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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Torrent Freak Kicks Ass!

If I had a mouthful of milk right now it would be shooting out my nose as I laugh my ass off. The great folks at Torrent Freak have pulled off a fine piece of "journalism" on this one. As I was reading this story with great interest, it dawned on me ...I was reading a very nice list of the best places to get torrents!
The way the story was presented, it struck me at first as a educational and well presented look at the state of torrent traffic and an informative overall piece. In fact it really is. Very nice work guys! Its a "twofer"....

BitTorrent Sites Show Explosive Growth - TorrentFreak

More Non-Information Released by the Clinton Campaign

MSNBC's First Read looks at Hillary Clinton's records and news coverage of the release of these records. Clinton's records do not provide many specifics, including one "private meeting" after another without mention of who the meetings were with.

I was a Bill Clinton supporter for most of the 90's. Now in hindsight (yes, I know it's 20/20), I realize that most of that support was due to the fact that I despised the Republicans and their sleazy Congressional tactics. The Clintons are probably equally painted with that same brush. If you look back at Whitewater, Monicagate etc.....you suddenly recall all the vague answers and semantic replies that would leave you to read between the lines. The problem is that under closer scrutiny, one began to realize that they were lying through their teeth. The only upside was that the Republicans were so hypocritical you felt like you should sympathize with the Clintons. The constant barrage of attacks against them left a lot of the country feeling sorry for Hillary.We are now in a much different place as a Nation and we simply cannot tolerate the lack of transparency and the outright exaggeration of accomplishments. Having weathered constant battering by her political opponents, simply doesn't translate into any kind of tangible experience. You can be sure that those same opponents are salivating at the chance to do it again. The Republicans smell blood in the water and are working themselves into a frenzy in anticipation that she will win the general election. It's no wonder they are encouraging Republicans to vote for her in the primaries.All these "private meetings" and other vague descriptions in her schedules, don't give us any hope that any thing has changed. I'm an independent, and I'm a little unsold on the experience of Obama as well. On the plus side, he hasn't been entrenched in Washington as long as Hillary or McCain. It would appear that once again we are going to end up having to vote for the lesser of two evils. I'm beginning to think that a McCain/Lieberman ticket might not be too bad, and I don't think we should be too quick to dismiss Obama's ability to be an agent of change. The one thing I can be sure of is that we don't need 4 more years of the Clinton BS machine.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Why Exxon Won't Produce More Oil

If you want to understand it, listen in to ExxonMobil's presentation to analysts in New York City in early March. Halfway through the three-hour meeting, Exxon management flashed a chart that showed the company's worldwide oil production staying flat through 2012.

Ponder that for a minute. Exxon is the largest publicly traded company in the energy business. In fact, it's the most profitable company in the history of capitalism, earning a record $40.6 billion last year on sales of $404 billion. Yet even with crude oil prices near all-time highs, Exxon isn't planning on producing any more oil four years from now than it did last year.

What if Steve Jobs said Apple wasn't going to sell any more iPhones than it did in 2007? What if Howard Schultz said latte production at Starbucks would stagnate, at least until the next U.S. president embarked on his or her re-election campaign? Shares of both companies would plummet.


This kind of crap has been going on for a long time now. Corporate America has been playing this game for years. It's all about the bottom line, with no real concern for the effect it has on the rest of the economy. Big oil did the same thing in the 1970's oil crisis. Everyone cried that they would never let this kind of outrage ever happen again. Then we elected Bush and all his oil cronies to lead our country. Everyone knew who they were voting for the first term, and then they went and did it again. Perhaps, but not likely, we will learn our lesson from all this.

It would be easy to think that this kind of corporate plundering is only happening in the realm of big oil companies, but the fact is this kind of profiteering is happening in other sectors as well. This type of activity is all too apparent in the financial sector as well. Banks, mortgage companies and Wall Street all knew the risks of shady lending practices should have outweighed the lure of huge profits, but when they saw the dollar signs, they ignored the fact that this behavior would decimate our economy and took the easy money. Now they want the government to bail them out. It makes one yearn for the much simpler days of Enron and Worldcom.

It's not easy to not see the writing on the wall here. As the economy tanks, and energy demands decline, soon big oil will be lobbying Congress to give them tax breaks. They'll cry about Opec and countries like Venezuela flooding the market with cheap oil, coupled with the high costs of producing alternative fuels, as the reason for their shrinking bottom line. When in reality, the bottom line was artificialy inflated (by them) in the first place. If this sounds familiar, it's because it is a very similar equation to the one that has led us to the current housing/mortgage crisis.

