2 seconds beaming a perfectly cooked chicken breast into existence, yet half the time they act like the economy is identical to the current US economy and the other half it's a socialist utopia), etc. It is barely Sci-Fi, because (unlike Star Wars) it actually cares how the technology works, and occasionally has story-lines based on said technology (ie: Riker gets cloned by a Transporter, every one of those hateful Holodeck episodes, etc.).

Weber's Honorverse is a bit more Sci-Fi, because he has actually put an awful lot of thought into precisely how the tech affects the culture, but he designed the tech specifically so that he could do things like create a massive ethnic Chinese Empire based on Frederick the Great.

about two weeks ago
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Man Caught Trying To Sell Plans For New Aircraft Carrier

NicBenjamin Re:Standard FBI followup (388 comments)

Entrapment is a really tricky defense. The Founding Father's didn't actually recognize it as a defense at all. The first case where it was used Federally did not happen until Prohibition hit. In pop culture it's usefulness is greatly exaggerated. Most people start thinking "entrapment" when a government agent says "hey let's do a crime" and somebody goes along with it, but entire categories of case simply could not be filed if that was all that mattered. For example, pretty much the only way to arrest Johns is to have a cop dress up as a hooker and offer to sell sex.

Entrapment only happens legally if there's some reason to believe the entrapee would not have even considered the possibility of committing the crime absent the government's actions. In the hooker stings they generally happen in areas where people troll for hookers, so the Courts rule that either a) this particular defendant clearly had a predisposition to commit the crime or he wouldn't have been driving through that neighborhood slowly at that time of night, or b) the governments actions were not likely to entice law-abiding citizens to stop and give a hooker money because law-abiding citizens don't drive through that neighborhood slow at that time; depending on whether that particular court system uses the "subjective" or objective" tests.

In this case the defendant can't really use the defense very effectively because in the Federal system they use method a), which means he'd have to prove he was highly unlikely to take money to sell plans in the absence of a government dude offering money. He was very hands-on once they offered the money, doing numerous things that one would do if one really really wanted to sell national security information to a foreign government (such as creating "an elaborate cyber security system which included several one-time use electronic mail boxes with phantom names").

about two weeks ago
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Man Caught Trying To Sell Plans For New Aircraft Carrier

NicBenjamin Re:What in the hell was he thinking? (388 comments)

The Cadet probably picked the Bolivian Navy because Bolivia has not had an actual coastline since 1883, but it does have an Navy. They're still bitter about that War of the Pacific thing.

about two weeks ago
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18th Century Law Dredged Up To Force Decryption of Devices

NicBenjamin Re:The law is valid (446 comments)

Laws have existed for various odd things in the UK in the past, and certain examples like that and being allowed to kill Scots within York's walls at night were claimed to still be technically valid in widely spread urban legends. IIRC there isn't any law allowing the murder of someone in the UK that is still valid.

It's actually quite common for illegal laws to still be on the books.

In the US Mississippi hadn't bothered to ratify the Constitutional Amendment banning slavery until the mid-90s, then they did it wrong so they had to do it again in 2013. I would not be surprised if other Southern states still had segregation laws on the books. Most states still have abortion laws in violation of Roe vs. Wade, laws banning gay sex, etc. All are totally invalid under various ruling by the Supreme Court, but since actually changing them would require a couple Legislators to spend time convincing their colleagues to vote for the bill, and those colleagues may not agree with the Supreme Court, it just doesn't always happen. Especially on Roe vs. Wade -- most pro-life politicians are convinced the Supreme Court will undo that decision, and if the Supremes ever undo Roe vs. Wade then those laws magically come back to life.

I suspect Texas, Washington State, and Florida are some of the worst states for refusing to repeal bad old laws. It's very difficult to get a proposal through their Legislatures. Texas is part-time, and only meets for 140 days in odd-numbered years, Washington State requires all bills to have a single very clear purpose (so you'd need one repealing the anti-abortion law, you'd need another repealing anti-sodomy, etc.), and Florida restricts the number of Bills a Legislator can sponsor is limited, etc.

about two weeks ago
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18th Century Law Dredged Up To Force Decryption of Devices

NicBenjamin Re:5th Admendment? (446 comments)

Yes: it's a so-called "writ of assistance" or "general warrant". They keep being outlawed, and keep coming back. The RCMP said they retired their last general warrant just a few years ago, but the government of the day seems to trying to recreate a subset for people who use the internet...

Can anybody figure out what this guy meant? This is a very old law, for a very common type of warrant. All investigations of anyone, anywhere, involve getting third parties to turn over information on the suspect. That info could be a safe deposit box, it could be a diary, it could be testimony in open court. They need various kinds of warrant for this, and there are some cases where a third party can refuse to turn over info (ie: in some states a wife cannot be forced to testify against her husband), but in general if your ass has been labeled "suspect" by the cops, and they actually go to the trouble of filling out the warrant paperwork, they can get anything they want that is vaguely related to your "suspect" status.

The weirdest bit is the RCMP. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are not necessarily the last people in the world who care about the Fifth Amendment (the Charter of Rights and Freedoms sections 11 and 13 are the self-incrimination rules they have to worry about), but they are pretty high on the list.

about two weeks ago
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In a Self-Driving Future, We May Not Even Want To Own Cars

NicBenjamin Re: In a Self-Driving Future--- (454 comments)

This is what I mean by white people who are totally irrational on the issue..

