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Old February 6th, 2012, 05:20 PM   #6401 (permalink)
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That really misses the point though. It says people will be issued a Bristol Pound for every Pound Sterling they deposit:

Quote:
They will print notes in £1, £5, £10 and £20 denominations. A Bristol pound will be worth exactly £1 sterling.

People will open an account with the Bristol Credit Union, which is administering the scheme, and for every pound sterling they deposit, they will be credited one Bristol pound.
What's the point for the customer? To get Bristol Pounds, which are less widely accepted, you have to deposit your essentially more valuable Pounds Sterling. The CU may then take your deposited funds and make a profit from it through the magic of fractional reserve lending, while giving you essentially nothing in return.

Bottom line: If printing money was the answer to financial crises, why not let everyone do it? There is no difference between Monopoly money and national currencies other than the "Legal Tender" status, and the ability of the backing organization to tax your labor/rent resources. In other words, the national currencies are no better than "coal mine scrip", and competing paper currencies are even worse.
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Old February 7th, 2012, 01:19 PM   #6402 (permalink)
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More interesting news from the UK:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk...r-6612084.html
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Old February 7th, 2012, 02:24 PM   #6403 (permalink)
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Well didn't the US Police use tear gas against the anti bretton woods demonstrators a while back?
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Old February 9th, 2012, 06:13 PM   #6404 (permalink)
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Radioactive spider?

lol what next.....
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Old February 9th, 2012, 11:12 PM   #6405 (permalink)
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Old February 10th, 2012, 09:23 AM   #6406 (permalink)
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Radioactive spider?

lol what next.....
Avoid the dailymail. It mostly consists of bullshit about people like Kim Kardashian and Bieber.
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Old February 10th, 2012, 10:30 AM   #6407 (permalink)
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I don't read it, someone I know in GA said that story was on the news so I was trying to find it and that came up.
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Old February 10th, 2012, 08:28 PM   #6408 (permalink)
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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...r-burglar.html

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Old February 14th, 2012, 08:38 AM   #6409 (permalink)
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Old February 14th, 2012, 09:55 AM   #6410 (permalink)
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I love these things.
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Old February 15th, 2012, 10:15 AM   #6411 (permalink)
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This new meme fad is kinda annoying, but I like that one.
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Old March 2nd, 2012, 12:51 PM   #6412 (permalink)
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Call of Apathy: Violent Young Men and Our Place in War
http://www.mediumdifficulty.com/2012...-place-in-war/

Thought some of you guys might enjoy this read. Especially those who have served.

"There’s a reason the new guy always gets put on point and nobody really cares when he gets blown up, that so many incidents of collateral damage go unreported, that failed missions are spun into something positive like gathering “valuable intel,” and why only roughly 20% of combat troops ever get PTSD – when if you think about it, it should affect everyone that ever sees combat."

"It’s because the vast majority of us are straight up sociopaths."
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Old March 2nd, 2012, 02:11 PM   #6413 (permalink)
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Read it. I think that's a pretty spot on write-up.
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Old March 2nd, 2012, 02:58 PM   #6414 (permalink)
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I enjoyed that write-up a lot.
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Old March 5th, 2012, 08:07 AM   #6415 (permalink)
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Philosophy Discussion

I think it's alright to use this thread for some more intensified philosophical discussion (some of you have my contact information if you'd like to get more intense "off the stage"; you know who you are).

Anyway, in some recent mini-discussions, some debates about the nature of logic, empistemology, and knowledge itself have begun to appear, usually with the obvious opposed parties: the "can-knows" versus the "cannot-knows". Here, I want to start by posting this blog (made by a guest blogger on R. Scott Bakker's site); the writer is a philosopher doctoral candidate at University of Chicago, and attempts to provide a very preliminary critique of the basis of knowledge and "truth."

http://rsbakker.wordpress.com/2012/0...our-unknowing/

Quote:
To Know Our Unknowing

Aphorism of the Day 1:

“Nothing becomes a man, even the most zealous, more perfectly in learning than to be found very learned in ignorance itself, which is his characteristic. The more he knows that he is unknowing, the more learned he will be.”

– Nicholas of Cusa, On Learned Ignorance

Aphorism of the Day 2:

“There are some things we now know too well, we knowing ones: oh, how we nowadays learn as artists to forget well, to be good at not knowing!”

– Nietzsche, preface to The Gay Science

———————————————–

Welcome to the first post by a guest-blogger here at the TPB! My name’s Roger Eichorn. I’m a friend of Scott’s, an aspiring fantasy novelist, and a Ph.D. student in philosophy at the University of Chicago. My primary area of specialization is ancient skepticism, particularly the Pyrrhonism of Sextus Empiricus.

