New law suit against The Pirate Bay

July 29, 2009

A new law suit against The Pirate Bay is reported in the news. Major movie studios have teamed up to stop TPB from providing torrents. Though TPB lost the previous court battle, the old torrents remain available and new ones are added every day. There’s also some bad news for the planned sale of TPB, as one player pulls out due to doubts about funding.

ZDnet even says the new law suit will block the sale of TPB to the dubious Global Gaming Factory, though no one else seems to have reported that. If true it would be a bit ironic since the new owner says it is negotiating deals with Hollywood studies to turn TPB into a legal file sharing site. Is this Hollywood’s answer to GGF? I guess it makes some sense to try to get TPB to cease activity as a torrent tracker, especially since GGF’s take over is still a bit unclear, but TPB is just one of several torrent trackers and users are already shifting attention to other trackers.

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The Peter Principle: Advancing to maximal incompetence

July 9, 2009

A new eprint (arXiv:0907.0455) reports a computational study of the Peter Principle. Many who, like me, have never heard of the Peter Principle before will be amused to learn that the it asserts that employees climb the career ladder until they reach a maximal level of incompetence with respect to their work tasks. I’m sure many workers will find support for this in their own experiences.

The underlying assumption of the principle is that an employees competence at one level of the career ladder is uncorrelated (and statistically independent) with the next level. Thus, promoting the best does no good, as their competence at the next rung of the ladder is random. Read the rest of this entry »


Saddam Hussein interrogations

July 3, 2009

A Freedom of Information request has made available summaries of the interrogation of Saddam Hussein. I just spent some time reading and skimming through the summary documents. My impression of the interrogation is that Saddam Hussein was prone to self-flattery and some history revisionism, though he directly evaded the questions that would have cast in the worst light. There’s surely several points of interest to students of recent history. With the run-up to the Iraq war still in recent memory, one of the more interesting remarks is in my view the stated reason for resisting weapons inspections. Quoting from document #24, Casual Conversation, June 11, 2004:

* Hussein continued the dialogue on the issues relating to the significant threat to Iraq from Iran. Even though Hussein claimed Iraq did not have WMD, the threat from Iran was the major, the threat from Iran was the major factor as to why he did not allow the return of the UN inspectors. Hussein stated he was more concerned about Iran discovering Iraq’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities than the repercussions of the United States for his refusal to allow UN inspectors back into Iraq. In his opinion, the UN inspectors would have directly identified to the Iranians where to inflict maximum damage to Iraq. Hussein demonstrated this by pointing at his arm and stated striking someone on the forearm would not have the same effect as striking someone at the elbow or wrist, which would significantly disable the ability to use the arm. Hussein indicated he was angered when the United States struck Iraq in 1998. Hussein stated Iraq could have absorbed another United States strike for he viewed this as less of a threat than exposing themselves to Iran.

* Hussein further stated that Iran’s weapons capabilities have increased dramatically, while Iraq’s have been eliminated by the UN sanctions. The effects of this will be seen and felt in the future, as Iran’s weapons capabilities will be a greater threat to Iraq and the region in the future.

More at The National Security Archive, where the interrogation summaries are available.


Prisoner abuse: release photos and/or information?

May 28, 2009

The Telegraph reports that the Abu Ghraib abuse photos ‘show rape’. I’m not sure how much of it is news, but it has added new fire to the debate the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques. For instance, Hornberger at Media with Conscience asks “Was Rape an Enhanced Interrogation Technique?“. It also seems inconsistent with Obama’s statements in connection to his reversal of the decision to release more photos, more at TPM Cafe.

Considering how much outrage for instance the Mohammed caricatures caused in the muslim world, it seems to me that that Obama is right to give in to army lobbying for keeping photos classified. The release of the actual photos is in any case a distraction from the larger issue of to what extent senior officials knew about abuses and torture. The Schliesinger report (Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review DoD Detention Operations) from 2004 had this to say about Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities:

Abuses of varying severity occurred at differing locations under differing circumstances and context. They were widespread and, though inflicted on only a small percentage of those detained, they were serious both in number and effect. No approved procedures called for or allowed the kinds of abuse that in fact occurred. There is no evidence of a policy of abuse promulgated by senior officials or military authorities. Still, the abuses were not just the failure of some individuals to follow known standards, and they are more than the failure of a few leaders to enforce proper discipline. There is both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels.

While the photos perhaps are best left classified, the information surrounding them is another matter. Let’s now lose track of larger issues like if there’s new information that gives reason to reevaluate parts of the Schliesinger report and to what extent senior officials can or should be held accountable.