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Journal Journal: Akismet: July Stats Roundup

This post is part of a monthly series summarizing some stats and figures from the Akismet universe. Feel free to browse all of the posts in the series.

In July, Akismet saw 5,608,437,500 pieces of spam come through. If each piece of spam were a bo... ( http://www.wpblogsupport.com/akismet-july-stats-roundup/)

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Journal Journal: Tom Green

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Feed Techdirt: Appeals Court Smacks Down Team Prenda... Again (google.com)

Back in April it seemed fairly clear that the 7th Circuit Appeals Court panel set up to hear the Prenda appeal of the Lightspeed v. Anthony Smith case was not impressed by Team Prenda. I mean, when a judge directly states "there's a lot of shell games going on here" and also points out that it's "shocking" that the lawyer representing Prenda has no idea about the relationship between Prenda, Alpha Law and Steele Hansmeier (a central issue in the case), you expect that the eventual ruling is going to not go well for Team Prenda, but you never really know until the ruling comes out. It has come out. And it is not good news for Team Prenda. Any time a ruling starts off with the following, you know you're going to be in for a good ride:

The first rule of holes, according to an old saying, is to stop digging. The two appeals before us bring that to mind, for reasons that will become apparent.
Yes, a failure to "stop digging" has long been a major fault many of us have associated with Prenda "mastermind" John Steele, and the judges clearly see that as well. They go through the history of the case, highlighting a bunch of questionable moves by Steele and Paul Hansmeier in demanding names from ISPs and using a bunch of questionable legal claims in the original lawsuit, and pretty quickly get at the "shell games":

At the same time, Hansmeier submitted a motion for pro hac vice admission; he did not identify a law firm on the form. Steele entered an appearance in which he listed his firm as Prenda Law. The firm affiliations, however, turned out to be provisional, to put it kindly. At the emergency motion hearing, Steele identified his firm as Steele Hansmeier PLLC, Duffy said that he was with Prenda Law, and Hansmeier was with something called Alpha Law Firm. Steele Hansmeier and Prenda are listed at the same street address, 161 North Clark Street, in Chicago, in different suites.
Later, the court notes dryly that when Hansmeier submitted a motion to withdraw, he did so "without indicating which firm he was with." The court then notes how Team Prenda was engaged in similar shenanigans elsewhere, citing the famous smackdown from Judge Otis Wright in California.

Then we get to the meat of the appeal. First, the silly claims (tried repeatedly) from Steele and Hansmeier that they were never properly informed about Smith's motion for sanctions. The court doesn't buy it. At all:

The record, however, does not support them. First, as the district court concluded, even if we assume that they did not have notice originally, that defect was cured when the district court granted rehearing on the sanctions issue. Indeed, in their briefs before this court, Steele and Hansmeier seem to concede as much. Their complaint has shifted to one focusing on the adequacy of their opportunity to respond. It is too late to change theories, however, and in any event, the district court correctly ruled that whatever procedural flaw there may have been was fully corrected by affording a new opportunity for a hearing. Finally, they received adequate notice in the first place.
The court further notes that the attempts by Steele and Hansmeier to claim that even if Duffy was properly notified it doesn't mean they were ring pretty hollow, given how the three of them keep collaborating and using the ever-shifting names of each other's law firms:

Duffy received notice, he was in charge of Prenda Law, and there was evidence that both Steele and Hansmeier were working for Prenda as well. While appellants huff that the district court “wholly gloss[ed] over the fact that Hansmeier noticed his appearance in the case for Alpha Law Firm, not Prenda Law,” the district court had ample reason to find the Prenda/Alpha distinction illusory at best, fraudulent at worst. Two days after Steele moved to withdraw from this case, he declared in another action that he was “of counsel with the law firm, Prenda Law, Inc.” and that Hansmeier was “also of counsel to the firm.” ... And this is to say nothing of the fact that at least once Hansmeier indicated in this case that he was of counsel to Prenda.
And, that's not all. The court unpacks a bunch of the connections:

A quick look at publicly available documents supports the district court’s finding that service on Duffy also accomplished service on Steele and Hansmeier. In its application for authorization to transact business in Florida, Steele Hansmeier, a Minnesota corporation, listed its mailing ad dress as 161 N. Clark St. No. 3200, Chicago, IL 60601. Paul Hansmeier is listed as Manager and his address is listed as 1111 Lincoln Rd., Suite 400, in Miami Beach, Florida....

