MySpace Suicide and the XBox Legal Experience

In a somber note, I would like to extend my condolences to all first parties involved.

This is a sad situation about an unfortunate little girl.  Even more sadly, the emotional aspects of this case seem to have overwhelmed the logical ones, and put us in a very curious legal place.

And by “us” I’m talking about the 9th District in the U.S.

The background in the case can be read over here. I’m going to assume some familiarity with the case, as it’s probably all over the network news given the hot-topic/high emotional content of the situation.  This is the kind of case that makes for good TV.

Which I think falls under the label of “sadder still” but that’s a topic for another day.

Here I want to talk about what I think is good and bad about the decision.    There’s a couple of each.

First, I think it’s good that she was found both innocent of the felonies and guilty of some misdemeanor.  From what I understand of the case…

Legally, as [Defendant Lori] Drew’s lawyer Dean Steward repeatedly reminded the jury, the case was not about whether Drew caused Megan to commit suicide. Instead, Drew was accused of violating MySpace’s terms of service by obtaining personal information to inflict emotional distress on the teen.

Megan killed herself after “Josh” told her the world would be better off without her, prosecutors said. The assistant, 20-year-old Ashley Grills, testified under a grant of immunity that she was the one who sent the final message.  Drew’s daughter Sarah was also not charged.

Sarah told jurors her mother thought inventing “Josh” was a good idea but changed her mind two weeks later and told Grills to shut it down.

….and that’s not a felony.

Things to note here…[1] it wasn’t the accused (and convicted) that sent the final really nasty-gram, the government made a deal with the trigger-bitch, [2] this was a two-week romance, which, sadly, speaks to a not quite stable mind, and [3] THIS IS ABOUT VIOLATING MYSPACE’S TERMS OF SERVICE.

That’s the only “crime” they could come up with here.  What bothers me most about the verdict, is that while the jurors rightly realized they couldn’t legitimately call this action a felony, they still felt the need to punish this woman for her role in the tragedy.

BTW, the level where you get to a “felony” is a crime where…common-law and local-law wise…

The term originates from English common law where felonies were originally crimes which involved the confiscation of a convicted person’s land and goods;

In the United States, where the felony/misdemeanor distinction is still widely applied, the Federal government defines a felony as a crime which involves a potential punishment of a year or longer in prison.

It also includes a bunch of other stuff…

In the United States felons often face additional consequences, such as the loss of voting rights in many states; exclusion from certain lines of work and difficulty in finding a job in others; prohibition from obtaining certain licenses; exclusion from purchase and possession of firearms, ammunition and body armour; and ineligibility to run for or be elected to public office. In addition, some states consider a felony conviction to be grounds for an uncontested divorce.

In other words, it should be for pretty damn serious crimes.  A felon is, quite literally, a lesser-citizen of the United States (a truth that factors into recidivism rates, no doubt).  Some may think getting back at a girl to defend your own children (and what other rationalization would Drew use, do you think?) might be grounds for felonious treatment, but I just can’t put sending a few fraudulent emails to a young girl in the same category as kidnapping and raping her.

Kidnap and rape are felonies.   Sending vicious emails and ignoring click-through agreements are not.

Especially, when it’s just “assumed” that people read them and they are binding.  This is the part of the case that really bothers me.  Remember, she ultimately got convicted for clicking-though an agreement and not following it…

But the emotional pull, and much of the testimony in the trial in federal court in Los Angeles, centered on the suicide. “The tragedy in this case is not just Megan Meier’s suicide. It’s the fact that it was so preventable,” U.S.attorney Thomas O’Brien said in his closing statement.

The case is believed to be one of the first of its kind to use the statute barring unauthorized access to computers, which has previously been used to combat computer hacking, to address so-called cyberbullying.

So she got convicted for …. hacking?  Are you kidding me?  And they used the emotional story of a teen suicide to stretch the law that far?   Arrrghh!!

I’m sorry, but don’t you think the girl’s parents locking her in her room meant she spent an inordinate amount of time online?  Might that have, perhaps, adversely affected her ability to cope?

Megan’s mother, Tina Meier, told jurors that her daughter was taking medication for attention deficit disorder and depression, and that she struggled with low self-esteem. Concerned about her daughter’s safety, Meier said she had Megan’s father reverse the lock on her bedroom.

So her mother orders her kid to take all sorts of pills, then orders the father to lock their daughter in her room, forgets about turning off the internet, which the teen uses to find a friend…and then it falls apart….and now it’s considered a crime to violate an End-User-License-Agreement that no one flippin’ reads anyway.   What?!

Why can’t the lesson here be “don’t put your kids on a ton a drugs and lock them in their rooms”?

Which brings us to a video I made a week ago called the XBox Legal Experience….which I will now need to amend, it would seem…

At about 2:20 in that video I go off about what a joke it is that such an insanely impossible-to-read-or-understand CLICK-THROUGH legal agreement could be binding in a court of law (and yes, if you are using an XBox you have agreed not to use the service for “cyber-bullying”…or as it’s known in some places “online gaming.”).

