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Cookie policy

The British government has cunningly passed legislation (to comply with an EU privacy directive) which effectively makes most uses of browser cookies illegal without the user's explicit prior consent.

Going by this article, I think this website is one of the rare legal ones. (The Information Commissioner's actual instructions on cookies are either unreadable without some piece of Billyware I don't have, or their web server is b0rked.) I don't use web analytics or tracking cookies, I don't run a store, and I don't sell ads — the three commonest sources of intrusive cookies. You may get a cookie from this blog, if you check the "Remember personal info?" box when you comment, or if you log in — in either case, you asked for it yourself. (How else did you think the blog was going to remember who you are?) You may also get a couple of cookies if you are one of the blog administrators or comment moderators: again, to save you from logging in every time you reload a form.

I'll be making another more detailed check soon (I've got until May 2012 to be in full compliance, apparently). But for now, let me know if you notice any unexpected cookies coming from this site. (There shouldn't be any.)

263 Comments

1:

I was under the vague impression that Firefox remembered.

2:

"The Information Commissioner's actual instructions on cookies are either unreadable without some piece of Billyware I don't have, or their web server is b0rked."

Must be the latter, as it's up now and it's just a PDF.

3:

It's just a pdf, but with the extension ashx (not the extension pdf). Very strange. While in theory extensions shouldn't matter on a unixlike, a lot of applications still assume that extensions are meaningful. The mime type should indicate that it's a pdf, of course.

4:

Frances Davey has written an interesting legal analysis.

5:

Good luck enforcing UK law on sites hosted in other countries

6:

I remember when I set up my first Apache server. One of the friends I let use the system freaked out because I'd installed the cookie module and it was spewing cookies all over his browser and ZOMG cookies were eviiiil!

This was so long ago that we didn't actually have "ZOMG" yet.

7:

Can we circumvent the cookie policy by calling them browser biscuits?

8:

Firstly, it's a UK response to an EU-wide directive. Not just the UK.

Secondly, in case you haven't noticed yet, I'm British and my server is hosted in the UK.

9:

Typical of The Telegraph to take the side if business against the public - and of course the usual threat that any regulation if business will drive it away to more laxly regulated regimes. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

And a fair degree of hysteria - Google analytics should be fixable - provided the data is amonymised. Referrer URLs will still work. Users will click once to approve the ToC for the Wall Street Journal. Might be harder to persuade them to say yes for a less well known site.

10:

Can we circumvent the cookie policy by calling them browser biscuits?

Only if you want to confuse the Americans woefully -- what they call "biscuit" we call "scones". And they eat them for breakfast, with (yeuch!!) gravy.

11:

The Torygraph generally takes a very skeptical view of anything that might be associated with the horror-phrase "human rights" -- such as, oh, privacy.

Pocket fascists, basically. That's why I read it. ("Know your enemy.")

12:

As for enforcing UK law on non-UK hosted sites - impossible for all of them but not that hard for those wanting to do business with the UK I.e. the majority of behavioural adverts are served up by 4 major ad networks - with Google at the top. And I can see the EU discouraging firms from doing business with agencies that work outside EU law (in a similar way to how 'legit' advertising died off on file sharing networks).

At some level cash has to move from one party to another for it to be worth doing - so you just target the cash.

(hence popularity - I presume - of extra judicial gambling and meds advertising on sites not worried about local law)

13:

Proper biscuits and gravy is wonderful, I assure you. You need buttermilk biscuits and a bit of sausage or bacon in the white gravy, though.

14:

I am not going to start a flame war here over the rubbish that Americans label as "bacon". It might be an artefact of the generic hotel experience, after all ... but my impression is that American bacon is Not The Same Thing as European bacon, any more than the vile crud that Hershey's sell could legitimately be labelled as "chocolate".

15:

This is really interesting, as it will create a real world test of the innovation gains from using personal data captured in a browser (or other software) vs privacy.

The US model is very pro-business and privacy advocates are fighting what is really a rearguard battle. The EU has apparently gone to the other extreme, extending its data privacy laws.

It seems to me that many US web/mobile business ideas assume monetization through use of private data. Will those ideas be effectively banned in the EU or only available via direct payment?

An interesting experiment.

16:

"my impression is that American bacon is Not The Same Thing as European bacon"

You are correct. The cut of meat is totally different. Americans also like to eat it very crispy.
The closest approximation we can get in the US is Canadian bacon.

17:

If you've enabled cookies, you've consented. Problem solved.

18:

I must be one of the very few Brits that *loves* American bacon. One of the best aspects of moving here in fact!

19:

First: Yeah, their web server is broken. It's serving server-side script pages as text instead of running them and delivering a completed page.

Second: Yes, American Bacon is not UK Bacon. What you call bacon, they call "Canadian bacon". Canadians call it "back bacon".

20:

Wrong. Merely enabling cookies does not constitute consent in law, any more than going out of your house without locking the door implies permission for all and sundry to entry it in your absence.

21:

This thread ended up somewhere very different to where it started. Now I'm confused about bacon.

As a point of reference, bacon in the UK is made almost exclusively from either loin - in which case it's called 'back bacon' - or belly - in which case it's called 'streaky bacon'. Anyone just saying 'bacon' could mean either (unless they're one of those confusing people like my grandma who are just as likely to mean 'ham', for some reason).

How does in work in the US?

22:

"Merely enabling cookies does not constitute consent in law"

It really ought to though, given that storing and sending a cookie is something that *your browser* is doing on your behalf according to a setting that you choose and over which the website has no control.

Probably a better solution would be to make browser makers have cookies disabled by default, at which point it would become abundantly obvious that the vast majority of people actually *would* prefer cookies after all.

23:

Aneurin@21: "Streaky bacon" is just "bacon" in North America. Loin bacon is "Canadian bacon" in the US and "back bacon" in Canada. Point is, you will NEVER get loin bacon if you say "bacon" - just "bacon" means belly bacon, always.

24:

This wikipedia entry has a good explanation of the differences.

25:

I've got exactly one cookie from your website and it is just the login details one.

American bacon /shudder

26:

From now on we will call them "browser bacon." Problem solved.

27:

"t really ought to though, given that storing and sending a cookie is something that *your browser* is doing on your behalf according to a setting that you choose and over which the website has no control."

Yeah -- because the law is all about technical details of implementation, rather than setting standards for human relationships.

What people would "rather" depends on the context -- given the choice between being unable to access almost anything (all cookies off), and being spied on, they'd "rather" have access to information. On the other hand, given a choice between being asked to give information explicitly while continuing to have a generally working method of getting data, and getting a small amount more of data while losing their privacy -- well, you should see that their exist metastable states where everyone makes money and gets their privacy.

This simplistic "market" nonsense -- doesn't anyone actually know about minimizing landscapes in physics, or evolutionary arms races?

28:

It really ought to though, given that [tech-blah elided]

Look, 40% of the computer-using public don't know what a "web browser" is -- they just call it "the internet". Recruitment agencies (who should damn well know better) still advertise for "HTML programmers" because they think HTML is a programming language. The public is clueless. And the law does not exist to codify what us smarty-pants techies know, the law exists to protect the clueless from predatory behaviour.

Or, to put it another way, if you think browsers accepting cookies implies informed consent on the part of the user, you've never tried to explain how to type a URL to an eighty-something elderly relative.

29:

Saying that the US doesn't have real bacon or real chocolate is like saying the US doesn't have real beer. Or maybe like saying you can't get a good meal in London. It's simply not true, not even close. But I realize and accept that it is the face we present to the world. I won't bother to link to the real artisans of these products in the USA, you can find them if you are looking.

30:
It really ought to though, given that storing and sending a cookie is something that *your browser* is doing on your behalf according to a setting that you choose and over which the website has no control.

It's more accurate to say that sending a cookie is something your browser is doing ostensibly on your behalf according to both a setting on the browser (over which the web site has no control) and instructions from the web site (over which the web site has complete control). The problem is that most Internet users have little to no understanding how their browser works, or what all the settings are. It's unreasonable to assume that because a user neglected to uncheck some tickbox in some setting menu that 95% of users will never look at that they have consented to every cookie sent their way.

I'm not saying that this new UK/EU law is necessarily the right solution, but there's definitely a problem.

31:

That issue is discussed by the barrister's blog post someone way up at the top.

If, and only if, a user has explicitly set their browser to accept cookies can this be taken as consent according to the official guidance. Right now, all browsers have this as the default setting, therefore we cannot tell whether the user actually made that choice or just couldn't work out how to change their settings.

32:

scones and gravy? youl be putting maple syrup on sausages next!

33:

"the law exists to protect the clueless from predatory behaviour"

In this case, the law cannot possibly do that. Cookies are entirely unnecessary for tracking users - see https://panopticlick.eff.org/ for one well-publicised example of why - so with this law the clueless are being sold legislation which *in no way does what it is purported to do*.

Any time spent working on this law is time not spent doing anything to help online privacy; what's worse is that currently the user does actually have some control, even if most don't know it. Once purely server-side tracking becomes the norm *nobody* will have any control, hence I can't see how this law could be anything other than useless *at best* and a spectacular own goal at worst.

34:

I've had excellent chocolate and beer in the US; it's just that you won't find either in most shops or bars -- you have to know what you're looking for, and go hunting.

(Good beer is getting easier to find, but I fear the corrupting influence of Hershey's et al have made it much harder to find locally-produced chocolate that isn't 80% sugar held together with rancid cocoa butter.)

35:

Yes, there's an arms race between abusive corporate behaviour and laws that impose technical fixes. The problem is to decide what constitutes abusive behaviour, ban it, and provide effective means to report and police it -- not to arbitrarily impose restrictions on one particular feature of web browsers.

On the other hand: this is symptomatic of growing political awareness that there is a problem, which is to be applauded.

36:

Nope. All the bacon is that bad. I almost weep when friends ask for it extra crispy as if that is a sane way to eat it.

37:

Here in the US... I just leave the Hershey's and Cadbury's alone. If I'm buying cheap, I'll buy a Dove bar as they're the best inexpensive chocolate available. If I can afford it I'll buy Ghiradelli or something more upscale. You should be able to find a Dove bar in any market, however.

Unfortunately for my wife (I don't drink much beer) real Guiness isn't available at our local market, but they do have something called "Guiness Draft" which seems to be a heavily Americanized version of Guiness. According to the spousal unit the "Draft" version is damn-near undrinkable, so I usually buy her Newcastle, which is unfortunate because she's seriously into her Irish-ness and doesn't like drinking British beer. It's just better than Coors.

And don't get me started about Starbucks. Every time I order a mocha they use some kind of "low sugar" chocolate that tastes like chalk, such that the drink can only be salvaged by mixing in a large quantity of sugar, which does savage things to the foam/whipped cream.

Tea? Don't be silly? I'll sometimes drink some Oolong if I can get it, but I imagine that the average British, Japanese, or Chines person regularly shits better tea than Liptons.

38:

The beer situation in the U.S. is definitely getting better. I am originally from the Pacific Northwest, and that region has benefitted greatly by the microbrewery trend. (My wife and I were married at a hotel run by a microbrewery company.) The trick to getting good beer in the U.S. is to avoid the output of the large American beer companies and stick with microbrews (or imported beer). If a bar doesn't have anything but crap beer, then it's not worth frequenting! Upscale grocery stores will typically have a selection of good beer (unless you are in a state where you can't buy beer in a grocery store).

The chocolate situation is also improving here, but more slowly. Again, most upscale grocery stores have a selection of higher-quality chocolate than the stuff put out by a certain Pennsylvania-based company.

I know that many people in the UK were (perfectly justifiably!) upset about Kraft's acquisition of Cadbury, but I am (perhaps selfishly) hoping that the merger will bring more Cadbury products to these shores. (Right now, only a few Cadbury products are available, made under license by that aforementioned Pennsylvania-based company.)

39:

What worries me is that there will be court cases, and intense legal arguments about meaning, and precedents will be set.

That's when things can get nasty for those of us trying to be reasonable persons, riding on the Clapham omnibus.

And I'm already seeing signs of people proposing ingenious schemes which they think would bypass this law.

40:

That site is really interesting! I consider myself mildly technically savvy, but I had no idea that my browser could send that much information to web sites.

I am now forced to agree with you: this well-intentioned law could actually make things much worse.

41:

Guinness isn't real ale, anyway: it's one of the worst stouts out there (unless you get the brewed-under-license Nigerian version, which is, er, special). On the other hand, I have a weakness[*] for Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, and you can increasingly find that in alcohol stores around the USA. It's even shown up in bottles in Edinburgh!

[*] Very weak: one pint and I'm gone. That stuff is lethal.

42:

Charlie @ 11
Sorry "pocket fascists" is the Daily , erm, Mail.
Yes, the tory-graph is right-wing, it is business-friendly, it has a couple of loony correspondents, BUT they have got hold of the (wrong) idea that Humoid rights legislation is of itself, wrong, rather than very wrongly applied and/or badly worded.
At the same time they (unlike the aforesaid Daily Nazi) do believe in individual liberty against the state - and they get their knickers in quite amusing twists as a result sometimes. WHereas the Nazi/Mail will ALWAYS come down on the side of state power.

& @ 14
Well, there's BELGIAN chocolate, and the Irish have started making some rally nice stuff....

@ 34 BLECH!

Alex R @ 37
What is thei "real Guiness" of which you speak?
Guiness is overpriced, fizzy sharp (sometimes sour) KEG.
It WAS a real beer, many-and-long-ago when I was a student in Manchester.
But, no more.
Ditto "NEwcastle" which Snottish & Spewcastle have just FUBAR'd completely ...

AND BACK to Charlie @ 31
Again - please don't - I'm recovering from two-&-a-half pintss of Jaipur IPA at lunchtime.....

43:

Properly prepared biscuits and gravy can be a nigh religious experience. Then again, I've had an Aussie try to tell me the same thing about Vegemite. Damned liar, he is!

44:

Here's the sad thing about the American lifestyle. You ship an American overseas, he'll lose weight without even trying. You send a foreigner over here, he'll start packing on the pounds without even trying.