Interestingly, 161 N. Clark St. Suite 3200 is also listed as the principal place of business for Prenda Law, Inc., in its 2011 application for authorization to transact business in Florida. Its registered agent, Mark Lutz, uses the same Miami Beach address as Hansmeier did in the Steele Hansmeier application.... Alpha’s connection to Steele Hansmeier and Prenda shows up in a search for Steele Hansmeier on Minnesota’s business filing site. There, Steele Hansmeier lists its registered address as 80 S. 8th St. #900 Alpha Law Firm, Minneapolis, MN 55402.
In conclusion, the court basically calls "bullshit" on Steele and Hansmeier:

Little more need be said. We are disappointed that the appellants’ own attorney, Daniel J. Voelker, was either unable or unwilling to tell us at oral argument about the precise relationship between Prenda and Alpha Law, despite its relevance for the issues on appeal. No matter: we have enough to conclude with confidence that notice to Duffy was reasonably calculated to apprise Steele and Hansmeier of the pendency of the motion. For the icing on the cake, we add that the district court also found that Steele received actual notice via email. Smith sent notice to the email address that Steele shared with Duffy. While Duffy argues that after he withdrew from the case he did not receive those emails, the district court did not find him to be credible. We have no reason to upset that assessment.
The ruling seems to be dripping with that kind of sarcastic understatement. The court then takes on the claim by Steele and Hansmeier that they were never given an opportunity "to be heard" in response to Smith's motion for sanctions. Again, the court says "yeah, right."

Once again, the record belies their assertion. As we have noted, they had adequate notice of the hearing. Duffy submitted a memorandum in opposition to Smith’s motion, but Steele and Hansmeier did not. Nonetheless, the court gave all three appellants another opportunity to be heard on the matter after they submitted motions to vacate or reconsider the order granting Smith’s request for attorneys’ fees. Before the rehearing, Steele and Hansmeier both submitted briefs in opposition to Comcast’s fees. They chose not to submit additional briefs (apart from what was presented in the motion to vacate or reconsider itself) on any other aspect of the order

At the hearing Hansmeier explained in detail why he thought that sanctions should not be imposed against him; Steele spoke as well. This more than sufficed as an opportunity to be heard.
The court then turns its attention to Duffy. Duffy whined that he wasn't given an opportunity to respond to the lower court's decision granting fees to ISPs. Remember, in this case Team Prenda made the incredibly stupid decision to drag Comcast and ATT into this lawsuit, after those two companies refused to just cough up names of people. Both companies decided to go after fees from Team Prenda, which they got. Duffy claimed that he never had a chance to respond to the motion for fees. The court, once again, points out that this is hogwash (or, more specifically, "frivolous.")

While Steele and Hansmeier submitted timely memoranda in opposition to the ISPs’ motions, Duffy did not. He asserts that he was not given an opportunity to respond because the district court ruled on the motions before the time to respond expired under the court’s local rules. This argument is frivolous. Duffy does not cite any local rule for this point, and had he taken the time to look at the rules, he quickly would have realized that there was time to respond. The ISPs electronically filed their motions on November 8, 2013. The local rules allow 17 days for any response to electronically filed motions... The rules provide that “[f]ailure to file a timely response to a motion may, in the Court’s discretion, be considered an admission of the merits of the motion.”.... Duffy had until November 25, 2013, to submit his response, but he did not file anything. The district court granted the ISPs’ motion on November 27, 2013. Duffy had an opportunity to respond; he simply chose not to exercise it.
The court also rejects the claim from all three that they didn't have a chance to respond to the details of the fee itemization, noting that all three "had a full opportunity to respond to Smith’s itemization but chose to focus on other issues." The court does admit that they didn't really have a chance to respond to the ISPs' itemization, but says "we conclude that this error was harmless." It notes that no one has come close to suggesting that the ISPs' itemization was unreasonable. In fact, the court points out that one of Team Prenda's arguments is that Smith's itemization is much higher than Comcasts -- suggesting that they find Comcast's to be more reasonable.