In this post, I’d like to discuss one of Scott’s favorite themes—human stupidity—in relation to Pyrrhonism.

Scott focuses, and for good reason, on the growing scientific (that is, empirical) evidence to the effect that humans are stupid, stupid creatures. Much of this work is cutting-edge stuff, largely because of recent technological advances that have (as Scott likes to say) broken open the ‘black box’ of the human brain. Even so, there’s a sense in which the findings Scott brings to our attention are merely the latest chapter in a long story, a story that goes all the way back to the ancients.

Sextus Empicirus himself based many of his arguments on empirical evidence. Though, of course, his ‘evidence’ was not the sort of thing that would pass muster in a modern scientific context, I believe there’s every reason to think that, were he alive today, Sextus would be at least as fascinated by the growing body of evidence concerning human cognitive shortcomings as Scott is—and moreover, there’s every reason to think that he would have made potent use of this evidence in his skeptical dialectic.

However, Sextus did not think that we require empirical evidence in order to arrive at the conclusion that we’re all idiots. That conclusion, he thought, can be arrived at purely a priori, that is, while lounging in our armchairs and merely thinking through our knowing. Let’s see how this works.

The question is this: What, if anything, do we know? Knowledge is generally taken to be justified true belief.* (This is a twentieth-century formulation, but the thought goes back at least to Plato.) On the one hand, there are beliefs—all sorts of beliefs, many of them batshit crazy. On the other hand, there is the way things actually are (truth). How do we assure ourselves that a belief reflects how things actually are? We do so, the thought goes, by justifying that belief.

So far, so good. But any step we take from here is going to lead us into trouble, for the question immediately arises: What does and does not count as a genuine justification? Right away, we find ourselves in the grip of what’s called the problem of the criterion, which can be summed up this way: without an already-established criterion of truth/justification, we have no way to establish the truth/justification of a putative criterion of truth/justification. Immediately, in other words, we’ve fallen into the difficulty of needing to justify that which makes justification possible. It is no easy task—putting it mildly—to see our way around this epistemic impasse.

But even if we bracket out the problem of the criterion, our difficulties are hardly over. For the sake of argument, let’s all agree to construe justification in purely rationalistic terms. Let us, in other words, agree to seek justification solely on the basis of the autonomous exercise of our capacity to reason. (Let us, that is, become philosophers.) Straight off, then, we can dismiss any putative justification that relies on appeals to authority (appeals that cannot be independently underwritten by reason alone, that is). Appeals to authority (such as God, sacred texts, or your friendly neighborhood guru) can play a role in justification, but they cannot be its ground. We can also dismiss things like divine revelation. (Again, divine revelation can play a role in justification, but only if the truth of the revelation has been independently justified.)

In short, let’s all agree to be ‘rational.’ Now, there must exist constraints on what counts as rational; otherwise, the concept would be empty, indistinguishable from irrationality. Ancient skeptics suggested the following as non-tendentious rational constraints:

(1) If a person claims to know something, then that person opens herself up to the standing possibility of being asked how she knows, i.e., to being asked for the justification of her belief.

(2) Successful justifications cannot involve:
•Brute assumption
•Infinite regress
•Vicious circularity

(3) If a claim to knowledge cannot be justified, then the claimant is rationally constrained to withdraw it (at least qua knowledge-claim).

The constraints on justification outlined in (2)–called the Agrippan Trilemma–come down simply to this: merely assuming that something is true is not a rational reason to maintain that it’s true; therefore, any putative justifier must itself be justified, from which it follows that an infinite regress of justifications (where x is justified by y, which is justified by z, on and on forever) fails, as do circular justifications (where x is justified by y, which is itself justified by x).

There’s a sense in which the Agrippan Trilemma sums up the problematic of the entire history of epistemology. Foundationalist theories attempt to end the regress by appealing to some privileged class of self-justifying justifiers. Coherence theories, on the other hand, attempt to make a virtue of circularity by claiming, roughly, that we are justified in holding a set of beliefs if those beliefs evince the requisite degree of internal coherence.

Despite centuries–millenia!–of ingenious epistemological tinkering by generations of staggeringly intelligent people, it is hard to see, on the face of it, how any theory can escape the Agrippan Trilemma without giving up on rational justification altogether. The very idea of a self-justifying justifier is, if not incoherent, at least deeply suspicious. Such ‘foundations’ to our knowledge are often said to be ‘self-evident.’ But as the Devil’s Dictionary points out, ‘self-evident’ seems to mean that which is evident to oneself–and no one else. (Making the same point with far more plausibility, and much less humor: ‘self-evident’ seems to mean nothing more than what a particular cultural tradition has taught its members to accept without reasons.)

