Tuesday, April 30

Pirate Bay is on the run; switches domain from Iceland to Sint Maarten

"Swedish prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad has filed a motion at the District Court of Stockholm, requesting for the seizure of thepiratebay.se, piratebay.se and the new thepiratebay.is domains. 
"The move comes just a few days after the infamous BitTorrent site switched to the Iceland-based domain, following suspicions that the Swedish authorities would go after the .se domains. 
"'There is widespread copyright infringement linked to these sites and these domains are used to assist in connection with crime,' Ingblad writes in today’s complaint. 
"The complaint was filed on behalf of several major movie, music and publishing companies. The Swedish domain registry and the domain registrants, including Pirate Bay co-founder Fredrik Neij, are listed as defendants in the case. 
"The prosecutor did not explain why the authorities are taking action now. The Pirate Bay has been operating from the .se domain name for over a year and could have easily been targeted before. 
"The Internet Infrastructure Foundation, responsible for operating the .se TLD, says it will consider its options when a court order comes in. The foundation previously noted that domain names are not the source of the problem as they are easily traded in for new ones. 
"'We believe the problem in this type of situation is not the domain, but rather its contents. The domain name itself is not an accomplice in act of copyright infringement and if thepiratebay.se, for example, were to be shut down, the site would almost certainly reopen under another top-level domain.'"
The Pirate Bay Moves to .SX as Prosecutor Files Motion to Seize Domains

Monday, April 29

Tea Partiers & Republicans have tried make the extreme the mainstream—and it's backfiring

Abby Rapoport at The American Prospect highlights three key findings about the relationship of the Tea Party to the GOP, which should prove unsettling to Republicans:
  1. Tea Party activists are not Republicans. The activists providing a huge amount of the labor and enthusiasm for Republican candidates are, at best, lukewarm on the party they’re voting for.
  2. Tea Party activists aren't nearly as concerned about winning as they are about ideological purity. The Tea Party has helped propel several upstart Republican candidacies, only to have that candidate proven too extreme for the general election.
  3. Attempts to bridge the gap between establishment Republicans and the Tea Party are doomed to fail. Tea Party activists dominate the Republican Party, and they're no less willing to compromise with the GOP than they are with Democrats.

Friday, April 26

How did austerity doctrine become so influential in the first place?

Paul Krugman's latest thoughts on austerity:
"...the austerian position has imploded; not only have its predictions about the real world failed completely, but the academic research invoked to support that position has turned out to be riddled with errors, omissions and dubious statistics." ...
"...the dominance of austerians in influential circles should disturb anyone who likes to believe that policy is based on, or even strongly influenced by, actual evidence." ...
"Economists can explain ad nauseam that this is wrong, that the reason we have mass unemployment isn’t that we spent too much in the past but that we’re spending too little now, and that this problem can and should be solved. No matter; many people have a visceral sense that we sinned and must seek redemption through suffering — and neither economic argument nor the observation that the people now suffering aren’t at all the same people who sinned during the bubble years makes much of a dent." ...
"The austerity agenda looks a lot like a simple expression of upper-class preferences, wrapped in a facade of academic rigor. What the top 1 percent wants becomes what economic science says we must do."

Thursday, April 25

The Pirate Bay finds safe haven in Iceland, for now

"Two weeks ago the notorious BitTorrent site traded in its .SE domain for the Greenland-based .GL TLD. The Pirate Bay took this decision because they feared that Swedish authorities were about to take over their domain names. 
"However, TPB did not receive a warm welcome in Greenland. 
"Within two days of the move The Pirate Bay lost both its .GL domain names. Tele-Post, the private company responsible for .GL registrations, did not wait for a court order and said it would not allow the domains to be put to 'illegal' use. 
"Resilient as always, TPB aren’t about to give up that easily and have already lined up yet another domain name. This time they’re going for Iceland's .IS TLD, which will be a little harder to take offline. 
"Thepiratebay.is was registered after the Greenland debacle and traffic was redirected to the new domain a few minutes ago. Iceland is an interesting choice as the country previously positioned itself as a safe haven for freedom of speech."
Pirate Bay Finds Safe Haven in Iceland, Switches to .IS Domain

Helping the Big Guys. Again.

The Real Problem With the Internet Sales Tax -
For Amazon—the actual target of these laws—this is trivial. Its staff of crack accountants can probably roll these things out before their Monday-morning coffee break. For a small vendor, however, that's a whole lot of paperwork. Imagine being a small eBay vendor that has to file a different set of tax returns every quarter or every month, depending on who happened to buy your handmade toaster cozies. ..

