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Arkady Grudzinsky


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Do we need privacy?



1. The state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.
2. The state of being free from public attention.

So, it's a form of freedom. I find it deeply controversial.

Does it mean that we should not pay attention to each other? There are stories on internet of people dying in subway from heart attack in the midst of a crowd passing by.

Is it possible? We leave traces behind us every minute - online, when we use credit cards to buy something, even by walking in the street with a cell phone in our pocket. Why are we outraged or feel threatened when we find out that someone "is watching"? Perhaps, it goes deeper in our psyche that we think or can explain.

What is the difference between privacy and secrecy? When and why do we need them?

Some people put their whole life online. Some are cautious about giving any personal information to anyone. Ironically, we can protect ourselves from oppression and crime both ways.

What's your attitude towards privacy? I would appreciate the links to videos and sources on this topic.

Topics: privacy secrecy

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    Jun 17 2013: there is a common misconception that privacy is a right. it isn't. just as healthcare or food is not a right. they are all things that we need to create for ourselves with effort, and we need to balance the costs versus the benefits. and everyone has to work on his own privacy, according to his own preferences, capabilities and situation.

    if the government / a company / a stalker spies on us, it is immoral? not inherently. if said entity breaks into my computer, or physically breaks into my house, steals my phone, it is immoral, criminal act. if he uses lies and deception, he might be subjected to legal action, forced to pay compensation or something. but if he uses technology to spy on me, it is not against any moral laws. it is my task to defend my privacy, either myself, or buy the services of an expert.

    any calls for stricter regulations are misguided. what we need is better tools, better understanding, better industry standards. so privacy can be an option for those that value it.
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      Jun 18 2013: You don't have the right of privacy in Turkey!? We also have the right to healthcare and food and we do have a legal right to privacy here in Sweden.
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        Jun 18 2013: for example in turkey. we can safely say that if a right just does not exist, it also does not exist in turkey. turkey is not that special a place. pi is 3.14... there too. plants photosynthesize. it is just another country.

        no, you don't have the right to healthcare, it is a lie. what you have is a system of confiscation and handouts. it is not a right, it is a limitation to a right.
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        Jun 18 2013: not a definition, but a necessary attribute: a right is something that every person naturally have, and can lose only due to an immoral act of another individual.

        thus life for example is not a right. you can die at any moment from disease or accident. not being murdered is a right. you will never get murdered unless someone actively and purposefully murders you, which is an immoral criminal act.

        having property is not a right. your property not being taken away by others is a right. if you don't have property, this is just an unlucky state of affairs. if your property gets struck by a lightning, it is bad luck. but your property can only be stolen if someone deliberately steals it. this is an criminal act, and you have the right not to be offended this way.

        in other words, all rights are negative. you don't have right to something. you have rights to be free of some things, like aggression, theft, murder or fraud.

        privacy is not a right. but also, not being spied on is also not a right. the right to privacy just a consequence and case of property rights. i can hide in my house, i can close my window, i can use cryptography. and i have a right not to be interfered with such use of my own property. any kinds of spying on me that does not involve violation of my property rights is not (or should not) be a criminal act.
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          Jun 20 2013: Krisztian,

          I was following your definition fine as something is not necessarily a right but not having it taken away is a right, although that does sound a bit odd. Then you somehow created the exception of having your privacy taken away not being the same, without explaining why you feel its an exception.
          The logic does not follow.

          I feel, rights are things that government agree a citizen may have and enforces. What or why they are is not the issue.

          Just as laws can be changed with the stroke of a pen by someone in authority, so can rights. Here in Canada we used to have the "right" to fish without a license then one day, stroke of a pen, now we need a license.

          Now if Canadians had rose up in anger against the government and refused to comply creating more stress on the government than was reasonable for the licenses to be in place, the government probably would have relented, and the "right" to fish without a license upheld.

          If all the citizens INSIST on privacy voting out those that oppose it and voting IN those that support it, we will tend to have laws that will uphold that "right." Otherwise, stroke of a pen, it's gone.

          Two final thing I would say about "rights" its a hell of a lot harder to GET THEM than it is to keep them tough as that may seem.

