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Privacy vs. Safety
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Clinically Insane
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Jun 24, 2013, 04:42 AM
 
I asked this in the NSA thread, but think this deserves its own because it gets down to the fundamental question at hand.

How many lives need to be saved per year to make it worth it to allow the government to make a copy of all electronic communications?
     
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Jun 24, 2013, 05:07 AM
 
>2%?
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
- Thomas Paine
     
subego  (op)
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Jun 24, 2013, 05:27 AM
 
So, about 50K?
     
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Jun 24, 2013, 08:23 AM
 
I could live with the >2% criteria, but... how could we possibly know? The fox is guarding the hen house here. The head of the NSA insists that this program has thwarted some 50+ terrorist plots, but of course the only ones we're going to know about are the ones that got away such as the Boston bombers. Would it be in the best interest of the NSA, who obviously has an interest in (as subego says) hoovering up a bunch of communications to say; "well, we've not really stopped any substantial terrorist plots with the program, but it's still important because... "

It comes down to trust and I'm sorry, I just don't believe a word that comes out of an Administration officials' mouth any more. Anyone paying even a modicum of attention to the shenanigans over Fast and Furious and related Executive Order filed by a White House that claims it had no contribution to the operation, or Benghazi claiming; "there's no way we could get to the compound quickly enough..." as if it could possibly know how long a 9-hour firefight was going to last beforehand, or EPA obstructing FOI requests from conservative groups, or the IRS targeting conservative groups and distributing information it collected to their political detractors, or a massive Justice Dept sweep of AP phone records including judge-shopping for subpoena against a Fox News journalist (and parents!) proving that either a Federal judge was lied to or the American public was lied to in sworn testimony (sorry, there's just no "out" for that one), and recent NSA revelations; it becomes clear that we have burgeoning intrusion being perpetrated by entities that are fundamentally violating the public trust in almost all sectors.

If I were inclined toward safety at this juncture, it would be to take greater care in safeguarding privacy.
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Jun 24, 2013, 09:58 AM
 
Originally Posted by ebuddy View Post
but... how could we possibly know? The fox is guarding the hen house here. The head of the NSA insists that this program has thwarted some 50+ terrorist plots, but of course the only ones we're going to know about are the ones that got away such as the Boston bombers. Would it be in the best interest of the NSA, who obviously has an interest in (as subego says) hoovering up a bunch of communications to say; "well, we've not really stopped any substantial terrorist plots with the program, but it's still important because... "

It comes down to trust and I'm sorry, I just don't believe a word that comes out of an Administration officials' mouth any more.
Other forms of policing are subject to regular cost/benefit audits. Benefits that can't be measured in crimes prevented are quantified in other ways such as arrests, seizures, fines, citations or whatever. I don't see why the NSA shouldn't have to show documentation about the specific arrests or other actions that were taken as a result of which degrees of surveillance. I'm not convinced that "trust" is our only option.
     
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Jun 24, 2013, 11:43 AM
 
I was thinking about 6M, not 50k. Enough to declare a nationwide state of martial law due to imminent threat.
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Jun 24, 2013, 12:42 PM
 
"Safe" ? From who?
     
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Jun 24, 2013, 02:23 PM
 
Originally Posted by BadKosh View Post
"Safe" ? From who?
Yourself.

"Faster, faster! 'Till the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death." - HST
     
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Jun 24, 2013, 03:41 PM
 
I'm not generally anti-government as a rule or anything, but this is pretty disturbing (this being the NSA thing).

Monitoring all electronic traffic of your own citizens is not about safety. This is not the same as warrantless wiretapping on actual persons of interests - they weren't just randomly snooping around on random people for the lulz or for the data hoard.

I don't know how this could legitimately be defended as a matter of American civilian safety.

(And, to answer the question, I agree with Shaddim - if the nation is threatened with the possibilty of total destruction, that's about the threshold. Anything before that, my freedom is far more important.)
     
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Jun 24, 2013, 04:13 PM
 
Originally Posted by BadKosh View Post
"Safe" ? From who?
Terrorists.
     
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Jun 24, 2013, 07:19 PM
 
Originally Posted by Shaddim View Post
I was thinking about 6M, not 50k. Enough to declare a nationwide state of martial law due to imminent threat.
Ahh... gotcha.

I was thinking as a percentage of deaths per year, not a percentage of the whole population.
     
