I mean the TSA was one thing, they are still horrible but I never fly or take a bus or train, I just hate the idea of them existing.
But since the NSA exposure, I just feel seriously depressed about the state of who is running this country and the "just try to stop us" thug mentality. It's a weight on my mind constantly this past month.
Basically, I imagine a political party, defined by the software it runs on. The first incarnation of the software (website) focuses on organizing party members (users) to win elections, but it then gets iterated to include tools for distributed, direct democracy (i.e. the site will let the party members cast votes on what the elected leader votes on, but I also imagine most people proxy their power to others, which is a feature of the site).
The website first needs to get a few local leaders elected... city council, uncontested state positions, maybe a state senator if the v1.0 launch goes well. We need to both recruit people to run for office, then build the software to help them get elected, then build tools to allow transparent governance with direct oversite from the people.
It's hard to imagine capturing national congressional seats or the presidency on the first go, but I think that applying iterative processes to the formation of a political party and its infrastructure is one possible way to overcome the existing machine.
They're a useful case-study for talking about ideas around direct democracy. See http://www.adelaide.edu.au/apsa/docs_papers/Others/Gauja.pdf
The causes of the party's decline is controversial. My take - that they ran into scaling problems when their parlimentary party grew large. Parts of their parliamentary party felt hamstrung by a membership who were free to take positions on issues that weren't well-considered or practical. They needed to move quickly on issues, and the direct democracy process stalled them. The federal parliamentary party went rogue, and a large section of the membership felt betrayed. This killed the collaborative culture that was the heart of what they stood for, and the party collapsed in infighting.
I'm pretty frustrated with the way freedoms are being eroded in the west, but direct democracy is not a strong response to this. It's complicated, ripe for gaming and diffuses responsibility - bad qualities. When it fails, people will look to a "strong leader" who "gets things done" to replace it. Danger.
Keep thinking though, because there will be better models out there. I suspect that if you could draft a new constitution, you could produce a free society with strong real democratic qualities using a structure similar to the old Icelandic Commonwealth - basically lots of statelets.
The major weakness of this kind of system is that it's hard to fight big wars, even to defend yourself. That's a reason that the awesome original Articles of Confederation were replaced with the current US system.
There was no mechanism for the rank and file to state their resistance in a timely fashion in a way that the leadership could hear, and of course the membership itself was deeply divided on the issue - once again, there was no mechanism for dissension amongst the membership to be dissipated. The result was that the party blew up in spectacular fashion at the next elections, unable to get the membership enthusiastic enough to put boots on the ground to run election activities, with a consequent massive drop in the polls, leading to a drop in funding, leading to extinction.
I was in the NSW branch and as a result of this mess became policy manager and tried to put in place what we would call a crowd-sourced policy creation system. But this was in the early 2000s, the Internet was still not entirely ubiquitous, and management in NSW decided that we had to do this thing on paper, not on the Web. It was slow, painful, and I moved countries before getting to the end (and anyway, it was too little too late, the writing was on the wall).
All of that to say that I don't think we can use the Australian Democrats as a counterexample for direct democracy. They never really had the processes in place to give such a system a chance. Today the story might very well be different if a direct democracy party was tried with a correct set up of tools to allow the rank and file a chance to meaningfully participate in policy creation. I've often thought about trying to set one up on that basis, but since I live in a country now where I'm not even a citizen, I've never tried.
You realize you are essentially proposing that we switch from the Republican Party vs. the Democratic Party, to the Vim Party and the Emacs Party- right? We all know how vim vs. emacs debates go down.
There are some interesting parallels there.
Most citizens will not participate in day-to-day votes, because they will have proxied their votes to other party members they trust. This will bear some resemblance to the power structure of modern day political parties, but it will be transparent, accountable, and easy to change. Some people will still be influential and hold big swaths of votes in their district, and then continue to command this power after the election.
In some cases, the candidate might have such faith that he/she holds the majority of the proxies in the district, meaning they have broad power to make all decisions.
The German Pirate Party already uses this as their decision-making platform.
EDIT: Just posted this and discovered that quadhome and I had the exact same idea at the exact same time. :-) Whoops!
Regardless of your personal coding preferences (my next project might be in golang, tbh), choosing niche technology for what should be a mass open-source effort is not the most promising start. No wonder in Italy they're having trouble implementing it, knowledge must be thin on the ground.