This bill, in fact, is good for Amazon—it kills off their small-fry competitors who can't afford the staff accountants (or the software) to file 46 returns every month. And it frees them up to open warehouses in more states, the better to minimize their shipping costs. Presumably, that's why they're in favor of the bill.

Tuesday, April 23

Monopolies thwart innovation

New models:
Already famous for his "heart factory" in Bangalore, which does the highest number of cardiac operations in the world, the latest Narayana Hrudayalaya ("Temple of the Heart") projects are ultra low-cost facilities.

The first is a single-storey hospital in Mysore, two hours drive from Bangalore, which was built for about 400 million rupees (7.4 million dollars) in only 10 months and recently opened its doors. ... 
"Essentially we realised that as you do more numbers, your results get better and your cost goes down," he said.
(H/T Jason)

How many legal barriers exist to opening something like this in a first world "market / capitalist" country?

Why does the US have so many protectionist measures that thwart innovation, competition and improvement in health care?

The models of health care and education delivery are under siege from innovators and the entrenched interests will not go down without fighting.

Monday, April 22

Americans are worried about the gap between rich and poor, but do not trust the government do anything about it

"Since the 1970s, income inequality in the United States has increased at a historic rate. In 1970, the richest 1 percent of Americans enjoyed 9 percent of total national pre-tax income. In 2011, by contrast, that share had risen to 19.8 percent. And this large increase in inequality has not been softened by more progressive tax policy. Tax rates on the top 1 percent of taxpayers have fallen over the same period.
"Such a reshaping of the income distribution was unlikely to go unnoticed, and indeed, surveys show that Americans are generally knowledgeable about the rise in income inequality. Using survey data from 2002, the political scientist Larry M. Bartels showed that three-quarters of Americans believed inequality has increased over the previous two decades. The majority of those respondents said this trend was a 'bad thing.'
"And yet over the past 30 years, Americans have also become less supportive of government efforts to redistribute from high- to low-income households." ...
"On one hand, liberals can take heart in the news that Americans are deeply troubled about the current level of income inequality. On the other hand, conservatives may be glad to hear that despite this concern, Americans have a healthy skepticism that government can be trusted to do much about it."
Our Feelings About Inequality: It’s Complicated (NYT)

Thursday, April 18

Texas: Land of Lackadaisical Zoning

Tod Robberson, writing in the Dallas Morning News:
"The devastation from the explosion in West, especially given the known destructive power from the Oklahoma City bombing, should have been foreseeable. Whoever thought it was appropriate to place a middle school, retirement complex, apartments and houses next to a fertilizer plant needs to be called to account."
"In Dallas, we are still dealing with the environmental aftermath of the decision to zone low-income residences next to lead smelters. A few years ago, we had a huge chain reaction of exploding acetylene gas tanks from a storage depot right next to downtown."
"... sometime soon, the state and federal governments will have to mandate a review of these decisions and others like them across rural America and take corrective action. We cannot have people living and going to school next to sub-nuclear time bombs.
Explosion in West, Texas, should make all towns question zoning decisions

Wednesday, April 17

Keeping the Boston tragedy in perspective

The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald makes cogent points regarding the U.S. reaction to the Boston Marathon tragedy:
"The widespread compassion for yesterday's victims and the intense anger over the attacks was obviously authentic and thus good to witness. But it was really hard not to find oneself wishing that just a fraction of that compassion and anger be devoted to attacks that the US perpetrates rather than suffers. These are exactly the kinds of horrific, civilian-slaughtering attacks that the US has been bringing to countries in the Muslim world over and over and over again for the last decade, with very little attention paid." ...
"Regardless of your views of justification and intent: whatever rage you're feeling toward the perpetrator of this Boston attack, that's the rage in sustained form that people across the world feel toward the US for killing innocent people in their countries. Whatever sadness you feel for yesterday's victims, the same level of sadness is warranted for the innocent people whose lives are ended by American bombs."
The Boston bombing produces familiar and revealing reactions

Tuesday, April 16

The good outnumber the evil, and they always will.

I liked what Patton Oswalt said about the Boston Marathon bombings so much, I wanted to re-post it here:
"Boston. Fucking horrible.  
"I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, 'Well, I've had it with humanity.'
"But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.  
"But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.  
"But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.  
"So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, 'The good outnumber you, and we always will.'"
His original post on Facebook

Free, but not too free.

