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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Eagle and Moon

 

Busy today, so you didn’t get a post.

In compensation, have some Alaska:

Eagle 1

It was about minus twenty Fahrenheit.  My son and I were digging giant blocks of ice out of the driveway and moving them with the plow when I looked up and saw this.

The sun was setting and turning the landscape a kind of golden yellow. The air was so cold and clear it was like you could reach out and touch the moon.  I grabbed the camera and climbed the hill across from my house and managed to take several dozen shots through the telephoto lens.  I didn’t bother with setting the exposure manually, it was too damned cold to fumble barehanded with the camera controls, I just put the Nikon into full auto mode and held down the shutter release with my gloves on.  

I posted this earlier today on Facebook and Twitter. For those of you who don’t follow me on social media, well, I wouldn’t want you to think I was neglecting you.

Be patient, actual blog post to follow.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Special Kind of Crazy

The frothy hyperventilating began immediately, didn’t it?

I would have been disappointed if it hadn’t.

Last year’s State of the Union address was a bit subdued, what with Gabby Giffords having been shot through the brainpan not long before.  When Obama entered the House chamber in 2011, Republican and Democratic lawmakers sat together as a show of bipartisan support arrayed around Giffords’ empty chair. The booing from the opposition was subdued, as were the cheers from the president’s own party. Of course, despite the new seating arrangement and the vague empty promises of bipartisanship, the frothy insanity, finger pointing, blame laying, chest thumping, dick waggling, comparisons to Hitler and the long-awaited Anti-Christ, and dire proclamations of Islamofascicommunazis started even before the President finished speaking.

On a side note, yesterday Giffords’ border bill passed the House by unanimous consent, proving once and for all that Congress can get things done in a bipartisan manner – providing that the bill’s sponsor gets shot in the head and resigns first. So, yay for progress. But I digress.

As we enter into the final fevered ten months of the frenetic spittle-flecked shit-fest that is the modern American version of democratic civilization, I expected this year to be different only in the intensity of the maddened venom tinged rhetoric.

Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

It started with Mitch Daniels.

At first it appeared that Daniels would be, perhaps, a bit more reasoned, more staid, than Paul Ryan’s strident call to arms last year – and vastly less entertaining than Michele Bachmann’s squalling glassy-eyed paranoid Tea Party response. Daniels looks kind and grandfatherly, like he should be seated on a tractor wearing a worn comfortable woolen sweater and hawking diabetes supplies next to Wilford Brimley. It’s only when he starts to talk that you suddenly realize that Daniels is nuts, his vague fixed smile and unblinking walleyed stare are a thin veneer over what looks to be the early onset of senile dementia. Daniel’s “response” resembled an actual coherent rebuttal, but upon closer inspection was actually just a bunch of conservative talk-radio sound bites lifted whole cloth from the usual pundits. The criticism was obviously cut and pasted together long before the president’s address was even in rough draft, and Daniels delivered it like a heavily medicated mental patient triggered by some unseen stimulus into reciting the Gettysburg Address as a party trick.

I think my favorite part was when Daniels lamented Obama’s evil Orwellian plan to outlaw incandescent light bulbs. Oh no! Anything but that! Keep your filthy government hands off of my hot yellow bulbs, goddamnit!

Just one problem, it was actually George W. Bush who signed that into law on December 18, 2007.

That’s a full year before Obama took office, just in case you got your history from Professor Gingrich.

In fact, that particular bill sailed through Congress with broad bipartisan support, 314 to 100 in the House, 86 to 4 in the Senate. It was only after Obama took office that energy conservation suddenly became government overreach. When it was a conservative in the White House, LED bulbs were just common sense, but when it is a liberal occupying the Oval Office suddenly we’re talking about the stark monochromic light of fascism!

Funny thing, last month Obama signed legislation delaying the regulation – at the opposition of manufacturers and importers who have already geared up to sell the new CFL and LED bulbs. You’d like to think a sitting lawmaker would know that, wouldn’t you? If it bothered him so much that he felt compelled to mention light bulbs on national TV in response to the State of the Union address, I mean.  You’d also think that if Daniels’ GOP handlers were going to write his little rebuttal in advance, they would have at least done some research – wait, unless that was the day Wikipedia was down due to the SOPA protest, but, hey I digress, as is my tendency. 

Yes, I expected bizarre hyperbole and foamy red-flecked froth this year. 

I expected bellicose outrage and ranting punditry and pompous bloviating.

And I was not disappointed.

Turns out, Daniels is a piker. 

Mitch Daniels was nothing but the warm up act.

For extra crunchy crazy, well, you need to step out into Statuary Hall where republicans gathered to vent their spleens after the address.  Universally, conservative lawmakers were offended by the entire speech and testily pointed out how Obama’s optimism is really defeatist hatred of the United States, his praise of the US Military and the US Navy SEALs (who were at that very moment rescuing an American held hostage by pirates in Somalia on Obama’s orders) is really disdain for America’s men and women in arms, his call to bring jobs back from overseas is really contempt for business, and his establishment of consumer protections and regulations on the banking industry is really both a hatred of the free market and white people in general. But for the absolute zenith of the absurd let’s focus on reaction to this line from the President’s address:

Tonight, I am proposing that every state, every state, require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.

The sheer unmitigated gall of the man! Where does he as President of the United States get off suggesting that American kids get the minimum educational qualifications necessary to compete in our society at the most basic level?  How dare he! Why it’s outrageous! What if kids actually did that and managed to get entry level jobs and started working their way up the ladder instead of ending up on welfare and other entitlement pro…. ok, bad example, but I think I’ve made my point here.

Tea Party darling, Utah Senator Mike Lee responded, "That's none of his business! He's not a principal! He's not a public school teacher! He's not a governor, he's not a mayor. These are matters for state and local government!"

