Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Government (And Car Dealers) Hose You Again

This is hilarious:

But many of those cashing in on the clunkers program are surprised when they get to the treasurer's office windows. That's because the government's rebate of up to $4500 dollars for every clunker is taxable.

"They didn't realize that would be taxable. A lot of people don't realize that. So they're not happy and kind of surprised when they find that out," Nelson said.

The amusement here is how most (if not all) states compute sales tax (charged when you register the vehicle.)

When you buy a new car you pay tax on the difference between the new car's purchase price and the trade-in you present to the dealer. This is an intentional distortion in the law that is intended to favor dealers over private-party used car sales; if you sell your used car privately the new buyer pays sales tax but you do not get the offset on the purchase of your replacement vehicle - the only way to get that is to trade the car.

Dealers use this, of course, in negotiations, effectively pocketing the sales tax - and why not? It's a real difference to you!

But the "cash for clunkers" is not a trade-in. That's a $4,500 check from the government, basically.

So you get nailed at least once and possibly twice. Specifically, you pay sales tax on the full vehicle price (effectively paying sales tax on the $4,500!) and what's worse those states that tax income (that would be most of them!) might wind up counting this as income for state income tax purposes too, effectively taxing you twice.

I should have probably done a Ticker on this originally, but I (naively) believed that most people understood how the tax system works when it comes to new and used car transactions. Apparently, from the referenced news article, this is not the case, and I bet the car dealers, incredibly ethical people that they are, were fully informing their suckers, er, clients of this little "feature" of that government handout too.

PS: I have also received several emails informing me that dealers had customers so giddy over the "free cash" that they were selling cars at full sticker price besides - effectively, in many cases, turning the entire "cash for clunkers" money into pure dealership profit and managing to charge you tax (twice) on it as well. Ain't car dealers grand (several grand out of your pocket, that is!)

In Brazil, you've got mail — and possibly an STD

Fri Aug 21, 5:56 pm ET

RIO DE JANEIRO – You've got mail — and possibly an STD. The Brazilian Health Ministry has created a Web site to let people inform partners they've got a sexually transmitted disease via an e-mailed virtual postcard.

The official in charge of the ministry's STD and AIDs programs notes that many people have a hard time telling partners they're infected.

Mariangela Simao said in a statement this week that the e-mails may help people "to tackle these diseases directly and with minimum exposure."

One of the cards shows a young man reclining in his underwear. It reads: "Hi! I don't know if this is the best way to tell you, but I've learned that I have an STD."

The card suggests the recipient see a doctor.

Virus blamed for half of penile cancers

Mon Aug 24, 7:12 pm ET

LONDON (Reuters) – A sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer is also to blame for half of all cases of cancer of the penis, Spanish researchers said on Tuesday.

The finding suggests already available human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines for cervical cancer are also likely to be effective in the fight against penile cancer, doctors from the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Barcelona said.

Merck & Co's Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix are both used widely to immunize girls against HPV infection, which can lead to cancer of the cervix.

Penile cancer is much rarer, accounting for less than 1 percent of adult male cancers in Europe and North America, although the incidence can be as high as 10 percent in parts of Africa and Asia. Worldwide, there are more than 26,000 new cases every year.

Dr. Silvia de Sanjose and colleagues reviewed cases of penile cancer reported in clinical studies between 1986 and 2008 and found 46.9 percent of tumors were associated with HPV.

Nearly all of these were linked to HPV strains 16 and 18, the two types that most commonly cause cervical cancer and which are targeted by Gardasil and Cervarix, they wrote in the Journal of Clinical Pathology.

Merck reported results of a clinical trial last November showing that Gardasil was effective in preventing lesions caused by the virus in men.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Victoria Main)

Adult video gamers often overweight, depressed


Guests play the new video game "Madden NFL '09" at the Madden NFL 09 VIP Premiere party in Los Angeles Reuters – Guests play the new video game "Madden NFL '09" at the Madden NFL 09 VIP Premiere party …

Thu Aug 20, 5:03 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Teens aren't the only ones glued to the video game console. According to a new survey, the average video gamer in the U.S. today is 35 years old -- and not all that healthy physically or emotionally.

According to the survey released this week, the typical adult video game player is overweight, introverted and may be a little bit depressed.

The Internet-based survey involved adults aged 19 to 90 years old from the Seattle-Tacoma area, who were asked various questions about their health, as well as their media habits.

Of the 552 respondents (ages 19 to 90 years), 249 - a little more than 45 percent - identified themselves as video-game players -- the majority of them men (56 percent).

In a report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Dr. James B. Weaver III, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues say they found "measurable" associations between playing video games and health risks.

"As hypothesized," the researchers report, a higher body weight and a greater number of "poor mental health days" differentiated adult video gamers from non-gamers.

Men who said they played video games weighed more and used the Internet more than men who did not play video games, the survey showed.

Women who reported playing video games reported greater levels of depression and poorer overall health than non-gamers.

Adult video gamers also seemed less outgoing, or extroverted, and less social and assertive than non-gamers, consistent with prior research in adolescent video game enthusiasts that tied video game playing to sedentary habits, weight issues and mental health concerns.

Adult video gamers of both sexes relied more on the Internet for social support than non-gamers, which supports prior research suggesting that adult video game players may "sacrifice real-world social activities to play video games."

Weaver and colleagues suggest that video gaming for adults may be a form of "digital self-medication." Women, in particular, may immerse themselves in brain-engaging digital environments as a means of self-distraction; "in short, they literally 'take their minds off' their worries while playing a video game," the investigators note.

What drives men to the video game console is likely to be different.

In a commentary published with the survey results, Dr. Brian A. Primack of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine applauds Weaver and his team for "reminding us that video games are currently popular not only among young people but also among adults."

The greatest challenge, Primack contends, will be maintaining balance.

He asks: "How do we simultaneously help the public steer away from imitation playlike activities, harness the potentially positive aspects of video games and keep in perspective the overall place of video games in our society?"

Powerful gaming industry giants, warns Primack, "will successfully tout the potential health-related benefits of products they develop. But who will be left to remind us that -- for children and adults alike -- Hide-And-Seek and Freeze Tag are still probably what we need most?"

SOURCE: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, October 2009.

Obese People Have 'Severe Brain Degeneration'

LiveScience.com livescience Staff

livescience.com – Tue Aug 25, 10:35 am ET

A new study finds obese people have 8 percent less brain tissue than normal-weight individuals. Their brains look 16 years older than the brains of lean individuals, researchers said today.

Those classified as overweight have 4 percent less brain tissue and their brains appear to have aged prematurely by 8 years.

The results, based on brain scans of 94 people in their 70s, represent "severe brain degeneration," said Paul Thompson, senior author of the study and a UCLA professor of neurology.

"That's a big loss of tissue and it depletes your cognitive reserves, putting you at much greater risk of Alzheimer's and other diseases that attack the brain," said Thompson. "But you can greatly reduce your risk for Alzheimer's, if you can eat healthily and keep your weight under control."

The findings are detailed in the online edition of the journal Human Brain Mapping.

Obesity packs many negative health effects, including increased risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and some cancers. It's also been shown to reduce sexual activity.

More than 300 million worldwide are now classified as obese, according to the World Health Organization. Another billion are overweight. The main cause, experts say: bad diet, including an increased reliance on highly processed foods.

Obese people had lost brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes, areas of the brain critical for planning and memory, and in the anterior cingulate gyrus (attention and executive functions), hippocampus (long-term memory) and basal ganglia (movement), the researchers said in a statement today. Overweight people showed brain loss in the basal ganglia, the corona radiata, white matter comprised of axons, and the parietal lobe (sensory lobe).

"The brains of obese people looked 16 years older than the brains of those who were lean, and in overweight people looked 8 years older," Thompson said.

Obesity is measured by body mass index (BMI), defined as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters. A BMI over 25 is defined as overweight, and a BMI of over 30 as obese.

The research was funded by the National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Center for Research Resources, and the American Heart Association.

LiveScience.com chronicles the daily advances and innovations made in science and technology. We take on the misconceptions that often pop up around scientific discoveries and deliver short, provocative explanations with a certain wit and style. Check out our science videos, Trivia & Quizzes and Top 10s. Join our community to debate hot-button issues like stem cells, climate change and evolution. You can also sign up for free newsletters, register for RSS feeds and get cool gadgets at the LiveScience Store.

