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Comment: Weak "yea" I guess on this (Score 1) 121

Maybe the only good film ever directed by some guy who worked on Star Wars and has a tie to Lucas. I guess it gets a weak "yea" but this guy is not a good director. I had an unusual chance a few years ago to have a personal conversation with an actor or actress (I'm unwilling to name who I talked to) who appeared in "Prisoner Of The Sun" which finally got released last year and was directed by Christian. I specifically asked about that film and the person who acted in it said that they had doubts that it would ever see the light of day and they didn't think it was probably going to be very good if it did. Based on the IMDB rating, it looks like that person was right. I can say that the person I talked to did not have any negative comments about Christian himself, they just didn't really have a good feeling about that movie. Not sure given the track record that I'm going to invest 30 minutes in watching this one.

Comment: Not really about lie detectors per se (Score 5, Informative) 245

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

I took a look at the actual indictment. Well, at least the first few pages. Remember how people still insist to this day that Bill Clinton wasn't impeached (he was - impeaching does not mean convicting) or that he was impeached for "cheating on his wife"? Years later, the lies spun by his spin doctors still hold fast in many minds. Clinton was impeached for committing perjury in a civil trial. Now the event he committed perjury about was cheating on Hilary, but he was impeached for lying about it while under oath, not for the actual act of cheating on her. Similarly, this indictment isn't really and truly about beating lie detector tests. The government's contention is that Williams had a business whose purpose was to enable people ineligible for certain government jobs to get those jobs through lying and deception. This is defrauding the US government because salaries would be paid to those ineligible people. The government also contends that he enriched himself (through fees he charged) by encouraging people to lie to and deceive the federal government into hiring ineligible people for jobs. The first 6 or so pages I looked at don't actually mention anything about lie detector tests.

Comment: Re:Ah ... AOL .. so overrated ... (Score 1) 153

After dialup disappeared, AOL had plenty of cash in the bank. So they became a type of venture capital. They bought Huffington Post, Tech Crunch and many others. Since they actually have a lot of web traffic, they started an advertising business.

Thank you for this explanation. I was really struggling to understand why Verizon would want to pay so much for the dial up business but clearly they want everything else and are just taking the dial up business as part of a complete package, not specifically trying to get that.

Comment: Re:the rigamarole is political, not diplomatic (Score 4, Informative) 169

The elaborate charade is all about convincing Congress that the negotiation is so complex that the president NEEDS fast-track authority to get this whole deal done.

Well, Bush asked for this kind of authority too, so do note that this not particular to Obama. The real reason the president wants this is to prevent individuals from tagging on bill busting riders where the president would have to veto his the agreement to stop some unacceptable after the negotiation condition from taking place which is exactly what the person wants who tagged the rider onto the bill. I never hear about other countries having this kind of problem. Can you imagine if you agreed to buy a house at a certain price and then you show up for closing and the owner says "Surprise! I never told you this before, but you have to buy me a new BMW to get the house." Nobody would go for that. But doing similar things in legislation is completely OK apparently. If you don't understand why all presidents regardless of party affiliation can't trust Congress to just leave the agreements alone before voting on them, then you don't understand why this is necessary.

Comment: Re:Best of intentions (Score 1) 226

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#49593833) Attached to: Grooveshark Shuts Down

Do courts give grovelling apologies enough weight that this 'contrition' is a logical strategy to try to reduce any awards of damages? Are such apologies sometimes added as conditions of a settlement, presumably so that the victor can grind the vanquished further into the dirt? Is there some other advantage to issuing one?

I'm not a lawyer, but as an informed layman I can only point out that in some/many/most cases, juries and not judges determine damage awards. Based on the juries I've served on, I can tell you that a rather large amount of people on a jury don't know anything about technology and thus tend to see this kind of thing in real black and white terms where they overvalue the "damage" that the defendant does. I've never served on a jury where this strategy would have made any difference in the damage awards, but they may be gambling that just giving up may stop the lawsuit in that the music companies may find it cheaper to reach a quick settlement where the founders/owners agree never to do this again than to try to get blood from a stone and squeeze money out of the defendants. Given that it was likely going to be a slam dunk in court to prove that Grooveshark violated copyright law and failed to pay legally required licensing fees, giving up and apologizing is probably the best choice out of a bunch of not very good choices. I've seen people and companies fight in court when it's been ridiculously easy to prove that they were in the wrong and the results of that have often been financially disastrous to the defendants.

Comment: Re:And why is bitcoin different? (Score 1) 253

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#49588415) Attached to: Bitcoin Is Disrupting the Argentine Economy

Other than the pixie dust and unicorn poop, what exactly keeps the government from charging you with nor reporting the money?

It's a valid question but I can speculate on reasons why they may not do that.
1) Incompetence.
2) Corruption. Specifically I mean that the people who investigate this can often be bribed in nations with major economic problems to look the other way.
3) The current president can always fall back on the old tried and try cry of "Britain stole the Islas Malvinas from us! We must get them back!" to distract citizens from paying attention to the economy.
4) Blaming the USA for everything is another always successful policy to distract the population.

