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Snowden Queries Putin On Live TV Regarding Russian Internet Surveillance

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:In Mother Russa... (373 comments)

Reading between the lines though, I wonder what Putin is up to. Why bother with this?

It's likely for domestic consumption and it's just a useful coincidence that it gives him a chance to have a proxy take a shot at the USA. Putin's current line of reasoning is that Russia and its people are under constant attack by Western powers who wish to oppress them. This is part of his justification for taking Crimea back and if he has his eye on Eastern Ukraine it will be part of that as well - ethnic Russians are under duress by evil, anti-Semitic, fascist Ukrainians and Putin is the white knight who can save them. Whether he actually believes this line of reasoning or not is a question I am unsure of, but it is the public justification for what he is doing. I have to admit that I am a bit amused about his rationale because it seems to me that Russia is actually getting closer and closer to being a fascist state, but beating the old fascist boogeyman is always good to get Ivan Q. Publik riled up and on the side of the tsar, cough cough, I mean President Putin.


Lavabit Loses Contempt Appeal

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Procedural Rules? (127 comments)

That's what's great about the legal system. Procedural rules trump right and wrong.

My best friend is an attorney and he has explained a lot about the US legal system to me. Basically judges don't like ambiguity. If people don't do things according to procedure and they get away with it, it opens the door for others to try it. For example, suppose someone is facing the death penalty in a US state that has it. A defendant could represent himself and if he loses the case (he probably will) then he can appeal that he had "incompetent legal representation" and try to get a new trial and role the dice again on the outcome. In fact, every time you lose you could just argue that no matter who the lawyer is and try to get a new trial until you win. There actually were a few cases more or less like this years ago and courts quickly realized that this was going to get out of hand so when defendants try to represent themselves, they are advised against it and warned that trying to argue on appeal that they didn't have proper legal representation won't work. So Lavabit blew it and tried a Hail Mary by gambling that the judge might feel sorry for them and overlook the procedural mistakes. It wasn't likely to work, but the US is a large country with a lot of judges and there probably is a judge somewhere who would have bought it, it's just that most won't because they don't like the potential outcome of allowing this, namely that other cases could have lawyers deliberately make procedural mistakes so if they lose the case, they can make that the basis of an appeal. Lots of people have incompetent lawyers work for them. It's not just death penalty cases. I have a friend who got cleaned out financially in a divorce case because he hired a bottom dollar lawyer and he got bottom dollar representation in court. The few cases where they have been punishingly large judgements in favor of the RIAA for "music sharing" have all involved shockingly inept legal representation for the defendant.

2 days ago

Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Duh (780 comments)

In Sydney we just arrested the State Premier for corruption over a bottle of wine. The system works. The Prime minister is not above the law in Australia. Something that the USA has never managed to sort out with their corrupt system. Nixon should have been jailed, but really the rot had started to set in long before then. The Greens in Australia are a credible threat to the Liberal and Labor parties. Unlike America, where there is no alternative political movement that can ever get into office. The minor parties in Australia actually get to set policy and ensure that the average person retains a speaking voice in our government.

That's not fair. The office of president is a completely different thing altogether and Nixon did ultimately resign when he realized that the alternative was to possibly be removed from office and maybe go to jail. Very important Congressmen have been jailed over corruption. The US legal system is incompetent at times and that's a fair charge, but it's not really corrupt. Bill Clinton was actually impeached ("impeach" does not mean "removed from office") while President over lying under oath in a court case, but when tried before the Senate he was not removed from office. The court case just happened to involve him cheating on his wife and Clinton's handlers were geniuses in that they were able to spin it as him being on trial for infidelity to Hillary when in fact he was on trial for lying under oath about cheating on Hillary. Vice-President Spiro Agnew was probably facing imprisonment (it had nothing to do with Nixon's issues as it was a tax avoidance case) when he got a plea bargain to resign from the vice-presidency and face some lesser charges. If you want to argue that US presidents get a free pass for misconduct, you probably have a point, but as I don't know enough about Australian Prime Ministers to be able to comment on their lives, I can't say whether an Aussie PM would get special treatment or not if caught breaking the law.

2 days ago

Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Are you kidding (780 comments)

You are being naive in your definition of wealth and are in fact completely very wrong in this. But don't feel ashamed, many other middle/upper class around the world have this wrong also and that is why they vote republican (in the US) or for other neo-con parties that do not actually represent their interests in practice - despite their rhetoric. (studies showing that many in the middle classes believing they will be wealthy soon and thus voting as if they were)

This has been going on for a long time. Percentage wise very few Americans actually owned slaves yet it's estimated that somewhere between half a million and 1.5 million men served in the Confederate Army. That's a large number of people willing to die to protect the rights of the rich to own another human being. I have little doubt that if there were some kind of mythical Civil War today in the US that millions would willingly lay down their lives to protect the money of the rich and receive absolutely nothing in return for their willingness to fight and possibly die for somebody else's money.

