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CIA Director Brennan Admits He Was Lying: CIA Really Did Spy On Congress

usuallylost Re:And no one will go to jail (230 comments)

Even if they do refer it for prosecution it will just go to the Justice department’s Assistant Attorney for the Washington area who will refuse to prosecute. DOJ has already refused to even investigate this so it is unlikely they'll actually prosecute it. The sad fact is that there is really not much congress can do at this point. They can whine and complain, hold hearings, perhaps hold up some legislation/nominations or mess with the budget. Nothing that the White house can’t get away with simply ignoring. If by some miracle they actually pass something the President will simply veto it. So realistically it would take 2/3 of both houses agreeing to do something to really take any meaningful action here. I do not see that happening

yesterday
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Comcast Confessions

usuallylost Re:I must be the outlier (231 comments)

I cancelled my Comcast service a couple of years ago. Mainly because I had their DVR service and they absolutely refused to make it work. They just kept sending me new DVRs. After replacing six DVRs in a year, which pretty much defeats the purpose of a DVD, I got fed up and went to Verizon FIOS. The sales rep from Verizon told me I’d have less hassle if I just turned in my equipment locally than if I tried to call them. He even very nicely gave the address of my nearest Comcast facility and their hours of operation. You are doing something seriously wrong when Verizon has better customer service than you.

There is one use for these customer retention people. I used to call Comcast every year or so and say I was leaving. Without fail they would give me various discount packages. I don’t think I paid full price for their services for the last decade I had them. In a typical year I’d reduce my bill by 25 to 50 percent just by calling up and trying to cancel. If they are going to be obnoxius you may as well benefit from it.

2 days ago
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Will Your Next Car Be Covered In Morphing Dimples?

usuallylost Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (138 comments)

If they can make this work at a reasonable cost the trucking industry is defiantly a place I’d expect to see it. After all fuel efficiency is one of the biggest factors in whether a trucking company makes money or not. I am not sure a dynamic system such as being described in the article makes that much sense for cars and trucks. Making some sort of prefabricated body panels that have some pattern permanent imprinted it in seems like it would be much cheaper and require less long term maintenance. Even if you only got a portion of the 11% improvement it could still equal millions of dollars a year to a large trucking company.

As far as they sort of dynamic system described in the article I have to wonder if that wouldn’t be more appropriate to something like the aviation industry. Aircraft have a large enough cost that even if a system like that was $100,000 to put in the impact on the overall cost of the aircraft wouldn’t be that great. It is another industry, like trucking, where fuel costs are among their greatest expenses so an 11% improvement would be significant.

about a week ago
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Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

usuallylost Re:666 (753 comments)

Organized crime is simply the largest example here in the US. You could also point to the fact that the Chinese middle class is moving billions out of a Chinese banking system they don’t trust and into offshore accounts by carrying it in their luggage a few thousand dollars at a time. That is probably a better example anyway as it a direct example of the kind of reasons you don’t want a cashless system. A bunch of politically connected bankers are ripping them off and they are reacting by withdrawing their cash and moving some of it abroad to protect it. The Chinese government puts a lot of limits on its citizen’s abilities to do direct money transfers abroad so they are using cash to bypass that. That is an ability we should be hesitant to give up.

about a week ago
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No RIF'd Employees Need Apply For Microsoft External Staff Jobs For 6 Months

usuallylost Re:This is just a repeat (282 comments)

Unfortunately I fear you are correct. In my view the whole H1B visa scheme is designed to create a class of indentured workers to drive salaries and benefits down for US tech workers. Microsoft has innovated with the whole create the shortage by imposing unreasonable hiring restrictions. So now they lay people off declare them ineligible and then complain to congress to get some more H1B visas. After the artificial period of ineligibility their former employees can reapply for the positions they were not able to fill with H1B visa holders. Very likely at lower wages due to the fact that you will likely have far more people competing for a much smaller pool of positions. The scary thing is that if this works for Microsoft you can expect to see other companies doing it. If we didn’t have to live with the consequences you could almost admire the evil genius factor of it.

about two weeks ago
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Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

usuallylost Re:666 (753 comments)

There are defiantly people out there that are moving that kind of wealth around in cash. Organized crime moves millions around in cash every day. They not only move it within the US but move it across borders to and from other countries. In some parts of the world people do cross border trade in US $100 bills with transaction amounts often measured in the 10s of thousands or more. So it defiantly possible to do it. If you had some reason to think you’d be a target you could pull out money in small enough transactions that no one triggered any alerts and sock it away. Actually you could pull it out in one block sum and just let it be tracked if you wanted. It isn’t illegal to pull a million dollars out in cash they just record it and ask some questions. Once you have it you can hide it, spend it, give it to somebody else or just move it without anyone else’s help. The point is that if cash goes away you won’t be able to move .01 without their cooperation and tracking.

