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No free trade agreement if charges of espionage are true, warns EU Commissioner (translate.google.com)
143 points by oellegaard 1398 days ago | hide | past | web | 143 comments | favorite

Actual translation: because of the behavior of U.S. government, E.U. government(s) will make it hard for E.U. citizens to trade with U.S. citizens.

So normal people get spied on and bullied by one government, then because of that their life is made even more complicated by some other government. Great outcome!

When people will realize that the problem is always in the governments themselves as a concept, not in any particular issues? It's totally okay to be an atheist today, but we need just one extra little step to be anarchists and it's so, so, so complicated. While belief in a magical all-powerful and caring government is no different than a belief in deity.

> When people will realize that the problem is always in the governments themselves as a concept, not in any particular issues? It's totally okay to be an atheist today, but we need just one extra little step to be anarchists and it's so, so, so complicated. While belief in a magical all-powerful and caring government is no different than a belief in deity.

People "believe in" government not because they love it or think it is perfect, they do it because they believe the alternative is something like the Hobbsian state of nature. Given the way anarchists tend to describe an end goal that either looks like government by a different name (boring!) or something completely out of keeping with human nature, people won't "realize" what you want them to anytime soon.

Or maybe they will! Write a good, convincing anarchist manifesto. When it doesn't convince anybody, talk yourself into believing it's humanity that is flawed, not your manifesto.

>People "believe in" government not because they love it or think it is perfect, they do it because they believe the alternative is something like the Hobbsian state of nature.

Utter BS.

People "believe" in governments largely because they are indoctrinated into the belief system prepared for them based on what country they are born into. Then, based on the actions of that government, their upbringing and life experience their worldview may-or-may-not be shifted.

There are plenty of brilliant free thinking people in the world, they just unfortunately live in a world mostly populated by those who do not have the chance to have a similar perspective, due to an infinite (yet very channeled) set of life-circumstance.

The human mind is the most amazing creation we know of. Yet, the "powers that be" want you to believe that you're worthless, un-guided and incapable. Yet - just looking at the amazing world around you - created wholly by the efforts of the minds of Man - would serve to prove that you and your mind is, actually, sublime.

There has been a centuries long war on the mind...

You didn't actually contradict the portion of my text that you quoted. People really do believe the alternative to having governments is the Hobbsian state of nature, or something close to it. I did not comment on how people arrive at that belief.

It's not totally crazy to think that Hobbes being the foundation of western political philosophy might have something to do with it, so there's your "indoctrination," I guess.

> There are plenty of brilliant free thinking people in the world

Ah yes, and you are one of those brilliant, free-thinking people I assume. One of the enlightened ones, who sees the folly of government and the glory of anarchy?

Always reminds me of this: https://xkcd.com/610/

Nice ad hominem -- so lets discuss; first though I'm posting from my phone so this first post will be brief:

There are soon to be 7 billion people on this earth, comparatively, yes, I've won the genetic lottery...

But that has nothing to do with the fact that there is an active war on the minds of humanity. If you want references and are completely devoid of any understanding of history I'd be happy to provide some sources, but lets hear you actually chime in on the meat of my comment as opposed to you're sophomoric attempt at discrediting what I said.

> There are soon to be 7 billion people on this earth

A minor nit, but we're estimated to be over 7 billion already.

Why do you "believe" in rights?

They are literally constructed by us, indoctrinated even.

Rights are fantasy. 95% of your life is anarchy: voluntary relationships with others based on like/dislike, mutual respect and agreements. It's not based on rights, laws or other abstractions.

Rights do not exist. Individual agreements do.

Here is a proof:

I respect any belief of rights. Your belief may be different from mine. If you peacefully respect my disagreement the same way I respect yours, then "rights" are meaningless in resolving conflicts. If we have the same idea of rights, they are irrelevant. If you force me to accept your vision of rights, you only prove that rights do not help: you abandon reason and take out the gun. There are no rights, only peace or violence. QED.

Actually it is. Because everyone (the majority at least) believe in rights.

If everyone believes in different rights, what's the point?

Anyway, what's the purpose of rights? Is it to give a sanction for violence to yourself when you think you deserve it? If you are not using violence, but do a conversation, then it is only reason that you use, not particular rights.

That reminded me of a famous libertarian quote: "If one rejects laissez faire on account of man's fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action." - Mises

If humans are full of logical fallacies and poor decision making, just making a collection of humans and giving them unlimited power does not make the logical fallacies and poor decision making go away. It can often makes it much more harmful.

But then it comes down to who has the better information (individuals/organizations or politicians) and who is more capable of acting on that information in humanities best interest.

Civics class never taught me about "unlimited power," so I'm having a little bit of difficulty getting spun up with the premise.

The conclusion though doesn't share my outlook. The actual activities are not interesting to me. What is interesting to me is insuring ongoing changing activity and new things being tried. Libertarianism fails as badly as most government fails in this regard, permitting the accrual of power by corporate bodies with, like government, interest vested chiefly in their own self propogation.

The role that is unspoken, not what government is, but what I want it to be: to insure no one keeps others from trying actions to better themselves. It's not about actions, about information in acting, it's about being empowered to be able to act, to try things. I see this as a macroscopic look, whereas I see your concerns with decision making, the libertarian/government question, as microscopic, focused on only one particular thing at a time.

I don't believe that corporations are libertarian, largely because "limited liability" completely divorces them from the responsibility of the individual, which forms the basis of everything in the libertarian system.

I don't see any problem with partnerships and sole proprietorships, though.

As with any system, these people need to be ethical. But corporations have a sort of legally forced amorality.

"If humans are full of logical fallacies and poor decision making, just making a collection of humans and giving them unlimited power does not make the logical fallacies and poor decision making go away. It can often makes it much more harmful."

You know, this is not some novel insight. This has been known for a long time:


Indeed, the real underlying problem isn't mass surveillance, the problem is the states ability to give themselves unlimited power through a seemingly legal process:

"The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to." - Edward Snowden

Which is quite possibly the predictable outcome of every government that hasn't had a revolution or major political upheaval for an extended periods of time. Self-interest is not just a function of markets.

Am I the only one here who can see the fallacy in this?

Government does not have unlimited power. Government is accountable, mostly democratically controlled power. It is, if there is a proper democracy (which there is in much of Western Europe, not the US so much) the exact opposite of unlimited power.

Anarchy on the other hand is (slightly) diffused unlimited power. And also power only dependent on wealth. And without anyone to protect the (financially) weak, without any laws or government-backed justice, this diffused power is much worse than anything a well-functioning democracy would come up with...