          Lastly, when it comes to privacy, expect it to be violated right or no right. We have plenty of laws and the jails are filled with people breaking them, and of course governments are above the law.
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      Jun 18 2013: I think, anything can be claimed as a right as long as we can physically obtain it and defend it. In a desert, it does not matter whether you have a right to have water or not. There is no water. And if I cannot defend my life and liberty - physically or legally, I do not have any rights for them. Same with privacy. I have the right to as much privacy as I can get and defend.

      Surveillance is not inherently immoral. Trust and intentions matter. Parents installing a video camera in a child's room to ensure the child's safety are violating the child's privacy. But the child trusts that the parents won't harm the child and the parents intend good for the child. Issues with privacy arise when either trust or good intentions are lacking.
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        Jun 18 2013: but that definition would include slave keeping as a right. i disagree.

        according to my moral, surveillance per se is never immoral. of course you can condemn it, and you can refuse to cooperate with a person that engages in such activities. but we can not in general say anything about it, regardless of the intent. only the method counts. if he installs a bino on his roof, and it is not against any contract he made, it is not immoral. though, as i have said, it can be against my taste, and i can try to do against it, within my rightful possibilities. for example call him out for it, and make him a hated person in the town.
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          Jun 18 2013: My definition is a practical one. In many societies of the past, keeping slaves was a right. Perhaps, it wasn't moral by today's standards, but, I believe, in those societies, slavery was accepted both morally and legally. In most modern societies, one cannot legally defend slave keeping, therefore, it is not a right any more.

          I may not have a legal right, but if I can claim it and rally enough people for the cause, I can create a legal right. This is what happened with civil rights movement in U.S. in the sixties.

          A necessary element for having a right is claiming it. Government can use your own words against yourself in court if you give them incriminating information knowing that you have the right not to do so, but not invoking this right.

          People waive their rights very often. E.g., when the police was combing Boston neighborhood for Tsarnaev, I don't think, it was constitutional for the police to force their way into people's property. But, given the situation, perhaps, nobody thought to rise this issue. When people routinely waive their right, they lose it altogether (e.g. TSA searches in the airports).
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        Jun 18 2013: we have to know better. i recall a debate between the catholic church and atheists. at one point, catholic guy said: we can't expect a catholic person of 1400 to know that witch hunt is not a moral behavior, since it was the norm. the atheist opponent asked: then what are you for?

        moral can not dependent on culture. moral must be absolute. if something is not absolute, it can not be a moral statement. all of my contribution to this discussion is supposed to be absolute. if you have a counterargument, i might be proven wrong. but what i said, can not be a matter of opinion. either i'm right or i'm wrong. there is no third way.
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          Jun 18 2013: Kristian,

          So, how do you decide what's right or wrong? What's your absolute yardstick and litmus test to measure morality that would show the same result regardless of the context?
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        Jun 19 2013: my yardstick is a simple one: the nonaggression principle combined with self ownership and property rights. everything else is just application.
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          Jun 19 2013: A wise Zen frog was explaining to the younger frogs the balance of nature: "Do you see how that fly eats a gnat? And now (with a bite) I eat the fly. It is all part of the great scheme of things."
          "Isn't it bad to kill in order to live?" asked the thoughtful frog.
          "It depends . . ." answered the wise frog just as a snake swallowed the Zen frog in one chomp before the frog finished his sentence.
          "Depends on what?" shouted the students.
          "Depends on whether you're looking at things from the inside or outside," came the muffled response from inside the snake.

          Would you use force (aggression) to stop aggression? If so, how do you reconcile it with the non-aggression principle?

          How property rights are determined? What guarantees them? Are there limits on what can be "owned"? Ownership of information is controversial. When I buy a bottle of beer and pay with my credit card - who owns the information about this transaction? I? The seller? The credit card company? Or is the information just "out there", like the air, with no owner? Ownership rights seem to depend on what you can physically or legally protect.
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          Jun 20 2013: How do you know that nonaggression is moral? You can't say that humans are non-aggressive by nature and being aggressive violates some natural law, can you? I am not saying that aggression is moral. My point is that morality of non-aggression does not seem to follow from any natural law.
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        Jun 19 2013: the nonaggression principle is a misnomer. what it means is the non-initiation of aggression. aggression to stop aggression is fine. obviously, you can not use excessive amount of aggression. you have to aim for the necessary minimum that stops the initial aggression.

        property rights are not guaranteed by anything, they just are. property can be anything that is scarce. in modern theory, one can own usage rights for physical objects, like a view of a mountain range, or a smell of the air. ownership is created by being the first to claim it, or by voluntary transfer. information can not be owned, it is not scarce.