The two assaults on the American waistline are car culture and our food supply. There's no walking in America outside of the older cities. You drive everywhere. Minimal mass transit, minimal need to walk. You walk a hundred feet from your house to your car, a hundred feet to work, and sit most of the day. And we love our big portions. We're trained to bulk up. Every meal leaves you stuffed like a holiday. Not bad if you limit to to holidays but when every day is a holiday... And this isn't even getting into the question of the price discrimination where fresh, nutritious food is expensive and takes more time to prepare and Americans are all about the quick grab. It takes a lot of effort to keep the weight off, stuff people in countries with healthier lifestyles don't even have to give a second thought.

Still, there's good food to be had in the States. If your experience is limited to hotels and convention centers, you're experiencing the absolute worst we have to offer and I apologize. Seeing as Anheuser-Busch is now owned by the Belgians, at least there's a few less brands of crappy American beer I have to apologize for.

45:

Vegemite is best spread thickly on a slab of wholemeal or sourdough bread, then topped with a wedge of Cheddar cheese. Preferably the bright orange, mildly radioactive, extra-mature variety. The two flavours complement each other very nicely, albeit in a manner that is probably as much an acquired taste as thousand year eggs or bhut jolokia.

46:

IMHO Vegemite is a pale cousin of Marmite at best but the thickly spread with cheese definitely goes...

47:

Our bacon is different from yours, as others have noted. However, you can't expect good bacon from a hotel. Hotel bacon, especially at a continental breakfast, is usually somewhat cold, stiff, and dry. You don't really get good .us bacon unless you cook it yourself and it's about five minutes off the griddle.

Some people like it thick-cut, but I don't.

Really, though, it's more common to have biscuits and gravy with sausage gravy - and make sure that both ingredients are hot!

48:

The description of those eggs is rank, smelling like stale urine. Yummy! Casu marzu (Sardinian maggot cheese) is pretty awful and there's much that could be written about the fermented, months-old meat the Inuit enjoy but the squickiest food item in my mind has to be French songbird.

Last I remember, I was on a plane, in a cab, in a hotel room—fluish, jet-lagged, snoozing. Then, by some Ouija force, some coincidence of foot on cobblestone, I came to a huge wrought-iron door. What brought me to France in the first place was a story I'd heard about François Mitterrand, the former French president, who two years ago had gorged himself on one last orgiastic feast before he'd died. For his last meal, he'd eaten oysters and foie gras and capon—all in copious quantities—the succulent, tender, sweet tastes flooding his parched mouth. And then there was the meal's ultimate course: a small, yellow-throated songbird that was illegal to eat. Rare and seductive, the bird—ortolan—supposedly represented the French soul. And this old man, this ravenous president, had taken it whole—wings, feet, liver, heart. Swallowed it, bones and all. Consumed it beneath a white cloth so that God Himself couldn't witness the barbaric act.

I wondered then what a soul might taste like.

Read more: http://www.esquire.com/features/The-Last-Meal-0598#ixzz1NZwqLYOx

49:

While my first thought was to enter a bacon debate defending what we have in the States, I honestly can't remember ever having good bacon when dining out. They must be over-cooking it for fear of food borne diseases, because as far as taste is concerned, nothing can justify it being so over-cooked.
As to chocolate, I'm pretty sure if I have a significant preference for higher quality, it's a placebo introduced by the fact it costs more. Hershey's doesn't taste bad exactly, it just tastes different to me.
I'm acquiring a taste for beer, but like black coffee, it seems like something that doesn't come naturally, and IPA is still too much for me. I'll get there eventually.
I eat biscuits with some jam or honey usually, if I do have biscuits with gravy, it's chicken gravy, you cook they biscuits in it, and it's exclusively for dinner

tl;dr: American agrees that much US bacon is disgusting, hasn't developed proper taste for beer or chocolate, and just confuses the biscuit issue more.

50:

British vs American Bacon -- but which works best for taping to a cat?

51:

Server-side tracking will cost the admen a lot more money, if I understand the situation correctly. They would need to get the people taking their ads to do it, instead of just using 3rd-party cookies.
3rd-party cookies are based on ad scripts that they can distribute to everyone that takes their ads.
If you want to get rid, you can use Adblocker. You can also disable 3rd-party cookies in your browser options, if you still want to see ads.
You need something for Flash cookies as well, which is a whole other topic.

52:
Well, there's BELGIAN chocolate, and the Irish have started making some rally nice stuff....
I'm always unpleasantly surprised by the difficulty of finding quality chocolate abroad - but then I live in chocolate paradise, 60 kilometers from Zotter, and apart from most supermarkets in my area carrying some of his stuff, there's 5 specialty stores within walking distance from my home that have a great selection of other Austrian, Italian, Belgian and whatever quality chocolate. And don't get me started on beer...
53:
You may get a cookie from this blog, if you check the "Remember personal info?" box when you comment, or if you log in — in either case, you asked for it yourself. (How else did you think the blog was going to remember who you are?)

I get three from logging in, to be precise. And while I do know of ways to handle this without cookies, it's unreasonable to expect sites to use them - what would be the point anyway? You want the site to remember who you are, and cookie privacy is about not letting sites do that.

54:

British IPAs are, incidentally, a lot less hoppy and bitter than the American ones -- they're much simpler beers, quite a bit weaker, and well-suited for long talkative drinking sessions in the pub.

The pursuit of insanely bitter incredibly complex spiced IPAs in the US is somewhat off-putting to someone who just wants a decent pint of Deuchars' or similar after a couple of weeks on the road ...

55:

damn those long university days - the link to Zotter should be working here...

56:

Beers in general are ridiculously expensive. Drinking in a bar or restaurant is prohibitive -- the typical mug goes for a fiver. Insane. And the only affordable beer is the cheap, awful mass-market variety. American beer is like making love in a canoe -- fucking close to water. Coors Lite? I'll take my water straight, thank you. Anything good gets costs dearly. Imports are ghastly pricey.

57:

They would need to get the people taking their ads to do it, instead of just using 3rd-party cookies.
Not sure now if I'm right about that...there may be a workaround. Too much imprecise info aimed at non-technical users out there, it's hard to find real stuff. The rest should be right.
If anyone doesn't have an adblocker yet, I recommend trying one. At lot of those ad sites are painfully s l o w.

58:

I suggest you study the difference between 1st-party and 3rd-party cookies. Google is your friend here.

59:

I just use chrome with flash on (right) click to play, most of those annoying slow ads run in flash. Plus, I get better battery life this way too, which is probably an even bigger help (I'm using the 11 inch macbook air with the famously better battery life sans flash).

60:

Good to hear that Dogfish has made it to the UK; I like it a lot, and have been lucky to have it available in a store near me. There are a couple of local microbrews that I'd like to see better known and more broadly available. Have you ever seen any of the Rogue Ales (from California, not Oregon, but, hey, they come up with some good stuff occasionally)? I especially like their Arrogant Bastard Ale ("Fizzy yellow beer is for wusses"). There are a couple of stouts from Portland that are pretty good: MacTarnahan's Goose Bump Russian Imperial Stout and Widmer's KGB Russian Stout. The latter is not terribly hoppy either, so it might be more to your taste. I suspect the emphasis on hops and bitterness here is because this is where a lot of the hops are grown, and the brewers like to use local ingredients, perhaps a bit too much at times.

As for chocolate, it's been part of the Great Sugar Addiction Conspiracy for generations; it's really hard to get people to even think about chocolate that isn't horribly sweet, and has milk in it. Luckily it's getting easier to find decent European chocolate here in the US.

On the original topic: leaving cookies enabled isn't acceptance of anything accept the use of cookie technology, any more than allowing email to be sent to your address is accepting receipt of spam. Acceptance has to be opt-in for each site you deal with individually or it's meaningless.

61:

Maybe I'm not clear on what's going on here exactly, but how will this /not/ drive website hosting out of the EU? Cookies are so integral to modern websites that it seems like most sites will opt to just move hosting (and maybe operations?) elsewhere. In the US Amazon avoids having operations in most states just to avoid sales tax on most customers, I'd think they care /more/ about cookies.
I'm not sure I'm against legislating this sort of privacy requirement, but I don't see how it is going to be successful when many of the largest offenders can just avoid hosting in the EU.
Does it matter whether the company does business in the EU as long as it's not hosted there? I can see amazon hosting somewhere else to avoid this, but obviously they'll do anything it takes to be allowed to ship products there.

62:

With sausage gravy! MMMMM

63:

Fat Americans? How about high fructose corn syrup and MSG?

I like Coors Light, Bud Light, Newcastle, Bass, and US microbrews and IPLs. I like New Zealand Marlborogh Sauvignon Blanc and Napa Ca, Cabernet. I like all chocolate including the bad stuff, I like good bacon, bad bacon, grits, biscuits and gravy. I like good food, bad food, I Like EVERYTHING. I have to admit I like the good stuff better.

64:

A few months ago, an American company I deal with was embroiled with a business that was selling a service to detect if two or more accounts were using the same computer, and so were the same person.

Things blew up when it emerged that the guy selling the service had substantial form for computer crime, and was likely in serious breach of parole terms.

I've not heard anything definite enough that I'd care to name names. but I definitely gained the impression that customer privacy is a somewhat alien concept in the USA, and I reckon Google's "do no evil" has to be judged in that context.

The only entity I feel any sympathy for is the guy's pet, which was itself of somewhat doubtful legal status. It was essentially a con game, and the company seemed to be turning a blind eye to the way he was selling an impossible security tool to some of their customers.

It's no wonder it seems to be American companies which get their customer data stolen.

65:

Mmmmmm Maple syrup on sausage!

66:

It's not about hosting -- it's about doing business in the EU at all: there is a constitutional-level right to privacy under European Law, much tighter than the US equivalent, and companies doing business in the EU are required to recognize it and behave accordingly. Merely hosting servers outside the EU isn't enough to bypass the requirement to obey the law if you're an EU company.

67:

In fact, a lot of Hershey's products don't have cacoa butter. In 2007, producers made the FDA change the law so candy that is not actually chocolate can use "chocolate" as a label.

68:

I strongly prefer darjeeling and I buy it by the pound.

69:
I definitely gained the impression that customer privacy is a somewhat alien concept in the USA

You are not wrong. Citizen privacy vis-a-vis the government is rapidly becoming an alien concept as well.

70:

My favorite Fictional Detective ..even including Sherlock Holmes .. is the New York based Gourmet Nero Wolfe, and Wolfe Favored CANADIAN bacon ...


http://www.allthecooks.com/recipe/Nero+Wolfes+Yorkshire+Buck-325746/

71:

Remember the very old days? I wonder if that's where the idea of putting cookies on computers came from, beca

I WANT A COOKIE
>

GIVE ME A COOKIE OR I TRASH YOUR DIRECTORY

>Cookie

use of that old "cookie monster" program on PDP machines. Just idle speculation.

72:

Are you near a Bob Evans? They have good sausage & gravy.

73:

Tastes differ. And I've seen horrible travesties of American breakfast menus that could put a person off it for life. Hopefully you'll find one of the better examples someday.

74:

This is where I usually buy chocolate gifts and I buy enough that they usually give me a few chocolates for myself. They don't have a store, just a kitchen in an industrial area about a mile from my condo. You normally have to buy online, but since I live so close, the first time they just told me I could come by and pick it up and not pay postage, and they always say that now if I'm carrying the gift.

75:

"Y'know, watching government regulators trying to keep up with the world is my favorite sport."
L. Bob Rife,

Nice law that does nothing there politico types.

Outlawing third party cookies is a great idea, messing with first party cookies is stupid.

Making everyone click on an "allow cookies" button to do anything on any website anywhere just makes it easier to fool them into allowing 3rd party cookies

Honestly if i am doing something on a website i kind of expect that website is going to need to keep track of who the hell I am, it's some other jackass getting involved in it that is the problem...

However there is no good reason to have a 3rd party cookie unless you are tracking/targeting someone.

Blasted internet will not work without first party cookies so wtf is the point?

76:

Citizens' rights in the US are rapidly becoming optional. For an amusing example, for rather sinister values of amusing, consider the Patriot Act. One of my Senators, Ron Wyden, one of the very few people in the US government who's working hard to get rid of the Patriot Act, or at least reduce its toxicity, recently pointed out that he's not allowed to tell his constituents what's in parts of the Act, because they're secret. So he can't explain why he's trying to have those sections removed, failing defeat of the Act as a whole.

77:

Looks like yon .ASHX-labelled PDF is due to a misconfigured PERL script (http://pcsupport.about.com/od/fileextensions/f/ashxfile.htm).

78:

Well, the British haven't been a part of the Pac NW hop arms race of the last 20 years. As an experiment in Portland last year I tried a "strongly hopped" local IPA and it was, shall we say, an "interesting" experience.

I sometimes have to take some time off local beers and have something imported.

Tonight there's a Sour Beer drink off to be had...

79:

Regarding Yellow Beer:

Many years ago I was having dinner and a beer with a friend after a long D&D session. The bar we were in only had pale American beer; at one point I took a sip, made a disgusted face at the color of the liquid in my glass, turned to my friend and said, "As long as there are horses, there will be Miller's."

80:

The thing that I never understand about the UK is how can they be so ok with government surveillance and so paranoid of corporate surveillance?

Those cameras everywhere creep me the hell out, never felt so watched

81:

Charlie @ 54
Now I've sobered up a bit ...
Jaipur IPA is a proper one @ 5.9% ABV
and then there's Windsor & Eton Black IPA - yum!
IPA, (remember for no-UK drinkers) stands for India Pale Ale - shipped out in barrels in sailing-ship days.
It HAD to be strong to survive, and was also pale and very hoppy.
Yum, again!

ARCHAEOPTERYX @ 70
"Fictional" detective?
Lord Peter Winsey - and a FOOD fanatic!

Unholyguy @ 79
Because we know that the "guvmint" surveillance camers usualy won't be working ....
And the people paid to watch are stupid.
And, most importantly, because if someone misuses them, someone else WILL blow the whistle.
And we all get to watch the fun ...
A UK policeman may now be facing a murder charge, because of various cameras pointed at him, during a recent demonstration.
No names, no libel suits....