It turns out I was wrong.

Thanks to a MySpace Suicide and the XBox Legal Experience, this kind of crap is now actually binding on tangential crimes.  You might want to go back and start reading everything you’ve agreed to.  If you install as much software as I do, reading EULA’s is probably going to take up a good part of your remaining life.

And so we see a glimpse of the vision, of the future, of a country, as brought to you by News Corp. and Microsoft.

Ain’t Corporate America grand?

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Fallout 3: Battle of 1812 (*Finale Spoilers*)

Previous Fallout 3 videos….

UPDATE: I recut this video with what I think is a more appropriate soundtrack. A classic for a classic. This is the finale for a game that is most likely going to be “RPG of the Year” if not “Game of the Year.”

Previous Videos:

Fallout 3 : Flaming Sword and Mini-Nukes

Fallout 3 : Predatoring

HD version…

HQ version…

Pwning the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page

As any astute media watcher knows, the Wall Street Journal was taken over by News Corp. (Rupert Murdoch’s news manufacturing company) a couple years back and has been headed for “Hannity-Quality Thinking” ever since.

I’m pretty sure it has reached that level when a simple RobotPirateNinja can completely obliterate the economic arguments of their editorial staff.

Let’s start this off where I did, with this WSJ Editorial about Barack Obama’s selection of Larry Summers to lead his Councel of Economic Advisors.

Take Larry Summers, the economist who will run Mr. Obama’s National Economic Council at the White House. We have our differences with the former Harvard President, in particular on the incentive effects of high taxation and the growth impact of government spending. Mr. Summers thinks marginal tax rates can rise significantly — above 50% — before they deter risk-taking and reduce federal revenues. But at least he thinks that taxes matter at some point.

That’s their emphasis and snark.  Yes, the Wall Street Journal editorial page is written like a blog.   I was watching the local news last week, and they kept showing YouTube clips.  It seems that instead of elevating myself to the higher eschelons of media production, they have instead lowered themselves to mine.

Whatever, as long as people realize that it’s a lot more level playing field than previously assumed.  With that in mind, we’ll continue…

As for spending, Mr. Summers is one of those economists who believes in the Keynesian “multiplier.”

[Citation needed.  -ed]

Why is a citation needed?  Because I’m having a hard time finding Summers published works on the topic that state exactly what the article says.  This is a common tactic is bullshit political rhetoric and it’s called the “straw man” attack.  Essentially the process is as follows; one ascribes a political position to an opponent that they may or may not actually hold, and then attack them for holding onto it so dearly. [bonus points: find two posts where I do that]

This quaint notion [see? -ed] holds that every dollar of federal spending yields something like 1.5 times that in economic growth. This ignores the fact that the $1 in spending has to come from somewhere, which means it is taken from the private economy in higher borrowing or higher future taxes. We thought we’d buried this Keynesian money illusion 30 years ago, but it’s now coming back to justify a half-trillion dollars in new spending.

I’m at something of a loss here, since it was about 30 years ago that Reagonomics and Laffer-nomics took over, and we decided that we can cut taxes and increase spending and run up a huge debt and everything will be fine.   We’ve seen the results of that now, and I’m just wondering how the WSJ could have missed it.

On the other hand, Mr. Summers understands that government decisions can do real economic harm.

How could anyone who has watched Bush closely not understand how government decisions can do real economic harm?  I’m pretty sure we’re all on the same page here in that our actions have actual results in the real world, and our government even more so.  Why this is news to the WSJ is a question left for the reader.

They then go into a quote from Summers about how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac walked the fine line of a private company and government mandate.  What this has to do with overall economic meltdown is something of a question, unless you buy into that “it was poor people who stole your money” claptrap.  If you do, read that link and disabuse yourself of that notion. [ I also did a bit about “Big Poverty” here.]

Then they get to the part that set this post in motion…

Mr. Summers also helped to pass the Gramm-Leach-Bliley financial “deregulation” of 1999. His predecessor at Treasury, Robert Rubin, had resisted the necessary compromises. But upon taking the Treasury chair, Mr. Summers pressed ahead and agreed to changes in the Community Reinvestment Act, among other things.

In the loopy left telling, Gramm-Leach-Bliley caused the current mess by allowing commercial and investment banks to merge. Bill Clinton has himself debunked that myth (see “Bill v. Barack on Banks“), and in fact the reform has helped in the current panic by letting the likes of J.P. Morgan and Bank of America buy ailing investment banks.

As a “loopy-lefter” who told it exactly like that and explained why it was like that, I kinda took offense here.