From there, they move on to the main act: Team Prenda wants to overturn the main ruling against them. The court is, again, not impressed:

Appellants next throw a variety of arguments regarding the substantive ruling against the wall, with the hope that one might stick. None does.
The court notes that Team Prenda's use of the CFAA to try to route around copyright laws was clearly bogus. Even noting that the CFAA is ridiculously broad, the court notes that "this is a frivolous charge." The court also rejects Team Prenda's Hail Mary attempt to blame ISPs because people may have infringed on their service, an argument that is clearly blocked by the law (citing the DMCA's safe harbors, though probably could have used CDA 230 as well for the non-copyright claims).

To this day, the appellants have provided no support for the idea that every time an internet user does something unlawful online, the user’s ISP is unjustly enriched because it continues receiving subscriber fees from the malefactor. The law in fact is to the contrary. See 17 U.S.C. 512(a) (a “service provider shall not be liable for infringement of copyright by reason of the provider’s transmitting, routing, or providing connections for” material distributed by others on its network).
As for the claim that there was a conspiracy between all the defendants, including the ISPs because they refused to cough up info? Um, no.

These assertions are utterly without legal merit. The complaint lacks even the most rudimentary allegation of agreement that would satisfy federal pleading standards. In addition, a service provider does not risk becoming a coconspirator every time it challenges a subpoena. To argue that challenging a subpoena makes the ISPs coconspirators in a fictional copyright infringement ring is frivolous. Appellants’ theory is all the more outrageous given the fact that the Illinois Supreme Court quashed a functionally identical abusive subpoena.
The court basically agrees with everything the district court said about Team Prenda's scheming in deciding that they deserved to be sanctioned for their actions:

The district court similarly did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorneys’ fees to Smith from the inception of the suit. Lightspeed raised baseless claims and pressed for a meritless “emergency” discovery hearing. The district court found that the litigation “smacked of bully pretense.” At the November 13, 2013, hearing on fees, the court could not have been more clear: it stated that appellants were engaged in “abusive litigation simply filing a lawsuit to do discovery to find out if you can sue somebody. That’s just utter nonsense.” We see no need to belabor the point. The record amply supports the district court’s conclusions, as our discussion of the case thus far demonstrates. There was no abuse of discretion in the court’s decision to grant either the ISPs or Smith fees for the entire case
So far, Team Prenda seems to be scoring a perfect zero, and their luck doesn't get any better as they move into challenging the fact that the court lumped all of them together in making them jointly and severally liable. Team Prenda didn't like it. The court says, deal with it:

Appellants begin by asserting that the district court misapplied section 1927 by holding them vicariously liable for each others’ actions. They are mistaken. While it is true that section 1927 liability is direct..., an order holding parties jointly and severally liable for costs after determining that each one is individually liable is a finding of direct liability.

Next, they contend that FM Industries, Inc. v. Citicorp Credit Services, Inc...., stands for the proposition that a lawyer cannot be held responsible for documents that bear another’s name but not his own. FMI, however, does not stand for such a broad proposition. There, we upheld sanctions against an attorney, but we found that they could not be levied against the copyright specialist retained by plaintiff’s principal counsel....


