An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

Archive for November, 2011

UAA, Bandwidth, and a lack of understanding

Amidst all the controversy that is going on here on campus about the bandwidth that is wrongfully going to be lowered, there is one perspective that is being lost – that piracy is good for business.

When Napster began in 1999, it revolutionized the way that business was done in this country.  All of the media sites like Hulu, Netfli, and iTunes can thank their lucky stars that Napster opened the floodgates.  They brought down the record companies in just two years.  It created a new massive paradigm of online business, and taken away the monopoly that companies had on entertainment.

One of the biggest positive effects that piracy has had has been it’s usefulness as a market tracking device.  Napster was one of the best.  It showed that there was a huge demand for online music.  Rather than being sold plastic CDs for $20, one could simply get the one song that they wanted.  It was a revolutionary idea.  Napster was able to give insight into the music industry that had never existed before then.  Next up, let’s examine the Usenet groups.  These are sites that offer a wide selection of an entertainment product and you pay for use.  Sites like Spotify, MOG, Hulu, Netflix, and iTunes are among these.  Even YouTube owes part of its creation to online piracy.

The model of all these sites is that people pay very little and can get whatever they want.  While many would still opt to get it for free, there are many others who wants to stay within the bounds of what is ethical and pay, but don’t want to pay much.  Piracy created competition that we didn’t see before.

And the greatest success story of all is that piracy can evolve into legitimate business.  YouTube has been proof of that.  Clips, trailers, songs, and other things are being shown on YouTube, and getting royalties on it as well.  The fact is that piracy is something that is good for us, but when you listen to people like Richard Whitney talk about it, it is pure evil.

The University has a responsibility under federal law to be responsive to any reports of copyright violation.  The primary organization involved is the Recording Industry Association of America, RIAA, but individual complaintants (complaintants?) are, there’s a long list of them, that sent us complaints.

There you have it.  The RIAA.  The record companies.  These people still aren’t getting it.  The success of iTunes just hasn’t sunk in with these people.  It is almost pathetic how ill-informed these people are.  However, what is interesting are some of the outright lies that Whitney has told in his statements.

For people that are doing legitimate services, we wanted to make sure that people who are streaming Netflix and Hulu and things of that nature have absolutely no implications for if we were to ratchet back the rates.  And we know, absolutely without a question that Netflix and Hulu will work just fine at 768k…

Oh?  That’s why Netflix says that the minimum speed should be 1.6 Mbps for streaming, while Hulu stands at 1m for streaming.  You gotta love when hypocrisy is exposed by the companies themselves.  For HD quality, on either side, 4 to 5 Mbps.  Oh, and what about if you want 1080 screen on Netflix?  Well, that says that you should have at least 8 Mbps.

So, Whitney is lying to the students, and is trying to say that he has assurances that it will work.  Might want to check your facts, Rich.

Here is the fact – piracy is not bad.  The government needs to get with the program and learn that not only is piracy a good for business, but creates business.  And the University needs to be fair, and not punish all of the students for the few who are breaking an archaic law.

Peace out,

Lefty

Obama’s China Syndrome may end up in Alaska’s Nuclear Winter

There was an article that was put into The Nation on the 22nd about a new move that President Obama has talked about, where America will be building up its military presence in the Asia Pacific region.  The idea behind this, according to the President Obama is –

As we end today’s wars, I have directed my national security team to make our presence and mission in the Asia Pacific a top priority…Our enduring interests in the region demand our enduring presence in this region. The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.”

For those who are not familiar with the language of political schtick, this means that America is getting fidgity over the fact that China is looking to overtake the US as the new global economic power, and we are looking to stop them.  If one follows what is in this plan, there really can be no denying this.  The exact details are still in the works, but one plan already talked about is to establish a military base at Darwin, which is in the Timor Sea.  This is a strategic area connecting the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.  Also, the US is looking to get closer with the Phillippines and Indonesia, militarily speaking.  It’s just a coincidence I’m sure that they are both on the South China Sea.

There has also been a regional trade pact that the US orchestrated that has specifically excluded China.  The US calls it “redistribution” of the military, but yeah, that is an obvious lie.  They are taking forces in the Northwest, around Japan, and moving them toward the South China Sea.  If the US has control of this trade route, we can hurt the Chinese, economically, and that is exactly what this new plan is designed to do.  They are also trying to orchestrate alliances with India, Japan, and Australia, trying to create a force that would work against China.

