bookbanner
CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

CHINESE PRISON FARMS

"According to figures from the China Internet Centre, nearly [$2 billion] of make-believe currencies were traded in China in 2008"

Gold Farmer
In 2006 I wrote about the gold farming industry in massive multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft. These games are a very popular multi-billion dollar industry with more people playing them in America than work in agriculture, and players like to get things in them that are difficult or expensive to obtain. Gold farmers go and make as much money as they can with often dull and repetitive actions, then sell that gold.

This is game money, non existent units of fake gold in a game setting, consisting of nothing more than 1's and 0's on a server farm. People pay real money for this fake money, exchanging dollars and lira and yen for gold in various games.

Some of these farmers are young players who make a living playing games to earn gold which their employers sell online. The New York Times interviewed one who said:
"For 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, my colleagues and I are killing monsters," said a 23-year-old gamer who works here in this makeshift factory and goes by the online code name Wandering. "I make about $250 a month, which is pretty good compared with the other jobs I've had. And I can play games all day."
They aren't paid well but they get room and board and for a kid, playing a game all day is just fine. Not all of these gold farmers are voluntary, though. Recently the UK Guardian ran an article by Danny Vincent about forced online labor at Chinese prisons:
As a prisoner at the Jixi labour camp, Liu Dali would slog through tough days breaking rocks and digging trenches in the open cast coalmines of north-east China. By night, he would slay demons, battle goblins and cast spells.

Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for "illegally petitioning" the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do.

"Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour," Liu told the Guardian. "There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp.
They'd earn about $700 a day off these prisoners, either earning money or running about advertising in populated areas. The idea that prison bosses in China might use this free labor to earn them some extra cash on the side isn't exactly shocking news.

It isn't very surprising, as a WoW player, to learn that at least some of these guys are grinding out money at the point of a gun either, as they're some of the most rude, uncaring, unresponsive jerks to ever walk the planet, even beyond not speaking English.

I feel bad for these guys, though. I'm sure most of them belong in prison, even in a totalitarian bloodthirsty dictatorship like China, but they work all day at hard labor then have to put in hours grinding out money for bosses playing a games that, were they let free to do what they want, are rather entertaining.

It is actually illegal to import goods produced from forced prison labor into the US, but Europe has no such qualms, and they'll buy things from Chinese prison labor then send them to the USA. This sort of labor goes straight through over the internet in a strange, virtual economy where online banking sends credit to china for fake money in a game in the US. This one slips through the cracks because the world is still figuring out the new economy with the internet involved.

HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE HIGH GAS PRICES

"Soon, hardly anyone will be able to afford to fly willy-nilly around the country or globe. You will breeze through the maze of airport checkpoints."

For most people, watching gas prices raggedly rise over the past year has not been a welcome sight. Higher gas prices means not just greater personal expense refilling the car, but everything delivered by gas powered vehicles gets more expensive. Yet there are some who are trying to spin higher gas prices as positive.

The attempt to spin bad news in the Obama economy as not so bad, or even good, isn't new. When the official level of unemployment pushed over 10% in America, Stories about "funemployment" started to show up in 2009:
Buoyed by severance, savings, unemployment checks or their parents, the funemployed do not spend their days poring over job listings. They travel on the cheap for weeks. They head back to school or volunteer at the neighborhood soup kitchen.
Unemployed college graduates were portrayed as having more time to travel and relax! Losing your job meant that you had more time to volunteer and do those things you kept putting off! Natalie Portman thought the recession was exciting:
“I think it’s kind of an exciting time. I mean, everyone is cutting back. It’s happening in every industry - including our own. All of a sudden, people are doing jobs that they hate and they’re not making as much money as they thought they would or they’ve lost their jobs entirely. I’ve started to see people looking more toward their own passions and what really excites them.”
Now, with gas prices pushing up toward $5 a gallon, the spin has already begun. MSNBC ran a piece entitled Why you should love $5 gas recently, with bullet points about why high gas prices are great, ranging from how fewer people will die on the road if we drive less to how airline prices will go up, shortening security lines at the air port, to how wars will get too expensive to wage and tyrants will topple when we stop buying their gas.

The writer "doubleace" is particularly optimistic about this, to the point of absurdity. The idea that a critical commodity becoming too expensive will somehow result in less conflict is difficult to believe. And if this person truly wanted tyrants to stop being propped up by gas dollars, wouldn't they be first in line calling for domestic oil production?

This kind of writing is not surprising from MSNBC, a news organization that has made its enthusiastic support of Democrats in general and President Obama in specific abundantly clear over the years. It is sad to see such a transparent and weak attempt to make the miserable seem positive.

To be certain, the left tends to view cheap gasoline as an evil, particularly academic leftists such as President Obama, who has made it clear he prefers higher prices to reduce driving and push people to buy electric cars or ride public transportation.

Its just hard to imagine this sort of reporting by anyone under a Republican presidency. It isn't hard to find the stories of woe and condemnation of President Bush when gas prices were this high in 2007. But then, inconsistent economic coverage of Democrat and Republican presidents isn't exactly new.

*This originally ran on the Washington Examiner Opinion Zone.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


Courtesy Ace of Spades HQ, the color chart to women, and to men. At least, normal guys.

Quote of the Day

"When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand."
-Prime Minister Harper

Monday, May 30, 2011

MEMORIAL: JOPLIN

Just one image here, for the hundreds dead and thousands displaced in Joplin, Missouri:

Joplin Damage
If you want to help, besides prayers, you can contact the CRWRC in North America, they're a reputable and reliable aid and relief group that doesn't get involved in questionable politics or leftist causes.

IN MEMORIAM: PIONEERS

Typically Memorial Day is focused on fallen heroes in the armed forces, which is proper, but I like to consider people who have gone before us and fought a different sort of war. Everyone who has struggled and worked for a better future in the past fought a war of their own in a quiet, personal way, and few did that more than the pioneers of the American west.

Traveling thousands of miles on 19th century technology, they fought the environment, hostile natives, wild animals, and other settlers to survive. Their hard work and dedication settled a vast wilderness, bringing peace and civilization to their children's children, following a dream that they knew they would never personally see fulfilled. These pioneers sacrificed so that their children could have a better future.

Today, we sacrifice our children's future so we can have a better today. We need more pioneers, and fewer consumers.

*For more specific thoughts on military vets, consider looking over to Via Meadia where Walter Russel Mead reminds us, as DrewM puts it "Osama bin Laden had a vision for fighting America and the non-Muslim world and it died in Iraq." Our soldiers didn't just struggle and die there, they won there, over the objections of the left and the continuous demand we surrender, give up, and flee the country.

