Bloomberg: The Largest U.S. Banks Aren’t Really Profitable At All

This makes me frustrated. No one should ever be “too big to fail”. That’s a poppycock soundbite to maintain the status quo. How do we, as everyday citizens, bring about actual change for things like this?


“In other words, the banks occupying the commanding heights of the U.S. financial industry — with almost $9 trillion in assets, more than half the size of the U.S. economy — would just about break even in the absence of corporate welfare. In large part, the profits they report are essentially transfers from taxpayers to their shareholders.1

  1. Emphasis added 

Age of Ignorance

I feel like this quote does a good job of capturing my feelings behind why I have no kill switch on awesome:


Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise and telling us, as Thomas Friedman did in the Times a few days ago, that educated people are the nation’s most valuable resources. Sure, they are, but do we still want them? It doesn’t look to me as if we do. The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.

I’m just one person though. And my sphere of influence is only so big and so powerful. This makes me feel very sad about what our country has become. Is it too late for us to make things better? How do we make intelligence desirable?


I’ve been busy with work, but I’ve been keeping my eye on the news. Politics have always been a bit…screwy. I’m not sure if they’re getting more screwier or I’m becoming more aware of what’s going on. – maybe just more cynical.

Representative Lamar Smith and Senator Patrick Leahy now joins the ranks of former Senator Ted Stevens1 in Internet Hall of Shame with his further bastardization of the copyright clause2 with their introduction of SOPA and PIPA

I’ve long rallied against the MPAA, RIAA, and their cronies, and for copyright reform (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

SOPA/PIPA is yet another horrible piece of legislation in a growing list of legislation unscrupulously backed by large corporations, and the Supreme Courts expansion of “corporate personhood” in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission doesn’t help either.

It expands the reach of copyright in ways that are detrimental to the very purpose of the copyrights, in particular by hindering the promotion of useful arts. And all this is done at the behest of corporations who, essentially, bribe politicians.

Even more unfortunate, the politicians writing these pieces of legislation — or at least responsible for introducing them, I have no idea if they actually write them — have no idea of the technical ramifications of what they are doing. Would you trust your Congressman to perform surgery on you? There are actually 18 medical doctors3, so you have about a 3.4% chance of standing a chance, but I think in general the answer would be no.

When it comes to technical issues though, of the 535 members of congress, one is a physicist, one is a chemist, six are engineers, and one is a microbiologist4. This is not to say that other members of congress may not be tech savvy, but with the average age of a congressman pushing 60, I’m guessing not so much. Of the 12 original co-sponsors of SOPA, not one has a technical background.

Surely the United States House Science Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, the subcommittee through with SOPA passed, has some technical experts. Nope. Not a single engineer or anyone with experience (as far as I could tell) in computer science. I would expect that people making the such decisions have, you know, actual expertise in those areas — a technocracy.

Anyway, I have poked around the SOPA legislation, and read many different analysis on it. I also do have an engineering degree. And so I feel very confident in saying that SOPA/PIPA is a bad idea from a technological standpoint. I also think’s it’s pretty bad from an overbearing-copyright standpoint, but that’s my personal bias.

In response to what SOPA/PIPA will do to the Internet if passed, I am joining other sites5 to protest SOPA and PIPA and will black out AFdN for all of Wednesday, January 18th, 2012. Any attempts to access AFdN will result in a HTTP 503 Service Unavailable error.

Seriously though, if SOPA/PIPA passes, I may have to take down AFdN lest I avoid getting sued. That’s a bridge I hope to never have to cross. In the meantime, take some time to educate yourself on how the internet works. Ask questions and I’ll try to answer them. And maybe, just maybe, we can make a difference.

Also, while I currently use GoDaddy as my domain name registrar, they supported SOPA and thus I will no longer support them. I’ll have another post on that in the future.