Yeah! Damned right! Why…uh, wait, what was that about “he’s not a teacher?”  Are conservatives listening to teachers now?  Because I thought teachers were liberal commies who hated America.  Did that change? Also, point of order, Obama actually is a teacher, or rather a professor of Constitutional Law. Does that count? No, I suppose not.

Arizona Republican Trent Franks was equally outraged, "What are you gonna do, give them the electric chair? It should be handled on the parental level." 

Exactly.

Huh? You there, in the back, do you have a question or do you just have to go to the bathroom?  Speak up.

Seriously, are you blind? It’s right there! Obviously Obama was saying that he intends to implement a federal regulatory agency that will put kids who drop out of school to death! Duh. How do you not see that?

Georgia Republican Phil Gingrey agreed, "To require them to stay in high school to age 18, those who have absolutely no intention of getting an education or value an education are disrupting the other kids in class. I think it's just a government misguided run amok quite honestly.”

Amok! Amok! Government run amok! Oh stop the Amok! (Sorry, I just like saying Amok! Amok! Amok! That’s a funny word. Amok!)

Here’s my idea, why wait until they’re teenagers?  Most kids know if they hate school or not by the time they’re in second grade, I say it’s never to early to drop out! More for the rest of us.

Question, why is it just good old American conservative values (which made this country great, darn it!) to suggest that black people should get jobs instead of food stamps when Newt Gingrich says it, but fascist government overreach worthy of red-eyed outrage when a black liberal President suggests that maybe kids should stay in school?

Say, wasn’t no child left behind a republican idea? So what, now it’s ok to leave some kids behind?

What? Put your hand down, I’m just asking is all. Sheesh.

 

Do you ever wonder who votes idiots like this into office?

You do?

Well wonder no longer.  They’re all over on the Yahoo news forum, lets go check out their comments:

I am not for mandated government control of our schools. Obama is from a system where kids are forced to attend or they get beaten, their father's have their hands cut off, the women are stoned - don't tell me I don't know. I am a Republican

Obama is from a system where kids get beaten for not attending school, fathers have their hands cut off, and mothers are stoned to death for their children’s truancy.  Damn, school in Hawaii is harsh.

It is NOT education: It is INDOCTRINATION for the Communist Party.

Oh noes! Communists! Communists!  Help us Tailgunner Joe!

Question, the countries that are beating us economically right now? China, for example, aren’t they communist?  Isn’t India socialist?  Hey! You stop that right now. No spitting.

the Dems only hope to get anyone off the welfare rolls is to force them to stay in school and somehow learn enough to get them to stay out fo prison for dealing drugs or raping someone. Republicans meanwhile take the approcah that we should elt the kids who want to learn, actually do it. Meanwhile, if you wash out you should fend for yourself, instea dof living off the ones who do stay in school [sic].

The logic, it burns. 

Burns like trying to piss with a case of the clap.

There’s more, oh so much more, but it hurts me to type it. If you want to read more comments on this subject, you can go Google the Yahoo for yourself.

Snark aside, there may be good reason for Republican outrage. And even better reasons why so many conservatives today are advocating for the right drop out of school. 

A new report in LiveScience spells out why.

(Ok, you got me, I didn’t put the snark aside after all. Sorry)

 

Finally, I think it’s important to note that all things are relative, even stupidity. 

There’s never a politician so nuts, that you can’t find one crazier.

Much crazier.

Seriously.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

SOPA, PIPA, Good Intentions And The Road To Hell

Do you get high?

I’m talking about controlled substances.

High. Stoned. Buzzed. You know, like that.

Now, now, relax. Don’t get all paranoid. I’m not asking if you’re a crack-head or heroin junkie. I’m not asking if you’re an addict. I’m not instituting a piss test or anything here on Stonekettle Station. I figure if you’ve got a meth monkey on your back, you’re probably not reading this anyway. 

What I’m asking is if you use drugs on, let’s say, a purely recreational basis. That’s what I’m asking.

No, of course you don’t, that would be illegal (so you probably shouldn’t actually answer my question in the comments, for example).

But let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that even though you yourself would never use drugs, you know somebody who does because this is America and we all pretty much know somebody who does illegal substances in one fashion or another.

So let’s talk about your hypothetical friend, the recreational drug user, shall we?

Your “friend” gets high. He smokes a little weed after work (or maybe before work if he’s an airline pilot or nuclear power plant technician). Maybe he pops a little speed once in a while, you know mother’s little helper. Or does a little Oxy (if he’s a politician or a minister). Or whatever. He’s always got a bag of oregano, or couple of those blue pills and a roofie for date night. You know this guy, right?

Where does he get it?

He always seems to have some, doesn’t he?

And it’s illegal, right?

So, where does he get it?

Drug dealers don’t advertise, at least not in the usual manner.

People who sell illicit drugs don’t go around telling people they’re drug dealers, they don’t list “Drug Dealer” as their profession on resumes and tax returns. They don’t wear a sandwich board that says “Lookin’ to get baked? I can help!” They don’t have those little magnetic signs on the back of their cars like the Mary Kay pushers do. You can’t Google your local dealer. They don’t list “blow” in the Yellow Pages. And the cops are looking for drugs dealers. Hell, there is a veritable army of law enforcement actively hunting drug dealers, from cops to the DEA, FBI, NSA, CIA, DIA, ATF, TSA, the Coast Guard, the Navy, the Air Force, and a hundred other federal, state, and international agencies all the way down to the school guidance counselor.

And yet…

And yet, your “friend” has no problem whatsoever scoring whatever recreational chemical he wants, whenever he wants, in whatever quantity he wants. Period.

And if you wanted some, hypothetically speaking of course, well it wouldn’t take you more than a day to find whatever it is that you went looking for even if you had no idea how to go about it.

Those of you who know me, know that I’ve spent some time in the counter-narcotics field. I’ve hunted drug smugglers in South America and on the high seas. I know more than a bit about counter-narcotics.  And I’m intimately familiar with the soup sandwich which is the so-called “War on drugs” and the agencies responsible for waging it.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: the war is over, we lost.

