"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."


Wow. Azeurues just passed 600kb/sec for a second. Go torrentfeeder!

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Ask a Ninja!

This is what I'm talking about trying some of this summer. Should be possible to do.

Mud-wrestling Jefferson Davis on the front lawn of a house made entirely out of prime numbers. Fuckin' a.

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What Really Happened at Stanford University

The NYT just quotes Scotty "out the door" McClellan:

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Bush's visit to Stanford was interrupted by protesters, who blocked the only road leading to the Hoover Institution, where Mr. Bush was to meet with fellows before dining with Mr. Shultz.

Apparently that was a lie.

Update: Daniel in the comments has links a collected media from the event:

Contrary to what the press is reporting, the road to Hoover Tower was not blocked by protesters. Law enforcement had set up barriers to ensure clear passage long before the protest began, and these barriers were respected by the crowd. However, around 4pm, police in riot gear appeared and attempted to move the crowd from its position on a side-street, East side of Hoover Tower. Strangely, they did not attempt to inform the crowd of the reason why.

Students resisted this move and sat down in the street. That’s when law enforcement pulled a very strange maneuver of questionable legality. They brought in a fire truck with sirens wailing and claimed (falsely) that there was a medical emergency at Hoover. After a lot of verbal abuse from police and firemen, only three protesters remained blocking the truck and these were dragged off (as shown prominently in the photo coverage), arrested, and taken away in a paddy wagon. They’ve since been released on misdemeanor charges. Absurdly, the fire truck then turned around and drove unhurriedly away, sirens off, and the protesters were allowed to fill the street again. Presumably, it had been during this confrontation that Bush’s meeting was re-located.

And people wonder why us kids don't have a lot of confidence in the g-man.

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Creativity Builds On The Past

Some clueless nerds are laughing it up because someone self-published their Star Wars fan-fiction on Amazon and is surprised she's violating Copryright.

It always surprises me how many essentially intelligent, honest and well-meaning people can be so subservient to the established order. I understand that making your way in life involves accepting certain norms, but this is ridiculous.

Seriously. Why not be surprised? Star Wars is more than 25 years old. In the pre-Disney era, Copyright expired sooner than that. It's a natural feeling that you should be allowed, at this point, to write a story inspired by the great stories of previous generations -- even one which is explicitly an extension of that story -- and publish it if you want.

Besides, putting aside the letter of the law, do you think George Lucas (or his parent company) has any kind of moral claim to the characters and places he created which have entertained so many? After the way he's whored that epic bitch out? For that matter, why is Michael Jackson living out his days in Bahrain, subsisting of the royalties from Hey Jude? Why? Because we fucked this shit up, man! It's not supposed to be like this.

Publishing your fanfic novel and selling it online is just plain stupid, and publishing your fanfic novel and selling it online when you're theoretically a professional editor is just about as stupid as you can get without actually receiving head trauma from a tauntaun.

Maybe she's from the school of "editors who help people right better," not the "editors who specialize in the byzantine and unnatural world that is information policy."

Look. If she sold it at a neighborhood bookshop it would have been fine and you would never have known. No harm no foul. In fact, I say no harm no foul with her shit available (to the world, egad!) on Amazon. Come on, what's really going to happen? She's gonna sell 50 or 100 copies, mostly paying for postage and printing.

Is this "stupid?" Is it even a problem? Should George Lucas really have the right to control Star Wars 29 years after it was published? Certainly he gets all rights to the actual thing he created, but to all derivative works as well? Does that make fucking sense?

The squares think so; I think because they're trained to do that. They're trained to believe that ideas are a kind of property, like a diamond or a bar of gold, even though this is not the truth. Maybe someday they'll open their minds. I hope they do.

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The Whores of War

Found via The All Spin Zone:

“Blackwater seems to understand money. That's the only thing they understand,” she says. “They have no values, they have no morals. They're whores. They're the whores of war.”

This is a statement from the mother of a Blackwater employee who was killed in Falluja -- his body burned and hung from a brige. She is suing the private military corporation because they wouldn't give her any information on how or why her son had died.

After the killings, Katy Helvenston joined the families of Mike Teague, Jerko Zovko and Wesley Batalona in grieving and in seeking details about the incident. Blackwater founder Erik Prince personally delivered money to some of the families for funeral expenses, and the company moved to get the men's wives and children benefits under the government's Defense Base Act, which in some cases insures those on contract supporting US military operations abroad.

