31 May

Techie Tuesday – Leahy’s Orwellian Protect IP Act blocked!

in Congress, Copyright / Copyfighting / Piracy, Entertainment, Intellectual Property, Internet, Law Enforcement, Piracy, Politics, Techie Tuesday

Image via Wikipedia

Some good news in the world of copyfighting!  I mentioned this bill in last week’s link purge, but under the authorship of the entertainment Mafioso, PIPA was intended to provide the DHS and private corporations with additional authority to seize the top-level domains of dangerous terrorists file sharing websites and bring lawsuits against those, such as Google, who provide links to them (Google has already vowed to fight any such measures).  I don't know if the bill is officially dead, but for the time being it has been effectively put on hold by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).

“The internet represents the shipping lane of the 21st century,” Wyden said in a statement. “It is increasingly in America’s economic interest to ensure that the internet is a viable means for American innovation, commerce, and the advancement of our ideals that empower people all around the world. By ceding control of the internet to corporations through a private right of action, and to government agencies that do not sufficiently understand and value the internet, PIPA represents a threat to our economic future and to our international objectives,” he said.

Even if you equate file-sharing with digital piracy you should care about killing this bill for several reasons:

  • In the most benign sense, it is wholly unnecessary – domains can already be ‘seized’ (albeit with a tremendous assault on due process) through a number of judicial channels and the DMCA provides the means through which to stop Google et al from linking to them.  Codifying this behavior only reinforces the governments right to intervene in the only port of free expression currently in existence.
  • It forges an unholy alliance between federal law enforcement and private enterprise whereby the same industries who decry government intervention in the free market are all too eager to expect taxpayers to foot the bill for their civil complaints.
  • It has nada zip zilch to do with national security and the DHS should not be compelled to expend resources on enforcing private litigation while actual security concerns remain unchecked.
  • Finally, for the massive expense it is entirely ineffective.  Seized domains simply rely on existing mirrors to bridge the short amount of time it takes to respawn elsewhere.  And thanks to sympathetic programmers everywhere, systems are popping up like MAFIAAfire that make it even easier for users to find them.

When you consider the the War on Drugs whose crippling expense is paralleled only by its spectacular failure, It’s inconceivable that we want to extend such tactics to the virtual world on behalf of a few, dying private companies.

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26 May

Throwaway Thursday–Copyfighting Edition

in Entertainment, Intellectual Property, Internet, Piracy, Politics, Privacy, Science & Technology, Throwaway Thursday
Banner @ Copyfight

Image by David Domingo via Flickr

In the latest outbreak of pure douchiness, BMI - those happy, benevolent little elves who run the collection cartel on broadcast radio stations – is alleging that listening to your own music via cloud services amounts to a '”public performance” subject to licensing fees. 

Presumably trying to get back in the good graces of open-standards proponents, Google has signaled that it is prepared to fight both houses of congress and the president of the United States if the entertainment mafia successfully pushes through Leahy’s Orwellian Protect IP Act – a wish-list of anti-piracy measures that threaten to undermine the open internet.

HarperCollins has announced their intention to cripple e-books after 26 rentals forcing public libraries to cough up additional annual licensing fees.  Which is really not a big deal since libraries and their patrons are so flush with cash anyway.  For the moment, HC is the only publisher to have done so, though if the trend continues it could spell the end of digital modernization in public systems.

Finally, the award this week goes to Nintendo whose 3DS EULA mandates ongoing centralized updates during which they will brick (deactivate) your system if it contains unapproved software or peripherals.   But at least Nintendo claims a perpetual, worldwide copyright to all photos and videos taken with your camera. 

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25 May

Wednesday Wish List–Epic Bladerunner-Inspired Chess Set

in Art, Geek, Wednesday Wish List

From industrial designer, sculptor and out-of-this-world genius Rick Ross comes this interpretation of Sebastian’s Immortal Game.  The awesomeness, it burns’s us! 

Click through the link for the full flickr set.


h/t Boing Boing.

24 May

Techie Tuesday–Robot Overlords One Step Closer to Finishing Manifesto

in Inventions, Science & Technology, Techie Tuesday
A picture of Katniss from the Hunger Games and...

Image via Wikipedia

Researchers in Australia – where everyone knows the robocalypse will begin – are helping robots to invent their own language. 

To understand the concept behind the project, consider a simplified case of how language might have developed. Let's say that all of a sudden you wake up somewhere with your memory completely wiped, not knowing English, Klingon, or any other language. And then you meet some other person who's in the exact same situation as you. What do you do?

What might very well end up happening is that you invent some random word to describe where you are right now, and then point at the ground and tell the word to the other person, establishing a connection between this new word and a place. And this is exactly what the Lingodroids do. If one of the robots finds itself in an unfamiliar area, it'll make up a word to describe it, choosing a random combination from a set of syllables. It then communicates that word to other robots that it meets, thereby defining the name of a place.

First of all, I don’t care how big a bump on the head I received, I would never, NEVER forget how to speak Klingon.  That said, while I agree the project is fairly interesting, I have to wonder about the merit of these kinds of experiments that pre-suppose the outcome – in other words, the process relies on the very assumptions of how languages develop that it purports to address.

Either way, when I’m in a badass swordfight with our robotic overlords, I want to be able to understand the smack talk!