The relevant question thus relates to the scope of responsibility undertaken by each individual attorney. In our case, the district court found that while Steele and Hansmeier were not listed on every court document, the evidence showed that they were “in cahoots” with Duffy and worked with him to use the judicial system for a legally meritless claim. Their efforts seem to have continued in this court. While both Steele and Hansmeier now contend that they showed up in this case only after the federal proceedings were underway, the record shows that both were also involved in the shadows of the state court proceedings. Steele called ATT’s counsel about the subpoenas, and he appeared and argued against the ISPs’ motion to quash and motion to stay. Hansmeier appeared at a conference before a magistrate judge and was the sole signatory of the 10page opposition to the ISPs’ motion for the stay of discovery. While Steele and Hansmeier insist that they had only minimal activity with this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it found otherwise.
And finally, the court takes on Team Prenda's appeal for their being found in contempt by the district court. As you may recall, after the original district court ruling that told them to pay $261,025.11, Team Prenda simply ignored it. They didn't pay. When hit with the contempt claim, Team Prenda tried to pretend that the sanctions were ineligible for contempt (by twisting the law and pretending it was a "money judgment" and not "sanctions") and then claiming they couldn't pay. This was when the court ordered financial statements from all of them, receiving documents where the CPA who prepared them flat out admitted that they "elected to omit substantially all of the disclosures required by generally accepted accounting principles." And thus, they were found in contempt, and Team Prenda appealed that too. Guess what the appeals court thinks of that? You're right.

Appellants try to evade it by arguing that they thought the order was for a money judgment. But this was neither private nor public litigation against the attorneys. What was at stake was the court’s power to govern its bar. As section 1927 (and for that matter 28 U.S.C. 1651) reflect, courts have the authority, through contempt proceedings, to sanction attorneys and to enforce their orders.... The moneyjudgment defense gets appellants nowhere.
Oh yeah, almost forgot. Team Prenda claimed there was no evidence that they didn't comply with the sanctions. The court laughs:

Appellants next argue that there is no evidence that they did not substantially comply with the order, or at least take reasonable and diligent steps to do so. This position ignores the record. At the showcause hearing appellants made clear that they had not paid anything and, when questioned about payment, they never pointed to any step in that direction. They elected instead to defend on the ground that they were unable to pay. Inability to pay is indeed a valid defense in contempt proceedings..., but the question whether the sanctions were paid is different from the question why payment was not made. The district court was entitled to answer the first one in the negative, given appellants’ admission on the record that they had neither paid the required amount to defendants nor posted a supersedeas bond.
What about the whole "inability to pay" thing? Yeah, guess what the court thinks of that. It simply notes that the burden of an inability to pay is a high one and it's totally on Team Prenda to prove -- and they totally failed to do that.

End result: appeals court basically calls bullshit on every single Prenda claim and upholds the original ruling and the contempt finding. It also notes that while it may have skipped over some of the many arguments Team Prenda threw against the wall "any arguments we have not discussed do not merit separate attention." Oh yeah, and the costs of the appeal are now to be added to the amount that Team Prenda has to pay up.

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Feed Google News Sci Tech: Facebook's free Internet app gives people in Zambia access to educational ... - (google.com)

New York Daily News

Facebook's free Internet app gives people in Zambia access to educational ...
New York Daily News
Facebook on Thursday unveiled an app to allow people around the world with mobile phones but no Internet access to access online services for health, education and basic communications. The Internet.org app is being released first in Zambia, and is to be...
Facebook to bring free mobile Internet access to ZambiaChristian Science Monitor
Facebook App Brings Free Internet To ZambiaInformationWeek
Facebook App Offers Free Web Access in ZambiaPC Magazine
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Comment Re:Limits of Measurement (Score 1) 144

That's pretty neat that if you have a few planets orbiting a star, they pull on each other to end up in the same plane long term. I didn't know that was the case. So flat galaxies come about from the stars themselves pulling each other into a flat orbit and organizing the galaxy like that. So that would mean an elliptical galaxy is a young one, and a flat one is an old one, where enough pull on each other interactions have happened. I think officially they claim it the other way, that elliptical ones are the old ones. Hmm.

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Comment Re:I wonder (Score 2) 162

That these breakdowns are lame excuses. If computers fails, have people forgot how to do the same process manually? It is better to halt all the flights than letting people through and risk "terrorists" flying? Are we that terrified?

You could just ask the questions that used to get asked back in the '50s. "Do you intend to bring down or otherwise defame the US government?"

Really. A UK humourist (Frank Muir?) wrote "Sole purpose of visit" on the form.