Unlike the Reagan-fluffers at the WSJ, however, I have no problem pointing out this mistake by Slick Willie.  Clinton most certainly does try to “debunk” the notion that it was partly his fault [with a “prove me wrong” caveat that I will exploit], but I think we’ve all seen how far his denials of doing wrong can go.  Big ego is a pretty consistent mark of Presidents of all flavors.  There’s a simple reason for this, if you don’t have a big enough ego to think you should be sitting in that big chair, there is no way in hell you will ever do what it takes to get there (Gerald Ford being an obvious exception).

But I digress, let’s get back to the WSJ’s two reasons why the “loopy left is wrong”.  The first is that Bill Clinton, his own bad self, debunked it.  More on that in a second.

The second reason they offer is that deregulation allowed the barely surviving banks to buy the totally screwed ones.   [I “debunked” that over here as well.]

So what *exactly* was Clinton’s debunking?

In BusinessWeek.com, Maria Bartiromo reports that she asked the former President last week whether he regretted signing that legislation. Mr. Clinton’s reply: “No, because it wasn’t a complete deregulation at all. We still have heavy regulations and insurance on bank deposits, requirements on banks for capital and for disclosure. I thought at the time that it might lead to more stable investments and a reduced pressure on Wall Street to produce quarterly profits that were always bigger than the previous quarter [1].

“But I have really thought about this a lot. I don’t see that signing that bill had anything to do with the current crisis. Indeed, one of the things that has helped stabilize the current situation as much as it has is the purchase of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America, which was much smoother than it would have been if I hadn’t signed that bill [2].”

[full load of fertilizer]

So his first reason that he wasn’t wrong is that it would “reduce pressure on Wall Stree to produce [growing] quarterly profits.”   That’s an asinine statement and Maria should have laughed at him.   How does reducing government regulation lower private profit pressure? 

Clinton’s second reason is, you guessed it, the exact same as the WSJ editorial page.  They both even cite the same transaction [BoA eating Merrill].

Yup, the WSJ Editorial Staff gave two reasons why Clinton wasn’t wrong: Clinton’s reason and Clinton’s reason.

That, my friends, is complete and total political pwnage.

 —

But back to Slick Willie for a moment.  And here, dear readers, is why you should keep reading this site if you want actual political analysis and not party-line bullshit….I have no problems sacrificing sacred cows when it’s time to eat.  I’m actually not all that into Sacred Cow political theory any way.

Clinton went on to say this….

One of the writers of that legislation was then-Senator Phil Gramm, who is now advising John McCain, and who Mr. Obama described last week as “the architect in the United States Senate of the deregulatory steps that helped cause this mess.” Ms. Bartiromo asked Mr. Clinton if he felt Mr. Gramm had sold him “a bill of goods”?

Mr. Clinton: “Not on this bill I don’t think he did. You know, Phil Gramm and I disagreed on a lot of things, but he can’t possibly be wrong about everything. On the Glass-Steagall thing, like I said, if you could demonstrate to me that it was a mistake, I’d be glad to look at the evidence.”

Hmm…evidence….evidence you made a mistake…hmmm….evidence that allowing the two very different types of wealth to mix and intermingle….evidence that allowing the real estate bubble to kill the stock market was a bad idea….hmm….what can we find….

Oh, I got it!   How about if we look for what we can’t find?

Per a statement released by the Fed last night, the independent investment banking era is dead:

(From the Federal Reserve):

The Federal Reserve Board on Sunday approved, pending a statutory five-day antitrust waiting period, the applications of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to become bank holding companies.

To provide increased liquidity support to these firms as they transition to managing their funding within a bank holding company structure, the Federal Reserve Board authorized the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to extend credit to the U.S. broker-dealer subsidiaries of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley against all types of collateral that may be pledged at the Federal Reserve’s primary credit facility for depository institutions or at the existing Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF); the Federal Reserve has also made these collateral arrangements available to the broker-dealer subsidiary of Merrill Lynch. In addition, the Board also authorized the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to extend credit to the London-based broker-dealer subsidiaries of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch against collateral that would be eligible to be pledged at the PDCF.

The above was followed very quickly by another press release, announcing that the Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS) transactions could proceed immediately, without the five day waiting period.

(From the Federal Reserve):

Based on consultation with the Department of Justice regarding the applications of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to become bank holding companies, the Federal Reserve Board announced on Monday that the transactions may be consummated immediately without the application of the five-day antitrust waiting period.

[full post]

I dunno, Bill, but I kinda have to think that a policy change that led directly, within a decade, to the deaths of companies that existed since the 1800’s and indeed an entire segment of the banking industry, would probably count as evidence that what you were trying to do failed miserably.

Dammit man, you screwed us all here, not just your intern.  Admit your mistake and beg for forgiveness. 

You remember how to play that hand, right?

—–

note: good additional reading here.

Space Urine is Good

This will be a fun anecdote to tell the grandkids.

HOUSTON (AP) — After several days without luck, astronauts finally ran a successful test on equipment that turns urine into drinking water — a necessity for supporting the international space station’s crew, which will soon double.

