So I'm in the middle of backing up some files over the network. A lot of them actually. I'm upgrading from RAID 1 with an extra disc on JBOD to a full-on RAID 0+1, and am storing my data elsewhere while I reconfigure the array. Don't want to lose any data.
This means that I've almost 200GB of stuff to move. No problem, I'm on a 100mbit institutional network, right?
Well, not exactly. I like to be able to use both my laptop and desktop from time to time, especially transferring files between them, and I also like the additional security of an honest-to-goodness hardware router between me and the internet. So I've got a Linksys WRT54G set up.
For most purposes, it works just fine. I can get 1.5M/s down, which is pretty good for my purposes. I'm already using third-party open-source firmware which fixes some of the glitches I ran into with Bittorrent, and until now I've had no complaints.
But now I'm transferring a lot of data and for some unknown reason my NIC is maxing out at 25% utilization, only 3M/s up. Which means that transferring 200GB of data will take... 20 hours. That is no good at all.
I looked around online to see if there was some Windows setting that was holding things up. I went and forced full-duplex mode just to see if it would make a difference, but no dice.
So I unplugged the router and jacked straight into the network port in my room. Instant increase in performance. I'm now running at around 80% of capacity, which is about what you can expect. I'll go back to using the router once I finish, because I don't really need that much speed for surfing the web, but I'm disappointed that the product doesn't work as advertised. 3M/s is not 100Mbit or even a reasonable approximation thereof.
Just because you can put two locations into GoogleMaps and ask for directions doesn't mean you're going to get a rational response. Conclusion: the GM API has no idea how to deal with oceans. But don't worry: it's only a 5,572km swim.
If you were the leader of a pariah nation facing extraordinary pressure from the UN to drop your nuclear weapons program, under a complete US trade embargo, and sitting next to the devolving mess that is Iraq and wanting nothing better than to dissolve the increasingly shaky US/UK alliance, what would your best move be?
Why kidnapping 15 British marines of course! That'll certainly make Britain realize you're no threat to them. And of course, you'd demand that Britain apologize for invading Iranian territorial waters, regardless of whether or not that happened. Threatening to "try" the sailors in an Iranian court would be another great move.
Still further evidence that the people in charge of Iran have the maturity of 13-year-olds. Refresh my memory: exactly why are we supposed to take these people seriously, let alone treat them as equals on the world stage?
Oh, yeah. That's right. They're raving madmen hell-bent on building nukes.
Back in college I listened to Bill Mallonee's Vigilantes of Love project. Somewhere along the line I lost the music, but lo and behold, "Summershine" is available for a free download (320kbps DRM-free mp3s no less) and all of the rest of the albums are available for pay on the same site.
Give it a looksee...
By now, most of you will have seen the mashup of the Apple 1984 ad with a Barack Obama message. Pretty brilliant piece of editing if you ask me.
In what is perhaps the most hilarious and cognitively-dissident step I can think of, the owners of the 1984 novel are seemingly threatening legal action against the creators for copyright infringement.
So basically, copyright is for Big Brother. This is making sense to me.
In addition to arresting the "Equality Riders" a few weeks ago, NDSP has now arrested or cited several anti-ROTC protesters outside Main. The protesters were from the Catholic Worker Movement, a neo-Communist pacifist group with Catholic roots. It is not an organ of the Catholic Church.
I'm not going to address the appropriateness of ROTC on campus from a Catholic perspective because, well, I'm not Catholic, and don't believe that educational institutions are part of the institution of the church. So though churches may run schools, schools are not churches and do not have the same kind of ecclesiological priorities. As such, I do not believe that it's much of a moral issue.
On the legal side of things, these people were trespassing. I don't care what you're here for: this is private property, so unless you've been invited, umm, go away.
But there's a more significant legal issue that pertains to ROTC as such. ROTC is an arm of the US military. Congress is explicitly authorized in Art. I, § 8 to raise and support armies. A recent Supreme Court case, Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc., 547 U.S. 47 (2006), the Court held in a unanimous ruling that Congress is entirely capable of requiring any school that accepts federal funding to permit military recruiters on campus with the same level of access as the most favorably-treated non-military recruiter. So if ND wants any money from the government at all, it needs to allow ROTC on campus.
Does that mean that it needs to build them a building and run a program to the extent that it does? No, probably not. But the protesters seem to want ND to cut off all contact with ROTC as it violates their pacifist sensibilities. And that's just not going to happen.
So says Lee Adama in this past Sunday's Battlestar Galactica season finale. Any reasonable discussion of the episode as such will contain massive spoilers, and though I'm not going to talk about most of the usual points of interest, others having done that adequately well, I do want to talk about that. So proceed at your own risk.
Adama is called to the stand - a highly irregular and illegal move - to testify in support of the defense's motion for a mistrial. He discusses the state of humanity while up there and utters the line which is the title of this post. I think he's right. But I think he may be more right than he knows: what if civilization as such is really just a glorified gang? What if legitimacy is no more than custom backed with force? Just how far are we from mob rule?
This isn't intended as a criticism of our current political situation. It's intended as a critique of human politics in general. Politics is, at root, the threat of violence. It's a testament to the competence of our politicians and diplomats - or at least to the framers of the political and diplomatic systems which current leaders incompetently run - that there is so little violence in the world. But every law carries the implicit threat of force, else it is no law at all.