But then things started to get strange. Blackwater held a memorial service for the men at its compound. The families were gathered in a conference room, where they thought they would be told how the men had died. The Zovko family asked Blackwater to see the "After Action Report" detailing the incident. "We were actually told," recalls Zovko's mother, Danica, "that if we wanted to see the paperwork of how my son and his co-workers were killed that we'd have to sue them."

So they sued. And the lawsuit uncovered more than just an "After Action Report."

According to former Blackwater officials, Blackwater, Regency and ESS were engaged in a classic war-profiteering scheme. Blackwater was paying its men $600 a day but billing Regency $815, according to the Raleigh News and Observer. "In addition," the paper reports, "Blackwater billed Regency separately for all its overhead and costs in Iraq." Regency would then bill ESS an unknown amount for these services. Kathy Potter told the News and Observer that Regency would "quote ESS a price, say $1,500 per man per day, and then tell Blackwater that it had quoted ESS $1,200." ESS then contracted with Halliburton subsidiary KBR, which in turn billed the government an unknown amount of money for the same security services, according to the paper. KBR/Halliburton refuses to discuss the matter and will not confirm any relationship with ESS.

All this was shady enough--but the real danger for Helvenston and the others lay in Blackwater's decision to cut corners to make even more money.The original contract between Blackwater/Regency and ESS, obtained by The Nation, recognized that "the current threat in the Iraqi theater of operations" would remain "consistent and dangerous," and called for a minimum of three men in each vehicle on security missions "with a minimum of two armored vehicles to support ESS movements." [Emphasis added.]

But on March 12, 2004, Blackwater and Regency signed a subcontract, which specified security provisions identical to the original except for one word: "armored." Blackwater deleted it from the contract.

When they took that word 'armored' out, Blackwater was able to save $1.5 million in not buying armored vehicles, which they could then put in their pocket," says attorney Miles. "These men were told that they'd be operating in armored vehicles. Had they been, I sincerely believe that they'd be alive today. They were killed by insurgents literally walking up and shooting them with small-arms fire. This was not a roadside bomb, it was not any other explosive device. It was merely small-arms fire, which could have been repelled by armored vehicles."

There's more information including personality conflicts, background on the case and more in The Nation.

Privatized security is bad business. There's a reason we don't run the army as a for-profit entity (military industrial complexes aside, of course).

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The Old Days

Went and saw my acting teacher/mentor Steve Wang's production of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew at the old ETW on Thursday, along with Frank and J-Mo. Ran into Ben Newman there, as well as Croft and Karisa (who's name I was embarassed to not remember: she ran sound for my play Nitewerk) and some familiar faculty faces. It was quite a little blast from the past.

The show itself was enjoyable. Steve set the floor of the theater up like an Italian restaurant and seated the audience there, using the risers where chairs are usually placed as playing space. He also cross-cast the principle characters, which served to undercut the somewhat questionable gender messages of the play. This let it just be the screwball comedy it was meant to be, backed with schmaltzy piano even.

The music was provided by Rachelle Garniez, who I know from back when she did some grand accordian playing for Steve's Merchant of Venice, which Frank and I were in together as Antonio and Bassanio. She did a wonderful job here, composing and performing a score which added a lot to the play, and got stuck in your head.

The performance was fun, but it also could have been tighter. There were moments where the vocal execution was right on and the timing crisp and sharp, and these were some of the most hillarious bits. It made me wish the whole show was like that, a little more tightly wound, quickly performed. Shakespeare is meant to be fast. The thing is, it's really hard to do that, especially when a lot of your players are working outside their normal vocal range.

Even with that challange, the cast performed well. The young woman who played Portrucio -- the Tamer of the Shrew, who was herself well-played by a tall black man -- carried things admirably. There was also some delightful bits of character work done by a few cast members who filled multiple roles. I should have saved a program so I could name names, but Bravo everyone.

The direction was also a pleasure. Steve likes to break the barrier between audience and performer, and there was plenty of that to see.

The setting itself broke any notion of the fourth wall right off the bat: as the audience entered they were greeted by cast members in the characters of waiters and waitresses, and shown to a "table" on the floor of the theater. They served bruschetta and then changed into their alternate-sex/character outfits, intracting all along. Pretty good way to set a mood.

This layout also let action happen "on the floor," with chases literally circling the house and the risers serving for more language-heavy scenes. There was one particularly inspired setting, where a trip back to Kate's father's is inexplicably cast as a mountain-climb, complete with a clipline and carabiners. It's just a short little wordplay scene with the Portrucio running his tame-game on the new bride, but the physical comedy created by the setting really let it pop.