No joke, comedian sued over mother-in-law humor

No joke, comedian sued over mother-in-law humor
Mother-in-law takes stand-up comedian to court for making fun of her in her act

* By John Rogers, Associated Press Writer
* On Tuesday August 25, 2009, 1:38 pm EDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- "Take my mother-in-law -- please," isn't a joke you're likely to hear often these days from Sunda Croonquist. The veteran comic is being sued by her mother-in-law after making her the punchline of too many jokes.

The mother-in-law is accusing Croonquist of spreading false, defamatory and racist lies with in-law jokes that have become a staple of her routine in nightclubs and on television channels like Comedy Central.

To Croonquist, the in-law jokes seemed like a natural routine after living through one comical culture-clash moment after another: She is half-black, half-Swedish, grew up Roman Catholic and married into a Jewish family.

And she's not shy about making the in-laws the butt of her jokes.

Take the one about her mother-in-law's reaction to news she was pregnant with her first child: "OK, now that we know you're having a little girl I want to know what you're naming that little tchotchke. Now we don't want a name that's difficult to pronounce like Shaniqua. We're thinking a name short but delicious. Like Hadassah or Goldie."

Or her first visit to her mother-in-law's house: "I walk in, I say, 'Thank you so much for having me here, Ruthie.' She says, 'The pleasure's all mine, have a seat.'" Then, in a loud aside, 'Harriet, put my pocketbook away.'"

Croonquist said there was a time when her in-laws would laugh with everyone else at the black-member-of-a-Jewish-family jokes. "They played my tape at Passover one year, and they loved it!" she said.

But things changed after Croonquist, promoting upcoming gigs in New Jersey, posted information on her Web site that, according to her in-laws, allowed pretty much anyone to figure out the identities of her in-laws.

They sued in April in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, where they live. The action seeks unspecified damages and demands that Croonquist remove any offensive statements from her Web site, routines and recordings.

Croonquist says she would drop any language her family finds offensive, but refuses to pay any settlement. Her lawyer has filed a motion to have the suit dismissed, and a judge is scheduled to hear it on Sept. 8.

In the meantime, Croonquist, who lives in Beverly Hills and is a regular on the Hollywood comedy circuit, was at the Laugh Factory on open-mic night recently, eager to test some new non-mother-in-law material. This time the butt of her jokes would be herself, her lawyer husband (his firm is representing her in the lawsuit) and entertainer Jennifer Lopez.

"My father is Swedish, my mother is African-American. You know what that made me growing up?" she asks the audience. "A Puerto Rican! That works for me, honey. ... After having two babies in two years, I look like J-Lo."

Still, she couldn't resist getting a few yucks out of her in-laws, although this time she left their first names out of the act.

Doing her sister-in-law during their first meeting (and in a New Jersey accent the lawsuit notes Croonquist has said sounds "like a cat in heat"): "Oh my Gawd, look at her, she's got light eyes and light hair. What kind of black person is she?"

Then herself (in a black urban street voice): "I said, 'A black person who can hear, that's who.'"

Then (as Haley Joel Osment might sound in "The Sixth Sense," if he spoke in a black urban accent): "I hear white people!"

"They're nice jokes. There's nothing bad, nothing defamatory," says Croonquist, whose own voice carries traces of her upbringing in Paterson, N.J., where she says she was always the cut-up in Catholic school.

It should be obvious to her in-laws, she says, that she's not anti-Jewish. She converted to Judaism before she met her husband and keeps a kosher house.

The lawsuit was filed by mother-in-law Ruth Zafrin, her daughter, Shelley Edelman, and Shelley's husband, Neil. Neither Zafrin, the Edelmans nor their attorney, Lawrence H. Wertheim, returned calls for comment.

Attorney Gary L. Bostwick, an expert in First Amendment law who isn't involved in the case, said suing a comedian is often difficult because courts tend to rule that it should be obvious they are joking.

In one of the most prominent such cases, the Rev. Jerry Falwell lost when he sued Hustler magazine in the 1980s for stating in an ad parody that the preacher had lost his virginity to his mother in an outhouse.

"Most people who sue under these kinds of circumstances are way too sensitive," Bostwick said. "If they contact a lawyer like me I would tell them that, without seeing the script and the blog I have no idea who is right and who is wrong, but I do know there is a very strong defense: It's very difficult to prove that it was not just a joke."

Since the lawsuit was filed, Croonquist has bounced back and forth between anger and humor. She's angry the action has estranged her husband and their two daughters from his family, noting bitterly, "This could have broken up my marriage."

Then, moments later, she's back to laughing about that first mother-in-law meeting, the one that helped launch 15 years of jokes. If she knew then she was going to be sued, she said, she might have tried to make a worse first impression, perhaps impersonating a gangsta rapper.

"I should have went in with a gold tooth. I should have had like one pant's leg rolled up. I should have been like, 'Yo, yo, yo. Shalom, y'all. 'Sup?,'" she says, chuckling.

Friday, August 21, 2009

RGP - This is turning into one big cesspool of shouting and insulting.

Niggers, Faggots and Spics, Oh My
by Mrs Irish Mike

This is turning into one big cesspool of shouting and insulting.

Right now I am taking the blunt of the abuse, but I can make it stop.
Then, who'll be next? Just a matter of time until this group becomes a
spam group with few posters waiting for the unwary to step in. Look
how many other newsgroups are now just empty shells of what they used
to be.

There is a reason that certain topics are forbidden at the poker
table; politics, religion and racial discussions, are all topics that
will cause a table to break and the players have hard feelings for
each other. Abusive language is not allowed by any casino, not because
the management wants everything to be rainbow unicorn lovely, but
because abusive language is bad for biz.

There are those here who would like to stifle free speech, you will
recognize them not so much by what they say, but how they say things.
On Aug 21, 10:56 am, Mrs Irish Mike wrote:

> This is turning into one big cesspool of shouting and insulting.

LOL. It's not turning into such a cesspool, idiot. It has been that
way since I started posting in 2002. It's actually not as bad as it
was then.

> Right now I am taking the blunt of the abuse,

How delusional are you? You are not taking any abuse at all. You are
simply reaping the fruits of the abuse you have heaped on others.
Wake the fuck up. Karma, bitch.

> but I can make it stop.

You certainly can. Leave the motherfucking newsgroup already. You
have obviously never studied Taoism --

"Never go where you are not welcome."

How many people have to make it clear to you that you are not welcome
on RGP before you take the hint and leave?

> Then, who'll be next?

Irish Mike
Bell Dingbat

Those would be my top choices.

> Just a matter of time until this group becomes a
> spam group with few posters waiting for the unwary to step in. Look
> how many other newsgroups are now just empty shells of what they used
> to be.

LOL @ perfect description of RGP in 2009.

> There is a reason that certain topics are forbidden at the poker
> table, politics, religion and racial discussions,

Have you ever been in a cardroom in your entire life??? They do no
such thing. You are just lying.

> are all topics that
> will cause a table to break and the players have hard feelings for
> each other. Abusive language is not allowed by any casino, not because
> the management wants everything to be rainbow unicorn lovely, but
> because abusive language is bad for biz.

Trying to make a bunch of drunk, degenerate gamblers behave like they
are choirboys in Sunday School is also bad for business.

For details, see my post --


> There are those here who would like to stifle free speech, you will
> recognize them not so much what they say, but how they say things.

It sure as fuck isn't the people who use "nigger", "faggot", "spic".

It is politically correct idiots like you who immediately label such
people bigoted hatemongers in an attempt to shame them into silence.

Fuck off and die. Bitch.

William Coleman (ramashiva)

Re: Poll: Who Is The Biggest Bully On RGP?
On Aug 21, 10:03 am, Mrs Irish Mike wrote:
> I think Gary Coleman is winning right now.
> The reason I ask is I'm starting to wonder if posting on USENET is in
> anyway worth it these days. I'm starting to think that moderated
> groups, sponsored by someone wanting to be inclusive is better.

You are the biggest bully on the newsgroup by far. No one else
threadstalks other posters spewing vicious slanderous lies which have
been repeatedly debunked.

You might as well close the polls right now. I predict the vote will
be unanimous.

By the way bitch, you have made dozens of posts which would get you
instantly barred from every internet forum in existence. When I post
to moderated forums, naturally I use a more genteel and refined
posting style. I doubt you are capable because you are a howling
Satanic demon.

Also, do not accuse me of threadstalking, because your post title
obviously refers to me, and "Gary Coleman" is your current pet name
for me, thus suggesting that I am actually a nigger midget, rather
than the VW-sized German man I actually am.