A software like this must be built on EASY technology so that every organisation can adapt it to their own local needs for cheap; it has to be the web equivalent of VB6/VBA, something everyone can pick up fast, something widespread like PHP/Java/Python/Ruby/.Net.
You may really, really enjoy David Graeber's recent book, 'the Democracy Project.'
It basically outlines strategies for how a new political party can realistically gain traction. As you allude to, an important factor is focusing on elections that can be won rather than just running to make a statement.
Perhaps it's possible to write software to analyze past election results, polling, etc. to find races where a third party has a chance and would be the best to allocate resources to, kind of like a Moneyball of politics.
People seem to have a hard time trying to understand why the most powerful country in the world might want to try to influence other countries, or try to monitor foreign and domestic terrorists by mining data on the Internet, phone calls, etc. I think even small countries will try to do the same thing.
Yes, I also understand that some people don't want to build products, start companies, discuss cool technology, self improvement, science, etc. Maybe politics is your thing but this isn't the place to spend hours on end.
Finally, if you really do want to change something, it's going to take a lot of work. Signing a White House petition is just a waste of time. The endless Internet chatter isn't going to accomplish anything. It may require that you build something to increase government transparency, a better political chat forum, a political graph to better target government, or something a little more clever. It could be a crowd sourced project. Can we there 1,000 people here that want to contribute. I'll even pitch in.
I'm not trying to dismiss the discussion, in general. HN really isn't a good site to debate issues. Besides, I don't think people want to debate. Seems like they're just blowing off steam.
So in 50 years they will suddenly agree that maybe the TSA and the NSA are a step too far.
As it stands right now this may be our best shot. Y'know... that and sitting around bitching about it on the internet.
Fact is that the reversal of anti-GBLT laws accelerated immensely in the last few years -- maybe even just the last decade. We're not talking 50-year scales for major societal changes anymore.
And finally, in 2005, same-sex couples gained full marriage equality at the federal level after several drama-filled months in the House of Commons that included one MP (Belinda Stronach) crossing the floor then retiring from politics, attempts to bribe another MP (Chuck Cadman) on his deathbed, and several MPs (including the Prime Minister, Paul Martin, and former Prime Minister, Jean Crétien) being denied communion at their church.
Then it was over. In 2006 the law was upheld in a free vote under a new Conservative Party government, thus cementing the law and ending all serious debate about overturning it.
So really, things changed over the course of 10 years here in Canada (1995-2005), and same-sex couples have had full marriage equality for 8 years now. A whole generation is coming of age now in the time since gay marriage was legalized. People entering adulthood now at at 18 years old were 10 years old when the law was passed -- too young to have been concerned about things like this.
At best, they only vaguely remember that there was once a debate about it. To them it's been legal 'forever'. They hear about the marriage equality debate going on in the states, but even the more conservative teenagers (mostly, ones who have conservative parents) don't understand what all the fuss is about.
Frankly, I don't either.
Perhaps part of the reason it's lost so much meaning is that nobody refers to it by anything but a number.
This is not what grassroots organizations look like, this is what astroturf looks like.
And no, I don't care if you're politically different than the Tea Party, manufactured dissent is a terrible abuse of Democratic principles. Shame, Shame, Shame on you.
It seems America, in the age of Kony2012, has totally lost the plot when it comes to effective protest. "Restore the 4th" is the vaguely socially progressive Kony2012, well done.
We're living in the last decades/centuries of a doomed empire. Our leaders have shot themselves in the ass and are now too stupid and stubborn to admit it or figure it out on their own. The system they have created will not work. It will lean toward tyranny, and corruption, and there will be a long, boring, dull fizzle as it all grinds down.
But trade is still good. Technology rocks. Robots should dramatically change the lives of every first-world human, as will auto-drive cars. There's a long way to fall, and I don't see any huge explosions. (Although I would recommend a good backup power supply)
It's the last days of Rome. Sure, the barbarians are at the gates, the government is hosed, and in places the people are rioting. But out in the country, on a farm, away from the spotlight, it's possible to lead a quiet and successful life with a family.
The question is whether you want to make a difference or lead that quiet life. I'm not sure you can have both.