Some, but not all, interesting links:
Everything is a Remix
SOPA Infographic
House takes Senate’s bad Internet censorship bill, tries making it worse
Contact your congressman
Sopa 101: a guide to the USA’s proposed anti-piracy legislation
IP Law Wiki
Stanford Law Review: Don’t Break the Internet

Shit, I used Wikipedia about ten times to look up references for this post. Oh well, see you all Thursday!

  1. “And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.” 

  2. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” 

  3. Membership of the 112th Congress: A Profile 

  4. Membership of the 112th Congress: A Profile 

  5. such as Wikipedia, WordPress, reddit, Google, and BoingBoing 

Seattle Refuses to Use Salt

…that’s the headline from today’s Seattle Times. After reading the article (well, the above the fold part at least) I can’t believe how idiotic the city is. This is really just precious:

To hear the city’s spin, Seattle’s road crews are making “great progress” in clearing the ice-caked streets.

But it turns out “plowed streets” in Seattle actually means “snow-packed,” as in there’s snow and ice left on major arterials by design.

“We’re trying to create a hard-packed surface,” said Alex Wiggins, chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transportation. “It doesn’t look like anything you’d find in Chicago or New York.”

The city’s approach means crews clear the roads enough for all-wheel and four-wheel-drive vehicles, or those with front-wheel drive cars as long as they are using chains, Wiggins said.

The icy streets are the result of Seattle’s refusal to use salt, an effective ice-buster used by the state Department of Transportation and cities accustomed to dealing with heavy winter snows.

“If we were using salt, you’d see patches of bare road because salt is very effective,” Wiggins said. “We decided not to utilize salt because it’s not a healthy addition to Puget Sound.”

So quick recap:

  • “Great progress”
  • Snow and ice left on major arterials by design
  • Trying to create a hard-packed surface
  • Refusal to use salt, an effective ice-buster
  • “If we were using salt, you’d see patches of bare road because salt is very effective,” Wiggins said. “We decided not to utilize salt because it’s not a healthy addition to Puget Sound.”
  • “Great progress”

Yup, sounds like a great plan. Sometimes I’m sorry I ever left Colorado.

See also: 2 buses skid down slick hill, barely avoid plunge to I-5 (with amazing picture)

Super Bowl EULA

Read this blurb and tell me what you think:

Got a giant-screen TV? Planning a huge party to watch the Super Bowl this weekend? You’d better watch how many people you invite and how you promote your gathering, or you may be in violation of NFL rules.

League policy bans what it calls “mass out-of-home viewing.”
That means the NFL forbids places other than sports bars from projecting games on screens bigger than 55-inches.

A 60-inch screen at home would be no problem, but the same in a church would violate the rules.

This has gotten out of hand. How can the NFL do that?! I’m no lawyer, but I’d think that what they’re proposing violates all sorts of rules. Actually, let me back up…when did I ever agree to these rules? I never agreed to these rules. I’ve haven’t even heard of them! The NFL is airing the games on a public television network (i.e. CBS). As far as I know, anyone can sit down in front of a TV. In fact, any number of people can sit down in front of a TV. Not only that, said TV can be of any size. We should get a giant projector and project the Super Bowl on the Moon. How cool would that be?

How about this:

Dear NFL,

READ CAREFULLY. By reading this blog you agree, on behalf of your employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from any and all NON-NEGOTIATED agreements, licenses, terms-of-service, shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-compete and acceptable use policies (“BOGUS AGREEMENTS”) that I have entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer.

Adapted from

EULAs are so stupid.

$0.002 ≠ ¢0.002

Sometimes, I think the world may have a chance. And then I stumble upon something like this:

George is having a problem with Verizon. George was going to Canada and wanted to confirm the price of using his data connection. Verzion quoted him a price of 0.002 cents per a kilobyte. While in Canada, George used 35,893 KB of data. Do the math and you get 71.786 cents…or $0.71786. Problem is, Verizon can’t do basic math…


G: [big sigh] Okay, I think I have to do this again. Do you recognize that there’s a difference between one dollar and one cent?
A: Definitely.
G: Do you recognize there’s a difference between half a dollar and half a cent?
A: Definitely
G: Then, do you therefore recognize there’s a difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents
A: No.