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Jun 25, 2013, 08:20 AM
 
Originally Posted by Uncle Skeleton View Post
Other forms of policing are subject to regular cost/benefit audits. Benefits that can't be measured in crimes prevented are quantified in other ways such as arrests, seizures, fines, citations or whatever. I don't see why the NSA shouldn't have to show documentation about the specific arrests or other actions that were taken as a result of which degrees of surveillance. I'm not convinced that "trust" is our only option.
I don't see how you get around trust. They're producing the only information we're privy to. The emails were lost, the server was damaged, the dog ate my docket... we can't discuss an open investigation, I don't recall -- you'll have to ask _______... Oh, you had an FOI request? You didn't file the request properly. You didn't pay the appropriate fees. I wasn't in charge. I have no recollection. This is classified information. National security... little children and snow seal pups were saved.

I don't want to be Darrell Issa and I suspect even Darrell doesn't want to be Darrell Issa at this point. Congress has all, but lost its oversight authority of this administration. The ones that need to be on trial or otherwise on a host of current issues are retired, dead, above the law entirely and remain silent, or promoted through Obama's cabinet.
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Jun 25, 2013, 09:32 AM
 
Originally Posted by ebuddy View Post
I don't see how you get around trust. They're producing the only information we're privy to.
...
The emails were lost, the server was damaged, the dog ate my docket... we can't discuss an open investigation, I don't recall -- you'll have to ask _______... Oh, you had an FOI request? You didn't file the request properly. You didn't pay the appropriate fees. I wasn't in charge. I have no recollection. This is classified information. National security... little children and snow seal pups were saved.
Those are all ways to avoid "producing the information." Some X% of information will not be produced due to those excuses, but the remainder doesn't need to depend on trust, because the information will either substantiate the methods or it won't. That's how you get around trust, by not letting X get close to 100%.
     
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Jun 25, 2013, 08:41 PM
 
Trick question, or are people really considering this?

I would think it goes without saying that the government doesn't need a copy of all electronic communications in order to save *a single* life, and in fact, that it's not saving lives that way, and never will.

In general, why did everyone who cheerled for this big out of control government ever think it'd ever be anything other than... big and out of control? To the point we're now even discussing this kind of thing, and in the future as it gets even bigger, less accountable and even more out of control, much much worse.
     
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Jun 25, 2013, 08:46 PM
 
Well, someone's considered it.
     
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Jun 25, 2013, 09:01 PM
 
One. Any individual person who is not killed due to criminal activity or terror attacks makes the effort worthwhile. The problem is that we are talking about a very large amount of information and going through it is tedious and time consuming, and well suited to automation. Which is where the concept of privacy starts to break down. How is one's privacy violated if only a computer ever looks at their information? This is essentially the situation for the telephone record stuff NSA has been doing.

So the tradeoff seems to be whether you are less concerned that a coworker's mother might be blown up by Joe Terrorist than that some computer may have access to records that show that you don't call your mother regularly...and the extremely remote possibility that a couple different levels of computer analysis may somehow include your records in one of thousands of "human assessment needed" situations - where your data would be eliminated from consideration almost immediately. And remember that the data is almost all going to be in the form of dates/times and phone numbers, without those numbers being associated with anyone's name until and unless there is a whole lot of reason - like that number being associated with numerous instances of contact with known "threat" phone numbers. In other words, your information stays "private" unless you've managed to take up calling someone who regularly contacts well-researched and established threat individuals' phone numbers. So is that worth the possibility that Bob's mom might get blown up?

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Jun 25, 2013, 09:23 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
One.
Well, crap. I can save a whole lot more than that by...

[picks from out of the bottomless hat]

Banning motorcycles.

You on board?
     
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Jun 25, 2013, 09:35 PM
 
You don't stop crime or terrorism by combing through mountains of unrelated data.

I'm amazed anyone really thinks this.

It's like believing cops solve criminal investigations by picking up a phonebook checking every single name and number until they they just happen upon their suspect. You don't solve crime by deluging your investigation in mountains of unrelated data. You EXCLUDE everything unrelated and then gather and examine only data pertaining to your case.

Ironically, the agencies involved know all this full well- the reason they want access to so much data isn't really about saving lives, solving crimes, or stropping terrorism. They want us all to forget the concept of general warrants against the public being unconstitutional. The only reason you'd want so much data is that you're operating from a general warrant mindset.
     
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Jun 25, 2013, 11:46 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Well, crap. I can save a whole lot more than that by...

[picks from out of the bottomless hat]

Banning motorcycles.