about two weeks ago
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Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

usuallylost Re:666 (753 comments)

It is different from now in a couple of ways. When you go to make a purchase using any electronic payment system that transaction is being facilitated by a third party. It could be your bank, American express, a crypto currency system (eg bitcoin) or some government agency. Whomever that third party is takes your request to buy something, pay a bill or transfer money to some third party and facilitates it. If that third party becomes unavailable for some reason your ability to conduct such transactions is seriously compromised. Now it might become unavailable because of some governmental action like an order form a court saying no transfers for person X. It might be because a hurricane has taken out the infrastructure to conduct the transaction in your area. Whatever the case as long as that third party is either unable or unwilling to facilitate a transaction your ability to conduct any sort of business is very limited.

Cash on the other hand does not require any direct action by any third party to complete a transaction. As long as the system is sufficiently functional that money still has value you can transfer cash from one person to another and compete the transaction. Cash is resistant to being easily tracked. It’s portable and has minimal dependence upon outside infrastructure. About the only way cash totally loses its value is if the nation that issued it either ceases to exist or ends its support for physical currency. Cash can be used to anonymously support groups that the powers that be don’t want you supporting. It can be used to buy things they don’t want you to buy. It can just be held against an emergency. Going from a mostly cashless to a completely cashless system represents a significant loss of individual autonomy. Personally even if I only ever use it to keep a small cache against the power being knocked out long enough that my credit card is unusable I like to have that ability. I think it would be a significant blow to the public to lose it.

about two weeks ago
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Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

usuallylost Re:666 (753 comments)

The most important words in your post are “almost entirely cashless”. I agree with the original poster about the importance of the existence of the ability to have cash transactions to the maintenance of freedom. Basically the way to think of cash is that it gives you the ability to have anonymous economic transactions and the ability to maintain a store of wealth that is not dependent upon external services.

If you take that away then in essence you are saying that every economic transaction is going to be directly traced via some technological means. It is inevitable that information will end up in some central database. Worse if you find yourself on the wrong side of the powers that be for some reason they can simply deny you access to your wealth at their whim. Whereas if you have cash on hand the only way to deprive you of its use is to physically take it from you.

about two weeks ago
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Workplace Surveillance Becoming More Common

usuallylost Re:unions are needed before the bathroom break tim (195 comments)

Unions are a double edged sword on the positive they do tend to protect against some of this stuff. On the negative they are expensive to maintain and that money comes out of the employee's check every week. Also they tend to rob you of flexibility.

My brother is a union member and because of that union contract there are some things he simply doesn't have to put up with. On the other hand because of that union contract he can't have alternative work schedules, he can't negotiate different duties with his boss, and in general he has far less flexibility than a non-union employee. My brother gets irritated because the union is dominated by a lot of employees who fear change so he can't get some of the things he wants because the majority votes against it. So realize if you accept the union you are agreeing to basically let your co-workers have a vote on your career decisions because those decisions will be made collectively rather than on an individual basis. Whether this is a good or bad thing is going to depend upon who you are, what industry you are in, whether there are better deals to be had and how likely you are to be able to negotiate one of those deals for yourself. If you are a top 10% employee for example odds are a union is going to be bad for you. If you are more of a midrange employee or someone who isn’t comfortable negotiating for yourself, and will thus never get those available deals, the union may be good for you.

Another aspect of giving up your own autonomy to gain the protection of a union is that you may be called upon to go on strike. This has happened to my brother twice in his career and both times it was a real hardship as their strike fund doesn't totally replace your paycheck. You also end up picketing when they tell you to even if it is raining in January.

about a month ago
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Are the Glory Days of Analog Engineering Over?

usuallylost Re:The world... (236 comments)

The articles headline is a bit missleading. In the body of the article you find that even they admit that analog engineering isn't dead or going anywhere. What is changing is the exact skill sets required. If you are doing traditional circuit design on purely analog equipment you are on hard times because people aren't doing as much of that. If on the other hand you have a foot in both the digital and analog world and can do analog design for digital systems there is a shortage and money is really good. So basically the people having problems are the older analog engineers who haven't kept their skills current. I think you could write that same article about just about any technical field where there has been rapid development in the technology. Some folks end up in dead end specialties that simply aren't in demand anymore. Your options there are retrain, change carriers or compete for the ever shrinking number of jobs. I'd argue that the last one is the worst choice unless you are simply close enough to retirement that the other two are simply unviable. Which actually appears to be the case with most of the guys listed in the article.

about a month and a half ago
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Scientists Race To Save Miami Coral Doomed By Dredging

usuallylost Re: "by a team hired by the U.S. Army Corps of..." (99 comments)

