Archive for May, 2006

“The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

May 31, 2006

ThePirateBay.org Raided – Servers Seized

In their native Sweden, ThePirateBay.org enjoyed a level of immunity from copyright prosecution rarely seen in the file-sharing world. Often defiant in the face of those wishing to enforce their intellectual property rights, ThePirateBay.org would go on to become one of the premier BitTorrent indexing and tracking sites.

As one of the largest trackers, ThePirateBay.org largely replaced the search engine SuprNova.org. SuprNova.org met its demise in late 2004, when it was under pressure from the entertainment industry to shut it operation down. Conversely, such pressure has been ineffective against ThePiratebay.org.

When such political pressure fails, the use of force is typically the next course of action. In a move that many thought would never come, Slyck.com learned this morning that ThePirateBay.org was raided by Swedish police.

“…The police right now is taking all of our servers, to check if there is a crime there or not (they are actually not sure),” ThePirateBay.org spokesperson “brokep” told Slyck.com.

The MPAA released its statement here (PDF). They sound positively gleeful. I imagine that Sweden’s Pirate Party is even more gleeful – you can’t buy PR like that..

As the post title alludes to, this will do all of jack and shit to stop “piracy”, and the move probably hurts the MPAA more than anyone else. Other torrent sites will emerge to take its place. The technology will evolve to the point that such sites won’t even be necesary. The MPAA can’t win this in the end.

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Three guesses who’d save from repealing the estate tax

May 31, 2006

But you’ll only need one:

Pointing to data indicating that 99 percent of the estate tax is paid by the highest-earning 5 percent of Americans, a report released by the Democrats indicates that CEO’s of major oil companies stood to gain significantly from a repeal. Democrats’ estimates put oil company gains at at least a “$200 million windfall.” The family of one oil executive, Lee Raymond (the former ExxonMobil CEO, pictured above left), alone stood to receive a tax break worth over $160 million.

Democrats have also once again issued a 2005 Government Reform Committee report indicating that repealing the estate tax repeal would save the President, Vice President, and 11 cabinet members anywhere from $91 – 344 million.

The estimated cost of the repeal, according to Democrats, is $1 trillion for the years 2011-2021.

And the rich get mind bogglingly, stupefyingly, fantastically richer.

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As if I needed another reason not to by a PS3

May 31, 2006

Business week discusses the DRM schemes on the HD-DVD and Bly-Ray disc formats, and how much further Sony’s Blu-Ray format goes towards crippling any content you buy on the discs. This is exactly why I’m boycotting Sony products:

Blu-ray, however, goes beyond the AACS, incorporating two other protection mechanisms: The ROM Mark is a cryptographic element overlaid on a “legitimate” disk. If the player doesn’t detect the mark, then it won’t play the disc. This will supposedly deal with video-camera-in-the-theatre copies.

STRANGLEHOLD ON CONTENT. Even more extreme is a scheme called BD+ that deals with the problem of what to do when someone cracks the encryption scheme. The players can automatically download new crypto if the old one is broken. But there’s an ominous feature buried in this so-called protection mechanism: If a particular brand of player is cryptographically “compromised,” the studio can remotely disable all of the affected players. In other words, if some hacker halfway across the globe cracks Sony’s software, Sony can shut down my DVD player across the Net.

The Blu-ray’s DRM scheme is simply anti-consumer. The standard reflects what the studios really want, which is no copying of their material at all, for any reason. They’re clearly willing to take active and unpleasant measures to enforce this. Last year’s Sony/BMG rootkit fiasco comes to mind. The possibility that they would disable thousands of DVD players, not because they’re hacked but just because they might be vulnerable, would have been unthinkable a few years ago; it’s clearly an option today.

The Blu-Ray drive on the PS3, far from being a selling point, is just one more reason to avoid the console like the plague.

When they’re ready to start treating me like a customer rather than a criminal, and stop acting like a criminal themselves, I’ll be willing to do business with them. Unfortunately (for them), it looks like that’ll be a long time coming.

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Just click it. You won’t be disappointed.

May 30, 2006

Link.

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Batwoman returns as a lesbian

May 30, 2006

Hotness:

Comic book heroine Batwoman is to make a comeback as a “lipstick lesbian” who moonlights as a crime fighter, a DC Comics spokesman has confirmed.

Batwoman – real name Kathy Kane – will appear in 52, a year-long DC Comics publication that began this month.

In her latest incarnation, she is a rich socialite who has a romantic history with another 52 character, ex-police detective Renee Montoya.

I’ve always thought that comic books needed more lesbian sex sexual diversity. If nothing else, it’ll help balance out the flaming homoeroticism that is the Batman/Robin duo.