You on board?
Why do we have such stringent car safety laws, when a motorbike is 10x more dangerous than any car with 4 wheels and a seat belt? "You can't have a car without a windshield!" Fine, just require a helmet for cars without windshields (of course we now have states dropping their helmet laws left and right, so...)
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Jun 26, 2013, 03:01 AM
 
I just can't imagine going back to the dark ages before we had such eavesdropping technology; where we were having to constantly look over our shoulder in fear wondering when the next terrorist was going to get us. Scary scary times that was... Thank you government, your supreme protection from the 50+ terror attacks proves you know best.

I just wish these terrorists would grow up and stop trying to kill me just because they're jealous of my country, my government and freedom.
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Jun 26, 2013, 04:24 AM
 
Originally Posted by Shaddim View Post
Why do we have such stringent car safety laws, when a motorbike is 10x more dangerous than any car with 4 wheels and a seat belt? "You can't have a car without a windshield!" Fine, just require a helmet for cars without windshields (of course we now have states dropping their helmet laws left and right, so...)
If you can't drive a motorcycle then the terrorists win.
     
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Jun 26, 2013, 08:10 AM
 
Originally Posted by Uncle Skeleton View Post
Those are all ways to avoid "producing the information." Some X% of information will not be produced due to those excuses, but the remainder doesn't need to depend on trust, because the information will either substantiate the methods or it won't. That's how you get around trust, by not letting X get close to 100%.
I guess I'd bring up Eric Holder again -- he lied under oath when questioned on the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material. In this case we even have clear information, questioned the Attorney General on that information, and video-taped proof Holder lied to the Congressional panel; punishable up to 5 years in prison. And yet Congress can't even get this man to resign his post. The only people that can enforce accountability are defending the one being held to account by everyone else. When even that fails and justice appears over the horizon? Executive Order... you know, for the sake of the children.

I don't think there's any way around trust. We simply have people in this Administration acting above the law and there's not a damned thing we can do about it. One has to take it on faith that their government is being good stewards of the public trust. I have very little reason to believe this and that's because of information that was entirely intact.
ebuddy
     
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Jun 26, 2013, 08:42 AM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
One. Any individual person who is not killed due to criminal activity or terror attacks makes the effort worthwhile. The problem is that we are talking about a very large amount of information and going through it is tedious and time consuming, and well suited to automation. Which is where the concept of privacy starts to break down. How is one's privacy violated if only a computer ever looks at their information? This is essentially the situation for the telephone record stuff NSA has been doing.

So the tradeoff seems to be whether you are less concerned that a coworker's mother might be blown up by Joe Terrorist than that some computer may have access to records that show that you don't call your mother regularly...and the extremely remote possibility that a couple different levels of computer analysis may somehow include your records in one of thousands of "human assessment needed" situations - where your data would be eliminated from consideration almost immediately. And remember that the data is almost all going to be in the form of dates/times and phone numbers, without those numbers being associated with anyone's name until and unless there is a whole lot of reason - like that number being associated with numerous instances of contact with known "threat" phone numbers. In other words, your information stays "private" unless you've managed to take up calling someone who regularly contacts well-researched and established threat individuals' phone numbers. So is that worth the possibility that Bob's mom might get blown up?
Bob's mom, brother, and son got blown up in Boston and we had a host of red flags from which to have thwarted this effort -- it did not work. Granted, I can appreciate how difficult it is to prevent such activities, but the fact remains that in spite of this intrusion of American citizens' privacy, the Russian dissidents with ties to terrorists and frequent travel to and fro went undetected; there is no Nerf world and our pursuit of the Nerf world will only continue to see an erosion of American citizens' privacy.

Your entire point above is predicated on a fundamental trust that your government is acting in your interest, have effective oversight, and that the programs are not being abused by the human beings behind the machinery. Not unlike the IRS in distributing information it collected to political detractors of those deemed a hinderance to the overseeing administration. At what point do you say enough is enough? When terrorism is defined as anything expressing national pride or patriotism? Ron Paul bumper stickers? Buying gold? I ask because while it may not be today, at some point the harmless information becomes actionable intel against your equal protection, right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It's not like we haven't seen the abuses of an out of control Centralized Authority throughout history and they generally begin with the very arguments you're using to defend their genesis moment here. The line is being drawn and it's getting decidedly closer to you and I. When do you say enough is enough?
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Jun 28, 2013, 07:28 PM
 
My point is based on the concept that there is no orchestrated effort to abuse these mechanisms. Our government can't effectively follow basic and well-written rules for conducting business; it certainly isn't able to make a concerted effort to abuse such mechanisms. Remember, "the government" is a bunch of individuals who want to draw a pay check and (usually) put in a good day's work in the process, not some vast conspiracy to oppress group X. They're moms and dads, folks with student loan debt, with kids in college, and bills to pay, and a whole lot of them actually believe in the Constitution. I don't care what Ron or Rand think, it is the individuals who sit in those cubicles and do the day to day work (with never enough staffing or other resources) that make things work, and whatever their politics, they are generally very aware of the effects of their work.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
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Jun 28, 2013, 10:00 PM
 
It doesn't take a conspiracy. All it takes is the wrong person in a position of authority.