Quote of the Day

"Although no sculptured marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear record of their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored."
-Daniel Webster

Friday, May 27, 2011

WORD AROUND THE NET

"Send me some senators who have some gonads"
-Senator Coburn (R-OK)

Unsafe for FirefightersPortland's city government has come up with a safety plan for firefighters. They developed a special sign (pictured to the left) that indicates the building in question is unsafe for fire fighters to enter. Except... these signs are being put on occupied buildings, structures with businesses and residents in them. One of the buildings is a police headquarters building. One commenter suggested that the buildings that got nailed with that sign may have "had an opportunity to donate to [the mayor's] campaign and didn't cut a check"

Lech Walesa is apparently not a big Obama fan. He has decided not to attend a meeting with President Obama and other leaders who were significant in the fall of Communism in Poland. Walesa (like many Poles) is a big Reagan fan, recognizing that their liberty was largely due to the tireless efforts of President Reagan to end the communist tyranny in their nation. And Mr Walesa likely hears familiar things from his past in some of Obama's rhetoric.

Business Insider has an ominous article up about China and inflation, noting that China's inflationary patterns precede the US by about 20 months and its been moving up rapidly for the last year or so. They are predicting major worldwide inflation in the next year or so - a prediction I hope is wrong but I've been making for a while now.

Howard "the scream" Dean is out as Democratic Party chair, and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) is in that position now. She's wasted no time in saying outrageous, dumb stuff to follow up on Howard Dean's pattern. Recently she condemned the Republican Party for wanting to destroy the US auto industry, claiming "If it were up to the candidates for president on the Republican side, we would be driving foreign cars. They would have let the auto industry in America go down the tubes."

Ms Schultz said this in response to condemnation by Republicans of the government's massive bailouts of GM and Chrysler and in fact taking over GM in a grossly socialist stunt. Michael O'Brian was interested in this statement, and went to see what sort of car Ms Schultz drives. Turns out its a 2010 Infiniti FX35, built by Nissan.

Just in case you can't work out how anything could possibly be cut from the federal budget without sending grandma to the store for dog food to eat, consider this (courtesy Sweetness & Light) about tax dollars spent on research from Jonathan Carl and Mark Jafee at ABC News:
You've probably heard of shrimp on the barbie, but what about shrimp on a treadmill?

The National Science Foundation has, and it spent $500,000 of taxpayer money researching it. It's not entirely clear what this research hoped to establish.

It's not just shrimp on a treadmill. The foundation spent $1.5 million to create a robot that can fold laundry. But before you try to buy one to save some time, consider that it takes the robot 25 minutes to fold a single towel.

The list goes on. Lots of people love to use FarmVille on Facebook, but lots of people probably don't love the government's spending $300,000 in taxpayer money to study whether it helps build personal relationships.

Even gelatin wrestling has been the subject of an agency project. In Antarctica, no less. The foundation notes that the project is the work of contractors, not agency employees.
Something to consider when you watch politicians yell about how we can't cut anything without starving poor handicapped lesbian black women or what have you.

Jack Faw went to see King's Mountain national park in South Carolina because that's where his ancestors fought the amazing battle against the British that turned the tide of the Revolutionary War. He was ordered out of the park, however, by a park ranger, allegedly because of the Ron Paul sticker on his truck. The Rutherford institute is working with him in a case against the state.

Barney Frank has been tied into the Senate finance committees for a long time now, deciding policy and laws that govern how organizations like Fannie Mae and banks function and are limited. His relationship with a top administrator in Fannie Mae was ongoing even as he refused to allow any reform or even investigation into the organization shortly before the financial collapse. Now, he has admitted that he even got his "special friend" the job using his influence as a committee member. Were he a Republican, this would be a career-ender. As a Massachusetts Democrat, its practically a resume enhancer.

Cell phones are pretty important to teenage girls. Just ask the Washington man who grounded his 15 year old daughter and took away her cell phone as punishment. She shot him with a bow and arrow, then hid in the forest until police came and arrested her for assault. Maybe he should have taken her bow away, too.

Oregon passed a health plan in 1993 and it hasn't been a very successful plan, chasing insurance providers and doctors out of the state. Its also been unable to pay a lot of providers, and is a huge budgetary drain that would be a major savings just to eliminate. However, the Oregon State Legislature has another idea: tax hospitals more. Their cunning plan is to pay for the health coverage they provide for people... by raising the cost of health care. This is a plan so cunning only a politician could come up with it.

According to a new poll, only 12% of Israeli Jews believe that President Obama is friendly to Israel. The real poll, however, comes at election time, when 70% or more of American Jews will still vote for President Obama.

The View is an unwatchable batch of angry leftist women and one token non leftist for them to mock and pick on. They've already established there that calling a woman a "bitch" isn't somehow an insulting, sexist term - when it is applied to a Republican, at least. Now, as Jim Hoft notes at Gateway Pundit, slut falls under the same category. Its not sexist or insulting, crude or in any way outrageous... if used to describe a Republican. The modern face of feminism: its not about women at all.

Marine Jose Guerena was shot sixty times by SWAT forces in Tuscon Arizona. The Iraq war veteran brandished an AR-15 and was shot to doll rags by the police, and it was later revealed that he'd never fired a single shot.

Seismologists are being sued in Italy for manslaughter charges. Why? They are being accused of responsibility for deaths because they failed to warn people of an earthquake that took place in 2009. In a just world the judge would throw this case out and charge the accusers of wasting time and abusing the legal system. In the real world, who knows how it will turn out.

Britain's prestigious Royal Society tried to give President Obama another absurd award. This time it was the King Charles II medal, which is awarded in “exceptional circumstances” to heads of state who have “made an outstanding contribution to furthering scientific research in their country”. President Obama politely declined the medal, probably remembering the mockery and outcry over his winning the Nobel Peace Prize for... not being President Bush, as near as anyone could figure. The Telegraph characterized the response of Royal Society members this way: “The inference they took from that was that he was more interested in cultivating his street cred than in building links with British scientists.” Ace at his HQ was amazed at the response:
By the way-- "street cred"? What the hell? These morons want to give him an unwarranted medal for existing, and when he doesn't show up, they go right to a quasi-racial put-down?

That's a real 180 there, isn't it? We love you we love you we love you... oh, you're not coming? You suck, darkie.

Pick one of the two poles of schizophrenic obsession and stick with it.
These guys who want to shower President Obama with awards he's plainly not earned cannot seem to figure out why that looks bad and makes their organizations seem idiotic.

Disney has abandoned its plan to copyright the term "Seal Team Six" likely for some upcoming animation project. This was the code name for the special team that hit the Obama compound, and Disney tried to own the title. The Navy fought back and is changing the name to something else now. When it comes to making a buck, there's nothing family or amusing about Disney. They're soulless.

