universally hated CAPTCHA protection system
As I do not hate Captcha, your hyperbole has failed ;)
The "Hated Captcha" you are so upset about is a check-box that says "I am not a robot". Not exactly complicated.
However, I am surprised you are having difficulty reaching the server.
I just tried it with Chrome and had no issue. And I run with Ad-block, ScriptSafe, and Ghostery. Do you use any sort of ad-block or other software on your systems? I would have to guess that something at your end is blocking the captcha server, either something you installed or your ISP.
[Edit to add: Can you reach gstatic.com normally?]
Devil-pig - please get rid of CAPTCHA.
Please NO! As the volunteer moderator who has to swim through and delete all the spam that gets dropped on the forums there is no way I am going to +1 that thought. You volunteering to stand the watch on the spam front? That was up to 15 to 20 a day! At least with the captcha added it drops the spam down to a manageable level of those accounts set up by an actual human and then used for spam.