There are 1.8 million people in Wayne County Most of them do not live in Detroit. Oakland and Macomb have roughly 2 million between them. Unless you're assuming that Michigan will get the Federal Constitution amended specifically so the only people who can vote in the new city are the 700k from Detroit, then 3 million of the 3.8 million-odd residents will be non-Detroiters. This guy is smart enough to figure that out all on his own, but rather then actually think through my proposal to it's logical conclusion he goes right into impossible fantasy mode.

There'd be a lot less racial tension if the various sides didn't all have their champions, dedicated entirely to promoting their tiny little box on the map (which just happens to be 75% one race or another). New York City isn't a mecca of racial tolerance, but since the Mayor is responsible to all races he does tend to care what all races think.

about three weeks ago
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In a Self-Driving Future, We May Not Even Want To Own Cars

NicBenjamin Re: In a Self-Driving Future--- (454 comments)

Blame the right for a town run by the left. Might as well say it was bush's fault.

So you freely admit that the Right has nobody living in Detroit, and couldn't pronounce Gratiot without a detailed instruction manual written by an Obama-loving Socialist, but you're nonetheless claiming they know why Detroit isn't working? Neither national side knows enough about Detroit to fix the problem.

The basic problem is that the current boxes on the map called Detroit is an incredibly dumb idea. It's per capita income is barely five figures ($12k or less), in a region where per capita income is actually pretty high ($49k). Which means that if local government costs are $700, the other cities have to scrounge up 1.5% of local income, but Detroit has to find almost 6%. The only way to make that math work is a) fire the police department and hope the criminals don't kill everyone before enough rich anti-tax activists move in to solve the per capita income problem; or b) tax rates have to be four times as high. Since a) is obviously unworkable, Coleman Young tries b) when he got the state to approve municipal income taxes. But he couldn't get the full 4 times, so he settled for slightly less then double. Which kinda worked, but also meant taxes were double the neighbors and we still didn't have enough money to deal with crime (the crack epidemic did not help).

Over the long term that meant that the only businessmen who stayed in the City were criminals (they'd be morons to move to some place that actually had the budget to arrest them; everyone else OTOH...), which means your number of capitas goes down but the total cost of policing stays the same. But there's another huge problem if your population is shrinking: 1.5 million could probably support the pension costs for a city that peaked at 2.5 million or so in the mid-50s, but 700k sure as hell can't. Which means the number you now need is more like $1,500...

So Orr could have done a couple things. He could've tried to get state law changed so Detroit could jack-up taxes more, but he was appointed by an anti-tax Republican. The option he took was to get those pensions, and several other major obligations, cut down in bankruptcy. Either taxes or bankruptcy would probably work for a few decades before the money ran out again. Given the resurgence of Detroit's Midtown area, and the continued exodus of the working class (who are expensive to govern and not very lucrative to tax), it's theoretically possible the few decades will be enough.

The way to definitively solve the problem would have been eliminate all of the little Cities in Michigan that make up Metro Detroit. But there's two much racial BS for the local whites to not make that a huge hassle, and said local whites are quite politically connected to both sides nationally.

Thus you have everyone, on both sides, trying to shoe-horn national issues into a very local debate.

about three weeks ago
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In a Self-Driving Future, We May Not Even Want To Own Cars

NicBenjamin Re:No Control (454 comments)

So?

There are still real horse enthusiasts who spend thousands a year maintaining animals they literally couldn't give away because they love horses that much. There are several religions that still use horse-drawn transport because they don't see a point in getting cars. That doesn't mean you see a horse-drawn buggy on the highways every day.

about three weeks ago
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In a Self-Driving Future, We May Not Even Want To Own Cars

NicBenjamin Re:In a Self-Driving Future--- (454 comments)

That's Manhattan Real Estate prices for ya. In many areas of the country getting rid of the car, and moving to an urban apartment, would be a lot cheaper then living in the 'burbs, if public transit wasn't shitty.

For example when Detroit went bankrupt lots of righties claimed that "of course that happened their tax rates are ridiculous, nobody could afford to live there" but if you read page 11 of the bankruptcy report, you'll note that car insurance costs were two to three times taxes in Detroit and all the neighboring jurisdictions Orr presented data for. In fact car insurance in Detroit alone ($3,993) was as much as taxes for all four cities he mentioned (total of $3,395 per capita).

So if you moved to a $500 or $600 a month apartment in Detroit, and got rid of the car, your tax bill would double, but your car insurance goes down several grand. Add in gas and repairs, and in theory Detroit could triple or quadruple the local tax rate to pay for trains and you still end up ahead. They are really trying to do this -- one of the few new programs that bankruptcy didn't axe was a light rail system up and down the main drag.

The major problem is that if they actually pulled it off you'd have a lot of trouble getting a Detroit apartment for $500 a month.

about three weeks ago
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Alleged Satellite Photo Says Ukraine Shootdown of MH17

NicBenjamin Re:If I was running counter-intelligence for the C (340 comments)

If it wasn't a time-bomb what was it? It has to be in the cockpit, so it can't be transmitting signals or it would screw up the pilot's insturments and tip them off. It's 5-6 miles up so it can't be receiving signals passively.

And you still haven't addressed the risk/reward problem. If Israel gets caught Israel dies. Period. Therefore a 2% chance of getting caught is only an acceptable risk if the alternative is a 3% chance of the destruction of the country, and that just wasn't gonna happen no matter how bad the blow-back from Gaza.

about a month ago

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