82:

yes i am sure someone like Margaret Thatcher would never ever ever misuse your surveillance cameras. (-:

Personally i think it makes more sense to be against both government and corporate violations of my privacy.

83:

We seem to be loosing against the government and (perhaps) holding our own against the corporations where as Americans seem to be loosing firmly to both.

84:

@82, agreed

86:

According to family history my great aunt was offered a cold beer on a hot day, her response, "How did they get that poor horse to squat over that tall, skinny bottle?".

87:

It's amazing, really. The various intelligence agencies in the US and elsewhere seem hell-bent on replicating the Stasi model (amass raw data and the truth shall transcendentally emerge), even though they know how well that worked in East Germany.

Personally, I think it's just that the military-industrial complex worked so well at sucking money in, they want to replicate that in as many functions of government as possible. Shall we be polite and call it the parasite load on the system?

88:

But you have to admit that one does have to go out of one's way to get "real beer" in the US. Trust me, I'm in Canada, about a 15 minute drive from the US....

89:

The thing is that, by retarding corporate data collection, we reduce the number of datasets that can be mined by a government. It's not the strong win that we might get from firm controls on the intelligence agencies but it is a weak reduction and so a weak win for us all.

90:

The thing is, if there are two people trying to enslave you and you defeat one of them and loose to the other, you are still a slave. There is just less disagreement over who owns your ass.

@86 we are a lot lot better at this kind of data driven computation 1980's East Germany was. And it does work, for some things at least.

Maybe it is just my American showing, but I'm quite a bit more worried about the government then the corps.

91:

It should, in theory, be easier to convince people that group 'B' shouldn't be allowed to do something if you've already convinced them that group 'A' shouldn't be allowed two do it.

92:

@90

not really, actually i think most of human history demonstrates the exact opposite

93:
But you have to admit that one does have to go out of one's way to get "real beer" in the US.

Not true. I live about a 10 minute walk from a brewpub, which has reasonably good beer, and which is about one block from a coop grocery that carries several dozen brands of microbrew in bottles. The chain grocery I go to for canned goods and other staples has a beer aisle that's at least 100 feet long, and two-thirds of that is microbrew and imported beer and ale (including a good selection of Belgian ales). Within 15 minutes drive there are at least another 5 brewpubs and a number of restaurants that serve local microbrew beers. My son, who lives on the other side of Portland, has even more choices available to him because that part of the city is somewhat denser than where I live.

Granted, not every city in the US is quite so well connected for beer, but I can vouch that San Francisco, Austin, and Seattle all are. Denver had the start of a beer culture the last time I was there, but that was more than 10 years ago, so I don't know what's happened since.

94:
Maybe it is just my American showing, but I'm quite a bit more worried about the government then the corps.

From where I sit they look like the same people wearing different hats, or perhaps at different points in their life cycles . Hmm... so many instars does a politician/lobbyist have?

95:

"Secondly, in case you haven't noticed yet, I'm British and my server is hosted in the UK."

0.0

Just kidding. I live in Florida and would trade places with you in a nanosecond.

96:

As a fellow 'Merkin, yes, it is your American showing. There's functionally little difference between the two, especially as the power of corps over the government grows.

97:

There are more surveillance cameras in Seattle. They're everywhere, and the locals don't seem to have noticed.

Meanwhile, despite the reputation of the UK, the time a couple of years ago I was attacked on the street, a main street, in a major city, the police informed me that there would be no CCTV evidence because there weren't any nearby! There might be something on a shop camera but they wouldn't be able to use it because the shop ones are not supposed to be watching the street.

98:

The rather widely repeated claim that Britain has 4.2 million CCTV cameras is not well founded. The Radio 4 programme "More or Less" on the 12th May 2008 (archive available on the BBC website) tracked down the original source, a rather heroic extrapolation based on a survey of just two streets in Putney in 2002.

99:

It's not the data, it's the meaning. It doesn't matter how much data you have. If you can't do anything with it, you're wasting your time.

That's the mistake the Stasi made, that if they had everyone spying on everyone else, then they'd know who the bad guys were and would be able thereby to defend the state.

So far, we seem to be working on getting more data, and the CIA (for one) doesn't seem to be very good at hanging on to the smart people who can actually figure out what it means.

To vastly over-extend a metaphor, cornering the market in hay won't make it easier to find the needles, it just means you've given the mice more places to nest.

100:

@98 it is not the CIA it is the NSA mostly that does this kind of stuff for the US government anyway, at least of the agencies that we have actually heard of.

I agree that data without a method to extract meaning is not useful. However when you combine all that raw data with more and more sophisticated data mining, machine learning, natural language processing, and various other statistical algorithms and then run it all with basically unlimited computer power, then you are in business.

This is kind of my field actually, I build high end analytical systems that do this kind of thing, not for the government though, at least not lately. This kind of stuff is all the rage in the valley right now.

This legislation is particularly interesting for me since it's likely going to turn into work at my current job to figure out how to handle it.

It certainly needs to be regulated, take it from someone on the inside (-:

101:

I think British and American "bacon" are entirely different cuts of meat. In general American bacon is fatty pork belly sliced very then then fried until crisp.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the UK and most of Europe bacon is a cut from the back of the pig, and is a leaner cut of meat.

102:

What if you found a web host in the Isle of Man? It appears to be neither part of the UK or the EU....

103:

Biscuits and gravy are a delightful Southern dish. Fresh buttermilk biscuits with a white gravy with sausage... yum.

Though outside of the South most Americans wouldn't touch it.

104:

I suspect the solution most companies will come up with is simply requiring users to actively accept cookies to use the website.

You go to the site, it asks you to accept cookies with a link to the privacy policy. If you accept they put a cookie on your machine saying you accepted and not to ask again. If you don't accept you get a static page explaining why you can't use the site.

95% of British internet users will accept without reading.

105:

The next time you pass through Seattle and sign at the University Bookstore, you might want to look into Dilettante Chocolates (which is run by the grandson of the last chocolatier for the Czar and who keeps the recipes in a bank vault) or Fran's, which won the award from Chocolatier Magazine for "Best chocolates in America" a few years ago. Fran's has a branch store in University Village, and Dilettante is on nearby Capital Hill. (Dilettante just moved into a new building, and while the chocolates and ice cream are still outstanding their new cook wouldn't be my choice to slop hogs based on the sandwiches I've had there--a word of warning if you decide to go there when you pass through the area.)

106:

Capitol Hill, not Capital Hill! That'll teach me to post right after doing yardwork...

107:

It always sounds good, machine learning.

Thing is, if you look at results for things like catching Al Qaeda attackers on airplanes, the uninformed public is still batting 1000 when they attempt to thwart the attacks (Flight 98, Shoebomber, underwear bomber, etc), and the government is batting 0.

I realize this isn't fair, because it's more difficult to count attacks that were blocked in the early stages that attacks that were foiled at the last step. Still, I think the evidence says that data gathering isn't the right approach. High end machine learning processes don't respond nearly as fast nor as accurately as someone on the ground with, say, a baseball bat (let alone a gun) and the willingness to die to stop an attack. Couple this with the huge costs and enormous secondary problems caused by such data gathering, and I don't think it's worthwhile.

To be sure, it's a worth technical challenge, I agree. Still, it will end the same way the Stasi files did. Either the database will ultimately crash and become useless, or it will be hacked and become public knowledge. In the former case, it's a waste of money, and in the later case (as with the Stasi files) it will destroy lives and trust for decades. In both cases, it will continue to be inefficient at solving the problems it is designed to solve, namely finding terrorists and criminals.

108:

An example of useless data gathering...

Indoor cannabis growing for "commercial" use is something that uses a lot of electricity for heat and light.

The Police used unusually high electricity bills as a detection method. The crooks started running illegal connections, bypassing meters or stealing power from other customers. That bypassed any data mining pretty well.

The Police now use thermal imaging cameras, which aren't a totally reliable method.

109:

you've never tried to explain how to type a URL to an eighty-something elderly relative.

Or better yet showed them Google too soon and so now in there mind there is no difference between Google, the Internet, their browser, etc. So when given a URL they bring up Google, type it in there, then click on the first choice.

110:

@ 89
Like the CP & the Catholic church competing to who would own all the Polish slaves, you mean?
It appears that, in the end, neither did, though today's referendum in Malta should be interesting.

Data-mining / police suspicions etc:
None of it will work if the people on the recieving end are STUPID.
Which is why the general public are batting 1000 against the nutters.
It's also why I hate "flying" - it's the 150% unnecessary "security" checks on a beer-drinking, pork-eating atheist like me.
Some years ago (befor 1995) I spotted some VERY suspicious behaviour on the "tube" - even though the person involved appeared to be a Glaswegian drunk (he was) - LUL staff didn't want to know, MetPlod didn't want to know, BTPlod didn't want to know. The only people who tokk ANY interest were CityPlod - because I'd pulled the handle (emergency stop signal) at Moorgate station.
Grrrrrr ....

111:

And additionally, there are apparently new LED growlights that don't give away any of these clues.

112:

We tend to forget that, after the initial purges at the top, the allies found Germany ungovernable after VE day without employing former Nazis (there were around 8 million party members at the end of the war -- a very large proportion of the entire population -- it was impossible to be a teacher, doctor, cop, or work in just about any significant occupation without a party membership card). So even in the east, a lot of the immediate post-war institutions relied on former Nazis. Indeed the Stasi were largely set up and staffed at the low-to-middle levels by former Gestapo personnel.

(The Gestapo was a secret police force tasked with rooting out subversives. The Stasi was a secret police force tasked with rooting out subversives. See the fit? Both systems ran on petty authoritarianism enforced by peer pressure among authoritarian followers. While the "true believer" Nazis were excluded, anyone who could turn on a dime and start quoting Lenin instead of Hitler was welcome -- and the same psychological characteristics that led to success under one regime led to success under the other.)

I find the generalization and automation of a model directly descended from that of the Gestapo deeply disturbing. Especially in conjunction with theories like this, which are not easy to refute on first reading.

113:

Well the IoM is sort of outside the UK and the EU.

As a crown dependency the island is self governing with the UK responsible for its international relations. With the EU the island only has to apply rules with regard to the for free movement of goods and people (not services) similar to the UK.

In the midst of that the island has a VAT sharing arrangement with the UK under EU rules.

All told it allows for some interesting business on the Island - Pokerstars for example.

114:

And if you should happen to live in a nation run by someone who allegedly distrusts the idea of citizens generally being free and able to trust each other to begin with, having such a database created and resulting in a Stasi-style end-game might be a win-win scenario to such a head-of-government.

115:

Well at least the future historians will be pleased, both with the data and the data mining techniques they will inherit.

Always a silver lining if you look hard enough, I say.

116:

Actually, that's Stone Brewing Co. Rogue makes "Dead Guy Ale", and generally makes lighter, complex brews.

117:

Actually, the place I would *love* to see high level machine learning and data mining is at the SEC.

According to some reporters, the US is still stuck in the 2008 position of banks being too big to fail. Except their even bigger, and so byzantine that said reporters are warning that we cannot trust their financial reports to be anything other than a fabrication.

Machines can be very good at finding anomalies in financial data, since the data are primarily numerical. In fact, I'll bet one could build a program to spot pyramid scams.

I think it would also be fun to create software that could parse legal documents (say, loan papers) to look for logical inconsistencies.

Anyway, yes, I know this is a pipe dream, because the money's against getting it done. Still, I think that tracing the crooks within our financial industry is more suited to massive data-mining than is human intelligence.

118:

And then we forgot that lesson completely when we invaded Iraq and fired every member of the Baath Party including teachers and low-level bureaucrats, at which point Iraq became ungovernable...

So much for the lessons of history.

119:

Heck, the British Army has a huge number of bloody lessons from Afghanistan, tactical and strategic, but did the politicians bother to listen?

We've even evacuated Kabul by air.

Maybe the biggest mistake was the Partition of India. Used to be that you could police the Frontier with Sikhs, who aren't Muslims. Pakistan can't do that.

And now you have two rival powers, with deep religious differences, pointing nuclear weapons at each other. Some would say they had sense enough to fight their nuclear war with weapon tests, but...

120:

True about the Baath party.

In a weird way, I'm not so worried about creeping fascism, for two reasons.

The big issue is that the besetting problems of society right now seem to be resistant to solution by a single charismatic leader. This means that such leaders only survive so long as they can maintain the illusion that what they're doing works better than what came before, and while they quell dissent. Since the tools for quelling dissent are extremely expensive (thanks to the profiteering MIL complex), things get...awkward if you try to finance this long-term.

The other issue is that a comparative handful of people are pushing fascist idiocy in the west: The Koch Brothers. Rupert Murdoch. Whoever's supporting Karl Rove right now. Most of these people are old (as are many of the teabaggers), and it's not clear that their heirs are even as competent as they are. It's entirely possible that much of the current craziness (in the US at least) will fade away in the next few years, as its financial backers fade away.

121:

@107 feet on the ground and computers in the cloud are not mutually exclusive, you can do both and should do both to maximize effect.

From a pure ROI standpoint, it's not possible to judge without more information then what is currently available to me at least.

Another thing to remember is as you have pointed out such methods are not good at halting attacks last minute. They are good at quietly disappearing people in the earlier stages of the action, which is not the kind of thing that tends to make the news.

If nothing else, fear of such surveillance techniques has seriously cramped terrorist communication, as evidenced by the methods Osama Bin Laden had to go through to communicate with his organization.

However given the success this stuff is having in the private sector where we do have more information (hell even the Colombian drug lords have used it) it's reasonable to assume it's probably worth the investment.

The Stasi example is really not relevant. Too far in the past, didn't even really have computers back then, it's like disproving airlines based on the limitations of balloons in the 19th century

This stuff is very dangerous to a free society in my opinion.

122:

I think you're missing the point about the Stasi. It's not the technology, it's that idea that grabbing huge amounts of information was the solution to finding small numbers of threats.

