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Battleship sinks itself

Just in case you were wondering, the Battleship movie is as stupid as it seems: "I was floored by just what new levels of stupidity in cinema the film achieves. The premise is insultingly stupid, the dialogue more so, and I’m torn over what is more cartoonish, the cliché character stereotypes or the godawful CGI. It even has a laughable post credit scene trying to set up for a sequel, the possibility of which should have every one of you in a cold sweat." (via Making Light) Cory

Byron Sonne is an innocent man

Twitter's #freebyron hashtag is alive with the news that Byron Sonne, the Toronto-area security expert who was incarcerated and treated as a terrorist for pointing out and making fun of the security flaws in the $1.2B security scheme for the Toronto G20 summit, has been found Not Guilty on all counts.

A moment of sanity from the Canadian judicial system, and all it cost was Sonne's marriage, house, and freedom.

Here's our earlier Sonne pieces.

#freebyron

Black-light acrobats Fighting Gravity send trademark threat over unrelated fantasy novel called "Fighting Gravity"

That Neil Guy sez, "Writer Leah Petersen received a Cease and Desist notice. Seems the title of her debut novel, Fighting Gravity, is also the name of a live performance group that appeared on America's Got Talent. As Leah writes on her blog, the claim is that 'the title of my science fiction novel about a couple of teenage guys in a romantic relationship is an infringement on the trademark for their black-light, gravity-defying illusion performance group.' Now she gets to pay for a lawyer. Lucky her."

Update: And it's off: "Fighting Gravity To Leah Peterson and her fans: Disregard the cease and desist letter that was issued by our lawyers. Although imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, some people have taken that too far and we have had to deal with it. By no means is Leah Peterson one of those people, our lawyers were just doing their jobs and trying to protect our name and trademark. We wish the best for Leah and hope her book becomes a great success! " Cory

Richard Clark: the President should create customs inspections for data leaving American cyberspace

Zartan sez, "This might be the single stupidest thing I've read all year. Richard Clark advocates that the president take action to 'increase cyber security' in the absence of congressional action, including literally hilarious (if not so scary) ideas like the following: 'If given the proper authorization, the United States government could stop files in the process of being stolen from getting to the Chinese hackers. If government agencies were authorized to create a major program to grab stolen data leaving the country, they could drastically reduce today’s wholesale theft of American corporate secrets.' 'Under Customs authority, the Department of Homeland Security could inspect what enters and exits the United States in cyberspace... And under the Intelligence Act, the president could issue a finding that would authorize agencies to scan Internet traffic outside the United States and seize sensitive files stolen from within our borders.' I would love to know how he would propose Homeland Security could 'inspect' what is leaving the US in 'cyberspace' and 'seize' sensitive files outside our borders. Unfortunately this guy is somewhat influential." Cory

If you're on parole, don't steal a judge's office-door nameplate (If you do, don't pose with it on Facebook)

21-year-old Steven Mulhall cut a Spicolian caper when he stole the nameplate off a judge's courthouse office-door, then posed with it for a photo, which his romantic ladyfriend posted to Facebook. It was discovered by a law enforcement professional, who took the fellow into custody.

Adding to the stupidity quotient, Mulhall did this while already on parole for theft. "The nameplate is [worth] only $40, not that big of a crime, but what an idiot," said Sheriff Al Lamberti. "Here he is flaunting it on Facebook. He violated the terms of his parole by stealing, from a judge no less. He's got multiple convictions for petty theft, so now this is a felony." Lamberti said the plate would be "returned to the rightful owner," who, again, is a judge.

Note: Add "Judge's Nameplate" to List of Things Not to Steal

Wyoming's aircraft carrier dreams dashed

Wyoming's legislature has defeated its House Bill 85, on third reading, thus ending the state's plan to investigate buying an aircraft carrier (and equipping a military) to defend the state should the USA collapse. Cory

SOPA's author wants everything you do online logged and made available without a warrant

Lamar Smith (R-TX), author of the ill-starred SOPA Internet regulation, has an even dumber idea for the Internet. In the name of fighting child pornography, he wants to force ISPs to log everything you do online, then make it available to police and government agents without a warrant. Leslie Meredith has a writeup on the mounting opposition to Smith's latest act of unconstitutional lunacy:

However, under Smith’s bill, records of both suspects and ordinary citizens would all be available to any government agency at any time, no warrant required.

"This type of legislation goes against the fundamental values of our country where individuals are treated as innocent until proven guilty," Reitman said. "H.R. 1981 would uproot this core American principle, forcing ISPs to treat everyone like a potential criminal."