This reminds me of Venkatesh Rao's idea of 'Hackstability'. Part of this concept describes how the antiquated and inefficient institutions of present could be maintained indefinitely through the continuous application of hacks and jury-rigging. This is proposed as an alternative to oft-entertained future trajectories like an apocalyptic cataclysm or technological singularity. Rao envisions our present system hobbling along for another century or so, growing incrementally more kludgey with each passing day, but persevering nonetheless.
Mr. Rao describes it far more lucidly than I, if you've never read his work you ought to check it out.
I wonder who gave buzzfeed secret documents to make Ecuador look bad? Sigh..
The good part of the story was Ecuador's response.
Anyone want to try again with the line that WikiLeaks isn't simply opposed to the U.S. Government, but wrongdoing from governments around the world? Well WikiLeaks, here's your chance to "leak" it for real now that BuzzFeed has co-opted you.
There is more than US only leaks... Guess that wouldn't fit your narrative though, so maybe don't go.
Didn't see anything about the Ecuador leaks though. Should I wait another few months maybe?
I did see Syria Files though, and was even briefly excited, but I see that WikiLeaks was able to work in a dig at the whole West in the synopsis alone so now I'm sad again.
You are passing judgement on wikileaks becasue they don't have a leak... But I thought wikileaks was just an option for leaked documents, they don't proactively hunt leaks... Am I wrong on that?
But you are literally just believing some random on the internet, which could well be an effort by the US to discredit Wikileaks and Ecuador at the same time (purely speculation).
What wikileaks do is not complicated, you can always create an alternative. They'd probably support your efforts.
I had no illusions he was perfect. I despised the marketing pitch of "change". But I didn't expect this. I mean even the right would have to admit they are a little surprised.
If somehow the USD went to shit they could even make you pay it in BTC, unless you felt you were able to hide your identity, but we have people paid only in cash play that game already without serious detriment to government power.
Is this a trick question?
The PRISM participants, specifically Microsoft/Skype, Google, Apple, and Facebook, have more customers outside of the US than they do inside of the US.
This "we only surveil foreign entities without a warrant" (despite being a lie) is more than sufficient to put a bullet in the head of the US internet industry, or at least its significant competitive advantage in the global market.
Google is leading the charge, but don't expect the others to be quiet about it, either— we're actually talking about direct effects on revenue here.
Many in Europe are already calling for penalties for violating EU privacy laws (many/most/all of these companies use the Double Irish tax minimization strategy, subjecting them to EU law at some point in the chain). Some municipalities and governments have already prohibited the use of e.g. Google Apps on security grounds.
You can't throw one of the largest industries in the US under the bus in the global market and not expect them to spend as much as they need to to protect their business models.
While the argument that privacy doesn't matter if you have nothing to hide is dangerous to make policy, certainly if you have nothing to hide, then there is nothing to gain by remaining so "depressed" in your life.
Very personally, I don't care if the NSA or anyone else, besides perhaps certain exes, knows about my travel patterns. I do care that the NSA can and wants to know, but I don't care that they actually know.
There is no reason to restrict your travel other than as a protest, which I think is an extremely ineffective method of pushing for change and a ridiculous personal sacrifice for what is probably a counterproductive result.
You don't have to make yourself miserable to push for human and privacy rights. By restricting your travel, you are submitting to a system of oppression, not fighting it.
I feel similarly to ck2 on this and the blase "oh, YOU don't have anything to worry about, DO YOU?" attitude I see everywhere is pissing me off. A lot of my political opinions are politically incorrect, but you won't catch me discussing anything specifically online. Tweeting unpopular ideas has been known to land you on the no-fly list, or worse. In that respect, you don't have to go out of your way to make yourself miserable. Every tweet or post is a reminder that this is the one that could make it impossible to leave the country.
In a game of world domination, sadly the "foibles" of the masses don't really matter. Whatever keeps the country at the top of the heap trumps all.
Maybe life in a mid-tier, first world country that doesn't get caught up in all this is a good idea? e.g., somewhere in Scandanavia. (Ignore Assange case, talking about world conquest, etc.)
As far as ownership of business property, you could form a co-op or other employee-owned company structure today if you wished.... but the government won't force you to structure your business that way, either.