Judge Umbridge Sumi has predictably ruled that the Wisconsin state legislature violated law when it passed the reform bill that curtailed collective bargaining for the state's public employee unions. Her ruling is based on a law that requires a specific amount of time for legislators (who fled the state to avoid doing their jobs and are now fighting for them against recall efforts) to read and study the bill.

However, as Professor Jacobson notes at Legal Insurrection, the law specifically states that special session efforts do not require this and she previously stated that this was, in fact, a special session, so its not clear how - aside from being a stooge for the unions - she could come to this ruling. A good activist judge never lets the law, or personal contradictions, get in the way of "social justice."

President Obama has called the Ryan budget plan a lot of names, but when it came time to vote on his idea of a budget, there was a full, unanimous, bipartisan response: 97-0 against it. No Senator in the entire US congress could bring themselves to support the president's budget. Its almost as if he's not any good at the job or something.

Victor Davis Hanson had some fun rewriting an Obama stump speech. You'll have to imagine the telepropmpter, the mechanical swiveling back and forth of his head, and the dead eyes while Obama gives the speech, but here's a highlight of the text:
Energy: “On the energy front, the Clinton and Bush administrations have already approved enough oil and gas leases to ensure that I don’t have to seek any new ones. In this era of hope and change, new drilling is no solution to high gas prices — except abroad, in exciting new offshore finds in places like Brazil. If oil production lags, we can also urge our Middle Eastern friends to increase their exports.

“Of course, electricity prices will skyrocket and coal companies might go bankrupt under my initiatives. In addition, I foresee $4-a-gallon gas — another necessary sacrifice for weaning us off fossil fuels and shrinking our carbon footprint. Some of you might consider trading in your eight-mile-a-gallon clunkers, especially if you did not take my prior advice to properly inflate your tires and tune your engines.

“I promise that new cap-and-trade legislation will be central to our energy policy as a further discouragement of fossil fuels. My team can easily shepherd such a bill through what I expect will be a new Democratic House and Senate. In this regard, you will soon get to know a brilliant new environmental organizer, Van Jones, who will be my green czar.”

Seriously, other than a rich baritone voice, President Obama's vaunted speechmaking ability is all very carefully memorized routine and technique that wears quickly thin if you watch very much of it.

Fracking (or more properly "hydraulic fracturing" is a major process in harvesting natural gas, and environmentalists have been screaming about how evil and horrible it is for a few years now. The last CSI show I ever watched was a godawful religious tract on the evils of Fracking, filled with every single talking point on the topic. Except... Obama's EPA administrator recently confirmed in a House hearing that the process does not seem to affect ground water tables at all. In fact there have been no proven cases of any fracking problems with water, not a single one. There have been scores of proven cases of environmentalists lying and distorting information to stop any progress or harvesting of natural resources, however.

Jobless claims keep climbing, unfortunately. It seems that despite the best efforts of the Obama administration to apply John Maynard Keyes' ideas, they keep failing. Last week, Reuters economists predicted that the number of claims would drop, but they instead went up. Maybe they should get new economists rather than guys who will say whatever it takes to make the Obama administration look better. Because its either that or they suck at their jobs, and neither one is particularly enticing.

Unexpected, that's what bad economic news is in the Obama administration. We got a double dose in the latest Business Insider headline:
MORE WEAKNESS: Q1 GDP Misses Expectations, Personal Consumption Unexpectedly Dives.
You should note that the 1.8% growth estimate is the first statement; they always are adjusted later, and with the Obama administration every single one has been adjusted downward. Personal consumption dropped as well to 2.2% from 2.7%, when it was expected to rise to 2.8%. Again, that's the first estimate. And the dollar's value is dropping as well, according to BI.

Former Democratic Party VP candidate and Senator John Edwards is being investigated for misuse of campaign funds. When it was revealed that he'd been carrying on an affair with a staffer, Edwards paid quite a bit of hush money, and it appears quite a bit of the payment was campaign funds. Stepping out on your wife as she dies of cancer is pretty miserable, but misusing campaign finance money is illegal.

During the time Edwards was paying to hush up his mistress, the legacy media was aware of the events, and had even looked into it, then let it drop. As Slate notes, the LA Times specifically told its blog to not write about the story, not investigate it, and let it go. There were bigger fish to fry: President Bush had to be stopped, no matter what.

Meanwhile, Huffington Post contributor and Columbia University professor David Epstein has pled guilty of incest in New York city. Robert Stacy McCain has been covering this story pretty well but you can barely find any whisper of it in the legacy media. Imagine if a major blogger and right wing voice was guilty of incest, say, Laura Ingraham. You think maybe that would get media coverage? Could that possibly end up as comedian and SNL fodder for years to come? Maybe Colbert Report and The Daily Show would mock sister-molesting right wingers for weeks? Just maybe?
LinkLink
George Soros made hundreds of billions of dollars devaluing currency worldwide once he'd grown up and stopped selling out fellow Jews to the Nazis. Today he spends that money on leftist causes and desperately attempting to destroy anyone he disagrees with politically. At NPR, where they get millions from Soros, some of the workers there are getting a bit uncomfortable at getting so much from such a partisan source, according to Jim Romenesko at the Poynter Institute:
NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard says “a deep current of concern has run through the newsroom” about taking money from Soros. A longtime producer tells her:
I do have problems with it precisely because he is so left wing and were he on the other side I would still have problems with it. I don’t have a problem with people supporting particular causes but I do have a problem when obvious partisanship spills over into your support of those causes.
I wouldn't care so much if they weren't getting federal dollars as well. The partisan lean of NPR is obvious to anyone to the right of Michael Moore, its just too bad we're forced to support them with tax dollars.

Putting the debt in perspective, Jeff Cox at CNBC notes that the United States spends $4,000,000,000 more each day than it takes in with taxes and other revenue. At least in terms of that expense, the US is worse off than Italy or Spain.

New York, not such a great place to live, according to Fred Siegel at City Journal. He runs down some numbers:
  • For more than 15 years, more people have left the state than entered
  • 36 percent of New Yorkers under 30 are planning to leave over the next five years
  • New York has the 15 highest-taxed counties in the country
  • More than 80 percent of the new jobs are in the city’s five lowest-paying sectors
  • a New Yorker would have to make $123,322 a year to have the same standard of living as someone making $50,000 in Houston
  • In Manhattan, a $60,000 salary is equivalent to someone making $26,092 in Atlanta
But other than that, great place to live. If you're part of the Democratic Party system.

America-hating pro Muslim Mohammed El-Baradei is known for his opposition to investigations into Iranian nuclear weapon creation and willingness to lie about it, but lately even he has been worried about Egypt. He warns the country is decaying into chaos, saying People don't feel secure, they're buying guns. Right now, socially, we are disintegrating. Economically we are not in the best state. Politically it’s -- it’s like a black hole. We do not know where we are heading.”

