Friday, May 29, 2015

About That "PATRIOT Act and New Technology" Post

If you haven't read the comment thread after the cartoon post from two days ago, you should. 

Just about the only privilege I get as the blogger here is that I get to write long, thoughtful responses to comments.  Longer than Blogger lets you readers leave as a comment.  Aside from the argument in the comments, there's some really good content there.  I honestly expected to get this kind of response to what I said about the PATRIOT act last Saturday, not to this post, which I put up as fun/profound humor. 

The way I see it?  First off, I agree with the first Anon's point that the probability of a nuclear terrorist attack, or a nuclear strike on a major Western city within the next five years is extremely high.  Maybe not if the economic collapse comes before then, and I think it will.  A nuke attack is absolutely going to usher in really bad times. (Actually, there might be a nuclear attack even if the Western economies collapse - just to finish us off).  WWIII is a real possibility. 

The point about them only storing metadata is pretty meaningless. There were several widely published articles when this whole story first broke that demonstrated just how powerful that metadata is. Likewise the point that other countries are listening and trying to get everything we say/write/text is also pretty meaningless. I expect foreign spy agencies to be trying to do that. As someone pointed out, this isn't new territory for the NSA; they've been sucking up every bit of electronic intelligence they can find for as long as they've been around. When it was expressly illegal to monitor US citizens, they had arrangements with other countries to monitor each other and exchange data, again, as someone pointed out.

The question is simply: do you really think that the government that couldn't find a couple of asshole kids that it had been warned about before they blew up the Boston Marathon; the same government that couldn't find the semi-retarded underwear bomber that it had, again been warned about before he tried to blow up an airliner (and burned his schwanz off) ... the same government that promoted and praised Nidal Hassan, the psychotic Jihadi psychiatrist who openly published papers about beheading infidels and pouring boiling oil down their throats... the government that weaponizes its IRS to go after conservative groups, pretends it lost tons of emails and records even though it has an IT staff charged with maintaining them ... that lists Tea Party members and Ron Paul voters as terrorists but considers Nidal Hassan as an innocent boob who just committed workplace violence...that traffics guns to the most violent criminals on earth so that they might get a better chance of taking away our fundamental constitutional rights... that government is going to suddenly get an attack of competence and find a well coordinated attack by professional agents of other governments?  I don't buy it.  I don't believe they could find it with a trillion NSA data centers.

To channel Milton Friedman, "if our government was put in charge of the Sahara desert, there'd be a shortage of sand in a few years".  And to throw in channeling Tam, "the only thing the government is competent at is incompetence".

But it's worse than that.  They're not just incompetent, they're crooked.  I've heard Jim Sensenbrenner, one of the principle authors of the USA PATRIOT act, saying they tried to write a law that prevented the kind of abuse we're seeing.  Whenever we grant the any power, they stretch the laws to take more and more and more.  EPA, anyone?  So why should I trust them with even the tiniest extension of powers? 

We have a process; we have laws. Considering how useless all this data they've been collecting has been, they should go back to getting search warrants to investigate individuals. Use more intelligence (of the human kind) rather than a bigger vacuum cleaner to suck up more and more electronic fog to sort through. I don't care if they can go back and find a trail of messages after the nuke has gone off in New York. That's too late.  More police work, more warrants, finer focus, less vacuum cleaner. 


  1. So if stronger government is so corrupt, how were we, as a nation, able to fend off foreign gangs of Mad Max raiders in the past?

    If it wasn't through a strong government, what magic did we use to protect ourselves before?

  2. To begin with, I think that's a setup question. When was "before"? How far back are you talking? WWII or The War of 1812?

    First off, the government of today isn't the government of the mid 20th century and not even the government of 25 years ago. The growth in the Code of Federal Regulations alone has been incredible. In 1935 there were 4,000 pages in the CFR; by 2004 there were 175,500 pages. To go with that 44-fold increase in regulations, there was a massive increase in government workers. In 1940 there were 4 million Americans working for government and 11 million working in manufacturing. By 2004, there were 21.5 million working for the government, over 5 times as many as in 1940 and 7 million more than those working in all manufacturing industries put together (14.5 million). Manufacturing industries work to increase productivity and efficiency all the time; government doesn't.

    Worse, in the last 25 to 50 years, we seem to have a steadily worsening problem with ethics in office.

    There's a difference between day to day life and world wars. In a real, honest-to-God world war, where all of the resources of a country need to be focused, a stronger command model is called for; it's why the favorite argument that big government fans use is "it's the moral equivalent of war".

    I suggest the answer isn't a buzz phrase, but a combination of things. Smaller command structures, what industry calls "lean" or "squat pyramid" organizations. Less rules and regulations, more freedom to decide. Lean organizations respond quicker, are more flexible and deal with change easier. Ever hear the saying, "no battle plan ever survived contact with the enemy"? Small organizations are better at adapting.