The war is over, and everybody is out back smoking a fatty in celebration.

It’s been more than twenty forty years now since Reagan Nixon declared war on drugs. Forty plus years and billions upon billions upon billions of dollars, and what? Nothing. That’s right, nothing. Not a goddamned dent in the drug trade. And in fact, it’s worse now because now we’ve got a bunch of new drugs and our idiotic, disorganized, ineffective efforts to curb the problem have only made the drug makers, smugglers, and dealers more innovative and cunning.

Oh sure, we’ve burned thousands of tons of pot and coke and hash and heroin in DEA incinerators, we’ve killed a few drug lords, and we’ve got hundreds of smugglers (about forty or so I helped put away) and we’ve managed to put tens of thousands of smalltime penny ante drug users in prison.

And yet…

And yet, anybody anywhere in the US can get any kind of illegal drug they want any damned time they want and there isn’t a thing anybody can do about it.  And that, my electronic friends, is a goddamned fact.

The so-called war on drugs is a joke.  A sick, sad, stupid joke.  It didn’t get rid of drugs, it didn’t reduce drug use, or drug smuggling, or drug violence, or drug related deaths.  It didn’t, in fact, do a damned thing.  All it does is keep a lot of law enforcement types employed chasing their tails.

See, counter-narcotics law enforcement is big business. There’s a lot of money in it. Counter-narcotics operations fund ships and planes and intelligence centers, it buys tactical training and satellite time and banks of monitoring equipment, it funds a dozen three letter law enforcement agencies and government operations and drug sniffing dogs, it pays hundreds of thousands of lawyers and judges and legal eagles and special courts, and it pays the salaries of uncounted thousands of enforcement folks in a dozen different uniforms, it buys the fuel that powers the Coast Guard and Navy ships patrolling the drugs lanes of the Caribbean and the Eastern Pacific, it pays informants, and it pays billions in foreign aid.

But what the war on drugs doesn’t do is actually stop anybody from using illegal drugs – including the folks currently in prison for selling and using illegal drugs.

And the reason that the war on drugs doesn’t stop anybody from doing drugs is because it attacks the symptoms and not the disease.

Here’s the simple truth: illegal drugs exist because Americans want drugs.

Americans want to get high, they want drugs and they will get them. It’s really just that simple. Prohibition should have taught us that, but apparently we were stoned and didn’t get the message.

Until you fix that, there will be a lucrative illegal drug trade here in the United States.

Just so.

Now, let me ask you something, what makes anybody think that a bill as utterly stupid as the Stop Online Piracy Act or the Protect IP Act is going to actually stop online piracy in any way whatsoever?

Because it won’t.

It won’t even slow it down.

At least drugs are a tangible object that can be detected with a lot of hard work.  Dogs can sniff out drugs.  You smell some drugs on people, and you can spot the physical and mental effects too. There are piss tests and blood tests for drugs.  You have to have a lab to make certain drugs. You need precursor chemicals.  Drugs have bulk, weight, mass, they have to moved over the border in trucks and planes and boats or smuggled through tunnels.  And you still can’t stop illicit drug use.  You don’t even have that basic advantage when searching for illegal downloads.  A kid with a bunch of pirated music on his MP3 player doesn’t smell any different than any other kid.  Dogs can’t detect pirated movies.  We’re talking about a collection of electrons here. What in the hell makes anybody anywhere think that they’re going to stop illegal downloading just because Congress passes a law? Especially one as utterly stupid and ineffective as this one?

At best, SOPA/PIPA will be a momentary inconvenience to online piracy – and a monumental long term headache to everybody else. Just exactly like the war on drugs is a mild inconvenience to drug users and a huge sucking chest wound of a problem to the rest of the country.

And at worst, SOPA/PIPA will mean that for all intents and purposes, the American version of the Internet will become indistinguishable from the Chinese version or the Iranian –  and likely worse since we’re currently actively helping the Iranians and the Chinese circumvent their government’s restrictions. Goddamned ironic, that, don’t you think?

Just like drugs, Americans want online content, and they are going to get it.

One way or the other. Legally or not.

Does that mean that I think online piracy isn’t a problem or that we shouldn’t do anything about it? No, of course not. As a creator myself of online content which is routinely pirated, I damned sure would like to see some protection. But SOPA isn’t it. SOPA is a hell of a lot more likely to result in the end of Stonekettle Station rather than its protection.

The simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Congress doesn’t understand how the internet actually works, just as they have no idea how the illegal drug trade works either.

There are a few, very few, elected officials in this country who have any idea whatsoever about what makes the internet the place that it is.  Politicians talk about freedom and innovation and free speech, but real freedom and innovation and unfettered free speech scares the ever living beejeebers out of them.  The chaotic uncontrolled untaxed dynamic of the internet is anathema to everything your typical governmental bureaucrat holds sacred.  This isn’t particularly surprising considering that over forty percent of the House is made up of people with law degrees, in the Senate it’s well over fifty percent. Most of the rest have business degrees of one flavor or another. There are a few doctors. There’s one nurse. There’s a distressingly large number with degrees in theology. And about thirty members of the House have no advanced education at all.

So far as I can determine, none of them have a degree in computer science, information technologies, or any computer/network related field.

Or any experience at all working in the IT field.

Or much experience in social networking since they usually pay staffers to do that sort of thing.  There’s no way to determine how many congressmen download music or shop online, or read blogs, or watch YouTube channels, but it is likely that number isn’t particularly high given the average age and lack of technological curiosity that pervades much of Congress.

Other than tweeting pictures of their junk to random woman, or hiring a rentboy to carry their bags on a trip to Cancun, or surfing for gay porn, it would appear on the face of things that the vast majority of lawmakers who are right now deciding how the rest of us will use the internet have no actual education or experience or expertise in it whatsoever.