Look into your own words and try to decipher them one by one:

"Government is accountable, mostly democratically controlled power."

What is "government" in practice? What does it mean to be "accountable" in practice? What is "democratically controlled"? And which "power" are we talking about?

Here's my rough take on deciphering this statement:

1. Government - a group of people that can employ violence which is disallowed for some other group of people. Some number of people outside the government will look at some violent action and think it's totally justified. But if the same action is done by non-government person, they will feel bad and call somebody to prevent it.

2. Being accountable: bear the consequences of one's actions. If a dude kills a dude, he will be kicked hard and put in special house for the rest of his days. If, however, government kills a dude, there are many sorts of laws (pieces of paper) that describe to public (stupidly watching from outside) that certain killings are okay. Like, if you are in uniform and in Iraq, you can kill people left and right (under strict "protocol" of course).

Does the existence of some sort of "protocol" written by some lunatics make killings "controlled" and "accountable"? How nuts is that?

Here's a test for your sanity: if you like your democratic government, I have nothing against it. I will never ever intervene and disallow you to pay to your senator/city hall/party/etc. I respect your right to choose the way to live. Will you give me the same respect to have my own opinion and to act on it? I don't want to support any government action. I don't want my money to be taken via taxation or inflation. Will you allow me to act on my beliefs peacefully just like I allow you?

1) (Quite unclear what you mean by this statement) However government does much more than employ violence. In fact most government does has nothing to do with violence. Such as provide infrastructural and social services, stipulate laws, and negotiation on our behalf. What makes government different from a corporation is that in government it is one person one vote, while in the private sector value and power is not grounded in persons as humans, but is tied to individuals wealth and (usurped) power.

2) I was talking about proper democracies (like Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands). I dislike the war in Iraq (and similarly ill-conceived wars) as much as (if not more than) you do.

As for the sanity check; Government only works if everyone in a certain community / market / area complies. Ceterus paribus if I am taxed and you are not, and you would be allowed to sell in the same market, I will be driven out of business. Similarly, if you hire educated employees, or even benefit of services provided by them, but did not pay taxes to fund their education, you are leeching on the state and I (& other citizens) have a right to (part of) your profits... we call this tax; and it only works if we all pay our fair share.

i don't think it plays out like this in practice, for the reason that a government has to at least pretend it's for the people and there's at least some measure of accountability.

the alternative is very, very different and I think libertarians really underestimate how evil and creative and corrupt people can be. there is a reason we have various regulations regarding child labor, for example.


> the alternative is very, very different and I think libertarians really underestimate how evil and creative and corrupt people can be

The entire point of the parent post is that we don't underestimate the corruption that humans are capable of achieving when given power. Hence the revocation of a monopoly on the use of legitimized coercion.

The alternative to a system of monopolized coercion isn't the absence of coercion, it's the diffusion of coercive violence.

I've never claimed or believed otherwise. The absence of coercion would be Utopian.

Also, you left out a key word: legitimized. It's important and absolutely essential to my point.

In the absence of government, all violent becomes de facto legitimate, as it is in the state of nature. It is meaningless to call something "illegitimate" versus "legitimate" when you have no recourse to stop "illegitimate" actions.

> The difference between legitimized coercion and de-facto coercion is a distinction without a difference.

It would be appreciated if you made this fundamental disagreement clear when responding. It literally makes no sense to speak of anything else on this topic if we disagree on this point.

Legitimized coercion is a concept that distinguishes organizations governing an arbitrary geographic location and its people/property and the natural coercion that arises from conflicts between individuals. The former is permitted by the law of the land (whatever it may be); the latter is not.

I believe the distinction is worth making. More than that, I believe the former can be scrubbed out while the latter cannot.

EDIT to address your EDIT

> In the absence of government, all violent becomes de facto legitimate, as it is in the state of nature.

I have never seen any libertarian philosophy use the word "legitimate" to mean "natural" in this context. I certainly am not. My hope is that the other part of this comment clarifies.

You are setting up a straw man. One level of government can lose legitimacy or the ability to operate without government at other levels losing the ability to perform.

... in exchange for a system without even the pretension of accountability

You did not respond to the central point of my comment. I will respond anyway.

Firms sell goods to buyers. If buyers stop buying said goods from a particular firm, that firm is going to be in trouble unless they get the buyers to start buying again.

Seems like at least a "pretension of accountability".

Accountability exists in forms other than democracy.

You must know that humans are very fickle creatures. People buy clothes and food from poorly-regulated industries all the time, not because none of them can be made to care about the conditions under which these goods are manufactured, but because not all of them can be made to care constantly.

If only a small group of people are ever interested enough to personally fund regulation, how can such free-market "regulation" effectively ensure good working conditions and food safety? Government solves this problem by low-pass-filtering the fickleness, thus ensuring continued funding.

My initial comment was pointing out that we libertarians very explicitly don't underestimate corruption; which factors very strongly in why we view centralized power in the form of legitimized coercion as A Bad Thing.

My follow-up to an off-topic but related comment was that accountability exists in freed markets; just not in the way you might be used to in democratic societies.

My intention is not to defend freed markets from every possible criticism. There is plenty of literature out there that does that much better than I could already. A nice place to start is David Friedman's "The Machinery of Freedom" for pragmatic details. [1]

Just as accountability can come in many different shapes and sizes, so too can regulation. The only requirement is a bit of imagination.

[1] - http://daviddfriedman.com/The_Machinery_of_Freedom_.pdf

I do not describe how people should or should not live. I only expose violence when they try to hide it. Of course, human nature is not perfect and of course there will always be bad guys, people believing in gods, socialism, nationalism, thieves, psychopaths etc. But this does not make any of those good or worthy.

If you like your democratic institute, feel free to participate. No voluntarist will ever stop you or threaten you. But will you allow other people to equally act on their beliefs and not participate in schemes they dislike? E.g. if you like your police dept, feel free to sponsor it. But if I think it's inefficient and behaves badly, will you peacefully allow me to withdraw my participation?

Just like with any religion, people make the same logical mistake with the government. They think it is higher concept than any individual (unproven fallacy), people should obey that concept (unproven consequence) and some people among people are in special touch with that concept and have the exclusive right to enforce this obedience (another unproven consequence). This all is utter religious bullshit. If you believe in this, no reason is possible. Once you allow yourself to think in abstract moral categories, you can justify any horrible stuff. And we have plenty of historical examples of how ideology allows murdering, raping and torturing people everywhere in the world.

