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Feds Threatened to Fine Yahoo $250K Daily for Not Complying with NSA's PRISM (wired.com)
784 points by suprgeek on Sept 12, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 237 comments



This is nothing compared to what allegedly happened to QWest. When the US Government was forcing telecom by telecom to install taps into their business's core routing hubs Joseph Nacchio, the CEO at the time, dug his heels in demanding legal avenues to avoid turning his back on QWest's customers. The US threatened to pull out large contracts that made up a large part of QWest's business.

Furthermore, having been served a National Security Letter, Nacchio was not able to speak to his company or shareholders about the situation.

Nacchio continued to insist on legal avenues and Uncle Sam did exactly what it threatened. Nacchio warned major stakeholders that all of the major QWest contracts were about to go belly up.

The US government threw Nacchio in prison for insider trading.

Oh and then QWest went bankrupt and was bought by competitor CenturyLink (who presumably had fewer difficulties complying).

Sometimes the market has more than one invisible hand.

Edit: A good point by a fellow commentor - no independent investigation has been performed into the QWest story. I looked but could not find FOIA information online.


Reprising a comment from a long time ago:

Nacchio was convicted of running a pump-and-dump insider trading scam that netted him ~$100MM at the expense of common public shareholders. If there's an award for "most obnoxious implication of NSA's wrongdoing", it should go to the attempted rehabilitation of people like Nacchio.

Here's the indictment. It's quite straightforward.

http://extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site36/2007/0307...

Here's the cliff notes:

"No later than December 4, 2000, through and including September 10, 2001, NACCHIO was aware of material, non-public information about Qwest’s business, including, but not limited to" [litany of distressing concerns about Qwest's bottom line which ultimately proved dispositive in valuing Qwest].

Note the date.

Now, look at this table of Nacchio's stock sales:

http://oi60.tinypic.com/2n1tgr6.jpg

Nacchio claims to have believed that secret national security government contracts were going to rescue Qwest from their financial problems (note the implicit concession that Qwest had problems from which its financials needed to be rescued). One tie-in between Nacchio and NSA is the notion that by refusing requests from NSA, Nacchio lost those contracts. Stipulate that this is true; it's a plausible complaint. Nacchio still took the money and ran.


As has been noted below: an indictment is not a legal finding of fact. It's the worst possible case that the prosecution can make against the defense (in a criminal case). In a civil case, this would be the circumstance of the opening briefs of either side.

An indictment will read very clearly, because that's how it's written.

What it fails to do is take into account any exculpatory evidence or claims.

This isn't proof against Nacchio. You've mistaken a court finding for a lawyer's filing.


But wasn't he found guilty?


Presenting an indictment as fact is dangerous and highly questionable, whether or not the person got convicted.

That doesn't mean the indictment is accurate, it is written at a point where it hasn't been scrutinized by the courts. They are pretty much always written as the very extreme position of what could have happened. They always present the offender as having clear intentions of breaking the law, when reality is much more complex. For example, they always throw in extra charges. In this case:

> Nacchio was convicted in 2007 of 19 counts of insider trading and acquitted on 23 counts. [1]

Prosecutors have to prove it's plausible the guy did it, they don't have an obligation to present an accurate or realistic scenarios in their original pre-trial arguments in order to win. Even the judgement by the courts can be inaccurate, this is why appeals courts are super important:

> The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the trial judge overstated the amount of Nacchio's alleged financial gain.

[1] http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=8226761


OK, fair enough. But, uh, he is guilty of insider trading right?


Yes he was on 19 counts. But to the OP's point he is also notable for this:

> Joseph P. Nacchio was the only head of a communications company to demand a court order, or approval under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, in order to turn over communications records to the NSA.

His conviction doesn't disprove he lost government contracts for fighting back against the NSA, only that he attempted to financially benefit from his unique knowledge of it. As even tptacek admits, it's a very plausible complaint. And one now effectively derailed.


I do not think the complaint is plausible. I think that even if you stipulate that it is, the case is strong on its own merits. There's a difference between stipulating a point and conceding it.


That was the court's finding.


The overstated it by using the wrong metric: proceeds, not profits. The facts of the case, which demonstrate Nacchio selling out of his position in his own company based on private information unavailable to his common shareholders, remain (so far as I can see) unimpeached.

Why are you defending this person?


Why? To support the point that citing an indictment is a highly questionable approach to attacking someones credibility, especially after witnessing it effectively derail the conversation in this thread.

The insider trading case does not disprove that QWest faced serious economic repercussions for non-compliance.

The question of whether his insider trading charge, which was filed by the SEC four years after his initial actions at QWest, was a response to his non-compliance is a lot less likely. But publicly discrediting your opponents sounds like the type of thing particular agencies do best.


I don't even know how to respond to this comment, because I don't see where Nacchio's "credibility" is even on the table.

The guy was convicted of defrauding his shareholders out of many millions of dollars. The basic fact pattern supporting the allegation is there in black and white; his attorneys have, from what I've read, acknowledged those facts.


The gov't builds cases using the testimony of criminal conspirators against their accomplices all of the time. Are all of those cases are a sham? If no, then all of your noise about Nacchio's stock sales is irrelevant to the matter of whether the government's prosecution was in retaliation against him.


I believe this is a non sequitur argument.

I'm not arguing that the government didn't "retaliate" against Nacchio. I have actually no idea whether they did or didn't (it's tricky to tease it out given the timing of the prosecution, which again happened during a wave of similar prosecutions).

My point is that people should be wary about rehabilitating people like Nacchio. The accepted facts of that case do not paint a sympathetic picture.

There are good, strong arguments against NSA surveillance and coercive interventions with industry. They should survive inconvenient facts. But that's not even what's being asked right now. The only question here is, are those arguments damaged by the refutation of one single very convenient fact?

This happens all the time on HN: people really seem to want to observe the world through the lens of their issues. I have trouble with that. I think the NSA needs drastically better regulation, and that some of their actions warrant criminal justice attention. But I have an even bigger problem with accepting what seem to be obvious falsehoods in the service of that perspective.


Unless I am missing something, your premise is that Nacchio is a cheat, and therefore we should discount anything he says about the motives behind the government's prosecution of him. Is that correct? Need I remind you that the government are confirmed cheats and liars here, as well? The judge who tried and sentenced him? Resigned in disgrace afterwards from some sort of sex scandal. See how Ad Homs work?

As for peoples' sympathy for Nacchio, I'll tell you that I think that a company executive who cheats on stock options is not a rare thing. It's not my favorite thing, but the degree to which that affects me personally is close to nil; but a telecomm executive who (allegedly) told the NSA to piss off is something that affects me, and worth a second glance. Nacchio has been consistent in his denials and allegations throughout and continues to be to this day.

Here is an interview from March. http://www.foxbusiness.com/business-leaders/2014/03/27/forme...

And one from May http://denver.cbslocal.com/2014/05/28/defiant-joe-nacchio-la...

>But I have an even bigger problem with accepting what seem to be obvious falsehoods in the service of that perspective.

What seem to be? They either are obvious falsehoods or they are not. And, I have to tell you that the things that are obvious to you and the things that are obvious to me are not always of the same set. I can't even begin to imagine what kind of saint a person would have to be to earn standing in your court.


No! That is not my premise!

I do not care what Nacchio has to say. You can find anything he says compelling and that is fine.

I am saying that independent of anything Nacchio has to say, he does not appear to have been convicted on trumped-up charges. But that belief is extremely common; even Jason Kottke featured it on his popular blog.


>No! That is not my premise!

Good, and thanks for clearing it up.

>I am saying that independent of anything Nacchio has to say, he does not appear to have been convicted on trumped-up charges. But that belief is extremely common; even Jason Kottke featured it on his popular blog.

That's fine, but I don't think it makes much difference if the charges were trumped up or legit. When you've got the NSA, you don't always need to trump up charges. Just be patient, catch your mark breaking some law. Maybe give the mark a little nudge if needed. One of Nacchio's complaints was that he wasn't allowed to disclose certain exculpatory facts in public.


OK, some meat I can bite into: "he does not appear to have been convicted on trumped-up charges".

The amount at hand was (curse HN for hiding the parent thread), ~$100m. Let's be generous and say as much as $250m. A significant amount? Yes. As much as has remained unprosecuted in other significant cases of fraud.