Why is the lesson of J. Edgar Hoover suddenly not applicable here?
     
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Jun 28, 2013, 11:53 PM
 
Originally Posted by ebuddy View Post
Bob's mom, brother, and son got blown up in Boston and we had a host of red flags from which to have thwarted this effort -- it did not work.

Jesus, not BOB'S MOM! My perfectly good evening has been ruined now, thanks to you. How sad... Bob's Mom... I LOVED her!
     
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Jun 29, 2013, 09:11 AM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
My point is based on the concept that there is no orchestrated effort to abuse these mechanisms. Our government can't effectively follow basic and well-written rules for conducting business; it certainly isn't able to make a concerted effort to abuse such mechanisms. Remember, "the government" is a bunch of individuals who want to draw a pay check and (usually) put in a good day's work in the process, not some vast conspiracy to oppress group X. They're moms and dads, folks with student loan debt, with kids in college, and bills to pay, and a whole lot of them actually believe in the Constitution. I don't care what Ron or Rand think, it is the individuals who sit in those cubicles and do the day to day work (with never enough staffing or other resources) that make things work, and whatever their politics, they are generally very aware of the effects of their work.
Not to parrot subego or anything, but the above sort of flies in the face of every well-documented, concerted effort of abuse against a citizenry throughout history. Here's the thing, it could be as simple as getting the right people into the right positions and simply loosening oversight. Voila! You don't have to choreograph a thing, the right people will do the right things for you without always having to be told. Exactly how concerted the efforts were in any one of the wealth of scandals currently under investigation remains to be seen, but in many cases such as the IRS scandal; it was concerted enough. Apparently.
( Last edited by ebuddy; Jun 29, 2013 at 09:25 AM. )
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Jun 29, 2013, 09:27 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Jesus, not BOB'S MOM! My perfectly good evening has been ruined now, thanks to you. How sad... Bob's Mom... I LOVED her!
Odd that out of all that I had said in response to ghporter, you only latched on to ghporter's hypothetical in response to me.
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Jun 29, 2013, 01:13 PM
 
Originally Posted by ebuddy View Post
Odd that out of all that I had said in response to ghporter, you only latched on to ghporter's hypothetical in response to me.

That's what I guess for only skim reading I guess: less opportunity to be obnoxious!
     
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Jun 29, 2013, 02:45 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
My point is based on the concept that there is no orchestrated effort to abuse these mechanisms. Our government can't effectively follow basic and well-written rules for conducting business; it certainly isn't able to make a concerted effort to abuse such mechanisms. Remember, "the government" is a bunch of individuals who want to draw a pay check and (usually) put in a good day's work in the process, not some vast conspiracy to oppress group X. They're moms and dads, folks with student loan debt, with kids in college, and bills to pay, and a whole lot of them actually believe in the Constitution. I don't care what Ron or Rand think, it is the individuals who sit in those cubicles and do the day to day work (with never enough staffing or other resources) that make things work, and whatever their politics, they are generally very aware of the effects of their work.
Sure there's no x-files conspiracies being orchestrated, but people are conspiring for promotions / money to pay off all those college loans and debt you just mentioned. You just gave a perfect motive for conspiracies. I give you exhibit Mao, who had his communes compete for who could have the highest food production. Mao was initially pleased because his communes were constantly increasing production; or at least reporting that they were. Mao like all government had nothing to go on other than stats reported to him by managers, who figured out the best way to climb the ladders with Mao's policy was to make production look outstanding by any means possible.

I give that example because it's obvious and part of history now. What people don't seem to know or want to believe is this is exactly how the US government works today... with every agency, department and office on a more sophisticated level. Now instead of food production, picture that scenario going on with NSA, CIA, FBI, military etc..

If there were no narcotics crimes then who's going to get promoted for solving more narcotics cases? If there's no food safety problems what use are most the employees of the FDA? If there's no terrorism then who's going to get promoted for gathering more terrorist info? You see why there's an interest for these problems not just to exist but to get worse? I didn't just decide to put on a foil hat and believe this one day. I only believe it because it's what I witnessed in working for various agencies of government.