Why Exxon won't produce more oil - MSN Money

Thursday, March 20, 2008

New Project Attempts to Return Political Power to the People

The Change Congress project's first mission is to diminish the influence of money in the legislative body by influencing the outcome of the 2008 election campaigns of 67 members of congress which are up for grabs. As the Change Congress project founder Larry Lessig noted in the project's launch Thursday afternoon, there haven't been so many seats open up for challenge in more than a decade.

"The problem we face is ... the problem of crony capitalism using money to capture government," he said on Monday during the launch of his project in Washington, DC. "The challenge is whether in fact we can change this. The political experts tell you that it can't be done, that process always win over substance."

The professor wants legislators to promise to do four things which he says will reduce the influence of money on policymaking: To promise not to accept money from lobbyists and political action committees; support public financing of elections; commit to passing legislation to permanently ban the funneling of money to their districts' projects of questionable worth; and to commit to "compel transparency in the functioning of congress." The project will rely on engaged voters to record and map responses by candidates who are running for open seats. The idea is to make what seems like an abstract idea visually tangible through a Google mash-up.


This is the type of "outside the box" thinking we need in this country to loosen the grip of powerful lobbying groups in Washington D.C. It's true that the internet has made it possible to accomodate many voices on multiple issues. The next question will be how to harness that power in a meaningful way. In the past two election cycles we have seen candidates on both sides of the aisle tap into that collective power base with suprisingly good results. This new found grassroots movement has been gaining steam in recent years and looks to continue that trend in the future. Candidates like Ross Perot, Howard Dean, Ron Paul and Barak Obama have proven that this is a viable option for voters who feel their voices simply put, are never heard above the din of the big money lobbying machines.

With any luck, the Change Congress will take hold and affect a change on both sides of the aisle. If nothing else, if successful, it will give us an effective yardstick to determine which candidates are truly commited to real change in Washington.

Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig Bets 'Wikipedia' Approach Will Transform Congress

Monday, March 17, 2008

Amended Complaint Filed In RIAA/Media Sentry Lawsuit

Tanya Andersen has filed her amended complaint in her class action, Andersen v. Atlantic.The 109-page document provides a detailed description of some of the RIAA abuses, and contains 18 claims for relief, including Federal and State RICO claims, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, abuse of process, and fraud.The suit targets the record companies, MediaSentry, Settlement Support Center LLC, and the RIAA.The complaint begins:

1.1 For nearly three years of her life, Tanya Andersen and her young daughter were subjected to an outrageous series of baseless accusations and unrelenting threats of financial ruin. The world’s four major recording studios had devised an illegal enterprise intent on maintaining their virtually complete monopoly over the distribution of recorded music. The enterprise is conducted with total disregard for innocent individuals. Dead people have been sued. Children have been sued. People without computers have been sued. As a senior RIAA spokeswoman explained: “When you fish with a net, you are going to catch a few dolphins”. By their own early admission, they were knowingly engaged in a “driftnet fishing” operation and “innocent dolphins” were the collateral damage in their “nets”.

Nationwide Conspiracy of Crime 1.2 -In 2003 and before, the Big 4 recording companies conspired with the enforcement/lobbying arm of the music cartel -- the RIAA -- and MediaSentry to devise an investigation scheme that was both illegal and seriously flawed. The scheme was based on secret private investigations by unlicensed, unregistered and uncertified private investigators. These private investigators claim to have illegally entered the hard drives of tens of thousands of private American citizens to look for music recordings stored there. This personal invasion is a crime in virtually every state in the country. If music was “discovered” through this illegal process, the private investigators would then sell the identity of the computers’ internet protocol address to the RIAA and the Big 4 record companies.

You can follow this story and more at the Recording Industry vs The People website. If you are into reading all the gory legal details of the RIAA lawsuit witch-hunt, this is the best place to do it. While it can be a bit dry at times, it will give you excellent insight into the legal arguments presented by both sides of the debate. If you pay close attention, you can gain some insight into how to stay out of the sights of the RIAA/Media Sentry folks.

For instance, one of the common themes I've seen is the majority of these cases involve Kazaa users. Does anyone even use this crappy client anymore? If you do, I suggest you find a better alternative and/or educate yourself on how other dumbass people are getting caught!

RIAA Screws Artists, Pockets Filesharing Settlement Money

None of the estimated $400 million that the RIAA received in settlements with Napster, KaZaA, and Bolt over allegations of copyright infringement has gone to the artists whose copyrights were allegedly infringed. Now the artists are considering suing the RIAA.