Comment: Re:Does it matter? (Score 1) 52

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#49570177) Attached to: TeslaCrypt Isn't All That Cryptic

Anyone with a brain:

Would you trust the guys that infected your system, removed your access to files, ransomed the decryption key from you etc. to correctly - and perfectly - restore your untouched data?

Because, I know I wouldn't.

I understand your point, but in the case of individuals, most non-techies are often too embarrassed to ask a technical person for help in such situations, so they just pay and hope for the best. In the case of businesses, I can tell you as someone who works in IT for a Fortune 500 company and has to deal with IT staff in much smaller companies on a regular basis, smaller companies often don't have the best IT people. A lot of times I see that small companies just hire whoever they can get for the bottom tier wages they pay because they don't respect the job and they would outsource it to India if they really could do so. The IT staff of such companies are just barely competent enough to deal with most ordinary situations that come up and anything out of the ordinary like this gets way out of their comfort and knowledge zone. Maybe they have backups, but to actually verify those backups? Keep hashes? Probably not on both of those.

Comment: Reasons why people become hostages (Score 5, Interesting) 334

I've been thinking about this for a long time, especially after the rash of hostages killed by ISIS. At this point, nobody can really claim to not know the danger. I know nothing about Lo Porto but Weinstein clearly knew the dangers. So we did he stay there? I think there are several reasons why westerners put themselves in deliberate danger in places like Pakistan, Syria, etc.

1) Some people are simply mentally ill. After the first Japanese hostage was killed by ISIS, it came out that he was mentally ill. Not mentally ill enough to need to be locked away, but clearly incapable of making rational decisions regarding his own safety. People like this are simply always going to gravitate towards dangerous places because the internet makes sure that they know where the really dangerous places are.
2) Some people believe that they are special and the bad guys won't go after them because they are "helping". Most of the hostages fall into this category. Weinstein was like this. Alan Henning fell into this category and possibly the first one as well. Reports are that Henning believed to the very end that the fact that he was there to help would save his life. Sometimes these people get away with being in a dangerous location once and they think that they are simply lucky and won't ever be harmed. Henning went into Syria several times and was left alone. The second Japanese hostage executed by ISIS went to help the first one and he went because he'd been to the area before and thought he was special and the bad guys would leave him alone.
3) Some people are so overcome with their desire to help others that they can't rationally assess the danger and while they know if they are captured it's going to end very badly for them, they believe that they will simply beat the odds. Remember many years ago when Americans and Europeans volunteered to be human shields for Saddam Hussein? They were like this. A few months ago it got announced that a young American female hostage was supposedly killed in a bombing raid against ISIS. She had operated in the area previously and had to know the danger, but she believed that because nobody had yet bothered her that she could work there at no risk. She died as a result of being wrong about that.

There's some overlap between those vague 3 reasons I gave for people ignoring the real danger to be in places like Pakistan and Syria and so on, but I don't know how we can ever stop people from willingly becoming victims of their own bad decisions about personal risk.

Comment: Re:Public domain? (Score 3, Interesting) 309

Does anyone know if *any* work has become public domain in the last few years in US and Canada? From what I see it just sounds like anything that's was copyrighted will now forever be copyrighted as copyright gets extended by X years every X years (with X=20 here).

In the USA, the answer is "no". Unfortunately, some years ago the classical music label Naxos got greedy and put out a CD in the USA of a 1930s classical work, specifically Pablo Casal's recordings of the complete Bach cello suites. In Europe this recording had clearly entered the public domain, but not in the USA. In fact, there was no question that it was still under US copyright at the time Naxos put it out. Not only was it under copyright, but the US copyright owner (Capitol Records) had their own copy in print and sued Naxos for copyright violation. It was really idiotic for Naxos to try to get away this in the US market and they lost the case. But a worst case scenario happened in the case. The court that heard it (in my opinion) basically made up the law and came to the conclusion that every recording every made or sold in the USA, even as far back as Edison's first attempts in the late 1800s, was still under copyright in the USA because they basically claimed that "common law copyright" protected them until the US law covered them. Naxos couldn't really appeal this because they had no way to argue that what they did was legal, so this horrible court decision that all US sound recordings are still under copyright became US law. Short of convincing Congress to pass a law on the subject, we're basically screwed now as there's nothing ever recorded or sold in the USA that is in the public domain at this time. Do note that this crazy legal finding doesn't apply to books, movies or anything else.