“Not to spoil anything, but I think up here the appropriate words are ‘Yippee!'” space station commander Mike Fincke told Mission Control early Tuesday morning, shortly before bedtime.

“There will be dancing later,” Mission Control replied.

[full story]

I had to say, I can’t think of a more profound bonding experience with a group of people that dancing around in free fall and drinking each other’s reprocessed piss.

I Come From a City Full Of Terrorists

It turns out I have a lot closer ties to terrorism than even I thought.   You might too.

If you have ever given money to a hospital, you might be a terrorist.

If you have ever helped the poor, especially some of the poorest in the world, you might be a terrorist.

If you have ever given money, or donated services, to a school, you might be a terrorist.

Even if you have never advocated a violent action, or done one, or given money to someone who does, you STILL might be a terrorist.

And this is considered one of the greatest “victories” by Bush in the Global War on Terror.  

U.S. District Judge Jorge A. Solis announced the guilty verdicts on all 108 counts on the eighth day of deliberations in the retrial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, once the nation’s largest Muslim charity. It was the biggest terrorism financing case since the attacks of Sept. 11.

The convictions follow the collapse of Holy Land’s first trial last year and defeats in other cases the government tried to build. President George W. Bush had personally announced the freezing of Holy Land’s assets in 2001, calling the action “another step in the war on terrorism.”

Holy Land wasn’t accused of violence. Rather, the government said the Richardson, Texas-based charity financed schools, hospitals and social welfare programs controlled by Hamas in areas ravaged by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Prosecutors labeled Holy Land’s benefactors — called zakat committees — as terrorist recruiting pools. The charities, the government argued, spread Hamas’ violent ideology and generated loyalty and support among Palestinians.

Holy Land supporters told a different story. They accused the government of politicizing the case as part of its war on terrorism, while attorneys for the foundation said Holy Land’s mission was philanthropy and providing much-needed aid to the Middle East.

They reminded jurors that none of the zakat committees are designated by the U.S. as terrorist fronts, and that Holy Land also donated to causes elsewhere, including helping victims of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

[full story]

For those completely ignorant of Islam (like most of the Texas jurors in the case) “zakat” is one of the five pillars upon which the religion is based.  The word literally means “alms for the poor.”   The cultural translation to the Western world would be “tithing” (at least in those religions where tithing isn’t really optional if you want to be a member in good standing.)

Regardless, you can probably guess that “zakat communities” are composed of some of the poorest folks around.  And when you take the poorest people in one of the poorest “countries” in the world, you are talking fairly destitute.

One would think that it would be the “Christian” thing to do to help them.  Maybe try and build schools and hospitals?

Well, if one thought that, one would be thinking like an actual Christian, not an American one.   In the U.S. it is a terrorist act to help the poor.

At least in Bush’s America.

Note: This is the second trial for these folks.  The first was declared a mistrial.  Why?   Hmmm, how to explain this….ah here we go….23% of Texans still thought Obama was Muslim before the election.  Understand what I’m dealing with here?  Good, glad that’s clear.

Here’s some excerpts from a story about the first mistrial….

October 23, 2007

The U.S. Justice Department suffered a major setback in another high-profile terrorist prosecution Monday when its criminal case against five former officials of a now-defunct Islamic charity collapsed into a tangle of legal confusion.

U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish declared a mistrial, but not before it became clear that the government’s landmark terrorism finance case – and one of its most-costly post-9/11 prosecutions – was in serious trouble.

His decision came after jury verdicts were read to a packed courtroom indicating that none of the defendants had been found guilty on any of the 200 combined counts against them. Jurors had acquitted defendants on some counts and were deadlocked on charges ranging from tax violations to providing material support for terrorists.

However, during routine polling of the jurors to determine that their votes were accurately reflected in the findings, two said they were not. When efforts to reconcile the surprise conflict failed, Fish declared the mistrial.

The case presented to a Texas jury of eight women and four men relied heavily on Israeli intelligence and involved disputed documents and electronic surveillance gathered by federal agents over a span of nearly 15 years.

[I’m sorry, but how is foreign intelligence colllected using Mossad tactics admissable in U.S./Texas courts?  Just curious if anyone knows…]

Juror William Neal, 33, who said his father worked in military intelligence, said that the government’s case had “so many gaps” that he regarded the prosecution as “a waste of time.”

The jury forewoman, who like the other jurors was not identified, told the court she could not explain the positions of the two panelists. “When the vote was [taken]… no one spoke up” about any differences, she said. “I really don’t understand where it’s coming from… all 12 made that decision.”

The judge excused the jurors to work out the discrepancies. About 40 minutes later, they returned to court and the two female jurors both continued to maintain that their verdicts had not been tallied accurately.

As a result, Abdulqader’s acquittal on all counts was set aside, forcing him to face a potential retrial with the others.