Pardon my French here.

Hell. Fucking. No.

I'm answering briefly in the midst of a number of other tasks and with a slow system, so I'm not even going to pretend that my case here is complete or entirely cogent.

But as memory serves, there was a financial bailout in recent memory on the order of $650 billion dollars, and some trouble in the real-estate sector. So it's not clear to me just how significant a $100m case is. Especially if other circumstances (noted above) meant the government was itself influencing the financial outcome (and limiting disclosure).

The question is less one of fabricated enforcement than selective enforcement, along with concerns over parallel construction.

Moreover, coercive punishment is straight out of Machiavelli or any two-bit warlord. How do you get your underpaid and resentful soldiers to do unspeakable things to the enemy on the battlefield? Threaten doing unspeakable things to them, their loved ones, and belongings yourself. That is a huge concern in any surveillance state.

I was curious as to just how Nacchio's case measures up with other prosecutions, and, actually, it's a pretty good-sized dollar amount, if one accepts the prosecutors' accounting. From the FBI, other financial crimes prosecuted 2007-2011:

http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/financial-cri...

"On December 6, 2010, the FFETF-Securities Fraud Working Group held a national press conference to announce the conclusion of OBT. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder gave remarks on behalf of DOJ. In coordination with the national press conference, local press conferences were held across the country by U.S. attorneys participating in the operation. The operation involved 343 criminal defendants nationwide and more than 120,000 victims with losses attributable to alleged criminal activity of more than $8 billion."

That works out to an average of $23 million per defendant.

Also:

"As of the end of FY 2011, the FBI was investigating 1,846 cases of securities and commodities fraud and had recorded 520 indictments/informations and 394 convictions against this criminal threat. Additional notable accomplishments in FY 2011 include: $8.8 billion in restitution orders; $36 million in recoveries; $113 million in fines; and $751 million in forfeitures. The chart below reflects securities and commodities fraud pending cases from FY 2007 through FY 2011."

Assuming $8.9 billion at hand, $17.1 million per indictment (not clear if cases involved multiple indictments).

Health care fraud (HCF):

"The following notable statistical accomplishments are reflective in FY 2011 for HCF: $1.2 billion in restitutions; $1 billion in fines; $96 million in seizures; $320 million in civil restitution; and over $1 billion in civil settlements. The chart below reflects HCF pending cases from FY 2007 through FY 2011."

The link also gives some idea of case volume and significant cases:

Corporate fraud pending cases ranged from 529 for FY 2007 to 726 for FY 2011.

Securities and Commodities fraud pending cases: 1,217 FY 2007 to 1,846 FY 2011.

Mortgage fraud "suspicious activity reports.

FY 2007: 45,717. FY 2011: 93,508.

Dollar losses (millions), pending cases:

    2007: $813, 1,199
    2008: $1,491, 1,642
    2009: $2,798, 2,794
    2010: $3,238, 3,129
    2011: $3,029, 2,691

Significant cases (various categories):*

Beazer Homes: Involved restitution of $50 million Colonial Bank and Taylor, Bean & Whitaker: Attempt to fraudulently acquire $553 million in TARP funding.

Galleon Group: Insider trading. No specific amount, but Galleon had $7 billion in assets.

Joseph Blimline, Porvident Royalties: $485 million fraud against 7,700 investors.

A&O Entities: $50 million diverted to personal benefit, another $100 million in Ponzi scheme, totalling $150 million for the seven defendants.

Nicholas Cosmo: A "several-hundred-million-dollar Ponzi scheme". $179 in restitution.

_Health care_

Glaxosmithkline: "A $600 million civil settlement under the False Claims Act was agreed upon in addition to $150 million in criminal fines and forfeiture."

American Therapeutic Corporation: "its owners and operators of facilities have submitted approximately $205 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare".

_Mortgage fraud_

Luis Belevan, The Guardian Group: "defrauding at least 1,800 local distressed homeowners out of a $1,595 upfront fee for bogus promises of assistance .... Belevan generated almost $3 million in funds in just nine months"

Howard Shmuckler, the Schmuckler Group: "lients paid fees ranging from $2,500 to $25,000 to modify the terms of their mortgages" (no cumulative dollar amount specified).

Carl Cole, David Crisp: 140 fraudulent mortgage transactions on 108 properties with loans totaling $142 million.

_Financial Institutions_

Anthony Raguz: 1,000 fraudulent loans totalling $70 million, $1 m in bribes, etc., failure of St. Paul Croatian FCU for $170 million in losses.

Gary Foster, Citigroup: "embezzlement of more than $22 million from Citigroup."

William T. Hernandez: "ordered to pay $453,819 in restitution for embezzling money".

_Financial Institution Failures_

Donna Shebetich: "underreported millions of dollars in delinquent mortgages". Bank had $15.8 m in assets.

Elexa Manos: "a scheme to steal $4 million from the Dwelling House Savings & Loan".

Robert E. Maloney, Jr.: "a multi-million-dollar fraud and money laundering conspiracy." So, at least $2 million.

Other categories: insurance fraud, mass marketing fraud,

_Money laundering_

Barclays, NY: "This investigation resulted in the forfeiture of $298 million."

Credit Suisse: "This investigation resulted in the forfeiture of $536 million, which was the largest forfeiture ever received for this type of violation."

_Forensic Accountant_

Fair Finance: "over 5,000 victim-investors totaling approximately $200 million in loss."

Galleon Group: "largest hedge fund insider trading scheme in history." No dollar amount, but $7 billion in the fund per above.

American Therapeutic Corporation: restitution payments of $87 and 72.7 million, totalling $159.7 million.


An average federal indictment's stating of base facts ("on February 13th Nacchio sold 180,000 shares") is much more trustworthy than, say, the average Wikipedia page.

In court, the standard is that the prosecution should prove its case to the jury of the accused's peers beyond a reasonable doubt. That's great and should stay that way.

But for the purposes of Internet message board discussion, there's no need for that high of a threshold. The appeal didn't say Nacchio didn't insider-trade; just that his gains should be considered gains-less-taxes.


Not GP, but:

⚫ Defendants are entitled to defense. You might even say it's in the name.

⚫ People are entitled to exploration and speculation of both history and legal issues. Legally guaranteed that right in some places.

⚫ Why are you so intent on prosecuting him? For that matter, I note a pretty pronounced pro-Spook bias in many of your posts.

⚫ The circumstances which lead to Qwest's precarious financial state were largely, some might say entirely, the result of the Government's actions against the company for failure to comply with NSL and other intelligence requests.

⚫ I see nothing even in the prosecution's case which establishes that the sale of stock 1) wasn't part of a longer-term asset sale, that 2) it wasn't part of a pre-planned asset divestiture plan. Quite common, there's been previous discussion on HN, I believe, on planned sales by Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft stock.

⚫ If some of the "material, non-public information" related to surveillance requests, Nacchio was pretty much in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation. Specifically: he was culpable if he disclosed the reason for target undershoots, or if he didn't.

The point remains that the document you've provided as definitive evidence is anything but.


Do you understand what a stipulation is? Nacchio acknowledged the trades I posted from the indictment. Your argument seems to depend on recognizing a dispute where none exists.


The trades having happened doesn't mean that the rest of the Government's case was relevant. Were there other trades outside this period?


Did you see what percentage of his holdings those were?


Actually, no, and that didn't seem to be apparent in the materials posted. Do you feel like telling me or should I start playing 20 questions or consulting my talismans?


Actually doing research to back your arguments up isn't a game of 20 questions. Facts aren't talismans.


Well, it's a tough job defending the "agencies" in every circumstance, but someone has to do it.


(This comment was killed by user flags. I'm unkilling it to reply.)

That's a cheap shot. As you know, personal attacks are not welcome on Hacker News.

You usually do a good job of forcefully arguing your positions while remaining civil. We need you to keep doing that. Please set a right example, not a wrong one. This stuff matters.

It weakens your arguments when you stoop to the lower levels, anyway.


I, for one, can completely understand the feelings of frustration behind the statement. Also note how forcefully arguing positions managed to derail the entire thread above into unnecessary bickering about what basically amounts to a matter of nuance (as happens so often in discussions about NSA scandals, hence the frustrations), while this cheap shot, in fact, did not. Quality of discussion, you be the judge.

