Posts Tagged ‘misanthropy’

Kick me again, RIAA!

Thursday, August 6th, 2009
“ The anti-copyright gaggle has an insatiable need to feel victimized. Injustice burns deep, and is triggered by the merest hint that “The Man” might be tampering with one’s “bits”. Another example of technology utopians trying to bypass politics and claim victimhood – the Net Neutrality” campaign – shows very similar characteristics.”

A while ago I joked that perhaps the RIAA had secretly recruited Charlie Nesson to be its court opponent. Everyone from Ray Beckerman at the “Recording Industry vs The People” blog to Nesson’s old pals at the Berkman Centre at Harvard had advised him to knock it off – or at least not pursue a crackpot defence. But when it comes to the technology utopians, all jokes come true eventually.

Nesson has achieved something I thought was completely impossible in 2009, and that’s to allow the US recording industry’s lobby group to paint itself in a sympathetic light. No longer must the RIAA explain why their biggest members are not using technology to make money for the people they represent. The Boston case allowed the four major labels to justify an enforcement policy against opponents who appeared compulsively dishonest, irrational, paranoid, and with an abnormal sense of entitlement.

Nice work, Charlie.

Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters bus

Nesson failed in his avowed mission “to put the record industry on trial”. He failed to show why disproportionate statutory damages are harmful, which could have had a lasting constitutional effect. He failed to paint the defendent as sympathetic, or “one of us”. He failed to demonstrate why copyright holders make lousy cops. He even had a Judge noted for her antipathy to the big record labels. In short, he ceded the moral high ground completely and utterly to the plaintiffs, the four major record labels. The labels’ five year campaign against end users is finally at a close, but Nesson’s performance leaves it looking (undeservedly) quite fragrant.

Read more at The Register

Why animals shouldn't be able to sue you

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Mr Ed, the talking attorney

Obama’s “regulation czar” Professor Cass Sunstein wants animals to be able to sue.

Animals can’t reason or express themselves, naturally, so the litigation would be handled by human lawyers, acting as ventriloquists on behalf of the animal kingdom. Think Mister Ed the talking horse, crossed with Eliot Spitzer.

“Any animals that are entitled to bring suit would be represented by (human) counsel, who would owe guardian-like obligations and make decisions, subject to those obligations, on their clients’ behalf,” according to Sunstein. The Harvard legal scholar first proposed the argument in 2002.

“This doesn’t look good for hunters, ranchers, restaurateurs, biomedical researchers, or ordinary pet owners,” says the food industry lobby group The Center for Consumer Freedom, which raised Sunstein’s radical “rights” agenda. In Spain, activists have already proposed that apes be granted human rights.

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Junk science and booze tax – a study in spin

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Let's find out what everybody is doing, and stop them doing it - A P Herbert
“Let’s find out what everybody is doing, and stop them doing it” – A P Herbert

Putting the price of alcohol up to a minimum of 40p a unit would keep 41,000 people a year out of hospital, save the NHS £116m a year, and avoid 12,400 cases of unemployment, a report from Sheffield University claimed last week. These appear to be remarkably precise predictions. The government used the report – widely quoted in the press – to justify higher duties and greater regulation of the sale of alcohol. Yet on close examination, the report appears to be a prime example of “policy-based evidence making”.

The blockbuster report, from Sheffield University’s Section of Public Health, is in two major parts: a review of evidence, and a statistical model, totalling over 500 pages. Researchers examined the effects of alcohol pricing and alcohol promotion (and advertising) on three areas: consumption, public health and crime. I won’t cover the latter, because these proposals were dropped before the Queen’s Speech, but it is evident from the amount of time the Sheffield researchers devoted to this, that this was a legislative priority. Academia marches in lockstep with its financial benefactor – in this case, of course, the Department of Health.

Read more at The Register

The hitman, the Pirate Bay and the Freetard professor

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

REG: What’s the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can’t have babies?!
FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression!
REG: It’s symbolic of his struggle against reality

- Monty Python’s Life of Brian

Everyone’s a prankster these days – it’s all in the name of art.

On Monday a former Irish loyalist hitman was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the attempted murder of senior Sinn Fein leaders. Michael Stone had burst into the Belfast Assembly with nail bombs, a garotte, an axe and knives, but was quickly wrestled to the ground. In court, Stone claimed the event had been a piece of “performance art”.

Stone’s paintings had exhibited at Belfast Engine Room Gallery. In court, Stone was defiant: “Make art, not war,” he told an unimpressed judge.