Wow. Um. Folks, this is not good. This is really not good. If you have some time, you should go read the whole transcript. They are really no words for this kind of incompetence. I’m just going to sit here with my mouth open for a few more minutes…then I’ll try and move on.

via xkcd blag.

[tags]verizon, math, money, xkcd[/tags]

UCLA Student Tasered by Police in Library

Holy. Freaking. Crap. This is sick!


UCLA cops tasered a student who refused to show ID in Powell Library. They threatened nearby students with tasering if they interfered. A student captured video of the assault with a cameraphone. I hope the campus cops go to jail over this.

View the raw footage on YouTube:

Watching and hearing that video seriously makes me want to go Sam Fisher on those officers asses.


An incident late Tuesday night in which a UCLA student was stunned at least four times with a Taser has left the UCLA community questioning whether the university police officers’ use of force was an appropriate response to the situation.

Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a UCLA student, was repeatedly stunned with a Taser and then taken into custody when he did not exit the CLICC Lab in Powell Library in a timely manner. Community Service Officers had asked Tabatabainejad to leave after he failed to produce his BruinCard during a random check at around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Here’s the reallyFrom

During the altercation between Tabatabainejad and the officers, bystanders can be heard in the video repeatedly asking the officers to stop and requesting their names and identification numbers. The video showed one officer responding to a student by threatening that the student would “get Tased too.” At this point, the officer was still holding a Taser.

Such a threat of the use of force by a law enforcement officer in response to a request for a badge number is an “illegal assault,” Eliasberg said.

“It is absolutely illegal to threaten anyone who asks for a badge … that’s assault,” he said.

WHAT THE FUCK! No, really! This is unbelievable and completely unacceptable. Not only should the persons involved in this incidicent be fired, but they should also be prosecuted criminally.

Also, based on what has happened in the United States in the last half-decade or so, I’m beginning to fear what other rights I may end up loosing. Currently, there are only a very few select times when you must present ID (Quick trivia: despite what you might think, the airport is NOT one of those times). Will laws be passed that force me to show ID to any officer no matter what? What about the legalities of taping? For the most part, I can record just about anything or anyone in public places. Will that change to “protect” the government? Can the Constitution really stand much more raping before it is just a piece of meaningless paper?

[tags]UCLA, Taser, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, Tabatabainejad[/tags]

No Fucking Way

I can never believe how people can do and say things so obviously ignorant of reality and yet still be put in positions of great power. The latest example, the one and only Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. From


During a speech in November, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales endorsed the idea [Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2006] and said at the time that he would send Congress draft legislation. Such changes are necessary because new technology is “encouraging large-scale criminal enterprises to get involved in intellectual-property theft,” Gonzales said, adding that proceeds from the illicit businesses are used, “quite frankly, to fund terrorism activities.”

(Yes, the AG just linked IP theft to terrorism.)

Quite fucking frankly, you have no idea what the fuck you are talking about. That’s a load of bullshit so deep you could use the methane gas generated by its decomposition to power the entire worlds energy needs for the next 100 years.

Here’s what else you might get to look forward if the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2006 passes:

  • “[Create] a new federal crime of just trying to commit copyright infringement. Such willful attempts at piracy, even if they fail, could be punished by up to 10 years in prison.”
  • “[New] language [that] says nobody may “make, import, export, obtain control of, or possess” such anticircumvention tools if they may be redistributed to someone else.”
  • “Amends existing law to permit criminal enforcement of copyright violations even if the work was not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.”

Sorry for the language, it’s one of very very few issues I get really pissed about.

Really pissed.