        it is not fundamentally important or interesting who defends property rights. it is the same thing as with our present legal system. having a right and being able to protect it are two different things. we have a law enforcement system that operates with a margin of error, just like any other system does. but it does not affect moral. stealing will be immoral even if the system fails to catch you. if you are the victim, you are still the legal owner of the stolen item, regardless of your inability to use it. it would be weird to say that you are not anymore the owner of the item, because the system failed.
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          Jun 19 2013: Re: "property rights are not guaranteed by anything"
          I would argue that rights which are not guaranteed by anything are not meaningful.

          Re: "information can not be owned, it is not scarce."
          This seems to mean that you do not acknowledge rights to intellectual property. Is it correct?

          Re: "it is not fundamentally important or interesting who defends property rights."
          When the government takes away your property for whatever reason (taxes, public land use, etc.), you are not the owner any more, are you? What you think does not seem to matter. What matters is what you can prove in court. Don't you think so?

          Regarding "first claim" and "voluntary transfer". Consider Palestinian land captured by Israeli government and voluntarily transferred to Israeli citizens by the government. Who is the rightful owner? Consider property expropriated by the Soviet government decades ago with new legal owners (according to the new legal system) living there. The heirs of the previous owner show up. Who has the right to the property? Is there an absolute answer to these questions?
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        Jun 19 2013: listen, be a little more cooperative. of course rights are supposed to be guarded by organizations, individuals, etc. but that is not the source of a right. the right exists in an empty universe too, it exists in wars, and in a hunter gatherer tribe. just it is not respected. rights do not have sources. they exist as a a part of nature.

        IP rights are not moral rights, they are just creations of an unholy alliance between the state and huge corporations. it is an instrument of aggression. IP rights are not rights, they are actually violations of rights.

        if the government takes away anything from me, i remain the rightful owner, and the government is an unlawful aggressor. surely, it is in accordance with their own laws, but those laws are not real laws, just an instrument of oppression. calling them laws is nothing but propaganda.

        a government can not capture a land, and can not own one. a government is not a person, and only person's can own property. unowned land can be homesteaded by anyone.
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          Jun 20 2013: Kriszitan,

          If you say that rights and morality exist in nature, you must admit that nature has a sense of justice. Then you cannot say that moral judgment is not applicable to acts of nature. Do animals have the right of not being killed by a predator and consumed for food? (see the Zen story above).

          When people say "natural" or "unnatural", they can mean a number of things - "occurring in nature", "traditional", or "aesthetically pleasing". It seems to me, you understand morality as "natural" in the same sense as Abraham Lincoln who said "When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion."

          Ownership is a strange concept. Most frequently, it is linked with control. Philosophically, we do not own or control anything - even our own body. I think that rights are a matter of belief. Faith, if this word does not scare you. I think, the sense of justice is irrational, emotional and subconscious - impossible to explain logically. We can leave it at that.
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        Jun 20 2013: something being part of nature does not imply consciousness or intention on part of nature. the world is full of spiral galaxies. we can't say though that nature has a sense of aesthetics, and it likes spirals. those spirals are just epiphenomena of simpler laws of physics. rights are similarly epiphenomena of the same physics combined with human traits. life forms with different traits might have different rights. for example a bee-hive like imaginary intelligent life form might lack the concept of the "individual", therefore property rights apply to hives.

        ownership is the right to control. it does not imply actual ability. for example if i'm in the office, i can't control my fridge at home. but i still own it. i guy in jail does not lose ownership of his stuff. just temporarily can't access his property. rights are always in the "ought to" domain, not in the "is" domain.
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        Jun 20 2013: "How do you know that nonaggression is moral?"

        i don't know. moral is not something you can derive from observations. some people attempted to logically derive the nonaggression principle as the only valid moral code. i think they are failed, and i also think that it is not possible. we have to *assert* that it is the good way to go. i'm trying to show why it is good. i can also show what certain counterarguments mean or what follows from them. if you dig deep enough, all other moral systems lead to either self contradiction or very ugly logical consequences we usually don't agree with.