Although I agree: How does joining a Communist or Anarchist group help? We need a broader movement. This isn't even a leftist thing (or only leftist).
To be fair, many Communists don't consider those states real communism. This is analogous to Libertarians rejecting state-run crony capitalism.
Even personal property alone leads to greed and envy, which lead to suffering and eventually violence. Communism is not magic in this regard, nor is it the proper solution. There will always be a bully out to take your lunch money, at least with capitalism and representative democracy we're able to acknowledge that and try to rein in that aspect of human nature.
Citation needed. You'd need to find a group who lived completely outside of capitalism their entire lives and yet still exhibit these bad behaviors. And as it happens, lots of such examples exist. They don't bolster your assertion though.
This group lived outside of governance for 2 millennia and don't seem to have what you call "human nature". The fact is, our nature is partially "human nature" and partially a product of our environment. No one knows how much those two things contribute so you can't say "X is human nature". We don't really know and it's not easy to test. But capitalism doesn't exist everywhere and doesn't spontaneously pop up everywhere. What is true, however, is that capitalism seems to rely on continuous growth so they eventually encroach on non-capitalists and "convert" them.
It's one thing when there is a clear idiot like Bush but when someone as educated and thoughtful as Obama supports this and lies to the people with word-play (making it legal instead of ending it) it just makes me sick.
Even worse, is watching all the liberals support and defend this and try to paint Snowden as someone selfish. Only commentator I can watch these days is Chris Hayes, he "gets it" because he is a progressive and not just blindly liberal.
Edit: For those who haven't seen his program, here's Chris Hayes at his best. (From today, June 27th, 2013)
The problem is with the bureaucracy, and that is almost wholly unaffected by who sits in the White House.
Do you have any sources where I can read up on Obama scaling back the programs by comparison? In all seriousness.
Here's from the "NSA reading your email headers" article currently on the front page:
In 2011, the program was terminated by President Obama "as the result of an interagency review," an administration spokesperson told The Guardian.
Did they cancel the project because of fears of it infringing on civil liberties?
Did they cancel the project because it was ineffective for its defined purposes regardless of civil liberties?
Did they cancel the project to move its resources to another, more secret project that could possibly be more damaging to civil liberties?
Lots of programs get canceled for lots of reasons.
The comment was that it would violate the privacy of Americans to try to figure out how many Americans were under surveillance.
The key to understanding this is that the NSA believes that it can avoid having to follow the 4th as long as it never intentionally "searches Americans" by doing any analysis on data collected about identified Americans, and immediately throwing away analysis already done once the identification was made.
Figuring out how many Americans had been caught up in the dragnet would require doing analysis on identified Americans. That triggers the protection of the 4th, and can only be done under their legal theories with a real warrant. Which they don't have. Therefore attempting to answer that question really does cross the line that they have set for what is and is not legal.
Actually I don't know that. My inclination would be to assume that. But the Snowden leaks are showing an organization which has come up with an interpretation of what is legal, and is following their interpretation exactly to the letter.
The first fear is that in any such arrangement their interpretation of what is legal and what anyone else will think is is legal will differ.
The second is that over time they will find ways to come up with ever more extreme interpretations.
And the final one, of course, is that eventually the safeguards get disregarded.
But for the moment they have gone to lengths to stay within their interpretation of the law. While recognizing and criticizing them on the rest, it is worth acknowledging that current (and somewhat surprising) reality.
Is it so much to ask that I be given the same privacy levels as a US citizen and not be caught in overly-broad privacy invading dragnets?
This isn't really something that's unique to America, this 'us vs them' attitude is something that's fundamental to the way nations operate, I think.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all me are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
What is unclear about that?
I just don't understand that we live in a society where it is ok to 'deliver' freedom to others by force, but where we maintain that digging through every german's gmail account is 'legal' in the US, so it's ok.
It's not only hypocritical, but short-sighted. Why would a French company use Gmail or Exchange Online if the US maintains that it and any subcontractor can read their mail at their leisure with no real consequences? Why would a Belgian visit the US if they could detain him because one of his facebook friends got in trouble with the police when he visited Florida?
 As the NSA presentation said, an awful lot of backbone traffic passes through the US.
The internet shouldn't be a part of it, though. I agree with that 100%. The internet is not America's, we don't own it, we can't act as if anything going through our part of it belongs to us, to do with what we will.