Fuck off and die. Bitch.

William Coleman (ramashiva)
Yes Gary Coleman is that little guy. Ever notice it is the littlest
guy who drives the biggest 4x4, or carries the biggest gun, or talks
the roughest?

Interestingly, Gary Coleman's nick name is Willy, also short for
William. Gary Coleman was in a movie called, The Kid With A 200 IQ,
where as Rama 'Dong swears he has an IQ of 200. Recently Gary Coleman
was beaten up by his wife (feel free to check TMZ) and had several
court appearances related to the incident, those occurrences coincide
with the recent absence of Rama 'Dong. Too many cowinkydinks, but if
you Google Gary Coleman in the news, you will see other subtleties that
mesh with Willies behavior.
I lived in Culver City for 21 years, used to run across Gary Coleman a
lot. It was funny seeing him in a liquor store purchasing beer. He was
barely above the counter, he looked like a little kid with a real bad
hangover, that needed a shave.

LeAnn Rimes questioned in Brentwood hit-and-run

L.A. Now

Southern California -- this just in

LeAnn Rimes questioned in Brentwood hit-and-run

August 21, 2009 | 8:02 am

Rimes Country singer LeAnn Rimes was questioned Thursday by LAPD officers after she was accused of a misdemeanor hit-and-run in Brentwood, officials said today.

Officers with the West Traffic Division went to Rimes’ home to question her following the 7:45 p.m. accident in the 11000 block of Montana Avenue.

If police decide there is enough evidence to pursue the case, they would forward it to the Los Angeles city attorney’s office for further review.

No details about the accident were available, and Rimes could not be immediately reached for comment.

[Background material added at 8:20 a.m.: The Mississippi-born singer, 26, is a two-time Grammy winner who has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide. Rimes was an apple-cheeked 13-year-old prodigy who rode her album "Blue" to the top of the charts and, in turn, became the youngest Grammy winner ever, before branching out into pop music.

"I was always America's sweetheart, but you grow up, you get married, you have sex, my God!" she said last year in an interview. "I work out a lot, I take care of myself and I like showing it off in a way that's fun and doesn't show too much and that shows that that's part of being a woman."]

-- Andrew Blankstein

Vulnerable (Public Eye Dub) - Pet Shop Boys

disasterpastor RT: TheEllenShow I'm giving away an XBox 360 today! Just one... not 360 XBoxes. http://su.pr/3FRLZp

RT: youtube Puppy theft caught on tape at a Petland store in Shakopee, Minnesota: http://bit.ly/9nedl

RT: Alyssa_Milano As someone in the public eye, this kind of worries me: http://bit.ly/W7uq3 (via @BuzzEdition) cc: @ev

disasterpastor RT:So i took this photo two days ago and forgot to upload XD sorry! it's hard to remember to booth when your... http://dailybooth.com/u/ht8h

click on pics to see full size

disasterpastor Pet Shop Boys - Vulnerable [Public Eye Dub] - Album - Yes, Pet Shop Boys etc. (2009) http://bit.ly/JAnOH

meekakitty RT @mmitchelldaviss █▄▇▀▇▀▄▀▇▀▇

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Game Informer: Xbox 360 at 54.2 percent failure rate

Game Informer: Xbox 360 at 54.2 percent failure rate

by Griffin McElroy { Aug 17th 2009 at 4:01PM } Xbox
The latest issue of Game Informer contains a surprising statistic for anyone who's ever loved and lost their Microsoft-branded home console – according to their survey, in which over 5,000 console owners participated, the Xbox 360's current failure rate due to the Red Ring of Death, E74 or other hardware failure is 54.2 percent. They also calculated the relative death toll for PS3s due to the Yellow Light of Death (10.3 percent) and Wiis, due to ... well, we're not actually sure what color the Wii's light turns to upon its demise (6.8 percent).

Unfortunately, for having the highest failure rate, survey participants also pinned Microsoft for having the least helpful customer service representatives. Not that it matters – later in the survey, only 3.8 percent of participants said they'd never buy another Xbox 360 due to its high failure rate.

Speaking of which, we're not sure what future techno-utopia this poll was conducted in, but a 54.2 percent Xbox 360 failure rate sounds awfully low. Had the survey's participants been comprised entirely of Joystiq staffers, it would have been a bone-chilling 100 percent.

[Via Consumerist]

Tags: e74, failure, failure-rate, game-informer, hardware, rrod, survey
Phinn, the original Xbox had a lower failure rate than the PS2. They can do hardware just fine... There's just a myriad of issues that they didn't compensate for. They chose a design, and stuck to it. Then added the actual hardware, and that hardware gets FAR too hot to last. If they would have designed it so they could use bigger, better heat sinks there would be no problem. The reason the components in the 360 get hotter than those in the PS3 (mainly the GPU) is simply because it's more powerful... Well, the GPU is at least- the CPU's in over all performance are about even. I've had 2 Xbox's, and my first one suffered from a bad disc drive. I've since destroyed it, but when I was working on it, I noticed that there were burn marks in the metal on the bottom side of the disc drive from the GPU heat sink. The problem with the drive was lubrication on the spindle- tried about everything but nothing worked consistently... Should have tried graphite powder, as I believe that's what they use from the factory, but that's beside the point. The Xbox's downfall is heat and the inability to remove that heat from the case efficiently, and I'm 100% certain that a majority of the 360's issues are directly related to that heat. The air temperature from the exhaust fans on launch consoles have been as high 100*C.
I had an Elite and got the E-74... got the system repaired and after just one week, I got the RRoD. I sent the system again to MS, and got the console repaired, but the image thru HDMI didn't look as good as before... it had some video problems with the HDMI port (minor, but noticeable)...

So, I sold it ($350) and I'm just waiting for the Elite to drop price to $300. I have bought tons of 360 games, and they are here, unplayed, and there are some Live Arcade games that I want to play.

Don't get me wrong... is an excellent system, but the hardware quality is not only bad, but crap.

Even the accesories are bad quality, like the Play and Charge kit... the battery died after just two months.
I've never had a RROD...

Had 2 elites crap out because their DVD drives exploded but no RROD.
Typical Microsoft. Buy a PS3. No one I know has ever had a problem with their PS3. Although I know some people have it's still way less than crappy microsoft. Only problem with PS3 is that if your console does break you need a backup of your HDD or you lose everything.

Why does everyone sound so surprised? The Xbox 360 has always had high failure rate. I'm on my fourth Xbox 360. As far as customer service is concerned, most definately! I'd sent my 360 Premium in for repairs and I got it back, and a shortly after, the drive started to stick. I called them back and told them the problem, and they just blew me off and told me I'd have to pay $70 to replace it because my 360 was out of warrently. But it was a result of faulty repairs. So I had to buy I new console. I bought I Elite figuring that would solve the problem, but I still got Red Ringed.

I can't understand, the life of me, how a console with so many problems, is doing so well. I guess American's just like things that break. Look at the Ford. Its reputation is Fix Or Repair Daily and they're huge!

My PlayStation 3 has never had any problems. I've owned the same 60GB PS3 for years. It has outlasted my 360 by far. Thus, I think people need to rethink things. The Xbox 360 is a time bomb. The clock is ticking before that chip burns out, and we took an Xbox 360 apart with the problem, and it warps the whole area on that motherboard. I just don't get how people can be that stupid. When this 360 crashes, that'll be the end of it. Even the newer arcade models are still gettin fried.
I think the number is high, but not by such a margin that it escapes the realms of plausibility. The Xbox 360 is a great system with hardware that, on paper, is incredibly sound for what it is. The problem, however, is that Microsoft decided to let corporate bean counters have a little too much say when it came to manufacturing components. For example, Microsoft made the decision to bypass ASIC vendors (those that work almost exclusively with GPUs) and approach TMSC with their own implementation of Xenos once the design left ATI's hands before the system launched. Their implementation was obviously flawed (hence so many early RRODs), but the situation (from a manufacturing standpoint) wasn't rectified until early-mid 2008 when they hired an ASIC vendor (one the specifically tried to avoid) to fix their fuck up. They spent over a billion dollars trying to fix a problem they created by trying to save a few million in manufacturing costs.