I think the RIAA's demise is inevitable and I've been advocating major artists to sue these jokers for quite a while now. Set aside this revelation (no surprise really) that they haven't shared a dime with the artists and consider the scenario where a major artist sues them for not doing enough to protect their royalties. Also, reverse the "made available" argument against the RIAA. Weren't these the same people who helped develop the digital format in the first place? 20+ years ago, the RIAA members were promising us audio nirvana in the form of CD's that were cheaper to produce and never wore out. They told the public and the artists that the cheaper production costs would translate into less expensive products for the consumer and higher returns for the artists.

In reality, the price of music went up, and the artists share of profits decreased. This is the business model the labels are trying to preserve in the "download age".

Just think of how much more profit we can make when we get rid of all this pesky packaging and disc pressing. We'll just tell the artists we need to keep screwing them because of the high cost of digitizing music and the prohibitive cost of digital distribution.....ummmmmm yeah, that's the ticket!

I thought the rant from the member of the Cocteau Twins in the posts from the story were very interesting. Anyone who doesn't understand how badly artists get screwed and how greedy the labels are should give this a look. There are thousands of stories from artists just like this...or worse.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

RIAA Secrets About To Be Revealed in Lawsuit

I can't wait until they get to the discovery phase of this trial. I'm sure the assholes at the RIAA are squirming and are quite uncomfortable as their game begins to unravel. The judge in this case has ruled that he won't take any more motions to dismiss this case. So, it seems that it will be moving forward. The only way that the RIAA can avoid this trial is to settle out of court. I sincerely hope that the lawyers for Ms. Andersen will pause for a moment, as if they were considering it, and laugh loudly and sarcasticly in their face.

This trial should bring many of the facts the RIAA has been holding close to the vest for many years to light. In past suits, when brought by the RIAA, where the defendants have decided to fight them, the RIAA lawyers have decided to drop the suits or make a "settlement offer" the defendant couldn't realisticly refuse. The reason they would do this is to avoid the discovery process that would reveal the shady way in which they operate. In this instance, the RIAA is the defendant. They aren't in control of how the trial proceeds. It is solely up to the plaintiffs attorneys and the judge. It sounds like the judge is a no nonsense type who feels like this trial should move forward and isn't likely to put up with any legal shenanigans from anybody.

I can't wait for all the juicy tidbits of this trial to become public. With the strong interest in this case from the internet community, I doubt the strongest of gag orders will keep this from happening. I'm sure that this case will be one of the more compelling "net stories" of the year and one that this blogger will certainly be blogging about for a while!

Andersen attorney on RIAA suit: "They can't run now"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Has MediaSentry Been Performing Illegal Investigations?

One of the more recent controversies dogging the RIAA's legal campaign against file-sharing is whether MediaSentry (now a division of SafeNet) needs state-issued private investigator licenses to operate lawfully. It's a question that has been raised in several contested RIAA lawsuits, and now the state of Michigan has told the company that it needs a license to operate there.

Michigan says MediaSentry lacks necessary PI license

This issue could have some serious implications for the investigative arm of the RIAA. If a court finds that Media Sentry has been performing investigations without the proper authority from the states where the investigations occurred, all evidence collected by them could be thrown out. You can be sure that the thousands of people that have written rather large checks to avoid a court trial could ask for the money back in a suit of their own. This would essentially leave the RIAA with no evidence to support their claims. People who have lost court cases, like Jamie Thomas, could have their convictions overturned. It's no suprise that neither the RIAA or Media Sentry officials want to comment on this issue or admit they should have been liscensed. You can be sure that we'll be watching this issue closely...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

RIAA Bastards Suing to Impose ISP Filters

The international wing of the RIAA mafia is suing an Irish ISP to force them to place filters on their network...Will this be the next step in the US?

IFPI Takes ISP to Court to Impose Music Piracy Filter

This is yet another angle in the file sharing debate. Do we really want ISP's to be the gatekeeper of all information that travels over the internet? Doesn't this go against all the principles the web was founded on?

I think this case is interesting in that the IFPI (international RIAA organization) is using the "making available" argument just as was used to bring down Napster. In a weird sense, I hope that they get some traction on this case as it brings a lot of attention to this aspect of the debate. I think this "made available" could be a dangerously slippery slope for the RIAA folks to perch upon.