"The European Union is quietly pouring millions of pounds into initiatives and groups seeking state-backed regulation of the press..."
It's kind of an amazing closed loop actually.

Monday, April 15

Gold crashes; turns out America not doomed after all.

I just couldn't say it any better than this: "All those ads on the sidebars that flashed at us for years: by Christmas, you will no longer know America. The web 'articles' assuring us that in a year, we would be trading our children for rations and ammo. The endless links that inserted themselves into serious discussion, that led to the anonymous billionaire who oh-so-sadly assured us that he was very-very-sorry and wished-it-wasn't true: but Doom Was Coming." (hyperking)

Joe Weisenthal writes:
"The last few years have seen a major ideological battle take place. 
"On one hand you have established economists, who believe the government has tools at its disposal to address a crisis. These tools include deficit spending and a violent expansion of the Fed's balance sheet. 
"Conversely you have critics who slam the arrogance of economists and central planners, and who have predicted that all of this economic acrobatics would result in an economic collapse, hyperinflation, and an explosion in the price of gold. Gold is important to their worldview, because it represents a quasi-money that's not tied to any government or central bank. 
"Investing in gold is a rejection of government money and finance. Money flowing into gold-related assets represents a belief that rocks (however shiny they are) are a better place to invest than human endeavors (like stocks)." ... 
"...ultimately, the decline of gold and the rise of stocks is a big trend that everyone should cheer. 
"The huge corpus of economic research, which has informed the US' efforts to stimulate the economy, is not a pile of garbage. You can do a lot without blowing things up, as the goldbugs claimed would happen. 
"And more broadly, this represents a breaking of the fever, and perhaps a return to thinking that humans aren't such a horrible disappointment."
And of course, Paul Krugman has a few things to say on the subject.

Friday, April 12

(Very Gradual) Change We Can Believe In

I love this take on Shepard Fairey's Obama poster, featuring Mr. Charles Darwin himself:

Mike Rosulek designed the graphic to celebrate Darwin's 200th birthday. And yes, of course there are t-shirts available.

Thursday, April 11

California threatens Boy Scouts' tax-exempt status over anti-gay discrimination

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) introduced a bill, which has been approved by the California State Senate Governance and Finance Committee, that would revoke the tax exemption for any youth group that discriminates against members on the basis of sexual orientation. This bill obviously has the Boy Scouts in its sights.
Statement from Sen. Lara: "Today's vote puts California one step closer in bringing full equality to LGBT youth throughout the state. With its passage and growing list of supporters and co-authors, we will end this outdated practice of discrimination and exclusion."
California moves towards revoking Boy Scouts tax exempt status over gay ban

Wednesday, April 10

NASA-backed fusion engine could cut Mars trip down to 30-90 days

Here's a bit of space-awesomeness for your Wednesday:
"The proposed Fusion Driven Rocket (FDR) is a 150-ton system that uses magnetism to compress lithium or aluminum metal bands around a deuterium-tritium fuel pellet to initiate fusion. The resultant microsecond reaction forces the propellant mass out at 30 kilometers per second, and would be able to pulse every minute or so and not cause g-force damage to the spacecraft's occupants.
"The spent fuel pellet is ejected behind the motor to provide propulsion, and because the whole process is magnetically controlled there's relatively little wear and tear on the engines. A pellet the size of a grain of sand would provide the same propellant as a gallon of conventional rocket fuel." ...
"Using the FDR system, flight times to the Red Planet could take between 30 and 90 days, compared to over eight months that it took to send the Curiosity rover to Mars. The 30-day trip would require three days of engine operation to get the spacecraft up to speed and another three to slow it down into orbit around Mars."

Tuesday, April 9

What are the consequences of one company holding a near-monopoly on a large part of our food supply?