Both women had been noted dozing off during court proceedings, and juror Neal said one of them also fell asleep during deliberations. The latter, he said, voted guilty from the beginning, was confused by the evidence and much of the time declined to participate in deliberations.

This is probably the part that kills me the most.  Some idiot racist decided by looking at the defendants they were guilty and skipped the actual trial and evidence part (and that assumption of innocence).   So the acquittal gets set aside, the government gets to play some Double Jeopardy, and do a better job picking idiots to the jury.

In 2004, the government alleged that Holy Land and its officials funneled about $12 million to Hamas through local charities called zakat committees. The government argued that from its inception Holy Land was intended to be a fundraising tool for Hamas, a contention that was never documented in court.

[full story]

So it looks like the government argument here was very similar to the Bush Administration argument for invading Iraq; “Sure, these particular people didn’t attack us and aren’t a threat to us…but they sure do look like people who are.”

It was wrong then, and it’s wrong now.

On the personal note, I grew up in Richardson, Texas, THE HOTBED OF TERRORIST FINANCING IN THE U.S.

No wonder I ended up being a flippin’ RobotPirateNinja, those were some hard streets.

Should I just turn myself in now?  Or wait for them to come get me?  After all, I am now it would seem, defending terrorists convicted for helping the poor and sickly.  

Curious world Bush gave us.

Chinese government makes “Chinese Democracy” somewhat relevant.

Here’s the story so funny it can only come from China.

Axl Rose isn’t exactly the renegade rocker he was in the late 1980s, but he’s still rock ‘n roll enough stir up a controversy.

An article in a Chinese newspaper today blasted the singer’s new album “Chinese Democracy”as a “venomous attack”on the nation and suggested the long-awaited Guns ‘N Roses release “turns its spear point on China.”

The story was printed in a publication put out by China’s ruling Communist Party, and quoted unnamed sources from Internet message boards that suggested the lyrics were inflammatory and critical of China.

Excerpts from these online chats slammed the album as a plot by Western adversaries to “grasp and control the world using democracy as a pawn,”the Associated Press reported. The new album dropped Sunday after fans held on through 17 years of myriad false starts and production delays after Guns ‘N Roses began recording in 1994.

[full story]

For those that don’t know, Guns ‘N Roses “Chinese Democracy” is the Duke Nukem Forever of the music world.

For those curious about GnR’s “new” sound…

Also as a quick note; when a whole government is reduced to quoting “unnamed sources from Internet message boards” you know they are stretching.  And you know without a doubt this is propaganda.

The funny part about this for me is that I recently ran across a far more inflammatory (ha!) bit of anti-Chinese propaganda in American pop culture.

This one comes in the form of “Liberty Prime” a giant, nuke-throwing, Chinese-hating robot.

Here you can see him in action, and set to some lovely classical music.  Listen for the robot’s voice.  He’s rather agressive in his feelings toward China and Communism (understandable, as a nuclear war with China causes all the “Fallout” in 2077).

Robots and Pirates in the News (Ninja absent…but they’re Ninjas…so…)

There have been major news stories in the last couple of weeks involving robots and pirates making war.  The ninjas are staying out of the spotlight, but as that is their nature, this shouldn’t be noted as evidence that they aren’t very busy.

First up, the pirates…

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) — Pirates who hijacked a crude oil tanker off the coast of Kenya are approaching a Somali port, the U.S. Navy says.

The Sirius Star — a crude “super tanker” flagged in Liberia and owned by the Saudi Arabian-based Saudi Aramco company — was attacked on Saturday more than 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya.

The crew of 25, including British, Croatian, Polish, Filipino and Saudi nationals, are reported to be safe.

U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet Cmdr. Jane Campbell said the super tanker weighs more than 300,000 metric tons and “is more than three times the size of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.”

Oil industry insiders say a tanker of this size can carry up to 2 million barrels of oil, and the ship’s operator, Dubai-based Vela International Marine Ltd, says it is fully laden.

[full story]

That piracy has been on the rise off Africa’s east coast is nothing new.  The general lawlessness of the area contributes to, well, lawlessness, which is an environment in which the pirate thrives.

One of the problems with this piracy issues is that people (governments and private companies) have been giving into pirate ransom demands to release ships and crew.  This then funds the pirates to attack more and bigger ships.  That super tanker mentioned above has over $100,000,000 worth of oil on it, and enough to cause a major environmental problem  (the Exxon Valdex spilled about 10 million barrels, this tanker has about 2 million…but cleanup would be severely problematic, see: pirates).

Not to be outdone, the Robots have also been making news around the world…

Pakistan has summoned the US ambassador in Islamabad to protest at a US missile attack deep inside Pakistani territory on Wednesday that killed five people.

The attack, in Bannu district, killed five local militants, officials say.

Previous drone attacks have been in the strip of territory along the Afghan border known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), a region where huge areas are under the control of militants rather than the central government.