What the response will be from Beijing, only time will tell.  But the fact is that they are NOT going to be intimidated by this.  Resistance to international threat is at the heart of the doctrine that the Communist government that lords over China.  And it is a damn good bet that there will be some very negative response from them.  But the reason that China is not going to be disturbed by this is simple – this whole endeavor is a way for us to cover the fact that we are getting weaker, economically.  If we can keep China weak, then we have a shot of staying the dominant power in the world.  But everybody who knows anything about economics and politics knows that China has America by the, foot.

You see, to make any of this effort a success, the US would first to get our economy going again, something that isn’t looking to be happening anytime soon.  With the EU on the verge of a complete collapse, desperate for a solution, and the people there almost rioting against what the government is proposing, the global economy could be in real trouble.  And the first economy to go after the EU is the US.  So the idea that this will be able to go well is almost laughable.

But as The Nation pointed out, what is ultimately the biggest fear is that this decision will have some very ugly ramifications down the road.  This is all being done to keep funneling money into our military, which accounts for over 30% of current spending in this country.  To counter the GOP, Obama will appease the pro-military industrial complex with this.  At the same time, there may be an alignment in China toward and anti-America stance, which will lead to more money being siphoned into their military.  The, because both sides will be angry at one-another, and we are a stupid people, there will be antagonism on both sides, followed by growing suspicion on both sides, followed by more funding of the military, specifically the Navy, and then there will be periodic naval attacks, an international atmosphere that will be poisoned, the economy in this country will be in trouble, and finally, a very real risk of full-scale war.

This is a terrifying concept, ladies and gentlemen.  The fact is that with satallite technology, regular warfare is completely outdated.  Any moves that any force would make would be observed.  So, it would be a nuclear war.  And since I am somebody who lives in Alaska, this scares me because who do you think will be the first to be bombed?  Nuclear weapons falling on my home.  This is terrifying, people, absolutely terrifying.

The military industrial complext that rules this country must be stopped!  Obama clearly doesn’t have the nerve or the will to stop it himself, so we have to elect people into office who will!  Because what begins as a move against China could end with me spending a winter covered in nuclear fallout.  I wouldn’t have that theory if it wasn’t for the fact that people are stupid, really stupid.

Peace out,

Maverick

The Tea Party and Political Ignorance

The Tea Party is an interesting monster in the world of Republican politics.  Since this publication is based in Alaska, there is a unique perspective that is here.  Sarah Palin has been one of the driving voices of a movement that was very quick to spring up, and very quick to be taken in by the GOP.  The Tea Party stands as a referendum of political ignorance and as a backlash against minority voters getting the rights of any kind.

There have been a lot of statements by the Tea Party that were it not for minority voters, Obama wouldn’t have been elected in 2008.  This is true, very true.  However, when they say it, they say it like this is something to lament.  Why?  Why is the fact that the minorities get a right to vote something that we should look down upon?

They are told by the talking heads Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and people like that that they are being oppressed.  They criticize those who are getting social security, or medicare, not seeming to understand that they are almost all on the bottom 50% of the social strata, and therefore, are either getting these services themselves, or not paying into them, so it doesn’t really matter.  But the talking heads tell them what they want to hear, so it doesn’t really matter.

The Tea Party seems to not care about the fact that they are not being oppressed in any way.  They are told that we need to go back to a time when only the white and the rich had the ability to vote.  Oh, and they also have to be men.  Were it not for women voters, the Democrats would have lost every single election of the 20th centure with the exception of Goldwater vs. Johnson.  The Tea Party has been mobilized to further the agenda that those who follow it believe in.

Their agenda has been pretty clear – lower taxes to unsustainable levels, and what we do pay, only the poor should pay.  They want to get rid of the rights that the minorities and the gays have fought tooth and claw for.  They want to massively increase this nation’s military industrial complex, not seeming to understand that conventional war is out-dated.  All of what they want is nothing more than political ignorance.

But really, when one thinks about what they want, the left’s response has been pathetically worthless.  One thing that the liberal politicians don’t seem to understand is that while it used to be good politics to negotiate with your opposition, giving and getting, it is not longer palatable.  But compromisers like Obama seem to not understand this key fact.  The left has spent years trying to stave off the endless onslaught of attack from the Tea Party, and every compromise that is made is losing ground on the social front.

This is a culture war, and the left is losing, badly.  The fact is that if something is not done soon, there won’t be a left-wing side of politics.  It has to be a grassroots movement.  From the ground up, we need to get more left-leaning politicians who aren’t hardcore.  They have to be articulate, they have to be level-headed.  They have to understand that things are not as simple as 1,2,3.  They have to be willing to stand tall, though, and not endless compromise with the right.

One reality is that Obama is a compromiser.  He is probably going to get reelected not because of his merits, because he has very few of those, but because the GOP competition is so unbelievably weak, and the GOP don’t seem to understand that the American public is not dissatisfied with Democrats, we are dissatisfied with the system at large.