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Journal Journal: Process Mapping Software Storify

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Comment Re:Legitimate concerns (Score 2) 282

And meanwhile, as you worry about a hypothetical threat from your government

1) It's not hypothetical; history has shown many thousands of times over that people with power will inevitably abuse it. To say it's merely "hypothetical" demonstrates that you're ignorant of history.
2) Banning anonymity would infringe upon freedom of speech, privacy, and various other rights in and of itself. The government need not 'abuse' it in order for it to harm people's freedoms.

Though I don't expect you to be capable of understanding that infringing upon fundamental freedoms in the name of safety (from fucking bullies, no less) is rather repugnant.

real people with real lives are really having them destroyed by people who put themselves above the law through the mechanism of anonymity.

It's much worse to surrender fundamental freedoms in the name of safety. In the real world, sometimes lives will be lost, and sometimes there isn't a moral solution. Your 'solution' (which won't work anyway) is completely immoral.

I'm happy for you that you're comfortable with a black and white view where there are absolute rights that are the only important things and where any unintended harmful side effects can be explained away somehow

Whereas I am consistently saddened to see that there exist authoritarian fools who would ban something like anonymity merely because it could be abused. That has no business in any free country.

This is why we need ever more advanced tools to make tracking more difficult, and why free software is so important. To make the jobs of you authoritarians that much harder. You will fail, and you will fail hard.

Comment Re:You've lost me (Score 2, Informative) 28

Um - no. I'm farsighted, and like all farsighted people, I can see things at a distance (other cars, say, or the cell phone in that driver's hand) just fine. It's the text on my own cell's gps that I can't see without my reading glasses. (I have 20-14 vision, meaning I can see at 20 feet what the average person needs to stand 14 feet away to see. I just can't focus up close, meaning a foot or two away.) So no, I do NOT need my glasses to drive. And unlike you, I'm not lost.

Comment Re:Major application vendor headaches... (Score 2) 209

That was always my opinion. Unless you happen to run a business that has been completely solved in the enterprise software world - something like a mortgage broker or a restaurant - I would rather roll my own. I met a group who started a mortgage company and their entire business plan centered around using things off the shelf as they were intended to be used - designing their business processes around the available tools rather than trying to customize them to an existing business plan. Their IT shop was amazingly cheap - because they didn't customize anything. They even used off-the-shelf reports.

My business was such a niche market that nothing off-the-shelf would work for us without major customization. So we designed our own systems from the ground up around the business processes we needed automating. We ended up building a dozen CRM applications from scratch and definitely saved millions for the company on each one.

The nice thing is that everyone recognized how great it was that we saved them millions each year on software licenses while pumping up productivity across the enterprise. And we were all handsomely rewarded. And we all got rainbow ponies.....

Comment Re:Limits of Measurement (Score 1) 144

We simply cannot measure the speed of gravity because we cannot get the long distance out of it with exact position and accurate force measurements on a small time scale, like we can get out of measuring light, which can be bounced around with a mirror and stays high intensity for miles. Gravity always decays by r squared, an as far as I know there are no mirrors for gravitational phenomena, or high impedance zones for reflection or refraction of gravitational waves if it does indeed propagate by waves, and finite speed. Even the Sun's gravity, which is a huge mass, is barely pulling on my hair to make it stand up when the Sun is overhead, at noon, high up in the sky. It's too far, and its effects decay by r^2. So the best way to measure the speed of gravity is not through large distances, but short distances (and the need for mass and matter density puts a limit on how close you can get in r^2, as Iridium and Osmium are the densest things that we know of, at 22 g/cm3, only twice as dense as lead, and to build up weight you need to put some distance between the objects. There are some unstable artificial nuclei in the Periodic Table right under Iridium and Osmium, which may be the heaviest, densest things in existence under the physical conditions on this planet, but you can't really measure that if all you get in a reactor is like 5 atoms total that decay in 1.7 seconds half life. But if you could get a 50 kton dot 2 micron away from another one, that would be the way to go, as even a humongous weight Sun gives you almost nothing to measure. The shorter length drops linearly the speed measurement quantity, but it increases by the square the gravity effect. And under such short distances ultrashort time measurements are needed. Whatever the limits of short time measurements are, they can be pitted against this need of measuring speed of gravity in the lab, under the shortest possible distances.
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Journal Journal: Dead Bull Market Is Here!