But Bannu is in the North West Frontier Province where the government claims far more control.

“The American ambassador has been called to the Foreign Office to lodge a protest over the missile attack in Bannu,” a foreign ministry official told Reuters news agency.

The US embassy said that ambassador Anne Patterson would relay Pakistan’s concerns to Washington.

[full article]

Some intersting stuff there with the robots.  The U.S. has been using these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) or “flying robots” to take the fight to the enemy in places where it is quite difficult for leg-bearing humans to wander.

The question of using robots to fights one’s battles (which goes against something of the “warrior spirit”) is going to be an exercise left to the reader, but I can’t help but look at the news stories of the week and have the immediate reaction of…

…aim the robots at the pirates. 

Trust me, you want to get this whole thing resolved before the ninja make an appearance…which they won’t…poeple will just start dying.

With that truth in mind, you can see how the ninjas actually are in effect.  They’ve been a big part of the “Surge” in Iraq.  You don’t hear about exactly what they’ve done, and you won’t for years and years, but they’ve been very, very busy. 

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The dramatic drop in violence in Iraq is due in large part to a secret program the U.S. military has used to kill terrorists, according to a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward.

The program — which Woodward compares to the World War II era Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb — must remain secret for now or it would “get people killed,” Woodward said Monday on CNN’s Larry King Live.

“It is a wonderful example of American ingenuity solving a problem in war, as we often have,” Woodward said.

In “The War Within: Secret White House History 2006-2008,” Woodward disclosed the existence of secret operational capabilities developed by the military to locate, target and kill leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent leaders.

National security adviser Stephen Hadley, in a written statement reacting to Woodward’s book, acknowledged the new strategy.

[full story]

And there you have it.

The absolute latest in robot, pirate, and ninja news.

Fallout 3 and Fable 2 End-scene Mash-up (*Spoilers*)

I put together this video the other day to compare and contrast the ending sequences of Fallout 3 and Fable 2.

Both these games are pretty amazing in their own respects, I did a longer compare and contrast post here.

They also employ the same end-game-sequence creator theory, in that the final cut scenese (as shown below) are built and narrated based on the character’s actions in a game.  In the case of Fallout 3, the eulogy aspect of it is literal, while you get to live and keep playing in Fable 2.

Enjoy!

Dumbest Challenge Ever? (Cowboys / Niners)

 Watching the Cowboys game this afternoon and wondering how much longer Wade Phillips is going to have a job.  Not that he’s done anything too stupid, oh wait, he just made the dumbest challenge to an on-field call that I think I’ve ever seen.

[snip]

Luckily, Romo to T.O. still works great.  Man, I love watching that guy fight for yards.   He’s a dang thoroughbred.  Good work.  7-6 Cowboys.

Hehe, Aikman just called him a “quarterhorse”, which is probably more accurate than the thoroughbred label.  Ocho Cinco is probably closer to that breed built for speed.  T.O. is just an absolute beast.

[snip]

Sack to sack…DeMarcus Ware continues to obliterate QB’s….blocked punt…safety….nice change of momentum.

9-6 Cowboys.

[snip]

This is a fun game for rules-checks.  Already Wade Phillips learned what a “natural step” is (a toe landing in-bounds doesn’t matter when the heel hits out of bounds) and now we get the updated primer of scrambling passes thrown to a receiver near the line of scrimmage.  As I linebacker, I think I remember being coached on this particular set of cirumstances.   I believed we used the phrase “light ’em up” (i.e. HULK SMASH).

There’s not many times when you can smash a reciever on a route, but this is one of ’em.  The other common one is with tipped passes.

[snip]

Oooh, get another safety, please!  I can’t remember the last game I saw where a team got two safeties….didn’t happen, but I’ll take the field goal.

12-6 Cowboys

[snip]

Tack on another one.

15-6 Cowboys.

[snip]

Zach Thomas gets the fumble recovery on the botched QB-center exchange…and just got robbed of a touchdown.  Wow….what a horribly blown call.

[snip]

Touchdown!  And the football gods are sated.  Nice work, Martellus.   The football gods get angry when the refs steal points, or when coaches cheat (see: Patriots, New England).  Now they are momentarily satisfied.

22-6 Cowboys.

[snip]

Pop!  Michael Robinson meet Brady James.  Nice hit.

And with that, the Niners take it to the locker-room to re-group.

[halftime]

The rout is on.  At 12:04 left in the 3rd quarter, the Cowboys go up 29-6 on a touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton.   Barring a mass abduction of the Cowboys defense by aliens, this one is pretty much over.

This is almost good enough to make me forget the news that Felix Jones is going to be out for the rest of the season.

IRVING – The rookie season of first round draft choice Felix Jones has come to an end.

The Cowboys running back will have surgery to repair a torn ligament beneath his left big toe and will miss the rest of the season.

