Archive for July, 2013

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XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’

 

Apparently if you ever visited a foreign website or communicated with a foreigner, that’s enough for them to open up your life to low-level mercenary contractor “analysts” for spying.  Or if you communicated with someone else who visited a foreign website, or communicated with a foreigner — again, enough so-called “justification” for spying on your for the rest of your life.  This is the criminal surveillance state, and Edward Snowden’s revelations expose more and more of this criminal conspiracy.  This is treason against the American people, waging a cyber war against them, and a gross, deliberate assault on the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

 

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With all the Lindsay hysteria, people may have overlooked what happened here:

Schrader:

“The total investment for Bret and I was $3,000 each. And then Kickstarter gave us $160,000, and then everything else was deferred. One of the attractions to doing this, other than working with Bret, was just the curiosity factor. Is it possible to make, is it possible for me to make a film under this new paradigm? This kind of group cooperative paradigm. Where everything is driven by social media. The fundraising that we would keep asking for volunteers on Facebook. We’d ask for extras on Facebook. We got that house, which is really a six-star boat, we got that house through Facebook. For free. Everything about this film from the inception to the casting to the financing, the making, the promoting, and now the release, was intended to be done in a way unlike I’ve ever done before.”

 

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Trailer

I don’t know if I’ll agree with a single point in this film, but the nut case behind it is pretty funny.  Ideologues Don’t Make Corrections.

PostHuman (short)

Posted: July 31, 2013 in -
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It must have been fate that had me watch this short right after I posted my Battlestar Galactica review.  One of the voices is none other than Tricia Helfer — the blonde Cylon bombshell (she also did Playboy).

The style instantly reminded me of Aeon Flux.

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“It’s time to junk some toasters.”

The relaunch of the cheesy 80’s space opera was actually quite a bit more serious, faster paced and more dramatic than the original.  The theme, calling our attention to our own shortcomings, our own deadly sins, is intertwined throughout the various storylines, and repeats during the series.  Galactica is a highly political show, and battles between factions and forces play out plausibly, given the world.  Various political battles seek to alter the destiny of the survivors, pitting democracy against militarism and dictatorship.

We are, in the real world, at the cusp of a technological catastrophe.  Chemical, radiological and genetic experiments and associated pollution — and of course war — now stand to push us toward extinction, our own doing.  This arrogance of our species is reflected in the show in some profound ways.

The Galactica miniseries introduces well-defined characters and setups, some noticeably altered from the original iteration (Starbuck a muscular woman this time, and a possible romance between her and Apollo).

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The show has a militaristic veneer, but war is not the glorious accomplishment sold to the public in many other slick packages.  It’s horrific, costly and futile.  An anti-war slant accompanies this tale of machines evolving to destroy their masters and being quite efficient at doing so.  This is not a new plot device, but it’s done well.  Actually it’s done really well, with so many cliffhanger “you are fracked” moments, that I soon found myself addicted, watching the entire 4 seasons on Amazon Prime.

Machines, and their cold mindset, obliterate 12 planets of humans in a nuclear attack.  The remaining refugees must flee with the last remaining battle star to find a safe refuge.  The Cylons now look and act human, actually like sexy blonde actresses when they choose to.  It’s pulpy, but it repeatedly hammers home its themes.  A vain computer genius compromises the security of civilization, and their defense network is rendered useless.

Personal interests take precedence over what is best for the many, and consequences unfold.  Personal love affairs blind parties and keep them from properly carrying out their duties.  Security is pitted against personal stakes and human foibles.  These character weaknesses are designed into the story.

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Cylons infiltrate the security of the fleeing ships and can turn up anywhere.  What’s more, they are quasi-independent, unlike the Borg of Star Trek origin.  These biological Cylons simulate human complexity so well that they exist in a grey area, not knowing if they too are somehow alive, possess souls and can exercise free will, even in opposition to the Cylon directives and genocidal efforts.  This duality is explored more fully by season two, and individual Cylons challenge preconceptions that this is a species or race based war, and throw it back into more ideological terms of right and wrong, genocide and domination.