So, no, it’s not particularly surprising that SOPA/PIPA has jumped the shark.

Of course, Congress didn’t actually write SOPA. Hollywood executives did. Recording industry executives did. And it shows.  SOPA and the Senate version, PIPA, are specifically designed to preserve a dying industry, to perpetuate a model of pre-internet monopolistic studio systems that made a few media moguls very, very rich, but didn’t do much at all for either the public or the creative folks who make the movies, sing the songs, write the stories, and paint the artwork.  This really isn’t about piracy at all, it’s about the death rattle of those very same media moguls.  Once giants of the media industry, now they are as wrinkled and pathetic as Hugh Hefner whining on about how the internet has degraded the porn industry.

Every time I see some thick-lipped studio exec in Armani talking about how he just wants to protect the rights of the poor artists I want to vomit.  On him.

SOPA and PIPA are about forcing people to buy buggy whips long after the world switched up to jetpacks.

Both versions of the bill are fundamentally flawed and demonstrate a profound lack of understanding of network architecture by lawmakers.

Start with the central idea behind both Acts:  putting a stop to online piracy.

Now, piracy, i.e. copyright violation and the theft of intellectual property, is already illegal in the United States. You can already go to jail for it, and people have.  SOPA doesn’t make piracy any more illegal.  The copyright laws of the United States as they exist right now are more than sufficient to address online piracy inside our own borders.  If a site within the legal jurisdiction of the United States is found to be engaged in illegal activity, be it content piracy or kiddie porn or terrorism, it can be shut down and its operators jailed just like any drug dealer in the real world. 

However, the nature of the internet is such that it ignores political and physical boundaries, and that’s what SOPA/PIPA was designed (poorly) to address.

See, the United States has no authority over sites that operate outside of its territorial borders (I know, shocking, right?) – the most infamous example currently is without doubt The Pirate Bay, a media sharing site based (probably) on servers located in a former NATO Cold War nuclear bunker somewhere in Northern Europe and run by a couple of Swedes.  The site hosts links and bit torrent files which allow users to share electronic media. Not surprisingly, the vast, vast majority of those files, more than three million of them, are pirated copies of popular movies, TV shows, music, games, and software.

Despite the fact that the site has been sued repeatedly by both American and foreign parties, and despite the fact that operators were found guilty of copyright infringement and online piracy and fined millions of dollars and given jail time, and despite the fact that the site was taken offline, blocked, and hacked, and despite the death of one of its founders, it’s still up and operating.  And thousands of Americans access it every single day to upload and download the latest episodes of their favorite TV shows, music files, movies, and game software.

SOPA and its even more retarded sibling, PIPA, were supposedly designed to address this. 

Not by taking down The Pirate Bay or other off-shore pirate sites, but blocking American access to them.

See, under SOPA, anybody, copyright holders or folks just claiming to be copyright holders could report a site for piracy.

Then the US government would have the authority to order search engines and internet providers to remove the names of those sites deemed piratical from their lookup tables. In other words, the domain name of the suspect site becomes invisible.   Understand something, the site itself doesn’t go away because the US doesn’t have the power or authority to make it go away, the only thing that changes is just your convenient access to it, i.e. it stops showing up in Google search results and DNS tables. 

There are many, many, many things wrong with this approach.  So many in fact, that it’s impossible to see all of the ramifications.  The more you pull the thread, the more idiotic it gets.

For starters, removing the offending site’s domain name from global DNS tables does absolutely nothing to block access to the site.  Domain names are simply easy ways for human beings to remember Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.  For example, the IP address of Stonekettle Station is 216.239.32.21, which tells internet routers that the data that makes up this website is physically located on a specific server somewhere in the bowels of a Google server-farm in Sunnyvale, California. When you type “www.Stonekettle.com” into your browser’s address bar, a DNS (Domain Name Service) server somewhere looks up the appropriate entry in the global address book and takes you to IP Address 216.239.32.21.

Here’s the thing, you can still get there even if the Domain Name is blocked, you just have to know the IP address of the site you want to visit.

What?

How will people find out the addresses of hidden sites if the easy names are blocked? Simple, the same way they do right now.  Exactly the same way your friend up above always seems to know how to find a drug dealer any damned time he needs a bag of weed. The web is full of hidden sites right now.  Addresses not indexed by the search engines.  Not in the DNS system. Hidden from the view of the average user, but there if you know where to look.  Ask any pedophile or any member of the Aryan Nation.

Blocking the offending site’s domain name does nothing except mildly inconvenience those who engage in illicit activity and it does absolutely nothing to stop piracy itself.

However, for those folks trying to gather information on piracy sites, such as reporters, bloggers, researchers, network security firms, copyright holders, law enforcement, and government agencies to name just a few of the obvious folks who might have legitimate need to search for pirate sites, blocking the domain name takes away the best tools they have, i.e. commercial search engines.

As Homer says on my pirated totally purchased in a store with real money copy of The Simpsons, Doh!

The road to hell might be paved with good intentions, but the traffic on that road is governed by the law of unintended consequences.

Blocking the domain names of illegal sites means that law enforcement and government agencies won’t be able to use standard, i.e. free, tools. Instead they will have to have special custom-built search engines to do their jobs and an infrastructure similar to Google’s.  Want to guess what that will cost the taxpayer?  Get in on the ground floor now and you likely stand to make billions.

How long do you think it will take before an entire black market arises to provide the exact same software to civilians for basically nothing? (Note, software like this exists now, if you know where to look). 

I’m going to make a prediction here, if this law passes and you feel the need to download the latest episodes of Glee illegally, ask any random 14-year old to help you find the secret invisible sites and I strongly suspect you’ll be watching your show within ten minutes. In HD. Without commercials. And 14-year olds work for soda and a bag of chips. Just saying.