As for coherence theories, it may be the case that the greater the coherence of a set of beliefs, the more reason we have, ceteris paribus, to think those beliefs true. But the game of truth is not horseshoes or hand-grenades. Given that knowledge means justified true belief, then by claiming knowledge of x, we’re claiming that x is true, not that x is more or less likely to be true by virtue of belonging to a more or less coherent set of beliefs. There might be all sorts of interesting uses for coherence theories, but they are not theories of truth.

Finally, some epistemologists endorse ‘externalism,’ according to which (roughly) knowledge does not require that the knowing subject know that she knows. Here’s one way of putting it: as long as a belief was acquired by means of a reliable mechanism (a mechanism that is known to ‘track the truth’), then the belief is justified regardless of the ‘internal’ state of the subject. Externalists will want to argue that I (and other pesky skeptics) are demanding too much, namely, not just that we know x, but that we know that we know x.

Think about it for a minute, though. What does ‘externalism’ come down to? Just this: “It might very well be the case that many of our beliefs are justified even if we have no way of knowing that they are.” For consider: unless the externalist, or someone, is able to adopt the third-person perspective—the perspective from which it is possible to determine that Beatrice has arrived at belief x by means of a reliable, truth-tracking mechanism, and thus that she knows x (even though she does not know that she knows x)—then externalism amounts to saying, “It might be the case that we know all sorts of stuff.” Fine. I accept that, Sextus accepts that—all ancient skeptics do (at least in the externalist’s sense of having a true belief that is in fact justified in some way that escapes us). But without specifying what we know and how we know it (what justifies it), then externalism simply does not answer the question.

On the other hand, if externalists think that they (or someone) can adopt the justification-identifying third-person perspective, can identify (e.g.) reliable truth-tracking mechanisms, then their account of justification would have to be an account of the justification of those mechanisms—that is, an account of how it’s known that those mechanisms are truth-tracking. Externalism, then, if it is to contribute anything to the conversation, must collapse into internalism.

It is not enough to ‘know’ something in the externalist’s sense. Unless we’re in possession of a justification for a belief we hold, then we do not know that we know it, in which case we have no warrant for crowning it Knowledge.

Where does this leave us? It seems to leave us with the conclusion that, as far as we know, we know nothing.

But that can’t be right, for if we know that we do not know whether we know anything, then we know something.

We’ve run aground on peritropē: self-refutation. I’ll continue the story in a later post…

What I’ve tried to show here is just that, even sitting in our armchairs, reflecting on our epistemic predicament, it’s possible to illuminate for ourselves the cognitive knots in which our thinking entangles itself—to know our unknowing.

We’re all idiots. The more we accept this—the more we become good at not knowing—the more learned we will be.

———————————————–

* = Those with a philosophical background might at this point protest, “But what of Gettier cases?” I’m going to ignore Gettier here, partly to keep things simple, but also because I think Gettier’s problematization of the standard conception of knowledge fails, that its failure has been demonstrated numerous times, and that epistemologists should just move on already.
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Old March 5th, 2012, 09:36 AM   #6416 (permalink)
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Good article. The more you learn, the more you should realize you do not know. Questions breed questions.
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Old March 6th, 2012, 07:38 AM   #6417 (permalink)
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Definitely. I think he does a good job of beginning to explain how our cognitive perceptions and mental faculties orient us to structure "knowledge" in ways that are sometimes contradictory or expose inherent gaps in our understanding.
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Old March 15th, 2012, 05:22 AM   #6418 (permalink)
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Having done two tours in A-stan, I can wholeheartedly agree with what Stewart states. NATO forces are tired, especially US forces. They've reached the breaking point.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2...-military.html

Quote:
Brian Stewart: That ticking time bomb is America's exhausted army

Domestic violence, sexual assaults, gang memberships, the U.S. military is reeling from two too-long wars

Bad things happen when a nation tries to fight too many wars with too few troops. The blunt fact about the U.S. army and Marines — whose difficulties have become the stuff of headlines — is that they are exhausted and at their wits' end.

Armies wear out rapidly under the unique stress of combat, and for a decade now U.S. ground troops have been rotated through three, four and five combat tours lasting up to a year in each case (15 months at the height of Iraq fighting).