What creator Ron Moore has done with Battlestar Galactica is to strip away the trappings of civilization, exposing the functioning of politics at its most fundamental level. There are just over 40,000 people in the Colonial fleet. Under normal circumstances, that number of people could be kept in check pretty effectively by a simple dictatorship. But these are the refugees of an advanced technological culture - complete with remnants of the media - that expect certain things from their government. Furthermore, the exigences of what amounts to a naval living situation render their society immeasurably vulnerable to sabotage and dissent.
Part of the success of advanced political systems is the ability to apply nuanced force, e.g. imposing real punishments less than execution. No such remedies are readily available to the "government" of the fleet as it exists, because there is no reliable way of enforcing decisions through anything less than utmost violence.
All of which brings me back to my original line of questioning: is the difference between modern civilization and gang rule one of degree or one of kind? Are we so different from "primitive" cultures that will amputate limbs for theft? Is incarceration without possibility of parole really more "humane" than forty lashes? Idealists would want to argue for a difference in kind, but I am largely convinced that it one of degree. I am also largely convinced that this is simply the nature of the beast (quite literally in fact) and that there isn't anything wrong with this or anything to be done about it.
Human law is not divine law. It is not intended or capable of producing ultimate justice. It is a temporary fix. Our God is a God of law and order, and law and order are dear to him, but he is under no illusions that humans will be capable of creating, abiding by, or enforcing any system of laws that will produce a just society. The books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings are significantly devoted to this theme. We await the coming of the High King of Heaven with both rod and staff, who will justly rule the nations with a rod of iron, yet tend his sheep like a flock.
The weather today was just fantastic, so after Property let out at 4:15, I grabbed my bike and Con Law book and headed over to Pinhook Park, where I read for an hour or so before it got dark. It's a solid 4.5 miles from the graduate apartments, so the exercise was great.
I'll definitely be headed back there.
It also seems as if some rich person who has a house across the river maintains an unsecured wireless access point, so there's intermittent net access.
I didn't notice this as it was happening, probably because I was busy at the time (my appellate brief was due the same day) but on March 9, the Notre Dame police (not rent-a-cops, but an actual police force w/jurisdiction) arrested several Equality Ride members for trespassing.
I don't think I can say just how pleased I am at this outcome. I don't usually read the campus newspaper, but apparently there's only been one article and one letter to the editor on the subject, and the letter wasn't from a student, but an alumnus. So apparently Notre Dame managed to arrest several members of a deliberately provocative gay rights group that was trespassing on campus and no one said boo.
This, I suggest, constitutes spectacularly bad planning on the part of Soul Force (still kills me to write such a terrible name). Why? Because Notre Dame's spring break started on the 10th, and most of the student body cleared out on the 9th.
I just got out of a talk by someone who has worked in the DRC on the child-soldier problem. She was talking about efforts to disarm and reintegrate ex-child-soldiers and ongoing efforts to prosecute war criminals before the International Criminal Court. The conversation didn't have anything to do with sovereignty and jurisdiction, but that's what I was thinking about.
The ICC was founded in 2002 as an international tribunal to prosecute things like genocide, crimes against humanity, etc. One big problem though: the ICC does is not part of a sovereign entity. It's kind of posited by international convention, but represents no entity that is capable of enforcing its decisions.
Cue my previous post on sovereignty. Here we've abstracted sovereignty to the point that a lot of people think it's perfectly okay to assert the power of a sovereign without any actual sovereignty. I think I'm going to object to this just on principle. There's something right, honest, and good about swearing fealty to a true sovereign. The converse of this is that there's something wrong, delusional, and twisted about swearing fealty to an impostor. Recognizing things like the ICC not only dignifies a non-entity with inappropriate status but in so doing also demeans true sovereignty where it does exist.
So I saw the most recent episode of 24 last night. You really have to watch the whole thing with a huge grain of salt and significant suspension of disbelief, but when the writers start ignoring things like fundamental physical facts I start to get annoyed.
I suppose this is where I warn about spoilers, so proceed at your own risk.
The bomb headed for San Francisco was downed in an industrial park on the outskirts of the city. So far so good. In the crash, the bomb itself broke open and allegedly spilled radioactive fuel. Plausible enough, I suppose. At least it isn't downright impossible.
What's annoying is that they're talking as if this is a major catastrophe, and have said that the first responders have almost certainly received fatal doses of radiation. This is nonsense. First, both federal agents and terrorists have been handling these bombs all day with no adverse effects. If mere proximity were sufficient, everyone would be dead. And as Jack Bauer doesn't seem to be killable, that can't be it.
Second, nuclear fuel is heavy. The critical mass for uranium, i.e. the minimum mass required to start a chain reaction, is 52kg. So right off, we're almost certainly looking at a plutonium-based device, as I don't see anyone lugging around a 100+lbs device the way these guys do.
Third, nuclear fuel is dense. I mean really dense. Plutonium has a minimum critical mass of 10kg. That's a far more manageable 20-ish pounds. But plutonium weighs 19.2g/cm^3. So 10kg of plutonium is only 505cm^3. That's 17oz. That'd fit inside a single-serving plastic soda bottle, which fits with the size of the devices portrayed in the show. But even if 100% of the fuel were pulverized and dispersed in the atmosphere - not gonna happen - we're hardly looking at sufficient radioactivity to kill a few dozen firefighters who never came closer than a few dozen feet.