2 days ago

Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Groaning all the way (385 comments)

My feelings on the matter: "If you knew how much money I was supposed to send in, WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME IN THE &@#$ING FIRST PLACE! It could have saved everyone time, money and trouble."

They don't really know for a lot of people. Almost every year I have stuff to report that they don't know about at all. I'm pretty sure that they don't know about most if not all of my charitable contributions. I own shares in an investment club and I'll spare you what we have to do to report sales in that. I can assure you that Uncle Sam has no idea about what I'm doing in the club so it's a good thing I am honest and report it. Congratulations on having such a simple tax situation that Uncle Sam apparently knows exactly how much you owe, but I have to ask this - if your taxes are so simple, are you an idiot for hiring an accountant when you could do them yourself if they are that simple?

Some people get away with it for years by simply not turning in their forms or paying anything. Yes, eventually they will probably get caught, but we've had some recent celebrities who thought that they could get away with not paying at all like Lauryn Hill and Wesley Snipes. Snipes in particular tried to justify what he did with a bunch of crackpot excuses that the judge shot down. The fact that people do get away with this for a while shows that the IRS doesn't really know what everybody owes. They probably do have ball park figures for everybody, but not exact amounts for a lot of people.

3 days ago

Google: Teach Girls Coding, Get $2,500; Teach Boys, Get $0

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve People can sue but they may not win (673 comments)

People can always try to sue Google over this kind of discrimination, but they may not win. First of all, unless you are a person who was personally affected by this, what would likely happen is that the lawsuit would get thrown out, especially on appeal where higher courts often rule that you can't sue just because you don't like something if you're not personally affected by it. So it would require a male student to sue to get the ball rolling. Second there would have to be some kind of proof like a verifiable situation where a male student was refused assistance because the teacher only wanted to help females to get the reward. Third, and this may be most important of all, literally anything can happen in court. Nobody knows what juries or judges will do. The case might go before someone who isn't interested in this issue at all and feels that women have traditionally been discriminated against so this is OK or you might get a very conservative judge/jury who is just adamantly against this kind of "help" for anybody at all who would rule in favor of the boy. Then the losing party can appeal and the exact opposite verdict can happen on appeal and so on. Could take years to resolve it, maybe ultimately ending in a Supreme Court ruling. By the time it finally gets resolved, it may be too late (depending on the age of the student) for anything to be accomplished even if the boy wins. He may already be in college and have learned programming or moved on to some other area of study.

about a week ago

Cuba: US Using New Weapon Against Us -- Spam

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:The amusing thing is... (137 comments)

.. that the Cuban government still think the US gives a damn about their 3rd world Island apart from Guantanamo Bay. Since the USSR collapsed its been pretty irrelevant in the scheme of things other than a source of refugees and comedy revolutionaries in green slacks with silly beards.

Well, the problem is that there are some people who do care and their influence is way out of whack with regards to their actual numbers. There are a small number of members of the US House and Senate who are offspring of Cuban refugees and they have a lot of influence. The younger generation of people who immigrated many years ago has little interest in continuing the embargo, but there are still enough of the old hardcore anti-Castro people in Florida that no president is willing to undo the embargo for fear of the next presidential election going against his party. Florida is a hotly contested state that gives a very thin majority to whoever wins it in the presidential elections. Florida has a lot of electoral votes. So if you piss off, say, 40 or 50 thousand voters who care a lot (maybe too much) about the Castro brothers and Cuba, you could lose the next presidential election. So the president never has the courage to drop the embargo as either he or his party's next candidate will face angry voters in the next presidential election and it could be enough to decide the race in favor of the other party. It's rather remarkable to see an entire country held hostage to the whims of a really small group of people over one issue, but that's exactly how it is here.

about a week ago

Fifty Years Ago IBM 'Bet the Company' On the 360 Series Mainframe

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:software (169 comments)

Basically, if you can't get the people it's because you're not prepared to pay (that includes money, benefits and training).

I agree with the post (just quoted the last part to save space), but I'd also point out that banks are going to have to overpay to get young people interested in learning this. You're trying to get new workers interested in what actually is dying technology. If one day your bank has an epiphany and decides to port everything to Linux, those trained young workers are likely to be out of a job and finding that the number of people who use that old technology is shrinking, not growing. Your bank could get bought out by a larger bank who uses more modern computers and the same problem occurs for the displaced younger workers who have skills that nobody wants.

about two weeks ago

Mystery MLB Team Moves To Supercomputing For Their Moneyball Analysis

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:It's the Cubs (56 comments)

My best guess is it's the Cubs.

