Steal Better Movies, Please

Sony movies leak online as computer systems remain dark | LA Times

Sony’s demise is lamentable. The company is truly legendary in bringing cutting edge technology to the marketplace, especially with respect to entertainment. The company has defined the state of the art in consumer electronics for decades. They have lost their way with consumers, however, by attaching draconian rules to recordings made with their technology, and by leveraging their music and movie production businesses to impede digital media distribution.

The latter act may well have been what motivated hackers to exact revenge on Sony by stealing and distributing its movies, as noted in the LA Times article above.

The greatest disappointment to me is the fact that none of the titles are worthy of watching, in my mind. Fury might be, but the trouble of stealing it via file sharing networks seems hardly worth the trouble.

It’s difficult to condone such a bold act of theft on the part of the hackers–an act that has shut down all of Sony’s computer networks–but, it’s just as difficult to feel sympathy for a company that leverages its market power against the consumers who generate its profits. Conflicts of interest of Sony’s variety–tying entertainment production and distribution to technology–eventually lead to disaster. How could so many executives have been blind to it?

As the Google graph for Sony’s stock price amply demonstrates, it has been long, agonizing demise for Sony. Apple and Samsung have run away with Sony’s lunch while Sony squandered billions creating restrictive technologies to protect intellectual property that nobody cared to buy.

Freedom of the Press

Hong Kong democracy protesters defy tear gas, baton charge in historic standoff | Reuters

 Freedom of the press is taken for granted in the West, but one struggles to remember the last time the American press took a principled stand against the government. A striking example of this is cited in the above story.

Publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, a key backer of the democracy movement, joined the protesters.

The New York Times famously buried a story about the NSA’s illegal exploits under pressure from the Federal government. The Times had every right to publish the story, and it had all the resources it needs to defend itself against any accusations the government might bring, but it caved to the government bullying. In Hong Kong, in contrast, in defiance of an autocratic government, the publishing magnate is willing to risk his own life, not just his fortunes. The New York Times and The Washington Post haven’t shown this kind of moxie since the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandal. The hippies were right, it seems. We should look east for leadership and inspiration.

Jimmy Lai’s participation in the Hong Kong protests should remind us that freedom of the press is worthless if the press has no balls.

Breach at JP Morgan Chase

Chase posted the following warning to their mobile app this morning. No unusual activity in my account yet, and hopefully their ongoing investigation won’t reveal that my account was compromised.

This is not the compromising position in which I ever wanted to find myself.

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The Capitalist Assault against Individuality

Google’s Brin: Individual car ownership needs to go | CNET

What’s the difference between Google and socialism? Not much.

A long time ago an excellent mathematician and member of the Southern California Federation of Scientists (whom I had the privilege of knowing very well) had made the shocking argument that by eliminating automobiles and levying a tax that is equivalent to approximately half the average of cost of individual car ownership, it is possible to fund a complete fare-free transit system that can pickup everyone within 100 yards of their residence and drop them off within 100 yards of their place of work with less than a few minutes of waiting time and use a lot less gas than having a million cars on the road daily.

In fact, he was not the only one. Numerous “idealists” had crunched the numbers and demonstrated expanded bus service could be a much more efficient transit system,

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Why Do Texans Enjoy Stepping into This?

Texas governor says he stepped right in it on gay comments | Reuters

It’s difficult to pinpoint Rick Perry’s most revolting attribute, but the ersatz modesty he projects in defense the asinine notions he espouses may be the one. As the Reuters article cites, this comparison of homosexuality with alcoholism is his second assertion in nearly a decade. He really seems to believe it.

The “it” into which he seems to have stepped seems to be the hostility of the masses who lack the good sense to understand his apt analogy: how can anyone not understand that homosexuality is like addiction to a drug? It would be interesting to know what the gateway drug for this addiction is. The glory hole? Teletubbies? Organic tomatoes? The feather boa? If he could argue for such a gateway, then there would be nothing to step into.

Election results show that the man has received more than 50% of the vote on three elections. Why, oh, why do Texans insist on forcing the rest of the country step into this over, and over, and over?

I need to clean my browser while Perry cleans his boots.

No Freedom in Industry, or from Industry

Freedom Industries: other chemical is ‘proprietary’ | MSNBC

The reasons why this company calls itself “Freedom Industries” become less apparent by the moment. They enslave entire populations by polluting their water supplies, they don’t believe in freedom of information, and they don’t give any of their product away for free.

If the management of this company were following any logical argument, then it might declare that the disaster is “proprietary”: theirs, and theirs alone, just like the identity of this chemical. To the contrary, Freedom industries seems happy to claim ownership of everything except their responsibility in this mess. It is only in this sense that the name of the company makes sense. They are free from any responsibility for what they do.