Basically, you're trying to solve the problem of an unknown, faint signal (connections among plotters showing that something is going on) by throwing in huge amounts of data with a low signal-to-noise ratio. The chance of finding something useful is low, and the chance of getting distracted by spurious patterns is quite high. That's in an ideal system, uncorrupted by the political needs of the bosses.

I run into similar problems all the time working on ecological data sets, and I still often find that basic, local human knowledge trumps the best data processing I can do.

As I noted above, machine intelligence may be well-suited to finding things like financial fraud, because there's a huge amount of data, and proving a crime requires processing that data. This is something that's difficult for humans, but well-suited to computers.

123:

The chance of finding something useful is low, and the chance of getting distracted by spurious patterns is quite high.

Yes, it's the problem of false positives.

When we're talking about investigation (and usually prosecution) by secret police, it really sucks to be one of the false positives.

124:

You guys are again assume it is one or the other, people or computers which it isn't, computer based detection and feet on the floor work pretty well together. I don't think these efforts are budget constrained, it's not a choice between one or the other.

Think how credit card fraud detection works. Same problem of false positives, solution is to physically verify

I also don't think the fellows currently doing this stuff are overly concerned about the occasional false positive, honestly

Difficult is not the same thing as impossible. Problems like you describe are routinely solved, fraud detection at credit card companies for example, or financial market prediction (high frequency trading, etc)

Note I'm not arguing the ethics of these methods i think they are highly unethical but it is misguided to say they don't work.

126:

Unholyguy, I'm not sure that anyone here is arguing with you about the ethical problems here. Nor am I arguing about the use of people to verify.

We're disagreeing with you about the effectiveness of the technology. Charlie and I are worried about false positives. I know how attractive it is to run thousands of correlations until you find one that makes sense.

Is such a correlation real? That's the hard part. It may well be spurious, and as Charlie noted, it truly sucks to be a false positive in a police or terrorist investigation. That's what Guantanamo is all about, isn't it?

Moreover, I know PhD scientists who routinely claim that such correlations are valid, to get something good published. I've been repeatedly pressured to do the same and refused.

To me, that's the chilling part: if bright people who have been trained in stats routinely misrepresent their findings to get published, to get money, and to keep their jobs, why should I trust the people in the NSA to be better?

The spies have no incentive to be sticklers for the truth, and they can cover mistakes behind a veil of secrecy. I'd argue that what they are doing is unethical, expensive, AND ineffective.

To be blunt, the burden is on them (and their supporters) to demonstrate that things like Railhead and whatever is replacing it are cost-effective, compared to doing something like letting people carry pocket knives and sacrifice their lives to keep a plane, train, or whatever from being turned into a weapon. We already know the latter approach works, after all.

127:

What's worse is that organizations like the Stasi and the FBI (the US counterspy agency, remember) aren't motivated to care about the accuracy of their accusations. The FBI is spending a good part of its counter-terrorist energies entrapping people who might (probably would) otherwise never be involved in anything as criminal as what they are accused of. False positives, properly (mis-)handled make just as much useful public relations as real positives, and they're ever so much more plentiful.

128:

heteromeles neither of us have direct data to prove or disprove whether the techniques are effective or not. It is all wrapped in so much secrecy that direct analysis of ROI and effectiveness is not possible and anyone that thinks differently is deluded.

You do not know whether it is effective or not and neither do I, we are both guessing

There is no mechanism in place to require intelligence agencies to disclose any of their methods or justify any of their expenditures, so there is no "burden of proof" for any of it.

False positives only matter in that they cost you something, the fact that you have a problem with false positives does not make the technique non-effective.

For instance anecdotally, my visa card fraud group is generating about 10 false positive phone calls to me for every one actual case of fraud. It's still an effective algorithm because the false positives are cheap and catching the fraud is very lucrative so the program has a good pay out.

It could be the NSA is quite happy killing ten people and nine of them innocent, given the tenth is the actual bad guy. They might be happy with a 100:1 ratio. This could still be more effective then more traditional means that don't kill the innocent people and also don't get the bad guy. Not that traditional means do not also suffer from false positives. It's all in where you put your values.

Is the NSA doing a good job? Heck if I know. That is up to the appropriation committees to decide i suppose. Are the programs cost effective? No way of knowing, though the private sector certainly seems to be finding similar techniques cost effective.

However most of your concerns about their bias, screwing up, and basically being human, this applies to pretty much any intelligence operation using any method.

I also think that it is a false choice you are presenting that is "one or the other". It's obvious that some level of data analysis / machine learning combined with some level of feet on the floor is going to be the optimal mix. There are probably points of diminishing return on all investment channels that force multiple techniques.

129:

I'd never had it until we moved to NoVA. I really like it, but I only like grits with cheese, and I don't like greens at all.

130:

What false choice? You're the one who's talking about an either/or choice between humans and computers.

I've been arguing about the thing we both find most problematic, which is massive wire tapping and invasion of our privacy, and asking whether it's better than doing precisely nothing at all, and encouraging Americans to be heroes rather than scared potential victims or suspects.

Yes, I think it's great that they got Bin Laden, but you know, I don't know if it makes me any safer, or any safer than I was on 9/10/2001.

So far as abuse goes, that's another point about copying the Stasi: the people at NSA should really care about false positives, because every false positive represents quite a bit of money and time invested, and when things blow up, the political fall-out can be enormous. Ask Jimmy Carter about the consequences of a failed operation.


131:

heteromeles you are making claims that all these billions we are spending on computer assisted espionage are ineffective.

Do you have any actual evidence of this, at least evidence within the last 10 years or so?

links would be helpful

132:

Of course not. I can't prove a negative, especially when there's secrecy involved.

Can you prove that the billions have been as effective as doing nothing at all?

133:

And you think making Iraq ungovernable wasn't the point? The only part of the US military that didn't go was the people who set up and run governments in occupied areas. The only argument that I ever heard that made sense was that we did that to keep Iraq oil off the market, to keep the price up (so if you believe in peak oil, the invasion still might be a good thing).

134:

I do wish that everyone who wanted to make any comment on the future of privacy had read David Brin's "The Transparent Society", it makes the argument that, to quote Scott McNeily (founder and long time CEO of Sun), "Privacy Is dead, get over it", so how do we want to handle that, and he walks through some options. I've yet to see an argument that he is wrong, and rather a lot of people making arguments that he debunked in 1998.

135:

Point of note: the sum being spent is not mere billions. The NSA budget is classified, but in aggregate the US black (classified) intelligence spend is on the order of $60-100Bn/year. Of this, the biggest chunk (probably $20-30Bn) goes to the National Reconnaissance Office or NRO (who spend it on big-ticket items -- spy satellites, basically) but the NSA is probably in #2 place, ahead of the CIA.

Meanwhile the DHS's annual budget is $56.3Bn in FY 2011.

Aggregating this over a longer period and we see a combined homeland security and intelligence budget on the close order of $1 trillion per decade.

That's an awful lot of money sloshing around, and a gigantic incentive for unscrupulous folks to try and find a way to cut themselves in on a corner of it.

A cold-blooded utilitarian calculus suggests that permitting a 9/11 scale event every 12 months would be cheaper than running this kind of security state. After all, the direct and indirect economic impacts of 9/11 didn't add up to over $100Bn. When looking to prevent fatalities through safety measures we usually put an actuarial value on each life saved on the order of $5-10M, suggesting it's worth, at the outer edge of the envelope, spending no more than $30Bn to prevent a 9/11 type event.

136:

I'd like to add this: while I'm willing to cut the US government some slack for the immediate post-9/11 reaction, and I'm willing to set aside the Iraq invasion as being the consequence of PNAC capturing State and W having a hard-on to prove he could do what daddy couldn't, the post-2008 trends in security spending suggest that the institutional monster that is the DHS has gotten itself well bedded-in. There's a security industry and a security ecosystem now, and you won't get rid of it short of a revolution. Even a total economic collapse won't do it; in a crisis giving a choice between Medicare and the DHS, my money's on the DHS surviving.

Oh, and I should probably say "we", because there are mini-me versions of DHS all across the world and the UK, in particular, is locked into the same pernicious structures by way of the 1945-vintage UKUSA Treaty.

137:

Finally, as an example of how badly security/safety policies are skewed in this crazy-mirror world of ours:

Road Traffic Accidents kill roughly 40,000 people a year in the USA, 3500 a year in the UK, and about 1.5 million people worldwide.

RTAs in fact inflict a death toll on the same order as the Congo War every year -- the most lethal war of the 20th century after the first and second world wars -- and over the 20th century RTAs killed more people than both world wars combined.

If we do our actuarial what-is-it-worth-to-prevent-a-death calculation, eliminating RTAs would justify the UK alone spending £5-10Bn a year on research, development, and deployment. (Which may sound nuts, but the actual cost of dealing with them is measured in billions to begin with, with around 15,000 people a year requiring hospital treatment costing tens of thousands of pounds and taking a lot of production out of the economy on top.) In the US, it should justify a DHS-scale budget, one on the same order as the Apollo Program in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Now here's the crunch point: over 90% of road traffic accidents are the result of human error, and the overwhelming majority of these are driver errors.

So we can in principle justify a spend of tens of billions a year on research to take human driver errors out of the loop, presumably by developing and mandating robot cars.

But instead of an Apollo Program to get this shit working and roll it out worldwide and save millions of lives and tens of billions of dollars of lost productivity annually, we have a couple of corporations (notably Google, Toyota, and Volvo that I know of) working on it on a hobbyist basis and no possibility of this stuff being production ready for at least eight years, in which time another 12 million people will die before we can get started replacing the existing vehicle fleet, which will take years if not decades.

Sometimes I despair of my fellow shaved apes.

138:

fascism isn't dependent on a single charismatic personality though. The 3rd Reich fought on after Hitler's death, under the Fuehrership of Admiral Doenitz, and was in any case much more devolved than the media usually tell us.
Kim Jong-Il replaced Kim Il-Sung.

139:

I don't think North Korea qualifies as fascist -- it's more like a hermit kingdom with a hereditary monarchy and a bizarre, modernist state religion based off a toxic hybrid of ethnic nationalism and socialism. It seems to me to lack the essentialist romantic character of fascism.

I'll grant you the point about non-charismatic fascist systems run by committee, though. Greece under the Colonels, Argentina under the Junta in the late 70s, arguably Spain under Franco (who wasn't exactly noted for his charisma and charm).

140:

How about medieval Venice with its labyrinthine structures of Committees and its secret societies? Not that I claim a deep knowledge of the system...

141:

Seriously? Nazi Germany fought on for just about a week after Hitler took the coward's way out. A few days is simple inertia, and was mostly done because the Wehrmacht wanted to surrender as much land as possible to the western allies instead of the Soviets - and they didn't know that the demarcation line had been drawn long before.

You'll need an example a lot better than that to back up your assertion.

142:

If people wanted greater safety enough, much simpler and cheaper systems could become available on a much shorter timescale, and be retrofittable. A sonar-based emergency braking system eg., just to stop the cars driving too close together.
When you watch people drive, safety isn't a priority for certain personality types. I actually used to work with a man who said he wanted to die but didn't want to commit suicide, so he got drunk and drove at lunatic speed...another colleague drove like a madman just for the excitement, he enjoyed the feeling of being a little bit out of control. These people were engineers and programmers!

143:

To be honest, I'm just not sure. When you're talking about the Bush government it's damn-near impossible to figure out what is malice, which is incompetence, what is attempted malice accomplished incompetently... I would submit, however, that if they didn't want the Iraqis to export oil, all they had to do was leave the Bush I/Clinton status quo in place, which meant oil exports would have been forbidden regardless.

You must remember that Iraq was the Neocon's big experiment in running an Arab country according to their batshit philosophy, and there was substantial pressure to get things right and turn the country into a well-run democracy. There was a conspiracy, but it wasn't all (or even mostly) about oil.

144:

When you watch people drive, safety isn't a priority for certain personality types.

Yes. Which is why these people SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO DRIVE.

Because it's not about THEIR safety, it's about EVERYONE ELSE ON THE ROAD AROUND THEM.

Sorry about shouting, but this is something a lot of people fundamentally don't seem to get: the reason we restrict the right to operate an automobile on public roads is because it's necessary to protect everyone else. And these selfish gits are behaving just about as recklessly as if they were discharging firearms at random. Sure they don't mean to hurt anyone: they're just having fun. And it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Responsible adults restrict the discharging-of-firearms-for-fun to a suitably managed firing range, and the driving-of-cars-for-fun to a suitably managed track. Anything else isn't merely grossly stupid and reckless, it's a symptom of a broader failure in our culture to inculcate a proper understanding of risks.

As for radar-driven braking systems ... they exist. I believe they're fitted to some new high-end cars sold in the past 18 months. They're not suitable for retrofitting to older cars -- they have to be designed in from scratch -- and they don't always work reliably. At this rate it'll take a whole generation for them to become standard -- and then the idiots will take it as a license to drive with both feet on the accelerator at all times.

145:

Charlie, I've been writing about that for years. This link goes to my very first post on the subject from Daily Kos in 2005.

146:

I'd say the reasons for Iraq are a whole toxic stew. Personally, I wish I'd recorded a certain phone call. When Bush II was inaugurated, I predicted we'd be back in Iraq as soon as he needed something to boost his poll numbers.

Here are the benefits of war in Iraq:
1. Oil and industrial revenues to Bush's friends in Halliburton etc. Bush did this in every public office he held, and there's no reason to believe his Presidency wasn't more of the same.
2. Saddam was a convenient bound demon, thanks to the Gulf War, and his presence justified massive US presence in the Gulf, even in places (like Saudi Arabia) where they didn't really want us. Then again, I'm one of those who believe that the US provoked the first Iraq War by selling side-drilling oil rigs to the Kuwaitis and encouraging them to drill into Iraqi oil fields under the border (which, incidentally, is a good casus belli)
3. An occupied Iraq played the demon role even better than Saddam, since hordes of Shi'ite refugees pouring across Sunni borders is an even worse threat than a dictator.
4. It took everyone's attention off of Afghanistan, and I think early on, the US military had doubts that we could win there. Iraq's smaller, flatter, and more urbanized than Afghanistan.
5. The US historically re-elects war-time presidents, with the exception of Vietnam. If Bush 2 had not one but two justifiable wars going in 2004, he was likely going to get re-elected even if he was unpopular (see FDR, Lincoln, etc).
6. When it all went sour (as it would, due to the massive profiteering that drove the whole operation), Bush would be out of office by the time the bills came due. That would make his (presumably democratic) successor very unpopular, paving the way for a Republican President in 2012. Since Cheney was too ill to run for President, this was the next best option.