Liberals, it is time for you to step up.  We need a unified plan, to counter this ignorance-driven narrative that the Tea Party lives by.

Here is what the liberal plan should look like –
1. We want a stronger social safety net, including (but not limited to) universal health care.
2. The rich need to pay more taxes.  There is no good reason to bleed them dry, but asking them to pay more taxes is not unreasonable.
3. We want an end to our military actions in the Middle East.
4. We want nation-wide right to gay marriage.
5. It is time for the federal government to legalize, regulate, and tax individual drug use, on all narcotics.  Just because it is dangerous doesn’t mean it is going away.  If we bring all drugs under one banner, control their quality, and control how much people get, we can make this business safer.
6. We need to get god off of our money, tax churches, and make the priests who fondle little boys get to find out what happens to a child molester in a typical American prison.
7. We want a ground-up reformation of an all but broken education system.
8. We want a police force that is accountable, and who is held to a higher standard, and trained to help people.  The Occupy movement has shown that the police are above the law, and they know it.

So, that is the agenda that the left needs to adopt.  Sound simple, no?  The Tea Party has destroyed moderate Republicans.  There are almost none left.  Mitt Romney might be considered one, but he goes wherever the wind blows.  This movement has taken over the Republican Party, and if we don’t do something fast, then all the progress that people in this country have made will be lost.  The Tea Party, no, all of the Republican Party has become a machine heading toward a single goal – to destroy the rights of all minorities, and to take America back to the 1800’s, or at least the 1950’s.  The time for compromise is over.  Now is the time for action.

Are you on board?

Peace out,

Lefty

Lefty’s Review: Puss in Boots

You know, after the roller-coaster ride of very good, mildly good, or horrifically bad the Shrek movies have been, this was a surprisingly refreshing and enjoyable film.  When I first saw the previews, I thought it was going to be stupid beyond reason.  But this film was silly, but at the same time, overly serious to the point where the silliness is endearing.  Every character in this film was well-cast, and it was a rather good thing to be done for a character who was very good from Shrek 2.

On that note, this character first came to light in the film Shrek 2.  This was one of the sequels that was better than the original on every front.  The jokes were better, the characters were better, the plot was better.  Part of what made that film so good was the addition of Puss in Boots.  Played by Antonio Banderas, this was a big pun at his role in the Zorro movies.  It almost tells how you can hear that Banderas is having fun with this.  Mocking his previous roles, but doing so with adorable style and grace.

This brings us to this film.  Here, Puss is back, only this time, he is on his own.  It is unclear whether or not this is before or after his time in the Shrek films.  In this film, he is an outlaw, living on the run.  He is trying to find a big score to clear his name and rehabilitate his reputation.

He finds out about two people, Jack and Jill, who are carrying magic beans.  They want to plant them, and then take them to the giant’s castle where they will steal the golden goose, and subsequently get all the golden eggs they want.  Puss decides to steal the beans, and go after the goose himself.  Here he runs into Kitty Softpaws, played by Selma Hayek.  She interupts him during his attempted heist, and then Puss chases her back to where an old friend, Humpty Alexander Dumpty, played by Zack Galifiankis, is waiting.  Puss and Humpty go way back, and there is a lot of bad blood between them.  While Puss tried to always do right, Humpty was not so noble.  But Puss always stood with him, until one day, when Humpty robbed a bank and unwittingly made Puss his accomplice.  This forces Puss to run away from the town, and abandons Humpty when the two of them are about to be caught.  Years later, the scars hadn’t healed.

However, the three of them all decide to put their differneces aside for the single largest caper that any of them could possibly hope for.  I won’t give any more spoilers away than that.  The rest is a roller-coaster ride of humor, charm, and Puss being a total badass.

This was the film that was needed for Puss in Boots.  Almost every one of the jokes hits its mark, and it is a big laugh when it does.  The characters are fun.  It is nice to see Selma Hayek in something again, and she does Kitty Softpaws very well.  Granted, there are a lot of moments that are very corny, but given the target audience, children, it makes a lot of sense.

This was also a movie that proved the point that a film needs to be good.  Being in 3D isn’t enough.  If the film falls flat, it falls flat.  I saw this in 2D, and was able to judge it on its merits, and it has several.  It proves the point that something can be good in 3D, just like Avatar proved the point that something can be crap in 3D.

Really, this movie takes all the stories about western outlaws and gives them an adorable and fantastical feel.  Definitely worth checking out, if you have the time.