    Mostly, though, we did it with better people than those in command now.

  3. I absolutely agree with you about the incompetence and corruption in our government leadership. However I was in the trenches for 20 years and there were good, dedicated and smart people working to portect us. They are still there today but we don't see them. Will they catch the next big terrorist attack before it happens? I don't know and I can't know. But once something happens the various intelligence agencies will start digging and root out the conspirators and quite possibly prevent the 2nd and 3rd, etc. attacks. The problem is without some collection and storage of data you can't go back and link the dots.
    I totally agree whatever they do should be legal/constitutional and it should have good oversight to prevent abuses.

    Over 55 years ago I was told that the FDR knew about Pearl Harbor ahead of time. He knew that America would not get into the war in time to save Europe. But a brazen attack would unify the country. He even had both aircraft carriers leave the port. That was unusual that they were both out of port at the same time and that they were unaccompanied by other ships. My point is regardless of how or why the next big attack comes everything changes. Those less than effective units will be whipped into shape and the dozing intelligence agencies will be wide awake 24/7. Everything changes but whatever we do today that cripples us cannot be undone. It's coming, we need to do what we can. I'm not suggesting we do anything outside of the constitution but lets do everything we can do to be ready. I'm 71, this isn't for me it's for my kids and grandkids and everyone's kids and grandkids and those who are not yet born. I don't want to wake up again and watch what I watched the morning of 9/11 or worse.

  4. The value of the data the NSA collect is less in what it allows them to predict than it is in allowing them to tie pieces of a puzzle together after something happens. It is simply not possible to collate, evaluate and use the nearly astronomical amount of data that is amassed on a daily basis into something that can be reasonably useful in prediction future acts. But once something happens and they have a few bits of info to feed into the system that mountain of data quickly becomes useful in presenting pieces of the puzzle that might otherwise be overlooked. They couldn't prevent the Tsarnaev's from pressure cooking the Boston Marathon but once they got a few key pieces of intel they started putting things together real fast. And that is the value of the system. They really aren't all that concerned in preventing attacks. But being able to 'solve' it quickly makes them appear a lot less incompetent then they really are.

    Massive data bases have seldom been of any use in defending against external threat, but they have always helped a regime defend against
    threats from it's own people.

  5. Just as an aside, how many of you think that the NSA _doesn"t_ have copies of every email Hillary and Lois Lerner "lost" or erased?

    As Dan said, the databases may have originally been intended - by a few honest souls - to protect our country, but those who crave power have always known they would be used to _control_, rather than to protect.

    I wonder how many of the Tea Party members of Congress have been convinced by the mainstream members, the Old Guard of Congress, that a collapse is inevitable, and that only by joining with the socialists in control can America be "saved", or the damage reduced? It seems almost unbelievable that so many members of Congress would be silent about how emasculated that part of government has become. It isn't logical that they would be so willing to give up their power to "check and balance" unless a) the few honest ones were convinced it provided a better chance for recovery, and/or b) - and probably the majority agenda - they are going along with it because they have been promised a "seat in the lifeboat", in addition to other inducements.

    The Fall of America is indeed the "transformation" Obama promised - possibly the only time he spoke truth in his life (other than sub-rosa to his partners in treason). It's bad enough that he is sticking closely to the Cloward-Piven game plan, but his support of islam, his sucking up to our enemies while betraying our allies will be the death of the Republic. What will follow is anyone's guess. I'm hoping those of us in the Northwest (not to include the socialists running Washington State and Oregon), the "TriState" area, may be able to separate ourselves from the mess when it all comes tumbling down, but I wouldn't bet big money on it.

  6. Reg T: I agree with you. The point is, what next. Do we sit and wait for "it" (whatever "it" is)? We have a terriblelack of leadership in congress and the administration. The judiciary has been stacked for years in an effort to grease the final solution of the left. BUT I still believe it is possible that when TSHTF good people will come forward and have positive effects. There is also the unknown and unexpected events that change history. I can't tell you what those will be (hence them being called unknown) but these kinds of things happen all the time. It could be the sudden death of one or more of our corrupt leaders or some man made or natural event that changes the face of the world politics. We, all of us and our governmnt, have to be prepared for change and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Don't give up, don't give in and keep your powder dry. I honestly believe that the world is once again about to give us all the opportunity to be remembered as "the greatest generation".

  7. Anon - probably the most amazing thing about the behemoth is that there are still good people there getting good things done. It's a shame to lump them in with the turds, but it's inevitable. I never worked for the Feds but worked for places I call Major South East Defense Contractor, and my current employer, Major Aviation Electronics Company has a large government group. I've been close enough to NASA to think the most impressive part about them was that they still got things done, despite all the BS their fellow agencies threw at them.