This is not an excuse for the soldier who ran amok in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing 16 civilians, many of them children; nor for the recent burnings of the Qur'an or any of the other almost incomprehensible incidents we regularly hear about in Afghanistan or Iraq.

But at the same time we need to appreciate the high level of mental illness, substance abuse and severe depression that is ravaging American ranks and making such incidents a constant risk.

No other NATO units comes close to the length of time U.S. troops have spent in these wars, nor has anyone else taken anything like the grinding number of casualties.

The Canadian army was seriously tired when it withdrew from Afghanistan combat last year — yet our ranks could only imagine the far greater strain on U.S. soldiers.

Since 2001, over 6,200 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan; over 47,000 have been wounded.

What's more, almost three-quarters of these casualties have been borne by ground troops and, of these, over 30 per cent suffered serious brain and spine injuries.

'Trauma in the mind'

To me it has always seemed shocking that Washington's current political class, relatively few of whom served in the military, have been so careless in allowing their military units to wear down like this. Perhaps because the generals constant "can do" mantra tends to blot out the reality of exhaustion.

Now, however, a few senior voices, such as former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and former defence secretary Robert Gates, are speaking out about the human cost of these campaigns and of sending large land armies abroad.

And this week, a former commandant of the prestigious U.S. Army War College, retired Gen. Robert Scales, wrote in the Washington Post that if someone wants to place blame for the Kandahar shooting "it should be on a succession of national leaders who fail to recognize that combat units, particularly infantry, just wear out."

A Vietnam veteran, Scales believes today's vets suffer even more than his generation because "close fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan was more pervasive and lasting, thus more likely to cause personal trauma in the mind."

As a reporter, who has covered wars, including Afghanistan, I have a sense of the trauma he is speaking of.

I was always struck by the constant level of tension that surrounded our soldiers whenever they left a main base.

It seemed quite different from conventional wars where there were always areas away from the front lines where a soldier could relax a bit.

In Iraq, troops called it 360/365, for the stress came from not knowing from where or when the next firefight would come — 360 degrees, 365 days a year.
A social time bomb

President Barack Obama clearly wants to bring the last big contingent of his Afghan troops home as soon as decently possible — by 2014 at the latest.

But the statistics suggest that this will inevitably transfer the problems of an emotionally drained army to the home front, where many have already taken the brunt of the economic crisis.

Up to 30 per cent of returning soldiers develop serious mental health problems within three to four months of coming home. Up to 25 per cent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, which many psychologists feel is an underestimation.

In recent years it has not been uncommon to have more than 300 suicides annually by U.S. veterans, with failed attempts running at over 1,500 a year. It is estimated than an Iraq or Afghanistan vet tries suicide every 80 hours.

The Pentagon has also been fighting an epidemic of sexual assault among troops. It reports an astonishing 19,000 military men and women were sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers in 2010 alone.

Meanwhile, rates of domestic violence surged by over 30 per cent among military families between 2006 and 2011, along with drug and alcohol abuse, rates that Gen. Peter Chiarelli says has grown out of a length of combat "our nation has never experienced before."

And if that weren't enough, the growing fear of violence on U.S. bases has been heightened in recent years by a steady infiltration of street gang members into the military.

Every major gang in America is represented on domestic and foreign bases, according to the FBI. Some members are said to have joined up to try to escape gang life. But at least some seem intent on picking up military skills and more deadly weapons.

So I fear this latest crazed act of a deeply disturbed U.S. soldier is not going to be the last of its kind.

Too many tired and joyless men, who have been soldiering since they were teens, are still fighting for a cause that few understand, alongside fickle allies and among a population that partially despises them and their culture.

An exhausted army is prone to disasters, and this one has surely been pushed to the limit.
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Old March 15th, 2012, 09:34 AM   #6419 (permalink)
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Good article. The gang infiltration has been well known within the military for years.
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Old March 15th, 2012, 10:12 AM   #6420 (permalink)
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Read it. I think that's a pretty spot on write-up.
Really? I think a fair chunk of it is pure shit. I know a few people that I served with that I could maybe classify as the type of sociopath he describes, but his numeric claims about how many people like him exist in the service is pretty fucking hard to believe based on the majority of people who I would never classify as sociopaths that I came across.

War is horrible. Killing is horrible, but tuning out - like the author suggests - is nigh impossible for a lot of people who experience combat.
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Old March 17th, 2012, 02:46 PM   #6421 (permalink)
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Really? I think a fair chunk of it is pure shit. I know a few people that I served with that I could maybe classify as the type of sociopath he describes, but his numeric claims about how many people like him exist in the service is pretty fucking hard to believe based on the majority of people who I would never classify as sociopaths that I came across.