I don't know and I don't care how we will live without all-powerful government, but it does not invalidate its murderous and manipulative nature. Just like no one knows what our morales and ethics should be, but the belief in magical Jesus will not give us any useful clue.

Of course what people don't really understand is that religion today is government of yesterday (give or take a millenium ... well probably give). Some religions, one in particular, still sees it that way.

While it's true that religion generally had a lot more influence over politics and policy in the past (the recent past moreso than the present, and the distant past moreso than the recent past, at least in the USA), saying that "once upon a time, religion and government were one and the same" ranges between, at best, a gross oversimplification of complex sociopolitical circumstances, and at worst, a factually incorrect misrepresentation. Exactly where your statement falls on that scale depends on the exact places and times you're talking about.

Disclaimer: Everything I know about medieval European history, I learned from Crusader Kings 2.

If you have more than 100 hours of Crusader Kings 2, you know historical reality better than most history majors. Sure one may know history, but do you know the principles of interconnectedness that drove history onwards?

There's nothing like sitting down with a wide set of empirical data for being able to deeply get the genuine causalities. Anything else just doesn't cut it, which is why virtual simulation and general modeling- Engelbart's dream- still speaks such promise to so many techies.

Alternatively you could look up some actual history. Look up a few terms :

caliph, devshirme, dhimmi, brahmin, dalit, shogunate (not the game, the real one, read until you know what the "stick and walk" law is), devshirme

Now imagine being a regular joe under such a system.

One of the primary claims to power in medieval Europe was the divine decree, something that was usually "approved" by the Roman Catholic Church, so yes religion has had an absolutely insane amount of influence on politics, so much so that you can easily argue that it was responsible for predominance of monarchies and dictatorships until the enlightenment (and even then it took centuries).

Entire governments have risen and fallen on top of the backs of religions and their schisms and reformations.

Yes, but for both good and ill.

The reformation's idea was that no authority or intercessor was needed to interpret or use the bible.

I'll skip the details, but this idea was an essential precursor for the idea of self-government, and the enlightenment in general.

No, most claims to power were correlated with the divine decree. You have yet to prove that there was any causation.

This is more a implementation issue of democracy in some countries. Look at the Danish democracy, we have many parties and both currently and historically we rarely have one party governments. It is not uncommon that three or more parties are forming governments. This helps make sure that there is never one entity that decides or hides things from the public.

Duverger's law states that first-past-the-post electoral systems result in two-party governance. I am fairly certain Denmark uses either a double ballot majority system or proportional representation, which is why Danish democracy both excels and has multi-party governments.

This is an incredibly interesting and thought-provoking hypothesis.

The Wikipedia entry says that exceptions are due to regional differences. I've often wondered if the increased communication and travel between people in different regions as a result of technology (tech as old as trains/telegraph or as recent as email/Facebook) will lead to local cultural differences gradually disappearing as everyone mixes together into one population.

Maybe this is going to make it harder for multiple parties to exist.

Then again, AFAIK the US has usually had only two major parties for most of its history (with occasional replacement of one party by another...anyone remember the Whigs?)

> When people will realize that the problem is always in the governments themselves

Though I agree with your broader thrust, I'm deeply suspicious of any use of "never" or "always" in the context of complex systems.

> While belief in a magical all-powerful and caring government is no different than a belief in deity.

Belief, for better or worse, is a fundamental component of human social behavior. For instance, I challenge you to construct a monetary system that does not at least partially involve belief. (See also: http://www.meltingasphalt.com/religion-is-not-about-beliefs/ )

Rather than tilting at the windmill of belief, I'd rather we started believing in better things: naturalism over spiritualism, human rights over state power, decentralized currencies over fiat currencies, etc.

Free trade agreements bring more than just benefits.

A nation/country is a bit like an ecosystem or a company, with its own interests, internal culture, customs, and market. Opening that market up to another country requires trust. If that trust is violated because one party is spying on the others internal negotiations, it makes sense to delay or cancel trade agreements.

You would not want everything you say in boardmeetings to be immediately passed on to competing startups/companies...

Also, trade-agreements do more than bring universal benefits. They also kill off companies due to increased competition. And given that Europe has quite different (labour) regulations, can even lead to unfair competition.

So please stop that anarchist BS about governments being bad, and them ONLY making peoples lives more complicated. Yes I know there are bad governments, but please speak for yourself instead of generalizing. In Western-Europe most people are pretty happy with their governments, because - quess why - these governments do a pretty good job most of the time...

"because of the behavior of U.S. government, E.U. government(s) will make it hard for E.U. citizens to trade with U.S. citizens." Yes, thats correct - you should not trade with enemies, with somebody who is in war with you. US citizens have elected their government who had declared EU to be US enemy.

U.S. citizens did not freely elect that military machine and millions of suits around it. They only could vote for a person to extract taxes. All citizens are victims of their ruling mafia.

> When people will realize that the problem is always in the governments themselves as a concept, not in any particular issues?

Maybe because most people can see, that while governments are not perfect, they are a net benefit?

I pay some sum of money into a pot, and in return someone comes and takes away my rubbish every week, and gets rid of it some correct way that I don't have to worry about (and that is incidentally also not the cheapest way). When I go to the shop to buy milk, I don't have to worry that its been watered down, or that its not really the same brand as on the label, because some authority has taken care of that for me already. There must be dozens of more examples of things that are beneficial for everyone, and are just never ever going to get accomplished any other way, apart from some central authority using money from a common fund.

There is an in-between between no government and an all-powerful one: a government that solely exists to secure the rights of its citizens.

"to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,..."

It is of my opinion that power corrupts, and that's why you shouldn't trade your rights away in return for a promise of fixing problems, but there is some disagreement on this point.

> a government that solely exists to secure the rights of its citizens.

The problem with such governments is that they cannot be truly democratic, and I think that poses a moral problem.

In instituting government, we ask the people, every person, to give up the most fundamental freedom of action they possess in the state of nature: the use of violence. In sacrificing freedom of action, the people should be able to vote themselves the sort of government they collectively want, not the kind of minimal government, protecting some arbitrary set of "rights," some philosopher king believes they should have.

It should be noted that all of the talk of "limited government" among the founders was directed at the nature of the federal government, which was to exist in addition to state governments which were not limited.

We are not giving up the right to violence, the point of a government securing your rights is that someone else can't take them away (through violence or other means).

It's true people can vote themselves into any government they wanted, but I wager that if you don't want a government running away with your rights, it's best to stick with a limited one.