Expect off-shore search engines that index blacked out sites to arise almost instantly.  Note that American laws cannot touch such sites, and they wouldn’t be illegal anyway, outside of the United States. Certain countries stand to make a tidy profit hosting such enterprises, North Korea or maybe Kazakhstan say.  Or, more likely what will happen is that Google, Yahoo, Ask, YouTube, and so on, will simply move their corporate headquarters off-shore.  I hear Trinidad & Tobago has a very favorable tax climate and some great beaches.  You’ve really got to admire the irony when a bunch of politicians who whine endlessly about government red tape and regulations that make America a shitty place to do business turn right around and dream up a law that will very likely drive our most forward leaning, profitable, and innovative companies either out of business or overseas.   Really, well done.

 

Here’s a funny question: how exactly would the copyright holder, or his lawyers, know if his material is being pirated, if he can’t see the pirate sites in search engine results? 

 

Yeah, you’re going to want to think about that for a minute or two, because it’s just that fucking stupid.

I’m a copyright holder, will I be issued a special search engine? Or allowed unblocked access to foreign sites? Or will the government steadfastly defend my copyrights along with the millions of other Americans who also hold the rights to their material?

Didn’t think of that, did you?

So, where does that leave us? 

I’ll tell you where, nowhere.

Just like the war on drugs. 

So, we’ll have to go a step further and actually block the IP addresses.  That’s a whole different ballgame altogether.  See, to block actual IP addresses, you have do what China does, what Iran does, you have to intercept and analyze every single bit of web traffic. That’s right.  Basically you can throw the 4th Amendment right out the window, because every single packet sent from your computer will have to be searched, based on the assumption of guilt without any proof whatsoever that you might, just possibly, be visiting a proscribed site.   There are a couple of ways to do this without a fundamental trillion dollar overhaul of every internet device in the world:  a) you can force each ISP to monitor all traffic from their customers, or b) you can route all internet traffic through a central hub and monitor that yourself – kind of how a company implements gateway based nannyware, only on a massive national scale.

Option a) would turn your internet service provider into an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, and would require that the ISP be subsidized by the same organization because they would need to install large amounts of very expensive equipment and software and hire a whole bunch of tech savvy folks. Obviously each ISP would have to be standardized and any changes to their hardware and software, i.e. their service, would have to be approved by the government. So much for competition and innovation. Also, given the nature of both people and businesses, I’d expect immediate corruption, i.e. unscrupulous ISP’s providing uncensored access for a certain fee that somehow doesn’t end up on the company’s account sheet.  So, then the ISPs will have to be policed. Who’s going to do that? And how much do you think it will cost?  And likely that would result in unlicensed pirate ISPs, tapping into the internet undetected. So we’d have to hunt those. And so on.  We’re going to need a whole new, very large, law enforcement agency.

Then there’s Option b), which would require all internet data to be routed through choke points, just like in China and Iran.  The enormous and exponentially growing volume of internet traffic will require vast, vast, vast resources on a scale never implemented before - for comparison, imagine if you had to monitor the origin, position, speed, contents, and destination of every single vehicle on every road in America every second of every day – times about, oh, a billion.  I would expect that wouldn’t be cheap, even if it wasn’t being done by a defense contractor (because who else do you think would be doing it? Seriously?).  Also, given my experience in similar architectures in a much smaller setting, i.e. secure military networks, I wouldn’t expect your surfing experience to be anything but horribly slow, painful, and fraught with massive amounts of fail.  Just the kinds of things that make innovation and web-based business suffer massive failure and screaming death.  All of which is fine, if you like living in 1970.

One other note, also from my military experience, one of the pillars of information warfare is physical destruction. Choke points are points of vulnerability.  Route everything through a few choke points, and you give an enemy a vastly simplified target set should he decide to take down your network.  Right now, no single physical strike could take down a significant fraction of the internet, route everything through a single point and that is no longer true. A fire, a lightning strike, an earthquake, a flood, terrorism, and no more internet in America.  Of course, the rest of the world would go on while we devolved into the stone age.  Imagine the impact on the economy, but I digress.

Those are some ramifications of this idiotic law, there are many, many more.

And of course, we really couldn’t implement either Option a) or b).  Not that we wouldn’t try. And not that we wouldn’t happily create the same kind of massive, bloated, ineffectual monstrosity that is the current war on drugs.

Here’s a few more things to think about:

SOPA/PIPA would require that sites accused of copyright infringement be immediately shut down, not that content in question be removed, that the site itself be shut down.  Note that SOPA/PIPA doesn’t require those accusations to be proven true.  The copyright holder, or anybody purporting to be a copyright holder, lodges a complaint and the site host would be required by law to shut down the site while the site operator appeals – if the site operator can afford to appeal, which somebody like me probably wouldn’t.   Don’t like what I have to say here on Stonekettle Station? All you have to do is accuse me of stealing your ideas, and Google will have to shut me down (I’m hosted through Google’s Blogger service). 

What you’re looking at here is nothing short of a return to Napoleonic Law, i.e. the accused is assumed to be guilty unless he can afford to prove his innocence. 

Now, tell me that won’t be abused. 

You’re a politician running for president say, and your SuperPAC is running attack ads against your rival in South Carolina and using clips of his speeches.  Those speeches are copyrighted material – or could be, easily.  See where this is going? Politicians would use this to silence critics and rivals. So would business. So would any jerk attempting to settle a score.  Tell me that Rupert Murdoch wouldn’t use this power to shut down anybody who criticizes his media empire, go on, make me laugh.  Needless to say, Murdock is one of the SOPA’s biggest fans.  Think about that.  SOPA/PIPA wants to protect copyright holders at the expense of one of the most sacred rights we Americans have, the right to free speech.  

I know, I know, sounds extreme doesn’t it? Sounds Alarmist. 