Another simple example would be the Xbox 360's cheap back plates (the so-called X clamps). If a GPU in an old or new Xbox 360 becomes hotter than intended (either from a design flaw or the cooling system's inability to cope with a less than ideal environment), it can actually unseat itself from the mainboard which in turns causes an irreparable hardware fault. Back plates can prevent this problem, but those found in a stock 360 are made from relatively flimsy stamped metal that can become warped (thus allowing an overheating GPU to unseat itself). To someone somewhere in the company's corporate ladder, it made more sense to shave $.50 off of each system by using these cheap backplates than to safeguard their product from a catastrophic hardware failure that would cost them at least $100.00 to repair.

So is 54.2% high? I say yes, but given how the company's done nothing but pinch pennies (and those are just in the above examples) in key areas where they shouldn't have even considered such actions as justifiable, I maintain that it's not all that hard to believe.
Gamers are the only consumers that would put up with that statistic. If it was any other product in the world this would be unacceptable. Would you get a TV that had the same failure rate?

Fanboys are loyal and blind when it comes to this failure rate. I have a PS3, Wii, and 360 in my household but rarely have time to play either although my son plays a lot. Its a shame that the 360 is the only one that I am worried about as far hitting the power button and the damn thing not coming on.

Anyway I'm glad to say that I have only owned one and if (when) that one dies I will not get another.
Wiis die all the time because Nintendo did a crappy job securing the NAND. One corrupt save will screw over your entire system, then Nintendo wants $80 to fix it! I've made my last mistake by purchasing a home console from Nintendo. Not only did it screw up due to a corrupt save, but there are only about four good games to play on the system!

Now watch me get voted down because I don't touch myself when I see Mario.
How is it trolling when the article itself points out the fact that the 360 is a pile of garbage? Am I doing nothing but restating a simple fact? 54% failure? I have toasters that last longer, TV's from the 70's, Atari games and Pong that still work. It's an abomination. And anyone downvoting me or disagreeing are just 5 year olds holding their fingers in their ear yelling "lalalalalalala." Well, enjoy yourselves I simply prefer fact over fiction.
I'm on first xbox360 I got back in Nov of 06. I bought the Fry's 2 year instant replacement and 2 months before it was set to expire I tried to kill it to get a replacement with the 60GB hdd and the HDMI. (evil I know, judge me later)
I covered it with blankets, I put straws in the fans to make them not spin, played halo 3 and then covered it in blankets. I put it in a cabinet with no ventilation. I poured water down it and then turned it on, I tried to fry the usb ports by stripping a cord and plugging it into the wall. The thing wouldn't die. I still have it today, still running great, still using component. The damn thing is amazing.

Ironically I have a 60GB PS3 that's already been replaced by Sony after I had it for a month.

Go figure.
And yet people still continue to buy multiple xbox 360's. 3.8% of people said they'd never buy another? Absolute BS.

Of the 8 people I work with that have 360's, 6 of them have bought at least 2. One of them is on his 5th.

This phenomenon is doing two things:

1. Bloating 360 sales
2. Enabling microsoft to continue to intentionally manufacture sh*tty hardware. And I'm not just talking about the xbox 360 but future generations of consoles as well.

All thanks to blatant dumbass consumerism.
Wait until your optical drive goes. The repair is over $100 and it was clear by how hard the guy on the phone was pressing me to do it (starting to throw stuff in even!) that they make money on it.

Sony PS3 repairs are $150, and I'm sure they make money on them too. It's funny since I'm rereading a book I have about Sony's corporate history and part of their corporate charter is that service shouldn't be a profit center, it is there to make the customer more happy with their product. Having dealt with Sony service twice now, I can say that edict was forgotten a long time ago.
It speaks to the prevalence of software in this industry. Have the games, and people will put up with anything, as is the case with 360. In any other industry, the one device with a 50% failure rate that also charges $50 a year to enable it's full functionality would have been annihilated by the competition that didn't

But the games make all of that irrelevant.
I'll tell you why - the software is great, XBLive is great. It's got the most robust lineup and defined gaming systems as a social platform this gen (meaning the accessability and ease of use of Live).

I am in no way excusing the hardware issues - it was horrible that they pushed that product out to the market (although there is no denying that it worked). Let's not forget the venerable PS2 with its' 'Disc Read Error' was just a prevalent yet that sold like hotcakes, did it not?

I love my PS3 for the exclusives and Uncharted 2 is the game I'm looking forward to most this year, but for multiplatform and multiplayer it's an automatic 360 purchase for me. I got back into my PS3 when I was out on a medical for a week and really can't believe how bare bones the PSN is comparatively - it is functional, don't get me wrong, but it simply isn't Live.

Understand now?
I'm shocked it's that low. Especially if you count the dead DVD drives (which are not covered by warranty!) Maybe people who just junk theirs and buy a core/arcade don't count as repairs?

The 10% seems high for PS3s overall, although I wouldn't be surprised to hear the first-gens (60GB/40GB) had a 30% failure rate. The optical drives seem to die early deaths.
My best friend's ps3 got the yellow light while i was playing killzone 2 he called customer service at sony, the rep told him that he needed the reciept from the store where he bought it, he told them he was'nt able to do that because it was a gift from his dad, and his dad lived in another state, the rep replied "no reciept no free repair", i thought microsoft's customer service was bad but sony's is worst, by the way i own a xbx360 and a wii, thinking about buying a ps3.

Sony slashes price of PS3 by $100, introduces thinner model [Updated]

The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Sony slashes price of PS3 by $100, introduces thinner model [Updated]
August 18, 2009 | 11:23 am
Sony introduces lighter, smaller PS3 with a slimmer price at $299. Credit: Sony

It's official. Sony today slashed the price of its PlayStation 3 game console by $100 to $299 in an effort to goose sales ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season. Sony also unveiled a sleeker, thinner model of the PS3 that packs an 120-gigabyte hard disk drive, 50% larger than the current model. The newer model is expected to hit store shelves by Sept. 1, said Peter Dille, Sony's senior vice president of marketing.

"This is a game changing moment for us," Dille said in an interview. "There’s a lot of pent-up demand for the PS3. It's been a tough economy, and a lot of people have been sitting on the fence waiting for the price cut."

The announcement, made at a Sony press conference in Cologne, Germany, was widely anticipated by a number of analysts who said a price cut would help the company gain momentum. Game publishers have also been pushing Sony for a price cut in order to broaden the base of console owners to whom they can hawk their software.

"A price cut is long overdue on the PS3," said Colin Sebastian at Lazard Capital Markets, who earlier this year predicted a price cut. "We expect an uplift in unit sales, which is the typical pattern at retail when console prices are cut. But the question longer term for Sony is whether they can sustain market share gains, especially when competing platforms, such as the Xbox 360 lower their prices as well."

Sony's cost for making the console has fallen 70% since introducing the device in November 2006, according to Daniel Ernst, an analyst with Hudson Square Research.

The PS3 currently lags behind in the three-way console race. Nintendo has sold slightly more than 50 million Wii consoles worldwide, while Microsoft has sold slightly more than 30 million Xbox 360s, according to Sebastian. Sony, meanwhile, has sold roughly 24 million PS3s as of June 30, according to Dille.

Besides the smaller price tag, Sony is hoping the sleeker PS3 will beckon reticent buyers this coming holiday. The new model, which will replace the existing version, is 36% smaller and weighs 7 pounds, or 32% lighter than its predecessor.

"Even in the tough economy, families have been reluctant to give up their at-home entertainment," Dille said. "For $299, you’re getting a game machine, a Blu-ray player and a 120-gig hard drive you can use to download movies. It’s a tremendous value."

[Updated at 11:51 a.m.: This post has been updated to include comments from an interview with Sony.]

-- Alex Pham

Dear California, I'm dumping you - By Candice Reed

Dear California, I'm dumping you - By Candice Reed
I thought it would last forever, but you've changed and I want out.

Dear California,

I've been thinking about this for a very long time, and I've come to the conclusion that we should go our separate ways. I thought I loved you and it would last forever, but I was so very wrong.

I know that our relationship has lasted 50 years and that we should fight to stay together, but you've changed so much that, frankly, I don't know who you are anymore!

When we first met I was young and rather naive, and I loved you unconditionally. I spent years running with abandon across your sandy beaches in the bright sunshine, playing in your beautiful parks and attending your top-rated schools, which were a national model for the other states. For 18 years or so, I can honestly say that I was truly in love with you, but then came your first major transgression: Proposition 13.

Oh sure, you tried to tell me that property taxes were bad for our relationship, but I knew you were lying. Low taxes, you said, would bring us closer together. You wanted to have your cake and eat it too. You said we could build schools and roads and parks without that tax money, but even back then I knew you were in denial.