It's a good guess. I'd also say that the Red Sox and A's make the short list of teams that have people in the front office who might see some value in this, although the A's are run on the cheap so it is a little hard to think they'd pay for this.

about two weeks ago

Hacker Holds Key To Free Flights

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Okay, but... (144 comments)

Not in my last 6 flights they haven't, at least not without trying to be incredibly covert about it which I seriously doubt. All these flights were within Europe or SE Asia, I don't know if head counts are more common in other regions.

Within the US they definitely count the passengers. I flew between Canada and Asia last year and I don't remember if they counted or not, but on flights within the USA they definitely do count. There was a rather embarrassing incident where a minor without a ticket of any kind got on a plane in the US and nobody ever did anything to make sure he was in the right place or even had a ticket for the flight. I think now all the airlines want to make sure that kind of thing never happens again, because if a kid can do it, an adult with bad intentions may be able to do ti too.

about two weeks ago

The Problem With Congress's Scientific Illiterates

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Not religion, but American politics (509 comments)

The problem is not religion. Yes, there are some religion people who hate science, but they are on the fringe. There are some fundamentalist Christians who are very anti-evolution, but they do not reject science. I have a friend who works as a chemical engineer and he rejects evolution, but he certainly doesn't disbelieve the general principles of chemistry. In fact, his company is desperate to keep him that they basically let him take however much vacation he wants every year just to keep him happy and his company is one of the largest in its industry. Arguments against evolution denying are a whole other subject and not really the issue here.

There is a saying that "all politics in local" and in America that's really true. For my whole life Congress has had members, usually in the House of Representatives which is voted on in a district level in the individual states, who are just wildly out of step with the rest of the country. People who hold crazy beliefs sometimes get elected because they just happen to live in a part of the country that accepts those beliefs. Sometimes people get elected simply because of party affiliation. It may be that they are a stupid and horrible candidate, but at least they aren't a member of the other political party. I'd guess that maybe 70-80% of voters vote simply on party affiliation and for no other reason. Climate change denial plays big in the Republican Party right now as does religious belief, but the two things are not sets with 100% the same members in each. For example, Newt Gingrich is religious and has bona fide conservative credentials yet he certainly believes in climate change. Various members of Congress, particularly in the House, are just huge embarrassments but they keep going back because very few voters will ever consider voting for a member of what they consider to be "the other party", so if an idiot wins the nomination of his/her party in the primary, the regular election victory is almost assured. For most of my life I have lived in wildly uncompetitive districts for both parties where the winner of the primary never had to worry about his/her general election opponent because the voters would simply never vote in large numbers for the "other party" candidate.

about two weeks ago

China Cracks Down On Bitcoin, Cuts Off Exchanges' Bank Access

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Different possible reason (100 comments)

I see a different possible reason for this than "bad totalitarian government gets scared of loss of control", but my sample size is small so I may be very wrong here. I know some Chinese citizens and they are unusually interested in the stock market and money making schemes. They don't really understand even a little bit how the stock market works, yet they remain convinced that it's easy to invest a pittance and come out rich. It may be simply that the government is tired of dealing with citizens who don't have even the faintest understanding of how markets work and they don't want to see a bunch of dummies investing their life savings into bitcoin and maybe going bust because I guarantee you that if that happens, the same people who lost their money would demand that the government make them whole.

about two weeks ago

Russian GLONASS Down For 12 Hours

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Warning Shot (148 comments)

"hit there targets". Their, their, their, THEIR! Basic kingergarten-level knowledge. Damn idiocracy. 10 years from now, everyone will spell "right" as "rite" and posts complaining about it will get downvoted. Mark my words. (after all, most people already think "definitely" is spelled "definately", and can't tell the difference between "doing good" and "doing well")

It's even worse than that. There/their/they're confusion has been around a long time, but what just baffles me is that younger people today actually think that "prolly" is a real word. I talked to a relative who is in college right now and pointed out to him that "prolly" wasn't a real word and it was "probably" and he looked just shocked as he replied to me that he did not ever recall seeing the word "probably" in his life.

about two weeks ago

Amazon's Fire TV: Is It Worth Game Developers' Time?

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Amazon mysteries (88 comments)

The other theory is that Amazon believes users will prefer it as a premium branded product, again like Apple. The product does not need to compete with Roku on price, in that case, but does need to compete on features.

My guess is it's this and right now Amazon seems to be betting that people want what is basically a Roku with a whole lot less video options and a whole lot more game options. Seems like a strange bet to me and not what I would think as the people I know who have Roku (including me) aren't interested in the game part of it, which isn't much.

about two weeks ago

ZunZuneo: USAID Funded 'Cuban Twitter' To Undermine Communist Regime

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:USAID (173 comments)

Is the same thing here on Brazil. USAID here helps every one who wants to overthrow any government that does not comply doggedly what the U.S. told to do.