Yeah, look at the political climate in this country, look at the number of frivolous lawsuits in this country, and tell me again why it wouldn’t happen.  It will, and it will destroy the internet you are looking at right now.  How many irrational trolls do I get here on a daily basis? How much hate mail?  I’ve lost track.  Just one, just one, of those angry unbalanced goofs would have to make a complaint, and Stonekettle Station goes dark. Ditto YouTube. Ditto Boing Boing. Ditto everything else.

Here’s something I bet those self same trolls didn’t think of: a provision in SOPA makes IP maskers illegal.

Heh heh. Didn’t know that, did you?

SOPA/PIPA prohibit the use of any technologies that are used to interfere with the implementation of monitoring and/or the blacklist.  So, any anonymity tool used to mask IP addresses or hide the routing path between your computer and the website you’re viewing becomes illegal.  Tools like this are used by trolls to leave nasty comments here without revealing who they really are, or to get around spam and comment blockers.  IP blockers are also used by perverts and criminals to download kiddie porn and conduct other illegal activities, but IP anonymizers like Tor, for example are also used by groups worldwide to speak out against corruption, genocide, oppression, and repressive regimes.  IP Anonymizers are used by whistleblowers right here in the United States.  If SOPA/PIPA goes through, all those sources of information, the information coming out of Iran and North Korea and Syria and from within our own government will go away, because without the ability to remain anonymous who the hell would risk it?

The simple depressing truth is this: SOPA won’t work. 

It just won’t.  It can’t. It absolutely will not stop or reduce online piracy in any way whatsoever and may in fact increase it by forcing it under the radar of basic search tools and law enforcement. SOPA/PIPA cannot work. Not without a complete and total radical redesign of the internet itself at a fundamental level, a redesign that would create a communication network counter to every basic freedom the United States of America was founded on. 

Not that any of that would stop the government from trying.

Allow SOPA/PIPA to pass and what you’ll get is yet another massive governmental bureaucracy, another “war on (drugs, poverty, debt, etc),” another Czar, another  endless giant money sucking black hole that does absolutely nothing whatsoever in any way to fix the problem it was created to address.  We’ll shut down websites and kill business and innovation, we’ll jail people, we’ll fill the dockets with endless petitions and silly minor court cases, and meanwhile, online piracy will be completely unaffected.

As I write this, it appears that the online protests by Google, Wikipedia, Boing Boing, and other internet giants have finally gotten through to the politicians.  But you need to understand that the totalitarian sons of bitches backing this abomination aren’t going to go down without a fight.  You need to write your congressman, you need to write your senator, and you need to voice your opposition to this UnAmerican nonsense in the strongest possible terms.

And you need to keep doing it until Congress listens.

The truly sad part about the whole thing is this: There is obviously, obviously, a massive insatiable legitimate market for online media.  If the recording industry and the movie makers would stop clinging to an outdated studio based concept that only benefits a tiny handful of selfish greedy backward looking bastards and got into the modern internet market whole hog themselves, the issue of online piracy would become moot. And we’d all get rich doing it. But it would take innovation on their part. It would take dropping woefully outdated business models.  It would take acceptance of the fact that artists are going to finally get much greater control of their own work and not be routinely bent over the barrel by studio and network executives.  It would take an understanding that people are sick and damned tired of having to wait for media to be released weeks and months and sometimes years after it first d├ębuts. It going to take an understanding that people simply will not put up with bullshit like DRM. People want to enjoy media their own way, not how some studio exec thinks they should enjoy it.

It’s going to take understanding of this simple fact: People want online media, and, just like drugs, they will get it. 

One way or the other.

Again, don’t get me wrong.  Piracy is wrong.  And we need to do something about it. But SOPA is most emphatically not the way to go about it.  SOPA was designed to protect a handful of very rich people in a dying industry. It most certainly wasn’t designed with your best interests in mind and it certainly wasn’t designed to protect artists, innovators, or the folks who actually make the internet the vital future core of our economy and I say that as not only somebody who enjoys the internet as it exists right now, but as an artist, a writer, a blogger, and one of those people who create content.

SOPA and PIPA are bad, bad ideas. They are fundamentally contrary to the core concepts of liberty and justice we Americans hold dear.

Anybody who believes otherwise is high.

Write your congressman.

Write your senator.

Do it now.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Freedom Fried

What do you call a man who speaks multiple languages?

A polyglot.

What do you call a man who speaks two languages?

Bilingual.

What do you call a man who only speaks one language – and poorly at that?

An American.

 

Goddamned right. There’s only one language worth knowing and that’s English American.

Speak it loud, speak it proud.

Speak it really slowly so that that natives will understand.

Turns out that Mitt Romney speaks French.

Can you believe it?

French.

Of all the languages that are not the biblically musical angelic language of Heaven, i.e. English American, Romney chose French. The language of beret wearing socialist surrender monkeys. The Romans who killed Jesus? They were speaking French, that’s a fact and you can look it up on the internet. While you’re at it, look up French in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Adolf Hitler French kissing Chairman Mao.  It’s totally true.

And Mittens croaks like a froggy Frog eating a little gay croissant.

French is probably the language of the Anti-Christ himself – well when he’s not speaking Chinese that is. 

French!

See, it turns out that during his college years back in the socialist hippy 60’s, Mitt Romney spent two years in France as a Mormon Missionary. Two years! And get this, instead of proudly wearing a huge cowboy hat and a Chinese made T-shirt with a picture of US Marines eating actual French babies covered in ketchup, and instead of demanding in a really loud voice that all Frenchmen address him in God’s English American while serving extra double bacon cheeseburgers as is the inalienable right of all Americans abroad, Mitt actually learned French and actually conversed with Frenchy French people in French! 

Probably while eating French Toast with a side of French Fries dipped in French Dressing while wearing a French Tickler!

What real American would do such a thing?

And would you really want him in the White House?

I mean, honestly, what kind of American President would speak French?