Consider this scenario. An artist, who feels that the RIAA has not done enough to protect them from losses due to internet file sharing, decides to sue their (RIAA member) record label for "making available" a digital format of their work. One might consider the CDA format from the retail cd or a digital version from iTunes "making it available" for illegal filesharing. After all, the record labels are the ones responsible for the original distribution into the public realm. As I've said repeatedly before, "No one was filesharing vinyl!"

As more artists perform their own marketing and distribution duties, they will become more and more annoyed by how much the labels have been gouging them all these years. The recent internet release from Trent Reznor and NiN should really make a lot of major artists stand up and take notice. Perhaps some more major artists, like Prince, who are fed up with the industry's inability to protect their profits, may just decide to bring such a suit. It's only a matter of time....

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

It's Official, Vista is the New Windows ME...

I remember vividly my thoughts as the hype machine for the next great OS from Microsoft was ramping up. As the details began to leak out, it was very apparent that Microsoft was never going to deliver the features it had initialy stated. One by one the news reports that came out were talking of how Microsoft was going to drop this and that in order to deliver Vista on schedule. As the features that really excited people in the industry disappeared, I instantly became skeptical and had nightmarish visions of the dismal Microsoft ME product launch. It seemed odd at the time, and now seems prophetic, that the exact same scenario was playing out.

When Microsoft replaced the rapidly aging Windows 95, they did so skillfully and thoughtfuly. They actualy listened to customers and designed an OS that got rid of almost all of the annoyances that drove people nuts with Windows 95. They takled hardware and driver compatibility and greatly improved upon the overall user experience. Sure, they had to drag many people kicking and screaming towards the new OS, but most of those people are generally eager to resist change of any sort and would have been completely happy to keep using their Commodore 64. Today, you can find those same people extolling the virtues of unwieldy, non-user friendly flavors of Linux. Microsoft shined through with a new OS that most anyone could use and for the most part worked well right out of the box. The ensuing service packs for the OS actually fixed the bugs and security problems. At this point, Microsoft was listening to users and was actually working with vendors.

After a few years, Microsoft decided that it was time to offer a new OS. Instead of looking at Windows 98 and deciding what worked and what didn't. They decided that rather than submit to the long and daunting task of making a product that was a vast improvement over their current OS, someone decided it would be best to do the bare minimum, in order to get a product to market as fast as possible. To do this, it was decided that they would add window dressing (pun intended) to Windows 98 and launch a massive marketing campaign decrying that the new OS was "feature rich" and everyone should be drooling to have it. Of course, the reality was that they ruined a perfectly good operating system with all kinds of bloat that people didn't want, didn't need and frankly, didn't work. The public and the industry were enraged and people shunned the new OS and rallyed behind the old faithful Windows 98 for many years to come.

Feeling the backlash, Microsoft went back to the drawing board and focused on their core business customers while they worked dilligently to build a new OS from the ground up. The end result, after far too many years passed, was what we now know as Windows XP. Sure, this new OS was resisted at every turn by wary consumers and Microsoft responded fairly well with automatic updates and bug fixes that adressed real user issues. Soon, Windows XP became as well liked and well accepted as Windows 98. It had become entrenched as a well accepted standard, that most people agreed, did what it was supposed to and actualy improved the user experience. Microsoft's dillegence had paid off and they again became generally trusted and entrenched with computer users world wide. Then the wheels came off....

Enter into the fray, Windows Vista. Vista was supposed to be a quantum leap forward in OS technology. Microsoft promised to deliver an OS that would make us forget all the improvements made by Apple and even surpass the expectations of Apple's new Leopard OS they had been working on. Some industry articles even predicted that many Linux users were simply disenfranchised Windows users that would willingly migrate back to the shiny new OS from Redmond. They couldn't have been more wrong.

The first apparent problem was that a majority of computer users wouldn't even be able to run Vista without major hardware upgrades or purchasing new systems altogether. The folks from Redmond did their best to assure us that this requirement wasn't entirely due to their new OS, but more of a convenient convergence of Moore's Law. As it turns out, it was more an attempt to please hardware manufacturers and boost lagging new PC sales. If a user wanted to take advantage of the new "features" of the new OS, they were almost certainly in for a serious (read expensive) upgrade.