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Comment Re:Six identifiable bullet points (Score 1) 180

, as you can tell from his meticulous list of instances when == is not transitive.

Which highlights his laughable ignorance. He clearly doesn't understand dynamic languages. If you do the same comparisons in other dynamic languages, or others with the relevant type casts, you'll get the exact same results.

Then again, I'm not trying to defend a long-debunked meme. I appreciate the effort you put in to your "rebuttal", but it's laughably incompetent. A bit like the "fractal" article itself.

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Comment Re:And no one will go to jail (Score 1) 266

Apparently what happened was that the CIA created a special firewall within the actual CIA network that they configured to allow Senate investigators to gain access to CIA files. It was this firewall the CIA monitored, which had the net effect of monitoring the Senate's access to the CIA. Even that is basically illegal, but assuming you could monitor what other people did to your network sounds like the sort of mistake a lot of people would make. It would be legal in almost any other setting, but not specifically in this context.

It doesn't appear so. It appears they didn't just monitor but tracked documents and then deleted them. They weren't just doing network monitoring they were doing ECM. The CIA has no right to anything that the Senate ultimately wants.

They were accused of doing this I believe, but the admission they made in the article that referenced the CIA internal investigation didn't claim that. I'm not saying they didn't do it, only that the article being discussed didn't assert that.

As to your last statement, there is no specific presumption that the Senate has direct authority over the CIA. In fact, under the Constitution the Senate cannot directly order the CIA to do anything as that would be a violation of separation of powers. What the CIA violated was an agreement made between the CIA (essentially the Executive) and the Senate to allow the Senate access to CIA files under certain conditions without interference. Without that agreement in place, the CIA would have broken no laws in monitoring the Senate's use of their network (that I'm aware of), no different than I would be within my legal rights to monitor the Senate's access to my network, even if court-ordered. The exact same logic also says any direct tampering of Congress' computers by the CIA would be illegal because it would represent unconstitutional interference between the two branches of government. It rarely comes to this, but the Supreme Court almost always rules that when any of the three branches of government (including the Judiciary) either directly tampers with or even gives up too much discretion to another, its unconstitutional. So unconstitutional the Supreme Court has in the past ruled that even when Congress passes a law to *grant* the Executive the right to intrude on some of their constitutional power the law itself is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

Its mostly for that reason I said the CIA operatives should have known better. Tampering with another branch of government is such a constitutional hot rail that you shouldn't even assume an actual law that says you can do it is automatically enough to make it legal. Presidential executive order should also not be sufficient on its face without enormous review. The default position should be to never go anywhere near this legal principle except in certain very specific circumstances (for example, its obvious the FBI has to be able to investigate illegal activity being conducted by members of other branches of government; that can't be considered unconstitutional).

Comment Re:No matter how common you think it is... (Score 1) 209

Excellent point.

People are smart. Even the low-level clerical worker who dropped out of high school - smart enough to work around any obstacle their systems present. They are also likely to be ignorant of the consequences of their work-around. I have had such people do things like put DECEASED 1/2/2007 into the "last name" field so that the date of death would show up on the sticker that got printed out to put on a folder. That way they could file it appropriately. Never mind that things like privacy mailers were going out to families of the deceased with "Joe Smith DECEASED 1/2/2007" on the address. Nice.

This is the conundrum of moving to a professional IT shop with full software development life cycle controls. Things that a small shop could get done the same afternoon take months to accomplish in a big operation, and may never make it onto the priority list. So people quit asking and just start making their own solution. The fact that it causes other problems all over the enterprise might not be discovered for years - because the people affected might not even know that it exists.

The only answer to this problem is even more resources for IT - particularly to ferret out the small problems that people are having and provide immediate solutions. Something that is not likely to happen.

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