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Dude, that’s fucked up

May 30, 2006

Pedophiles to launch political party

Dutch pedophiles are launching a political party to push for a cut in the legal age for sexual relations to 12 from 16 and the legalization of child pornography and sex with animals, sparking widespread outrage.

No comment. Just silent amazement mixed with disgust.

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Dinosaur named for Harry Potter

May 30, 2006

‘Hogwarts’ Dragon Unveiled

A dragon-like dinosaur named after Harry Potter’s alma mater has performed a bit of black magic on its own family tree, say paleontologists who unveiled the “Dragon King of Hogwarts” on Monday in Albuquerque.

The newly described horny-headed dinosaur Dracorex hogwartsia  lived about 66 million years ago in South Dakota, just a million years short of the extinction of all dinosaurs. But its flat, almost storybook-style dragon head has overturned everything paleontologists thought they knew about the dome-head dinos called pachycephalosaurs.

Dracorex hogwartsia, which translates as “Dragon King of Hogwarts,” was unearthed in 2003 in the Hell Creek Formation of South Dakota by three amateur fossil hunters working in cooperation with the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. But it wasn’t until it was at the museum, while the fossil was being carefully prepared, that renowned dinosaur researcher Robert Bakker happened to catch sight of it while visiting. Bakker then recruited pachycerphalosaurs expert Sullivan and other paleontologists to take a closer look.

As for how it got its name? A group of children at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis drew the connection to the fanciful school of witchcraft that the famous fictional wizard Harry Potter attends and came up with the name hogwartsia..

“It’s a very dragon-like looking dinosaur,” said Sullivan.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has been notified and apparently rather likes the new name.

I just hope it wasn’t a Hungarian Horntail, those things are feirce!

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Life’s harsh lessons make you more gullible

May 30, 2006

So says this study, anyway:

People who have suffered life’s hard knocks while growing up tend to be more gullible than those who have been more sheltered, startling new findings from the University of Leicester reveal.

A six-month study in the University’s School of Psychology found that rather than ‘toughening up’ individuals, adverse experiences in childhood and adolescence meant that these people were vulnerable to being mislead.

The research analysing results from 60 participants suggest that such people could, for example, be more open to suggestion in police interrogations or to be influenced by the media or advertising campaigns.

The study found that while some people may indeed become more ‘hard-nosed’ through adversity, the majority become less trusting of their own judgement.

I wonder how well they controlled for socioeconomics in this study? Adversity, I imagine, would be strongly linked with poverty and broken homes, which in turn are linked to poor test performance and low levels of education for children raised in such environments. Which negatively impacts critical thinking abilities.

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Noam Chomsky: The US is a failed state

May 30, 2006

Why it’s over for America:

That brings up a fourth issue that should deeply concern Americans, and the world: the sharp divide between public opinion and public policy, one of the reasons for the fear, which cannot casually be put aside, that, as Gar Alperowitz puts it in America Beyond Capitalism, “the American ‘system’ as a whole is in real trouble – that it is heading in a direction that spells the end of its historic values [of] equality, liberty, and meaningful democracy”.

The “system” is coming to have some of the features of failed states, to adopt a currently fashionable notion that is conventionally applied to states regarded as potential threats to our security (like Iraq) or as needing our intervention to rescue the population from severe internal threats (like Haiti). Though the concept is recognised to be, according to the journal Foreign Affairs, “frustratingly imprecise”, some of the primary characteristics of failed states can be identified. One is their inability or unwillingness to protect their citizens from violence and perhaps even destruction. Another is their tendency to regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic or international law, and hence free to carry out aggression and violence. And if they have democratic forms, they suffer from a serious “democratic deficit” that deprives their formal democratic institutions of real substance.

Among the hardest tasks that anyone can undertake, and one of the most important, is to look honestly in the mirror. If we allow ourselves to do so, we should have little difficulty in finding the characteristics of “failed states” right at home.

I have mixed feelings on this myself. On the one hand, I agree with much of Chomsky’s analysis. The lessons of history all show that the US is on a dangerous road. We’re an empire in decline and a people dangerously disconnected from the values that once united us.

However, I’m not sure I’m ready to write us off as failed yet. Bush is bad, yes, but has he damaged us so irrecoverably that we can’t heal? Has he been that much worse than say, Nixon? Is Iraq that much more dangerous to our long term survival than Vietnam was? Are we worse off now than say during the pre and post Civil War periods?

I don’t pretend to have the answers; the only way to know is to look back a generation from now and see what’s become of us in the next several decades.

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Natalee Holloway: Still Missing

May 30, 2006

Just thought you all needed an update on what’s really important. You’d think for all the coverage this got originally the mainstream media would keep us better posted.

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