Like all sci-fi, and all TV for that matter, plot holes emerge if you want to get nitpicky.  Here, however, I’m not that concerned as the show usually returns to capable hands and mature minds.  They may veer occasionally but usually return the compass needle to true north and progress the story by leaps and bounds.

“If there’s one thing we know about human beings with certainty, they are masters of self-destruction.”

Paranoia runs through the fleet, as the Cylons could be anyone and anywhere.  They blend so well into human life, that often they don’t even realize what they are until they are activated.  In that capacity they mirror saboteurs, sleeper cells, terrorists.  Amping the paranoia post-9/11 is a natural choice.  As the X-Files focused on sinister government operatives who work in the shadows, the shadow government, Battlestar Galactica has exported the unknown and mysterious enemy among us to outer space.

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Interestingly, myth and religion play a prominent part.  Prophecies are being fulfilled, and the old stories are repeated in real time with dire consequences for humanity.  Religion is examined for and against, while the magical wheels turn in the background to fulfill the ship’s destiny.

Oddly, the Cylons too have evolved to embrace religion, a God that comprises everything and everyone, including them.  The Cylons believe they are on a religious mission too, and now that they have achieved humanoid form, the question of whether they do believe, and more importantly, whether they themselves now have souls, is explored.  The Cylons are not one-dimensional “toasters” anymore.  They have unique personalities, rivalries even.  Some may even side with the humans in the interest of self-preservation or perhaps for moral reasons; it’s never completely clear.

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Attitudes toward genocide against the Cylons are tested, as the Cylons for the most part prosecute their genocidal campaign against their creators, these humans of the 12 tribes.

Earth is the 13th tribe, of course, the lost one they are desperately seeking to rejoin.  Their Frankenstein’s monster race of killer robots trails along behind them.

 

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Say it loud: This is what kakistocracy looks like.

 

HR 347 Just Criminalized Protest Against Government Officials – in blatant, knowing, flagrant violation of the First Amendment

“For one thing, the law makes it easier for the government to criminalize protest. Period. It is a federal offense, punishable by up to 10 years in prison to protest anywhere the Secret Service might be guarding someone. For another, it’s almost impossible to predict what constitutes “disorderly or disruptive conduct” or what sorts of conduct authorities deem to “impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions.””

 

EPA report: methane from fracking contaminated wells near Dimock, Pa., but agency says the water’s safe to drink.

“methane and other gases released during drilling (including air from the drilling) apparently cause significant damage to the water quality.”

“This presentation represents one [on-scene coordinator’s] thoughts regarding 12 samples and was not shared with the public because it was a preliminary evaluation that requires additional assessment in order to ascertain its quality and validity,” said EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson.”

“The issue here is, why wasn’t EPA interested in following up on this to understand it better?”

The Important Things We DONT Have Money For And The Crazy Things We DO Have Money For

…Large numbers of federal employees have been hit with mandatory furloughs in 2013 due to the sequester…

…but somehow the federal government is able to spend tens of millions of dollars to fill our skies with surveillance drones.

The U.S. government is so broke that it has had to borrow more than a trillion dollars from China…

…but somehow we have plenty of money to help “modernize China’s energy grid”.

The U.S. Congress has cut $60,000,000 for schools on Indian reservations across the country…

…but somehow the IRS is able to pay out $70,000,000 in bonuses to their workers.

DARPA to Genetically Engineer Humans by Adding a 47th Chromosome?

“A human artificial chromosome (HAC) is a microchromosome that can act as a new chromosome in a population of human cells. That is, instead of 46 chromosomes, the cell could have 47 with the 47th being very small, roughly 6-10 megabases in size, and able to carry new genes introduced by human researchers.”

US developing mind reading

 

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Posted: July 30, 2013 in -

US News & World Report:

Poll: 78 Percent of Young Women Approve of Weiner

 

P.S.

I’m in the wrong racket.