I get your point about remaining civil (though I disagree that stooping to lower levels always weakens one's arguments), and I commend you for taking such a proactive role in this, I really do. Sometimes though, discourse here has different problems than strictly has to do with civility, when I open a thread about yet another NSA scandal and I see tptacek pushing the very same hot button again and again, derailing all top discussion into something that has little if anything to do with the topic. Yes sure he is often technically correct, but he's a smart guy (really smart, and that is when I'd expect better, wouldn't you?), knowing very well that what and how he writes makes people think he's defending the NSA somehow. Somebody will engage, and the by now very familiar pattern unrolls in the same way it always does, taking up parts of the thread-space that could've been useful and interesting discussion. He could also make the same statement in a much less inflammatory way. Or simply not at all, because in this particular case he was pre-empting a sentiment that nobody actually claimed.

In short, I don't think forcefully arguing their positions would have addressed the frustrations that gave cause to coldtea's "cheap shot" (I can't really speak for him of course), but rather the opposite.


Feelings of frustration are often understandable, but the point is that if we are to have a high-quality discourse here, we can't let them determine the comments we post. There are some contexts in which pugilism and intellect go together just fine, but experience has shown that Hacker News is not one of them.

It's particularly harmful when a good writer or established user goes there, because then everybody else does and it's degenerate internet goo for the lot of us.

The old line about heat vs. light comes to mind. We can't have both. Hacker News is about clearing a place for thoughtful conversation, or at least trying to. This is not a subject matter thing, it's a quality thing.


I'm just glad PRISM is nothing but an extremely expensive Rube Goldberg contraption for responding to warrants. Golly, why did Yahoo bother going to court to fight the notion that when a court issues a warrant ...

"Yahoo also felt that warrantless requests placed discretion for data collection 'entirely in the hands of the Executive Branch without prior judicial involvement' thereby ceding to the government 'overly broad power that invites abuse” and possible errors that would result in scooping up data of U.S. citizens as well.'

Oh.


I think you may have accidentally moved the goalposts here. The claim wasn't that PRISM was restricted to warrants; it handles what are in effect court orders (more specifically, FISA collection directives) which are not warrants.

When stories about PRISM first leaked, there was intense speculation that it was a system that gave the NSA direct access to servers.


What I don't understand, is that if the NSA is tapping all the routers why do they need PRISM at all? Or is the haystack so large they tap the whole thing AND collect from the providers.


Sure, but that's how they are going to get anyone in the end, especially with their current mass spying capabilities and fishing expeditions. Remember this?

http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB100014240527487044715045744...

If you don't cooperate with whatever they want you to do they'll get you for something, and then they'll paint you as the scum of the Earth in the media, so nobody pays too much attention to what they did exactly.


Is your point that he wasn't a criminal, but had evidence and charges trumped because of his resistance? Or is your point that everyone that powerful has done something illegal, and those that are caught are "painted as scum" because of unrelated actions?

In one case, we have a socially decent person (fuck "law abiding", in this context) who is wronged by "justice".

In the other case, we have someone who got away with something wrong, only to be nailed for something else.

One person is a "solid citizen" (placed in quotes because, again, who knows what the fuck that means).

The other is Al Capone.

I don't know if I'm OK with going after Capone for reasons-unrelated-to-the-real-reason (taxes versus criminal conspiracy), but I think it's important to acknowledge the difference.


Everyone has done something which is technically illegal or could be painted in a bad light. This is an old truth best stated by Richelieu - If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I'll find something in them which will see him hang.

Something like insider trading is a particularly grey area, because directors trade all the time with more knowledge than the public (how could they not), and leaks of information happen all the time without punishment. I don't know all the details of this particular case, but I'd be skeptical of taking the conviction at face value, given the willingness of some branches of the US government to openly lie to the public, distort the truth, bypass or neuter the judicial branch, and vindictively punish and vilify those who refuse to cooperate in illegality or blow the whistle on their activities.

More generally, whether you take a conviction as a proof of moral turpitude relates to how much faith you have that the justice system in a given country is operating in a just, transparent and fair manner. If you don't have that faith, a criminal conviction means nothing in moral terms.


Nacchio isn't accused of one of those "transporting the wrong species of muskmelon across state lines" crimes. He was convicted of defrauding his own shareholders out of many many millions of dollars. It's worth adding that the conviction happened during a famous wave of prosecutions of similar crimes at Worldcom, Anderson, Enron, &c.


If you're only going after Al Capone because you can't get him for other crimes and other tax evaders go free that's still selective enforcement.


Whether something is evil "selective enforcement" or good "prosecutorial discretion" really does seem to depend on the optics of the case, doesn't it?


Definitely, there is no such thing as an objective truth when it comes to things such as these. But it is possible to reduce the chances of abuse of selective enforcement and prosecutorial discretion by passing laws that are as transparent as possible and by having little to no career effects as a result of such selective enforcement if and when they take place.

Otherwise you make a law for Al Capone and you end up prosecuting Aaron Swartz.


>In one case, we have a socially decent person (fuck "law abiding", in this context) who is wronged by "justice". In the other case, we have someone who got away with something wrong, only to be nailed for something else. One person is a "solid citizen" (placed in quotes because, again, who knows what the fuck that means). The other is Al Capone.

No, if "everyone that powerful has done something illegal" then the other is what we call a scape-goat.

Al Capone was in criminal business through and through, not someone who had a legit business and also "had done something illegal", much less something that "everybody that powerful" had also done.

Intent matters too. Catching Al Capone for tax evasion was meant to punish him for his larger serious crimes. Whereas in this situation (if it's as described), the caught the guy for "insider trading" to punish him for something else he did RIGHT.


You of all people should know better than to give any credence to indictments. You know what purpose they serve, right?


The indictment contains stipulated facts, which I took pains to pull out. You've ignored that, and instead chosen to beat up a straw man: the idea that I give credence to everything in the indictment, and that my argument depends on the reader believing the prosecutors.


"You've ignored that, and instead chosen to beat up a straw man: the idea that I give credence to everything in the indictment..."

They may have been confused by you writing, "Here's the indictment. It's quite straightforward." Either way, point is this is yet another NSA thread derailed by a smaller issue (insider trading vs. 4th amendment, domestic spying, etc). It's too bad people choose to engage and let it happen over and over.


http://youtu.be/3jQoAYRKqhg?t=14m17s

I'm not saying that this thread or even HN is a victim of this.

I do want to use this opportunity to contribute that there are NSA programs designed to derail conversations.


Perhaps the person downvoting this could explain why it wasn't relevant to the branch of the conversation.


I agree that Nacchio derailed the thread, but look at the timestamps: there was a sprawling and irrelevant Nacchio thread here before I got here.


Well.. I dont. what purposes do indictments serve?


It's the prosecution making its strongest possible case against the defendant. It's not a court finding of fact or law, but the one-sided case made by the prosecutorial team.


An indictnment is a charge; it is the prosecutors formal presentation of the evidence collected so far that show's that there's enough evidence that a trial should be held.

As such, it's fairly one-sided. It's just what the prosecutor has presented to a grand jury, and the grand jury has said "yeah, that looks like enough evidence that it's worth having a trial." Note also that grand juries these days pretty much always just rubber-stamp whatever the prosecutor puts in front of them.


I've posted this before on the subject, but I particularly like the description given by Ken White at Popehat:

"Rather than tread over the ground well-described by my colleagues in the criminal defense bar, today I'd like to describe something else for you: what a federal grand jury proceeding looks like. From 1995 through 2000, I presented cases of varying complexity to federal grand juries as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles. That experience did not inspire confidence in the process. Rather, it taught me that the adage that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich is an understatement. A better description would be that the prosecution can show a grand jury a shit sandwich and they will indict it as ham without looking up from their newspapers. The notion that the Supreme Court relies upon — that the grand jury has a "historical role of protecting individuals from unjust persecution" — is not a polite fiction. A polite fiction would have some grounding in reality. It's an offensive fiction, an impudent fiction, a fiction that slaps you across the face and calls your mother a dirty bitch."

http://www.popehat.com/2014/02/27/the-kaley-forfeiture-decis...


To indict.


I hasn't look it much recently, but I remember that the only sources for this claim was from Nacchio himself. I wonder what Snowden actually thinks of this claim.


Yes, this is a good caveat. This is what Nacchio claims. I do not have much in the way of a third party source.