And yes, I'd figured all of this out when the Iraq War started. That's why I was out protesting it.

147:

You missed 7: geopolitics. If your goal is to encircle and contain Iran, then it's worth noting that Iraq and Afghanistan share extensive land borders with Persia. Iran has been an obsession of the US State Department since well before 1979 -- indeed, CIA meddling there in the early 1950s is largely responsible for the blow-back in 1979.

What the Bushies seem not to have anticipated was a Democrat President cynical enough to continue the wars and the security state, use Bin Laden as the kick-off for his re-election campaign, and turn himself into a war president in his own right. Which is why all the serious Republicans are falling over backwards to not run for the Presidency in 2012.

(I was out protesting the Iraq War for a different reason: I knew damn well they were running it on a pack of lies because the spin emanating from State over the alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction was semiotically identical to the spin emanating from the Reich Ministry of Propaganda over Polish aggression in mid-1939.)

148:

You've pretty much got the recipe for Toxic Iraq Republican Stew right there. However, I'd add three ingredients.

First, incompetence. Proper toxic stew requires a big heaping spoonful of incompetence. Since every sane observer saw it happening, I don't think I need to add much on this subject.

Second, the Neocon philosophy includes some really weird ideas about how to fix the Muddled East. Among these gems is the idea that General Sykes-Picot drew the borders between countries incorrectly, and that this needs to be fixed, by force if necessary. Add in their ideas of "creative destruction" and you've got the second ingredient. Keep in mind that Batshit-Crazy Neocon Philosophy is a complex spice that should be used sparingly.

Third, we can't forget good, old-fashioned American racism; the Presumptuous Assumption of White Rightness. Personally, I don't like to use this ingredient in any recipe, but according to my sources, it just isn't Toxic Iraq Republican Stew without the racism.

149:

I knew damn well they were running it on a pack of lies because the spin emanating from State over the alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction was semiotically identical to the spin emanating from the Reich Ministry of Propaganda over Polish aggression in mid-1939.

I've frequently likened US pre-Iraq war propaganda to the German propaganda prior to the invasion of France in World War I, particularly the German idea that the French would quickly come to prefer German Kulture to French Culture once they were exposed to it, and that the French would all quickly become good German-type citizens... This particular bit of nonsense may have been for internal US consumption only, however, so I don't know if you heard it in the UK.

I think the US propaganda machine was playing "Germany's Greatest Hits."

150:

The impression I gained at the time was that the Bush administration was composed of disparate types who each had their own reasons for war with Iraq, forming a muddled alliance of airheads. The factor not mentioned here so far is that Israel wanted Iraq destroyed. AIPAC controls US foreign policy and elections.

151:

I wasn't commending my jolly colleagues, I found them quite appalling. I foolishly accepted a lift from the one who liked being out of control, and he made me car-sick before we got out of the car-park.
I was trying to explain that I don't think we're going to have robot cars soon. People won't want them. They like driving.
I think it's possible to retrofit the radar-braking systems to some existing cars, the ones with computer-controlled engines and brakes, if the manufacturers produce a conversion kit.

152:

Agreed, with one disclaimer. I would not say that AIPAC controls US elections. However, they have enormous influence, and politicians in the US pander to them as they pander to any very powerful political force.

153:

I was trying to explain that I don't think we're going to have robot cars soon. People won't want them. They like driving.

So? People liked driving without seatbelts, too. The insurance companies will stick their oars in over self-driving cars: when the self-driving cars have fewer accidents per hundred thousand miles than the old-fashioned kind, premiums for the old-fashioned kind will rise. And then you'll need separate insurance to drive manually at all on certain types of road. Eventually most people will go for the route that lets them text/apply makeup/shave/watch TV while commuting to work while cutting their insurance premiums.

154:

The pattern I locked in on was the way they kept rolling out one allegation about Iraqi malfeasance after another, at roughly one week intervals.

Allegation surfaces on Monday and spreads for 48 hours. Then commentators start to say "hang on, where's the evidence?" That takes another 48 hours. A non-response/distraction along the lines of "look over there, it's a Wookie!" takes you through Friday and the weekend, and then it's Monday and time for an entirely new allegation of baby-eating to kick off another propaganda cycle and distract attention from last week's by-now-refuted allegation.

Meanwhile, anyone plausibly believable who stands up to testify against the spin gets the swift boat treatment: Valerie Plame, Mohammed ElBaradei, etcetera.

This technique was pioneered by Josef Goebbels in the 1930s and it works almost every time. Read a history of Nazi expansion from 1935-39 and it's a recurring pattern.

I attribute its deployment in 2002-03 to the US military's institutional response to Vietnam. Vietnam was a media war, insofar as public opinion turned against the war and throttled support for it at home. This happened as the Pentagon was really getting into psychological warfare operations. The institutional lesson the Pentagon took away from this was that psyops needs to be directed against enemies on the home front as well as on the battlefield, and control of the media environment is essential -- hence the embedded journalists, instances of US military forces firing on and -- let's call a spade a spade here -- murdering non-embedded journalists during the invasion, the non-attributable briefings against dissidents, and all the other sordid details. It's no coincidence that Iraq was run by Donald Rumsfeld (SecDef under President Ford, a junior administrator during the dog days of Vietnam), Colin Powell (tasked with whitewashing the My Lai massacre), and other folks who had been at low to medium rank during the previous war and who in some cases appear to have harboured the conviction that if only they had been in charge during Vietnam the South could have survived.

Useless muppets, one and all.

155:

White Rightness: many Americans are confused about this, it seems.
Both Iraq and Iran have a much higher proportion of white people than the USA.

156:

Racism is virtually never based on any kind of underlying truthiness. And in its imperial ventures, the United States appears to have abstracted wholesale the particularly odious variety of racism that characterised the late imperial adventures of the United Kingdom.

157:
As for radar-driven braking systems ... they exist. I believe they're fitted to some new high-end cars sold in the past 18 months.

I saw a design for a retrofit braking system using an OEM radar module in the mid 1970's. The module cost less than USD 500 in OEM quantities (1,000 units, IIRC) and would have come down seriously if manufacturing could have scaled to millions of units. The fact that it was never actually built into vehicles has nothing to do with technical or cost factors, but purely political and social factors: the car companies decided no one wanted it (that is to say, they didn't want it). I've wondered for a long time just how much the car companies depend on auto accidents as a way of increasing turnover of old vehicles into new sales.

There were a lot of people here in the US who recognized the runup to the Iraq War as the scam it was: there were large demonstrations of thousands of people in multiple cities that were not reported on or drastically minimized by the MSM, who were doing their duty to support the military aims of the US government. That's the way the media have handled every war we've ever fought: wave the flag going in so no one can complain about your lack of patriotism, then if anything goes wrong or the scam becomes public, pretend you always knew about it.

Really, the Iraq war justification was very similar to the Vietnam War, just faster, louder, and more up front. No one in the US really noticed Vietnam at first, so we were well ensconced before the US government felt it necessary to create a fake casus belli in the Gulf of Tonkin.

158:

I think Iraq was all a big excuse to have a large army sitting on massive oil reserves. Makes perfect sense if you believe in peak oil. The spin up was straight from Goebbels books, few of us knew what was going on but most bought it hook line and sinker.

As far as the megadeath arithmetic Charlie, you can make the argument that the intent is to prevent something much worse then 9/11. One dirty nuke will change the numbers considerably. You can say never happen, but Chechnya pretty much did it to Moscow and then didn't pull the trigger...

159:

We've had a dirty nuke event -- we had it in London in 2006. One fatality, multiple exposures, and something like $200M of Polonium-210 scattered all over the shop.

Radiological contamination isn't a very effective way to damage a city. Either you use short half-life hot stuff like Po-210 (which is gone within a few months but very nasty where it's concentrated) or you have to use a metric shitload of longer half-life stuff, which is hard to hide.

Nuclear bombs are much more damaging; but they appear to be significantly harder for non-state actors to acquire the materials for: or, given the materials, to assemble. (It's not just a matter of building a bomb, it's a matter of designing and building a bomb that works properly first time, because you won't get a second chance.)

In the final analysis what 9/11 did was to raise the threshold for acts of terror as instruments of policy change in western governments so high that folks like the Provisional IRA and ETA were priced out of the game, because it became obvious that you'd need to go nuclear (mushroom clouds and all, not just some stolen fallout) to escalate any further, and rather than causing the target to back down it just goads them into going batshit insane. Arguably ObL's tactic was intended to make the USA go batshit insane -- in which case, he got his dream outcome -- but if so, it wasn't a very effective tactic in terms of achieving his strategic goal (USA out of the Middle East: overthrow of corrupt semi-secular regimes: installation of a Caliphate).

160:

But did ObL have anything to do with it? He has denied it many times.
Murkiest topic in the world, but ask yourself who benefitted?

161:

Yup, there were a lot of us out there protesting. The only thing I'll quibble with is Bush incompetence. Their only goals appeared to be amassing money for themselves and supporters, and maintaining political power for as long as it took to do so. In both regards, they did an amazing job. The fact that they totally ignored good governance (which would have gotten in the way of these goals) is understandable, if not forgivable.

As for Pres. Obama....Guys, he's a Chicago politician. What did you expect him to be? A Clinton or Carter clone? And you have to cut him some slack. Given the suck-tastic political hand Bush left him and the disasters since then, he's done about as well as he could. I suspect that even if we'd somehow elected the Dalai Lama as our president, we'd still have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.

As for the Psyops on Mainstream media--not so much. The CIA called the mainstream media "the Might Wurlitzer" back in the 1960s, I believe (as in the organ on which they could play any tune they liked).
Granted that the media-control techniques were updated for the Iraq War, I suspect this was an arms race rather than a sea change. Body counts just wouldn't do this time around.

As for Osama Bin Laden, I agree that he got his wish in making the US go batshit insane. Witness the TSA. Terrorists get three planes down, passengers in fourth plane attack go kamikaze, die heroes. Gov't response: create TSA, disarm passengers. Shoebomber: stopped in mid-operation by passengers. TSA response: screen everyone's shoes. Underwear Bomber: stopped in mid-burn. TSA response: full-body scans. Anal bomber. TSA response: thank god that happened in Saudi Arabia and not in America...

162:

I'm just waiting for some suicidal fucktard to work out that shorting out the terminals of a Lithium-Ion battery should release enough juice to make a wire get hot enough to set fire to said battery, at which point you've got a lithium fire on board an airliner.

Happy joy, no more flying with laptops or phones. No more flying with them checked, either, because (see also FAA issues with LiION batteries in holds, failure of halon fire suppression systems to put out lithium fires inside luggage, hull losses of cargo airliners, etcetera) ...

163:

I don't know Charlie I think you are underestimating the potential to put the major hurt on a metro area given sufficient quantities of radioactives, but agree the major risk is a detonation. Pakistan has plenty of the good stuff though. Not impossible to imagine.

But yes the US reaction has been ridiculous, the only logical conclusion is the powers that be are manipulating the situation for their own ends.

165:

117; "I think it would also be fun to create software that could parse legal documents (say, loan papers) to look for logical inconsistencies."

Where are you going to find some consistent ones for the negative tests?

166:

"As for radar-driven braking systems ... they exist. I believe they're fitted to some new high-end cars sold in the past 18 months. They're not suitable for retrofitting to older cars -- they have to be designed in from scratch -- and they don't always work reliably."

They're in the new ford focus which isn't exactly high end. They only work at slow speeds though.

And I suspect people will spend ages working out a way to disable them so they can go back to tailgating people.

167:

"Eventually most people will go for the route that lets them text/apply makeup/shave/watch TV while commuting to work while cutting their insurance premiums."

Yeah. This is the 21st century where a fifth universal natural force exists -- litigation.

I have no doubt sooner or later someone will deploy them. They will get to discover who gets the legal liability for a collision caused by the robot driver... I can't see Microsoft's "we warrant the CD will be readable for 90 days and nothing else" clauses covering that software.

I don't doubt there'll even be a sensible outcome to the question. It just may not be in the same decade or century that the question is raised...

168:

Polaroid-style sonar modules, enough brains to compare range to the next vehicle with road speed to a table and a large warning light, am I missing anything? I'd think it might be done as a reasonably priced DIY, an interim measure, until self-guided cars become real, BTW, John Varley's "Red Thunder" has a description of such a system, really fast lanes for cars that could talk to the road.

169:

Small comparison: A lot of women are worried about breast cancer when more women die of heart disease.

170:

What do you do to keep them from driving? In DC, we frequently have people driving drunk who don't have a license because they've already been caught three times.

171:

Video of Lexus self-parallel parking.

172:

The pattern I locked in on was the way they kept rolling out one allegation about Iraqi malfeasance after another, at roughly one week intervals.

Exactly. And then they'd roll out the old, debunked allegation a month or so later in the secure knowledge that everyone had forgotten the debunking, and it would take another 48 hours to re-debunk it.

And everything else you said was absolutely on targePr

173:

The problem with playing the racism card is that your troops get infected and then believe it, at which point you end up with the sexualized tortures at Abu Ghraib or Mai Lai, or whatever. There's a book called "The Arab Mind" by Raphael Patai which is worth googling in this context. It was on the reading list for US officers at one point, and it's been described (very kindly) with the phrase "best used as a doorstop." I frequently hate my government.

~Sigh%Pr

174:

Actually, there's a fun survival-scenario show called "Dual Survival" here in the US, and a couple of weeks ago, they used just that device to light a fire. The point was that just because a cell phone was soaked and couldn't be used to call for help, that doesn't mean it's not still useful for something.