I'm willing to grant them essentially magic programming and networking skills. Fine, that stuff is fuzzy anyways, and just because something isn't current technologically feasible today doesn't mean that it's impossible. But plutonium has always weighed 19.816g/cm^3 and will always weigh 19.816g.cm^3. Check your facts, people. It's not that hard.
Ars Technica points out that Viacom is going to have a real problem to overcome should Viacom v. Google ever go to trial: Viacom's own video site, iFilm, contains quite a few clips to which Viacom does not possess the rights, and Viacom itself engages in none of the policing activities that it is suing Google over. If Viacom is unwilling to police its own site, why should a judge penalize Google for not policing YouTube?
Here we have the story of a man who spent 18 years in prison for a rape that recent DNA analysis suggests he did not commit. I can't really comment on that per se, as I don't know any more of the facts than that. What I do know is that he's just been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing a photographer two years after he was released from prison. He used the money he was awarded in his wrongful-imprisonment suit for his defense.
Somehow it doesn't seem to me that prison has much point anymore. Not really a deterrent. I know there are problems with it, but somehow replacing each year of a sentence with a stroke from the lash and eliminating life-without in favor of increased executions strikes me as at least as reasonable as the bizarre system we've got now.
Unfortunately, I don't think that sheer incompetence and stupidity is sufficient grounds for disbarment. One can only dream.
A week or so ago, Take-Two, the publisher of such... "delights... as Grand Theft Auto and Bully filed a preemptive suit against Jack Thompson, the Internet's very own enfant terrible with a persecution complex in which you could turn a semi around. They're trying to prevent him from taking legal action in an attempt to prevent the publication of Manhunt 2 and GTA 4. His response is perhaps the least professional thing I've ever read.
Note to legal practitioners: quoting Psalm 35 and applying it to yourself makes you look really stupid. Further note: calling opponents dumb who have defeated you every time you've entered the courtroom is, well, kind of dumb.
This man is a disgrace to the legal profession and I really hope that the disbarment proceedings filed last month are successful.
This makes sense. There are now reports that the real people being hurt by online music sharing are pirates. If you were going to buy a legitimate copy, you were planning on spending some real money anyways. But if you're heading down to the flea market to drop $6 on three cases of CD-Rs, you don't care about legitimacy. So why spend anything at all?
Frankly, I'm entirely happy with this. While I think that there isn't anything wrong with and shouldn't be anything illegal about file-sharing, selling someone else's stuff is different. In the first case, you're simply propagating a good with an infinite supply. Nothing wrong with that. But in the latter, you're essentially committing fraud, by asserting that the stuff you're selling is in fact yours to sell. This is freeloading in a way that is different from simple copying. I don't think content creators should (or in fact can) control who copies their stuff, but only they should be able to make a living from it. Whether or not they actually can make a living is irrelevant, but it's clear that no one else should.
This is awesome. It's an almost-real-time map updated with disasters across the globe. At the time of this posting, there is a fire in Chicago, an ammonia spill in Minnesota, a ship collision off the coast of China, and a bus accident in Russia. The bus accident was about half an hour ago.
There are also area maps of just the US, just Europe, or just Hungary (it's a Hungarian website, after all).
This really is incredible. The journalistic value alone is staggering.
Lawrence Lessig has an op-ed on the pending Viacom v. Google case. He notes that Google and YouTube are protected by Title II of the DMCA, which puts the burden of policing copyrights on the copyright holder, a seemingly fair trade for the absolutely draconian enforcement measures copyright holders are granted in the DMCA. But Viacom is essentially ignoring that provision of the statute and is asking the courts to change the law.
This is dangerous precedent.
Mexican authorities have just busted what is said to be one of the largest pseudoephedrine smuggling rings in the world. They found $206 million in US currency stashed in the house, along with almost $300,000 in various other currencies. The link above shows all of that money stacked in a room. $206 million is a lot of cash.
I would also like to point out that $206 million is a butt-load of Sudafed. Those guys must have had a cold to beat the band.
Pseudoephedrine is one of the key ingredients in methamphetamines.
This post is a reflection on something I've been thinking about for a while now, and is a theme that is related to a number of things I've posted in the past few months (, , , , etc.), and that theme is sovereignty.
In short, I think we are facing what can be described as a crisis of sovereignty to the point that it may no longer exist in any way that matters.
This is going to be really long. Read on at your discretion.
1 obsolete : supreme excellence or an example of it
2 a : supreme power especially over a body politic; b : freedom from external control : AUTONOMY; c : controlling influence
3 : one that is sovereign, especially : an autonomous state
Wikipedia says that sovereignty is "the exclusive right to exercise supreme political (e.g. legislative, judicial, and/or executive) authority over a geographic region, group of people, or oneself." That's more the definition I'm looking for, but even that betrays the problem I'm going to be discussing.
A "sovereign" would be one who is possessed of "sovereignty". We don't really have sovereigns anymore. For most of history, sovereignty rested in a particular person, that being the king. There were many and various justifications set forth for why a given king was sovereign over a given people and/or territory, including divine right, inheritance, treaty, oaths of fealty, but they basically all boil down to whether or not the king is able to exert his will over the person or territory in question. This really comes down to a question of power: can the king enforce his will?