There doesn't need to be a grand orchestrated effort. Its natural. Government employees are conspiring to clime the ladders and pay raises and you'd be surprised the number of corrupt things they do to make their personal "stats" look great for those promotions. Unlike the private sector this is not self limiting in any way because the government doesn't actually have to produce anything to stay in business. Anything goes with government.
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Jun 29, 2013, 06:43 PM
 
I think you're attributing more to people in such positions than there is. Prosecutors? SURE! I've seen it happen. But the low level folks who sort bits and sift through papers? They don't get promotions for their contributions to investigations, they don't get bonuses (civil service seems to not include the term "bonus" in its lexicon) for even being more efficient, let alone helping some fast-burner attorney make a name for him- or herself.

Climbing ladders only happens in appointed positions. Civil service is built (almost certainly by accident) to completely avoid that sort of motivation.

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Jun 30, 2013, 01:01 AM
 
Bonuses exist in civil service. I've never heard them refereed as that but that is what they are. With government, managers often get $5,000 monthly or annual "rewards" for things like "professionalism". The low level employees at the bottom of the food chain also get various "rewards" throughout the year for various sycophantic reasons, not necessarily doing their job as it was originally purposed for.

There are almost 3 million federal employees; the US gov is largest employer in the world.
All these low level employees need low level supervisors, who need mid level supervisors, who need higher level managers... So there is ladders to climb and you get to these positions based on how you sycophantically please the upper management. This happens in private sector too; its just more self limiting since profit trumps sycophancy.
     
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Jul 2, 2013, 09:26 PM
 
Any sort of effort like what you're suggesting is not particularly credible because it would already be quite well known. I don't know what your personal experience with civil service may be, but mine involves over 25 years of working with GS and WG employees, supervising them, being supervised by them, etc., and any and all methods of advancement and increasing take home pay are the subject of no end of discussions among workers, within union circles, etc.

I repeat: the work-a-day civil service workers are so isolated from high-level politics that there is no realistic chance for any individual to try what you suggest to "look better to the boss."

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Jul 3, 2013, 08:32 AM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
Any sort of effort like what you're suggesting is not particularly credible because it would already be quite well known. I don't know what your personal experience with civil service may be, but mine involves over 25 years of working with GS and WG employees, supervising them, being supervised by them, etc., and any and all methods of advancement and increasing take home pay are the subject of no end of discussions among workers, within union circles, etc.

I repeat: the work-a-day civil service workers are so isolated from high-level politics that there is no realistic chance for any individual to try what you suggest to "look better to the boss."
Right, they generally do what their managers ask them to do, right? Like at the IRS, the EPA, the NSA, ATF, etc... the work-a-day civil service workers unwittingly carry out what their managers ask them to do. I mean, that's at the crux of the defense of the IRS actions; that they were low-level workers messing with high-level politics. Notwithstanding the low-level antics were ceased in 2011 only for a more formal, higher level template to work from that included any 501-Cs educating on the Constitution, notions of limited government, patriotism, etc... and the work-a-day civil service workers sing; "I owe, I owe, it's off to work I go!"
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Jul 4, 2013, 04:45 PM
 
Considering that IRS is going to stay in the doghouse for some time, it is pretty important to note that they WERE looking at all sorts of filings to determine which way to file them - since Congress wrote their rules, getting stupid over some detail or other isn't too hard to understand. Remember that, despite the minimal reporting of the fact early on, that same office was also going overboard looking at left-aligned organizations' filings. No right-wing witch hunt, just "these rules are as clear as mud, so maybe we need to come up with a way to figure them out" worker-bee actions. And since IRS has not had a permanent administrator for quite some time (more Congress inaction), there is just not a clear amount of supervision from the very top. This sort of thing leads to individuals being creative in an effort to make their jobs easier, more efficient (to them) or to keep their butts out of a sling for not following cryptic instructions and rules well enough.

Similarly, ATF has had a schizoid personality for some time, being tasked with collecting taxes and acting like a law enforcement agency, AND having some pretty overzealous high level supervisors in place over specific timeframes. If they're a tax agency, they shouldn't act like cops, and if they're cops, they should fall under all the same courts all the other cops fall under. Oh wait... that's the way Congress set them up! Never mind.

In a specialized organization like NSA, which should be structured much like the various military agencies we know plenty about (it's cheaper not to have to write all brand new rules), employees are likely to be both free of political pressure and loathe to do anything that could be perceived as political zealotry in either direction, as all the various civil service folks I worked with in the military. There are, in fact, some pretty significant penalties for pushing your own politics on the job in civil service, and all it takes is one complaint to get one's self thoroughly into trouble.

How much personal experience do you have working on a daily basis with civil service employees?