No one really knows what Egypt will end up as, but the Islamic Brotherhood is gaining in power and is, despite Obama administration and leftist pundit claims, not a peaceful 'mostly secular' organization. That's what happens when you have revolution without leadership, you just have chaos that a strong man ends up in control of.

South Park is a crude, often obscene, but usually funny and powerful satire show that mocks everything and everyone, including themselves. When they try to poke fun at Christians, nobody cares, but when they poke fun at Islam, they get censored by their own network and death threats from Muslims. One such threat came from Jesse Curtis Morton, also known as Younus Abdullah Mohammad. Mr Morton has the website RevolutionMuslim and he has been convicted to 25 years in prison for threatening the makers of South Park. Incidentally (not mentioned in the CNN story or pretty much anywhere in the legacy media), Mr Morton was an Obama for President campaign worker in 2008. Hope. Change.

Administrative Law Judge David B Daugherty has never met a Social Security applicant he didn't want to help. Tina Korbe writes at Hot Air:
In 2005, Daugherty’s disability benefits approval rate stood at 90 percent — but it has only gone up from there. From 2006 to 2008, he approved benefits about 95 percent of the time. Then, last year, he upped the ante to 99.7 percent — and is on track to increase that what little bit he can in 2011.
Either this guy gets a ton of people who genuinely qualify for government aid, or he just likes to give it away. Its not his money, after all. Judge Daugherty scoffs at stingier judges, saying they "act like it’s their own damn money we’re giving away."

The story gets more interesting the more you dig into it. One specific lawyer advertises that he'll "get the job done" for people seeking Social Security benefits; Judge Daugherty is specifically picking that lawyer's clients to adjudicate even though the system is supposed to pick them randomly.

Wikileaks keeps supporting and vindicating the Bush administration, likely without meaning to. Rowan Scarborough at the Washington Times writes:
Before the interrogations, the U.S. knew little about al Qaeda in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Years later, the CIA and military had accumulated a large database of ongoing plots and the identities of terrorists, the WikiLeaks files show.
More importantly, we learn from these leaks that the Bush team could have used leaks to justify and defend their names against outrageous charges by the left, but did not because it would damage national security and the war on terror. As Marc Thiessen notes:
“Without this program, we would not have gone nearly 10 years without another catastrophic attack on the homeland. This is quite possibly the most important, and most successful, intelligence program in modern times. But instead of medals, the people behind this program have been given subpoenas.”
Yes, but this is about politics, not the truth.

And finally, remember the "stimulus" package? You won't forget it if I can help it. Millions of dollars were sent to companies (mostly for "green" energy startups and ideas) who owed millions in unpaid taxes. I guess when your cabinet is made up of several tax cheats, a business that doesn't pay taxes isn't that much cause for alarm but sending them even more money?

And that's the Word Around the Net for May 27, 2011.

SONGS I LIKE - Still Loving You (The Scorpions)

Your pride has build a wall, so strong
That I can't get through.
Is there really no chance
To start once again?

The Scorpions are a German band that has been around since the 70s with few changes in the band's membership. They had their greatest success in the 80s with the albums Animal Magnetism, Blackout, and Love at First Sting, but were a popular band already by that point. The song "Still Loving You" was on Love at First Sting and has endured as a rock ballad on classic rock radio.

The song is about a man who wasn't everything he could have been for a woman, hurt her, and finally had his love rejected. Yet he can't stop loving her and is looking for a way to win her back. All he asks for is time and a chance to show her the love that they once had, and to prove he can be better this time.

Whether or not he will be a better man isn't clear, the song is just a long pleading cry of love to a woman he can't forget, and the way it is presented is so powerful and beautiful you can't help wondering if she wouldn't give him a second chance. Which is too bad for her, probably.

The longing themes of wanting someone you don't have and almost begging them to return are strong and I can see why this song has lasted so many years. Klaus Meine can scream with the best rockers, but his voice here is almost breaking with emotion and I have to wonder if he didn't write it about a real situation with a real girl he'd betrayed with, say, a 15 year old groupie.

Time, it needs time
To win back your love again.
I will be there, I will be there.

Love, only love
Can bring back your love someday.
I will be there, I will be there.

Fight, babe, I'll fight
To win back your love again.
I will be there, I will be there.

Love, only love
Can break down the walls someday.
I will be there, I will be there.

If we'd go again
All the way from the start,
I would try to change
The things that killed our love.

Your pride has build a wall, so strong
That I can't get through.
Is there really no chance
To start once again?
I'm loving you.

Try, baby try
To trust in my love again.
I will be there, I will be there.

Love, your love
Just shouldn't be thrown away.
I will be there, I will be there.

If we'd go again
All the way from the start,
I would try to change
The things that killed our love.

Your pride has build a wall, so strong
That I can't get through.
Is there really no chance
To start once again?

If we'd go again
All the way from the start,
I would try to change
The things that killed our love.

Yes I've hurt your pride, and I know
What you've been through.
You should give me a chance
This can't be the end.

I'm still loving you.
I'm still loving you,
I need your love.
I'm still loving you.
Still loving you, baby...

No embedding is available for this video. This is part of the Songs I Like series.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


A matter of perspective.

THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy."
-Ernest Benn

Congressman Paul Ryan has a plan he thinks will take a significant bite out of the national debt of the United States, and further act to restrain greater debt in the future. The Ryan budget plan has gotten a lot of publicity, and the Democrats seem to be running against it as if it were an opposing politician.

Recently, Senator Brown from Massachusetts announced he wouldn't vote for such a bill if it passed the House. This has raised the ire of some on the right, as Brown claims to be a Republican and there is a serious, even dire need to reduce the debt and US deficit as soon as possible.

However, were I in congress, I probably would not support the Ryan plan, either. Sure, it has some good points and would make real movement toward reducing debt, but it won't pass. It cannot get past the Senate, even if it makes it out of the House of Representatives, and in any case, President Obama would simply veto it.

The primary flaw with Ryan's plan isn't that it is draconian or would starve children. The problem is that it is too ambitious and cannot survive the present congress. Grand gestures have their place, and making your opponents vote against something important is politically useful, but we need serious work that's being done immediately, not gestures.

Otto Von Bismark once said that “politics is the art of the possible, the attainable - the art of the next best.” All idealism and dreams aside, you can only accomplish what you have the votes and the political will to accomplish. At present, a huge sweeping plan of massive cuts and rebuilding of one of the biggest entitlement programs in the federal government is not attainable, it is not possible.

Without stronger control of the house, control of the senate, and fewer "moderate" Republicans in congress, major changes to the federal budget aren't possible. That's just the bottom line fact, no matter what we'd rather see or wish could happen.