It's much easier to control smaller gonvernments than super governments. It's doubtful that any 1 individual state (save california or ny maybe) could've created prisim.

> We are not giving up the right to violence,

You are. You're agreeing to act "civilized" instead of all the other things you can do in the state of nature. Animals are not obligated to respect each others' "rights." We collectively give up our natural ability to do that, in the hopes that "civilization" is better for us than a free for all.

I'm not arguing that bigger governments or smaller governments are better. I'm talking about the process by which we choose a government to govern us. My point is that a government that is small, where people can't vote to make it bigger, is immoral. If people collectively give up their natural ability to use violence on other people, they should get to collectively determine what system they want to put in place to replace the state of nature. Self determination, that's the most fundamental thing, and it's not worth compromising self determination to guarantee limited government.

Government is the one institution that pays lip service to and can be influenced directly by the populace it's supposed to be accountable to. Obviously, in practice it serves the will of those already in power.

As someone who doesn't want to jump ship from the system we have now to anarchy immediately, I believe that even more corrupt power structures would take governments place without first eradicating the existing power structures and influence of the accumulation of capital has on global society.

To transition now, where the power and resources are in the hands of a slim margin of people, would usher in an era of neo-feudalism. Some would argue we are already at that point, so why destabilise the only organisation with power that exists, in theory, for the people?

It deeply saddens me that a tiny tiny percentage of the population can really fuck up the lives of everyone - financially, socially, politically, religiously.

The real problem is in how we set up the governments. We give to much power to a few people.

What we really need to do is let people vote on individual issues. Want to go to war that will affect everyone and will cost trillions? Let's have a vote.

I understand what you're saying but letting people vote on individual issues isn't always good. Here's an example :

I live in Belgium, a country where 3 million people are paying for 8 million others. Those 8 million include kids, people without a job and people in retirement or who got sick. And we should help them. But it also includes 1.3 million government employees (hundreds of thousands more than The Netherlands where they got 6 million more citizens), people who aren't really sick, people who aren't willing to work, people who retired at an age way below the average European retirement age.

So they want the system to continue even though it's unsustainable. When asked, they aren't going to vote against a system they are taking advantage of.

This is the fundamental problem with communist/socialist style systems where the government is supposed to take care of everyone: Productive work is no longer incentivized enough to support the society, and rollback is politically impossible, so they keep right on following an unsustainable course until there's a complete collapse.

Unfortunately, people who are in favor of things like universal healthcare, minimum income, etc., fail to appreciate that good intentions don't always lead to good outcomes. (I'm speaking about typical HN readers who support these things who won't personally immediately be getting a piece of the pie.)

As you say, the fact that people will vote for things that are in their self-interest at the expense of the society as a whole is a problem with democracy. In the US this has traditionally been avoided by a strong sense of patriotism / nationalism and an ideology of individual responsibility, but these barriers are eroding with cultural changes, increases in minorities with different values, a dysfunctional education system, and various economic disruptions.

To simplify: When 51% of the people discover that they can vote themselves the wealth of the other 49%, they will.

Our democratic systems are not really as democratic as they claim to be. Indeed, it could be argued that the democracy that we have is a thin veneer that hides the autocracy instead. Certainly, in the UK, the unelected civil service wields a huge amount of power, and whilst they do answer to elected officials, and do have to implement the policies of the ruling party, in reality they have a huge amount of freedom on those matters not explicitly laid out in policy, and can lobby ministers very effectively to get what they want.

If a minister is weak, he will end up acting (unknowingly) as the de-facto press officer for the department. In any case, we end up electing representatives, not delegates. Our power to influence policy starts and stops at the ballot box (actually, we have rather more power than that through MP's letters & party policy groups - but for the sake of argument we will ignore these).

Indeed, even in systems with impeccable democratic credentials, decisions end up being made by relatively small numbers of individuals; individuals that can be effectively lobbied, influenced or coerced into making decisions that are not in the best interests of the nation, or of the people.

We need a technological solution that will help facilitate a general broadening of participation in the legislature. Universality is unrealistic, but open and broad participation is both achievable and realistic - Why should we limit government to a small fixed number of permanently employed elected representatives? Why not a larger, more flexible group of part-time specialists, each participating in only one or two issues?

Who other than Google could set such a thing up?

Actually this is interesting because America's representative democracy was set up because taking votes on things such as war was too expensive and slow.

But today we have the technology to take a nationwide vote within a day so it is within the realm of possibility.

So why don't you skip the government and vote with your own money for the things you support? If enough of people buy the product, then the company makes profit and the product deserves to exist on the market. Be it protection, war or helping the poor. Your choice.

Frankly, I can't see a single good reason for this trade agreement, and a lot of good reasons against, starting with that I (and all other Europeans) don't want GM food, hormone beef and chlorinated chicken in my plate any day soon.

Trade openness is one of the strongest predictor of peace [1] (also see: Better Angels of our Nature [2]).

Free trade would also be an economic boon to Europe and the U.S. A study by the Bertelsmann Foundation together with the Munich-based Center for Economic Studies found that "if the United States and the European Union are able to come together on a far-reaching free trade agreement, Germany would be one of the greatest beneficiaries. Fully 181,000 new jobs could be expected and per-capita income would spike by 4.68 percent." GDP/capita could rise "by 13.4 percent in the US and by 9.7 percent in the UK. More than a million new jobs would result in America. That number would be 400,000 in Britain." [3]

The benefits of free trade are one of the points economists have found consensus on.

[1] http://www.yale.edu/leitner/resources/docs/HORJune09.pdf "Trade Does Promote Peace: New Simultaneous Estimates of the Reciprocal Effects of Trade and Conflict" (Hegre, O'Neal, & Russett, 2009)

[2] http://www.amazon.com/The-Better-Angels-Our-Nature/dp/014312... The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

[3] http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/study-on-trans-...

Who's that "Germany" Bertelsmann is talking about. The government? The people? Maybe just Bertelsmann and their buddies?

Those 181k new jobs: Will they be propped up with social welfare like many of those "newly generated jobs" in Germany of the last years (Hartz-4 Aufstocker)?

Which part of the work force benefits from the 4.68% income spike - those in the millions-of-euros range (who can easily pull up the medium income because they're so remote from the median)? Or those earning 370€/month (and then will receive a fabulous 387€, leading to no more money in the wallet since most of it came from social welfare anyway)?

If you want to make a point, please don't try to prove it with Bertelsmann "research", most of that is 100% politics.