An Open Letter To America Online

I’ve railed against AOL for sometime now, but this takes the cake. And no, this is not that hoax letter that has been circulating the Internet for the last 10 years that everyone, you, and your grandma have all recieved saying that AOL is going to start charging for AOL Instant Messenger. This one is quite real, my friends. Via Chris Pirillo over at Lockergnome:

Date: Tue Feb 28 13:00:00 EST 2006
Subject: An Open Letter To America Online

We wish to express our serious concern with AOL’s adoption of Goodmail’s CertifiedEmail, which is a threat to the free and open Internet.

This system would create a two-tiered Internet in which affluent mass emailers could pay AOL a fee that amounts to an “email tax” for every email sent, in return for a guarantee that such messages would bypass spam filters and go directly to AOL members’ inboxes. Those who did not pay the “email tax” would increasingly be left behind with unreliable service. Your customers expect that your first obligation is to deliver all of their wanted mail, and this plan is a step away from that obligation.

AOL’s “email tax” is the first step down a slippery slope that will harm the Internet itself. The Internet is a revolutionary force for free speech, civic organizing, and economic innovation precisely because it is open and accessible to all Internet users equally. On a free and open Internet, small ideas can become big ideas overnight. As Internet advocacy groups, charities, non-profits, businesses, civic organizing groups, and email experts, we ask you to reconsider your pay-to-send proposal and to keep the Internet free.

A pay-to-send system won’t help the fight against spam – in fact, this plan assumes that spam will continue and that mass mailers will be willing to pay to have their emails bypass spam filters. And non-paying spammers will not reduce the amount of mail they throw at your filters simply because others pay to evade them.

Perversely, the new two-tiered system AOL proposes would actually reward AOL financially for failing to maintain its email service. The chief advantage of paying to send CertifiedEmail is that it can bypass AOL’s spam filters. Non-paying customers are being asked to trust that after paid mail goes into effect, AOL will properly maintain its spam filters so only unwanted mail gets thrown away.

But the economic incentives point the other way: The moment AOL switches to a two-tiered Internet where giant emailers pay for preferential service, AOL will face a simple business choice: spend money to keep regular spam filters up-to-date, or make money by neglecting their spam filters and pushing more senders to pay for guaranteed delivery. Poor delivery of mail turns from being a problem that AOL has every incentive to fix to something that could actually make them money if the company ignores it.

The bottom-line is that charging an “email tax” actually gives AOL a financial incentive to degrade email for non-paying senders. This would disrupt the communications of millions who cannot afford to pay your fees-including the non-profits, civic organizations, charities, small businesses, and community mailing lists that have arisen for every topic under the sun and that make email so vital to your subscribers.

And what if other Internet service providers retaliate and start demanding their own ransoms to accept mail from your millions of users? Your company works hard to simplify the Internet. Don’t start a surcharge war that will complicate it with tiered services and dozens of middleman fees for every simple act of communication.

We have always been happy working together with you to fight spam and phishing. We have a common enemy in spammers. We are happy to work together to develop open approaches that attack the problem of spam and phishing. But a pay-to-send “certified” system does not help to fight spam. It only serves to make the Internet less free for everyone. We stand together in asking you to reconsider your decision to use CertifiedEmail.


Andrew Ferguson, Fergcorp, and Countless Others

Sign the Petition Now

Worse Than John Kerry

Don Verrilli, the RIAA’s lawyer (or at least one of them) said this to the Supreme Court:
“The record companies, my clients, have said, for some time now, and it’s been on their website for some time now, that it’s perfectly lawful to take a CD that you’ve purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod.”

One year later, here’s the RIAA’s stance (as quoted from BoingBoing):

As part of the on-going DMCA rule-making proceedings, the RIAA and other copyright industry associations submitted a filing that included this gem as part of their argument that space-shifting and format-shifting do not count as noninfringing uses, even when you are talking about making copies of your own CDs:
“Nor does the fact that permission to make a copy in particular circumstances is often or even routinely granted, necessarily establish that the copying is a fair use when the copyright owner withholds that authorization. In this regard, the statement attributed to counsel for copyright owners in the MGM v. Grokster case is simply a statement about authorization, not about fair use.”

Please send me a straight jacket before I do something stupid.