But Stone’s not alone. Last week two art school students in the Netherlands released a software prank. They developed a Firefox brower plug-in that redirected Amazon.com surfers to unlicensed versions of the same material on P2P site Pirate Bay. The Pirates of the Amazon (geddit?) plug-in was quickly withdrawn after Amazon.com lawyers got in touch with the students’ ISP.
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Flush away the Eco Slums

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Who would have guessed that in 2008, a pledge to give British people flushing toilets would be a shock vote winner?

The Conservatives this week promised to scrap the Government’s plans for 15 “eco towns” which will potentially house 100,000 people. These have been heralded as a new era in design, but you need to take a closer look at both the theory and practice to see the full, grim picture.

Firstly, it’s clear that “design goal” is enforcing patterns of behavior on people.

“What are the responsibilities we each must share in return for the freedoms we enjoy?” asked Town and Country Planning Association chief David Lock last year when introducing a report. Lock and his quango are advising the Government on the initiative. What does he mean? He means freedoms you previously enjoyed have been clawed back.

Almost every aspect of life in the eco towns is minutely regulated. The streets are too small to drive around, and if you must drive the mandatory speed limit is 15mph. Planners are particularly excited about installing eco toilets that don’t flush. Because flushing is “the worst thing ever devised by modern man,” (according to one advocate), compost toilets may be mandatory. You won’t have a choice.

We took a look at one candidate loo, and the description gives us a whiff of this fragrant, low carbon future:

“The dry fecal matter is captured by a built-in teflon-coated bowl with a turning mechanism and is ‘flushed’ into wheeled bins in the buildings’ basements. ‘Flushing’ uses sawdust, dispensed from the back of the toilet, instead of water.”

Lovely.

Residents will also be required to pay a fine, mooted at around £2 ($4), each time they leave the town.

So these are really detention centres – with behaviour set down in advance by the Carbon Cult. Residents will not be able to vote on whether they want to have flushing toilets.

Another clue that they’re about punishment emerged this spring, when ministers described them as “healthy towns”. The eco-camps will aim to tackle obesity by encouraging lots of walking about, said Health minister Alan Johnson in April.

And being confined to such a grim existence means the end of social mobility. Forget about advancing along the precarious housing ladder. The houses will be far more expensive than they should be, because they’re saddled with fashionable but useless totems of Greenery such as “micro generation” turbines, that can’t even power a light bulb.

Nowhere in the glossy brochures that describe “what makes eco towns different” is employment mentioned. The new settlements are remote – several are on disused airfields – and “will become the eco-slums of the future if they are built without regards to where residents can get jobs or training,” the LGA’s Simon Milton has predicted.

Low resource use developments don’t have to be miserable – but with the eco towns, this is the whole point. Marry old-fashioned paternalism (where the proles should be grateful for what they get ) to the Carbon Cult’s misanthropy (where being alive is a sin) and what else do you get, but a boring, smelly slum? This time, by design.

TV tells CO2-emitting children to die early

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

ABC's Planet Slayer

Carbon Cult sickos are under fire for an interactive website that tells children they should die because they emit CO2.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Planet Slayer” site invites young children to take a “greenhouse gas quiz”, asking them “how big a pig are you?”. At the end of the quiz, the pig explodes, and ABC tells children at “what age you should die at so you don’t use more than your fair share of Earth’s resources!”

It’s one of a number of interactive features that “Get the dirt on greenhouse without the guilt trips. No lectures. No multinational-bashing (well, maybe a little…). Just fun and games and the answers to all your enviro-dilemas,” ABC claims.

The site is aimed at 9-year olds. However even a “virtuous” rating (e.g. not owning a car and recycling) is outweighed by eating meat, or spending an average Aussie income – with the result that many 9-year olds are being told they’ve already outstayed their environmentally-compliant stay on the planet.

“Do you think it’s appropriate that the ABC … depict people who are average Australians as massive overweight ugly pigs, oozing slime from their mouths, and then to have these pigs blow up in a mass of blood and guts?” asked Senator Mitch Fifield in the Herald-Sun.

The state-sponsored broadcaster (why is that not a surprise?) defended the morbid quiz, with ABC managing director Mark Scott insisting “the site was not designed to offend certain quarters of the community but to engage children in environmental issues.”

Which is eco-speak for frighten them witless. However, as the excellent science blog Watts Up With That points out, the site clearly breaches Australian broadcasting guidelines on “harmful or disturbing” content.