War is horrible. Killing is horrible, but tuning out - like the author suggests - is nigh impossible for a lot of people who experience combat.
I met a couple. One was a transfer from recon. Hard to tell though, not knowing a person long term, whether or not it's engrained or has been there the whole time.

Anyway, as if the Fusion centers weren't bad enough:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/%E2%80...september-2013

Quote:
Big Brother goes live September 2013

George Orwell was right. He was just 30 years early.

In its April cover story, Wired has an exclusive report on the NSA's Utah Data Center, which is a must read for anyone who believes any privacy is still a possibility in the United States: "A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks.... Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.”... The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013." In other words, in just over 1 year, virtually anything one communicates through any traceable medium, or any record of one's existence in the electronic medium, which these days is everything, will unofficially be property of the US government to deal with as it sees fit.

The codename of the project: Stellar Wind.

As Wired says, "there is no doubt that it has transformed itself into the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever created."

And as former NSA operative William Binney who was a senior NSA crypto-mathematician, and is the basis for the Wired article (which we guess makes him merely the latest whistleblower to step up: is America suddenly experiencing an ethical revulsion?), and quit his job only after he realized that the NSA is now openly trampling the constitution, says as he holds his thumb and forefinger close together. "We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state."

There was a time when Americans still cared about matters such as personal privacy. Luckily, they now have iGadgets to keep them distracted as they hand over their last pieces of individuality to the Tzar of conformity. And there are those who wonder just what the purpose of the NDAA is.

In the meantime please continue to pretend that America is democracy...

Here are some of the highlights from the Wired article:

The Utah Data Center in a nutshell, and the summary of the current status of the NSA's eavesdropping on US citizens.

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.


...Shrouded in secrecy:

A short time later, Inglis arrived in Bluffdale at the site of the future data center, a flat, unpaved runway on a little-used part of Camp Williams, a National Guard training site. There, in a white tent set up for the occasion, Inglis joined Harvey Davis, the agency’s associate director for installations and logistics, and Utah senator Orrin Hatch, along with a few generals and politicians in a surreal ceremony. Standing in an odd wooden sandbox and holding gold-painted shovels, they made awkward jabs at the sand and thus officially broke ground on what the local media had simply dubbed “the spy center.” Hoping for some details on what was about to be built, reporters turned to one of the invited guests, Lane Beattie of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. Did he have any idea of the purpose behind the new facility in his backyard? “Absolutely not,” he said with a self-conscious half laugh. “Nor do I want them spying on me.”

Within days, the tent and sandbox and gold shovels would be gone and Inglis and the generals would be replaced by some 10,000 construction workers. “We’ve been asked not to talk about the project,” Rob Moore, president of Big-D Construction, one of the three major contractors working on the project, told a local reporter. The plans for the center show an extensive security system: an elaborate $10 million antiterrorism protection program, including a fence designed to stop a 15,000-pound vehicle traveling 50 miles per hour, closed-circuit cameras, a biometric identification system, a vehicle inspection facility, and a visitor-control center.

Inside, the facility will consist of four 25,000-square-foot halls filled with servers, complete with raised floor space for cables and storage. In addition, there will be more than 900,000 square feet for technical support and administration. The entire site will be self-sustaining, with fuel tanks large enough to power the backup generators for three days in an emergency, water storage with the capability of pumping 1.7 million gallons of liquid per day, as well as a sewage system and massive air-conditioning system to keep all those servers cool. Electricity will come from the center’s own substation built by Rocky Mountain Power to satisfy the 65-megawatt power demand. Such a mammoth amount of energy comes with a mammoth price tag—about $40 million a year, according to one estimate.
Presenting the Yottabyte, aka 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text:

Given the facility’s scale and the fact that a terabyte of data can now be stored on a flash drive the size of a man’s pinky, the potential amount of information that could be housed in Bluffdale is truly staggering. But so is the exponential growth in the amount of intelligence data being produced every day by the eavesdropping sensors of the NSA and other intelligence agencies. As a result of this “expanding array of theater airborne and other sensor networks,” as a 2007 Department of Defense report puts it, the Pentagon is attempting to expand its worldwide communications network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes (1024 bytes) of data. (A yottabyte is a septillion bytes—so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.)