        "You can't say that humans are non-aggressive by nature"

        i also cannot say that people don't rape. yet, i say that rape is immoral. natural law does not mean it is respected in pre-industrial societies. it only means it should have been. because natural law does not have a source, other than reality itself. one can not decide that murder is not immoral. it is not up to decision. your right for your body comes from the reality of the universe. if you are a slave in ancient rome, your right to your body is violated.
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          Jun 20 2013: Just to add a little more clarity to the morality issue, not that I disagree.

          The definition of morality is what is agreed to by a culture. This clouds the subject because what is real to one culture is not to another. E.G. in a mafia run Sicilian culture it might be immoral to not kill someone, or in a Nazi culture it is immoral not to execute a Jew, or in a Sharia culture and it is immoral to not kill an infidel.

          A more workable benchmark on this subject is survival which translates beyond your own survival. A person survives through others. It would be shortsighted to think that you only survive for your own benefit.

          This allows a person to gauge whether something creates more survival for all involved or not.
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          Jun 21 2013: Re: "i don't know. moral is not something you can derive from observations. some people attempted to logically derive the nonaggression principle as the only valid moral code. i think they are failed, and i also think that it is not possible. we have to *assert* that it is the good way to go."

          So, does it mean that you agree with my thesis that for rights to exist, we must a) claim them (assert or declare) and b) defend them or have some sort of physical or legal guarantee.

          I understand "self-evident" in the Declaration of Independence as something that provides evidence for itself. At the time when the Declaration was made, there was no such evidence. But all subsequent history shows that a system built on this principle is good and stable.

          But the first step is not based on evidence, it's based on faith, an irrational moral belief which later "proves itself". You seem to agree that moral principles do not follow from evidence or logic, don't you?
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          Jun 21 2013: @Pat re: "The definition of morality is what is agreed to by a culture. "

          This, actually, is the subject of this debate. See Krisztian's post earlier in this thread: "moral can not dependent on culture. moral must be absolute. if something is not absolute, it can not be a moral statement."
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          Jun 21 2013: Arkady

          Yes I know but the definition that Krisztián is using is not the same as morality in the typical sense, which is the agreed upon by the culture sense.

          The definition that Krisztián is using is akin to a definition of survival which is absolute.
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          Jun 21 2013: Krisztian,

          How about using "self" as an absolute yardstick to measure morality?

          I think, "self" is a powerful concept. Any moral statement can be easily tested for hypocrisy by applying it to the person who is making the statement:

          If someone who advocates openness, keeps and protects any secrets, it's hypocrisy. This seems to correlate with the "golden rule" - "do unto others...". It's absolute and relative at the same time. It's absolute in a sense that this rule works the same way for everyone. But it's relative to the individual or society.

          See my conversation with Pabitra on secrecy: the reasons why we keep things secret are the same for everyone (shame, guilt, fear), but things that we choose to keep secret are different for everyone.

          I think, the source of morals and rights is, simply, our own consciousness - ability for self-reflection - seeing ourselves in other people and nature.
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          Jun 21 2013: I'd say, to be moral, we need to be self-consistent - "practice what we preach".

          Consider the self-referring statement: "This statement is true." It's self-consistent: if it's true, it's true; if it's false, it's false. "it is as you say" - whatever you believe about this statement, is true. It is "true to itself".

          Now, consider a self-contradiction: "This statement is false". If it's true, then it's false; if it's false, then it's true. It cannot make up it's mind - constant doubt, hesitation, and uncertainty. The statement lies about itself.

          In a similar way, when someone preaches to give away your last shirt while keeping a full wardrobe of shirts, it's immoral. But when it's coming from a Christ-like person who is ready to die for his neighbor, it's moral. This is why, I think, the Crucifix is considered the ultimate proof of Christ's morality. Many people say, Jesus could prove that he is God by saving himself from dying on the cross. I think, it's exactly the opposite. By saving himself, he would only prove his hypocrisy. Also, note that whenever Jesus was questioned about his identity - by his disciples or by Pilate, he always asked back "what do you think?" and "it is as you say".