As an American, I can assure you that simply do not understand what you are talking about. While I have no idea whether any US agency cares any about government change in Brazil, I can tell you that Lula was no problem at all. The man was rational and competent and if he and the US had different ideas from time to time, at least there was some logic to what he was doing. Dilma Rousseff is a completely different story. Early on she came on with the same anti-US ranting and ravings that are quite popular in South America these days. Geez, I don't think I've ever seen anything more embarrassing from a national leader than her photo with Fidel where she looked like an aging rock groupie wanting to suck him off at the first chance she got. If the US is trying to support opposition to her presidency, well, that is a fight that she started. Most of South America seems obsessed right now with electing anybody who espouses anti-US slogans, even if they end up running their own countries into the ground. Hey, it doesn't matter if we don't have jobs as long as our president hates the US, right? You can ask Venezuela and Argentina how that is working out for them right now.

about two weeks ago

UN Court: Japanese Whaling "Not Scientific"

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Buried the lede (188 comments)

From the Washington Post version,

Australia had sued Japan at the U.N.’s highest court for resolving disputes between nations

Hold the phone--you mean there are ways to solve disputes between nations that *don't* involve firing artillery, invasion or threatening sanctions? Has anyone told North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Ukraine or the United States?

That crap gets rated as Insightful and gets 5 points? Wow. Tell you what. Name ONE, just one, UN resolution considered to be against North Korea that they have willingly obeyed. In fact, to be blunt, the whole reason that there are two Koreas instead of one unified and horribly backwards united Korean under Kim family despotism is because the UN Security Council authorized the use of force against North Korea's invasion when the Soviet Union infamously boycotted the meeting, only to find out the Security Council actually could take a vote without them there.

about three weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: Fastest, Cheapest Path To a Bachelor's Degree?

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Keep your costs down (370 comments)

Wherever you get your degree, don't run up a fortune in debt to pay for it. It would be better to not get it at all then to run up, say, $30,000 or more of debt to pay off - in my opinion. I do agree with you that it probably really is harder and harder to get jobs without a 4 year degree. I've seen this happen to IT people I know who don't have 4 year degrees and get laid off.

about three weeks ago

Jimmy Carter: Snowden Disclosures Are 'Good For Americans To Know'

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:to-belgium-with-900-strong-entourage-45-vehicle (289 comments)

Ah yes, Obama, our weak totalitarian king community organizer who is controlled by nazi tree-hugging muslim pastors.

Did I get everything that's wrong with Obama? Or am I missing the fear du jour?

I think you forgot to play the race card.

And he forgot to call Obama a "socialist". Also some kind of shot at "Obamacare" is always called for in such matters.

about three weeks ago

Bring On the Monsters: Tolkien's Translation of Beowulf To Be Published

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve The truth about Beowulf (94 comments)

Here's the truth about Beowufl. The poem sucks. Even if it's in a language you can read, it still sucks. When I was in college I read some of the great historical works of the past in Europe, some in translations, some in the original language (if I knew it), and Beowulf was by far the least interesting "classic" work I have ever read. The fact that Tolkien cared about it means nothing to me nor most people. Want proof that while this is of interest to the Tolkien fan boys, nobody else cares? Some years ago Robert Zemeckis, who is a directory I generally like, decided that everybody was just dying to see an adaptation of the film. It made about 60% of what it cost to make it. The truth is, most people don't care. The story sucks and few are interested in it.

And exactly how much, fan boys, do you think his translation is going to bring to the table any way? If it's vastly different than what came before it, then somebody blew it. Either Tolkien's is different because the people before him were really bad at translation and botched it, his is different because he is taking massive liberties with his translation and making assumptions that the original text may not actually support, or it's going to be barely different at all because there's just not that much difference between proper translations. I've done some translation work in my day and if done properly, there just shouldn't be all that much variation between different translations. I suppose Tolkien might use a word order better suited for modern readers or use less complicated words that convey the same meaning as previous translations, and I'd praise him for that, but such things should really be fairly minor versus previous translations.

about three weeks ago

Startup Employees As an Organized Labor Group

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Good luck with that (107 comments)

This is simply a consequence of the fact that tech startup remuneration schemes just don't work anymore, and people have been coasting for the last decade hoping the 90s would come back, and they just aren't. You can't just take programmers who would make over six figures in the market, pay them a pittance and stock, and then never have the stock pay off -- this'll work the first few times, but not for years.

One of the problems is that the number of people who are actually eager to work under these conditions is quite large. I've found that some people like startups because they cannot handle working for large companies at all. Also, I've found that some people who work for a startup that actually made it get very arrogant and decide that it succeeded because they were geniuses and any old company they join in the future simply cannot fail because they'll be part of it. It's been a little amusing to watch from a distance as some of these people have to keep looking for new jobs because the new startups they went to don't make it.

about a month ago


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