Well the army has to maintain a staff of competent engineers for use during war time when they need to do things like open harbors, clear beaches, build air strips, build costal defenses etc. Those guys can either just sit around during peacetime or the Government can give them other responsiblities. So the government gets to use engineers, construction crews etc that it is already paying for rather than letting them sit idle and hiring somebody else. Also it keeps their skills up to date by having them work on real projects on a more or less continuous basis.

about 2 months ago
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Cisco Complains To Obama About NSA Adding Spyware To Routers

usuallylost Re:Hypocritical (297 comments)

The accusations against Huawei and ZTE are that they have engineered back doors into every piece of equipment. Where the accusation against the NSA is that they have compromised Cisco equipment going to individual customers and suspect countries. I see a significant difference there. In the case of Huawei and ZTE it means you can pretty much never trust their gear. In the case of Cisco most of the world can trust their gear with the exception of people who are direct targets of the NSA.

about 2 months ago
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DC Revolving Door: Ex-FCC Commissioner Is Now Head CTIA Lobbyist

usuallylost Re:80% of people working in a field (170 comments)

This was going on in the 70's and 80's and before that. The difference now is we have the Internet and the 24x7 news cycle so you are actually hearing about it. It also isn't just the regulatory agencies that are in on this scam. Look how many former members of congress land at suspiciously cushy jobs after they retire. My fear is that what we have here is effectively a bribe laundering scheme. Oh yeah you do what we want and you get a nice office, important sounding title, generous salary and a big benefits package for your post Government life.

That isn't the only such scheme in place in government either. Look at politicans setting up various not for profits, charities and think tanks. That looks like outright bribe laundering. Also some of the members of congress have really suspicous investment dealings that look like outright money laundering.

about 3 months ago
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$42,000 Prosthetic Hand Outperformed By $50 3D Printed Hand

usuallylost Re:Sunk Costs (288 comments)

In the video that is attached to the article the guy says that in addition to the 3D printed components there are "various bits of hardware, Velcro, padding etc". All of which requires some know how and some assembly. So unless somebody came out with very good instructions or perhaps a kit with all the additional parts I doubt the average person is going to make this at home.

The other thing that is not really touched on there is that the $42,000 hand hooks onto the entire forearm. It uses the muscles in the forearm to control the actuator. Where the 3D printed hand hooks over the stump of the guy's left hand and uses the muscles in his palm to control movement and to provide the actual strength. A lot of people with missing arms don't have the palm of their hands left to provide that strength and control. For those people the 42K version is going to continue to provide utility where as they wouldn't be able to use the $50 version at all. For this particular type of case the $50 outperforms the 42K version. If you took 500 people with various levels of amputation I suspect that the 42k version would help a lot more of them than the $50 version.

What is shows me is that there is a tendency in the prosthetic industry to try and go for a one size fits all solution. Where it is clear that for some patients you could use a less expensive solution. It might bare some research to see just how many people are being fitted with 42k prosthetic when much cheaper solutions might work better for them.

about 3 months ago
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Click Like? You May Have Given Up the Right To Sue

usuallylost Re:The power of EULAs only goes so far (216 comments)

Assuming common sense or justice from the courts is a dangerous thing to do. They have shown time and again that neither of those things is a priority for them. From the article it appears they already have some legal precedent for this sort of thing and it appears that other companies in other industries have indeed made these provisions stick in court. Even if they don't make it stick it is another legal hurdle that you have to over come in order to sue them. So even if it isn't enforced you are going to have to pay your lawyers to go to court and fight that out. Which is going to force you to incur significant additional legal costs.

I can see why these companies want to do this. After all frivolous lawsuits are a huge expense for most companies these days. If you can reduce those you immediately benefit the bottom line. Seems to me that just having some basic tort reform to weed out the BS lawsuits would be a better approach for us as a society. Unfortunately the courts seem to have been turned into a money factory for lawyers and there is no will there to reform anything.

about 3 months ago
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

usuallylost Re:Over 18 (632 comments)

Not only the 17th but the 16th amendment. If you are going to make states directly responsible for collecting taxes, presumably on an apportioned basis, then you are going to need to give state legislatures direct power in the federal system. Which, as you have already said, means getting rid of the 17th amendment. Just as importantly you'd need to remove from congress the ability to levy direct taxes on people's income (16th amendment) or they'd just do an end run around the new system the moment they wanted more money. Ending up with high state taxes and then a federal tax on top of it would be horrible.