Of course, their survival pack had some steel wool along, to make the trick possible.

So if you see some idiot pull steel wool out of his pack and dismantle his cell phone/etc. for the battery, here's what you do:
1. Scream for help. No point in being a hero.
2. Get your seat belt off, because you're going to have to do something.
3. Beat him senseless with whatever's available. Rolling up the airline magazine for a club is a quick solution. One of my friends recommends buying champagne at the duty free shop, because the bottles make handy clubs in an emergency.
4. Don't wait for any mention of your heroism. Instead, hope desperately that your fellow passengers don't spit on your shadow for getting them detoured to another airport, while they're all strip-searched to make sure they aren't accomplices.
5. Wait for TSA to make cell-phones illegal.

175:
The fact that it was never actually built into vehicles has nothing to do with technical or cost factors, but purely political and social factors: the car companies decided no one wanted it (that is to say, they didn't want it). I've wondered for a long time just how much the car companies depend on auto accidents as a way of increasing turnover of old vehicles into new sales.

I rather suspect that some of the car companies have considered the likely implications of self-driving cars. And the big one isn't accidents, it's declining ownership.

Consider: why is a taxi so expensive? Well, the most expensive thing in the whole car is the driver, by a huge margin, even if he's an illegal immigrant. So let's examine what happens when you have an auto-taxi: utilisation is higher, because it's on the road all the time, and the operating company probably does better and more efficient maintenance than most car owners. You would expect it to be significantly cheaper than owning a private car which makes 2-3 trips per day. And making them all-electric is a lot more practical when the car can go charge itself up between fares.

This economic shift will turn the car business on its head. People will still own private cars - but they'll be status symbols and luxuries for the rich. All the lower-middle-class people who just need to get the children to school and themselves to the office aren't going to be inclined to waste money on that sort of thing. Several car companies, which sell primarily to those groups, will fail and get bought up by others.

A primitive version of this is already happening - streetcar is operating in 9 cities in the UK, providing "cars for rent" with a fair degree of success. A lot of people prefer having their own because they're sensitive to what it's like to drive. When they aren't driving, the biggest barrier is gone.

176:

The issue here is that most of those people use their cars AT THE SAME TIME ie school runs and commute. This makes the fleet of robo taxis much more inefficient

177:

A web page with the extension ASHX is a helper page (Microsoft likes to use the word "handler"). It is generally used in ASP.NET pages in 2 situations:

1 - to serve up documents that could be any sort of document (doc, pdf, txt, whatever).

2 - to serve up images (these are usually pulled from a database based on how you are (or are not) logged in.

The code part of the page *should* have set the MIME type, but a lot of newbie programmers fail to do so.

178:

Osama Bin Laden won! An associates of American Police Chiefs are upset over the possible loss of freedom by taking pictures of cars licenses and sending the them to a 1984 computer. They also think the money could be better spent. How about you in England? "The pattern I locked in on was the way they kept rolling out one allegation" You got that right and most of us still will not admit it. "Something therefore always remains and sticks from the most imprudent of lies, a fact which all bodies and individuals concerned in the art of lying in this world know only too well, and therefore they stop at nothing to achieve this end."
~ Adolph Hitler, in Mein Kampf There is a lot of the wisdom of Hitler going around here. Like this. "Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger." -- Herman Goering,
Radar-driven braking systems work best in in lines. On curves they slap on the the brakes for cars in the other lane. The Rev. Moon's illegal Japanese money and his Washington Times newspaper along with Fox TV have been pushing us to a Vichy America. In fact the speeches of Vichy France I've read could be coming from Rupert Murdoch's once illegal Fox TV. You know him over there, right? After the fall it was found that the Stasi had East Berlin bugged. All of it. Almost anyplace where people could met had a mike. All that had to be done was a Stasi to call for a mike to be tuned on. And many were most of the time. It did not work. They did not have the voce recognition computers our NCSA had been using for many years, illegally, on all calls going out of the US. Say a majic word and the conversation was saved and a human was called.

179:

It is obviously not impossible to smuggle /some/ amount of radioactive materials into a major metropolitian area, as demonstrated by the fantastically extravagant assasination our esteemed host referenced to. However, trying to get enough nasty stuff together to do serious damage runs into the problem that geiger counters are very sensitive, extremely cheap, easily networked and automated and have been installed just about all over the place at this point. - The people who supply radioactive isotopes to hospitals for medical purposes are engaged in a constant dance of paperwork and notification of proper authorities to keep their transports from getting pulled over because they tripped a radiological sensor.

180:

How do you stop them from driving?

Well, for starters they can't get insurance if they have no license. So any vehicle they own is going to be flagged as "uninsured" in the national insurance database. Any time it goes past a police ANPR checkpoint the number plate is going to come up, so it should get stopped. At which point, driving without insurance is a criminal offense -- the offender gets a date in court, and the car gets seized. If they can't produce valid insurance paperwork within a week, the car is then crushed. If it's a vehicle they don't own ... well, if they're stopped for some other reason (remember, they're more likely to be driving badly: that's why we don't want them behind the wheel) again: car gets crushed. Even if it's not theirs. Unless it's stolen, in which case they're in a whole bunch of trouble for a different reason.

Over here, the first drunk driving episode loses you your license. By the third, you're looking at prison time.

181:

The issue here is that most of those people use their cars AT THE SAME TIME ie school runs and commute.

The association of car park operators here in the UK did an in-depth study on this a couple of years ago.

Surprise: at the peak of the commuter rush hour/school run period, indeed at peak traffic, 94% of the UK's vehicle fleet is parked. (Note: even with 94% parked, that means well over a million cars on the move, with just under 250,000 miles of road. So an average of 4-6 vehicles per mile of road at peak time. Given an average vehicle speed of 25mph, that means a car whizzing past you on average every 15-30 seconds if you're a pedestrian; sounds about right overall. The density is, of course, much higher on A-roads and busy urban main roads.)

Our utilization almost never exceeds 7%. And even then, very few vehicles operate at full seat capacity; they average between 1 and 2 occupants. (Many with 1, a substantial minority with 2, a tiny number with more than 2 -- except for buses, of course.)

Compare with airliners, where budget operators such as EasyJet or Ryanair aim for a seat load factor of around 90% or higher and for over 50% of their fleet to be airborn at any time.

182:

"The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed,
for the vast masses of a nation are in the depths of their hearts more
easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad. The
primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a
big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies,
but would be ashamed to tell big lies."
Adolf Hitler
Sound familiar? How about the US government constantly telling people Iran is developing nuclear weapons, when the CIA has repeatedly said they are not. The whole foreign policy of the West is based entirely on monstrous lies.

183:

The whole foreign policy of the West is based entirely on monstrous lies.

Not exactly.

The lies are invented to sell the policy to the public.

The policy is determined first and determines the shape of the necessary lies. Moreover, there is continuity of policy over a very long period -- multiple decades -- with broad bipartisan support.

184:

I write fanfic-level fiction (good fanfic, I think) in an alternate universe which has, more-or-less, British Columbia as an independent socialist state, in the 1930s. It's not a primary location, but it affects the political dynamics of the region.

So the USA is seen as a bit of a threat. Canada? Well, people can be good neighbours without having to agree on politics.

But there are some ugly things about the USA in the period between the World Wars, and I reckon the post-WW2 image of freedom and democracy is a bit of an illusion. Though the Civil Rights Movement did change some things. But go read The Grapes of Wrath or To Kill a Mockingbird and ask yourself how that society turned into the good guys.

The world would have been a mess without US industrial power, but the people behind it were willing to do anything to make money. They could do business with the Nazis. They couldn't do business with the communists of the Soviet Union. And then came the time when the Cold War ended, and they weren't constrained by that existential fear.

And, while they're copying all the old Imperial tricks at the political level, I'm not so sure they're managing the economic side. The British Empire meant that cotton came into England, for spinning and weaving, and was exported back to the countries which produced the raw fibre. Now it's so easy to shift the money that there's no need to do anything like that. But it changes things back home. The employment in England wasn't about creating a market for goods, it was a sort of protection money providing a safe haven for the wealthy.

Is the USA a safe haven for the wealthy? They're trying to keep it that way. I suppose we'll know the world has changed when Hollywood produces a Battleship Potemkin.

185:

Quite right re Grapes of Wrath etc.
The Declaration of Independence was written by slave-owners.
They could have taught the Nazis a thing or two about lying. Look at how they treated the Injuns.

186:

I saw a documentary a few days back about the rise of the Nazis..
the munich beer hall putsch?
Adolf was charged with high treason for attempting to overthrow the government. the judges were so sympathetic to his cause he got a tiny sentence.
They say it was hitlers charisma etc that turned the german people to his cult of fascism.
that documentary basically indicated that german society was already waiting for his brand of extremism.
so whenever these accusations of fascism/ nazi-ism are aimed at (insert name of regime) you know its propaganda

187:

hence the embedded journalists, instances of US military forces firing on and -- let's call a spade a spade here -- murdering non-embedded journalists during the invasion

Errr....sorry, that just failed my "conspiracy theory" test. Manslaughter, maybe. Murder would require malice aforethought.

I can only assume that you're talking about the Reuters reporter in the hotel overlooking a column of tanks, and perhaps the ITN journalists who got caught in a gun battle.

If you point a shoulder-mounted or tripod-mounted anything at a tank that is at war, you run the risk of being misidentified as an anti-tank weapon. Yes, the two are different in scale, but even stabilised optics aren't perfect. If you drive an unarmoured vehicle around a battlefield, and find yourself in between two groups of combatants, then you're unlucky (and arguably suicidally stupid). You can write "TV" in two-foot-high letters on the side of your Toyota, but it will get lost in heat haze - or be at the same temperature as the rest of the vehicle. Especially if one side has decided that green-painted vehicles attract airstrikes, and are using civilian vehicles as troop carriers...

I think that you are asking for unrealistically high standards of target discrimination on the part of the soldiers concerned. Wars are fought by the average bloke, who has slept for only a few hours in the last day, who is somewhat stressed, and who is having to make their decisions right now - not with the benefit of hindsight. They were doing it through the dark using thermal imagery, or in daylight under conditions of extreme heat haze.

I've taken young soldiers through some of the target discrimination ranges (the "shoot / don't shoot" ranges). Even doing their best, some will get overloaded enough to be "caught out" by the range setup. Malice is not required.

This isn't to say that there haven't been unacceptable acts - remember that the Wikileaks videos turned up because the leaker went looking in an area being used by the Military investigators to store evidence about a case under investigation, not because the leaker went trawling raw gunsight footage. In such cases, prosecution is the right thing to do.

188:

What? You're saying a guided missile attack on Al Jazeera's bureau headquarters in Baghdad wasn't deliberate? (After the TV channel had taken pains to inform the US military of said bureau's exact location so that it could be avoided?)

More here. I call bullshit.

189:

(irony on) You're right. The Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was obviously another deliberate act...

"Never ascribe to malice, that which can adequately be ascribed to incompetence" - militaries are completely unable to prevent blue-on-blue / "Friendly Fire" incidents at the best of times. I mean, who would have believed that an US fighter pilot in Afghanistan would take Benzedrine, ignore his orders, and decide unilaterally to bomb a night firing exercise by Canadian troops?

- In the Falklands War, an SAS patrol and an SBS patrol opened fire on each other leading to one death; a British helicopter was shot down by a British ship.
- In the Gulf, in 1991, British Forces lost more troops to US action than it did to Iraqi action.
- In Northern Iraq, some US pilots under control of a US AWACS managed to mistake US Blackhawk helicopters for Iraqi Mi-24, and shot them down.
- In the Gulf, in 2003, several British soldiers were killed by other British soldiers because information didn't flow downwards quickly enough to the people who needed it - and that was within a single Brigade in the two cases I'm thinking of (i.e. only two levels of command to negotiate).

From your link: Since the March 20, US-led invasion in 2003, at least 16 journalists and six media support workers have been killed by US forces, the CPJ said. Another 110 have been killed by militias, anti-government fighters and car bombings.

Seems like even with conspiracy theories, Journalists are still several times less likely to be killed by the US military, than by anyone else. The idea that any government department can keep a secret like "we deliberately used lethal force against uncontrolled media" stretches credulity in the same way as "Neil Armstrong only walked on a film set" or "TWA twice-times-four-hundred was shot down".

At what point did being a card-carrying member of the NUJ become an instant guarantee of ultimate immunity? If you climb out of a vehicle in a war zone, pick up a shoulder mounted box, and point it at a tank that's a tad twitchy about nasty men with RPG-29, and 99 times out of a hundred get away with it, then that doesn't mean you aren't acting in a manner likely to win a Darwin Award on the hundredth occasion...

190:

(irony on) You're right. The Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was obviously another deliberate act...

Yes, it was.

191:

Oh, they'll just add some language to the warranty similar to this:

Products and Services sold by Seller are not intended for use in connection with any nuclear
facility or activity without the written consent of Seller. Buyer warrants that it shall not use or permit others to use Products or
Services for such purposes, unless Seller agrees to the use in writing. If, in breach of this, any such use occurs, Seller (and its
parent, affiliates, suppliers and subcontractors) disclaims all liability for any nuclear or other damages, injury or contamination,
and in addition to any other legal or equitable rights of Seller, Buyer shall indemnify and hold Seller (and its parent, affiliates,
suppliers and subcontractors) harmless against any such liability.

192:

Aside, CHarlie @ 157 re "racism
The first US serviceman who wasn't pink to get a serious medal was at Pearl Harbour ...
British "Empire" servicemen who were very dark brown got VC's before 1900 ... should tell you something....

193:

oops & "Chinese Emabssy"
They were, themselves, violating the Vienna Convention, by passingon mesages to Milovic's goons - which meant that they had, themselves, violated and THROWN AWAY their own diplomatic immunity - erm - STUPID

194:

Entitled to an ultimatum, not a bomb.

195:

So what about the rest?