For most of human history, this has been the way sovereignty worked. A king - frequently considered to be a god, especially in the ancient world - was sovereign, and wielded ultimate power over his people and lands. Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Homeric Greece, classical Sparta, the Roman Empire, various Indian kingdoms, China, Japan, the Mongols, you name it: sovereignty resided in a particular person. When Louis XIV said "I am the state," he was echoing this ancient notion that the king, and the king alone, is sovereign.
There are historic examples that break with this tradition, choosing what I will refer to as "abstracted sovereignty", sovereignty that does not reside in a particular person but is seemingly distributed into what amounts to a legal fiction, be that "the people" or the state. The Greeks - at least while Athens was ascendant - didn't tend to have kings, and sovereignty seemed to rest with the polis as such, not any particular person in it. The Roman Republic is another such example. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any non-Western examples of abstracted sovereignty.
Let's start by saying that sovereignty is important, abstracted or absolute. Someone has to be in charge, otherwise there's anarchy. Fortunately for human civilization, the maxim that it's good to be the king is pretty self-evident, and just as nature abhors a vacuum, society abhors the absence of controlling authority. But regardless of the justification set forth for sovereignty and the nature that sovereignty takes, sovereignty is a necessary condition for human society to coalesce beyond hunter-gatherer and subsistence farming stages.
The easiest way of doing this is some form of absolute sovereignty, rule by kings. Pretty unambiguous. If you want to ask who's in charge, you've got someone to point to. And how do we know he's in charge? Because he'll kick your sorry little butt if you don't pay your respects, or he'll have someone do it for you. Power is thus concrete and understandable. Everyone knows exactly how they relate to power and knows exactly the ways in which power applies to them.
But absolute sovereignty has its dangers as well. If the king truly is sovereign, any time you need a ruling on something you have to ask him or one of his agents. Not only is this a huge pain in the neck, but it also lends itself quite readily to arbitrariness. Arbitrary application of power is almost as harmful as no application of power. Even Hammurabi knew this, giving us one of the the oldest forms of written law we've still got.
Writing down the laws is the first step in abstracting sovereignty, for all of a sudden you've got something other than the king to consult on questions of law, which are in essence questions of power. Law is, at root, the codification of the will of the sovereign. The reason this is only the first step is that the sovereign always has the ability to change the law as he/it sees fit, and if you've got absolute sovereignty in the form of one of the ancient god-kings, well, even basalt can be erased if you've got enough expendable labor.
Fast forward a bit. The American republic is perhaps the best example of abstracted sovereignty that there is. Here, the "people" are sovereign. This is a fairly strange idea. If you were to go to Washington, DC and try to find the sovereign, you couldn't do it. The obvious place to look would be the White House, but the President can't make laws, so he's out. Congress can make laws, but they can't really enforce their will on anyone, certainly not to the degree that the President can. If anything, the courts are as close as most people will ever get to seeing a sovereign power, because they still have the power to order you to show up at a certain place at a certain time, and they can get you in a lot of trouble if you decide not to listen. Neither the President nor Congress can do that: the Courts are the final arbiters of power over the population. But the federal government is not where sovereignty resides: that remains, as a matter of law, with the people. The government answers to the people, not the other way around.
In many ways, this is an improvement over the ancient god-kings. The system is very, very resistant to the arbitrary application of power. It doesn't undergo periodic crises of identity as a sovereign dies and needs to be replaced. It's very adaptable, as the people running things are replaceable and quite frequently replaced. It's also quite scalable: one person and his household could never run a country the size of ours the way ancient kings ran their countries, but we can always hire more bureaucrats as needed.
But abstracted sovereignty has its dangers as well, and this is what I really want to talk about here. By saying that sovereignty resides in the people, we've essentially said that each of us is a little bit sovereign. As a practical matter, this is problematic, because that doesn't really create any kind of structure where people know where they fit. If everyone is just as sovereign as everyone else, who do you listen to? Should you, in fact, listen to anyone? All you need do is head down to your local high school or juvenile court and you'll find a lot of people who don't think they need to listen to anyone, because no one can tell them what to do, right? As I've said before, the fact that there are people out there who really do have the authority to give you orders that you have to follow is not something with which modern American culture seems to be familiar. And it seems to be falling apart at the seams as a result.
There is also a real theological, pastoral danger here. We say that God is sovereign, but as most people don't have any idea what it means for a person to be sovereign, and the dangerous beauty to be found there, most people haven't a clue what it means for God to be sovereign. And just as people don't know how to fit into a human pattern of sovereignty, how to relate to human sovereigns, they thus have no idea how to relate to God. The reason that the intimacy of the Holy Spirit is so dangerous and wonderful is not primarily that God is not only nearer than thought or breath, but that he is the sovereign ruler of the universe. Just as obedience to kings is a beautiful thing because things are working the way they are supposed to work, obedience to God is the highest expression of human purpose. God demands utter obedience, and the fact that obedience to God means glorifying and enjoying him is suddenly a radical, surprising truth. But how can we see the glory and joy in this if we consider ourselves to be little sovereigns?
This is where I want to get eschatological, but I'll leave the application of Revelation 13 as an exercise for the reader. If enough people are interested, I'll do a post or something. Suffice it to say that we know that the siren song of the great Beasts sings of power and authority apart from the Lamb, but make no mistake: the Lamb will rule the nations with a rod of iron, sovereignty at its most concrete.