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23 May

Movie Monday–The Raven: A Film by Ricardo de Montreuil

in Entertainment, Movie Monday, Sci-Fi, Surveillance Society, Video

This incredible short film by Peruvian filmmaker Montreuil is 6 minutes of pure, pharmaceutical-grade awesomeness.  Set in a dystopic Los Angeles, the film follows Chris Black (Victor Lopez), a man who “possesses a power that could lead to the destruction of the current regime” and his desperate race for survival.  Produced on a budget of $5,000 – roughly the amount that Hollywood films spend on 1 page of a script – it pound-for-pound equals or betters your average blockbuster. 

You can watch the embed here, but if your broadband can handle it, I highly recommend heading over to Vimeo for the Hi-Def version!

THE RAVEN - 720 HD from THE RAVEN FILM on Vimeo.

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18 May

US - Mexican Border (Photo)

in Capitalism

I don't know if this is p-shopped or not (I suspect not) but if it is genuine then it truly says a thousand words. Of course, we'll need to confiscate a few of those for interstate tax purposes, so more like 898 words. Oh, and some of those words entered this photograph illegally and must be deported, so it's really more like 743 words. But they are 743 damn interesting ones!

11 May

Things that were born today

in Personal

RAM.  And me!

Can you spot the resemblance?


1 of 365

02 May

Obama, Osama and the Making of a Martyr

in Barack Hussein Obama, Osama bin Laden, Terrorism
A still of 2004 Osama bin Laden video

Image via Wikipedia

It is the height of childish naiveté to believe in Evil with a capital ‘E’.  There are indeed all manner of imaginable (and as yet unimaginable) evil acts and ideologies; those that inflict suffering and run counter to a generally shared vision of global justice.  Yet no serious student of history can conclude that people themselves are ever truly Evil.  The very worst villains of our collective global society, from Hitler to Stalin and, yes, bin Laden, were each seeking to actualize a utopic vision of peace and prosperity.  Each has been, therefore, motivated by the very same ideals of goodness embodied in our own Judeo-Christian foundations. 

Yet as the old cliché goes, he who lives by the sword must die by it.  The moment bin Laden constructed the pseudo-religious framework through which to elevate his Fatwa into the realm of violence, he surrendered any semblance of moral authority he may have once claimed. As both the movement’s primary architect as well as its principal propagandist, he belonged to a class of ideologues beyond conversion, redemption, or reason.  Much as Bush saying that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” bin Laden’s declaration of Takfir against Muslims who failed to support his version of Islam constructed an essentially Manichean worldview in which there was no middle ground. 

No matter how truly horrifying have been the acts perpetrated under the al-Qaedist banner, Osama bin Laden was above all a man fighting for salvation.  First and foremost the salvation of the House of Saud, then the pan-Islamic nation, and finally the whole of the human race.  Fuelled by an inflated perception of his role in the Soviet collapse, resentment of Western politico-economic policies and cultural disdain for modern secular liberalism among Arab nations, the ideological author of al-Qaedism sought to challenge an emergent global order that itself has inflicted untold suffering to the majority of the planet. 

While bin Laden’s ideological justification for violence may have been anathema to our own understanding of world peace, it did not emerge in a vacuum.  For elevating capitalism to monolithic proportions, Bill Clinton must shoulder some blame for both creating the fertile soil within which al-Qaeda thrived as well as for failing to grasp to full potential of bin Laden’s allure among the deprived and marginalized.  For allowing himself to be manipulated time and again into destruction at home and abroad, George W. Bush is destined to fade into obscurity as the unequivocal loser of this epic battle; the Goliath whose very defeat elevated David to mythical status.  Yet much as his predecessors, Obama inherited more than just a propagandist; he was left with a genuine threat to the ideals of civil society and global democracy.  Were it not possible to capture and contain this threat, I find it difficult to fault him for ordering a kill.

Yet whatever relief we may feel at the ‘resolution’ of this decade-long manhunt, we must remember that, as RAND terrorism expert, William Rosenau, noted in the wake of the Iraq invasion:

Al-Qaeda is a worldview, not an organization. Before 9/11, some parts of the US intelligence community described al-Qaeda as a hierarchical, cellular terrorist group with bin Laden at the centre, barking out orders to his ‘troops’ in the field and plotting attacks around the world. This mistaken perception was a hangover from cold-war era thinking about terrorism ... [rather it] is made up of a politically, nationally and ethnically diverse group of militants who don’t agree on everything but subscribe in general terms to an ideology. Bin Laden’s genius was in packaging and promoting an ideology that found enormous appeal among some elements of the Muslim world, and that allowed militants engaged in local struggles to reconceptualise their fights as part of a broader global struggle.

No matter how inevitable bin Laden’s death may have been, we should be careful not to characterize it as a victory.  At minimum, his story serves to illuminate our own failure to create an equitable society in which violent ideologies hold no influence.  Yet in a more practical sense, we must understand that his death does nothing to erase his ideas and may contrarily serve to strengthen his adherent’s resolve.  Al-Qaeda is not a snake but a hive of bees – cutting off the head does little but inflame the passions of its soldiers who, incidentally, may simply birth a new queen.   Rather, if we truly seek an end to this conflict, we must couple his death with our own redemption by acknowledging the harm inherent in capitalist totalitarianism and renouncing violence in all its forms.  Without this, all we’ve managed to do is kill an elderly diabetic with a big mouth.

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