Stop asking questions and just read the studies. If you have evidence just state it.

Argument by aggressive questioning is not an effective convincer.

bullsh*t , like the benefits of europe when we have 26 million + people out of work, fool me twice ... EU is not working , for the people at least ...

I don't normally downvote comments I read here, but c'mon man. First of all, your comment was off-topic. Second of all, at least with the GM food, yours is a knee-jerk reaction unsupported by science. GM food has the potential to save billions (with a B) of lives, starting with Golden Rice.

The biggest problem with GM is it puts the world's food production into the hands of a select few multinational companies.

Companies like Monsanto have already shown they are prepared to fight hard to keep control their GM monopolies:


Oh yes that monsanto case that gets trotted out every freaking time this comes up.

The poor farmer didn't know he was using roundup ready seeds...and yet somehow also decided to use roundup on his crops anyway!

Except he did know that he was using roundup ready seeds, and thought he was exploiting a loophole.

Turns out he was wrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowman_v._Monsanto_Co.#Backgrou...

This is absolutely not a case of big evilco going against the little guy.

So? That's not a good reason to restrict life-saving technologies.

The number one thing GMOing is used for is to make seeds resistant to pesticide. So now what Roundup/Monsanto farmers do is spread pesticide over the land, far and wide.

The myth is that GMO technology lets us produce high yield crops and mix a caterpillars with bananas to get Butterbananas. But the truth is GMO just lets us engineer soybeans to survive Roundup, and then spray, baby, spray.

The end effect of GMO is a stimulus for the pesticide industry, and negative externalities on the environment. That needs to be balanced with whatever crop yields GMO achieves, and it should be understood the crop yields are higher primarily because the bugs are dead, not because we have new super-plants that produce more food per plant.

There is a distinction between positions here:

"Being genetically modified always makes the foods inherently unsafe"


"Being genetically modified cannot make the foods inherently unsafe"

Both are wholly incorrect positions to take, and the question is often posed as a false dichotomy between these two options. Attention to mechanism and importantly, to incentive, is going to be essential in any future detente we arrive at... and we will arrive at one, because genetic engineering is only going to get more useful.

Categorical prohibition of 'The Monsanto Roundup Ready Gene' and a temporary moratorium on growing GMOs until a resilient process for tradeoff consideration is created would be a much more reasonable process. Personally, I'm in favor of the state establishing high-value labelling requirements, and allowing alternatives. "Made with FDA Certified Pasturized Milk" vs "Made with Uncertified Raw Milk" is one we would appreciate in the US, where the highly nationalized agribusiness sector does not approve of giving us such choices.

"Certified Safe Local-Grown GMO" vs "Certified Safe Import-Only GMO" vs "Uncertified GMO" vs no label for natural organisms seems a perfectly fine way of doing things to me.

The claim that GMO has been responsible for gains in modern food production are most likely false and are more likely the result of traditional breeding techniques:


Yes, it is. If significant numbers of people become dependent upon a single point of failure then whoever controls that gains an incredible degree of power. You have to have some plan for how you're going to spread your risk pool around in that regard or you're just creating a population of slaves.

> Companies like Monsanto have already shown they are prepared to fight hard to keep control their GM monopolies:

An analogy: If Microsoft sues someone for selling unlicensed copies of MS PowerPoint, can they be construed to be fighting hard to keep control of their presentation software monopoly?

The big difference is the former is just some crappy software, while the latter is about control of the world's food supply.

Given the choice of a world fed on GMO seeds, controlled by multi-nationals, rammed down our throats by governments with their own secret agendas, or the good old fashion natural seeds, I'll take the later any day.

Fine, then don't buy them. But don't be a hypocrite and restrict their access from others who may be too poor to buy organic.

> Fine, then don't buy them

If they have a monopoly you no longer have that choice.

The 'big four' biotech seed companies—Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred, Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences own 80% of the US corn market and 70% of the soybean business.

They are looking to achieve similar results in the rest of thw world.

The US government went after Microsoft because it was seen as a monopoly in the PC market.

Why doesn't the US government step in to stop this GOM monopoly?

The US government has always realized that monopolies can come to be "naturally" (that is, through normal market forces) in an industry. The US government over goes after a monopolist when they attempt to enter or influence a different market by exploiting their monopoly.

The US government didn't go against Standard Oil because they owned 90% of the refineries in the US, they went after Standard Oil because Standard Oil was using their 90% oil refinery market share to control the rail shipping industry.

The US government didn't go against Microsoft because they owned 90% of the PC operating system market, they went after Microsoft because Microsoft was using their 90% operating system market to control the web browser market (along with some other sub-computer markets).

Why isn't the US government going against Monsanto (for instance?) Because they aren't trying to gain control of another industry outside agriculture (or better lobbyists, take your pick).

Give us all a break.

It's so easy to make that choice when you and your family aren't literally starving to death.

Why is this simple piece of logic so difficult for anti-GMO extremists to understand? These technologies literally have the potential, without even being hyperbolic, to save Billions of lives. And these clowns are worried about the providers making an extra buck.

There arent billions of starving people around. Those who do starve, do so not because of a lack of food, but because those who have excess of it would rather destroy it than sell it below market price. GMO wont do jack against an artificial constructed scarcity.

> Why is this simple piece of logic so difficult for anti-GMO extremists to understand? These technologies literally have the potential, without even being hyperbolic, to save Billions of lives.

Any description of technology "saving" lives is hyperbolic. Technology can extend lives, or make more lives possible to start, but we haven't yet found any technologies that will actually save lives.

... what are you talking about?

Are you arguing the semantics of "save"? Bullet proof vests save lives... Polio vaccines save lives...

Or is that just "extending": "He was suppose to die with a bullet to the chest, so by stopping it, we extended his life"

> to save Billions of lives

But not in Europe.

The expanded analogy, can Microsoft create a virus that installs MS PowerPoint then sue those who purposefully don't install an antivirus in the hopes of catching MS Powerpoint.

What's your source for this claim against Monsanto? Usually when a farmer claims something like this, it turns out they're as guilty as a 3 dollar bill.

The problem is not allowing or disallowing GM food, but the strict labeling requirements in the EU. If there's GM involved it must be labeled accordingly. Unrelated to if oppposing GM food is a "knee-jerk" reaction or not, the labeling requirement is a good thing, as it gives the consumer the choice which type of food he prefers. The trade agreement would weaken those labeling requirements, which is the main source for concerns here.

We certainly don't need to save millions of lives in the EU with Golden Rice.