I didn't leave because I thought you'd get over it and we'd still have a future. But, to be totally honest, I stayed with you mostly for your weather. No other state has your perfect little sunsets (don't get me started on that sexy Pacific Ocean), your 364.5 days of sunshine each year and your mild climate even in winter. I know you occasionally turned on me with your random earthquake tantrums, and you tried to chase me away with flames more than a few times, but I forgave you. I always forgave you, which I suppose says something about me. I was weak when it came to you, California. But now you're hurting everyone we know, and I can't stand by and watch.

You've totally lost perspective, and I'm sinking into depression! We can't pay our bills, and the phone is ringing off the hook with creditors calling from all over the world. Children across the state are losing healthcare, more than 766,300 Californians lost their jobs in the last year, and we're at the top of the foreclosure charts. You need to change, and you refuse to admit it. For the first time in our relationship, I'm embarrassed to say that we are together.

There's no doubt that I still have feelings for you, but since I lost my job in the newspaper industry and my house is being sold under duress, I want out. I'm leaving you, California, and you might as well know the truth; there's another state and I'm falling for it hard.

Never mind where it is, let's just say that it's above you and leave it at that. What I will tell you is that I can afford to live there without stressing every day that my expensive electricity will be shut off, or that my water, which I can use only sparingly, will dry up.

Oh, and my new state still has jobs in the newspaper business, which I will admit makes my heart go pitter-pat, and I find myself daydreaming about healthcare benefits again. I know my new state isn't perfect. Oh sure, the weather isn't as nice as yours, and it's got its own budget shortfall, but it's coping, and I can dress in layers. Nothing is perfect.

So that's it, California, it's over. You've cost me too much. I'm starting over, but I can see happy times ahead. Like we once had.

Please don't call my mother to try and find out where I live. You could be a great state again, but I can't wait for you to turn it all around. Good luck!

Hasta la vista,


Candice Reed starts her new job in Chelan, Wash., in September. She is the co-author of "Thank You for Firing Me! How to Ride the Wave of Success After You Lose Your Job," which will be published in February.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Critics want to bench Judge Manuel L. Real

Critics want to bench Judge Manuel L. Real

He is 85 and has sat on the U.S. District Court bench in L.A. since 1966. He wields his gavel despite complaints about his imperious behavior and frequent reversals by appellate courts.

The Judicial Council of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Judge Manuel L. Real’s behavior was problematic but lacked the ” willfulness” required for disciplinary sanctions. (Los Angeles Daily Journal / August 15, 2009)

By Carol J. Williams

August 16, 2009

Attorney Gary Dubin was in a Honolulu hospital, sedated and suffering from depression after the death of his son, when U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real had him handcuffed and taken to court -- still in his hospital gown -- to answer charges of failing to file tax returns.

Real allowed him to send for clothes but refused to postpone the hearing, recalled Dubin, who had to defend himself in a medicated fog without his case files. Judged guilty by Real after a two-day bench trial, Dubin spent 19 1/2 months in federal prison, while his home went into foreclosure and his credit was ruined by identity thieves.

He achieved a measure of vindication years later when the IRS sent him a letter saying he had not violated any tax-filing laws. But he said his encounter with Real caused him professional and economic suffering from which he is still recovering.

Dubin filed a complaint with judicial authorities, one of dozens in which the 85-year-old judge's behavior has been brought to the attention of judicial disciplinary panels.

The Judicial Council of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals examined 89 cases in which Real's conduct was challenged, though it is not clear if Dubin's was among them because the panel does not disclose details of its investigations. In December, the panel said the judge's behavior was problematic but lacked the "willfulness" required for disciplinary sanctions, adding that in the future, Real should be "especially vigilant concerning the subject matter of these complaints."

Some judicial analysts predicted then that the Los Angeles-based Real would take the face-saving step of opting for senior status, going into a semi-retirement for which he has been eligible since 1985. But he remains an active judge with a full caseload, stirring fresh complaints of imperious behavior as well as a high number of reversals by appellate courts.

On July 17, the 9th Circuit overturned Real's acquittal of a state corrections officer who had been convicted by a jury of assaulting two prisoners. The appeals court reinstated the jury verdict and sent the case back for sentencing, ordering that a different judge handle the proceedings. That was at least the 10th time Real has endured that rare form of appeals court reproach.

Still pending is an effort to remove Real from a case involving a trust fund containing seized assets of the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Real has provided no accounting of how $5 million from the fund was disbursed while it was under his control or of what happened to an additional $20 million in investment proceeds. Real issued a half-page accounting of the fund's remaining $34.7 million, saying, "That takes care of the matter."

Groups laying claim to the money have appealed to the 9th Circuit seeking reassignment of the case to another judge, said Jay Ziegler of the Los Angeles firm of Buchalter Nemer, among those representing the claimants.

The claimants' arguments for reassignment are explained in a sealed brief filed with the appeals court in mid-July and include concern over "the failures in accounting," Ziegler said. But he declined to say more about why his firm wants Real off its case.

Some former colleagues come to the judge's defense, saying he is the victim of disgruntled attorneys.

"I think he's done everything he can do to try to be fair to defendants. I've seen him go out of his way to try to make sure people don't fall back into the same problems they had before," said attorney John Resich, a former law clerk for Real. "I think he's being unfairly judged by a few people who had negative results and feel he is not being fair to them."

But some of his most persistent critics are harsh in their assessments.

Beverly Hills attorney Ronald Richards, in arguing unsuccessfully to have Real removed from one of his cases, said the judge's repeated threats to hold lawyers in contempt for disagreeing with him has induced "a generalized pattern of cowering by attorneys who appear in this district court."

Harland Braun, a Los Angeles attorney who has sparred with Real for decades, said that "going into a case, he picks the side he wants to win and then does everything he can to destroy the other side. He is notorious for ripping defendants apart."

Braun recently tried an end run around the 9th Circuit Judicial Council, which normally handles misconduct complaints, filing a petition that will go directly to a three-judge 9th Circuit panel instead of the disciplinary body. Braun claims Real prejudiced a jury by calling his client a liar and suppressing exculpatory evidence.

His client, a Japanese exchange student who Braun says was unwittingly enmeshed in a fraud scheme by her boyfriend, was wrongly convicted, briefly imprisoned and scarred for life as a released criminal now that she's back in her homeland, Braun said.

In a rare response to a complaint, Real told the Los Angeles Daily Journal that Braun was "delusional" in his perceptions of the judge's handling of the case.

The judge didn't respond to requests for comment from The Times.

In 2006, a committee headed by Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer cited cases involving Real -- by identifying facts, not by name -- as an example of the federal judiciary's failure to discipline a few judges involved in "high-visibility cases."

The Breyer committee report cited, in particular, Real's decision to take control of a bankruptcy case to protect a young woman probationer under his supervision. That case drew national attention and a 9th Circuit reprimand and was seen as contributing to a push for greater accountability recommended by Breyer.

After an exhaustive two-year study of how the federal judiciary conducted disciplinary proceedings during nearly a quarter of a century, the committee called for more transparency in misconduct decisions. It also warned that an unacceptably high error rate in the prominent cases threatened to lead the public "to form a view of the judiciary's handling of all cases upon the basis of these few."

Charles Gardner Geyh, an Indiana University law professor and scholar of judicial misconduct, says it remains too early to assess whether the Breyer Committee policies seeking greater judicial transparency in misconduct allegations are bringing more errant judges to task. The federal judiciary remains reliant on informal, behind-the-scenes threats of public discipline "as a kind of shotgun behind the door," Geyh said.

The long history of complaints against Real made him something of a test case for whether the new judicial disciplinary procedures would be more effective in vetting bad judges -- a test that judiciary scholar and University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur Hellman suggested has failed.

"If Judge Real did not meet that standard, then probably no federal judge ever will," Hellman said of the 9th Circuit ruling in December that Real's behavior didn't rise to the level of willful misconduct. "I don't know of any judge sitting today who has been taken off more cases."

Real has been immersed in controversy for much of the time since his 1966 appointment by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In some cases, as with his 1970 order that ended school segregation in Pasadena, history has judged him kindly. Often, though, his demeanor and decisions have spurred complaints of bias or high-handed behavior.

In 1969, Real jailed five antiwar spectators for failing to stand as he left the courtroom. Six years later, he jailed an NBC attorney for failing to give him a copy of a docudrama. In 1985, Real sentenced Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt to 15 months' detention for a profane taunting. In all three instances, 9th Circuit judges intervened to free those Real had ordered jailed.