So what can congress do to cut the debt and take real steps toward reform? They have to start smaller and slower and target other things. Don't go after the big popular programs the left will die to protect. Don't tackle the creeping socialism in government yet, that goal isn't attainable.

The GOP should target cuts in areas Democrats will find it easier to agree with and defend to their constituents. Remember, for the average congressman, being reelected is their primary goal. Republicans in congress should work with that concept in mind for Democrats - don't throw something at them they cannot vote for and survive in their districts.

It isn't that the GOP should help Democrats be reelected, but that they should recognize that they need these votes to accomplish anything at present.

So Republicans in congress should draft a budget that targets waste, duplication, and ineffective spending in the military and intelligence budgets. Almost no leftist Democrat can resist cutting these two areas, and if the cuts are determined by someone friendly to defense and intelligence, then they will be smart cuts we need rather than slashing cuts by an enemy.

Target programs which might have been useful or good at one point but are not any longer, such as Voice of America, the gratuity paid families of congressmen who die in office (and are typically millionaires to begin with), government subsidies for political conventions, and the federal government payments to the International Fund for Ireland.

And the most clear, effective, and winning gesture that congress can make toward showing they are serious about budget cuts is to personally take a pay cut, across the board, for all congressmen, cutting their staff budgets, benefits, and freebies. If each congressman voted to cut their own staff and pay, that would send a very attractive message to the American people that they're willing to sacrifice before they ask the American people to.

President Obama vowed in 2008 to cut federal spending, partly by targeting programs that have outlived their usefulness. Its time congress held him to this promise and offered him just such a budget. This sort of budget wouldn't be nearly enough in cuts; it would be barely a drop in the bucket, but it might end up more valuable than larger cuts in the long run.

Because when America see cuts take place, them not being hurt, and the world not ending, then the momentum shifts toward more cuts. Its harder for the Democrats to argue GOP efforts as draconian that will force granny to eat dog food when this sort of thing goes through and nobody is even affected.

And that means the next election, running on budget cuts and trimming the federal government down will be harder to fight against, easier to follow through on, and the political will can be found to do the tougher work.

The only question is whether there's time to do this over the long haul or not. I fear we've passed that point, but what choice do we have?

*This originally ran on the Washington Examiner Opinion Zone.

Quote of the Day

"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it."
-Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, May 26, 2011

ANOTHER SORT OF APOCALYPSE

"These “Rapture” evangelists have no shame ... "

A lot of people on the internet are having a bunch of fun mocking Harold Camping's woeful "rapture" prediction, and its easy to see why. It was silly to begin with and failed utterly - and he's doubled down and called October, now. Maybe he figures at 89 and under all that stress he'll be dead by then so it won't matter.

Yet there is another set of apocalyptic predictions which have been uttered not just by one old man but dozens, even scores of prophets over the years. Like Camping who failed to predict the end of the world in 1994, these prophets keep having followers and believers despite their utter failure to accurately predict the future.

Like Ted Danson who in 1988 told David Letterman that the "oceans will be dead" by 1998. Well actually no one takes Danson seriously but still, its 2011 and the oceans aren't just alive, but vibrant and teeming with life.

Danson later on was on CNBC and he was asked about the oceans and whether they're dead. His answer?
DANSON: No. They’re not. But, I’m sure there was some hyperbole in what I said to draw attention to the issue, but you go to science journals now, 70% of the world’s fisheries are at a point of collapse.
Except... that's not true either. More hyperbole, I suppose. Although since Ted Danson has been flying around the world telling countries to stop commercial fishing, maybe he's presuming his influence is endangering these fisheries.

Tim Blair collected a bunch more end of the world predictions, all from environmentalist extremists and global warming alarmists:

1992:

There’s still hope for saving the planet from ourselves … 10 years left.

2006:

Larry David says, “You know, Al is a funny guy, but he’s also a very serious guy who believes humans may have only 10 years left to save the planet from turning into a total frying pan.”

2007:

The scientific consensus is that we’ve got only ten years left to address global warming.

2007:

EU, US agree 15 years left to avert climate disaster.

2009:

Barack Obama has only four years to save the world. That is the stark assessment of NASA scientist and leading climate expert Jim Hansen.
And on and on. In total, Blair lines up 12 different end-of-the-world predictions by these people, ranging from 2002 to 2046, depending on who you ask. We all keep surviving the end of the world.

At least these people aren't crazy religious zealots predicting the coming of Jesus or anything. You can trust them, they're using science. Seriously, how many times can alarmists make predictions that are utterly untrue before people stop trusting them? Every single climate prediction based on their computer modeling has been utterly wrong.

Finally, a funny cartoon about the end of the world that hits more accurately and pointedly than anything else I've seen so far:

ANOTHER OVERREACH BY THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH

“It is agreed on all sides, that the powers properly belonging to one of the departments ought not to be directly and completely administered by either of the other departments. It is equally evident, that none of them ought to possess, directly or indirectly, an overruling influence over the others, in the administration of their respective powers. It will not be denied, that power is of an encroaching nature, and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.”
Federalist Paper 48; James Madison

black box
All airplanes are required by law to carry a "black box" (actually orange) which is a highly durable recorder that keeps track of communications and engine data for recovery after a crash. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to require those for cars, but who gave them the authority?

The US Constitution divides the federal government up into three sections, each one with its realm of power that it is sovereign over and the others cannot interfere with or duplicate. The Legislative branch creates law, the Judicial branch interprets law, and the executive branch enforces law. These areas are separate; legally the judicial branch cannot make law and the legislative branch cannot enforce law, for example.

The founding fathers separated things like this to restrain each branch from gaining power. If absolute restrictions are imposed on each, then they are unable to cross beyond a certain point. If one branch gained too much power, then the others could not check and limit it, and the liberty of citizens would be threatened or damaged. Allowing the legislative branch to both make and interpret law would give them incredible power over everyone's lives that no one could stop.

The agencies and bureaus within the executive department such as the FBI, the EPA, and the NHTSA are limited by being a part of the executive branch. They cannot create new law or interpret it, all they can do is enforce the laws that the legislative branch has passed and the judicial branch has examined, if necessary.

I say that they cannot, but in truth they should not is a more proper statement. They are prohibited by the constitution and morality from doing so, but that does not necessarily mean that they are incapable should they choose to ignore law and propriety.

The NHTSA wants to require all automobiles to carry a black box, and are expected to impose that requirement on all new cars built next month, according to Wired's Autopia blog.
The device, similar to those found in aircraft, records vehicle inputs and, in the event of a crash, provides a snapshot of the final moments before impact.

That snapshot could be viewed by law enforcement, insurance companies and automakers. The device cannot be turned off, and you’ll probably know little more about it than the legal disclosure you’ll find in the owner’s manual.