It needs that capacity because, according to a recent report by Cisco, global Internet traffic will quadruple from 2010 to 2015, reaching 966 exabytes per year. (A million exabytes equal a yottabyte.) In terms of scale, Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, once estimated that the total of all human knowledge created from the dawn of man to 2003 totaled 5 exabytes. And the data flow shows no sign of slowing. In 2011 more than 2 billion of the world’s 6.9 billion people were connected to the Internet. By 2015, market research firm IDC estimates, there will be 2.7 billion users. Thus, the NSA’s need for a 1-million-square-foot data storehouse. Should the agency ever fill the Utah center with a yottabyte of information, it would be equal to about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.
Summarizing the NSA's entire spy network:



Before yottabytes of data from the deep web and elsewhere can begin piling up inside the servers of the NSA’s new center, they must be collected. To better accomplish that, the agency has undergone the largest building boom in its history, including installing secret electronic monitoring rooms in major US telecom facilities. Controlled by the NSA, these highly secured spaces are where the agency taps into the US communications networks, a practice that came to light during the Bush years but was never acknowledged by the agency. The broad outlines of the so-called warrantless-wiretapping program have long been exposed—how the NSA secretly and illegally bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was supposed to oversee and authorize highly targeted domestic eavesdropping; how the program allowed wholesale monitoring of millions of American phone calls and email. In the wake of the program’s exposure, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which largely made the practices legal. Telecoms that had agreed to participate in the illegal activity were granted immunity from prosecution and lawsuits. What wasn’t revealed until now, however, was the enormity of this ongoing domestic spying program.
Luckily, we now know, courtesy of yet another whistleblower, who has exposed the NSA's mindblowing efforts at pervasive Big Brotherness:

For the first time, a former NSA official has gone on the record to describe the program, codenamed Stellar Wind, in detail. William Binney was a senior NSA crypto-mathematician largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network. A tall man with strands of black hair across the front of his scalp and dark, determined eyes behind thick-rimmed glasses, the 68-year-old spent nearly four decades breaking codes and finding new ways to channel billions of private phone calls and email messages from around the world into the NSA’s bulging databases. As chief and one of the two cofounders of the agency’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center, Binney and his team designed much of the infrastructure that’s still likely used to intercept international and foreign communications.

He explains that the agency could have installed its tapping gear at the nation’s cable landing stations—the more than two dozen sites on the periphery of the US where fiber-optic cables come ashore. If it had taken that route, the NSA would have been able to limit its eavesdropping to just international communications, which at the time was all that was allowed under US law. Instead it chose to put the wiretapping rooms at key junction points throughout the country—large, windowless buildings known as switches—thus gaining access to not just international communications but also to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the US. The network of intercept stations goes far beyond the single room in an AT&T building in San Francisco exposed by a whistle-blower in 2006. “I think there’s 10 to 20 of them,” Binney says. “That’s not just San Francisco; they have them in the middle of the country and also on the East Coast.”

The eavesdropping on Americans doesn’t stop at the telecom switches. To capture satellite communications in and out of the US, the agency also monitors AT&T’s powerful earth stations, satellite receivers in locations that include Roaring Creek and Salt Creek. Tucked away on a back road in rural Catawissa, Pennsylvania, Roaring Creek’s three 105-foot dishes handle much of the country’s communications to and from Europe and the Middle East. And on an isolated stretch of land in remote Arbuckle, California, three similar dishes at the company’s Salt Creek station service the Pacific Rim and Asia.
In other words, the NSA has absolutely everyone covered.

We now know all of this, courtesy of yet another person finally stepping up and exposing the truth:

Binney left the NSA in late 2001, shortly after the agency launched its warrantless-wiretapping program. “They violated the Constitution setting it up,” he says bluntly. “But they didn’t care. They were going to do it anyway, and they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way. When they started violating the Constitution, I couldn’t stay.” Binney says Stellar Wind was far larger than has been publicly disclosed and included not just eavesdropping on domestic phone calls but the inspection of domestic email. At the outset the program recorded 320 million calls a day, he says, which represented about 73 to 80 percent of the total volume of the agency’s worldwide intercepts. The haul only grew from there. According to Binney—who has maintained close contact with agency employees until a few years ago—the taps in the secret rooms dotting the country are actually powered by highly sophisticated software programs that conduct “deep packet inspection,” examining Internet traffic as it passes through the 10-gigabit-per-second cables at the speed of light.

The software, created by a company called Narus that’s now part of Boeing, is controlled remotely from NSA headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland and searches US sources for target addresses, locations, countries, and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email. Any communication that arouses suspicion, especially those to or from the million or so people on agency watch lists, are automatically copied or recorded and then transmitted to the NSA.
Everyone is a target.