The bill has been forwarded from committee to the full House of Representatives for consideration, which is expected later this year. There is no sign of a Senate version at this time.

If the past is any indicator, Smith may be in for a hard fight with activists. He was also sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill that would have shut off access to foreign websites accused of hosting pirated content. But he was forced to withdraw the legislation after massive protests by many of the same opponents who likewise thought the remedy was too harsh for the problem.

Child porn law could affect everyone's privacy

Canadian universities sign bone-stupid copyright deal with collecting society: emailing a link is the same as making a photocopy, faculty email to be surveilled

Under a new deal signed by the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto, the act of emailing a link will be classed as equivalent to photocopying, and each student and faculty member will cost the universities $27.50/year for this right that the law gives them for free, along with a collection of other blanket licenses of varying legitimacy. In order to enforce these licenses, all faculty email will be subject to surveillance.

“Toronto’s and Western Ontario’s actions are inexplicable,” said James L. Turk, CAUT executive director. “They have buckled under to Access Copyright’s outrageous and unjustified demands at a time when courts have extended rights to use copyrighted material, better alternatives are becoming available to the services Access offers and just before the passage of new federal copyright legislation that provides additional protections for the educational sector”.

Turk also pointed out that the Supreme Court is set to clarify the educational use of copyrighted works in the coming months, clarifications that could undercut Access’s bargaining position. In contrast to Western Ontario and Toronto, many institutions have opted out of agreements with Access Copyright or are fighting its demands at the Copyright Board of Canada.

“These two universities threw in the towel on the copyright battle prematurely,” said Turk. “We call on other post-secondary institutions not to follow Toronto’s and Western Ontario’s example of capitulating to Access Copyright. It‘s time to stand up for the right to fair and reasonable access to copyrighted works for educational purposes”.

Copyright agreement with Western and Toronto a bad and unwarranted deal (via O'Reilly Radar)

PayPal: if you don't like the violin you bought, smash it and we'll give you your money back


Just when you thought PayPal couldn't get any stupider, well, they get stupider. Erica sold an antique violin to someone who paid $2500 for it over PayPal. The buyer disputed the authenticity of the violin -- which had been authenticated by a top luthier -- and PayPal instructed him that he could have his money back if he destroyed the violin. He did, and sent the photo of the destroyed, one-of-a-kind, precious instrument to the seller and PayPal. PayPal took the $2500 back from Erica, gave it to the violin-smasher, and called it a day.

I am now out a violin that made it through WWII as well as $2500. This is of course, upsetting. But my main goal in writing to you is to prevent PayPal from ordering the destruction of violins and other antiquities that they know nothing about. It is beyond me why PayPal simply didn’t have the violin returned to me.

I spoke on the phone to numerous reps from PayPal who 100% defended their action and gave me the party line.

From the Mailbag (via Consumerist)

SOPA in depth: the worst-ever copyright proposal in US legislative history?

SOPA, the House version of the US Senate's PROTECT-IP Bill, might be the worst-ever copyright proposal in US legislative history. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has begun a series of articles examining the bill in depth, explaining just how insane it is. Here's part one:

If an IP rightsholder (vaguely defined – could be Justin Bieber worried about his publicity rights) thinks you meet the criteria and that it is in some way harmed, it can send a notice claiming as much to the payment processors (Visa, Mastercard, Paypal etc.) and ad services you rely on.

Once they get it, they have 5 days to choke off your financial support. Of course, the payment processors and ad networks won’t be able to fine-tune their response so that only the allegedly infringing portion of your site is affected, which means your whole site will be under assault. And, it makes no difference that no judge has found you guilty of anything or that the DMCA safe harbors would shelter your conduct if the matter ever went to court. Indeed, services that have been specifically found legal, like Rapidshare, could be economically strangled via SOPA. You can file a counter-notice, but you’ve only got 5 days to do it (good luck getting solid legal advice in time) and the payment processors and ad networks have no obligation to respect it in any event. That’s because there are vigilante provisions that grant them immunity for choking off a site if they have a “reasonable belief” that some portion of the site enables infringement.

SOPA: Hollywood Finally Gets A Chance to Break the Internet

Visualizing Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan to redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich

Maybe you've heard about Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan for America: 9% sales tax, 9% income tax, and 9% corporate tax, and wondered how it would play out in the real world. Here's a chart that illustrates the answer neatly (click for full, farcically long-ass version): the poor will pay a little more (or a lot more, relative to their income), and the rich will pay a lot less, and the very rich will pay so much less that it takes 9403 vertical pixels to express how much they'll save.