Jones, who declined comment, injured the toe on Nov. 7, when he slipped on the grass at the Cowboys’ practice facility. He was recovering from a partially torn left hamstring when the latest setback occurred.

“He was extremely and visibly disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to play, and he is just by nature such a hard worker,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “There’s really not a hard decision here. He needs to do this, and in our opinion, he’s got a promising future.”

Coach Wade Phillips said the recovery time is expected to be six months.

[full story]

This is too bad because getting back Jones, who had proved himself to be a threat for anywhere on the field,  right before the playoffs would have been a huge bonus to an already stacked offense.  With T.O., Roy Williams, Jason Witten, Tony Romo, and Marion Barber already on the field, adding in Felix jones would have been the icing on a well-baked cake.

UPDATE: Final score: Cowboys 35 – Niners 22.

Good game, fellas.

U.S. Attorney General Struck Down By God for Advocating Torture

Here’s the account…

According to this trusted eyewitness, events transpired roughly as follows.

Attorney General Mukasey was roughly twenty minutes into a speech defending the administration’s torture policies and particularly arguing against prosecutions of people who made decisions in the aftermath of 9/11 (essentially arguing against what he believed amounted to the criminalization of policy differences).

Some seven or eight minutes prior to the incident a heckler start shouting, calling Mukasey a “tyrant.” But the AG seemed unfazed by this; and members of the audience shouted the heckler down.

The eyewitness tells me that Mukasey seemed particularly in earnest about the argument he was making. And when he first began to falter it appeared he was merely choking up. Soon, though, what first appeared to be choking up blended into slurred words. Twenty to thirty seconds later he collapsed, his fall broken by a nearby FBI agent.

[full post]

Oh, and for those of you wondering about the title…this is exacly how this story would have been passed around during the time ye Olde Bible was written.

What’s funny about this is the “Department of Justice” (put in quotes because after Gonzales…I think it might be misnamed) then lied to the American People about what had happened.

“At the conclusion of his remarks before the Federalist Society Annual Dinner in Washington, D.C., Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey collapsed.“Upon his collapse, emergency first aid was rendered by the Attorney General’s security detail and a doctor who was on the scene.

“The Attorney General arrived at George Washington University Hospital shortly thereafter.

“The Attorney General is conscious, conversant and alert. His vital statistics are strong and he is in good spirits. He is receiving excellent care and appreciates all of the good wishes and prayers he has received. The doctors will keep him overnight for further observations.

“We will update the public when we have additional information.”

That bolded part is a lie.  It was during his speech, not at the conclusion.  Yes, he stopped after collapsing, so I guess you could call it a conclusion, but the way they phrase it…it’s a lie.

Which is where we find ourselves, a Department of Justice that first spends it’s time defending the use of torture, and then lies about God taking offense.

UPDATE:  Here’s the video of him having the….stroke?

And if you too, want to push your mind to collapse.  Try to justify waterbaording….like this…

U.S. Power/Prestige Set to Decline Over Next 20 Years (It will Be O.k.)

This is something of a follow-up to my post the other day regarding World War II and the Great Depression.  In that post I made the point that a significant portion of the economic success the U.S. enjoyed from World War II to, well, now, was due to the fact that after WW2 the U.S. still had an economy and functioning  (i.e. not bombed) industry.

We then doubled down in the 80’s [note: this is a great article on how we got to where we are] to keep things going for a while, and again in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq. 

And now the fruits of our labors, or more directly, the fruits of the labors of the other 6,700,000,000 humans on the planet, are being harvested.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A government report released Thursday paints an alarming picture of an unstable future for international relations defined by waning American influence, a fragmentation of political power and intensifying struggles for increasingly scarce natural resources.

The report, “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World,” was drafted by the National Intelligence Council to better inform U.S. policymakers — starting with the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama — about the factors most likely to shape major international trends and conflicts through the year 2025.

“Although the United States is likely to remain the single most powerful actor, the United States’ relative strength — even in the military realm — will decline and U.S. leverage will become more constrained,” says the report, which is the fourth in a series from the Intelligence Council.

The report argues that the “international system — as constructed following the second World War — will be almost unrecognizable by 2025 owing to the rise of emerging powers, a globalizing economy, an historic transfer of relative wealth and economic power from West to East, and the growing influence of nonstate actors.”

 This is precisely what I was getting at in the previous post. 

[The Entire Report Is Available for Download Here…that page is the summary, the report itself is 120 pages long.  Fun reading.]

There are also some good points here, as some of the data the report was relying on has chaged.  For example…

It argues that the world is in the midst of an unprecedented “transfer of global wealth and power” — from West to East — that is being fueled by long-term “increases in oil and commodity prices” along with a gradual shift of manufacturing and certain service industries to Asia.

While the manufacturing aspects haven’t change, the recent global meltdown has absolutely gutted oil prices, which is the single largest factor in this transfer of wealth.