It's likely that Snowden doesn't know anything about it.


And this is exactly why we haven't had any leaks until Snowden.


I'm curious why you consider government meddling, blackmail, coercion and manipulation as an "invisible hand"? Purely because it's not known to the populace?


For many reasons, but I'll admit it was mostly a provocative and clever remark more than an informative one.

If you want more meat than that: the US government, and in fact the majority of modern Western-style governments, do not directly control enterprises ("that's fascism/marxism/communism") but there remains a need for governments to interact and leverage infrastructure, information and capabilities of private enterprises - a need that can not be fulfilled by the blunt instrument of eminent domain.

Western style governments instead rely on coercion and leverage and also provide market advantages (and sometimes "Soft Power"; look that up) to achieve policy goals. The idea is then that governments nudge private enterprises to efficiently allocate their resoures for the greater good that individual customers and market pressures can't account for (because the calculus of a consumer doesn't include national strategy and because access to restricted information can't make it into the marketplace).

A fantastic example of that is the global cyberintelligence war, which the US and Five Eyes would very much like to win, and you should a tleask hope that we don't lose. [The vast majority of the Snowden leaks are about international espionage and sabotage (not about 'terrorism', the 2000's boogyman; find more in previous comments by yours truly).] There are other examples such as private enterprises with shared strategic interests having been invited to participate in international treaties like the Trans Pacific Partnership.

This has its own sort of internal self-consistent logic that is somewhat grounded in, although also represents a significant departure from, the ideas of Western 'Enlightenment' thinkers.

A criticism of this sort of leverage is that it has to grow more and more intense as the need, frequency, and scope of demands intensify due to resource exhaustion, accumulating expenses/promises, and competition with large centrally organized states and other Western-style states that are willing to interfere more to compete more (the 'prisoner dilemma' or 'tragedy of the commons' scenario). Every person you ask will give you a different answer on how much of this behavior, if any at all, has been happening.

The current conception of the state is that it must correct the market where it fails to allocate things efficiently (natural monopolies, etc) and that it may also collectivize cost where chance or circumstance have the power ruin individuals (providing emergency services during storms, snowplows during winter, equal access to education even for the poverty stricken) for the same reason people collectivize risk via insurance. But that otherwise it should remain minimal in size. I acknowledge there are debates about the concept of the state that would fill libraries. These are broad strokes.

States have learned that wielding private enterprises for both Soft Power (having the world rely on US company services or Chinese goods, owning water supply [Nestle]) and coercive power (withholding access to treatments and cures of diseases, manipulating social media to stir unrest, exporting favorable financial regulations via the WTO and World Bank [why BRICS made their own]) and by giving domestic corporations favors so that they can compete internationally (traditionally tariffs, huge tax subsidies (sugar), and recently information from the cyberintelligence war) as well as financial manipulations (manipulating currency exchange rates so that they are favored for export) enable them to achieve policy goals. Countries must participate if their competitors are, sort of like a cold war but without the existential threat of annihilation.

So states play a large part in the fluxuations of markets. Some of this is highly public ("Today at 9:00, China bans bitcoins"), but others are surreptitious.

In so many words: because it is 'invisible' and because it is a 'hand'.


Was he actually guilty of insider trading?


My understanding is that since he told major stakeholders what was about to happen, he gave them inside information to trade on and went to jail for that instead of making trades himself.


Isn't that an interpretation refuted by the source material I just provided?


Looks like others in those branches of the thread have replies to those materials. Other thread-goers should read those branches of the discussion to craft their own informed opinions.


I'm not a lawyer so nothing I say below means anything.

From what I can tell - yes - he was guilty of insider trading by the letter of the law. Sharing insider information as CEO about the future of the company with shareholders is by definition insider trading. Despite circumstances, warning that contracts were being gutted is still illegal.


Is it because it was made to the shareholders? If it had instead been announced publically would it have been considered insider trading?


No, sharing information publicly is never insider trading. What makes it insider trading is for one group to have access to information about a company that another group does not have. I believe, from the training I've had, that the standard is usually 48 hours after public disclosure of information before you are allowed to act on it.

Of course, insider trading laws are broken on a minute-to-minute basis by hundreds of corporate executives and others. If you want to nail someone for insider trading, and they have a management position at a company, you could do it fairly easily. White collar crime is very rarely even investigated, let alone prosecuted or punished, though.


On the face of it sounds like a hard to comply with rule. If you worked high-up within a publicly traded company, you'd have to tell no one anything about your job.


So, don't communicate with the shareholders of a public company outside of official company channels. That's a fairly easy rule.


So, launder the information through a third party like Primary Global Research.


Yep, I'm effectively not allowed to trade individual stocks in my job because of the fear of insider trading. And I don't even have access to insider information, it is just possible that I could, at some point, have access to such information. Mutual funds and stuff like that are fine though.


You simply couldn't talk about things that are relevant to your share price.

"My boss was an asshole today." Fine.

"We're about to get bought out for $x million." Very much not fine.


The problem is that you can't go into any normal level of detail without possibly infringing on the law.

Well if your boss was an asshole today, because you can't make any sales that's something you can say as a realtor in a private company, but can't say as the guy trying to close XXX,000 sized seat contracts at a public company because your inability to perform is going to be reflected in the quarterly reports.

> "We're about to get bought out for $x million." Very much not fine.

Here's another example. If your company is in the process of a public merger, and you're publicly involved in the M&A process you can't throw a wild party the day before the public announcement of its success, because someone will inevitably ask "why are you guys celebrating?"


Well, it's not like the governments cannot either manufacture a case to send an innocent man to jail or cover-up a wrongdoing -- they have been caught doing those things time and again.

Heck, there are people that had the death penalty due to planted evidence and/or witnesses in favor of them ignored, only to be found innocent decades later, through newer findings like DNA.

So who really knows, especially in particularly charged cases with special interest like this.


The jury thought so beyond a reasonable doubt.


Weren't these requests, which Yahoo objected to, intended to stay secret, by the wishes of the government?

Consider if Yahoo refused to honor the requests, and began accruing the fines. Presumably, if they didn't pay the huge bill for their fines, what would happen?

Surely, $250k/day would rack up fast... As I see it, eventually Yahoo would rack up such a bill that they couldn't afford it, and any collection of the fee by the government would force Yahoo to close its doors. At that point, surely they'd have to reveal something to the general public about said requests, and the fines, and everything else going on behind the scenes...


I was thinking about that because it seemed like a cost they could just afford to ignore ($91m/yr), this was probably not the limit of the penalties they could have faced.


They'd lock up the execs for "embezzlement".

I could tell you a story about this squeaky clean guy I know who's in prison for fraud, because he refused to comply with a secret court order... but I can't, because I don't want to join him.

I could tell you another story about a barrister I know who had his career destroyed and his wife "suicided" for refusing to do certain things around a trial in the UK - but again, I fear repercussions should I say anything.

In fact, this is probably too much.


You seem to have an inside perspective. Care to share more?


Not really, sorry. I mean, yes, desperately, but I fear repercussions for the individuals concerned, myself, their families, etc.

Suffice to say that of what you read in the press about the misdoings of important individual X should be taken with a heaping of salt and a cynical eye.

We live in the age of assassination without murder.


What about over Tor?


Nay. It isn't really about me, or what I communicate, rather that by discussing the detail it'd make it abundantly clear who I'm talking about - and I do not want to enhance either of their miseries.

Additionally, merely by dint of me being able to know these things about these people it would make clear who I am, as I dare say there are a limited number of folks who have these two in their graph, and an even more limited number who are publicly anti-establishment, and thus potentially negate my ability to do anything positive about this.

Sorry. If I do opt to go public with these tales it'll be via the Grauniad or somesuch, as only with significant clout, correlation and voice will there be any impact - otherwise it'll just be reburied in disinformation.


At some point people would have started being thrown in jail and that's when resistance usually ends.


Right, but what would that look like? Would the FISA court jail a citizen without a trial, and can you imagine a FISA judge wanting to make that call, knowing that their decision will soon become public? Because once someone is prosecuted the U.S. govt would really have difficulty enforcing silence. It's one thing to force a company to be silent about surveillance, it's quite another to force individuals to be silent about being jailed. I'd like to think we haven't gone so far off the tracks that the first amendment wouldn't ultimately triumph in that case.