So while abstracted sovereignty certainly has its uses, and has served to mitigate or eliminate many of the excesses, dangers, and inefficiencies of absolute sovereignty, it is not without its own breed of dangers, and I fear those dangers are coming to bloom. As it says on my site, government, especially in its current, abstracted form, is indeed a shared myth, and the myth is one of sovereignty. When people stop believing in the myth, and how can one really believe, in ways that really matter, in ways that hit you in your gut, in a sovereign that you can't see and with which you can't interact, when the myth dies, government dies.
The message - one of them anyway - of God's covenant with man is that mankind needs a king, and that king needs to be God. In Adam, we are told that God will save himself a people. In Abraham, we are told that people will be a family. In Moses, we are told that family will be a nation. In David, we learn that that nation will be a kingdom. From the kings that follow, we learn that no human king will do. But now our Great King has appeared.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.
I'm on spring break at the moment, and am enjoying the time to relax, reflect, and indulge in a few guilty pleasures for which I normally haven't time. One of these is golden age and early sci-fi. I just finished reading A Torrent of Faces (1967) by James Blish and Norman L. Knight, and am currently reading "The Machine Stops" (1909) by E. M. Forster. Though it doesn't exactly fall into the same genre or time period, I also read In the Beginning Was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson, which has elements of a theme present in the other two works and common to early sci-fi.
That theme is simply that as civilization advances, it has less and less use for the vast majority of the population that makes up the civilization in question.
This is, I think, something which is becoming increasingly true, and poses increasingly great problems as a result. As more and more fields of labor are occupied entirely by or greatly facilitated by machines or simply rendered unnecessary, the number of jobs goes down, and the requirements for those jobs that remain goes up. In both stories, this has advanced to the point where the tiniest fraction of the human population is actually employable, with the rest (orders of magnitude more than are alive today) living on the dole. The few employed people would all be considered genius-level today, but there really doesn't exist any meaningful work for anyone else to do. Having a job of any kind becomes the single greatest prestige marker one can have.
In A Torrent of Faces and "The Machine Stops", this isn't a huge problem because technology has advanced to the point that there is basically enough stuff to go around. Though in the former there is pretty strict rationing, everyone gets enough to eat and all medical needs etc. are met out of the abundance of society. Furthermore, the few people who do have jobs recognize that they are basically serving the masses, and the masses are entirely content to respect and obey their leaders.
Our culture, I believe, is beginning to exhibit some of the same problems, but without any of the same benefits. The gap between the rich and poor is increasing, but this isn't because of some oppressive or unjust "system". It's because there are fewer and fewer jobs in fields between the elites and manual labor, and we need a lot less manual labor than we ever have before. But unlike the societies described in the stories, we don't exist in a climate of abundance where everyone can have basically all of their needs met. Combine that with the fact that an increasing percentage of the population really isn't capable of anything more than manual labor and throw in an infectious egalitarian class-warfare mindset that refuses to acknowledge any system of mutual obligation between rich and poor, and you've got a pretty nasty situation coming on.
There seems to be a rising bar for what it takes to get on the economic bus. It used to be that if you wanted to be comfortably middle-class, you didn't even really need to go to college. A decade or two ago that became required. Now even that's no guarantee, and it becomes necessary to go to one of the best schools, and even masters degrees are starting to depreciate. Fortunately for me, my line of work doesn't seem to be exhibiting any decline in demand, but even in the legal field the base requirements for getting on the fast-track are going up.
I don't really think there's any attractive solution for this. We really don't need much labor anymore, and there isn't any way of paying people for things we don't need. We will also never reach a state of true abundance, because that's not how things go. No amount of technology will ever be able to eliminate scarcity.
Still, it's interesting to me that even almost a hundred years ago, this state of affairs was predicted by various parties. Perhaps things aren't so different. Maybe this is the constant state of affairs, with things always on the verge of flying into pieces but never quite doing it. Then again, maybe we're overdue for another October 1929.
In short: Viacom isn't just trying to seek damages, they're trying to put YouTube out of business. If they wind up owning Google, well, they wouldn't mind that either.
1) The thrust of the complaint seems to be that YouTube refuses to do Viacom's dirty work. Viacom doesn't want its videos shared, and it wants Google to police that. Viacom does not allege that YouTube has refused any takedown notices, but points out that it only takes down the actual video uploaded, and does not proactively search its own database and take down any other allegedly infringing videos that might be there. Furthermore, Viacom alleges that all a user need to to re-upload a movie is to alter a frame or two and the filters designed to prevent the re-submission of a taken-down video are easily circumvented. This idea is woven throughout every allegation of the complaint: policing content is expensive, and Viacom wants the benefits of copyright without the costs of protecting it themselves.
2) Viacom is unhappy that YouTube allows the creation and sharing of private videos, only accessible by password. They allege that there could be infringing content behind those passwords, and they want to be able to see what's in there so they can send appropriate takedown notices. Note to all: Viacom wants to know everything you're doing with your media, whether public or not. Not that this comes as any surprise, but dang, at least try to be subtle about it. Now it's out in open court.
3) Viacom alleges YouTube is deliberately interfering with the ability of copyright holders to police their own works. Not only do they think that allowing password-protection falls into this category, but they're upset that YouTube only returns 1000 videos when you do a search, implying that there could be more "South Park" videos out there that didn't come up this time.