Peace out,

Lefty

Lefty’s Review: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

It is ironic how much this game failed to live up to the hype.  The Assassin’s Creed series has had a reputation of having some awesome games.  The first two were amazing, and Brotherhood was also good, though not as much.  But Revelations disappointed on pretty much every front.  What makes this ironic is that it disappointed, but only just a little.  This was a game that had so much potential, and while certain elements were fun, the bulk of it was just a slight fail.

It should be pointed out that the gameplay was fun.  The element of making and using different types of bombs is pretty interesting.  Figuring out how to use your enemy’s against one-another was pretty cool too.  The effects of Constantinople were pretty cool too.  That is really the only highlight of this game.  Really, the only truly enjoyable part of both gameplay and story was the segment “Desmond’s Journey.”  In this segment, it was like playing portal, while getting an interesting back-story to Desmond Miles.  It was always a point of interest that I had, what Desmond’s childhood had been like, and why he left The Farm.  But this answered that all very well, and the narrative was surprisingly pleasant to listen to.

Those are the highlights.  The failures are, well, everywhere.  The biggest has got to be the segments with Altair.  Not only do all of them take place in Masyaf, not giving any depth at all, but they were very short, and seemed to add very little to the story.  It was like they just wanted to have Altair in there again.  They had a lot of chances to go to different places, see different people, expand his world a little more.  Instead, nothing, absolutely nothing.  This was the first major fail.

The second was that there was no real glory to this plot.  Unlike Brotherhood, where there was a mission, and you were working toward an understood end, this game simply choose to have events take place.  It was kind of dull.  That was perhaps this game’s biggest failing.  It was just boring.  All the actions were really leading nowhere.  Plus, you never got attached to any of the characters enough to care what happened to them.  The relations between the characters was as dull as the characters themselves.  Even Ezio was kind of boring.  They also killed Lucy off, which was worse.

But perhaps the biggest failing of this game (spoiler alert!) was the ending.  Rather than have Desmond come back to consciousness and then have some time for him to tell his tale, to say what happened, he just suddenly wakes up, and it just ends.  Everybody had to be very interested in what his story was, why he was in a coma, what had happened, why he killed Lucy.  Instead, he just wakes up and that’s it.  Subject 16 disappears, and really, nothing was added to the story arc.

This was a game that didn’t epically fail, but the fail was pretty apparent.  It had a lot of potential, and instead of really delivering, it just plain failed.  Let’s hope that AC III is a success.

Peace out,

Lefty

It is starting to look like the police want a war

Watching the Occupy protests across the country is getting a little harder for a person to do without wondering what exactly the thinking of the leaders of this country is when they have people who are supposed to lead it, and lead it peacefully, are having cops who are given free-reign and told that they will not have any consequences violently putting down peaceful protests.

All of the actions against the Occupy protesters have been for bad reasoning.  The clearing of Zucotti Park was because of some worthless litter laws.  As YouTube vlogger TJ Kincaid put it

I mean, maybe it’s just me, and maybe I’m crazy, but I just feel like a local litter ordinance should take a backseat to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

The reasoning behind the police and their attack against the Occupy protestors is getting stretched.  But they keep at it.  They keep pepper-spraying crowds.  They keep attacking innocent people.  They keep using “non-lethal” force against people who have done nothing wrong.  It is getting to the point in this country where it looks like the police want these peaceful protests to become violent, so they can just kill all the protesters off.

There was a segment that Rachel Maddow did on her show where she looked at all the new “non-lethal” weapons that the military has invented.  A lot of military-grade weaponry is being used against the protesters!  What is going on here?  If the police are using military weapons, it looks more and more like they want a war.  They want those they are attacking to fight back.

It is a critical flaw that has never been addressed in this country – how we are giving people who have had very little training, and have no real credential or any other significant requirements the power to have power over others and to be accountable to no one.  They are given power over people who have no power, and throughout this nation’s history, this power has been abused.

Perhaps the best example is at UC Davis this last week.  Two cops walk up to eleven students who are sitting on the ground and start macing them.  They have an unprovoked attack against them, and immediately, the other cops jump up and defend them.

It was for the safety of the officers and the arrestees, so they could get out, so we could leave!”

That was a quote from Chief Annette Spicuzza.  That is a lie.  It is an outright lie.  Take a look at the picture to the right.  Does it look like this guy who is mercilessly attacking these students is surrounded?  Does he feel trapped?  No.  That’s an outright lie.  But this is how it always works.  It is how it worked in the case of Anthony Bologna, and it is how it is working here.  The police face no real charges when they abuse their mandate to protect and serve.  They never feel the hammer of the law come down on them.  The fact is the police have demonstrated why they are not the protectors of the people.  They are thugs who are above the law.