Monsanto has a near monopoly on the seeds that grow much of the U.S. food supply, and right now there doesn't seem to be much that anyone can do about it.
"Farmers who buy Monsanto's patented seeds must sign an agreement that they will not save seed for planting in a subsequent year, but will buy new seeds every year from the company. They also pay a per-acre 'royalty' for using the company’s seeds.
"Monsanto typically enters a farmer's land (some would call it trespassing) and takes samples (some would call it stealing), and then has the samples DNA-tested for their patented genes. If any appear, they sue the farmer and, since farmers are notoriously outgunned, legally and financially, they end up settling for an undisclosed amount with the company. The amount is undisclosed because, along with the settlement, there is a gag order and the farmer is coerced into agreeing not to discuss the case with anyone. Few farmers have enough money to take on the corporation."
Monsanto Keeps on Moving Toward a Lock on the World’s Food System

Supreme Court Appears to Defend Patent on Soybean (NYT)

Monday, April 8

The Hidden Mechanisms of Preserving The Privileged in America

"…elite universities are about connecting more than learning, that the social world matters far more than the classroom to undergraduates, and that rather than an escalator elevating the best and brightest from every walk of life, the meritocracy as we know it mostly works to perpetuate the existing upper class.
"Every elite seeks its own perpetuation, of course, but that project is uniquely difficult in a society that's formally democratic and egalitarian and colorblind. And it's even more difficult for an elite that prides itself on its progressive politics, its social conscience, its enlightened distance from hierarchies of blood and birth and breeding.
"Thus the importance, in the modern meritocratic culture, of the unacknowledged mechanisms that preserve privilege, reward the inside game, and ensure that the advantages enjoyed in one generation can be passed safely onward to the next."
The Secrets of Princeton

Friday, April 5

If MLK had lived: "This is what I got all those ass-whoopings for?"

Huey dreams about what would happen if Martin Luther King, Jr. had lived instead of being assassinated in 1968, in the Peabody Award-winning episode of "The Boondocks" entitled, "Return of the King":

Transcript: "Is this it? This is what I got all those ass-whoopings for? I had a dream once. It was a dream that little black boys and little black girls would drink from the river of prosperity, freed from the thirst of oppression. But lo and behold, some four decades later, what have I found but a bunch of trifling, shiftless, good-for-nothing niggers? And I know some of you don't want to hear me say that word. It's the ugliest word in the English language, but that's what I see now: niggers. And you don't want to be a nigger, 'cause niggers are living contradictions! Niggers are full of unfulfilled ambitions! Niggers wax and wane, niggers love to complain! Niggers love to hear themselves talk but hate to explain! Niggers love being another man's judge and jury! Niggers procrastinate until it's time to worry! Niggers love to be late, niggers hate to hurry! … Black Entertainment Television is the worst thing I've ever seen in my life! … Usher, "Michael Jackson" is *not* a genre of music! … And now I'd like to talk about "Soul Plane". … I've seen what's around the corner, I've seen what's over the horizon, and I promise you, you niggers won't have nothing to celebrate. And no, I won't get there with you. I'm going to Canada."
Return of the King

Thursday, April 4

Drug Legalization - A Morality Discussion

Conor Friedersdorf writes in the Atlantic:
"When a paramilitary police squad raids a family home, battering down doors without knocking, exploding flash grenades, shooting family pets, and handcuffing children, all to recover a small number of marijuana plants, the officers or the people who ordered them there are acting immorally.  
"When the United States reacts to the insatiable demand for drugs by American citizens by pursuing prohibitionist policies abroad that destabilize multiple foreign countries, it acts immorally.
"When prosecutors coerce nonviolent drug offenders to risk their lives as police informants under threat of draconian prison sentences, they act immorally.
"The dearth of empathy for nonviolent drug offenders serving years or even decades in prison is a moral failure.
"Because we have shifted the costs of drug abuse away from the Americans who freely chose or would choose to use drugs and toward society as a whole, imposing more costs on people who never chose to use drugs but suffer from many harms of the black market, we have achieved a morally dubious redistribution.
The War on Drugs Is Far More Immoral Than Most Drug Use

Wednesday, April 3

Why has Obama approved a law giving immunity to the production and sale of genetically modified food in the US?

"The 'Monsanto Protection Act' effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of controversial genetically modified (aka GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future." ...
"The provision's language was apparently written in collusion with Monsanto. Lawmakers and companies working together to craft legislation is by no means a rare occurrence in this day and age. But the fact that Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, actually worked with Monsanto on a provision that in effect allows them to keep selling seeds, which can then go on to be planted, even if it is found to be harmful to consumers, is stunning." ...
"Many members of Congress were apparently unaware that the 'Monsanto Protection Act' even existed within the bill they were voting on." ...
"'In this hidden backroom deal, Sen. [Barbara] Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,' Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement."
'Monsanto Protection Act': 5 Terrifying Things To Know About The HR 933 Provision