As the release candidates became available, it became glaringly obvious that Microsoft had dropped most of the meat and potatoes features from their latest offering. In the end, the only real "advatage" they were offering was something called "Aero". The other distinctions from Windows XP were miniscule at best, and they even managed to bungle up some of the things that worked best in XP. At the end of the day, Aero amounted to nothing more than eye candy layered over XP. Coupled with the cost of upgrading your hardware, Microsoft managed to create the ultimate lose-lose situation for the consumer. To add insult to injury, they decided to offer Windows Vista in more flavors than Baskin Robbins ice cream. This great idea (as we later found out) was an attempt to appease, once again, the hardware manufacturers. The manufacturers were mad that "Vista Capable" certification didn't fit well with the price points they wanted to sell their products. It turned out that PCs that sold at the lower end of the price range couldn't run the slick new Aero inerface. So, Microsoft dumbed down Vista to accomodate this situation by removing Aero altogether. This left the lower end Vista versions to be nothing more than bloated versions of Windows XP with a new color scheme.

Based on the public's reaction, as well as the reaction from the industry itself, Vista has been a miserable failure. The lessons Microsoft should have learned from the Windows ME debacle have apparently been ignored or forgotten. This huge oversight has simply given critics of Microsoft, as well as Mac and Linux fanboys everywhere, more ammunition to begin shoveling dirt on Microsoft's coffin. The failure of Vista, coupled with the spread of virtualization, server side apps and open source software, may have signaled the beginning of the end for Microsoft's dominance of the PC desktop. The reality is, that a premature death for Windows as we know it, may be just that. Premature. Microsoft does still have an opportunity to redeem itself, but they will once again have to first overcome the mess they have created. The next OS will have to be truly innovative and bulletproof out of the box. Otherwise, they will find themselves gasping for air as their competitors continue to bury them alive. Don't think for a minute that the public will feel sorry for them, or that Google isn't watching closely as the jockey themselves into position as the heir apparent 600 pounnd gorilla.

Elgan: Was Windows XP Microsoft's last good OS?

Perfect Explanation of the Net Neutrality Debate

This video makes it very easy to understand the debate about net neutrality. It explains why everyone who uses the internet should be outraged at the government for not standing up to corporate greed. It also gives us great insight into the reason why the ISP's have been so slow to provide reasonable levels of service to rural customers. I would strongly recommend that everyone who has a voice should use it to contact their Congressional Representatives and demand that they stand up to corporate greed and keep the internet a beacon of free speech that is easily accessible to everyone. I would also encourage everyone to share this video with all of the people in their contact lists. If people sceam loud enough, with one voice, perhaps we can drown out the powerful Washington lobbyists who would like to gain control of the internet and impede on our freedom to communicate. It wouldn't be the first time they've tried....

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Principal Orders Eigth Grader Strip Searched for Ibuprofen

This month the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is scheduled to rehear a case involving a Tucson, AZ eighth-grader who was strip-searched by school administrators enforcing a "zero tolerance" drug policy.
"The drugs in question were ibuoprofen pills -- prescription-strength, 400-milligram pills (equivalent to a couple over-the-counter Advil caplets), but nothing anyone would or could use to get high."

Principal Orders Eigth Grader Strip Searched for Ibuprofen

How can an untrained (and obviously over-zealous) school official be allowed to search anyone? If there was any implication of illeagal drugs (prescriptions used by anyone other than the person they are prescribed), the police should have been called. Some may get hung up on the fact it was just ibuprofen. (Why do you need a prescription for these anyway? You can easily take 4 of the over the counter variety to equal the 800mg prescription stuff.)But, what if it were a narcotic painkiller? Would the principal still have ordered a strip search or would he have involved the police? Of course the proper thing to do would be to involve the cops. So, why should this case be any different.
Besides the question of constitutionality, wouldn't anything found in a search by someone who is not a law enforcement officer be easily tossed out as inadmissable if you had a decent lawyer? This whole story sickens me.
While I can empathize with school officials trying to run a school free of drugs of any type, one cannot condone such outrageous, improper behavior. Laws that protect our basic freedoms, like the protection from illeagal search and seizure, should always trump any perceived or real government policy. This behavior is made even more unacceptable on any level when the act involves a minor. School officials are responsible for protecting our children, not violating them, while in their care and custody.
Based on the reports I have read on this case, even a police officer would have a hard time justifying a strip search. The "suspect" denied the original accusation, didn't resist a search of her personal belongings and in fact nothing that occured in the course of investigating that gave them "reasonable cause" to suspect she was lying and continue with a strip search.
The school district and those involved should be sued into the stone age to ensure that this type of incident never occurs in any school district again.
Where's Bill O'reilly when you need him? I'd love to see him pick up on this case and make it his "outrageous story" segment for the next six months! Our rights and liberties are being constantly eroded by the government and the proper balance needs to be restored!

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