The problem is that the current system really benefits the people in power at the Federal level. They will fight to the bitter end to avoid changing that. Your only hope of changing that is a constitutional convention and even that only works if you can prevent them from stuffing the convention with their own people.

about 3 months ago
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

usuallylost Re:Over 18 (632 comments)

This is far worse than inheretence of debt. They are seizing these people's refunds based on debts that they claim their parents have incurred. Yet when the woman in the article demanded proof of the debt they were unable to produce any. She was supposed to get a due process review before they seized her money but all of the notices of that right just happened to go to a PO box she hadn't had in decades. Yet when it came time to collect they suddenly had her right address. From the article this pattern is not uncommon. So basically we have the IRS collecting a debt that they can't even prove is a debt and doing so, either through intent or incompetence, in a way that deprives the victims of their due process rights to challenge it. Even if you accept the premise of a child inhereting the parents debt, which I really fail to see any legimate basis for, this method of collecting those debts stinks on ice. I mean with they way they have this setup they could just declare anybody owed any amount that they desired to collect. After all they are not providing any proof and are simply siezing your money with no due process. I hope the lady in the article prevails in her court case. Because if she doesn't the rest of us will never know when some "old debt" will appear.

I noticed a couple of other disturbing things in this article. Ms Grice's father only owed, by their unsubstanitated claim, $2,996. Yet they seized her entire refund of $4,462 and only released the difference to her after the Washington Post started questioning it. So in addition to making her pay a debt that isn't hers, that they have no proof of and that they deprived her of her due process rights for, they also helped themselves to an additional $1,466 of her money that they only released under pressure from the press. Some of the other cases seem to be for fairly token amounts. Makes you wonder if what we are seeing here is the IRS adopting the tactic of demanding money from people that is just a bit less than what they can afford to fight for. Hopefully the courts will strike this whole thing down.

about 4 months ago
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Million Jars of Peanut Butter Dumped In New Mexico Landfill

usuallylost Re:And so this is Costco's fault? (440 comments)

The complaint I have seen with "pure peanut butter" is that the oil rises to the top if it sits for awhile. I get comments like "the normal peanut butter doesn't do that" and "is this bad?". Then I end up explaining that this is what happens when you haven't added anything to artificially stabilize the oil in solution. As far as salt goes I don't think I have tried any brands that didn't have salt in them. I'll have to check next time I need to refill my peanut butter supply. Either way I do not put salt into the same category as "partially-hydrogenated or fully-hydrogenated oil" or various chemical preservatives.

about 4 months ago
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Wal-Mart Sues Visa For $5 Billion For Rigging Card Swipe Fees

usuallylost Somebody needs to continue to fight this (455 comments)

The settlement, assuming this article is accurate, includes a broad ligation release that will basically shield the credit card companies from getting sued in the future. So essentially they are giving a token amount to this settlement and getting a huge litigation release that will allow them to continue to screw people essentially forever. I'd opt out of this class if it was me. Walmart, Target and Amazon have all opted out. Hopefully they will all sue individually and force a reasonable outcome this time. Depending upon how this goes Walmart may be doing us all a favor here by trying to force a better settlement.

This is just another example that reinforces my view that class action lawsuits are basically a scam. I have been involved in two where I actually joined the class and in both cases the company being sued and the lawyers came out just fine and the people in the class got pretty much nothing. I had two other instances where I qualified and I just opted out. Not surprisingly those cases also involved making lawyers rich while the people in the class got nothing. In this case the class members are getting next to nothing and giving up a hell of a lot to get it. Can't say I am surprised.

about 4 months ago
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White House To Propose Ending NSA Phone Records Collection

usuallylost Re:Status quo? (208 comments)

Congress appears to have declared it legal when they reauthorized the patriot act. Whether they want to admit it or not. All the statements to the contrary look to be members of congress trying to cover their asses now that the public knows and is upset. As far as I can tell nobody at the NSA is any kind of legal jeopardy over the current program. Presumably they might be subject to a challenge on fourth amendment grounds. This proposal might even be an attempt to head off that possibility.

From the article it appears that there are several changes in the proposal, that if they really do them, would benefit the public. One is that they will no longer have direct custody of the records. The second is that the retention period goes from 5 years to 18 months. The third is they are going to have to get warrants for individual searches instead of blanket warrants for "All of Verizon's customers" for example. It also limits the warrants to 2 hops where as they supposedly go out three hops now. As far as it goes this proposal would be a good thing. What they are talking about here is more along the lines of traditional wire tap rules compared to total surveillance we have today. I'll take that change if I can get it. That is the real trick will any of this really be done or is this a PR stunt?

The other issue brought up in this article is that they aren't changing anything about other forms of bulk data collection. With the example being given of the CIA collecting information on all money transfers. I am not at all sure that is reasonable either. Personally I am suspicious of anything that starts with the word "bulk collection of data". At the very least I'd like to see some sign of real oversight and a serious justification of anything like that.

about 4 months ago

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