I really don't see why there has to be some "creepy/sinister/hostile" character to any government worker as perceived by much of the public. State and local government workers are far more likely to be underhanded and malignant, since there are much less stringent rules about their performance at more local levels. But "the government" seems to get this characterization much of the time when people don't have a clue about what actually goes on in real life government offices. What does happen is people without enough resources try to get their jobs done well enough to not lose those jobs, and intelligently enough to not look bad when somebody screws up. I've worked with Wage Grade employees who should have been professors, with high GS level folks who have done "slimy" things like getting savings and loan fraudsters tossed into federal prison, and with executive-level people who have all the headaches of a political appointee without the pay and probability of a book deal in four or five years. Seeing "the government" as some shady colossus made up of evil minded people is essentially believing the comic book portrayals of "government" people in action movies.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
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Jul 5, 2013, 10:01 AM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
Considering that IRS is going to stay in the doghouse for some time, it is pretty important to note that they WERE looking at all sorts of filings to determine which way to file them - since Congress wrote their rules, getting stupid over some detail or other isn't too hard to understand. Remember that, despite the minimal reporting of the fact early on, that same office was also going overboard looking at left-aligned organizations' filings.
This is incorrect. A. a delay of several weeks is nothing compared to a delay of more than 3.5 years. B. An audit of a handful of groups is not comparable to a denial of tax statuses or intrusive questioning to intimidate or hassle applicants. C. The hassling of some 400+ applications simply does not compare with the example of 2 or 3 some have offered in a desperate attempt to shamelessly suggest there wasn't a targeting of conservative groups -- after it's already been admitted! D. As if there were some lingering questions of mal-intent here, the information collected from the Conservative groups were also distributed to political detractors. They did not come forward to say; "look, we've been unfairly and harshly judging all political persuasions", they acknowledged an effort directed at Conservative groups using a set of standards applying uniquely to them.

No right-wing witch hunt, just "these rules are as clear as mud, so maybe we need to come up with a way to figure them out" worker-bee actions.
IMO, this is a remarkable defense in spite of the vast amount of evidence showing an admittedly targeted effort here. The question is how high up the chain the problem goes, not whether or not the effort was targeted at conservatives. The work-a-days claim they were working from an updated template that paled in comparison to the template these "local" folks were supposedly responsible for whose practice was ended and replaced in 2011.

And since IRS has not had a permanent administrator for quite some time (more Congress inaction), there is just not a clear amount of supervision from the very top. This sort of thing leads to individuals being creative in an effort to make their jobs easier, more efficient (to them) or to keep their butts out of a sling for not following cryptic instructions and rules well enough.
Ot to manipulate an election by suppressing information the most successful machines for the 2010 election were responsible for. A lack of oversight is a lack of oversight and I really have no confidence that had this coveted Administrator been available for questioning, he would've simply pointed to someone else. Being above the law is en vogue more now than ever.

Similarly, ATF has had a schizoid personality for some time, being tasked with collecting taxes and acting like a law enforcement agency, AND having some pretty overzealous high level supervisors in place over specific timeframes. If they're a tax agency, they shouldn't act like cops, and if they're cops, they should fall under all the same courts all the other cops fall under. Oh wait... that's the way Congress set them up! Never mind.
They shouldn't produce videos essentially threatening whistle blowers while mired in a scandal over gun-running to cartels in Mexico.

In a specialized organization like NSA, which should be structured much like the various military agencies we know plenty about (it's cheaper not to have to write all brand new rules), employees are likely to be both free of political pressure and loathe to do anything that could be perceived as political zealotry in either direction, as all the various civil service folks I worked with in the military. There are, in fact, some pretty significant penalties for pushing your own politics on the job in civil service, and all it takes is one complaint to get one's self thoroughly into trouble.
A single example of this would suffice. Can you provide even one?

How much personal experience do you have working on a daily basis with civil service employees?
I work with them, amongst them, and around them every day of the week. Do you have some unique experience that makes you more qualified to analyze human nature as it operates under a centralized authority or more numb to the well-documented history of its abuses against the public trust? Otherwise, I'm afraid your argument that you worked with Joe and Joe is a hell of a guy isn't compelling enough. Particularly when you're missing a handle on some of the more basic facts surrounding the abuses in question; like providing information you collected from one political wing, to the other political wing.