    The sad fact about the economic collapse is that it is so big and so certain that the only way to avoid it is to shutter whole agencies. You could eliminate every penny of discretionary spending: defense, EPA, DOJ, literally every agency, and still not start running a surplus. Right now, the only way to start running surpluses (which we need to do) is trim expenses by 30 to 40%. Ain't gonna happen. There is no one willing to face the pain. So that pain will be inflicted on us wholesale, instead of managed.

    Like you, I'm way past the age to muster and hit the streets. This is for my kids and grand kids. About 30 years ago, I saw some obscure report on the math behind social security and realized "that's never going to last; it has to collapse". I've lived my live as frugally as I can in preparation for being entirely on my own in retirement. I don't want my grand kids forced to have a crappy standard of living to keep me alive.

    As Donald Sensing put it (probably butchering the quote), we are the last generation in America to have been at least nominally free. I can't tell you how much I hate the idea of leaving that legacy to my family. I want them to have full freedom to go and do what they please, free to choose where they live, how they live, the full embrace of freedom.

  8. I think we haven't seen the full embrace of freedom since the Wilson administration, and definitely not after FDR brought real socialism to America. (I remember reading the FDR swore our Social Security numbers would _never_ be used for identification ;-) One of the most obscene things I remember reading about his term in office - even beyond the serious possibility he allowed/enabled the destruction of Pearl Harbor - was the fact that "interstate commerce" was deemed to control even the food a man grew for his own livestock and table.

    Can't remember specifics, but SCOTUS ruled that the corn a farmer grew to feed his livestock was subject to governmental control via "interstate commerce" because he _could_ have sold it, having an effect upon pricing/availability, etc. of that commodity. The farmer did not own his own corn. It was not his property, but the property of the State, due to FDR, Congress, and SCROTUS (sorry, but the knowledge that 9 fools in robes with their own agendas can overrule the rights of everyone else in this country leaves me with zero respect for those empty scrotal sacks, including the Marxist bitches in the group).

    The system is designed to defeat any attempts we might make to work within it. We have only to see the Obamination side-step the law, the Constitution, and the leaders of the Senate and the House work in collusion with him to understand that isn't going to work.

    Possibly returning to state control, ignoring or rejecting Federal control, could start us on the road back to a Republic, but the Federal government will never permit that without a fight. That is not saying we couldn't be successful (Boston T. Party's book _Molon Labe_ offered one scenario that might work - for example, Montana has a lot of functional silos within its borders, and some of those warheads could be moved by vehicle into DC), but I think things will have to get even nastier than they are right now before secession might become viable.

    If we could shut down, or at least successfully refuse to participate in, the socialist deconstruction that DC is forcing upon us, our children and grandchildren might experience a return to the level of liberty some of us older folks once knew. But stop to consider how few of us - would there be even 3%? - who would resist the tyranny if it meant our loved ones, our children, being deprived of food, of access to medical care.

    How many of us older folks would stare down the bastards after being deprived of our Social Security checks, or having our bank accounts and retirement accounts frozen? A lot of us have prepared for that eventuality - as well as the even more likely simple economic collapse that could occur - but would there be enough? Could we continue in the face of neighbors, friends who would turn us in to the Feds in exchange for something they needed, or to prevent the loss of their own assets, or the removal of their children from their care?

    It has been done, but without much success, in France, Germany, Russia, and elsewhere in the past, but with the way our surveillance state has grown, with the impunity enjoyed by law enforcement, and with the arming of Federal employees in almost every government agency, how likely would we be to succeed today? I'm not saying we shouldn't try. Some of us - including old folks without all that much to lose - will go leaderless if things get much nastier, or if a serious effort is made to remove, through confiscation, our last means of resistance (the cartridge box). But I am a bit pessimistic about our chances unless more people display a willingness to draw a line in the sand and hold to it.

  9. Just remember that, without their Praetorian Guard standing in front of them - and spitting on the very oath of office to the Constitution that they swore before pinning on that badge - Your Betters are nothing.

    Do you know where the Only Ones live in your neighborhood? And have you made plans to deal with them appropriately under their very own Rules of Engagement when the festivities start? The Blue Gang is indeed very tough when they choose the venue and are armed and armored up. But a free cocktail delivery through their bedroom window at 2 AM is VERY much in accordance with the Rules of Engagement they have used against Mere Citizens for years. And I think you would be amazed at how quickly the Praetorian Guard would decide they had chosen the wrong career if they and theirs got to enjoy the fruits of their labors in such a manner...

  10. I'm questioning the "nuclear attack on a western city within five years" conclusion. Let's limit it to an actual nuclear fusion or fission explosion, none of this dirty-bomb goalpost-moving.