However, as Wired notes, if you have a car with an airbag, you already have such a device in your car and some states allow that device to be used in a court of law for suits and insurance claims. All states allow law enforcement access to that data with a warrant. GM has been installing these recorders in cars since the 1990s to gather data on crash and emergency response from vehicles.

The problem here is that the US Constitution does not permit the executive branch to simply declare new things that everyone has to do. That's properly a law and only the legislative branch is able to pass new laws. if a car company chooses to put something like this in your new car, that's their business, but if the executive branch orders them to, then there's no constitutional basis or power behind that order.

The Obama administration is fond of this kind of end run around the constitution, and it has been declaring new laws semi regularly for two years now. Sometimes those laws are vaguely based on existing law (such as the EPA using the Clean Air Act to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant), and sometimes its just based on the whim of the Obama administration.

This latest idea is one more step in the executive branch's desire to impose President Obama's vision of how things ought to work despite how the US Constitution orders that it should work. Whether or not its a good idea for cars to carry black boxes, an I can see the benefits, this is a job for the legislative branch to determine, not the executive.

But if there's one thing that you can say about president Obama its this: if he can't get congress to push his radical agenda, he'll just try to impose it through the executive department no matter how legal or constitutional it is. He's already being held in contempt by a federal court for this kind of thing.

*This originally ran at the Washington Examiner Opinion Zone.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


All together now: awwwwwww

Quote of the Day

Through collective bargaining, unions negotiate with elected officials for wages and benefits. They then get the state to collect union dues for them by withholding the dues from public employees’ checks. With the accumulated cash, the union then makes campaign contributions to the favored public officials. Neat.”
-Mona Charon

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DUELING COVERAGE

"The Queen did not seem to take offence at the mishap and appeared to stifle an embarrassed smile."

This is kind of humorous and shows how reporting can go.

President Obama visited England again; I've written before about how he holds the nation in thinly veiled contempt for various reasons, but he does try to put on a good show. This time, he gave a toast to the Queen of England, and from there the story gets interesting.

President Obama raised a glass and said "Ladies and gentlemen, please stand with me and raise your glasses as I propose a toast. To her majesty, the Queen. "For the vitality--" and then the orchestra started playing "God Save the Queen."

Obama kept going, over the national anthem of Great Britain, saying "...of the special relationship between our peoples and in the words of Shakespeare to ‘this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England'. To the Queen."

When the orchestra stopped playing, Obama said "to the Queen." once more.

No one raised a glass with President Obama, because the anthem was playing. The queen looked slightly embarrassed and did not answer the toast until after the song was complete. It was awkward for everyone involved, particularly President Obama and the Queen.

So here's the headline from the Telegraph, a UK newspaper:

Barack Obama suffers royal toast mishap at Queen's banquet

And the headline from CNN, a US news channel:

Obama's toast to the queen interrupted by the orchestra

The tone of each is different; both are technically true, but each reveals their slant. CNN blames the orchestra while the Telegraph focuses on Obama's embarrassment. Its easy to guess what the CNN headline would have been like for President Bush:

Hick president embarrasses America and damages relations with yet another ally.

Both the orchestra and President Obama are to blame to some degree; the orchestra shouldn't have stepped on a toast from the President of the United States, and the president should have zipped it when the music started.

I've been in situations like that before - thankfully nothing so high profile - and there's no good way to avoid looking like an idiot, but the best option is always to cut it off early.

What's interesting here is that, say, 200 years ago or so, this would have been considered evidence that President Obama was not a gentleman and did not understand the courtesies of gentle society, so he would be excluded so as to spare him moments of this sort.

Of course the Queen worked through it, thanking the president for his "very kind words" because frankly she was born to this and has been doing it for longer than President Obama has been alive. Royals learn how to be gracious and courtly before they learn how to walk - even if some of them don't take to it as well as others.

I give Obama a bit of credit for at least trying to repair the damage he's done to the relationship between the US and England, most recently a slam at the nation while in Ireland. He just seems out of his depth so often I almost feel sorry for the guy. Today he tried to laugh it off by saying it was like a soundtrack to his speech.

Really, the String Orchestra of the Scots Guard should have known how much this guy loves the sound of his own voice and realized he wasn't likely to shut up for a while. Perhaps that's what they had in mind; as Jake Tapper noted, “It almost felt like one of those moments at the Academy Awards when the speech from the recipient for Best Original Screenplay goes on too long and the orchestra tries to hustle him or her off the stage."

UNABLE TO JUDGE

"Will the piercing of ears be similarly restricted? "

The basic concept of judges is someone who makes wise judgements, a man who can discern and rule based on wisdom and reason. Judges in theory take the facts into account and then issue a statement deciding a case with prudence and common sense to render the most just and proper decision.

Solomon is considered very wise for the decisions given in the Bible, rulings based on his judgement. However, the Common Law system that England and the US follow (along with some other nations) is based less on wisdom and discernment and more on precedent and previous judgements. Where someone had to show reasonable wisdom at some point, the ones that come after increasingly follow this system.

For example, the city of San Francisco is considering a new law banning circumcision in the city limits. This is a direct, specific law opposing religious practice by Jews, Muslims, and some other religions - and many Christians carry out this practice as well. The architects of the law argue that this practice is barbaric and destructive, so it is permissible to ban such an act like it would be to ban human sacrifice.

At the Volokh conspiracy, Eugene Volokh suggested ways that the courts could rule on this issue from various angles, such as parental control and religious freedom. But the arguments all hinged on specific previous rulings by other courts:
In Employment Division v. Smith (1990), the Supreme Court held that religious objectors are generally not entitled to an exemption from religion-neutral, generally applicable laws. This law would likely qualify as such a religion-neutral, generally applicable laws, because it applies to all circumcisions, whether religious or not.

Two decades before Smith, Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972) held that the Amish were entitled to an exemption from a generally applicable law requiring children to attend schools (public or private) up to 16; and Smith did not overrule Yoder on this score.

...in Parham v. J.R. (1979), the Court suggested that the parental right extends to parents’ decisions about their children’s medical treatment. Parham itself didn’t involve a state law limiting parents’ ability to make medical treatment decisions; but many lower courts have read Parham as recognizing medical treatment decisions as part of the parents’ rights.

The Court’s most recent parental rights decision, Troxel v. Granville (2000) — a splintered opinion that yielded only a very narrow holding — exemplifies the unsettled state of parental rights law.
Also noted were various legal concepts such as "strict scrutiny" "colorable claim" and "hybrid solution," quick phrases (that in years past would have been in Latin) that are used to describe legal concepts that courts use to make decisions.

Basically, Volokh looked at tools that judges and lawyers use to argue and decide cases, following previous decisions and structures established by other judges and lawyers, who in turn did so based on judges and lawyers previous to them, and so on.