Comment: Solution to copyright extension (Score 1) 309

While I don't personally agree with this, I get that businesses and musicians and such want copyright to last for a really really long time. There's a way to meet their desires and satisfy the public's desire for things to actually enter the public domain. If these copyrights are so valuable that 50 years is simply too short, then rather than give extensions away for free, make the copyright holder fill out a form, just like they used to have to do, and pay big money for an extension. Offer 20 year extensions, but make the rate they charge go up exponentially with each renewal. Perhaps the first renewal costs $100,000. The 2nd renewal costs $10 million dollars. The 3rd renewal costs $1 billion and so on. I'm pretty sure that even Disney isn't going to pay $1 billion to keep Steamboat Willie out of the public domain or even if they do pay it for that one, there would be plenty of other properties that they simply can't afford to renew and thus they'd have to enter the public domain. If these are so valuable then why isn't the government getting paid for each renewal? And if the copyright holders forget to renew in time, well, tough. In the old days people did forget to renew and nobody cried out that this was just the most unfair thing ever in the history of mankind.

Comment: Re:We can learn from this (Score 1) 163

You might ask, "Well if we know what the problem is, we can fix it! Why not close the loopholes?" The fundamental problem there is that the people in position to close the loopholes are the ones receiving the bribes, and they want the bribes to keep coming. The only thing that could get them to change the law would be if their corporate overlords, i.e. those providing the bribes, bribed them to make it illegal. The problem with that is that the corporate overlords also want the bribes to remain legal, so that they can influence public officials.

I don't remember the exact wording, but I read somewhere where I think a lawyer said something like this - "You pass a law. I use a hole in your law. You plug the hole. I drill a hole in your plug." This is the real reason why the loopholes can't ever be closed. Lawyers, which is what most politicians are, are simply too good at finding ways around everything.

Finally, you might say, "Well why not just vote those bribe-takers out of office?" The problem there is that the bribes are used to buy elections. Without that money, you can't run ads, you can't get on TV, and you can't even participate in the public debate.

I think the real problem is that probably about 70-75% of the US electorate votes only on party affiliation and nothing else in a general election and they simply won't ever vote for a candidate of the other party. This is the reason why people keep getting re-elected to Congress once they get in as long as they don't commit outright crimes. The money does help in primaries and in rare general elections that are up for grabs. I've never voted in an election for the US House that was actually competitive. I've lived in both solid Democrat and Republican districts at various times and none of those elections ever had a candidate from the less popular political party have a real chance to win.

Comment: Re:stop with the pipes already. (Score 1) 678

Farms: the northern half of the US is going to need to stop insisting on a seasonless produce aisle. Its unsustainable. Strawberries in january contribute to carbon emissions and water depletion. Stop pumping the avocado market and realize its a fatty fruit that doesnt need to become the staple diet of a population with 60% obesity and leading the world in heart disease. We dont need to be grazing cattle and making rice, a crop that requires a flooded field. The thing we do best is dates, a plant that grows in arid climates anyhow.

Pretty ignorant posting for a post currently modded "5, Insightful". Dude, there's no chance avocados are going to become a "staple diet" of the USA. It would be great from a health perspective if they did because they contain heart healthy fats and they can make you feel full in addition to being good sources of various nutrients but I can tell you that actually it seems to me that most people I know don't like them very much. Is there really all that much cattle grazing and rice growing in California? All the US rice I've seen comes from either Texas, Louisiana or Arkansas. I would think that land is too valuable in California to use it for cattle grazing. And sorry man, but I'm not real crazy about dates and neither are most Americans. Date palms don't tolerate cold weather at all, which is why I assume they only grow them much further south than Los Angeles. You can actually get snow there on rare occasions, which is very bad for date palms.

Comment: In the end did Wu just brute force it? (Score 1) 58

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#49509819) Attached to: Computer Beats Humans At Arimaa
Many years ago, it was assumed that in order for a computer to beat humans at chess that major advances would have to happen in artificial intelligence. In the end IBM just simply brute forced an approach by basically allowing the computer the equivalent of an open book test against a poor human who could only go by memory. Maybe some improvements got made in searching in order to beat humans, but I think that's about it. I know that arimaa was developed in the hope that it would spur new AI advances in order for a computer to beat humans. I have no idea - did Wu just simply brute force his way to victory? Is arimaa so little played by humans that the best players are far weaker at it than humans are at chess and thus it just wasn't all that hard to eventually write a program that could defeat the best human players? Did Wu actually advance the art any with his winning program?

Comment: Re:Advanced Voting Solutions (Score 1) 105

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#49485561) Attached to: The Voting Machine Anyone Can Hack

Considering the company gave $32M to various democratic campaign orgs during the 2012 election cycle, this should come as no surprise.

It is absolutely no coincidence that VA and PA, both reddish states, and both critical to Obama's re-election, somehow fell to the blue category using these voting machines.

Democratic supporters in 2004 claimed that Ohio was "stolen" to help Bush win re-election. It seems funny to me that the losing side always claims the winning side cheated. If the Republicans cheated in 2004, then why did they lose Ohio in the two following elections? I know it's always fun to tout conspiracy theories, but the simple truth is that in presidential elections, a significant number of Democratic supporters vote that can't be bothered to go to the polls otherwise. Florida went to Obama in 2008 and 2012 but it will likely be a cold day in Hell before a Democrat can win a state election there in a non-presidential election year. Same with VA and PA.

Work expands to fill the time available. -- Cyril Northcote Parkinson, "The Economist", 1955