“Despite the recent rise in anti-Americanism, the U.S. probably will continue to be seen as a much-needed regional balancer in the Middle East and Asia,” the report notes.

Luckily, since we acted in a way that the rest of the world endorsed whole-heartedly, the “anti-Americanism” will fade.  Recall folks, after 9/11 everyone loved us.  It was only when we invaded an oil-rich country that hadn’t attacked us and wasn’t a threat to us….and then told everyone they were pussies because they wouldn’t come with us…that the “anti-Americanism” really took off.

Curious how that works, eh?  Actions matter. 

The report predicts that, the recent economic downturn aside, “unprecedented global economic growth” will mean that the demand for basic resources such as food, water and oil “will outstrip easily available supplies” over the next decade.

As an estimated 1.2 billion people are added to the world population over the next 20 years, the demand for food will rise by 50 percent, the report projects.

Umm, I don’t think you can so easily dismiss the “recent economic downturn.”  Part of the reason things like the recent collapse happen is because everything gets too overheated.  When you extrapolate from overheated systems, as this reports most likely does, then the extrapolations are that much more wild.

And if the demand for food goes up, maybe we can stop paying our farming congomerates to not farm.   Making food is something humans, and particularly Americans, have no problems with.

I find it very unikely that such a wide-ranging report would be altered to take into account the current economic crisis.  After having a look at the summary of the 2008 economic crisis on page 10…and how it does’t seem to even affect bullet points underneath it…they just added that section in and haven’t really factored it into the rest of the report.

The section of the crisis does end with something I mentioned in my taped rant…

The crisis has increased calls for a new “Bretton Woods” to better regulate the global economy.  World leaders, however, will be challenged to renovate the IMF and devise a globally transparent and effective set of rules that apply to differing capitalisms and levels of financial institutional development. Failure to construct a new all-embracing architecture could lead countries to seek security through competitive monetary policies and new investment barriers, increasing the potential for market segmentation.

 

 

There was recently a large meeting in Washington, D.C. to talk about doing exactly this.  Not much can be done with a lame-duck leading the free world and beggin people not to give up on cowboy-capitalism.

They re-scheduled the meeting for March, after Obama takes over and the adults are in charge of the U.S. economy again.  Sorry, kids, but cutting taxes and declaring war are two great conservative tastes that taste like shit together.

One quick note….the other RISING powers of the world all have one thing in common…

For the most part, China, India, and Russia are not following the Western liberal model for self-development but instead are using a different model, “state capitalism.”  State capitalism is a loose term used to describe a system of economic management that gives a prominent role to the state. 

Not that I am endorsing such a thing, as both China and India are in a different place developmentally that the U.S.  They are in need of massive infrastructure projects that only a government can provide.  Our interstate highway system and “The Internet” are the kinds of stuff I’m talking about here.

Overall it makes for sober reading, and really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  If you are surprised, now would be a good time to get over it.  Otherwise, a whole bunch of things that happen over the next 20 years are not going to make sense to you.

It’s time to tighten the belts, my fellow ‘Merkins.  Which is a good thing, as belly fat can give you cancer.

I updated the title to mention something that I forgot to talk about in the above article, and that the “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World” total missed, and it’s going to change the world more than anything else in history.

It’s why I’m not worried…per se…about many of these issues.  That thing, which the CIA/DOD/NIE/Etc. higher-ups hopefully edited out (I can’t imagine with all the brainpower they got there no one brought up the concept) is called “The Singularity”.

Right now we’re on target for about 2020.  That’s 5 years, or roughly 8-fold, before 2025. 

Why do I say “8-fold?”  Because the computers of 2025 are going to be roughly 8 times as powerful as those of 2020, for the same price, and an eighth the size.

In 2020 the computers will have pretty much the same processing power, information-wise, as our own brains.  That may seem fancifcul now, but have you noticed that it is getting harder and harder to prove you are human on the Internet?

All it used to take was using a service.  Then you had to start jumping through easy hops.  Then the hoops got more difficult.

Sometimes, they are even flaming.

Those little “captchas” and other such tools are basic versions of a “Turing Test.”

There will come a day (probably around 2020), and that day is already called the Singularity, when the robots that roam the internet, and try to use and abuse services, will have the same “intelligence” as your average human being.  The same ability to be witty and sad.  To process and contextualize and remember. 

By 2025, they will have roughly 8 times the capacity of a normal human.

When you consider how very much entwined our world will be with the internet at that time, I think you can see why I began this section with the teaser “, and it’s going to change the world more than anything else in history.”

So the final question becomes, how or why did all those agencies miss it?

[that’s a trick question….guess who has access to the best minds and best tech?  That’s right.  It’ll be coming from our government.  Deep inside, probably.  Or on a lefty-fringe, like the Net itself did.  My hope is that we have made our government, and others, completely transparent by then.   So we can watch it happen.]