Having actually worked at the NSA through the Army, I happen to know that the NSA not only has the ability but does collect this data. In the context of IP traffic, the NSA's collection points are simply dumb garbage collectors. They collect every bit that comes through their channels. These databases are not directly exposed to most intelligence collectors, rather predefined filters pull subsets of the data into other systems. These filters, by themselves, are not sufficient to remove all US based traffic. When the law is respected, it is done so by training, protocols and network monitoring of intelligence users by auditors. Vast collections of US inbound/outbound data are present and directly accessible to many tiers of the intelligence community. Resolve to obey the rule of law is the only "technological" impedance to "spying" on US citizens.
I think the CD to MP3 comparison is most apt. Were I to purchase a CD and choose to rip it to MP3 format, that is perfectly legal and ethical; however, it's fundamentally no different than purchasing a CD and downloading someone else's MP3 rip of the same. It may be illegal, but it cannot be unethical simply because it happens to be more convenient and someone else has done the work of ripping the album.
Similarly, I *could* purchase a book and rip it to eBook format myself, and that would be equally lawful and ethical as ripping a CD; however, it is infinitely more convenient to allow one person to do that work and simply distribute the labor. Illegal? Possibly. Unethical? I doubt it.
If it were easier to "rip" a book to eBook format, this conversation wouldn't be happening.
Exactly. The US had the signals intelligence to do this as early as 2003 and the Brits were certainly ahead of us by that point. Historically, Britain has been years ahead of the US in signals intelligence; but the problem for US operations was not the decryption of the individual frequencies but the multi-frequency modulation of the unique call. This is possible with the right dedicated equipment, but mobile platforms generally had to sacrifice GSM capability due to the overhead. At any rate, all of the problems with GSM intercept have largely been solved for some time in military/DoD operations--that anyone would suggest otherwise is laughable.
Netflix is the quintessential example of customer focused innovation. The Xbox Netflix experience is a dream. Netflix has spent thousands and tens of thousands of man hours on perfecting the art and science of streaming HD content over bandwidth of fluctuating strength and quality. Their software is intuitive, sophisticated and comprehensive. Within the confines of a 4 button remote, one can command an entertainment giant.
That said, Netflix's streaming service provides me the same gag reflex as my local Blockbuster. The selection is limited, arbitrary and fleeting. This is not the fault of anyone in the Netflix employ. Netflix simply suffers the hand that feeds the staged release cycle, be it by the MPAA and its affiliates or the major network studios.
Netflix has, in my opinion, the best user interface and user experience of any IP based delivery system (Boxee, Hulu, etc.) that I've used to date. Whether they will be allowed to deliver content is still up in the air.
I agree to some extent, though I do not think the problems of the dollar are limited to the efficiency of currency exchange. I would posit that our system of valuing the dollar is fundamentally broken for several reasons: first, the dollar is not commodity supported (by gold, beads or cattle), instead as a FIAT currency, the value of the dollar rests on a promise from the Fed to "honor" the currency in trade. As such, the dollar is only as valuable as that promise. Second, as Mr. Masnick rightly points out, the flow of new dollars into the economy is now largely digital--so one of the key, former barriers to monetary inflation (the printing of paper money) has been excised from the system. Very little prevents banks from issuing new lines of credit, new loans, and new money other than their own risk assessments of the transaction. See Money as Debt (and take with two grains of salt) http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2550156453790090544.
Third, currency is already highly subjective in its local valuation. Consider the cost-of-living adjustments we must make when traveling or moving even within our own states. An Ithacan myself, a dollar spent in Ithaca will get you (optimistically) 25 cents in New York City. A ratified global currency (ignoring the digital currency that already exists) would only expand and accentuate the problems already facing the U.S. currency.
There's an interesting bit on the history of currency in China, which is a country and economy worth studying specifically for its use (or lack thereof) of currency over thousands of years: http://www.financialsense.com/fsu/editorials/ramsden/2004/0617.html.
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