Besides George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, William Henry Harrison, Teddy Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt.  Turns out Ben Franklin spoke French too, he wasn’t the president, but his face is on our money so it’s pretty much the same exact thing.  Ok, so besides those anti-American Frenchy-loving socialist traitors, what kind of President would speak French?  Did Reagan speak French? I don’t think so because Ronald Reagan was as American as the Statue of Liberty! You damned right he was.  Did George W. Bush speak French? Hell, he could barely speak English American (Texan being his native tongue), but darn it he tried and that’s what matters.

You know who else speaks French?

Liberals!

That’s right, filthy America-hating socialist Nazi moderate limp-wristed wussy liberals speak French:

And he speaks French too…

Mitt couldn’t have a couple of bastard children out of wedlock with his undocumented nanny, or a couple of extramarital affairs, or a history of ethics violations, or a conviction for snorting cocaine out of a gay prostitute’s shaved ass crack in a public restroom, or claimed a personal endorsement from Jedi Jebus, or have put out a bunch of racist and bigoted newsletters, or consulted for the very organizations what destroyed our economy, or even have a couple of pictures from his college days sitting on a Kegerator smoking a doobie and wearing a Party Naked T-shirt with the sleeves ripped off like a real patriotic conservative American hero of Patriotic America. Mitt hasn’t even molested one Congressional Page! Oh, no. No, Mitt has to go and learn French.

Why, I bet he listens to the Dixie Chicks!

Mitt Romney is the kind of guy who would have an autographed poster of Anthony Weiner tacked up on the wall in his garage!

Oh you think that’s going too far, do you?  He speaks French! French! He’s bilingual! And bilingual sounds a lot like bisexual! Which is only about one slobbery French man kiss away from just being out and out a flaming rainbow colored sparkly homosexual!

Bilingual, sounds a lot like two-faced to me.

He speaks French, just like John Kerry!  John friggin’ Kerry. What’s next? Are we going to find out Romney was awarded a Silver Star and a couple of Purple Hearts? Who the hell would want a guy like that as President.  Honestly, you’re talking about somebody that isn’t even smart enough to arrange something as simple as a draft deferment for patriotic conservatism. Now, how would a Commander in Chief like that have the fortitude to be able to send other people’s kids off to die in a foreign land? Seriously. Think about it.

In the name of Fulminous Angry Bearded Capitalist Jesus, what else is a man like Mittens capable of?

Why, he might even know math!

Imagine a President who believes in that science crap!  Why he might believe that the earth is more than 6000 years old! You ever talk to somebody who knows math and science and stuff?  First thing they do is start in with all that totally unsupported gibberish about how it would have been impossible for Noah to have brontosaurs on the Ark while the Deluge was creating the Grand Canyon. They’ve got all those equations and radioactive decay things and fossils and stuff  that supposedly shows that the Earth isn’t the center of the universe like it says in the Bible.  People like this think they’re smart because they know math, but they don’t even know what the word “theory” means! Honestly, people like this would believe anything. Why, why what if Mitt Romney believes in Global Climate Change?  Holy Mackerel!

I heard that Romney once gave a homeless illegal alien a sandwich!

That’s right. Shocking, I know. Just gave a hobo a sandwich. Didn’t make him earn it. Didn’t tell him to get a job and stop dragging down America. Didn’t tell him to go back to Mexico.  Didn’t force the man into indentured servitude on his family’s Texas ranch where the filthy bum could learn about American capitalism from the example of his betters.  No, just gave the man a big old socialist sandwich. Then, of course, he probably gave the man healthcare too! And a voucher for a free abortion! 

Honestly, where does this end?

He speaks French, there’s no telling where that leads – honestly what if it turns out Romney believes that the Constitution applies to everybody, even gay people?

 

French is the gateway drug to liberalism, Folks, mark my words!

 

If Romney was a real Conservative, he’d learn to speak a good capitalist language.

Like German.

 

Update:

Oh Sweet Baby Peas!

And you thought I was crazy.

Instead, it turns out that I am most insightful blogger on the net. 

Look here, it’s Romneism! Romney is redistributing the wealth!  Just out and out socialism, right there. Is this what we can expect from a Romney presidency?

Not on my watch, folks, not on my watch.

 

 


 

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

And So It Begins. Again.

And we’re off and running.

Well, perhaps “running” is the wrong word.

More like “careening wildly downhill while waving little pipe-stem arms in the air and screaming manically.”

Three hundred and fifty million Americans, and these chuckleheads are the choices?

Seriously?

I am, of course, talking about the Iowa Republican Caucus last night.

I didn’t have high hopes for this show in the first place, and in that regard it lived up to those expectations perfectly.  As the pilot episode for the upcoming reality TV series, America’s Dumbest Electorate 2012, there was nothing original.  Same predictable plot, same unlikable characters, same humorless formula, same tired laugh track, same lame jokes, same lowbrow studio audience. As I said on Facebook last night, it is during events like this where I really miss the slapstick antics of Herman Cain, because if ever there was a TV show that needed some gratuitous nudity, ribald shenanigans, and crass sexual innuendo it is certainly this one.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of jiggling boobs and ass grabbing on TV last night, but unfortunately not the kind to keep your eyes on the screen. 

The show could have used a car chase and some Kung Fu. 

And a monkey in a little silver vest playing a harmonica or a clever Jack Russell terrier riding a unicycle.

Maybe both.

The comedian Paul Rodriguez used to do this bit about how war was God’s way of teaching us geography.

…two week ago I didn’t even know what a Kuwait was! I thought it was like a fruit from New Zealand!

I think he might have been on to something.  It’s entirely possible that presidential primaries exist solely in order to teach us where the silly people live. By the time it’s over there are nice color coded charts that map out the places I should probably avoid for the next four years (Coincidently enough, those charts often tend to correspond to a geographic plot of this blog’s readership. For example, I don’t have a lot of fans in Iowa. Go figure. Maybe I should write about corn more. Of course, perversely that doesn’t explain why a significant fraction of my readership apparently resides in Texas.  I can only assume those folks are the secret underground resistance movement. Either that or they are fuming and plotting my untimely demise).  It sure would be nice if you could print those charts out in handy wallet size.