4) Viacom alleges that the distribution of copyrighted content is central to YouTube's business model and that they're deliberately facilitating infringement. There is certainly an argument for this, but I'd be quite interested to know the ratio of copyrighted to uncopyrighted works that show up on YouTube. It's my experience that the latter are far more prevalent than the former, suggesting that YouTube is still an entirely viable business absent copyrighted works.
5) Viacom attempts to get around the protections offered to forum admins under the CDA by focusing on YouTube's actual functionality. You upload a video to YouTube, but then YouTube copies that video into its own format and presents "share" and "embed" code at every viewing. Viacom seems to allege that this constitutes first-order infringement that is distinct from a user simply uploading a file which is then uploaded to anyone who asks. It will be interesting to see what Google and the courts make of that.
The complaint sets forth six claims for relief: direct copyright infringement for public performance, public display, and reproduction, inducement of copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, and vicarious copyright infringement.
Viacom seeks injunctive relief requiring Google to "employ reasonable methodologies to prevent or limit infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyrights". It would seem that the only real way of doing this would be to take down the service entirely, as the only real way of making sure that a given video isn't copyrighted by someone would be to have every submitted video manually authorized by an actual person. Given that YouTube has at least a few hundred million videos uploaded, this would entirely preclude the operation of the site as it stands. Assuming YouTube still sees 65,000 new videos a day it would take at least 800 people working full time to authorize new videos on a daily basis, costing tens of millions of dollars every year.
Viacom is also seeking maximum damages under copyright law, which would probably put damages somewhere in the trillions, as the statute provides for $150,000 per infringement.
They're basically going for the whole schmeer: injunctive relief, damages, and all profits YouTube has generated from the allegedly infringing activity. Any judgment against YouTube would totally destroy its ability to operate in any form whatsoever. Which is exactly the point: They want to put YouTube out of business, because YouTube and the Internet are to corporations that make money by selling copies of things what the comet was to the dinosaurs.
Viacom is suing Google over videos on YouTube. They're seeking $1 billion in damages. I'm pretty sure Google isn't going to settle, cause you could support a mid-sized law firm for a few years on that kind of money, making litigation far preferable to settlement.
I'm not entirely sure Viacom can win here. IANAL (yet), but there exists significant legal protection for operators of websites that allow the public to host content. Admins can't be held liable for libelous content, so I'm not sure they can be held liable for copyright infringement either, especially as the DMCA effectively puts the burden on content owners to police their own stuff. Zeran v. America Online, Inc., 129 F.3d 327, 331 (1997); See also 47 U.S.C. 230. That case and that statute, part of the Communications Decency Act, had to do specifically with libel and obscenity, and the act does state in § 230(e)(2) that it does not "expand or limit" intellectual property law, but I don't think that immunizing ISPs and website admins from liability for third-party copyright infringement constitutes a limit on IP law.
If Google refuses to take down something Viacom claims is its content, then we'd have a lawsuit, but I don't think that's what Viacom is trying to do here. They're trying to get Google to bear the costs of its users behavior and shift the burden from Viacom to Google.
I'd have to look at the actual complaint, which doesn't seem to be online just yet, to get a good idea of exactly what injury Viacom is claiming, and under what legal theories they are seeking relief, before I can give any more detailed opinions on the case.
The new Wilco album is now streaming from their site, 10AM - 10PM, today only.
I saw 300 yesterday. I have to say I was a little bit disappointed. There was too much talking, too many scenes that weren't fight scenes. The fighting itself was fantastic, no question about that. But... I think it could have made a great 90 minute movie, but as it is it's merely a good two hour movie.
300 does manage to be more Homeric than the execrable Troy, which is great. But at times it seems that Snyder is hearing too much Locke and not enough Pericles. This may be a faithful adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novel: I've not read it so I can't comment. But there were too many 18th century rhetorical cliches for my tastes.
As far as characterization: yeah, not so much. But this movie really isn't about that. It's about visuals - the coloring is classic, though I found the use of green screens a bit claustrophobic - and kicking tremendous amounts of ass. Still, we need to have some motivation for these people and somehow giving them post-Enlightenment things to say just isn't cutting it. Not really enough history to get a feel for the struggle: who is Xerxes, what is he doing in Greece, who are the Athenians, and where are they? Why is Sparta the only one at the Hot Gates? (They weren't, actually: there were indeed 300 Spartans, but there were up to 7,000 Greeks from other cities.)
I spent a few minutes looking for Thermopylae this evening, but nothing doing: the river at the head of the bay has deposited 3-5 miles of sediment in the last 2500 years, and what was once a pass is now just the bottom of a hill. Apparently at one time it formed a cliff overlooking the bay, but now it's a road with hills on one side and farms on the other. So yeah, it's in there somewhere, but the local topography is unrecognizable.
I am rather bemused by the reviews coming out. Aaron seems to spend much time on the fact that it isn't a particularly good movie, but few others do. Some people are just put off by the bellicosity. Apparently it is now no longer permissible for cultured people to think that war has its uses. It's certainly no longer permissible for there to be anything admirable in Europeans fighting non-Europeans. Still others note the puzzling lack of message in a film that could be entirely relevant if it wanted to (we're currently fighting a war against Persians [at least some of them are anyways] in what used to be part of Persia, so... you figure it out).
