Friday, July 24, 2009

Amazon attacked for deleting George Orwell

Two books bad ... Amazon deleted 1984 and Animal Farm from its electronic book reader, the Kindle. Outraged customers lose texts they bought. Is this a warning of what our future holds? I am now feeling rather glad that, like most academics, I have a substantial library of REAL books. There are many books printed hundreds of years ago that are still readable. How long will material stored on today's magnetic and optical media remain available and readable? Will we one day need to go to a government-run museum just to read a CD? I have a little story to tell in that connection which I will put at the foot of the news item below:
Online retailer Amazon has been forced to fend off accusations of Big Brother-like behaviour after it erased two George Orwell books from customers' electronic book readers. In an Orwellian move, copies of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four were mysteriously wiped from customer's Kindle devices.

The Kindle is an electronic book reader that lets users download and read texts from Amazon's online catalogue. Online complaints compared Amazon's move to a book shop breaking in to a customer's house to steal back purchased books. One student lost all of the notes he had made while reading one of the books.

The texts were uploaded by a publisher who did not have reproduction rights, Amazon told technology news website CNet, and so they were deleted. "We removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers' devices, and refunded customers," a spokesman said. "We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers' devices in these circumstances." [But will anybody ever trust them again?]


My story: I recently decided to convert my old Windows computer into a DOS machine -- as a sort of museum for all the old DOS software we used to use a dozen or more years ago. In particular I wanted to create a collection of all the old DOS games that the kids used to play and which they enjoyed so much.

But as soon as I tried, I failed. I had set up DOS machines often in the past so I expected no trouble but this time I failed. I just could not get DOS to boot from the hard drive. Fortunately, my stepson is both himself a computer retailer and also the son of a computer retailer so he remembered a rare switch (/mbr) to the old FDISK command that solved the problem.

But I then found that a lot of my old floppy disks had become corrupt over time so it was important to get the CD drive accessible from DOS as soon as possible. And that was easier said than done. After a couple of hours of hunting around and head-scratching, I finally found a driver file that worked and also figured out the syntax of how to set it up (with driver in CONFIG.SYS and CD command in AUTOEXEC.BAT).

But then there was the problem of getting the sound to work. Modern motherboards have the sound onboard and DOS cannot access that. Fortunately, however, I had an old Soundblaster card left over from a project of a few years ago and we found a slot on the motherboard that would take it. But we have no DOS drivers for it so, at the time of writing, the sound is not yet working. My stepson is however fairly confident that he will be able to find the files we need. But would he be able to find them in (say) 10 years' time?

So the moral of the story is obvious. Stuff that is stored on the routine technology of today can become almost inaccessible in as little as 10 years' time. It makes you think. Technological change does create some risk of wiping out our past.


Lawmakers Express Outrage at ‘Potential’ $23.7-Trillion Liability Bank Bailout Law Could Impose on Taxpayers

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) called it a “brave new world.” Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) called it “one fraud after another.” Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) said the corporate bailout was being run as a “don’t ask, don’t tell program,” and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) made biblical references. A bipartisan group of lawmakers were mystified Tuesday at how what began as the $700-billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) could potentially reach a liability of $23.7 trillion for U.S. taxpayers--compared to the U.S. gross domestic product of $14 trillion.

Neil Barofsky, special inspector general of the TARP program, testified Tuesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the same day his office’s TARP quarterly report was released, which showed the potential escalating cost of the program. “Your report really demonstrates that we have entered into a very, very scary territory, a brave new world where Washington decides what happens on Wall Street and Main Street, and hopefully sometime in the future, we can find a way to have an exit strategy,” Bilbray said.

Barofsky was sure to state that the $23.7 trillion figure was “the total potential government support,” a worst case scenario of sorts under the current structure. “The speculation is if every one of these programs is fully subscribed to, that is the total commitment of guarantees,” Barofsky told the panel. Rep. Dan Burton (R-In.) remarked, “If even half of that is correct, we’ve got a big problem.”

Barofsky stressed that the amount currently outstanding is closer to $3 trillion. Of the original $700 billion in TARP funds approved by Congress and President George W. Bush, $643.1 billion have been allotted to 12 different programs, while a total of $441 billion has been spent. The actual bulk comes from loan programs through the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). “But when you add up all of the different programs, including the ones that are paid back, including ones that may have been cancelled, including collateral programs, the total amount of support, which is what we are trying to capture is, does total $23.7 trillion,” Barofsky said.

Documents obtained by showed that the $23.7 trillion covers total estimated exposure of the government in dealing with the financial crisis and specifically some 50 “initiatives or programs” created by myriad federal agencies in dealing with the crisis, reported The New York Post. However, Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams called the figure “inflated” and said the estimate “does not provide a useful framework for evaluating the potential cost of these programs,” the Associated Press reported.

Issa, the committee’s ranking Republican, said the $23.7 trillion figure was “about 30 times what you would have if you gave away $1 million a year from the birth of Christ until today--just for somebody to try to figure out if that’s true or not.”



Destructive Social "Justice"

There is more than a bit of nastiness in this liberal-progressive urge to smash what others have built and to drag people down to their level.

The Democrat/Socialist Party's plan to nationalize healthcare exemplifies the essence of social justice: an invidious urge to destroy what exists and a faith that social harmony depends upon making everyone equally miserable.

Liberal-progressives estimate that 46 million people, 15% of the population, lack health insurance. In order to provide them insurance, liberal-progressives intend to force each of us to forgo any vestige of individuality and to accept a prison-like regimentation of our healthcare.