Now, Standard & Poor’s grades each state according to its financial viability. Here at Stonekettle Station we perform a similar service, i.e. we rank each state’s level of douchebaggery according to the SFMS – i.e. the Speculative Fiction Movie Scale (Battlefield Earth to The Princess Bride) – and last night I was forced to officially downgrade Iowa from The Postman to Pluto Nash.  I’m sorry to take away the dubious balding chick-movie honor of your Costner and levy a Murphy on you, Iowa, but it’s not like you haven’t been asking for it. Keep this up, and I’ll be forced to suspend your Shatner too (props if you catch all the references in that. You’re also a complete nerd).

I know, I know.  Pretty severe.  Be glad I didn’t downgrade Iowa all the way to Bicentennial Man, because I could have.

No, it’s not because Iowa republicans exercised their democratic right to vote for whichever idiot they chose, it’s because of the idiotic reasons they gave for voting for said idiots.

In the hour before voting started, I heard a dozen interviews with Iowans who still had no idea who they were going to vote for. They’d done no research. They had no idea of each candidate’s position. The only thing they were sure of was that they hated Obama and the country was going down the crapper.  After it was over,  and Romney, Santorum, and Paul were declared The Winner, The Other Winner, and third, respectively, the interviews seemed to come in three basic flavors of Kool-Aid:

a) “Well, I  really really really really really dislike Romney, I really like [Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann, Joker From Batman], but I voted for Romney because I hope he can beat Barack Obama even though I don’t really think he can.”  The logic apparently being, I’d rather have a Republican I don’t like and with whom I disagree and who I think belongs to some weirdo non-Christian cult in the White House than a Democrat I don’t like and with whom I disagree and who I think belongs to some weirdo non-Christian cult even though I consider Romney a slimy progressive elitist who probably can’t win anyway because the only thing that matters in the whole world is that I hate Obama.  Go team.

b) “Well, I really really really really really dislike Romney, so I voted for this guy Sanitarium, Sanitation, SarsaparillaSantorum.  I don’t really know anything about him, but, um, well, um, Mormon! Cult! Babies! America! And I heard that he loves the Jesus and hates the homos. Good enough.”  The logic apparently being: no way in hell he’s going to beat Obama, but hey at least he’s not Romney. He’s also Catholic and not Gringrich, or a woman, or from Texas. Go Jebus.

c) “RON PAUL 2012!”  The logic being, RON PAUL 2012! Frankly, I just don’t understand the infatuation with this guy.  He’s 76 years old and apparently doesn’t understand how the internet works – but about a quarter of Iowans think it would be spiffy if he was sitting in the big chair helming the most technologically advanced economy in the world. He talks up the whole personal responsibility thing, but won’t take personal responsibility for newsletters and tweets issued under his own name.  They hate Obama, but embrace a spoiler whose only real position is to siphon off half the independents and about twenty percent of disgruntled conservatives. Go Ross Perot.

Look, I’m not saying it was all bad. Every show has its high points.  Hell, even X-Men Origins: Wolverine had its moments (none of which involved Hugh Jackman, but still).

Michele Bachmann got voted off the island. I’d consider that worth the price of admission alone.  Her I’m-a-real-person speech last night after it was announced that the only candidate she’d managed to beat was the one that didn’t actually show up for the caucus was just plain hilarious. I’m a real person? Really Michele, you’re a real live person? So are gay people. So are non-Christians. So are liberals. So are the rest of us. Screw you, I hope you choke on your defeat. Go somewhere else and cry, you nasty selfish bitch.  Don’t let the door hit you in your skinny white ass on the way out.

Edit: You know, on second thought, Iowa’s rejection of Bachmann changes things.  I’m going to bump you back up to The Search For Spock.  You’re welcome.

Gingrich was doing what he considers humility.  Before the vote, when it was already apparent that he hadn’t been able to bullshit his way into Evangelical hearts despite a personal endorsement from God, he started lining up his excuses. It’s never Newt’s fault.  “It's probably that I'm too reasonable," Gingrich said. "And I should've responded to the negative ads sooner."  I’m too reasonable?  That’s why I lost. I’m too reasonable.  I fooled around on two wives because I loved America too much. Jesus Haploid Christ, and he calls Obama arrogant. What a pair of stones this guy has. I’m too reasonable.  It’s not fair. Romney ran attack ads. Boo hoo.  Newt seems to forget he’s the guy that invented this form of political campaign.  He stormed out of Iowa headed East, you won’t have Newt to kick around any more! If only that were true.

So far, Pray For Rain Perry’s hanging in there like a chad on a Florida punch ballot, but man if he can’t win in Jesus’ home state of Iowa, he doesn’t have much of a chance in New Hampshire. Probably why he decided to skip it altogether and head for South Carolina.  Frankly, if I was a South Carolinian, I think I’d be insulted by the insinuation.

 

Here’s the thing, normally predicting the outcome of primaries this far out is a sucker bet – Obama himself is a pretty good example of that.  But, I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that the Santorum Surge is a flash in the pan. Romney is going to win New Hampshire.  And he’s going to win pretty much everywhere else too. Romney’s going to be this year’s Republican candidate.  Bet on it.  And he’ll most likely name Marco Rubio as his running mate because even if he does manage to secure the nomination he’s a weak, weak candidate at best – not even as well liked by Republicans as John McCain was.  The only thing he’s got going for him is that Conservatives hate Obama.  Romney had better not make the same Veep mistake McCain did.

In the end, Romney beat Santorum in Iowa by a total of eight votes.

Eight.

And he only got that because there weren’t any better choices.

 

It’s going to be a long, long year.

I just hope I don’t have to downgrade the entire country to Waterworld come November.