In a sense this is not so unreasonable, as good decisions will tend to lend to further good decisions, and every realm of endeavor will have its jargon and tools to finish the job. Judges should rely on the wisdom of previous courts when considering a case, and lawyers need to know how things have gone before in order to understand how to argue a present case.

The problem is, this teetering system of stacking precedents and legal concepts has moved incrementally further and further away from the principle of prudence and wisdom, so that judges make a decision based on previous decisions rather than discernment. In worst cases, they simply rule based on which lawyer has the most compelling or clever argument.

Worse still, when judges do try to rule without precedent, they tend to do so based on personal whim and political tilt rather than overall wisdom and reason; witness the 9th circuit court who is perpetually overturned for making idiotic judgements in line with what they prefer to be true rather than what they know to be true.

This system of precedent makes life easier for judges, they don't have to be men of discernment and understanding, just scholars who know various previous arguments and who listen to lawyers who do the research.

And after millions of court cases, judges and lawyers have plenty of options they can choose from, often contradictory or in diametric opposition. The case in point here is a useful example of how this works.
  • Employment Division vs Smith holds that there is no right to free exercise of religion where generally applicable laws are at issue - that is, if a law applies to everyone then your religious freedom does not apply.
  • Yoder vs Wisconsin holds that Amish may ignore school requirements to pull kids out of school at the age of 16 to work on the family farm.
So these two rulings say opposite things, and both are established precedent. So you can, using precedent, rule however you want based on the arguments lawyers present, what you're aware of, and which you prefer.

That means the precedent system is simply a tool to achieve goals rather than a structure to assist wise judgement. If a judge cannot rely on the precedent system to guide them properly and wisely toward a just judgement, it merely becomes a smorgasbord of legal decisions to pick and choose from to justify the judge's whims.

And without a clear chain of specific decisions to follow, there's not really much point in following any precedent, since you can usually find one that will argue what you prefer to be true. The system fails to provide guidance and fails in its purpose.

A wise judge would not need precedent to make a decision, since the case its self and its specific situation would render a proper judgement apparent with enough discernment, study, and reason applied to it. An unwise judge can simply pick through the precedents that stack up for the one that they prefer.

That's given us a system where judges can rule exactly opposite each other, render foolish and bizarre decisions that elude common sense, and justice is in the pocket of the most clever lawyer rather than ruling over them all.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


And here all along I thought it was a matter of chemistry.

Quote of the Day

"So here it is: Government money isn't 'free.' Either you and I pay for it in taxes, or our children pay for it in debt. "
-Governor Pawlenty

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

COWBOYS vs ACTION STARS

"Remember when I said I'd kill you last? I lied."
-Arnold Schwarzenegger, Commando

Shane
I was born in 1965, which means I grew up in the action hero era. That never really had any significance to me, until I read a piece by Terrence Moore at Big Hollywood about Arnold Schwarzenegger. Moore's thesis is that we need real men who are what they say they are, but this is the part that really struck me:
This virtue of integrity, which now goes by the opaque moniker “transparency,” was better understood in the age of the Western hero. The characters played by John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and, for that matter, Ronald Reagan, did not say much. But what they said they meant, and they would back up what they said with their very lives.

But we do not live in the age of the Western. Those of us in our thirties and forties grew up in the age of the action hero. The action hero is the figure who does not do the merely human things well but performs superhuman deeds that defy the imagination. He does not simply draw a gun faster than another man. Instead, he races through explosions on a motorcycle and dives out of planes without a parachute and yet invariably emerges from the ruins unscathed. Of course, the action hero has half a dozen stunt doubles and computer graphics and millions invested in the movie to pull it all off. But it’s all worth it: for the illusion, for the moment of suspended disbelief.
I've more or less gotten used to the absurd extremes in how action heroes are depicted. Its one thing to watch Spider-Man fall 40 feet on his back across a car and crumple to the ground. He is superhuman, you can buy that he won't be crippled for life and possibly dead. But when Arnold Schwarzenegger runs across a lawn with 156 people firing machine guns at him and never gets his, that's become a farce.

The martial arts and stunts that movies expect us to buy get a bit ridiculous. The movie Salt for instance was much more calmed down than most of the genre, but she does manage to leap from truck to truck speeding down a highway and ignoring physics. I'll buy that she might get lucky and not tumble off a truck top that's moving beside her at the same speed, but when you jump off a bridge on to a truck that's going 55+ miles per hour... well its the same thing as jumping off that truck to the road at 55. You don't do a roll and come up looking back at your pursuers, you skip off and hit the freeway, then are run over by 8 cars before anyone notices you were there.

Action films give us superhuman impossible heroes with ever-greater stunts. James Bond always had breathtaking stunts, but after the Bourne movies now he's a superhuman martial artist that can run 8 miles over incredible terrain and not be out of breath. These characters are primarily defined by what they can do.

By contrast, cowboy movies were about normal human beings with real limitations who has to face the problems they did with grit, character, and personal integrity. They may have been great at fist fights, but it was a fist fight with another regular guy, not a martial arts extravaganza involving paint buckets, ropes, and gymnastics. They may have been very quick and accurate with their pistols, but they got shot and missed and hurt and had to hide behind cover.

Westerns were primarily about human stories, about struggles between people in rough conditions, where the environment was as much a danger as their foes. In these conditions, merely survival was often heroic, and no one had a computerized gadget to find their way or contact help. That didn't just make these heroes self reliant, but skilled beyond the ability to destroy.

Usually the western hero was defined by what he did other than fight bad guys. They were cowboys, sheriffs, miners, and scouts. They had a job to do and in the process of that job, they ran into trouble and would not back down. Shane*, for instance, was an absolutely deadly gunfighter, but he was also a top hand at a ranch. He wasn't too cool or too filled with self importance to help dig out a stump or ride a fence line. These were men who worked, and whose character was defined by who they were rather than what they did.

For the old west, much of it was open territory without law. Even if a community had a Marshall, he was limited to the town, not the area outside it. Communications were very limited even when the telegraph was established. If there was trouble, each man had to face it on his own - and each woman, too. Western heroes were men who stood tall to face these troubles in the midst of the rest of their lives. Modern action heroes are usually elite killing machines waiting for action, rogue cops, or actually bad guys who have a heart of gold or rules they won't break and end up being the hero.

For modern heroes, there is a system of laws and government in place, there are instant communications, and there is a community established. No one has to go vigilante in the real world because there are so many layers of protection. No cattle baron or rail despot is going to burn you out for building a house on land you own but he wants for the water rights, at least not in America. So the modern action hero has to face monsters and extralegal villains. Most of these movies don't even show cops, there's no apparent structure of law enforcement in existence.