I am naturally outraged at the antics of the NSA and similar organisations (GCHQ etc.).
But right now I am really annoyed that the entire debate seems to have focused on "This is affecting us". It seems to have been accepted by everyone (Government, News, Public) that spying like this on foreigners is fine and dandy.
I just wish there was a bit more outrage / discussion on the "Is it actually ok to spy on foreigners like this?"
Well, you can't really fault American media for focusing on Americans (or maybe you can.) But it would be interesting to see that break into the national consciousness.
I'm afraid, though, that if you asked most Americans their answer would be "of course it's OK, as long as we're the best at it."
... I can see how that could be incredibly infuriating.
And it's considered basic right, so why shouldn't foreigners have it?
The more I learn about USA the stranger it seems. Guns are legal cause freedom, even at cost of lives, and secrecy of correspondence is just nice-to-have? Why do you need the guns, if you don't use them to defend your privacy?
Bear a few things in mind... most Americans don't own a gun, and most who do don't have them to rise up against the government, and quite a few don't fit into the stereotype of 'gun loving American' at all. After the Newtown shooting (I believe it was) there was widespread support for gun control legislation (close to 90% IIRC) but it was summarily killed because of the power of lobbyists.
America is bigger and more complicated than perhaps it seems from the outside. Also, gun ownership is a constitutional issue... IANACS* but the purpose of that is to allow the people to rise up against the tyranny of either an oppressive government or an outside enemy (as there was no assumption at the time that a standing national army would be a thing, or that Britain was going to leave us alone.) So that's been something we've been arguing over since the beginning.
Meanwhile, a lot of Americans just aren't as politically charged about privacy as they are about gun rights. There's no privacy lobby which is as powerful as the NRA, an you can't win midterms by scaring your constituents about how the other party is coming to take your private keys away. There might be outrage about this eventually, but you've got to give it time to bubble up. All many Americans even know about Edward Snowden is some vague notion that he 'stole secrets' and 'gave them to China.' Meanwhile all you see on the news now is the George Zimmerman trial.
* I am not a constitutional scholar
Not all countries have Guantanamo. Most won't allow foreigners to be imprisoned indefinitely without charges. Heck, in my country (Brazil), foreigners are usually treated better than citizens, even when charged with a crime. Despite the low rate of conviction, crimes against foreigners draw more attention from the justice system. The legal protections for foreigners are that strong, and Itamaraty (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Itamaraty) enforces them. If you are living here (even temporarily), you hold all the rights that citizens have, minus some things (like the obligation to vote).
> and which apparently has no intelligence service at all...
Not as extensive as the US system, but that's to be expected.
At some point it might be necessary to make a distinction between citizens and foreigners, but only when it matters.
It's the potent implications of the democratic integrity of the nation that come from your government having a giant database on you. If they can, at will, get access to any and all of the communications of any citizen they have incredible power over the voting public. I have no doubt that at this point, if the Obama administration desperately wanted to get hold of some individual's communications - to discredit them, implicate them, or just learn better how to manipulate them - they could do it. I actually doubt they would do it, and I'm not suggesting they will. But once the means for the corruption are there, and the temptation is there, it is utterly inevitable that it will be used. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, etc.
So for your case, yes, they are violating your privacy, and that's bad. But for US citizens, they are dismantling the very fabric of democracy itself. It's orders of magnitude more important than a mere raping of privacy.
If they could tell the difference, then there would be no justification for dragnet surveillance.
I keep getting into discussions with people this month about Tor, and they keep bringing up the fact that "we don't know how many tor nodes are run by the government or other attackers". Fact is, if you can monitor all of the long-haul network traffic in full, you don't need to run _any_ tor nodes to deanonymize all of the users. You can just watch the traffic flows as they go into the tor network, bounce around, and pop out - encrypted or not.
I mean, what real American would ever deign to leave the homeland?! If you leave the USA to go live in some stupid foreign land you must not want your human rights anyway.
... of Americans.
If they can't tell the difference it makes it far easier to suspend rights reserved for Americans in the process of spying.
In Human Body it causes death, in a System it causes Death of Democracy, In a family it causes chaos.
They want to case a wide net.
Although I would make a case for profiling based on names.
Just like that??