Many of the complaints against Real accuse him of refusing to explain perplexing rulings. Judiciary analysts have calculated that Real's reversal rate in some years has been as high as 10 times the average for federal district judges.

"The trial court's biased evidentiary rulings, disparaging remarks and lengthy interrogations of witnesses created an atmosphere in which an objectively fair trial could not be conducted," a 9th Circuit panel ruled in March 2008, reversing Real in a securities fraud case and assigning the retrial to another judge.

At least nine other cases have been removed from Real after being overturned, a form of reprimand seldom imposed even once in a judge's career.

He has answered lawyers' requests for explaining his rulings with "because I said so" and has shut down arguments with the observation: "This isn't Burger King. We don't do it your way here."

Even some critics attribute Real's professional survival to an engaging manner outside the courtroom and a reputation for social contributions as well as contrarian edicts.

But Real's presence on the bench is a bitter reminder of what Dubin sees as the judiciary's reluctance to purge its ranks of rogues and tyrants.

"Real is not the problem, the problem is the 9th Circuit and the regulatory system for the judiciary," Dubin said.

In the dozen years since his release from prison with tennis shoes and $162, Dubin has received vindication from the IRS, earned reinstatement without penalty to the Hawaii and California bars and rebuilt his clientele and financial security.

Dubin sarcastically observed that he has Real to thank for his economic recovery, having become acquainted with foreclosure laws in rescuing his own home -- a practice area that has proved lucrative in a distressed law market.

"If you look at me, at my bank account, my law practice -- I survived, with scars," Dubin said.

"But you have to remember that behind all these words and platitudes, real human beings are absolutely devastated by Real."

Friday, August 14, 2009

rcsi.org - Microsoft Finds Solution For Lackluster Vista Sales

rcsi.org Newsletters

March 2008 Newsletter

Microsoft Finds Solution
For Lackluster Vista Sales

Fake News written by James Baughn
from the supply-and-demand-mean-nothing dept.

Redmond, WA – Hoping to turn around dismal sales
trends for Windows Vista, Microsoft today announced a
new edition of the so-called operating system, Windows
Vista® Shiny Things Edition tm, which will feature a
$3,950 price tag and “lots of shiny things.”

According to market research, many Pointy Haired
Bosses—the prime target demographic of Microsoft
products—were turned off by Vista’s seemingly low prices.

“Revolutionary paradigm shifts are supposed to cost
more than a few hundred dollars,” explained an industry
analyst. “At least that’s what most corporate drones think.
If Microsoft wants to increase sales, it’s going to need to
convince pointy-hairs that Vista is the best thing since
built-in PC cup holders. The easiest way to do that is to
increase the price and add even more useless features.”

Among those useless features, Vista Shiny Things
includes a set of 5 DVDs, each containing 20% more gold
than standard discs. The extra gold doesn’t add any
functionality, but it makes buyers believe that this is a
“luxury” operating system.

“It’s so simple—developers add granite countertops to
a run-down apartment, and suddenly it becomes a ‘luxury
condominium.’ Now Microsoft adds gold plating to its
run-down operating system, and suddenly it becomes a
luxury must-have software package for elite buyers.”

Of course, the new shiny things require an obscene
level of hardware support. But that shouldn’t stop people
from buying it, even if they can’t run it on their computers.

“Vista Shiny Things is like a diamond ring or a
Hummer—it’s strictly for show. Nobody expects you to
actually use the darn thing for anything practical,” said
somebody we found on the street who was willing to talk to
us. “The price tag reflects that. This product is strictly for
keeping up with the Joneses.”

Thursday, August 13, 2009

To The RNC: WAKE UP - by Karl Denninger

He was WAAAAAY late to figure this out, link

I just received one of the famous "fundraising calls" from the RNC.

They were soliciting people to give them money (and tried for slightly over $3k!) to "stop Obama's Health Care plan that will cost $1 trillion."

Oh boy did that poor sap get an earful.

I "explained" that:

  • $1 trillion is a lot of money. $12 trillion is a lot more, and that's how much the RNC has allowed to be pissed away backstopping and rewarding people who have stolen from the American people through bailouts and handouts, all of which have gone to the very people doing the stealing!
  • John McCain, to whom I gave a significant campaign donation, returned my favor by suspending his campaign to push through the EESA/TARP, a bill that by 300:1 margins the American People opposed.
  • If the Republicans are the party of the people why is it that they are allowing these bankers to steal over $30 billion dollars by re-ordering transactions to generate the MAXIMUM in overdraft fees? That's FRAUD and yet it was under a REPUBLICAN administration that this happened.
  • The Republicans have for years presented themselves as "conservatives" and the party of "family values." Why is it that "conservative" doesn't include calling for EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THESE SCAMMERS TO BE THROWN IN PRISON and WHY IS IT THAT I KEEP HEARING ABOUT SOME FLOOZY SCANDAL FROM THESE SO-CALLED "FAMILY VALUES" CHAMPIONS?
  • The ONLY difference between the RNC and DNC is that the DNC tells me up front that the Democrats intend to gang-rape me at the outset. The Republicans claim to intend to protect me, but then after I lower my guard I am violated from behind without warning. This is unacceptable but if I am forced to choose between being warned first and being lied to I'll take the warning thank you very little.

I made clear to THE RNC that if they want one thin dime from me they can call again when every Republican Senator and Representative masses together on the steps of the Capitol and states in one loud, clear voice for all in America and every TV Network:

We will do no more work nor vote for any other action until each and every one of the banksters, scammers and frauds that destroyed our American economy is under indictment and facing charges for their criminal acts, and the improperly granted bailout funds - all of them - are CLAWED BACK from these frauds to the maximum possible extent.

We will do no more work until the banks are required to process transactions in the order they come in and are PROHIBITED BY LAW from charging "overdraft fees" under any other than an existing, voluntarily-subscribed and OPTED IN overdraft LINE OF CREDIT.

We will do no more work until the scammers currently dumping garbage into the FHA are STOPPED AND PROSECUTED and the FHA program is reworked to require 20% DOWN PAYMENTS, 36% DTI maximums and FULL UNDERWRITING with CRIMINAL PENALTIES for false submissions irrespective of who makes them.

We will pledge to shut our pie holes about "family values" until each and every one of us can keep our penis in our pants, except when used to urinate or have sexual congress with our WIFE or SIGNIFICANT OTHER, and the HYPOCRITES in this regard have RESIGNED - all of them - forthwith.

I was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican since I first gained the franchise in 1981. I voted for Ronald Reagan, both Bushes and straight-ticket in state and local races for nearly 30 years.

The Republican Party is supposed to be the party of fair dealing, capitalism, honesty and supporting the effort of individual Americans to get ahead through their own hard work, living within the rule of law.

It has instead become the party of kleptocracy, the party of jackbooted corporatism abusing its power to stomp on the neck of the lower-income American, the party of fraud, the party of hypocrisy and the party of theft-at-gunpoint from every American in support of all of the above.

None of this is acceptable; the RNC's "core values" as practiced (as opposed to as-stated) read more like something out of Nazi Germany than anything I can reasonably associate with a legitimate political party in The United States.

If the Republican National Committee wants one dollar or more importantly, one vote from here on, those are my terms and conditions, and due to the blatant lies from their mouths over the last decade I will no longer accept promises of future action - instead, I demand that I see the action from the RNC and the Republican Caucus FIRST.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Professor Main Target of Assault on Twitter

Professor Main Target of Assault on Twitter

Published: August 7, 2009

The cyberattacks Thursday and Friday on Twitter and other popular Web services disrupted the lives of hundreds of millions of Internet users, but the principal target appeared to be one man: a 34-year-old economics professor from the republic of Georgia.

During the assault — the latest eruption in a yearlong skirmish between nationalistic hackers in Russia and Georgia — unidentified attackers sent millions of spam e-mail messages and bombarded Twitter, Facebook and other services with junk messages. The blitz was an attempt to block the professor’s Web pages, where he was revisiting the events leading up to the brief territorial war between Russia and Georgia that began a year ago.

The attacks were “the equivalent of bombing a TV station because you don’t like one of the newscasters,” Mikko Hypp√∂nen, chief research officer of the Internet security firm F-Secure, said in a blog post. “The amount of collateral damage is huge. Millions of users of Twitter, LiveJournal and Facebook have been experiencing problems because of this attack.”