It is just a fact that most European countries are in strong opposition to genetically modified food. I wouldn't eat that either, and I do not even want it to be sold here.

It's not supported by science either. You would need at least 100 years to study the effect of GM foods on the long-term well-being of people.

Well, worst case, it helps to solve our overpopulation problem. /s

AFAIK we have laws against this kind of food in EU, but the free trade agreement will give us e.g. Apple, Microsoft, Dell and other products without having to pay a high fee every time it goes through customs. Same goes for European products being sold in the US. It is expected to lead to BNP growth of around 1% in the EU region.

All the harder to see the good reason when it's negotiated in secret. (Unless you are a favored lobbyist.)

What's wrong with any of those things? None of those things are harmful.

Expecting downvotes for this: I strongly suspect that hormones in meat make Americans bigger. I am from Europe. I have met many Americans both of whose parents were born in my country. They don't look like us. My perception is that on average they are significantly bigger, and are both taller and broader than is normal in my country. I don't know if this has health implications, but I would rather not eat meat which contains growth hormones.

Well you will get downvotes if you don't actually provide any evidence beyond "he looks funny". The whole beef hormone controvosy is complete bullshit; the EU has lost cases against the US & Canada in the WTO twice now, both times for lack of scientific evidence behind their decision. The ban happened when Europe was wrestling with mad cow disease, which in no small part influenced the populance against the scientific method with regards to food saftey. This, along with the fact that MEP's had recently been elected for the first time, made the decision almost entirely populist. The EU has _never_ justified the ban scientifically.

I don't have evidence that hormones in beef affect humans. Do you have evidence that they don't? Personally I would rather not eat it without such evidence.

I just quickly googled and found this on the website of the American Public Health Association: "By contrast, the US government position is that hormone residues in beef from adult cattle pose no threat to human health. This assumption of safety, however, has remained untested by long-term epidemiologic studies and instead relies on dated research concerning the ability of estrogen (estradiol) to mutate genes. This policy fails to reflect more recent research that hormones and hormonally active chemicals may exert their toxicity instead via epigenetic changes.12,23"

Source: http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm...

Do you carry a cell phone? Because a lot of people believe that carrying and using cell phones over long periods of time will cause cancer due to the long term exposure to electromagnetic radiation. There is no evidence that this is the case, however, nobody has proven that they DON'T. And not enough time has passed to really know the long term effects.

You're probably right, American teenagers are hitting puberty earlier too and growth hormones in milk and beef were the main suspects.

But also: When women have a large pool of potential mates to chose from they usually select the healthier larger males. In the USA we all speak the same language, use the same currency, can move to whatever city we want and that gives women a much larger selection of big males to mate with. While in European countries, there are language barriers, cultural barriers, and smaller populations per country. Although the population of europe is 700+ million, the population tends to stay in it's home country and intermarry with it's own kind to an extent. Meaning once all the big males in a country are married and taken, the women there start mating with medium & smaller men. That's my theory at least. American culture is also very extreme-masculine, homophobic, scared of looking weak, and obsessed with dominant macho males. It might have to do with white men's fear of strong dominating black men which are the majority in many physical sports and are over-represented in violent crimes and present in high-crime neighborhoods. So maybe it's a security thing.


I'm under the impression you're from Ireland judging by your username. Kids and adolescents that are well fed tend to grow more than those that aren't, and portion size in the US tends to be substantially greater than elsewhere, especially Europe. Also, there seems to be a greater focus on working out for aesthetic reasons in the US. All of this is, however, does appear to be changing, and moving more toward an American norm. You may also be suffering from confirmation bias! Or, you're right and something in American food is affecting growth rates, but there doesn't appear to be a lot of evidence to support this notion.

This phenomenon has been studied, but is currently thought to be because of lifestyle differences. See "The Health Toll of Immigration": http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/health/the-health-toll-of-...

Americans have been 'larger' for some time. We had trouble with AK47s after WW2, for example, because they were too small for the comparatively larger American soldiers to wield comfortably.

I don't think it's any more complicated than the fact that we eat more food for all of our lives.

I'm not a doctor, so i wouldn't claim your theory is impossible. But we americans have a horrible diet, and we eat tons of food. I can't say much about height, but breadth comes from 1300 calorie fast food lunches.

Hormones and antibiotics, perhaps. Chinese raised in America do not look the same as Chinese raised in China. They tend to be bigger, thicker, taller, and with a different skin tone. Go figure.

You're not serious, are you? Cows are fed corn feed to bulk them for slaughter weight sooner. If the cow ended up not being slaughtered it would end up dying due to disease. Antibiotics keep it alive in order to get it to our plates. The whole american food industry is ...ked. I dread the day we start producing GMO'd rice. - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1112115/

All cows that aren't slaughtered end up dying from disease or old age. Antibiotics prevent the spread of disease and aren't harmful in and of themselves, but their overuse can lead to resistant bacteria. And I'm not sure why you'd have a problem with genetically modified rice if it would increase the food supply safely. ll of these things have been relatively well studied and there appears to be no evidence to support any indication that this these practices are harmful to humans.

There are so many people that take a fearful view without evidence, but such fears are scientifically unfounded.

Also, movies and TV aren't necessarily great sources of information. They're entertainment first and foremost, and to put it charitably, not always especially factually accurate.

> no evidence to support any indication that this these practices are harmful to human

You haven't heard of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or Mad Cow Disease)?


The likely cause of that disease was farmers feeding cows other cows (in the form of meal).

Lots of strange stuff happens in the name of making a profit.

It's well known why you shouldn't feed a species to itself; they will be susceptible to the same pathogens, and the pathogens will accumulate from one generation to the next.

Why are you making the leap from this to unrelated practices?

That practice was legal in the US up until 2009 and while that one is now gone, there are plenty of other whacky practices used in its place.

As a replacement the next wacky idea was to feed cows with chicken manure mixed in hay.

The only problem is cows can still be fed to chickens and the cows then eat the chicken crap, so exactly has changed?


Where am I meant to make the logical leap to "this is a bad thing"? Keeping a cow healthy prior to it being slaughtered seems like a good thing, as far as I can tell, and I don't know of any great evils coming from corn feed, other than the increased land and water cost. The use of antibiotics is something I have my own concerns on, but I fail to see what it has to do with GMO rice and feeding cows corn.

Ah, but they sound harmful!

They don't taste good.

What doesn't "taste good"? Almost all modern food is Genetically Modified at some level, all meat has hormones as well so not sure specifically what constitues tasting good with that.