And more and more, it is looking like they want a war.  There was a great quote by John F. Kennedy which seems to describe what is looking to happen in this country.

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

And that is what it looks like is going to happen now.  Why don’t the leaders of this country understand this?  President Obama has been oddly silent about this peaceful revolution since when he came on and said that we shouldn’t blame all the bankers for what has happened in this country.  Now, he is nowhere to be found.  He once promised that if we weren’t content with the situation and we decided to protest, he would put on a pair of shoes and go out into the streets with them.  But he is nowhere to be found.

This government had better figure things out fast, because if you put down peace for too long, JFK was right, it does turn violent.

Peace out,

Lefty

Lefty’s Voice: Save the Internet!

There are times in history when a person is required, even if they hate politics, to rise above and beyond the call of duty.  There are times when a person is required to do more than what they had done before.  This is one of those times, because this goes far beyond the world of politics.  It affects the freedoms of each and every one of us!  It affects all of America, and will not only destroy business, but also put our people in bondage.  I am, of course, talking about the Protect IP Act and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act).

On the surface, both of these acts sound, honestly, dumb.  Piracy is a good thing.  This has been proven.  Without online piracy, websites like Hulu, Netflix, and iTunes would never have evolved.  Napster opened the floodgates on something that is universal – the pursuit of cheap entertainment.  And it has been good business all over the place.  It did bring down the record companies, but they were monopolizing music.  Piracy has changed the world for the better and for always.

However, it is absolutely clear that this is nothing more than a ploy against the freedoms that people have.  With these new bills, websites that are perfectly legal under the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) will face legal threats.  YouTube vloggers and channels that put up clips from the news (which is perfectly within the real of Fair Use) will be the first to be censored.  And to prevent any legal action, websites will deliberately block anything that could be construed as violations.

It also goes further.  If just a few links that infringe on these new rules are posted, an entire website can be blocked.  So those who like watching YouTube, that could be blocked.  Reddit, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, any and all of them can be blocked completely.  To protect themselves, websites will automatically self-censor more, preventing startups from launching.  Websites will no longer be able to count on the DNS (Domain Naming System) for security, which was working just fine before.

And if you are a person who posts your own music, you can be sent to jail!  That’s right, if you aren’t licensed to put your music online, you can be sent to jail as a felon.  So independent musicians who post links on Facebook, you could be sent to jail!  Any non-commercial user can be charged with a felony for posting things online.

Since the day when I was able to pay attention, it was resoundly clear that this government hates the First Amendment.  They hate it.  They hate the people can do what they want and tell the government that they are dead wrong.  They have always hated it.  I wonder very much what the Founding Fathers were thinking when they wrote the Constitution.  They must have either been incredibly ignorant, or incredibly wise.  Because at this very moment, their dream of a free nation is about to die.

It is being supported by everybody.  SOPA has 21 Democratic supporters, 16 Republic supporters, and 1 Independent supporter in the Senate, while the Protect IP Act has 7 Democratic supporters, and 16 Republican Supporters in the House.  These people are totally fine with throwing the First Amendment in the trash.  And the mainstream media isn’t covering this!  I haven’t heard one damn story on MSNBC, CNN, or Fox about this.  Only the independent media is talking about this, and the talk is very small.  It seems like this huge affront to the Constitution might just happen and nobody outside of those who are paying attention will know about it.

Companies like the ones who own Reddit Tumblr, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and many others are fighting back against this.  There are a number of activist groups.  The YouTuve vlogger community has jumped on the bandwagon, from both sides of the sociological and political fence.  There are multiple links that are aiding in the fight against the destruction of the First Amendment, but we need YOUR help!  We need everybody.  I will provide links to opinions and to ways you can fight back.

Opinions –
My Favorite Vlogger
http://youtu.be/ijqjHo3_H8s
Nostalgia Critic
http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/thatguywiththeglasses/nostalgia-critic/33243-top-11-reasons-he-wont-review-digimon
Anonyous’ voice
http://youtu.be/HgTO9Eds09Q
Huffington Post article
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-gagnier/sopa-and-protect-ip-what-_b_1099471.html

Ways you can fight back –
Tumblr
http://www.tumblr.com/protect-the-net
Reddit
http://www.reddit.com/r/announcements/comments/me5e9/
A great website
http://americancensorship.org/

The vote has happened, and it has only been to delay.  There is still time to make yourself heard!  We must rise above and beyond the call of duty now, right now!  This is the only chance we are going to get!  I think I’ll end this with a quote,

“The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791–don’t let them die in 2011!”  -TJ Kincaid

Peace out,

Lefty

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