Meanwhile, the site’s designers are revelling in the controversy:

“Thank God for outraged senators – you can’t buy publicity like that,” PlanetSlayer’s “creative director” Bernie Hobbs crowed to the New York Post.

So how, according to ABC, does one appease the vengeful Death God, Gaia?
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Kill humans and ration heating – Philip Pullman

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Move over Thom Yorke – there’s another candidate for Britain’s most miserable and mean-spirited millionaire. This week, fantasy book author Philip Pullman will join Radiohead’s ginger whinger in calling for wartime austerity measures and top-down social control.

Demanding strict state-controlled energy rationing, Pullman says in a new book:

“This is a crisis as big as war and you couldn’t trade your ration book in the wartime. You were allowed three ounces of butter a week, or whatever, and that was it. And this is what it should be like with carbon. None of this carbon trading. We should have a fixed limit and if you use it all up in October, then tough, you shiver for the rest of the year.”

Sounds fun. But then Pullman reveals why he’s wearing a rose-tinted spyglass:

“My childhood was formed during the austerity years after the war. So I still feel influenced by that. Curious, isn’t it, how we were much healthier as a nation after the war when the rationing was on?”

Ah, yes. Those glory days when tuberculosis and syphilis were rampant, penicillin was rare, very few males over the age of 30 still had their own teeth, and life expectancy was ten years shorter than it is today!
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Radiohead backs WW2-style austerity program

Monday, December 10th, 2007

Radiohead on tour?

Misery will be compulsory, if top rockers Radiohead have their way. The band have thrown their weight behind a “World War 2″-style programme of austerity measures: including restrictions on behaviour, and higher taxes.

Last week, two newspaper columnists called for a return to the kind of social coercion only ever seen before in wartime. It’s all for the sake of “the environment”, but as we’ll see – it’s a very peculiar and selective version of environmentalism.

Singer Thom Yorke told The Observer:

Unless you have laws in place, nothing’s going to happen…

Nothing of this is going to be voluntary. [sic] It’s a bizarre form of rationing that we’re all going to have to accept, just like people did in the Second World War.”

It’s the War On CO2, of course, and Radiohead will be doing “their bit”.
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One-Click™ colonialism

Monday, August 20th, 2007

The music industry has a long and shameful history of robbing black artists of their rights. Now along comes some new software that will help speed up the job. Think of it as a sort of 1-Click “non-payment” system.

Liblicense is a project that Creative Commons hopes to integrate with MIT Media Lab’s OLPC, or One Laptop Per Child initiative. That’s the rubbishy sub-notebook designed for developing countries, that developing countries don’t seem to want very much. (Shockingly, the ungrateful recipients seem to prefer real computers).

The genius of the move is that instead of needing to hire shifty lawyers to bamboozle artists out of the right to be paid, Creative Commons makes the process not only voluntary, but automated, too. Liblicense will greatly ease the process of assigning a Creative Commons license to creative material straight from the desktop.

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Whatever happened to… The Wisdom of Crowds?

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

Future social historians looking back at the web cult – which met in San Francisco this week for a $3,000-a-head “summit” – may wonder what made them tick. Scholars could do worse than examine their superstitions. We’ll bet that lurking on the bookshelf of almost every “delegate” was a copy of James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds. It’s as ubiquitous as Erik Von Daniken books were in the 1970s.

In Silicon Valley this year, “collective intelligence” is the mandatory piece of psycho-babble necessary to open a Venture Capitalist’s cheque book. Surowiecki’s faith in prediction markets appears unshakeable. Writing in Slate three years ago, in an attempt to save Admiral Poindexter’s “Terror Casino” – punters were invited to bet on the probability of state leaders being assassinated, for example – Mystic Jim begged for understanding:

“Even when traders are not necessarily experts, their collective judgment is often remarkably accurate because markets are efficient at uncovering and aggregating diverse pieces of information. And it doesn’t seem to matter much what markets are being used to predict.”

“Whether the outcome depends on irrational actors (box-office results), animal behavior (horse races), a blend of irrational and rational motives (elections), or a seemingly random interaction between weather and soil (orange-juice crops), market predictions often outperform those of even the best-informed expert. Given that, it’s reasonable to think a prediction market might add something to our understanding of the future of the Middle East.”

A heart-warming fable, then, for a population robbed of their pensions, and beset by uncertainty after the dot.com bubble. Suroweicki failed to mention however that experts are regularly outperformed by chimps, or dartboards – but no one talks about “The Wisdom of Chimps”.

This week however the people spoke – and the markets failed.

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