The scope of surveillance expands from there, Binney says. Once a name is entered into the Narus database, all phone calls and other communications to and from that person are automatically routed to the NSA’s recorders. “Anybody you want, route to a recorder,” Binney says. “If your number’s in there? Routed and gets recorded.” He adds, “The Narus device allows you to take it all.” And when Bluffdale is completed, whatever is collected will be routed there for storage and analysis.

After he left the NSA, Binney suggested a system for monitoring people’s communications according to how closely they are connected to an initial target. The further away from the target—say you’re just an acquaintance of a friend of the target—the less the surveillance. But the agency rejected the idea, and, given the massive new storage facility in Utah, Binney suspects that it now simply collects everything. “The whole idea was, how do you manage 20 terabytes of intercept a minute?” he says. “The way we proposed was to distinguish between things you want and things you don’t want.” Instead, he adds, “they’re storing everything they gather.” And the agency is gathering as much as it can.

Once the communications are intercepted and stored, the data-mining begins. “You can watch everybody all the time with data- mining,” Binney says. Everything a person does becomes charted on a graph, “financial transactions or travel or anything,” he says. Thus, as data like bookstore receipts, bank statements, and commuter toll records flow in, the NSA is able to paint a more and more detailed picture of someone’s life.
Can you hear me now? The NSA sure can:

According to Binney, one of the deepest secrets of the Stellar Wind program—again, never confirmed until now—was that the NSA gained warrantless access to AT&T’s vast trove of domestic and international billing records, detailed information about who called whom in the US and around the world. As of 2007, AT&T had more than 2.8 trillion records housed in a database at its Florham Park, New Jersey, complex.

Verizon was also part of the program, Binney says, and that greatly expanded the volume of calls subject to the agency’s domestic eavesdropping. “That multiplies the call rate by at least a factor of five,” he says. “So you’re over a billion and a half calls a day.” (Spokespeople for Verizon and AT&T said their companies would not comment on matters of national security.)
In fact, as you talk now, the NSA's computers are listening, recording it all, and looking for keywords.

The NSA also has the ability to eavesdrop on phone calls directly and in real time. According to Adrienne J. Kinne, who worked both before and after 9/11 as a voice interceptor at the NSA facility in Georgia, in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks “basically all rules were thrown out the window, and they would use any excuse to justify a waiver to spy on Americans.” Even journalists calling home from overseas were included. “A lot of time you could tell they were calling their families,” she says, “incredibly intimate, personal conversations.” Kinne found the act of eavesdropping on innocent fellow citizens personally distressing. “It’s almost like going through and finding somebody’s diary,” she says.
There is a simple matter of encryption... Which won't be an issue for the NSA shortly, once the High Productivity Computing Systems project goes online.

Anyone—from terrorists and weapons dealers to corporations, financial institutions, and ordinary email senders—can use it to seal their messages, plans, photos, and documents in hardened data shells. For years, one of the hardest shells has been the Advanced Encryption Standard, one of several algorithms used by much of the world to encrypt data. Available in three different strengths—128 bits, 192 bits, and 256 bits—it’s incorporated in most commercial email programs and web browsers and is considered so strong that the NSA has even approved its use for top-secret US government communications. Most experts say that a so-called brute-force computer attack on the algorithm—trying one combination after another to unlock the encryption—would likely take longer than the age of the universe. For a 128-bit cipher, the number of trial-and-error attempts would be 340 undecillion (1036).

Breaking into those complex mathematical shells like the AES is one of the key reasons for the construction going on in Bluffdale. That kind of cryptanalysis requires two major ingredients: super-fast computers to conduct brute-force attacks on encrypted messages and a massive number of those messages for the computers to analyze. The more messages from a given target, the more likely it is for the computers to detect telltale patterns, and Bluffdale will be able to hold a great many messages. “We questioned it one time,” says another source, a senior intelligence manager who was also involved with the planning. “Why were we building this NSA facility? And, boy, they rolled out all the old guys—the crypto guys.” According to the official, these experts told then-director of national intelligence Dennis Blair, “You’ve got to build this thing because we just don’t have the capability of doing the code-breaking.” It was a candid admission. In the long war between the code breakers and the code makers—the tens of thousands of cryptographers in the worldwide computer security industry—the code breakers were admitting defeat.

So the agency had one major ingredient—a massive data storage facility—under way. Meanwhile, across the country in Tennessee, the government was working in utmost secrecy on the other vital element: the most powerful computer the world has ever known.