          I don't mean to proselytize - just reflecting on my understanding of the topic. I, personally, rarely practice what I preach. I'm a hypocrite. Although, I advocate openness, I don't like people snooping on me.
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        Jun 20 2013: do you have a patriot act in your country? do you have access to wikipedia in your country?
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        Jun 20 2013: constitution is not the source of any rights. it is written by man. it can be wrong. it is nothing but a snapshot of what its creators believed to be right at that time. if the best you can do is to bring a piece of paper to a debate about moral, you better look for some other ways of entertainment for yourself.

        the wikipedia reference pretty much makes sense, but it seems to be beyond your understanding.
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        Jun 20 2013: the logical step from "i don't think X is a right" to "you don't stand up for your right" is so broken, it boggles the mind. especially that just some pages above, i've engaged in a lengthy conversation about rights.

        according to your definition, slavery was a moral institution, just as witch hunting, mass murder or even the holocaust. it is also unclear how could any society develop, if moral is what currently exists. thus any call for change is by definition immoral.

        it is kind of a pity that you derive moral from written code and peer approval. think about it.
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        Jun 20 2013: so you refused to think about it. never mind.

        and you still failed to understand that in my view, privacy is not a right. neither natural, nor "unalienable", whatever that buzzword supposed to represent. it is not that difficult. from now on in this conversation, if i don't reply, it means "you did not bring anything new".
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        Jun 20 2013: i'm out of ideas here. can anyone help me out, and try to explain this guy what i'm saying, phrased in a way that he understands?
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          Jun 20 2013: Since you asked....

          Do you really want to understand each other? Or do you simply want to argue?
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          Jun 20 2013: Talking to Lamar is like talking to a parrot, I refuse to do it.

          At the other end of the spectrum I can disagree with someone like Arkady and actually have a debate or a Socratic type learning moment. But this is rare.
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          Jun 20 2013: Don't flatter yourself LaMar.
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          Jun 20 2013: @LaMar,
          Understanding can happen much better when one genuinely listens and participates respectfully.

          I do not agree that you are "always happy to debate people that can be respectful". I joined in the very first conversation you started on TED LaMar, and because I did not agree with you, you called me a troll and ordered me to leave the conversation. You seem to like to argue, which I continue to observe in most of your conversations.

          You say..."I have tore his opinion debates apart many times....".

          A person who seems proud to have "torn" everyone apart, doesn't seem very secure in himself. Perhaps there are several lessons to learn from this debate.

          Re: comment below.

          I am always honest LaMar. No, I am not "queen of TED" LaMar. TED is a community of people LaMar, and in case you have not noticed yet, it is an open, public forum where ALL community members have a right to comment. I am not crazy LaMar.
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          Jun 20 2013: Guys, I think this is one of those chicken-egg discussions which seems to trend towards discussing each other rather than the ideas.

          Any debate must focus on seeking common ground rather than discussing differences. If common ground cannot be found - just leave it at that. There is no need to discuss personalities.

          But I do see common ground in your opinions. U.S. constitution and the rights declared therein exists by virtue of Declaration of Independence which, in particular, says: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That 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, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

          This passage has multiple implications:

          1. It states that humans have "unalienable rights" (LaMar's point). Some say "from Creator", some say "from nature" - I don't see the difference. This seems to support Krisztian's point of "natural origins" of our rights and that nature does not guarantee basic needs and survival for all - "pursuit of happiness", not "happiness itself".

          2. It implies that moral beliefs are "self-evident" and do not require any evidence refuting the popular stereotype used by atheists.

          3. It declares that government is supposed to protect these rights. This resembles the legal structure of a trust with the people as grantor, government as trustee, and future generations as beneficiary.

          4. Which, of course, promotes corporatism: government is a corporation.

          5. It approves disobedience to government (anarchy)
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        Jun 20 2013: if you can guess my age with 10% error margin, i'll send you a book as gift. also, discussing the personality or age of the opponent in a debate is ... rather uneducated.
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        Jun 20 2013: "He is young"

        "I am not here to play guessing games"

        oh. i see.
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        Jun 20 2013: yet you continued like 15 minutes later. it is not the problem. the problem is that you are a self indulgent bully. your complete lack of understanding prevents you from understanding your own limits, and this gives you self confidence. if you had to pay five dollars for every points i have raised, and you did not even attempt to reply to, i would already be a rich man, and you would be bankrupt. your presence benefits nobody.
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        Jun 20 2013: this is really the last time, then you have to send the money over

        you: Morals are what a society determines is the rules for their society
        me: according to your definition, slavery was a moral institution

        now it is time for you to answer. you are not only an aggressive bully, but also boring
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        Jun 20 2013: you will come back. bullies don't just go away. it is not in their nature. plus you owe me 5 dollars.

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