The Null Device


Right-wing radio commentator Rush Limbaugh denounces anti-war demonstrators as "Communists" and "anti-American"; radical leftists call for a boycott of his advertisers, demonstrating their commitment to pluralism and diversity of opinion. These are probably the same people who tout Cuba as a model democracy. (via FmH)

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If you're in the US and you've ever used a peer-to-peer network and swapped copyrighted files, chances are pretty good you're guilty of a federal felony. It doesn't matter if you've forsworn Napster, uninstalled Kazaa and now are eagerly padding the record industry's bottom line by snapping up $15.99 CDs by the cartload. Be warned--you're what prosecutors like to think of as an unindicted federal felon.

The law even grants copyright holders the right to hand a "victim impact statement" to the judge at your trial, meaning you can expect an appearance from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) or the Business Software Alliance (BSA), depending on what kind of files were on your hard drive. You'll no longer have that hard drive, of course, because it'll have been seized by the FBI, and you'll be in jail.
The NET Act works in two ways: In general, violations are punishable by one year in prison, if the total value of the files exceeds $1,000; or, if the value tops $2,500, not more than five years in prison. Also, if someone logs on to a file-trading network and shares even one MP3 file without permission in "expectation" that others will do the same, full criminal penalties kick in automatically.

No peer-to-peer users have been prosecuted yet, but there is a lot of pressure from the RIAA on the Department of Justice now to begin such prosecutions. Which means some poor bastard is about to get crucified. (via FmH)

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During the Spanish civil war, anarchists inspired by surrealist and abstract art developed torture cells based on non-figurative art and the psychological properties of shapes and colours:

Beds were placed at a 20 degree angle, making them near-impossible to sleep on, and the floors of the 6ft by 3ft cells was scattered with bricks and other geometric blocks to prevent prisoners from walking backwards and forwards, according to the account of Laurencic's trial. The only option left to prisoners was staring at the walls, which were curved and covered with mind-altering patterns of cubes, squares, straight lines and spirals which utilised tricks of colour, perspective and scale to cause mental confusion and distress. Lighting effects gave the impression that the dizzying patterns on the wall were moving.

The surrealistic cells were used to torture Francoist Fascists, as well as (of course) members of rival leftist factions and splinter groups. (via Charlie's Diary)

(If they built something like that these days, mind you, they could probably pass it off as the latest clubbing sensation and charge admission for it.)

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A Californian reader of the subversive/paranoiac news site Unknown News recently noticed that his expensive broadband connection was unusually slow; he did a traceroute to another Californian site, and found that his traffic was routed through a US Government machine in Virginia. More experiments revealed that this was the case for all of his traffic.

The questions this raises are: (a) would there be an innocent explanation not involving surveillance (such as network balkanisation and/or everything going through a central interchange; isn't MAE East in Virginia, for example?), (b) if it is a surveillance operation, how plausible is it that the author's subversive and potentially un-American reading habits contributed to the rerouting? If he has a fixed IP address, they could filter packets by it, of course; if not, it may be the result of a Middle Eastern-looking flight student, or a Green Party activist, using his ISP?


Britain is considering withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights; Blair must have been hanging around with George "Treaties? We don't need no steenkin' treaties" Bush for too long.

(To give them credit, they intend to re-sign the bits of the treaty they don't object to (i.e., all but the clause about freedom from torture or degrading treatment) almost immediately.) (via Leviathan)

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