I really don't see why there has to be some "creepy/sinister/hostile" character to any government worker as perceived by much of the public. State and local government workers are far more likely to be underhanded and malignant, since there are much less stringent rules about their performance at more local levels. But "the government" seems to get this characterization much of the time when people don't have a clue about what actually goes on in real life government offices. What does happen is people without enough resources try to get their jobs done well enough to not lose those jobs, and intelligently enough to not look bad when somebody screws up. I've worked with Wage Grade employees who should have been professors, with high GS level folks who have done "slimy" things like getting savings and loan fraudsters tossed into federal prison, and with executive-level people who have all the headaches of a political appointee without the pay and probability of a book deal in four or five years. Seeing "the government" as some shady colossus made up of evil minded people is essentially believing the comic book portrayals of "government" people in action movies.
Starting from the end and working back; A. You might know the comic book portrayals of "government people" resonates well because of its believability. Why is it believable? The well documented abuses of a centralized authority throughout history and the helpless feelings of subjugation to it. All of the principles that found their way into the US Constitution were predicated on safeguarding the collective against the very abuses you're giving the short shrift here. B. The investigation is still under way into the IRS for example and there is much more that needs to be explained as soon as the correct people are called back to the stand to try again on that claim of the 5th after giving their defense. C. Perhaps if their resources weren't spent on junkets in Vegas, Star Trek spoof videos, and bonuses to people found guilty of violating the public trust, there'd be more to go around for the work-a-day stiffs. Of course, these were all decisions made by low level managers, who have low level bosses, who report to low level directors, who report to low level...
ebuddy
     
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Jul 5, 2013, 10:43 AM
 
After some thought, I've reconciled myself to accept electronic surveillance, in principle. It comes down to a simple concept: in this age when people willingly put their information on Facebook for all the world to see, how much of an expectation of privacy do we really have? Even traffic we intend to be private can be sniffed on the public Internet if we don't encrypt it. The NSA simply has the computing power now to analyze all this traffic in real-time. And it's plausible to believe that analyzing this traffic can help find the stupid terrorists. True, the smart ones are not using Facebook or Google, but even the stupid ones can be dangerous, and stopping those plots will generally improve the quality of life.

Subego's opening premise sounds a lot to me like the folks who work for the auto companies and weigh now many lives can be lost (and $$ paid out) before a recall is justified. It is a little different, of course: we are talking here about how much subjecting us to this surveillance is worth. You can go ahead and argue that it should take 50K lives saved, but if you are the father of victim #49,999 you might feel differently.

I think of it like the CCTV cameras that are springing up everywhere, or the fact that police cars in the US have cameras that automatically save information on license plates, and can track the movements of cars everywhere. They are taking information on our location while we are in public -- information that they used to have to exert some effort to gather, but now they can gather it on a large scale without necessarily targeting anyone in particular. I think it all boils down to redefining what "public" means: we now need to assume that all of our actions in public can and will be observed. (IF the Government doesn't do it, Google will, and at least we elect the Government.)

Of course, ebuddy is spot-on in one respect in these threads: it is all about trust. These databases has been put together with the goal of stopping terrorism, but can be used for so much more, including things that would cross the line in my mind into unconstitutional activity. (translation: if in the course of finding terrorists by reading all our Email, they "accidentally" find besson3c's stash of midget porn, do we trust them not to spread it around the office?)

Do the watchers have sufficient oversight? It's quite clear that they don't: the oversight is done by politicians, who have the luxury to keep all the details secret. The real problem here is not that the surveillance is happening, it's that this program has sprung up in secret, and we don't really know what they are doing with all the information. The traditional knee-jerk response to criticism of programs like this is "If you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide". I'd like to recommend we turn that around -- if the government thinks it is justified in using this surveillance, then it should give us all the details, because secrecy breeds suspicion.

I think we would find that the reason they haven't given us the details is that, even though they are using the surveillance for the stated purpose of fighting terrorism, they are also using it for corporate espionage and interference in foreign government operations. How else do you justify the bugs planted in EU embassies? Unless you are expecting the next terrorist attack to come put of the German embassy, which I find unlikely.

Of course, we all know what will happen next: there will be outrage over the current program, the Administration will announce they are ending it, then they will re-start it with some tweaks under a different name....
     
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Jul 5, 2013, 12:26 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
Any sort of effort like what you're suggesting is not particularly credible because it would already be quite well known. I don't know what your personal experience with civil service may be, but mine involves over 25 years of working with GS and WG employees, supervising them, being supervised by them, etc., and any and all methods of advancement and increasing take home pay are the subject of no end of discussions among workers, within union circles, etc.