In an era of 'parallel construction', you build a separate case and use that as leverage.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_construction


That's simply blackmail, not 'parallel construction'.


Just as 'Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder' is simply 'Shell Shock'

Language changes depending on how you want the person to feel about a subject.

if you want people to hate and revile someone for doing something you do call it something strong and fierce (blackmail) if you want to do something yourself make it sound lawful (IE; parallel construction).


It'll get the job done.


it's not so cut and dry, first they discredit you.

then they say you did something illegal and you're immoral.

then you appear like you're lashing out at a government- trying to blame them instead of atoning for past transgressions.


I have read that the FISA court can indeed hold sometime in contempt secretly. For all we know if Yahoo had continued to resist their executives would have simply started disappearing.


It's called 'disappeared' and we're close.


Watch what you say. Final warning.


Over the course of a year, that's equivalent to employing 300 engineers. For a company the size of Yahoo, that would be pretty easy to hide.


That's an interesting comparison, but it's still a pretty big hit. Profits (net income) over the past four quarters were $311 million, the fines would have eaten nearly a third of that, $91.25 million.

For 2008 the percentage may well have been higher.


For internet companies, profits are nearly meaningless. Profits are just a financial game these companies play with Wall Street, moving investments from one quarter or year to another by playing around with amortization and other financial tricks to hit EPS targets, a metric that only makes sense for Coca-Colas and GEs. Revenue is what matters, and the $7.2 billion in revenue Yahoo generated in 2008 leaves plenty of room to hide $90 million over four quarterly earnings reports.


While financial games are a significant issue, I wouldn't discount profit entirely. Looking at the components of cost-of-revenues will give you some idea of how easy that money is.

It's actually a fairly interesting point on reflection. I look at it as metabolic efficiency.

Note that YHOO's profit margins are fairly high as well.


I would discount profit entirely, especially if you are in a growing market. Focusing on profit will make you lose out to other companies that are focusing on growth. In a few years, that other company is going to be dominant in that market and will be able to turn on the profit faucet to help them apply the same idea to another market. Bezos and Schmidt, in particular, have spoken publicly about this business strategy several times. It is the reason companies like Amazon and Netflix can report negative earnings but maintain sky-high valuations.


"As I see it, eventually Yahoo would rack up such a bill that they couldn't afford it, and any collection of the fee by the government would force Yahoo to close its doors."

Yahoo is about to get $20bn+ in cash in about 2 weeks, so they can hold out these fines for about 80,000 days.


If Yahoo continued to resist, I'm sure the government would just gradually increase the amount until they had no choice but to comply.

These kinds of fines are usually issued for contempt of court. Judges don't take kindly to parties that try to ignore a court order, which would include writing off a court imposed fine as a cost of business.

There's few things more terrifying than an angry judge with full power of contempt. There's no principle of proportionality, which gives judges almost unlimited authority. See Chadwick v Janecka (3rd Cir. 2002) as an example.


But Yahoo is a public company and the ones they are punishing is the shareholders. At what point does the government need to tell shareholders that they are siphoning cash?


Fair enough. But it still stands, couldn't Yahoo ignore it?

What's the worst thing the government could do to Yahoo that would go unnoticed by the public, if Yahoo didn't comply?


That's an expensive gamble, with probable jail time somewhere in there for the responsible execs.


I find it very hard to believe any government agency could take Marissa Mayer or anyone on the board off to jail with no reason and not cause a huge stir...


I find it very easy to believe that the NSA could find a crime which Marissa Mayer (or anyone else) is guilty of and carries jail time as a punishment.


If you want to break out the black helicopters, note that it would have to be the FBI that did this.


No. The NSA would find the crime and communicate it to the FBI.

But if your point is that the NSA have no law enforcement role, that's salient.

Also: check your mail WRT http://idlewords.com/bt14.htm

I've posted a few fixes to that (excellent piece BTW) from my gmail account.


I will never check my email. Mwahahahaha!



> Presumably, if they didn't pay the huge bill for their fines, what would happen?

It's easy to think of shady secret things the government could do to coerce Yahoo! in to either complying or paying. But at the end of the day, there's always people with guns.


But at the end of the day, there's always people with guns.

I think the point of the OP is that "people with guns" get to be pretty hard to hide at larger scales.


Luckily companies keep the number of people with actual decision-making power to a very, very small group. Only threatening 1 or 2 people would probably be necessary.


If the other methods failed, why try to hide the guns? Just spin it as though it's in the interest of the public. Governments do that all the time.


it would not be long before they would find a way to put the executives in jail. I do not doubt for one minute they would use other government agencies to intimidate, the IRS chief amongst them.

Not much will change until the people in Washington are changed and changed regularly. the system is engineered to protect those in office and they are very good at manipulating the public into helping them maintain that dominance; namely bills to supposedly prevent money in politics - except it really only blocks money for views that don't support their views.


NATO should be destroyed with furious anger and righteous punishment.


they would just withdraw the money appropriate the company sell it off and install their security amongst employees.

i think I have seen it somewhere, hightway interdiction. I am sure that they have a way to do whatever they want.

nevermind bombing contries that refuse to give up controls to energy resources or are controlling flow of those. like um Syria or Ukraine.


I have a question: Can the NSA/the coercing party be reverse fined at $500k/day by Yahoo (i.e by an organization) for some reasons in similar vein?


Probably... but in order to bring any lawsuit against the US government (presuming they don't pay... which they wouldn't), the US government has to grant you permission to sue them. So chances are that debt would go nowhere.


> (presuming they don't pay... which they wouldn't)

If they did, it would just come out of the pockets of taxpayers anyways.


That's probably one more way to rile up things further and gather attention from the silent _useless_ majority. Just sayin' it!


$250K/day -- someone had to come up with that number.

Was it some high level official? An intern?

I can imagine this dialogue taking place:

----

(Two bureaucrat monkeys. They just got back from lunch from cafeteria at Ft. Meade. Their tummies are bit heavy with greasy hamburgers. Settling in to finish their day before 2pm. One last thing needs to be done -- deciding on this PRISM non-compliance issue)

M0: What if they don't comply?

M1: We'll punish them!

M0: How?

M1: Well...we'll make them pay.

M0: How much?

M1: [Puts pinkie finger to the corner of his mouth] Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a day!

M0: Great idea, M1

(They wrap up before clock hits 2pm. Get in their cars. One goes to pick up kids from soccer practice. Other drives straight home, to his bachelor-pad apartment in College Park, MD).

----

Wonder what and how the people who generated and viewed this documents feel about them being on the front page of news sites. I can only hope they feel a tiny bit violated and betrayed. Kind of like when someone breaks in and steals your things. Or violates your privacy.


Tony: Umm... Control?

Control: Yes, Tony?

Tony: If I may ask, how did you determine this sum of a 150,000 pounds a day?

Control: A very good question, Tony. You see, I simply took the figure that our American cousins have calculated using a supercomputer, and converted the currency.

Tony: That's very clever of you, Control.

Control: Thank you, Tony. It proves that what we lack by way of resources we make up for with good old British ingenuity.


Tony and Control. I can't believe someone even remembers this! Now I'm depressed thinking about how Control had to fire Tony :(


I was already loving your comment, and then you name-dropped College Park, MD my home for 4 years of undergraduate.

But you make a good point. There was a real life human (or humans) on the creating end of that number.

Do you think they believe they're actually fighting for American Freedoms and Security?


Do you think they believe they're actually fighting for American Freedoms and Security

Yes, they probably do think that.


Hmm...if they hadn't complied, in three months more than $20 million would have accrued.

Would that have been material enough to require disclosure in Yahoo's public filings? If so, how would it have been described? It seems as if by complying with SEC regulations, Yahoo would have been forced to violate secrecy rules with regards to the origin of the fine.

That would have been an interesting conundrum.


It certainly would have been material within a short amount of time. One could debate exactly how many quarters that line is hit at, but at $45m to $90m it starts to become very stupid to hide from shareholders from a legal standpoint.

Not reporting the exact details of a $90m acquisition is not a huge deal (for Yahoo). Not reporting on-going government fines that have amounted to $90m in a year, would be a huge deal. One is in theory the acquisition of value and enhances the business, the other is just a black hole of cash destruction.

Further, beyond the money, intentionally doing something against the US Government such that you're getting fined per day, is a big issue for shareholders to know about. Especially given the power the government wields these days.