Me, I'm waiting for someone to write a screenplay called The Hammer, set in AD 732, within a hundred miles of Paris, when unarmored Franks defeated heavily armed and armored charging Berber cavalry at the Battle of Tours. Stick that in your multicultural pipe and smoke it.
The DC Circuit has voted 2-1 to overrule a ban on handguns within the District that has been in place since 1976. The dissenting judge seemed to think that because DC isn't a state that the 2nd Amendment doesn't apply, but that would seem to indicate that the 1st Amendment wouldn't apply either, so that can't be right. In essence, the Circuit recognized that the right to own a handgun is protected by the Constitution and may not be infringed upon by statute.
If you don't like this ruling, then amend the Constitution. There's a process for that. But arguing that the Constitution does not guarantee the right for individual citizens to possess weapons won't hold water.
So after hearing about it for a few years, I finally decided to try EVE Online. It's spring break, I figure now's as good a time as any. It's an MMORPG set in deep space, and the backstory, while interesting, is something you can look up for yourself. I think I may have finally found the online game that's right for me, as WoW couldn't keep my interest.
Fortunately, a lot of the things that bugged me about WoW are very different in EVE. For starters, there's actually an incentive to log off and go do something else, because you gain skill points at a fixed rate whether or not you're logged on. EVE uses a skill-based not a level-based system, but you improve your skills not by using them but by "training" them, i.e. select them for training and the skill points you gain are applied to that skill. You can train one skill at a time.
Perhaps the biggest difference is that it's all on a single realm. Every player plays in the same world. There are between 15,000 and 33,000 logged in at any given time, which suggests a player base of about 45,000-50,000, though I have no figures on that last one. But if you know someone who's playing EVE, there's a possibility of meeting them online, something which is quite often not the case with WoW. There are also no login queues. I don't know if EVE even has a screen for that. Logging in takes as little time as loading the program. In some sense it doesn't feel like I'm online at all.
Another thing: getting around in WoW is a huge pain in the ass. In EVE, you tell the computer where you want to go, and it'll take you there. Pretty quickly too. Which is good, because things are scaled properly, as in a system really will be a few dozen AU across. Which would take a long time in normal drive. A recognized survival technique is to set a waypoint in the middle of nowhere and just jump there if you get in trouble, because the odds of someone finding you is pretty much zilch. Getting around tactically can take a while, but if you're trying to get from location to location, it's really quick.
EVE doesn't use instances. It doesn't need to. They just chuck an encounter some random place in a nearby system and give you a waypoint for it. No one else will ever find it. Space is just that big.
EVE doesn't have grinding. Training a skill takes a fixed amount of time, and you don't have to make 3800 worthless items to level it up. Just leave it be. The downside of that is that there isn't much you can do to hurry things up, and some of the skills take quite a long time to level up that way. The "Learning" skill will reduce training times by 2% per rank, but that maxes out at rank 5. An advanced skill could take a week or more to train.
EVE doesn't have high-level gear that only drops randomly. Anything in the game that you want, you can build. It may take a few dozen people and billions of credits, but you can theoretically do it. This is not to say that there isn't end-game content. There are a few ships that have only been built once.
Basically, it's a game you can play for fifteen minutes or two hours, but you don't need to do either and there aren't real disadvantages either way. At the time this is posted, I'm training Learning, and I'll switch to Caldari Frigate III once that finishes, around 10:00 or so. Sounds fun.
I don't know how they did this, but here you've got a mashup of classic mid-1960s Bob Dylan with Dr. Seuss.
This is sheer genius.
I don't know why I find this fascinating, but I do. It's a series of photos purportedly found on p2p networks, probably from people inadvertently sharing their pictures directory.
Nothing NSFW, and really nothing particularly compromising either, just hundreds (thousands?) of people living life. It's not all snapshots: there are selected random clips of random objects, but it is mostly people doing... something.
One of the only real incentives for buying media is that it's generally higher quality and arguably more convenient. But if they keep hobbling their stuff with nagware and other excrement, the incentive goes down fast.
Since December 2006, 31 mortgage lenders have died, i.e. entered bankruptcy protection or are no longer operating independently. How do I know this? Because some observant soul has set up the Implode-o-meter which will let you watch this train-wreck-in-progress.
The housing market is in trouble, it seems. Rising interest rates are hitting falling home values and debtors are defaulting, the riskiest ones first. This could have a ripple effect, as banks who are dealing responsibly may have assets invested in financial institutions that aren't.
I'm thinking that the time I'll be looking to buy my first house - 5-7 years - will be a great time to buy, as the market might bottom out around then.
Thought for the day:
Billy Cottrell is currently an inmate at the Victorville Federal Correction Institution in Adelanto, CA. He has been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for torching $5 million worth of SUVs in 2003. The LA Weekly has a feature story about him that came out a few days ago.
The article is interesting to me for a number of reasons. First, it highlights a problem with the criminal justice system as currently instantiated, namely the imposition of heightened sentences by judges on their own discretion. The California Supreme Court recently struck down such sentences, and there is reason to believe that the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will do so as well. Were that to happen, I think it fairly likely to be affirmed by the United States Supreme Court: divorcing sentences from juries isn't something the Court tends to like all that much, and a number of years ago they overturned any death sentences that had not been imposed by a jury.