Are you saying hormones make things taste bad? Have you blind A-B tested that assumption? Same for "GM" food? Also what exactly is constituted as GM? Is Corn a GM food or still "natural" because we just used selective pressure and chose what populations of maize was able to continue to the next iteration?

To be honest the Sturm und Drang over GM foods while seeminly well meaning seems to belie similarities to the climate change deniers. If humans do it it somehow is implicitly bad, but almost all modern food isn't "natural", assuming we define natural as without impact from humanity. (yes the link is tenuous, but its similar to zombie stories being tales of human hubris gone awry, and alien invasions being worries of the unknown. GM being our hubris, climate change being fear of the unknown or inability to be able to control our future)

If the arguments against GM for example are against terminator genes, sure valid, but even if those genes spread, I doubt they'll get selected for too long in the wild.

In addition, without the option of GM foods, how does everyone propose we feed an ever increasing population of humans without impacting the environment any more than we already have? I personally foresee insects and other alternative protein sources as an inevitability. What is being proposed as alternatives that will scale to the sizes we need? I'm honestly curious here despite how the tone of my post might come off but anti GM foods in general strikes me as the same strain of anti-science as anti-climate change. Sure be conservative with changes, but most GM is pretty mundane.

This is a pure anecdotal data point, but as someone who travels a lot: American meat is bland. I don't know if it is hormones, climate, food stock, herding conditions, or what, but it's definitely true in my experience.

It's not only about GM food, but about the taste of food in general. I come from a small country where the food is not produced by huge farms, but by the people in their tiny or small farms. The lack of money and technologies makes them use the same technologies like 100 years ago (except tractors). The downside is that they depend on weather, and the crop per hectare is not so big like in highly agriculture-industrialized countries. But the food tastes very different. Now I live in a huge country, where the small farmers won't be able to produce all the food that is needed and it took me a year to get used to the taste of the local vegetables and meat. I don't know and I don't care if GM is bad or good for my health, the same about hormones in meat. I just want my food to taste good.

An anti-GMO comment is the top comment on a story about US spying? This place is starting to veer into Alex Jones territory.

I may not be able to speak for anybody else but I find the GMO debate has many parties with multiple (even conflicting) goals. Personally the primary opposition I have with GMO is the very murky patent environment. It's no secret that Monsanto engages in patent warfare and manipulates legal systems across the world to stamp out competition.

GMO foods can bring about a revolution to the world because it's an interesting intersection between engineering and biology.

> Personally the primary opposition I have with GMO is the very murky patent environment. It's no secret that Monsanto engages in patent warfare and manipulates legal systems across the world to stamp out competition.

I just don't see what that has to do with GMO. Your beef is with the IP system. It's like saying software sucks because software companies abuse the patent system.

I'm going to freely speculate here, but this seems obvious enough to any observer of international relations just to come out with it. Let's just call this story the way it is.

EU governments have been in bed with the US for decades with spying. Yes, they've postured and done a bunch of things to make themselves look good -- Google had better watch their step -- but at the end of the day the EU is as guilty as any other country. If you don't understand that, you should read up more. Intel is traded freely among EU states and the U.S. What the EU states don't get from spying on their own folks, the U.S. provides them. And let's not even get into the "special" relationship that the majority English-speaking nations have with each other.

Now that they're in a PR corner over the Snowden revelations, of course, it's time for a lot of invective, investigations, and all sorts of spectacles. None of which will dig out the truth. But it will be awfully exciting, and I'm sure my good friends across the pond will hang on every bit of new data.

But there's no Snowden over there, so there's no huge revelation, and all the players have no motivation to start coming clean, so a full understanding of just what the various EU intelligence services are doing in regards to privacy is about as likely as scientists discovering the moon is made of bleu cheese.

And for good reason. What's often overlooked in this discussion, and I rant about the security state as much as anybody else, is that some of this is absolutely necessary and proper for a free society to prosper. It's a question of limits, and of degrees of intrusion. It's not a black and white issue. The way forward isn't to tear it all down, it's to have a public investigation that sets some hard limits for what is and isn't acceptable to the populace.


> It's a question of limits, and of degrees of intrusion.

Great point. Honestly, my biggest issue with this is the secret nature of the FISA court and the near 100% approval for warrants.

You NEED to have watchdogs for the watchers. You can't simply have massive ABC orgs having all of this information unchecked like it is now.

The cat is out of the bag however. We can't simply stop using our technology, the question is like what you said: regulation and discussion of how to use this technology.

Well, the 100% stat doesn't mean much by itself either. We should expect the government to be bringing cases with fairly solid proof for starters, so 100% is nearly indistinguishable from the ideal scenario.

But more importantly if the judge indicates they won't sign it without changes, then the changes get made and it ends up eventually counting as a signed warrant.

If the judge says they won't sign that warrant at all then the government withdraws it before formally filing it; again, keeping the stat near 100%.

In fact the only warrants by these metrics that wouldn't end up signed are the ones that the government felt so sure about that they didn't even bother vetting it with the judge first before formally submitting it, and the judge had to actually reject it.

With all that said, I do agree that this standard of oversight is severely lacking compared to the capabilities of the NSA. Allowing companies to give stats regarding NSLs and other warrants is only the tip of the iceberg of improvements that are needed to transparency, oversight, and accountability; not just with PRISM, and not just with NSA.

US to access Europeans' bank data in new deal

The fact that the US was secretly accessing Swift bank data did not come to light until 2006.

The deal gives the US access to bulk data from Swift, a firm that handles millions of bank transactions daily.

A German Liberal MEP, Alexander Alvaro, said the deal "will ensure that terrorist financing can be traced back to its sources, but it will not affect day-to-day bank transfers of EU citizens".

And the leader of the UK Conservative MEPs, Timothy Kirkhope, said it "sends the right signals about our resolve in fighting terrorism and our commitment to remaining a strong partner of the United States".


How can two companies negotiate when one knows every detail of the other, but not vice versa. One will always take everything 'left on the table' from the negotiation, and the other will just scrape along until a bump in the road, where they'll have no fat left to survive and will go bankrupt.

The US needs to show that there are proper checks and balances on their information collection, that the data only leaves company servers when a judge signs off that there's reasonable suspicion of a crime, and that anyone subpoenaed gets automatically notified after some reasonable period of time.

Maybe, just maybe, this might get the US government to stop, or at least drastically limit its spying operations.

Criminals that go to jail aren't rehabilitated, they just learn to be better criminals.