It would have been very interesting if Yahoo had simply said "do it."

A few months later the government would want to demand Yahoo pay them millions of dollars........ but be entirely incapable of explaining WHY they were owed this money at all. That would have been a very interesting event.


Yahoo would have to take $90M/year charge and either give a reason to the SEC or just declare it classified which would be as good as saying the NSA is taking it.


It's unlikely this would stop at just $90M/year.

There's no reason to believe the daily fine wouldn't continuously increase, or that executives wouldn't eventually be put in jail for contempt.

And keep in mind you can be held in jail indefinitely for contempt of court, as long as you remain in noncompliance.


Not to mention that if they really felt the need to break Yahoo, the Feds have a vast array of ways to do so. The fine is the most trivial approach in their arsenal.

And if we wander into nefarious approaches, well, Yahoo was going to comply no matter what if the Feds felt like they needed it to happen for PRISM to be effective.


And again, good luck sending a Yahoo exec to jail with no public explanation.


At that point they're in contempt of court. There's really no saying how long it would have stayed $250k/day. A week? A month?


I applaud them for fighting this in some way but at the end of the day they'll probably comply somehow.

The curious mind in me would like to see a parallel universe in which a major company responds to these threads by leaving the US entirely (or threatening to do so) and then running an anti agency here campaign for years to spite them. Or maybe a big enough company that takes them heads on and crushes them...well I guess I've been reading too much dystopia fiction recently and am curious how the megacorps > governments scenario would actually be kickstarted.

[the situation is too sad for me to think about it in realistic terms, sorry for the minor derail]


The company I worked for a few years ago (I'm not going to disclose who as I'll get shot) were an EU based insurance org and had a US subsidiary that they used for selling overseas. They had a 5 man legal team to keep the US govt off their backs. In the end they said "fuck it" and closed US operations down one afternoon with no noticed, cancelled everyone's policies and fired everyone (gave them 4 months pay at the same time).

Everyone was told why including the investors.

Not a major company (<$50M capital) but it stirred the pot big time in a particular sector of the insurance industry and pissed off a number of large investors in the US.


Here's a serious question - is the fine secret too? If Yahoo didn't comply and were slapped with a fine, could Yahoo object and table the fine in a court?


That would be an awesome item in the quarterly SEC filing: REDACTED $23M


So that's the price of having principles.


The surest way to remain poor is to be an honest man.


In general people/entities with principles and morals have a higher price to pay. For them it's worth it.


> In general people/entities with principles and morals have a higher price to pay. For them it's worth it.

Or the reality of a destroyed life leads them to suicide as the only way out. Prison is pretty terrible.


What sloppy reporting.

"The company disputed the initial order in 2007 because it deemed the bulk demand for email metadata to be unconstitutionally broad."

That is neither what the government demanded nor the reason Yahoo appealed. How did the reporter get this so wrong?


Let's just say hypothetically Yahoo said "No" and refused to pay the fines.

What happens next? Do the feds forcibly shut down the company?


"But today’s [document] release only underscores the need for basic structural reforms to bring transparency to the NSA’s surveillance activities" and how would those reforms come when majority of population and hence politicians are okay with such surveillance? that's a dream. makes good hacker news debate and nothing beyond that.


Just seeing the dates that the companies complied (or were forced to comply) is disappointing. A full year after Steve Jobs passes and stepped down as CEO, then Apple is added to that list.

Way to go Yahoo for sticking it our then.


A smarter company would have treated the $250K as a marketing expense. It's peanuts compared to what Yahoo earns, and imagine the reaction when people figured out that Yahoo had gone to the mat for its users.


> A smarter company would have treated the $250K as a marketing expense.

That's called 'contempt of court' and would cause the fines to go up the second the judge realized how they took it.


you understand that in order for this to be marketing it needs to be public information.


That's what the multi-million dollar charge marked REDACTED on your quarterly earnings report is for.


Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.


Happened in 2008, revealed today.


Imagine what kind of secret programs are being pushed today that we will hear about in 2020, or longer. I have some guesses but they are so absurd I would be laughed off hn.


Yet we keep electing the same politicians that went along with all this. We deserve the tyranny.


So many people I talk to think the expanding tyranny primarily comes from politicians or bankers or corporations (the blame targets). When it actually comes from their fellow citizens, effectively voting away rights election after election for decades.


The problem is that the system from the beginning was rigged against major change with the two-party system and the way state vs. federal authority is set up.

Most of the rights that we pride ourselves on today were gained by citizen action (strikes, demonstrations) that were more often than not violently oppressed by the authorities, until the pressure threatened to undermine the stability of the system, in which case they threw some bones and progress was made.

One could fear that the advanced state of surveillance, mass media brainwashing, and militarization of police forces has all but closed this avenue for change.


Most of the rights that we pride ourselves on today were gained by citizen action

Most of the rights were gained by those outside of the entrenched power structures, whether it was a handful of founding fathers at the Constitutional Convention, Martin Luther King in the streets of Alabama, or newly-minted labor unions in the early 20th century factories.

Over time, all of these institutions developed and ossified, creating a ruling class that sought to preserve their own power rather than pursue their original missions that were meaningful and beneficial.

has all but closed this avenue for change

I feel like we've definitely passed a point of no return. We've lost the cohesion of purpose in this country to accomplish important things because the ruling class keeps us divided while they remain united, at least for the purpose of amassing power.

The only thing we have going for us is that most of the rest of the world suffers from the same set of problems, so relatively speaking, we're not that bad. The USA was something new for a while where the amassing of money was okay, but citizens recognized the evil of amassed power.


I think the state today is that people are conditioned over decades so much that they even forgot to protest. A few now and then like the Occupy protests which are quelled again and then nothing. I admire the people in the middle east for the bravery at all costs in protesting oppressive regimes


“It was you! You who appointed these people! You who gave them the power to make your decisions for you!

While I’ll admit that anyone can make a mistake once, to go on making the same lethal errors century after century seems to me nothing short of deliberate.

You have encouraged these malicious incompetents, who have made your working life a shambles.

You have accepted without question their senseless orders.

You have allowed them to fill your workspace with dangerous and unproven machines.

You could have stopped them.

All you had to say was “No.

You have no spine. You have no pride.”

— V


"People get the government their behavior deserves. People deserve better than that."


Which was long after 9/11, but right around when the occupy movement and tea party we're coming into being.


Yep, we can read the first sentence of the article too!


Yeah? I'd just refuse to pay, what are they going to do - publicize it?


Dig up that tax report 5 years ago you accidentally did wrong. Unofficially point the MAFIAA towards the fact that your kid pirated few songs and a movie last month. Or find something else entirely. You'll end up in jail or with no money for reasons (on the surface) completely unrelated to the case.


They fought it, but they're complying...


might be worth it actually. if it doesn't increase, and if they can market with it. haha


Dear Yahoo, move to europe


A militarized police state, the state subjugating private businesses according to its needs, state intrusions into the most private spheres of its citizens, executions of US citizens without trial, kidnappings - it all looks like we are moving straight into fascism.

And I'm seeing the same pattern in the EU where I live since it basically copies whatever the US does.

"Fascist governments encouraged the pursuit of private profit and offered many benefits to large businesses, but they demanded in return that all economic activity should serve the national interest."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_of_fascism


Yeah, we've been there for about a decade now, and the mask is slipping off.

The biggest question is what to do, and how to do it. Clearly, we have to fix things, but how do we fix a fascism problem that is deeply ingrained in the roots of power and spans multiple countries economic, social, military, and political structures?


If the US and EU are fascist is there a country that isn't?


The US and Israel now have what the Nazis could only dream about.


Decent jet engines!

Seriously, you typed this statement and thought what? "Now we'll finally have a fruitful discussion on the hacker site"?


Frankly, I am appalled by the LACK of discussion of these topics on this hacker site. Why is there a taboo on politics? Why is it out of reach?

400 innocent children were killed indiscriminately in the span of 6 weeks in Gaza. But your vim configuration is more worthy of discussion here? Idk...


People don't approach politics rationally.

For instance: >400 innocent children were killed indiscriminately in the span of 6 weeks in Gaza

The bias implicit in this suggests that you consider that either someone agrees with your point of view, or else they support the slaughter of innocent children. Which further suggests that what you're looking for is not discussion, but pro-Palestinian advocacy, as there is no room for discussion in your framing. And of course it's impossible for me to suggest the nature of your bias without expressing my own bias.