Second, the article points out the suppression of evidence regarding Cottrell's diagnosis with Asperger's Syndrome, a kind of high-performance autism where people become brilliant at math and other abstract disciplines yet trade this for vestigial social skills and personal judgment. The article suggests that the District Court judge who presided over his trial and imposed an extra three years on his sentence didn't understand Asperger's and was biased against him for being a "terrorist". Though I do have some questions about whether his mental condition should have suggested a degree of leniency, there is little to suggest that he didn't actually do the things for which he has been convicted. It's my guess that the judge simply didn't care about his mental diagnosis: Cottrell is an arsonist, and the criminal justice system knows what to do with arsonists. You put them in jail for a long time. If we showed leniency to everyone with a mental condition, we'd probably have no one in prison, as most of the people there probably suffer from some kind of diagnosable condition, whether it's ADHD, dyslexia, or some other trendy psychological condition. I'm entirely prepared to consider no-foolin' psychosis as an excuse for a crime, but the "reasonable man standard" which judges and juries use to assess culpability is not to be impinged by lowering the standard to accommodate people with impaired judgment.
The article also alleges unfair treatment of Cottrell in prison, and while there may be something to this, as long as he isn't being physically harmed it's hard for me to get all that excited about this. He's in prison.
But the article also exposes a number of assumptions that I believe are downright dangerous. Chief among these is the seeming assumption that because Cottrell is smart - he's was a physics Ph.D. candidate at Caltech when convicted - that he shouldn't be treated this way. The article is entitled "A Terrible Thing to Waste", and advances the opinions of several scientists who say that Cottrell should not be treated the way he is allegedly being treated because he's smart, and that the solitary confinement in which he has been kept is really only for "violent thugs". In a strange way, this might almost be racist, as it seems to betray the assumption that harsh treatment in prison - or in fact prison at all - is only for "thugs", e.g. the poor, e.g. minorities. I would take a moment to point out that Cottrell has been convicted of causing over $5 million in property damage. Most average thugs won't do that much damage over an entire career, much less one night.
Second, the article betrays political assumptions about terrorism. Cottrell has been branded an eco-terrorist, as the vehicles destroyed were all SUVs and they were spray-painted with environmentalist slogans. The article heavily implies that the Department of Justice is irrationally concerned with eco-terrorism and is using Cottrell as a prototype. Be that as it may, the treatment in the article reveals the author's and publication's opinions on terrorism in general, i.e. they don't like President Bush.
The article also reminds me of this incident, where a UCLA student was tasered for not co-operating with the cops. The whole affair displayed an assumption that obedience to sovereign authority is really only for the underclasses, and that persons of relative privilege, e.g. college students, don't really have to obey those rules. Because Cottrell was a graduate student, the article - and the quotes from Cottrell himself - suggests that he shouldn't be held to the same standard as anyone else who has been convicted of half a dozen felonies.
So yes, I do think Cottrell's case merits attention from the Ninth Circuit, but I don't think they're going to do much more than reduce his sentence to the one imposed by the jury. Nor do I think they should do more than that. On the other hand, this is the Ninth Circuit, so who knows what they'll do. On the gripping hand, the Ninth Circuit is the single most-overruled circuit in the country.
Read the article. It's worth it, once you get past the sound of axes grinding.
So as is apparent from the tag over on the right, I shaved my beard earlier this week. If I remember correctly, this is the first time I've been clean-shaven in four and a half years. Why? Why now? Pretty much because I felt like it. It was time for a change.
Shaving with your normal Gillette-style safety razors always irritates my skin. Never liked doing it. That's part of the reason I've had a beard for so long. So I decided that if I was going to start shaving, it was going to do it the real way.
So I got one of these:
It's German-made, Solingen, which has apparently been making these things for about as long as they've been made. I'm still getting the hang of it, but I've been shaving with it for a week now with no real cuts and my skin feels great. Closest shave I've ever had, and if kept properly honed and stropped (had to do a little experimentation there), it leaves the skin feeling rejuvenated instead of scraped.
I also figure that in terms of cost, it'll be break even for the year and start saving me money by next winter. It costs two to three times as much as a nice safety razor, but you don't have to replace the cartridges every few days, and those things are expensive.
I highly recommend it for those who are interested. Really good information on wet shaving can be found at Badger and Blade.
In what probably amounts to the shortest, least consequential war in history, Switzerland accidentally invaded Liechtenstein last night. A company of soldiers got lost and wandered across the border and occupied territory up to a mile from the border before realizing they were lost and heading back.
Apparently the Swiss government was mortified, but the Liechtensteiners (I guess that's the right word) don't seem all that exercised about it.
How'd you like to break that news to your superior officer: "Umm, sir? I think we just conquered Liechtenstein. We didn't mean to, honest! It just kind of... happened."
All of the genius of the fugue now accessible visually as well as aurally.
Now various music execs are accusing Apple's DRM of hurting the biz. This just a few weeks after Jobs said he'd drop DRM if these same execs would let him.
Yeah, this is a lot more fun than anything the companies in question have produced for quite some time.
In other news, Gizmodo is sponsoring a boycott of the RIAA in March. Sounds good to me, though as I wasn't going to be spending any money on them anyways, I'm not sure my contribution will be making that much of a difference. But I'd encourage everyone to participate. Go to a concert, patronize eMusic, etc. Or heck, roll the dice and just use p2p.