The bad guys are above the law, untouchable, so rich, powerful, and connected that no one can dare reach them except our hero who breaks all the rules and is the only one who can solve the case. In their pursuit of... well, beating the bad guys, they destroy all the evidence, kill nearly or actually all the suspects, and trample over the rights and property of everyone they meet.

The cowboy was in a situation where there were no contracts, no lawyers, and no one to back them up. They had to trust, and when they made a deal, they shook hands and their word was bond. If someone broke their word, they were ruined. Integrity was everything and honor was how a good man lived his life. Watching a good western taught basic ethics and virtues to young boys and girls wearing cowboy hats at the theater.

Watching a modern action movie teaches that if you're strong enough you can flip over a car and
cling to the front of a bullet train by a whisker as someone flies a helicopter down a tunnel at you. Modern action movies are spectacular and entertaining, but they teach you nothing about who you should be, only what they can do.

It isn't that I think modern action movies are awful and old westerns are wonderful. There were a lot of just lousy old westerns and some terrific new action films. There's a place for both. My problem is that the action movie mindset and genre has totally displaced the western movie one.

And I can't help but wonder how much damage that's done to our culture and the perception of heroes, right, and wrong among our youth.

*If you ever get a chance, read the book Shane. Its even better than the movie.

TREBLE HACK

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action."
-Auric Goldfinger

Sony has been having a lot of problems lately. Their Playstation network was hacked a few weeks back and personal data from 25 million customers was taken, including credit card numbers, passwords, and so on. For weeks their SOE and Playstation network went black as they worked on the problem, then they came back with big apologies and gifts for people. Paying customers were given free time on their games, and Sony promised they were better prepared now, and offered free Identity Theft protection services at their expense.

Then they got hacked again. This time, the hackers hit Sony Online Entertainment, which is their host for Everquest, Star Wars Galaxies, DC Heroes, and other MMOGs. Again tens of millions of customers had their personal data stolen by hackers. Their games went black again as the problem was worked on.
Link
Now, we find out that Sony was hacked again (NSFW site). This time the damage was significantly less, with "loyalty points" stolen from repeat and long-time customers. These points could be redeemed to buy various things from games, and were not very valuable in real world dollars.

What is going on I'm sure is a focus of intense investigation, but it seems to me that its pretty likely someone inside Sony is behind the whole problem - an insider who works with the hackers. All that credit card information, all those passwords, all those addresses and names and game data are worth a lot. Everquest isn't the giant it used to be, but people still pay real world money for plat and items in-game, and that's true for all their games. Players are going to come back to naked characters stripped by hackers for gear and to sell for cash.

Its suspected that the third hack came from data that was gathered in the previous ones, and that the second hack was done using what was learned from the first, in the same manner. What is certain is that some computer savy mob (I'd guess Russian or Chinese) just earned a lot of cash at Sony's expense, and players are going to be extremely hesitant to trust Sony with any credit card information.

World of Warcraft has been having hacker problems for a while so they installed an "authenticator" system which generates a special short-term six digit code, making hacking based on passwords virtually impossible. The problem is, the Sony hack was done through Sony, not through the customer end, so all the authenticators in the world are useless to stop that.

Computer crime is a real problem, and as long as companies like SOE and Blizzard exist, they'll be prey for these outfits. When a bank is robbed, various governments protect the investments and savings of customers, but these games are often international and the assets are imaginary. My level 68 Wizard in Everquest I retired over 6 years ago is almost certainly standing naked in the Bazaar now, penniless. I don't even recall what gear he had, but the password and credit card info is long, long since out of date so at least its useless for the hackers. His gear wasn't all that great anyway.

In any case, buyer beware, there's no way to be completely safe with these online games, and in some ways they're more vulnerable than other businesses. It might be a good idea to use a dedicated gaming-only credit card that's unrelated to the rest of your banking for this sort of transaction.

Lets hope they get the bad guys. On the bright side, Sony is going to work hard for a year or more rebuilding their reputation, so expect tons of fun ads, interesting material in their games, special promotions, and giveaways.

PICTURE OF THE DAY

Angry Kitty

Quote of the Day

“No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time.”
-James Madison

Monday, May 23, 2011

NON RAPTIERA

"Don’t have a Rapture joke?
That’s ok…
It’s not the end of the world!"

The Raptor
No the world didn't end over the weekend. I've written about this in the past but its worth repeating: the Bible does not tell when Jesus will return. In fact, it says rather the opposite: nobody knows, nobody will know, it will come as a shock, so be ready.

For Christians, this is motivation to live a better life and work around you to make the world better, because that's what we're told to be doing when Jesus shows up. And that's why predictions like this last one are so disturbing and upsetting to me.

I don't care if some fellow figures Jesus will come on May 21 and gets ready. I care if someone does that then spends millions advertising and pushing this so that misery and sadness result when he's wrong and worse, people spend hours mocking Christians and Christ as a result. Sure, most of it is just having fun but for some reason this really took off.

What's even more disturbing in some ways is that the people who honestly and genuinely believed this prediction - including Camping himself - are so hurt, confused, and in trouble now. Here are a few quick news stories on the topic:
A group of South Africans who expected to ascend to heaven on May 21 have instead found themselves stuck with a massive hotel bill. (hey, maybe you shouldn't have tried to rip off the Hotel by vanishing without paying the bill? Does that really seem Christian to you?)

The Atlantic has a story about various people who were hoping to finally go home and live in paradise with their savior, finding out they won't yet.

And Harold Camping himself, an 89 year-old, is flabbergasted that he's still around.
Camping made the same sort of prediction in 1994, and for some bizarre reason people took him seriously again, but last time not too many people noticed. This time the whole world was talking about it.

But people like Camping should not: nobody talked about it in the context he wanted. I don't know exactly, but I believe he spent his whole fortune on advertising so that people would repent, as an evangelistic endeavor. The idea was to get people thinking "wow, the world is going to end in judgement? I better get right with God!"

But that didn't happen, because let's be reasonable here: if you don't believe in God, why would you believe he's returning? It just didn't make sense. Nobody who is going to become a Christian is sitting around waiting for the right moment to flip the switch, it just doesn't work that way.

So now people are giggling at Christian, deluded into thinking that we all went along with Camping's nonsense. Sure, I wanted it to be true, but I knew it wasn't because of what Jesus specifically and clearly told us. And the Christian church didn't stand up and say "look, we love brother Camping and appreciate his zeal for evangelism but he's just wrong here." I said something but for the most part I let it go because its not like he didn't pull this before and why would anyone pay attention.

This time, for whatever reason, they did. And while I'll take 100 Harold Campings over 1 crazed Muslim radical hacking someone's head off, the damage has still been done, God forgive us.

Incidentally, for the tag line I tried to find good rapture jokes, but most of them weren't funny, just "ha ha F the Christians" stuff.