Which is fine, if that's what you want there are other forums for such things, but that's not what most people come to Hacker News for. One-sided political discussions are not very interesting, and never fruitful.


"The bias implicit in this suggests that you consider that either someone agrees with your point of view, or else they support the slaughter of innocent children."

There is no bias. Either he is lying, or he is not. You can sugar-coat the discussion any way you want to wiggle out of it, but facts and lies are what count.

And yeah, you're right. There is only one side, and that's the side of "the best available truth". Not that people understand any of that jazz with all the "bias" being thrown back and forth in the media. Your post included.

Honestly, I don't even know enough about this recent Gaza/Israel thing. Just commenting on your "bias" retort to the parent's assertion that 400 children were killed.


You are right, I don't understand the situation well enough to have an unbiased or objective opinion about it.


I suspect it's minimised because a) politics is very much a personal thing which b) tends to explode very quickly into name-calling and sniping and c) there's already about 8 jillion political discussion places on the intertents.


Fuck those 8 jillion blabbing places. WE are the only ones who can do something about it! WE, the hackers, the creators of our reality, the readers of this site. Those discussions belong HERE.


Indeed, you'd better get going on your World Peace As A Service startup.


This is not a political discussion forum.


Technical forum is technical.


I do not like how Israel is always portrayed as some thug that is pulling the strings. Israel is a small satellite state of the US in a very important region, therefore Israel is very important to the US in realizing its goals to dominate this region.

Also, the comparison with Nazi Germany is wrong. The US does not have any racial ideology, it wants to dominate economically and militarily, not destroy if it doesn't have to.

A government that is fascist doesn't mean automatically that it has any policies towards certain races. It just means that it gradually removes freedoms of its citizens in every sphere to excert greater control over its population.

The only reason that muslims are victimized on this scale is that mostly muslims live in that region. If the region was mostly habitated by a buddhist or jewish population that isn't compliant with US demands, then buddhists or jews would be the victims.


I don't think he means that Israel is pulling the strings -- but that is debatable (see AIPAC).

I think what he is saying is that the fascist governments and capabilities of Israel and the U.S. would have been envied by Nazi germany.

Maybe he has a point. Just consider the recent round of violence (to put it lightly, some might call it ethnic cleansing) in gaza. Now consider the success of dehumanizing the palestinians to the point where nobody in the world -- not even the arab nations took significant diplomatic action against Israeli aggression. Consider that in context of the scale of destruction of civilian infrastructure and the rate of civilian casualties. Huge propaganda success. All in this day and age of twitter/fb despite near total destruction of Gaza and overwhelming deaths of civilians.

How many countries outside of south america recalled ambassadors? How much divestment? How many canceled contracts gas/weapons/settlement-products? Nothing significant enough to reverse Israeli actions. In the end, Israel only stopped because there was nothing left to destroy.


Oh come on. Do you seriously believe that a modern military attempting genocide or ethnic cleansing would stop after four digits of death toll against a population of millions? That's hardly the limit of their abilities. That would be the least competent genocide in history.

There are a lot of criticisms to be leveled against Israel, but accusing them of genocide doesn't pass the sniff test. That's more an ideological framing and comment on the person leveling said criticisms than it is a reflection of reality.

The Nazis would be jealous of any modern state's computing power, military might, and intelligence capabilities. But so would literally any other empire in history. I mean, how jealous of modern air power would Napoleon be?


Soo the rockets fired by Hamas into Israel are ... imaginary? fabricated? - I'm not there so I haven't seen them with my own eyes, but to classify the conflict as just "Israeli aggression" seems inaccurate given what I see and read in the news.

Update: Agree with smcl, disengaging ;)


It seems pretty obvious to me that "aggression" refers to the the parent's opinion that the Israeli response to the rockets was a little heavy-handed and unwarranted. We're getting really offtopic here however, HN is not the place to spar over the Israel\Palestine conflict. There's plenty of places on the web you can engage in this if you want, but be warned that doing so will end up resolving nothing and will leave you frustrated and angry.


I'l agree that HN isn't the best place to debate it. But if we all agree on that, why does it seem so one-sided on here? Flame-bait assertions that Israel has what the Nazis could only dream about are just fine and highly upvoted, as are vague and unjustified claims that Israel's response is heavy-handed. Meanwhile, just pointing out that the conflict is more complex than that and Israel has reasons for what they're doing too is apparently considered unacceptable off-topic debate. Is this place a Hamas propaganda site or something?

Keeping out of the debate entirely is fine, but if we're doing that, let's downvote and reject posts like the ones in this thread by yamayb and jdimov that are packed with inflammatory rhetoric that has nothing to do with the original topic here.


Not agreeing with the characterization (any simplistic description of the Israel/Palestine conflict is flawed), but the existence of mutual conflict does not preclude the accuracy of the description of one side as the aggressor in a conflict.


I wish there was a way to post anon here. I create a new id every now and then and post but no one sees the posting because it's new...

I wish more people would be outraged by where the u.s. Is going and just leave. If you're educated, have desirable skills, you can just come to Europe. If you think you can change what's happening in the u.s. I do not agree with you. You will lose to the political class. They have 100% of their time to focus on restraining you while you have to focus on building your business.

The u.s. has become a force for evil in the world. It has been at war for almost the entire time of its existence. In the past Americans were protected from that reality but now the u.s. seems to be even at war with its citizens and businesses.

If you don't like what's happening in the u.s. you can quit your company you're building and become a politician, or you can just take your skills and knowledge to someplace different. But don't forget to continue filing your u.s. taxes.


The age of your account has absolutely nothing to do with who sees your posting.

Making new ids every now and then is strange, there is absolutely no need for that unless you are divulging something that might cost you your job or that you're embarrassed to share.

As for your 'come to Europe' call, America needs critical Americans just as much as Europe needs critical Europeans. The better solution would be to push for change locally, rather than to instigate a brain drain.

Europe has just as many problems as the US does, the only difference is that we do not yet have a European president with sufficient power to wield to cause real trouble. But we're getting there. And then what would you tell any Americans that you've tempted here with greener pastures? If you want to improve the world the best place to do it is right where you're living.


Making new ids every now and then is strange

Cycling through IDs online seems like a great way to prevent stuff from haunting you later. It's hard to predict what will turn out to be embarrassing or can cost you your job later.

In theory, you would need to be very careful to prevent a determined adversary from chaining those IDs together and back to you. In practice, it seems unlikely that anyone would be that determined.


Some of us are outraged by where the U.S. is going but stay to try to fix it. Otherwise you get adverse selection effects, like when all the non-crazies left New Hampshire.

Plus have you ever had a European burrito? It's not pretty.


Well, at least there is finally passable sushi being made in Zurich. That's a very, very new thing.

All kidding aside - the euro countries are no better than the US in these areas. They have different code-names and the agencies are different, but they're all going the same direction.


You're just plain wrong. Not about the sushi. Europe doesn't have the means nor the corporate-government cooperation that the u.s. has for spying. It happens in Europe, even Switzerland, but for good, not evil. For example, Switzerland reoprting to the Red Cross the CIA rendition flights that it learned through its satellite communications monitoring program.

There's decent Mexican inn Basel. A Mexican and 1/2 Mexican Swiss have a restaurant.


Europe's a big place. My corner of it had a secret CIA prison.

Also there's a Vietnamese restaurant here called "Hong Kong Lounge". The crimes don't end at the US border.


Poland? Wasn't there political fallout from that?


About as much as in the US.


By which he means, not nearly anything close to what could even remotely be considered enough.

We in the EU like to smugly look at the USA with an air of superiority. But we're not much different — there is a small group that is outraged, and most people simply don't care.


Also Romania.


Btw, yes I know that it was reported to the Red Cross anonymously, not officially.


"Some of us are outraged by where the U.S. is going but stay to try to fix it"

Do you truly believe you'll be able to change anything? Remember, people that reason about these sorts of things are the exception, not the rule. The majority just gobble up whatever "militaristic propaganda" (as one of the siblings called it) is fed to them by the media.


I make the best MoFro burritos and tacos. I'll come and cook for everyone! I think the tequila is worse than the burritos though. o,0


> like when all the non-crazies left New Hampshire

Huh?