When Hillary Clinton was working in 1993 to impose socialized medicine upon us, the Washington Monthly, one of the purest strains of socialism within the liberal-progressive, mainstream media, editorialized forthrightly that a fundamental aim and benefit of Hillary Care would be forcing business leaders to sit for hours in crowded doctors' waiting rooms to receive medical care. There is more than a bit of nastiness in this liberal-progressive urge to smash what others have built and to drag people down to their level.

Why stop at health care? If Lyndon Johnson's equality-in-fact is the aim, the best way to attain it is to put everyone in prison. Everyone then would have tasks assigned by the political state's intellectual czars, along with identical clothing, housing, bedding, food, and drink.

As history shows us, that is the end point toward which all liberal-progressive governments proceed. Most people will not willingly give up what they have worked for all their lives to attain. Force of law, and ultimately of arms, is required to take from some to give to others. Some governments, the United States among them, have not yet traveled too far along that path, but all have the shining example of the Soviet Union to guide them.




There is an amusing takedown of that puffed-up toad known as Andrew Sullivan here.

Hillary accepts Iranian nuclear status: "The US would extend its “defence umbrella” across the Middle East to defend its allies against a nuclear-armed Iran, Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, said yesterday. Mrs Clinton’s comments provoked an anxious reaction from the Israeli Government. Israel’s Minister for Intelligence and Atomic Energy, Dan Meridor, bristled at the implication that Iran’s nuclear status might be regarded as a strategic reality to be offset by other defence capabilities. “I was not thrilled to hear the American statement that they will protect their allies with a nuclear umbrella, as if they have already come to terms with a nuclear Iran,” he told Israeli army radio. “I think that’s a mistake.” Mrs Clinton, speaking at a meeting of foreign ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) in Thailand, said that acquiring nuclear weapons would not make Iran more secure. “We will still hold the door open but we also have made it clear that we’ll take actions, as I’ve said time and time again, crippling action, working to upgrade the defence of our partners in the region,” she said. “We want Iran to calculate what I think is a fair assessment . . . that if the US extends a defence umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it’s unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer, because they won’t be able to intimidate and dominate as they apparently believe they can once they have a nuclear weapon.”

Pakistan objects to expanded US combat plans in Afghanistan: “Pakistan is objecting to expanded U.S. combat operations in neighboring Afghanistan, creating new fissures with Washington as thousands of new U.S. forces are arriving in the region. Pakistani officials have told the Obama administration that the Marines fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan will force militants across the border into Pakistan, with the potential to further inflame the troubled province of Baluchistan, Pakistani intelligence officials said.” [The Paks shouldn't worry. Predator drones will get the Talibs in Pak territory too]

Obama: US on track for 2011 Iraq pullout: “President Barack Obama said Wednesday the United States will stick to its schedule and remove all its troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 even though there will be ‘tough days ahead.’ Standing in the Rose Garden alongside Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Obama said the two nations were in the midst of a ‘full transition’ that would be based on mutual interest and respect.”

Obama's FDA thugs consider ways to short-circuit electronic cigarettes : "“The Food and Drug Administration, recently granted the authority to regulate tobacco as a drug, is taking aim at electronic cigarettes — battery-powered cigarette look-alikes that deliver nicotine and produce a puff of odorless vapor. Tests show that e-cigarettes contain ‘known carcinogens and toxic chemicals,’ including diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze, officials announced Wednesday during a teleconference. The FDA notes that the products have no warning labels.”

Obama is delaying the economic recovery: "Don’t believe the Obama Administration rhetoric about how this economy has just turned out to be so difficult and they are doing the best they can. While the economy is still getting worse, the truth is the recovery is long overdue. The National Bureau of Economic Research dates this recession as starting some time during December, 2007. The longest recession since World War II was 16 months, with the average being 10 months. The current recession has now lasted 19 months. By this reckoning, we should have had a normal cyclical recovery at least 3 months ago.”

Green Baptists preach salvation by breaking car windows: “Who could possibly claim that buying up drivable used cars at prices far in excess of their market value, for the express purpose of destroying them, will be beneficial for the economy or the planet? You guessed it: a combination of economy-saving politicians and earth-saving green activists are peddling the wonders of a new government program popularly known as ‘Cash for Clunkers.’ The Consumer Assistance Recycle and Save Act of 2009 has the two ostensible goals of jump-starting the stalled automobile industry and combating global warming (or climate change, or whatever they’re calling it these days) by replacing old, gas-guzzling smog machines with new, more fuel-efficient, cleaner cars.”

Have government deficits “saved the world?”: “Last week, I wrote about the crudeness of so-called Keynesian economic theory in which one assumes that all assets and capital ‘investment’ are ‘homogeneous’ in character, which means that their only contribution to the economy is from the money that is spent in their creation and continued operation. This view contrasts with the Austrian paradigm, which emphasizes the structure of production within an economy and the unsustainability of capital that is malinvested during a boom. Unfortunately, too many people in high places are prone to believe what on its face is unbelievable: running huge federal deficits somehow is a good thing for the economy.”

Walking away when you can pay: "Some of the promises our government has made in the last few months about ‘helping people keep their homes’ may actually worsen the housing crisis. New proposals ignore the real danger associated with ’strategic default,’ when homeowners decide to stop paying their mortgage, even though they have enough money to make payments. The Obama administration is working to lower monthly mortgage payments, but as a recent study conducted at the University of Chicago points out, it is not necessarily high payments but negative equity in homes that drives default.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

axel621 said...

Hey JR -

If you are looking to run old DOS programs, I'd recommend taking a look at DOSBox (

It's an OpenSource piece of software, and it's really quite effective at allowing you to run old programs (especially games).