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Canadian government advice defines abortionists as terrorists

From the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, a helpful banker's guide to spotting "single-issue terrorists," which includes (apparently) abortionists and ecological extremists. It also groups attacks on property with attacks on people, and sales of books and literature with sales of false identification documents.

Counter-terrorism specialists define single-issue or special interest terrorist groups as being motivated by political and social issues and as using violence and criminal activities to further their agendas. Single-issue terrorists may include militant minority rights activists, abortionists, animal rights activists and ecological/environmental extremists. They believe that their legitimate cause morally justifies their extremist violent behavior in opposition to government action or inaction. Terrorist attacks include the use of bombs, such as mail and car bombs. Their targets are often research laboratories, clinics and individuals' property. Single-issue terrorist groups function domestically but have an international scope.

WIPO boss: the Web would have been better if it was patented and its users had to pay license fees


Last June, the Swiss Press Club held a launch for the Global Innovation Index at which various speakers were invited to talk about innovation. After the head of CERN and the CEO of the Internet Society spoke about how important it was that the Web's underlying technology hadn't been patented, Francis Gurry, the Director General of the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), took the mic to object.

In Gurry's view, the Web would have been better off if it had been locked away in patents, and if every user of the Web had needed to pay a license fee to use it (and though Gurry doesn't say so, this would also have meant that the patent holder would have been able to choose which new Web sites and technologies were allowed, and would have been able to block anything he didn't like, or that he feared would cost him money).

This is a remarkable triumph of ideology over evidence. The argument that there wasn't enough investment in the Web is belied by the fact that a) the Web attracted more investment than any of the network service technologies that preceded it (by orders of magnitude), and; b) that the total investment in the Web is almost incalculably large. The only possible basis for believing that the Web really would have benefited from patents is a blind adherence to the ideology that holds that patents are always good, no matter what.

Here's the video; Gurry's talk starts at 0:49:50. The image above shows Gurry announcing his theory, while the reps from CERN and ISOC look on. Caption as you see fit.

Intellectual property is a very flexible instrument. So, for example, had the world wide web been able to be patented, and I think that is a question in itself, perhaps the amount of investment that has gone into or would be able to go into basic science would be different. If you had found a very flexible licensing model, in which the burden for the innovation of the world wide web had been shared across the whole user community in a very fair and reasonable manner, with a modest contribution for everyone for this wonderful innovation, it would have enabled enormous investment in turn in further basic research. And that is the sort of flexibility that is built into the intellectual property system. It is not a rigid system...

UK Labour Party wants journalism licenses, will prohibit "journalism" by people who are "struck off" the register of licensed journalists

The UK Labour party's conference is underway in Liverpool, and party bigwigs are presenting their proposals for reinvigorating Labour after its crushing defeat in the last election. The stupidest of these proposals to date will be presented today, when Ivan Lewis, the shadow culture secretary, will propose a licensing scheme for journalists through a professional body that will have the power to forbid people who breach its code of conduct from doing journalism in the future.

Given that "journalism" presently encompasses "publishing accounts of things you've seen using the Internet" and "taking pictures of stuff and tweeting them" and "blogging" and "commenting on news stories," this proposal is even more insane than the tradition "journalist licenses" practiced in totalitarian nations.

I'm all for hanging up Murdoch and his phone hackers by their thumbs, but you don't need to license journalists to get that done: all you need to do is prosecute them under existing criminal statutes. In other words, the only "journalism code of conduct" the UK needs to avert another phone hacking scandal is "don't break the law." Of course, it would help if government didn't court favour with the likes of Murdoch, as was the case under Labour (and is the case with today's Tories).

For a party eager to shed its reputation as sinister, spying authoritarians, Labour's really got its head up its arse.

Lewis will suggest that newspapers should introduce a system whereby journalists could be struck off a register for malpractice. And he will question David Cameron's reluctance to explain why he made Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor, his communications director both in opposition and then in government. He will say: "I believe in second chances too. So, isn't it time you and George Osborne came clean about Andy Coulson?"

Insurer: music-festival tragedy caused by illegal downloading

Ernesto sez, "In August, after an unexpected summer storm, 4 people died when one of the festival tents at pukkelpop collapsed, leaving 10s of other people injured. The festival's insurance companies now claim this drama was caused by illegal downloading. The reasoning being that fewer CD sales have led to an emphazise on live-acts and festivals. Pukkelpop is a yearly music festival in Belgium (since 1985) attracting up to 180.000 visitors and has sold out every year since I can remember." (Thanks, Ernesto!)