Governments that get busted doing shady shit don't rehabilitate themselves, they just learn to hide it better.

This post makes no sense. Saying 'Criminals' become better criminals in prison is oppressive and discriminatory and how on earth it is related to this issue at all I do not know.

People that get caught doing something they are inclined to do but shouldn't tend to become better at getting away with it next time.

Perhaps, or they just don't do it again. Not all people in jail go back. Generalising things like you have here is not helping anyones understanding on the issue

No, I wasn't especially precise but it's reasonable to assume that I'm rational enough to understand that not everybody that's released from jail re-offends, but it's fairly common: 60% for the US and 50% for the UK. [1] Likewise, sometimes governments fix their own wagon when they get caught doing some shady shit; often they don't.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recidivism#Recidivism_rates

You mean the next government will be more careful at hiding shaddy deals. The previous won't be reelected ever again.

So better analogy will be a criminal jailed for life, and other criminals perfecting their crimes because of fear.

You just exposed a cynical assumption I tend to make, that government continues more or less unchanged over long periods of time no matter who is elected. Much like a human replaces most of their cells every x years and is essentially the same organism, government just replaces most of the old faces with fresh faces that do much the same as the previous generation.

> Maybe, just maybe, this might get the US government to stop, or at least drastically limit its spying operations.

And the irony would be that the US needed foreign gov'ts to accomplish what its own citizens could not do.

One would think so, but from Keith's mouth, it seems like the solution is to do more of the same (of which has taken us to this point).

Why should the US sign free trade agreements?

The US was screwed by signing NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the USA and Mexico beginning in 1994).

A bit of history: From c. 1950-1980, unions had a monopoly on labor supply in many industries. This allowed them to charge monopoly pricing, so employees gained a greater share of the wealth generated by their businesses.

With the opening of US borders to foreign trade (NAFTA was a part of this trend, but I mark its beginning with President Nixon's visit to China), elimination of most tariffs, and lower worldwide shipping costs due to improved logistics and technology, manufacturing became fungible between countries. So manufacturers largely relocated to other countries like China or Mexico with lower wages and laxer regulations.

I grew up in a manufacturing-heavy area that was economically devastated by these changes, and only now, decades later, is starting to recover. So I was exposed to the anti-free-trade position quite a bit, and I'm familiar with all its arguments; they sound convincing. And free trade's results look awfully poor.

So can anyone explain to me the incentives of free trade agreements from the US's point of view? Or if there aren't any, the political or strategic reasons they've gotten signed regardless of their drawbacks?

The answer is simple. Imagine how successful your manufacturing union would be if it had a monopoly on manufacturing labor within your state. Now imagine how successful it would be if your employer couldn't sell the products you manufactured to anyone outside your state.

Free trade gives American companies access to markets to sell their products, and it gives citizens (and not just those lucky enough to be in a union), access to products that would normally be more expensive if they were forced to buy from a monopoly (either on labor or on capital).

That argument is strong enough that 87.5% (in other words, a supermajority of economists on both the right and left) would abolish trade restrictions altogether if they had their way. http://ew-econ.typepad.fr/articleAEAsurvey.pdf

> imagine how successful it would be if your employer couldn't sell the products you manufactured to anyone outside your state.

Well, but that's imaginary. We have free trade within all 50 states. That's reasonable, for what you get in return - greater equality (wages for the less skilled), happier people.

If there is sufficient economic competition then free-trade agreements have limited economic impact, however the non-economic benefits are numerous. I'm not going to debate the legitimacy of 'monopoly pricing' and unions because that debate will degenerate quickly.

In addition to elimination of tariffs, import quotas, and preferential sourcing of goods and services, FTAs enforce/encourage open-border policies that enable the free movement of people between different jurisdictions. FTAs are a step towards greater integration with other nations.

I have a theory. I think that posts like this get upvoted because some people now use HN as their only news source and think that if world news does not make the front page, they will miss something vital. I promis, this is the last time this year I am going to complain about political posts being on the front page. I also promise to spend more time flagging this crap in the New section. At this point I would rather see a discussion of whether glass flows.

It's political and economic theater.

1. Either the EU members did not want this trade agreement from the start, or they will use this as leverage to get a better deal, or something extra.

2. The various EU member countries knew full well what was going on. And have their own spying operations and networks in place.

3. The various EU member countries would do the same type of spying as the U.S. does - if they could.

The idea that the U.S. should just "play fair" is so naive that it's self-destructive. Because no one "play's fair" in this world-wide, complicated, and high-risk/high-reward game. This is how the economical and geo-political game is.

And this is why these leaks are so damaging to the U.S. and its citizens. It exposes the truth, for the sake of the truth, and does nothing else. Because for that something else to happen, whatever it is, it has to happen on a global scale, and since countries are in a natural state of competition for resources and benefits, it can't, and the game remains the same...

That is, we can stop the spying, but no one else will. We can stop the exploitation, but no one else will. Doing so will just cause us to drop down to the lowest rank in this game, while everyone else runs to grab what's left on the table.

Why is this being downvoted? It's somewhat cynical, but pretending that international competition isn't a major driver in all of this seems bizarre.

I wonder if they will also grant Snowden asylum. I don't see how they could argue against doing so while kicking up a stink over the spying.

Must we continue to carry water for U.S. political factions by discussing this manufactured pseudo-news? How about we get back to the real story of the IRS election rigging that the administration desperately wants to be forgotten. Or the insane war in Syria where they are backing Al Qaeda and their nasty friends.

No, we have to keep chewing over these planted stories about how we are shocked, shocked to find spying going on at the NSA. This week we are to believe that France, Germany, and Britain are poor helpless waifs who are going to pick up their alms bowls and go back to their orphanage because mean ole Unca Sam was sneaky.

Echelon bait: nuclear, cosmic ray backscatter, intrusion countermeasure.

How is this "pseudo-news"? It sounds very important and "newsworthy" to me.

Because it is not news! Every nation gathers as much information as it can, generally with total disregard for politeness and fair play. From time to time a competent journalist will write an exposé of the NSA, MI6, the FSB, etc. The exposés generally sink without a trace as the public finds signal and analysis nerds to be boring.

So why is this time different? Why does a narcissistic leaker like Snowden stay in the press for weeks, when exposés with deep, careful rsearch get ignored?

Because somebody needs the story to have staying power. It is a distraction from the real story, the wholesale rigging of the American politics by the IRS. We have a pretender in the White House and what we get are endless papparazzi stories about what hotel Snowden mght be staying in.

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