The plan was launched in 2004 as a modern-day Manhattan Project. Dubbed the High Productivity Computing Systems program, its goal was to advance computer speed a thousandfold, creating a machine that could execute a quadrillion (1015) operations a second, known as a petaflop—the computer equivalent of breaking the land speed record. And as with the Manhattan Project, the venue chosen for the supercomputing program was the town of Oak Ridge in eastern Tennessee, a rural area where sharp ridges give way to low, scattered hills, and the southwestward-flowing Clinch River bends sharply to the southeast. About 25 miles from Knoxville, it is the “secret city” where uranium- 235 was extracted for the first atomic bomb. A sign near the exit read: what you see here, what you do here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here. Today, not far from where that sign stood, Oak Ridge is home to the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and it’s engaged in a new secret war. But this time, instead of a bomb of almost unimaginable power, the weapon is a computer of almost unimaginable speed.

At the DOE’s unclassified center at Oak Ridge, work progressed at a furious pace, although it was a one-way street when it came to cooperation with the closemouthed people in Building 5300. Nevertheless, the unclassified team had its Cray XT4 supercomputer upgraded to a warehouse-sized XT5. Named Jaguar for its speed, it clocked in at 1.75 petaflops, officially becoming the world’s fastest computer in 2009.

Meanwhile, over in Building 5300, the NSA succeeded in building an even faster supercomputer. “They made a big breakthrough,” says another former senior intelligence official, who helped oversee the program. The NSA’s machine was likely similar to the unclassified Jaguar, but it was much faster out of the gate, modified specifically for cryptanalysis and targeted against one or more specific algorithms, like the AES. In other words, they were moving from the research and development phase to actually attacking extremely difficult encryption systems. The code-breaking effort was up and running.

The breakthrough was enormous, says the former official, and soon afterward the agency pulled the shade down tight on the project, even within the intelligence community and Congress. “Only the chairman and vice chairman and the two staff directors of each intelligence committee were told about it,” he says. The reason? “They were thinking that this computing breakthrough was going to give them the ability to crack current public encryption.”
So kiss PGP goodbye. In fact kiss every aspect of your privacy goodbye.

Yottabytes and exaflops, septillions and undecillions—the race for computing speed and data storage goes on. In his 1941 story “The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges imagined a collection of information where the entire world’s knowledge is stored but barely a single word is understood. In Bluffdale the NSA is constructing a library on a scale that even Borges might not have contemplated. And to hear the masters of the agency tell it, it’s only a matter of time until every word is illuminated.
As for the Constitution... What Constitution?

Before he gave up and left the NSA, Binney tried to persuade officials to create a more targeted system that could be authorized by a court. At the time, the agency had 72 hours to obtain a legal warrant, and Binney devised a method to computerize the system. “I had proposed that we automate the process of requesting a warrant and automate approval so we could manage a couple of million intercepts a day, rather than subvert the whole process.” But such a system would have required close coordination with the courts, and NSA officials weren’t interested in that, Binney says. Instead they continued to haul in data on a grand scale. Asked how many communications—”transactions,” in NSA’s lingo—the agency has intercepted since 9/11, Binney estimates the number at “between 15 and 20 trillion, the aggregate over 11 years.”

When Barack Obama took office, Binney hoped the new administration might be open to reforming the program to address his constitutional concerns. He and another former senior NSA analyst, J. Kirk Wiebe, tried to bring the idea of an automated warrant-approval system to the attention of the Department of Justice’s inspector general. They were given the brush-off. “They said, oh, OK, we can’t comment,” Binney says.
In conclusion, the NSA's own whistleblower summarizes it best.

Sitting in a restaurant not far from NSA headquarters, the place where he spent nearly 40 years of his life, Binney held his thumb and forefinger close together. “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state,” he says.
... And nobody cares.
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Old March 17th, 2012, 04:08 PM   #6422 (permalink)
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Nice.

Have you heard about this other fun little project spinning up this summer?

American ISPs to launch massive copyright spying scheme on July 12
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Old March 17th, 2012, 04:25 PM   #6423 (permalink)
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Yeah. I didn't even bother posting it since it's all over the news.

I figure our unfettered internet days are numbered, at least until a "black market internet" emerges.
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Old March 17th, 2012, 04:29 PM   #6424 (permalink)
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Yeah that sounds about right.
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Old March 19th, 2012, 03:22 PM   #6425 (permalink)
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http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-...s-preparedness

It's official. US Citizens are the property of the Executive Branch, to be utilized and dispensed with at it's whim and leisure.
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