The whole experience left me feeling at once energized, and also old. It was good to see art, and nice and nostalgic to remember my college days; but it also makes you think, to see how young everyone looked. I felt vaguely lecherous just being there, though that could just me being a little overly sensitive.

Yeah. There's a lot of energy. It's a good scene, and for the most part everyone is cool. They got new lockers, and the Men's bathroom shower is really a shower rather than a hole in the ground, so things must be going pretty good.

I spent a little time talking to Ben Newman (a hard-luck guy) and also good old Angela Hurley while sort of eyeing her little sister (who's got to be in her 20s now and was wearing cowgirl boots). After the show I got to give Steve a hug, and then we were out.

Saying our goodbyes to J-Mo, Frank and I bombed it into W-burg to catch up with our cohorts at TKs, riding a kind of competative semi-race most of the way. We passed some folks on our way over the bridge, one of whom came back to smoke us on the second leg of the uphill with his well-tuned fixed gear. Frank's comment later was, "we awakened the dragon."

After that just another night with friends.

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Net Neutrality

Hot. This 2-minute video explains it neatly:

Network Neutrality means freedom to use the bandwidth you pay for to access whatever content you like. It also means anyone can create/publish content (50%+ of teenagers are now "content creators"), and have it be accessible to the world. This is the first amendment at work in the 21st Century.

Loosing this battle will mean the future of the internet will look more like the 1980s: gated communities like Prodigy, Compuserve, AOL, etc plus cable TV.

Save the Internet coalition
Send a letter

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Perisan Plutonium

Some news relating to the possible upcoming war with Iran:

U.S. Wants Russia to Stop Iran Arms Sales

The United States pressed Russia on Friday to halt missile sales to Iran amid international efforts to defuse a standoff with Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.

The U.S. wants other countries that are concerned about Iran's nuclear intentions to use their influence, be it cutoffs of trade ties or, in Russia's case, cancellation of a planned sale of Tor-M1 air defense missile systems.

Seems like something you'd want the Iranians not to have if you were going to be bombing them, but otherwise there's no real reason to prevent this kind of sale. These weapons systems are only useful for defense.

Russia is also setting up a deal to enrich Uranium for Iran, which will probably not diffuse the tensions. The problem here is that the Bush Administration demands a counterfactual: they want proof that Iran isn't working on nuclear weapons, but no matter how much evidence is provided there's always the possibility of a secret program of some sort. There's also the strong possibility that Iran is pursuing a homegrown nuclear program, and the truth is that in the long run we can't stop this.

There are really two options here. One is to learn how to deal with an increasing number of nations which possess their own Nuclear arms. The other is to massively strengthen international controls over nuclear technology, probably leading to a phase-out of nuclear power as a legitimate operation to remove "cover" activities for covert weapons programs. The latter isn't very likely, so really we're just going to have to learn to deal with more nuclear nations.

In real terms, I think countries like Iran want nuclear arms as a deterrent against outside powers (e.g. the US) coercing them with military force or attempting "regime change" through invasion/occupation. This is the most logical rationale -- and in spite of all the rhetoric, the Iranian leaders are at least as rational as ours. It's also an point of view any thoughtful person can understand.

Really, all of this is the natural outcome of a unipolar power dynamic (one in which a single party is dominant). Even under the best of circumstances and the most benign of rules, the people who are being ruled over will come to quarrel with the people doing the ruling. Empires don't last. Enduring power differentials are oppressive, and eventually the oppressed start pushing back. The fact that we've gone ahead and played the knave here has just accelerated the process, and cost us dearly in terms of our chances for setting up a better balance of power.

Too bad, you know? Shouldn'ta voted for Nader.

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Rich get Richer

Maybe we can look forward to another year of record-breaking profits from the big petroleum companies.

Oil hits $75 a barrel

Crude-oil prices broke through $75 a barrel to hit a new record Friday, fueled by concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and tight U.S. gasoline supplies.

The average price per gallon is now $2.855 nationwide. This has got to be hurting especially bad down south, where most of the truck stops I saw last summer still had the non-removable "1" on their giant signs (for dollar-something gas). My guess is they may have by now gotten up giant 2s, but we're getting to $3 now.

Gonna be a good year to own oil, unless the G-man decides to take it from ya.

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It's the only thing to do, right?

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