What are you doing to change the system?


I got a bumper sticker!


This is why I haven't taken countless opportunities to move to the US from Toronto.

Willingly working in America is supporting the surveillance and military state. Yes, Canada is part of Five Eyes, but the political will to surveil everything is centred in America and the UK, Canada is just along for the ride because the cost to our defensive interests is too great to go against our NATO / NORAD arrangements.


Europe's management has it's own set of problems.

I might add, Europe has also been at war for most of the time it has been inhabited. Just because parts of Europe have taken a break for the last 60 years doesn't negate this.


I expect that it'd be difficult to find any major region in the entire history of the world with 60 years without war.

Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if that was even built in to humans on a sociological level. The recurring need for sword/spear/arrow/cannon fodder has been a socially acceptable way to prevent accumulation of an excess of (male) population. As soon as there are too many disgruntled people, those in power start to worry. Sending this cumbersome segment of population off to be killed has been, historically, a perfectly valid way to deal with the problem. (It has also provided a very convenient way to direct attention away from domestic problems.)

Nature shows the same tendency. When a local population of a species grows too great, lack of resources forces some of them to migrate outside their "normal" region. The inhabitants of the regions under invasion fight back, and eventually things return to an equilibrium.


I'm pretty sure a bunch of old realms having long time land disputes and family feuds and ethnic disavowals for over a thousand years is different from an industrial military complex that keeps conjuring up wars for oil and to keep itself well-oiled, and worse yet stirs its fat finger in the world's cup in the name of self-righteous capitalism.


I wouldn't call the hundred years war, Napoleon, WWI and II family feuds or minor family/ethnic land disputes.

Europe also has a long and bloody history. Sadly it seems violence and tribalism are intrinsic to the human condition. Hopefully we fix this at some point.

(I'm not trying to justify the actions of the US incidentally. I don't approve of war for profit. But it is hardly the first time an empire has engaged in wars of profit.)


I think the u.s. Has been at war for all but 21 years of its existence. I could be wrong - it was a stat from a website with an agenda.


That's nonsense. The US was not involved in armed conflict from 1920 (end of involvement in the Russian Civil War) to 1941 (start of <edit: American involvement in> WWII). That's 21 years right there. Maybe they're saying that 21 years was the longest period between military conflicts.


> The US was not involved in armed conflict from 1920 (end of involvement in the Russian Civil War) to 1941

Except (among others):

1) The US intervention in the insurgency in Cuba (the "Sugar Intervention") which ran from 1917-1922.

2) The US intervention in China from about 1922-1927.

3) The use of the US military to clear the protesting "Bonus Army" of US veterans in Washington D.C. in 1932.

There may be 21 years without armed conflict by the US in its history, but they aren't 21 years in a row.


I think you're stretching the term "armed conflict" beyond any reasonable usage. Would you consider Indonesia to be engaged in "armed conflict" in Lebanon because they contribute troops to UN peacekeeping there (UNIFIL)?

The original commenter is trying to compare the number of years the US was involved in military conflicts vs. Europe. If you're going to include events as obscure as the sugar intervention (of which I found very little mention in books about Cuban history and US/Caribbean relations) then I doubt the comparison would be very meaningful.


UNIFIL isn't an intervention as (like in China where the intervention was to protect US, etc., imperial interest in Shanghai from groups directly targeting them) or on behalf of (as in Cuba, where the intervention was directly on behalf of the government against rebels) a principal belligerent, so I think the attempted analogy fails.


It was a relatively quiet patch in the warring , but a quick look at Wikipedia shows a fair few conflicts during that period including fighting internally against native Americans. Civil unrest with military action, landing troops to protect foreign interests which included shelling and shooting. It all depends how you define armed conflict. I'd say soldiers and guns = armed conflict. Others would say that a declaration of war was required. Have a look at this Wikipedia list of military actions - it may not be outright war, but it wasn't peace. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_mil...


1941 was not the start of WWII. It started in 1939.


Not if you're Chinese, or Abyssinian.

The conflicts that became WWII started at different times in different places.


Yes, but the question is how many years has the United States not been at war. The US did not enter WWII until 1941.


What problems, btw? Surely nothing even close to the scope of the u.s.


Riots is Spain and France. Civil war in Ukraine. Faltering Euro...

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/08/spain-one-bn-on...

Problems are all over the world. Europe has them too and more may be coming. Going to Europe won't remove a person from problems. It will simply switch one set of problems for another.

I might add... the US is a big and diverse country. Things that might be a problem in one area are not a problem in another. Don't agree with the international military actions of the US? Well... I agree. The US is too quick to use violence usually and doesn't take a long term view. But this is often done (as of late) with the secret approval of the managers of Europe who generally also benefit from this aggressive stance.


I mostly agree, but remember that evil doesn't stop just because you remove your complicity from it-- it has to be actively contained or else it just continues to spread.

I agree that the US is a force for evil in the world. Getting other Americans to believe this is extremely difficult, as it is directly contrary to decades of militaristic propaganda.


I left. And the country I moved to has lurched even further into the realm of "authoritarian police state" than the US.

I'm of the opinion that all Western governments are headed down this path, inevitably. It's going to take a lot of violence and bloodshed (read: murdering the rich in their sleep) to "fix" this.


>> murdering the rich in their sleep

Well, you're a pleasant fellow.


I'm a realistic person. That's what it usually takes to fix these situations.

Pick up a history book.


The US is still full of good people and so long as those people are allowed to have guns, I'm staying.

Once the government disarms us, I'll probably leave. That will be the final nail in freedom's coffin.


I can't wait to disarm you, brother. And the country will be better for it. Hand over those guns!


Sure. Let's make sure only the government has guns. That always works out well, nothing bad ever happened with that.

Our democratic government has never used force illegally, violated our rights, and has never exceeded its Constitutional authority. That's why there are so many popular posts on HN lauding the US government for its benevolence.

Let me ask you, specifically, why would you want to disarm me?

Take away guns, I have knife. Take away knifes, I have fertilizer and diesel fuel. Take those away, I have propane tanks and model rocket engines. Take those away, I have beer bottles, gasoline, and rags.

Take all that away and we can't have BBQ's because no one has fuel to get there, propane to grill, beers to drink, knives to cut meat, and rags to clean up. I don't want to live in your "safe" world.

Bother, you have effect confused with cause. Guns don't cause violence. People cause violence and will use what ever tool is at their disposal to have that effect.


Lots of brave down voters with no logical discourse to offer today.


Perhaps because there are plenty of countries whose populations aren't armed, yet still capable of hosting a BBQ?


Anyone who believes that America champions freedom of speech and expression only has to go as far as the closest newspaper to discover that it's a bull-faced lie.


NB: usually given as "bald-faced lie".


Since I am bald and respect my own hairlessness, I prefer the term "bull-faced lie", since I have much less respect for bulls. ;)


This is like being shaken down by the Mafia.

You are not gonna do what we like? It's gonna cost ya. Next we are gonna break Marissa's legs.


That's how courts enforce court orders. You can get philosophical and say that the state is just like the mafia, man, except legal. But surely you understand the need for some mechanism to force compliance from people who just say "I don't want to do that" to a court ruling.


Yeah, but this is a secret court. Now way for the public to review it's decisions. No public accountability. That's IMHO what makes it Mafia like.


I actually believe that people should be allowed to do what they like, with the underlying premise that everyone has a right to not be harmed by another's actions. The law seems to have lost it's way to the point where if you are rich you win, poor you loose.

And if you are the government or a business and you can't win, you change the rules so that you can.


It's a secret court, with secret penalties, none of which you're allowed to talk about if you're being attacked by it.

Democracy does not coexist with expansive secret court systems...


Note that this argument applies equally well to enforcing the edicts of England's Star Chamber.


Yes. It has no moral content; it's the mechanism by which the state works.


When the terrorists stop using the internet, the government will stop searching for them with PRISM. Sound fair?


> Feds Threatened to Fine Yahoo $250K Daily for Not Complying with NSA's PRISM

Luckily, they realized that nothing of worth is on Yahoo.


Ironically, half of HN is circle jerking DuckDuckGo as some sort of privacy king pin every other week.

They are either in bed with NSA or will be very soon. I laugh how gullible some people are.

"But they owner told me that they will stand up to US government with 3M seed round guys!"




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