The blogger, a refugee from the Abkhazia region, a territory on the Black Sea disputed between Russia and Georgia, writes under the name Cyxymu, but identified himself only by the name Giorgi in a telephone interview. Giorgi, who said he taught at Sukhumi State University, first noticed Thursday afternoon that LiveJournal, a popular blogging platform, was not working for him. “I decided to go to Facebook,” he said. “And Facebook didn’t work. Then I went to Twitter, and Twitter didn’t work. ‘How strange,’ I thought, ‘What a coincidence they all don’t work at once.’ ”

Security experts say that it is nearly impossible to determine who exactly is behind the attack, which disrupted access to Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal and some Google sites on Thursday and continued to affect many Twitter users into Friday evening.

But Beth Jones, an analyst with the Internet security firm Sophos, said the assault occurred in two stages.

Early Thursday, the attackers sent out a wave of spam under the name Cyxymu, which is a Latin transliteration of the Cyrillic name of the capital of Abkhazia, Sukhumi. This technique, a “joe job,” is intended to discredit a Web user by making him appear to be the source of a large amount of junk e-mail. “These hackers wanted to make him look responsible for millions of spam e-mails,” said Ms. Jones.

The messages contained links to Giorgi’s accounts on several social networks and Web sites, including Twitter.

The next leg of the attack, Ms. Jones said, was a distributed denial of service, or D.D.O.S., attack aimed at knocking Giorgi off the Web. The hackers used a botnet, a network of thousands of malware-infected personal computers, to direct huge amounts of junk traffic to Cyxymu’s pages on Twitter, LiveJournal, YouTube and Facebook in an attempt to disable them, Ms. Jones said.

The junk messages overwhelmed the services, slowing them, and in the case of Twitter and LiveJournal, shutting them down entirely for a time.

Giorgi said his pages were providing a place for refugees from Abkhazia to exchange memories of their home. The Twitter page had a sepia photograph of a palm-lined city street. “It was nostalgia,” he said.

This week, he began posting day-by-day accounts of the run-up to the conflict that drew partly on posts from his readers inside of Abkhazia, who he said had been describing how the Russian army staged its forces in the region in early August 2008.

“I feel a bit ashamed for the people who lost service because my blog was blocked,” said Giorgi.

The hundreds of millions of Internet users affected were simply “collateral damage,” said Ms. Jones.

The attacks and their aftermath show just how vital Web tools and services are becoming to political discourse — and how vulnerable they are to disruption.

“They aren’t set up to play the role of a global communications network, but very quickly they’ve come to represent that,” said John Palfrey, a law professor and co-director of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

The attacks that felled Twitter shed light on the fragility of the popular microblogging service, especially compared to its competitor Facebook, which quickly recovered from the pummeling, said Stefan Tanase, a researcher at Kaspersky Lab, an Internet security firm. Twitter, a small San Francisco company, has been struggling to improve its security even as it tries to manage hypergrowth in the number of users and messages it handles.

But, Mr. Tanase said, “Twitter is definitely a company that is learning fast and reacting fast.”

The outage frustrated many Twitter users. Some migrated over to better-functioning social networks like Facebook and FriendFeed to send messages and follow conversations, said Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst at Forrester Research and a prolific tweeter.

“If Twitter goes down or shuts down permanently, the conversation just shifts somewhere else,” he said.

For others, solving the problem wasn’t quite as simple.

Soren Macbeth, founder and chief executive of StockTwits, a service that lets investors trade news and information about companies, said his service, which is built on Twitter’s infrastructure, was offline Thursday and still hadn’t fully recovered Friday.

“Having the service be intermittent is almost worse than having it be totally down,” he said. “It makes it seem more like our issue, a problem with our service.”

Mr. Macbeth said the service, which receives as many as 10,000 postings a day, had been at Twitter’s mercy since its inception. “It’s very challenging to run a business on top of Twitter,” he said. The difficulties of working with Twitter had already prompted StockTwits to begin developing a stand-alone platform, which the company plans to introduce on Sept. 1.

But for most businesses, Twitter is merely a supplemental marketing tool.

Ben Van Leeuwen, who runs trucks that serve scoops of ice cream to customers around New York City, said he didn’t even notice the service was down. “Sales were the same yesterday as they were the day before,” he said.

Aaron Magness, who heads up new business development and marketing at Zappos.com, an online shoe retailer with a sizable following on Twitter, said in an e-mail message that the outage didn’t affect the company.

“Twitter is one of many communication tools we utilize,” he said. “Luckily, we love talking to our customers and Twitter going down doesn’t impact our phones."

Friday, August 7, 2009

John Hughes Interview, 2-20-1985 LA Times

Click on pic for larger size

Perez Hilton: tastemaker and troublemaker

Kirk McCoy / The Los Angeles Times
His reach actually extends past the screen.

Perez Hilton: tastemaker and troublemaker

His popularity and power grow as he adds a music imprint and another website, but is the empire sustainable?
By Robin Abcarian >>>
11:54 AM PDT, August 7, 2009
Perez Hilton is not sorry. ¶ He is not sorry for trashing Miss California for saying marriage should be between a man and woman. ¶ He is not sorry he accused Michael Jackson of faking it on the day he died ("Heart attack or cold feet?"), though he did redact his post to remove the cynical speculation. ¶ He is not sorry he posted photos of Oscar-winning "Milk" screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, avatar of gay family values, having unprotected sex with a porn actor. ("If you make a sex tape or pictures, they will get out. And I will post them!" And in this case, take them down when threatened with a privacy invasion lawsuit.) ¶ Nor is he entirely sorry for directing a gay slur at Black Eyed Peas singer will.i.am (although after getting punched in the face by the Black Eyed Peas' road manager in retaliation, he realizes it was wrong to use that word and issued a qualified apology to "the gay community" -- but not to will.i.am, who, he said, "is a moron"). ¶ Anyway, why would he be sorry? ¶ "I've built my brand on being a bitch," said the gay celebrity blogger. "So what?" ¶ But Hilton no longer just gossips about celebrities; he has become one. Now they gossip about him. No longer the failed actor with his nose pressed against the glass, Hilton is firmly on the inside now. He is a star in his own right, in the midst of an expansion that could secure his status as a tastemaker and entrepreneur, or irreparably dilute his brand.

Hilton's closest competitors -- popular sites such as TMZ, OMG! and Wonderwall -- are corporate owned (by Time Warner, Yahoo and Microsoft, respectively). Far less idiosyncratic in tone, none has inspired the intensely passionate love/hate reactions engendered by Hilton, who produces up to 60 posts a day with two people: his younger sister, Barbara (Barby) Lavandeira, 25, and a recent college graduate whom he declined to name. "Why do you want to know that?" he said "It's all about me!"

Increasingly, he is a force to be reckoned with in other spheres of pop culture as well. On July 21, Hilton launched his own music imprint, Perezcious Music, for Warner Bros. Records. While he is trying to come up with a fresh idea for a TV entertainment news show, he's already got Radio Perez, a daily gossip report for Citadel Broadcasting that runs in 55 markets. [Locally, it airs on KPWR-FM (105.9).] It's recorded at home, in the Pepto Bismol-pink guest bedroom he's converted to a closet brimming with free clothes and shoes. ("I love mah freebies.") This week, he is preparing to debut a second website aimed squarely at his vast number of female twentysomething fans.

Every time Hilton, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, utters the sort of outrage that would land him in prison for life if the world were governed by laws of good taste and kindness, his popularity -- and by extension his wealth and influence -- only grows. Even Hilton, a once-schlubby but increasingly lean (thanks to two trainers and a $70-a-day meal service) Cuban-American kid from Miami, seems amazed.

"In. San. Ity," he trilled, sitting in a T-shirt and sweat pants on an L-shaped couch in the living room of his surprisingly modest two-bedroom Park La Brea apartment. The room's high ceilings give an impression of space and offer plenty of room to display the many portraits of him sent by fans. During an interview, the blogger ate a low-cal salmon entree.

Henry Copeland, president of BlogAds, which handles advertising for Hilton, thinks his allure is simple and timeless. Hilton's readers -- the great majority of whom are women in their 20s -- love the way he kicks dirt on Hollywood's mythmaking machine. "Perez comes along and says everything is not the way it seems and people do not have perfect lives," said Copeland.