Adios, Chris Christie

Christie Fires Aide in Bridge Scandal as U.S. Opens Inquiry – NYTimes.com.

The man always came off as as big talker, anyway. He never impressed me as a particularly edgy intellectual or an especially skilled manager who can delegate authority prudently towards the efficient accomplishment of tasks. His choice of operatives, however, is his undoing in my mind, and it should be his undoing in the minds of everyone else.

Given that a successful Presidency, even more so than a governorship, is vitally dependent on appointing the right people to the right positions, Christie’s career is now officially over. His apology today impugns him. In this very long mea culpa, he effectively is saying that he appointed idiots to the most important posts, and that it took him over three years to discover that they are idiots. (His specific words are “abject stupidity”.) In a presidency, three years is enough time for idiots to destroy the world.

The company one keeps, they say, says a lot about one, Mr. Christie’s company have said absolutely nothing good about the politician or the man. People should take note.

To Which Crime Will Rob Ford Confess Next?

Rob Ford, embattled Toronto mayor, admits he has bought illegal drugs | CBS News

“What is this man thinking? What was this man thinking?” Those are the questions that every human being on earth asks after each Rob Ford revelation. How could an avowed conservative and ostensibly scrupulous man commit the lowest of crimes and then confess to them? Worse yet for the man–but absolutely wonderful for the entertainment starved world–each crime confessed is more outrageous than the last: getting drunk too often, smoking crack cocaine, buying crack cocaine! To what will he confess to next? Here is a list submitted for consideration, in no apparent order.

  • Shooting heroin.
  • Speed balling every time one of his initiatives pass the city council.
  • Running over a hobo before every Canadian Thanksgiving.
  • Acting as a mule for free joint.

Somewhere in the United States, former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry is assuredly sitting, aghast, mouth open, and utterly incensed that a pasty Canadian honky is flourishing under the spotlight for the same acts for which Barry was jailed.

Marion Barry ultimately reclaimed his elected position, and Rob Ford’s appeal seems not to be waning. Yet, this feels decidedly different from the apparent maturity we ascribe to the French populace when they wisely ignore their politicians’ dalliances.

Marion Barry was indignant even after he was re-elected. Ford is repentant to the extent that he seems to be preparing to offer “I was on crack” as an excuse for any poor decisions he may make or may have made as mayor. He and Barry are the only two politicians in all of history who could use that excuse. This is rarefied company, indeed.

I extended my warmest thanks to the citizens of Toronto for having provided the distraction that I desperately needed, as did countless overworked Americans.

Seminal Act of Civil Disobedience

Artist nails his scrotum to the ground in Red Square | World news | theguardian.com

Picture of the act from The Guardian.

Pyotr Pavlensky, the artist in the photo, has a substantial history of employing self mutilation in performance pieces that protest the increasingly repressive nature of the Russian regime, according to The Guardian article above. About the man’s possession of boundless will power and tolerance for pain, no doubts can be harbored. One only hopes that this act is more successful than his previous protests. This writer certainly wishes that this extraordinary act of self mutilation inspires the tsunami of rebellion that the artist desires to incite against a political system that has indeed become a shadow of the Soviet autocracy against which so many people like the artist gave their lives.

The most unfortunate question thus arises. Is a mere scrotum enough of a sacrifice? Should he have gone as far as being incarcerated without due process like Pussy Riot, a cause for which he mutilated himself to no apparently productive ends? Should he have immolated himself like the many Tibetans who do so annually in a final, desperate expression of defiance and self determination against an omnipotent, malevolent government? Must roads to freedom and self determination be paved with entire corpses, not just limbs and valuable appendages like the scrotum?

The political artist’s expression will forever be deconstructed. The desire for attention will forever confound any legitimate expression he or she may have made. It will be a shame if Mr. Pavlensky’s remarkable act of defiance is dismissed as a shameless act of self promotion. It rings sincere, in this writer’s mind, in its desperate expression of a desire for rights and dignity for every citizen in Russia.

Should its impact and distribution be limited to the pages of odd news sections and blogs like this, then the inescapable conclusion is that it is more effective to stick one’s neck out than it is to go balls out in the quest for freedom. Given how extraordinary it is to see a man go balls out like Pyotr, it is hard to imagine that anyone will stick their necks out. This may be the ultimate sign of resignation in the western world and the ultimate assertion of the current price of progress.

It is, perhaps, time to contemplate Syria, Chechnya, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia and myriad other countries where necks are slashed in plain sight of western citizens far too apathetic to vote to protect their own interests. Political and military power are tools we developed to stroke our own balls, it seems, rather then to save necks.

Pyotr, may your balls be safe and your scrotum whole again someday.

virtual but permanent

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