Military operations are complex systems. Imagine trying to design and write code when tired, such that it compiles first time without error - that's a "not bad" analogy for a set of orders (to the extent that you'd look at some of the staff planning diagramming and go "hmmmm... you could do this in UML").

Except that you're trying to write code for a complex integrated system, spread across a design team larger than you've ever worked with, for a hard real-time, massive multiprocessing system and you're trying to write it to pass its user acceptance tests first time, every time. Inside a day. Oh, and "the documentation is the code", except it's written in notebooks and copied manually and transmitted orally - no electronics other than a radio.

Screwups happen. Lots. At the end of the day, there are lots and lots of near-misses (on the move into Kuwait, a Field Hospital in all of its vehicles crossed the frontage of a tank unit, that had confirmed that there were definitely no friendly forces in front of them, and that had permission to open fire... except something "felt funny", so they kept checking).

Remember The US General ordering UK forces to sieze Pristina Airport from the Russians in 1999? And the UK commander on the ground refusing to carry out the order? The US Theatre commander (an Admiral) backed the British, rather than his own country's General.

The US Army couldn't even cover up Abu Ghraib, or the CIA cover up extraordinary renditions and third-party interrogation centres. Bradley Manning handed just about everything he could to Wikileaks, and yet there was no mention of special anti-journalist hit teams...

...which is why it fails Occam's Razor. Yes, the neocons in the White House can spin and direct all they like; but there's a world of difference between character assassination (Karl Rove got caught and convicted, remember?) and calling the death of those journalists "murder". It just doesn't ring true.

Think of it as the converse of "just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you" - just because you've got a sleazy bunch of neocons in the White House, doesn't mean that every lethal act is a deliberate covert policy...

196:

No national insurance database.

Very few police officers look for licenses.

In general, the officers have to stop the driver for some other reason (could be strange driving) and then find they don't have a license or registration.

DC once had a man who took not driving seriously -- he started riding a horse to the liquor store.

197:

And, talking of screw-ups and incompetence (as we are)
How about this act of unbelievable stupidity.

Germany is to close ALL its nuclear power-plants by 2022.

Begin QUOTE:
Angela Merkel, knows perfectly well that her decision to phase out all nuclear power stations by 2022 makes no scientific or economic sense. In fact, she said so herself as recently as two months ago, when she promised that Germany would not let itself be rushed into abandoning nuclear power by the Fukushima accident in Japan. "I am against shutting down our nuclear power plants only to have atomic power imported into Germany from other countries," she told the Bundestag in March. "That won't happen on my watch."
End QUOTE

Erm .....

P.S. @ 194
Correct - still stupid though

198:

Wish I could add to the comments about cookies and privacy, but they seem to be well-covered already.

Per American beers, I like the Great Lakes Brewery. They're regional...you might be able to find them in Chicago if you ever visit a big event there. But the hotel may not stock it, you may have to depend on your local contacts. Or venture out with their help to find some.

Sam Adams used to be a micro-brewery company, I think they're the best-known of the non-Big-Name American brewers. They produce a couple of good lagers, and a variety of seasonals that are nice. I suspect that they are a big enough brand to be found in a Boston hotel if you ever visit an event there.

199:

Sam Adams is available in the UK in bottled form (I suspect the closest bottle is less than 400 yards away from me as I type). It's been a log time since they could sensibly be called a micro-brewery.

200:

I can comment on this pattern:

U.S. Policing agencies, despite all their powers, have their priorities restricted by custom, culture, and Constitution in the U.S.

While it is not impossible to set up such a roadblock, it is hard to do so in compliance with the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Also, while the State-level governments keep records of cars, they and the vehicle-insurance companies don't keep a reliable list of who is insured, when. The State does require insurance for vehicle title, but doesn't require insurance/ownership-of-vehicle for receipt of a Drivers License.

The ideas you mention are great: I wish the States and Insurance Companies could cooperate on ID'ing and pulling plates from a non-insured vehicle. But that is one place where privacy manages to keep governments and corporations in check. I wish driving was considered a privilege, not a right. (I drive a motorcycle when I can, and about 5% of drivers on the road ignore the existence of motorcycles...to my peril.)

The corporations don't have any financial interest in keeping a common database of insured vehicles, thus they don't share that data unless another insurance office or a policeman ask about a specific vehicle. The government (Fed/State/Local) doesn't have the legal ability to knock on a vehicle-owner's door and ask if their insurance is up to date...unless the vehicle is involved in a police investigation about a specific event.

Any social/governmental attempt to fix this problem would have 75% of the nation screaming about their right to privacy. And I would agree with them, because I value privacy (even though I see much larger privacy concerns elsewhere).

But I also think there should be heavy penalties for even accidental misuse of a motor vehicle...

201:

P.S. @ 194
Correct - still stupid though

The Chinese have been called many things, but I have never heard them called stupid before. Inscrutable, subtle, even devious...but stupid?

Recently I saw an article, I can't recall where, complaining bitterly that China's upcoming 5th-generation stealth fighter was based on stolen American technology, which they had got from Serbia!
A few low-level casualties, a busted radio...cheap at a million times the price, if that claim is true, even in part.

They will have also learned a valuable lesson about the character of the USA, which they are unlikely to forget.

202:

Do the exported-for-UK bottles have the bit about 'brewer and patriot' on the label?

(It's inaccurate, as the Sam Adams of history worked in the family malthouse, which produced malt but not beer...but it's catchy, and most Americans probably confuse Sam for his cousin John, another patriot and later President of the United States.)

203:

I'd agree with your concerns about privacy if it weren't for the fact that many state Motor Vehicle Departments in the US (including the one in my own state) make a little extra money by selling the drivers' license database to anyone who's got a few hundred dollars. That horse has left the barn and joined a herd on the next continent.

204:

@ 201
"They will have also learned a valuable lesson about the character of the USA, which they are unlikely to forget"
They did that long since.
Try looking up "Boxer Rebellion"

205:

And if Charlie goes to Chicago, he should ask Bill Higgins (beamjockey, Heterodyne boy) to show him the accelerator.

206:

The Boxer Rebellion was the Triad Societies, not the Communist Party, IIRC.
Communist Govts have many weaknesses, which they try to compensate for by their long memories...
I foresee a new Cold War, with Russia as a sidekick of China, vs the US and its humiliatees.
It is hard to summon optimism about the future of humanity. What happened to our peace dividend?

207:
What happened to our peace dividend?

It was peaced away.

208:

ROFLMAO!

209:

Despite what Charlie says, it is possible for a UK citizen to own and insure a vehicle without posessing a driver's licence. My Dad did it for several years after being taken ill and returning his licence, by keeping the title in his name, but designating my Mum as principal driver (and my Sis and I as additional named drivers).

Similarly, it is possible to obtain a licence without the need to ever own or insure a vehicle in your own name.

210:

In my case, my car is insured in my wife's name, with me as a named driver. She's actually in it for about 90% of its mileage as it happens, but rarely actually drives it.

(The insurance company has been asked more than once to switch it so it's in my name, with her as a ND. Muppets.)

It's more a case that in the UK, to get insurance on a vehicle, you need to designate either a licensed driver or (for cases such as car hire companies) insure it for any driver with a suitable license. (In the case of hire companies, their policies will usually have extra restrictions, particularly age-based.) The minimum required level of insurance is third-party - i.e. you are insured for what damage you may cause to other people.

(There are also insurance policies that cover a driver for multiple arbitrary vehicles - such as a car mechanic picking up or returning customer vehicles.)

It is, of course, illegal to drive a car on the road with no insurance policy covering the combination of you and it.

To get an MOT (as it's still known - the annual vehicle health check) pass, you need the vehicle in question to be tested. (This is required for cars over three years old, on the assumption that a new car should be in good enough condition.)

To get a tax disc (the displayed certificate that the car is taxed), there must be both currently valid insurance for that car and a currently valid MOT. Again, the tax disc is per vehicle.

Any car that isn't displaying a current tax disc (whose colour changes from period to period to make it easier to spot expired ones) will not be legal to take on the road. However, the presence of the tax disc indicates that at the start of its period, there was insurance and MOT - not that those are still valid now.

(Actually, allowances are made for cases of driving the vehicle to a MOT testing centre. Driving a failed test case away from the centre is another matter.)

As a case in point, my car was initially registered a few days after the start of the month. The insurance policy and MOT are due for renewal on the anniversary, but the tax disc, being on a calendar month granularity, requires renewing a few days earlier. So I always end up relying on the about-to-expire MOT and insurance for that. So I could drive for the best part of a year without the insurance or MOT before it became obvious.

There's a recent addition: the SORN (statutory off-road notification) if the car has been previously registered, but you don't want to tax/test/insure it for a while.

211:

Who do you think lent the troops that suppressed the Boxer rebellion?

There's a reason the US Marine Corps isn't popular in China ...

212:

Yes, ownership of a driver's license is independent of ownership of a car. However, ownership of a car requires either proof that it isn't kept or used on the public highways, or payment of tax, a valid third-party insurance policy, and proof of basic roadworthiness (a certificate proving it has passed the annual VOSN test if it's more than 3 years old). And driving without a license, or the above paperwork, is almost always an offense[*] and under some of these circumstances the car can be seized and scrapped.

[*] The one exception I can think of off the top of my head is: if the VOSN certificate has expired, it is illegal to drive the vehicle on the public highway except to take it to a VOSN testing centre. (If you're stopped? Tell the cops which centre you're taking it to, they'll phone to check, and if you've got a valid appointment you're off the hook ... for a couple of hours.)

213:

USMC? Young upstarts :)

My former Regiment managed to gain battle honours on the soil of all of the UN Security Council's P5, in fact all of the current nuclear powers (except perhaps Pakistan).

The French (obviously), Niagara in 1814, the Anglo-Maratha war in 1817-19, the Crimea in 1854-55, the Second Opium War in China 1858-1861, Palestine 1917-18, Archangel in 1918-19...

...Mind you, it took a Glaswegian regiment to burn the White House...

214:

Pakistan looks as though it might have slightly overlapped Maratha, depending on exactly when the borders are considered.

215:

It's not that different in the U.S., though I suspect that most of the States in the U.S. don't require a SORN for unlicensed vehicles.

Instead, you have to deal with city/township governments that have rules about unlicensed vehicles sitting in the front yard. (Some do, some don't, and some aren't enforced very carefully.)

While it is easy to complain about uninsured motorists (taking advantage of the ability to renew the license on an about-to-expire insurance card, like you mentioned) and unlicensed drivers, it is impossible to enforce without destroying privacy in a way that will enrage almost everyone involved.

Most of this privacy-on-the-website-and-government-list stuff doesn't cause people to think 'Someone Is Invading My Privacy'. But the possibility that a man going about his business, and not suspected of any crime, might be stopped by the police to check his drivers license and car registration/insurance will cause 90% of the population to shout 'Someone Is Invading My Privacy!!!!'

Not that they wouldn't be justified in that. But most people only think about privacy when it slaps them in face. They don't notice privacy when it is their personal info in a database held by a Government Office, or a Company.

216:

Setting up a system in the US where cars can't be started without a valid driver's license wouldn't be too technically difficult to implement, although it would be expensive and politically unfeasible.

I'm not saying we should, but there are certainly lots of ways to enforce the no license no driving thing, if we really wanted to.

217:

Since we're all film geeks then which is the greater enfringment of Johnny Milner's privacy, human rights etc:-
1) The cops being able to check a database that shows that he drives a '33 Ford Tudor in yellow, registration THX-138, which has current insurance and roadworthiness certificate or
2) Him being killed in a car wreck by an insured drunk driver?

218:

Using a technical solution to a social problem? Best of luck with that.

(As a side benefit, by definition, it would finally solve grand theft auto.)

219:

"...by an UNinsured drunk driver?."

220:

Brad Templeton formerly of Claris software and former president of the EFF has a few passions these days. Burning Man and robot cars are 2 of his most notable.
http://www.templetons.com/brad/robocars/. He says it's a done deal, only a matter of when and where.

221:

Setting up a system in the US where cars can't be started without a valid driver's license wouldn't be too technically difficult to implement, although it would be expensive and politically unfeasible.

Maybe can't be driven very fast. If I'm changing the oil in my cars I don't want to go get my wallet just to move one from the carport and another on it.

But even so requiring a license in your possession to start a car would likely enrage a non trivial number of people over here. Even if some states do require the license in your possession to be legal when driving but many people don't always have it.

As to car registrations and such. Here in North Carolina based on the license number they know your registration and insurance details via the computers all police seem to have in the car. Or maybe it's just the major metro areas like Raleigh that have such access in the cars. But the state police also have it. As I got to find out last week as they noticed my registration had expired. I must have missed the mailing. No big deal but a hassle to show up in court with all the paper work so they can say you can go home now. :(

222:

Napoleon did say "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence." I do not and have not ever had any use for the American Neo-Con. But it was said a old map was the why of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and that sounds right to a Vet. Shit happens in war. Better not to have them. Clausewitz said “Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. Today, if you can see it you can kill it. But how to know if you want to. And that can work the other way!
Carl Sagan said "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." It's easy to believe anything about the Neo-Cons, But sometimes it may not be true. They are not everywhere all the time. Thank the higher power. To find a needle in hay the MYTH BUSTERS burned the hay. Just a happy thought. American "bacon" is a cheaper cut of meat. I've read the German army kept fighting to let people move to the West. They knew what they did and what was coming.was coming.

223:

Um, Who fought the Boxer Rebellion. If I recall correctly: British, French, Germans, Americans, and Russians.

Oops, nope: Gaselee Expedition main troop body (via Wikipedia): Japanese (20,840), Russian (13,150), British (12,020), French (3,520), U.S.(3,420), German (900), Italian (80), Austro-Hungarian (75).

It was also in response to various things, such as the opium trade, missionary evangelism, invasion, economic manipulation, and similar colonial policies.

As with the Opium Wars, I think we all need to look in the mirror every time we start up with the Yellow Peril. Not that I'm an apologist for Chinese governmental policy as it stands. Rather, I think that imperial and colonial policies are still biting us in the ass. If nothing else, that's a good lesson for today's expeditionary forces and multinational corporations, not that I expect them to learn from the past.