The schtick has not endeared him to many of the stars he picks on, nor their fans. After dissing Michael Jackson, an "unfollow Perez" campaign was launched on Twitter (though he netted new followers). When he was attacked in Toronto after tangling with will.i.am, plenty of folks were happy to see him get a real-world comeuppance. "People don't want to see you hurt," Tweeted John Mayer in an exchange with Hilton. "They want to see you experience something equalizing. . . . Today, the fourth wall came crashing down."

One Hollywood publicist who represents high-profile actors frequently in Hilton's cross hairs and didn't want to be named for fear of compromising her clients said she respects his work ethic and that he has built a business from scratch, but she doesn't worry about what he writes, invest time cultivating him or think about him when planning a campaign.

"He is literally not on my radar unless I want to go on and laugh about something," she said, adding that many of her clients find him toxic and vengeful.

"Do I think he has a genuine impact on how the world sees talent? I don't think so."

Some major celebrities have gone out of their way to cultivate him, though.

Britney Spears, whom he has never met, asked him to star as a grotesque ringmaster in the video that opens each performance of her current Circus tour. Madonna sent him a video message last year, asking him to choose between her and his 2-year-old mini golden doodle, Teddy. (". . . 'Cause I can get down on all fours," purrs the Queen of Pop. "I chase balls. And I love a biscuit.")

Replaying the Madonna video for a reporter induces in Hilton the kind of hysteria one might see in a tween girl in the front row of a Jonas Brothers concert. "Ohhmyyyygawwwwd," he screams, high-pitched, sitting cross-legged on the floor, his elbows tight against his sides as he claps in ecstasy. "I am such the 13-year-old girl!"

A music fanatic who can't sing or play an instrument, he has boosted the careers of a number of pop acts, including Adele, Katy Perry, Mika, Lady Gaga (his current passion) and newcomer Eric Hutchinson, whose album "Sounds Like This" went from total obscurity to No. 5 on the iTunes album list and became the object of a record label bidding war after Hilton posted four of his songs in September 2007.

"You grow up thinking you want a single on the radio or your video on MTV," said Hutchinson. "I never thought the way to get my music going was to get the right person on a blog to give it exposure. He put a spotlight on me at the right time, and the momentum was suddenly there."

Hilton discovered Hutchinson the way he discovers all new music: Someone -- in this case, a high school friend of Hutchinson's -- e-mailed him. "People don't know how to reach record labels, and a lot of time labels don't listen to stuff that's sent in randomly," said Hilton. "I listen to everything."

Hutchinson's success allowed Robin Bechtel, former head of new media and new business ventures at Warner Bros. Records, to persuade company chairman Tom Whalley to give Hilton his own imprint. "Everyone in the company was like, 'We have to sign Eric Hutchinson,' and I was like, 'No, we have to sign Perez,' " said Bechtel. "He has great ears. If Perez likes something, it's probably going to break."

His first artist is a slight 20-year-old French pop singer named Sliimy (pronounced "slim-ee") who has opened for Britney Spears.

Rise of a gossip

A performing arts graduate of NYU who moved to L.A. to make it as an actor and ended up working unhappily for gay magazines and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (with which he is frequently at war), Hilton launched his blog out of a Sunset Boulevard Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in 2004 when he was bankrupt and at loose ends. As he garnered attention for outing entertainers such as Lance Bass and Neil Patrick Harris, his readership took off.

In 2007, he moved his sister and his mother, Teresita, 56, from Miami and put them to work. Barby is his assistant. Teresita is his "professional mom." She gets a salary and benefits for making his bed, filling the gas tank of his Toyota Camry and walking Teddy, who bounds into the living room during an interview with a teensy pink purse toy clutched in his jaws.

Hilton has often said he'd like to have a child by the time he is 35, and has already investigated surrogates. Should that ever happen, Teresita will transition to "professional grandmother," he said. "No nanny for me!"

In constant demand by reporters, Hilton, who is generous with his time and doesn't bother with ground rules and minders, was recently the subject of a cover story in the Advocate and a profile in Entertainment Weekly. He was furious about the Advocate piece, in which the writer was dismissive of his intellect. ("He's not a deep or nuanced thinker and seems generally unwilling . . . to look critically at himself. . . . He doesn't strike me as all that intellectually honest," wrote Benoit Denizet-Lewis.)

"He basically called me stupid," said Hilton. "I am not stupid. I don't think I have to prove that to anyone."

Even his critics don't doubt his smarts. "Clearly he is an intelligent businessman," said the publicist who would not be named.

"I deal with an awful lot of bloggers, and a lot are smart," said Copeland. "Perez is brilliant. It's a classic success story for the post-publishing environment, in which you've got a very low overhead, and a really dynamic relationship with your readers, and advertisers get that and go for that."

Copeland would not disclose Hilton's ad revenues but said the site commands as much as $72,000 for a single 24-hour wallpaper-style ad that incorporates the banner logo across the top of the site. Nailing down traffic figures is notoriously hard because there are so many ways to calculate them. Copeland said the site gets more than 10 million unique visitors per month and 300 million page views per month (although Copeland's own website tells advertisers the site gets 246 million page views per month).

On Twitter, Hilton ranks around 20th in popularity. His 1.2 million followers make him less popular than Kim Kardashian (1.6 million) but more popular than Mariah Carey (1 million). There is no question that Perez Hilton is read by millions, is rich and is getting richer.

Reader surveys show that the typical Perez Hilton reader is a 26-year-old college-educated white woman who seldom goes to church, is a Democrat and does not shop at Wal-Mart. His new website, he said, will be squarely aimed at her, though he would not reveal more. Copeland said the new site is a response to advertisers asking for something different.

Enough suits for a rack

Hilton rises around 4 a.m. to troll the Internet and his e-mail for material. He used to post images pilfered from paparazzi agencies, which landed him in a big fat copyright infringement lawsuit in 2006 that was eventually settled out of court. Terms of the agreement were confidential, but Brandy Navarre, co-owner of X17 Inc., the first of several photo agencies that sued him for copyright infringement, said, "We were happy."

"It was costing me so much money to fight that lawsuit," said Hilton. "I became a big boy without ever meaning to, or planning to and I had to play by the big-boy rules. I pay for every single image on my website now." (He seems to thrive on combat; in 2007, he filed a lawsuit against X17 in retaliation, alleging that it mistreated its photographers. A judge found he had no standing, since he doesn't work for the agency, and tossed it.)

Hilton recently won an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit filed against him by an Ohio woman who lost her job after he posted a nasty e-mail she sent to him using her work address.

In June, Hilton filed a lawsuit alleging battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Black Eyed Peas road manager Liborio "Polo" Molina, who was charged by Toronto police in the June 22 will.i.am incident, which took place during an after party for the MuchMusic Awards. Molina has not commented on the case, but will.i.am condemned violence and the use of "hateful slurs, racial or gay" in a statement released by his publicist.

Hilton announced that if he wins any money in the case, he will donate it to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, whereupon Judy Shepard, who heads the foundation named for her slain gay son, said she would not accept a donation stemming from "Mr. Hilton's admitted use of an anti-gay slur."

So while Hilton is not sorry for the things he's done, the events of the last few months have prompted some self-reflection and brought home a few truths:

There really is no such thing as bad publicity.

Dethroned Miss California Carrie Prejean, he said, "is more famous now than the actual Miss USA winner!" precisely because he called her a "dumb bitch," although he found the ensuing deluge of angry e-mail from Christian conservatives really annoying.

Planet Earth and Planet Perez are one and the same.

Hilton blew up at will.i.am because he felt he was being browbeaten by the singer for trashing the Black Eyed Peas' latest single, "Boom Boom Pow." It never occurred to him that his provocation -- calling the singer a "faggot" -- could lead to violence. "We weren't in a real-world setting," said Hilton. "We were at an industry event!" How wrong he was: "In the real world, if you use words like that, you better believe there can be real physical and violent consequences. I learned that the hard way."

The physical suffering of others should never be mocked.

"After the Toronto incident," said Hilton, "I didn't even want to look people in the eye at the gym. The shame came from people saying I had it coming -- it was karma. Even though you may think someone is a douche, you shouldn't mock a victim of violence because that victimizes them again. I am much more compassionate now."

Unless, of course, you are one of his favorite targets. Since that epiphany, he has continued to trash Lily Allen as a "cheap ho," Prejean as a "bitch" (again), Sienna Miller as "Sluttyienna," Mischa Barton as "Mushy Fartone" and Rumer Willis as "Potato Head."

Compassion is not exactly good for business.