I repeat: the work-a-day civil service workers are so isolated from high-level politics that there is no realistic chance for any individual to try what you suggest to "look better to the boss."
I once used my work with multiple government agencies to try and back a position and ebuddy quickly put me in my place. Reminding me that I can't cite any of the events I witnessed, and that I can't even prove I worked for the government. And he's right. So I wont try to cite myself again here. I just throw this stuff out there and hope over time people, in following the news will see it all play out if being reminded of the right context. Everything from the BP disaster, to rising medical costs, to radioactive water, increasing leukemia rates, to illegal immigration, to hepatitis being found in our food supply, all make sense in light of what I've said. Good government employees who do their job as the public wants them to - win workplace Darwin awards, while ones who do whatever their superiors ask climb to the top. Example of FDA below:

GMO Corn Linked To Cancer Tumors

Jeffrey Smith: Throwing Biotech Lies at Tomatoes - Part 1: Killer Tomatoes

Although there are no longer any genetically modified (GM) tomatoes being sold today, the FDA's shady approval process of the Flavr Savr provides a lesson in food safety—or rather, the lack of it—as far as gene-spliced foods are concerned. We know what really went on during the FDA's voluntary review process of the Flavr Savr in 1993, because a lawsuit forced the release of 44,000 agency memos.

(Those same memos, by the way, also showed that FDA scientists had repeatedly warned their superiors about the serious health risks of genetically modified organisms [GMOs]. They were ignored by the political appointees in charge, who allow GMOs onto the market without any required safety studies.)
Any sort of effort like what you're suggesting is not particularly credible because it would already be quite well known.
It is well known... Corruption trickle from the top down...
This stuff isn't the exception, it's the norm, this is just a little what come to public light... and yet even in the light many people still don't know it... Not because a grand conspiracy is hiding it; because they trust government so much, or lack the motive, to do the research or give much thought. A look around the world tells me it takes much pain and suffering to actually get people to pay attention to their government and actually use the democratic process the way it was meant to be used ( We can even get our GMO labeled on our food when everybodys' screaming for it... thats pretty telling).

Right now I see no reason to believe the NSA is behaving much better than FDA, or any other agency.
     
subego  (op)
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Jul 5, 2013, 02:08 PM
 
Here are the results of GMO cancer studies in humans:

How much GMO we have:




How much cancer we have:



Shouldn't consuming all that GMO have had a noticeable impact on our cancer rates?


Rats aren't people. We've cured cancer in rats.


I did a quick look at these warnings of the "dangers" the FDA reported on 10 years ago. They all look like examples of "we don't know" as opposed to a known danger.

I agree with the form of your argument, but these are horrible examples.
     
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Jul 6, 2013, 01:24 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Here are the results of GMO cancer studies in humans: How much GMO we have:

How much cancer we have:

Shouldn't consuming all that GMO have had a noticeable impact on our cancer rates?
Keep a few things in mind: first I cited 2 examples, I didn't say all gmo=cancer. Im simply using these examples to illustrate how we will likely never know as long as we rely on government to relay how safe this is - because their track record sucks. In one of the studies I cited it claimed that there was very little research being done on the safety of this stuff (in fact it claimed it was the only one). What little research is being done is quickly turning up red flags showing how the government is betraying us (not just relating to FDA and GMO).

2nd grouping all cancer together doesn't help us imply anything. For example I googled smoking rates by year knowing that historically cigarette induced cancer is a heavy weight in general cancer stats; so if smoking has gone down over the decades... It would be better to use cancer stats for which we don't already know the cause in the way that you're making your case.

3rd Rats have a faster clock than humans. What happens in them is more subtle in humans. Who knows people might be in for a shock in the next 15 years. For me, if you fed me 2 pieces of corn; one gmo one not; you would see me sick within ~8 hours after eating the gmo one. Thats how I know when I've eaten it.

Rats aren't people. We've cured cancer in rats.
True but it just so happens in the case of the tomato, the problems that were in rats were the problems that were in humans and sent them to the hospital.
I did a quick look at these warnings of the "dangers" the FDA reported on 10 years ago. They all look like examples of "we don't know" as opposed to a known danger.
FDA scientists were pretty solidly opposed, based on a known danger to rats. Granted they said "we don't know" when it came to humans because not enough research had been done. It's funny, the wiki page used to talk about the hospitalizations years ago; now it just says the tomato was discontinued because it was unpopular and lacked flavor. Whatever, it was all about flavor, its in the name...

Sorry I didn't mean to hijack the thread making it all about fda/gmo. I meant to use these examples for a general distrust of big government. The bigger it is the more disconnected I am with it; the more disconnected I am with it the less I trust it. I'd like to see them build trust with these other agencies before expecting us to go along with NSA spying on us because we all terrorist.
     
   
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