224:

My van will be 25 next year and I won't have to get the checkup that the state requires for cars 24 and under. I'll have the guys look at it anyway; it'd be silly to drive without knowing something needs fixing.

225:

China's government was made to pay for the war for the opium trade etc. by the Boxer Rebellion. The Americans used the money as a trust to pay things that helped the people of China. Not China's government. I don't know how it was all used but it paid for college here for many. Ever single thing about the film "Battleship Potemkin" was a lie. It's not history, no mater what you may want. THE NEO-CON SPRING SEEMS TO BE OVER, politically. This is submitted as paragraphs

226:

I think that imperial and colonial policies are still biting us in the ass.

Yes, very true.

Back in 1940, Roosevelt's price for backing the UK and getting sucked into the war was the shutdown of the British empire; the USA inherited the relics of the European imperial system and didn't know what to do with it (other than install local dictators instead of colonial governors and continue business as usual). Continuing that kind of operation builds ill-will among the colonized; and the last part of the world where the US is still actively trying to maintain its grip is the Middle East.

The long-term solution is to find a replacement for fossil oil addiction (which is economic heroin) and then shut down the support for the local oil autocracies. An average human lifetime later, relations with the former colonies should begin to normalize ...

227:

Back in 1940, Roosevelt's price for backing the UK and getting sucked into the war was the shutdown of the British empire; the USA inherited the relics of the European imperial system and didn't know what to do with it (other than install local dictators instead of colonial governors and continue business as usual). Continuing that kind of operation builds ill-will among the colonized; and the last part of the world where the US is still actively trying to maintain its grip is the Middle East.

Can I cite "(Vo Nguyen) Giap; The True (Real?) Victor in Vietnam" as evidence to support this?

228:

Actually he's a very good example of what I'm talking about.

Vietnam: invaded colonized by France in the 19th century. Let's run the time-line, shall we?

1919: the bodyguards of a certain US President Woodrow Wilson give the bum's rush to a petitioner at Versailles during the post-WW1 peace treaty -- a Vietnamese chef and waiter who wanted to plead for US support for Vietnam's independence.

1940-41: Vietnam colonized invaded by Japan.

1945: Vietnam invaded liberated by the US/allies. French rule is resumed. Unfortunately the anti-Japanese resistance don't get the memo, and have expanded their mission statement from "kick out the Japanese empire" to "kick out all empires, we're ready to go it alone".

1949: the North Vietnamese kick the living shit out of the Waffen SS in exile French Foreign Legion at Dien Bien Phu.

1950-53: The former waiter makes speeches asking for US aid in setting up an independent democratic Vietnam. The CIA bureau in Tokyo has a single Vietnamese translator who is in the pay of the Chinese (who do not want a US client state in Indochina) so certain bits of his speeches are distorted in translation.

1953-63: the USA gradually backs itself further and further into supporting a corrupt dictatorship in the south ("they're tough on communism, you know") while the north -- despite being run by a guy who started out more or less worshiping the USA as a beacon of hope and freedom -- ends up as a Soviet client state.

The rest we know. And who's laughing now?

229:

Yes Charlie. I've actually read the cited biography, which is why I was citing it as supporting evidence for your (our, since I know the history well enough to hold a view, and have read works from both sides) argument.

230:

ah, the old "second to one" regt?

sorry, couldn't resist.

For my next trick I'll piss off the Rifles by claiming their cap badge is two crossed shovels over a Mini Moke...

231:

1949: the North Vietnamese kick the living shit out of the Waffen SS in exile French Foreign Legion at Dien Bien Phu.

1954?

232:

Blame my memory.

233:

I never read this as such. But the US was trying to keep France in/into NATO at any cost. They wanted to keep there Colonies. Or in Nam at least, their rubber plantations. It looked to me that had a lot to do with backing the French and then backing the government they left. Our military did want us in there. It was all a State Department deal.
As for the England, I would think you would like FDR not wanting to go to war to save the Colonies. You tried to do a good job of dumping what you could not pay for. Not and pay for developing your own A-Bomb. Why do you think things were so hard then for you? Not giving the engineering data to you was a big reason why the rulers of England were so mad at Bloody Yanks for so long.
All the work you did with your Colonies. In a short time it stopped working when the men with guns showed up. The guns came from the USSR, remember them? What we wanted was airfields and ports for our military to keep Stalin off our backs. After he was gone we were so afraid we kept doing it. They were afraid of us and kept us afraid of them. There is no sign that anything we could have do would have fixed the mess of the time. Not with the USSR doing what ever it could to make it worse. FDR, Harry Truman and Ike wanted nothing to do with any of this.

234:

Careful, or I'll mutter something about pansies resting on their laurels...

(Note to everyone else: this is banter. Said mob are my Dad's old Corps, and it's a play on the centre of the badge being a rose)

235:

I await your licence fee and interest cheques for every turbojet engine and radar system you've ever made.

236:

I note you're letting him off the computers.

(Why the hell did we agree to scrap so much of Bletchley Park's hardware? Or did we? Who knows what GCHQ sat on for so many years — it took them 25 years to admit to having invented an equivalent to RSA.)

To be fair, the Germans were also actively researching in all three fields.

237:

Also television (or doesn't John Logie Baird count any more)? And FM radio. And hovercraft.

238:

There's a possible alternate history where Britain managed to avoid the post-War economic crunch enough to really exploit those technologies much more than we did, and where we rather than the USA became the high-tech powerhouse of the world.

However, I suspect it may have involved a somewhat revanchist British Empire.

239:

I thought the patchiness of my knowledge of history was a given? Yeah, happy to accept that we're due fees on those too.

240:

Various possible cites; the graphic novel "Ministry of Space" where we manage to grab and keep von Braun & co, and find funds for the space program (spoilers sweetie) springs to mind.

241:

Hey, I have enough difficulty keeping words straight — nominative aphasia strikes when you get older. Ironically, in my post above, my problem was trying to find the word 'exploit' (thank goodness for online thesauruses), whereas 'revanchist' was no problem.

242:

I'm 49 in 7 weeks; how much "older" do I need to be to get my wucking mords fuddled? ;-)

In any event, I was supplying a possible cite for your scenario. I take it you agree with me about the politics and morals of some of the individuals involved? Incidentally, would you (and you too Charlie) have the same reservation as me about a Spitfire IX still being in RAF service at the same time as a Meteor 4?

243:

Oh you youngster! Still in your fifth decade.

As for the Mk IX, it will only have been a handful of years old when the Meteor F.4 came out, so I can't see them all being scrapped that quickly.

Let's say it's 1948, and there's a need for anti-insurgency actions in Malaya. You've got a three year old F.4, or a six year old Spitfire Mk IX. I suspect that the Spit might actually be better for the job.

Of course I'm using a particular mission profile, and I would assume that the Meteor will be the better aircraft in many of the rest.

244:

I see the point, but in 1948 there are lots of Griffin Spits about, as well as the older Merlin ones like the Mk IX.

245:

If you're talking about 'Ministry of Space', then I have to say I know nothing about it whatsoever, and take your word regarding its very existence.

Sure, the Mk IX will have been the older aircraft, and out of production for a while, and the XII may have been more desirable (though less manoeuvrable). But there were a heck of a lot of them made, and it does take time to replace your entire stock of any aircraft.

(Just look at how long the USAF flew B-52s. Oh, wait, that's have been flying.)

246:

Specifically the front cover illustration, which is so well detailed that I feel confident in assigning actual marks to the real aircraft types involved.

Generally, I honestly do see your point (I know the USAF are still flying BUFFs that are older than I am thanks [and just how much stress sagging there is on the D at Duxford]), but type turnover was much faster in 1940 to 45 (there was a war on after all).

247:

I'll show off my age too (only 44) by suggesting that you reread John Wyndham's "The Outward Urge".

...lots of stiff-upper-lipped British Space Force types...

(and Brazilians, and Australians, and...)

248:

Well, there was our ack-ack shells and radar aimimg and sold fuel rockets and landing radar that worked. See A. Clark's "Glide Path." The first jet motor we made from your prints burned it's bearings. After a lot of work and burned jets it was found the blue prints lacked a oil hole. Funny?
"economic crunch enough to really exploit those technologies" Your peace loving Labor government was spending everything on it's own A-Bomb. Look at how people were living in Europe at the time. Big car races and lots of good food.
Our Mustangs were used in Korean. Our jets could not handle the MIGS. We did not believe the Germans the way they did. . So many Mustangs that had never been used were fixed up and went to Korea, were they worked. Someone fixed a Mustang up with a turbo-prop engine and said it was the best thing for Nam. But we only wanted to spend on things that could be used on the USSR.
Newer BUFFs were made, their oil lines were shot up in Nam. The old ones used air and were used. Last I read the newer ones were sitting in sand. But that was then. With their ground flying radar, BUFFs work very well.
The German's had a working digital test computer in the late 30"S. It was not made to order and was not by Herr Doctors. The Army looked it over and believed it could not be finished for the War and drafted the inventors. I wonder if they lived. Have not heard about them so I guess not.
The Lions(?) food store chain made the only real computers of the time, to keep track of their stores. And sold them. But not enough, so they stopped and years of computer head start was lost. By you, not us. He,he,he.

249:

Oh, a mid-west farm boy invented real modern TV before the war. RCA used the war to stall it till they could steal the idea.

250:

I had a meal at Bob Evans today and had the sausage gravy breakfast -- a bowl of sausage gravy, two biscuits, and hash browns. Mmmmmm

251:

Dear RCA, I misspoke when I said RCA stole workable TV. I should have said they used it after the patent was dead. No reason to get mad at this blog, right?
In the early 30's the Germans demonstrated and understood the idea behind radar. Obviously it was of no real use.

252:

Aren't English Elastic (oops, "Electric") Canberras still flying, too?

253:

Quick check shows that the last RAF PR9 retired in 2006, Indian AF bomber fleet in 2007 and Peruvian fleet in 2008.

There are some airworthy machings in preservation, and NASA still have some of the Martin WB-57 series operational (but do they count as Canberras, given just how much has been changed?)

254:

The Germans made extensive use of radar during WW2.
http://www.century-of-flight.net/Aviation%20history/WW2/radar%20in%20world%20war%20two.htm
Their radars weren't quite as good, for a variety of reasons, apparently they didn't like the magnetron.

255:

The Royal Navy was still operating Seafires during the Korean War in 1953 -- if memory serves one such aircraft got the last-ever propellor-jet air-to-air kill.

256:

I'm not sure whether the Germans didn't like, or never discovered, the cavity magnetron. Arguing over wavelengths is another of those fruitless "religious debates" like Windoze vs MacOS vs *nix. No wavelength is actually perfect. The German mobile systems required all those heruge dipoles on the aircraft noses, but offers better range when you use sufficient transmit power for the horizon rather than the transmit power to be the limitting factor. OTOH a magnetron based system is lighter and less draggy, allowing you to keep more of your base aircraft's speed, range/endurance and manoevrability.

257:

I can't find a confirmation or denial of this ATM, but the Seafire 47 did have a similarish performance to early jets, and 4x20mm Hispanos (so better firepower than an F-86 (A-F) or a MiG-15). It's at least plausible.

258:

Sea Fury, rather than Seafire, I believe... the Seafires went out of service in 1950, if you believe Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawker_Sea_Fury
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermarine_Seafire

259:

Higher frequencies meant finer resolution -- H2S-equipped Coastal Command Lancasters put an end to the second "Happy Hunting Grounds" period of the longer-ranged U-boats in 1943 by being able to spot conning-towers and even periscopes in choppy seas at millimetric wavelengths, something centimetric radars would have had a hard job doing given the amounts of wave interference.

German subs by this time actually had radar detectors but they were designed to receive longer-wavelength radar signals and couldn't pick up the millimetric H2S frequencies, leading to the "Alka-Seltzer moment" when a Lancaster would fly over the conning-tower dropping two depth-charges on either side of the hull -- plink, plink, fizz. The bombers were aided by the Leigh Light, a bright spotlight in the aircraft's nose which was guided onto the target by the radar operator to provide more precision in the last few seconds of the attack as well as blinding the AA gunners on the sub.

260:

"German subs by this time actually had radar detectors". Somewhere I read that they (us and you) got tired of subs dropping when the radar got close. So the operators lowered the power as the planes got closer. Then the big light came on and the Sub went down for good.
I read we ran to downed German planes to make sure they had not discovered the cavity magnetron.
I think the F-86 was make to get the Russian bombers that were our WW-2 ones. Not dog fight. It would only make long slow turns. And all the early jets lacked power. The American jets were heavy and lacked power.

261:

"I have enough difficulty keeping words straight — nominative aphasia strikes when you get older" A few years ago I was given a now recalled Statin drug. It kicked my working IQ. The next kind did the same. But not as bad. The Docs say they could not have done anything like that. But there are many who say it can. I started going to a Veteran's head thumper who believes it's true and has taken people off them. They got better.

262:

Cookies have multiple uses and not are all invading people's rights. As a web development agency still dealing with a crap economy this is a complete waste of time. Especially as it's only the EU restricted to this. For my clients I could just move the company and hosting overseas to the EU's loss (I have 2 other companies in 2 different continents), we are a rare company that actually is a net exporter. I blogged about this on our website

For all you concerned about privacy I hope you put on a hood when you walk into a shop in case the staff recognise you! It's the reputable companies that will be impacted by this, the rest will just trick/ignore the system. Again what they have done is restrict developers of a useful tool, when in fact they just need to restrict third party cookies if ad following is really what they want to stop.

Remember that a same site cookie will not know who you are unless you have filled in a form - and that's when you get to choose your data protection options.

263:

My credit union has a list of things you can't have inside. I don't remember them all, but there's hoodies, sunglasses, cellphone (not out), and probably five or so more that all make sense when you see them.

(Although last time I was in, there was some guy who was so loud on his cellphone that I turned and looked at him for a bit. I decided not to join his conversation.)

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 27, 2011 12:20 PM.

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