    MAD didn't stop applying recently; arguably it applies even more nowadays given the deeper international economic and political links that have developed since then. So that takes Big Boy nations off the table, leaving rogue states and the standard movie-plot Russian Bake Sale weapons leaking to a full-retard ideologically-driven group. I suppose throw in a hypothetical genius lone wolf who's stealing AdWords funds to finance an automated moon base to hide his centrifuges or something, if we spot him the 60 years' tech difference between a gun-type device and DoE's latest designs.

    I don't buy a rogue state doing a launch - everyone else can see it and retaliate. The leadership with authorization for that is driven by comfort and maintaining the status quo on the backs of their people. A rogue state leaking a device to the full-retard group, or rogue-er elements inside that government, I'm lumping in with the full-retard group.

    A rogue state with the right tech using FedEx, or a full-retard group, is a bigger problem. State of the art Back When was artillery shells and 100-pound backpacks; let's say one of those teleports into the Wrong Hands, and is in working condition, and is delivered successfully.

    So what?

    The entire remaining allied surveillance apparatus gets turned on the perpetrators, it's Iraq all freaking over again, and the status quo can gets kicked down the road another 20 years.

    In conclusion: I tentatively concur that the possibility exists. I disagree with the 'extremely likely' evaluation, because it's an unpleasant thought and I haven't seen the claimants arguments. I disagree that a hypothetical nuclear attack with OR without an identifiable sponsor state would result in widespread nuclear war.

  11. Anon - you're thinking is like mine for most of what you say. MAD still exists for the civilized countries. I don't think the major players (Russia, China) are ruled by madmen and they're not going to sacrifice everything they have. Further, I don't see any nation anywhere launching ICBMs at us. We're too good at that. Even if we didn't stop it, retaliation would be on the way before it got here.

    That leaves two possibilities: the rogue state or "Full-Retard" approach, smuggled over the border or into a port onboard a ship (and I think we have mechanisms to stop that). The other approach would be a ship launched missile not intended to hit a city but to set off an EMP over the middle of the country.

    And I say so what if the intelligence operatives figure out who did it and retaliate within minutes? If the EMP goes off and the grid goes down, millions are going to die. If it wipes out a big city, millions are dead/wounded right then. The Full-Retard groups don't care if you kill them; heck, they seem to want it.

    I've always thought the winning play for Iran was to smuggle something into the US over the southern border, into someplace easy to get to (minimal time on the roads where there might be detectors). Maybe Sandy Eggo or El Lay? Actually, the more the merrier from their standpoint. Things would be so bad here, we'd have to pull all the troops around the world home to help out, leaving them in total control over the Mideast - if not the Mideast and Europe.

    But maybe I'm just a paranoid old man.

  12. Two points:
    1. The reason a nuke in a Western City is more likely than not within five years is because the radical muslims really, really want to do it. They have the money, they have the organization, they have the people who would fight to deliver it and they have demonstrated they can do it with non-nuclear attacks. I think they would prefer Israel BUT they conflate most of Europe and America with Israel and I think they would be just as excited to blow up London or NYCity as they would be Tel Aviv. The nuke terror threat is real and for the most part did not exist 10 years ago or more. I expect to see it, I expect to wake up one morning and turn on Fox and see the unbelievable reports just as I did on 9/11. The ONLY tough part is getting the nuke and in my humble opinion all that takes is money and will and the terrorists are rolling in both.

    2. MAD is legitimate in a rational world. BUT if we ever reduce our nuclear capability to the level where China or Russia "believes" they could knock out most of our nukes in a first strike and then absorb the retallitory strike then I believe they will be tempted and we know their leaders are not always rational. I fear that we are setting ourselves up by reducing our nukes and slouching on maintaining our nukes. I think we (Obama) are doing this intentionally to satisfy a left wing agenda. I suspect Putin has begun building up his nukes and as for China I believe they have been building for years. Both of these countries have builtmassive underground facilities whose only purpose would be to survive a nuclear attack. They are not spending that money carelessly. Both countries are preparing for a nuclear war while we are preparing to be a perfect target. Imagine a chart with two lines; one is our nuclear capability which decreases each year and the other is their nuclear capability PLUS their preps to survive nuclear war. Their line increase while our goes down. At some point the difference will make MAD a non sequitur and what then?

  13. One other point. We will not retalliate against a massive ICBM attack until after the attack. For land based ICBMs the warning time is 33 minutes and it would be less for any type of confirmation that the attack was real. This would mean the president has to be where he is getting good intel, with his advisors and not in a car or Air Force One scrambling to a safe place. It is certainly "possible" for the president to give the command to fire within 33 minutes the point is he would not do it without "handholding" and absolute "perfect" intel. And that is just not possible especially if it all goes down while he is on the Golf Course or flying to Hawaii etc. I can tell you that it has never been our policy to fire on warning and it has always been our policy to have absolute undeniable confirmation of an attack and THAT would eat up the 33 minutes. So if we are nuked our retalliation will be with whatever is left, period.