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Miami Vices .
Nov 30th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Miami Vices. Those in “awe” of the ACLU may experience “shock” in discovering that organization’s limp response to the Miami police department’s declared terrorist assault on Miamians. The city’s deputy police chief warned that police officers might stop people to check their… By Butler Shaffer. [LewRockwell.com Blog]

bq. Such a tepid response is not surprising. While the ACLU has been good on many issues, its actions tend to arise not out of any sense of the innate inviolability of the individual, but from a desire to protect the state from political excesses that might weaken popular sanction for statist rule. Flag-burning can be defended as a form of free speech, because very few Americans would choose to engage in such an act. The ACLU does, however, support “reasonable regulations of gun ownership” – even though gun control laws violate the Second Amendment. I suspect this group’s position on gun ownership – like that of other so-called “liberals” – derives from a fear of having effective power in the hands of ordinary people, which might intrude on the state’s monopoly on the use of force.

It is the ultimate power and authority of the state that the ACLU is most interested in protecting. A few years ago, an ACLU representative spoke at our law school. During the question and answer session, I asked him about the ACLU’s position on the government’s slaughter of innocents at the Branch Davidian facility in Waco. He adamantly condemned the Branch Davidians for their murderous attacks on the police officers! I don’t know if this man represented the ACLU party-line on Waco, but there was little doubt as to his sentiments, particularly regarding a harmless group that had gathered to express their First Amendment “freedom of religion.”

Giving the U.S.
Nov 28th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Giving the U.S. Military the Power to Conduct Domestic Surveillance. More nonsense in the name of defending ourselves from terrorism:

bq. The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies, adding personnel and seeking additional legal authority for domestic security activities in the post-9/11 world.

The moves have taken place on several fronts. The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform CIFA from an office that coordinates Pentagon security efforts — including protecting military facilities from attack — to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage.

The Pentagon has pushed legislation on Capitol Hill that would create an intelligence exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to share information gathered about U.S. citizens with the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies, as long as the data is deemed to be related to foreign intelligence. Backers say the measure is needed to strengthen investigations into terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.

The police and the military have fundamentally different missions. The police protect citizens. The military attacks the enemy. When you start giving police powers to the military, citizens start looking like the enemy.

We gain a lot of security because we separate the functions of the police and the military, and we will all be much less safer if we allow those functions to blur. This kind of thing worries me far more than terrorist threats. [Schneier on Security]

Of course this sort of behavior by the military is exactly why the Founding Fathers opposed the existence of a standing army. In practice, though, it’s too late, because the separation has already been destroyed from the other side–by turning the police into soldiers.

Baltimore to Test Cell Phone Traffic Monitoring .
Nov 19th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Baltimore to Test Cell Phone Traffic Monitoring. Momoru writes “The Baltimore Sun is reporting that a Canadian company, Delcan NET, will begin testing a technology that determines the flow of automobile traffic by monitoring cell phone traffic. The company promises a revolutionary way to determine backups, but privacy advocates fear the implications of a third party tracking users by their cell phones.” [Slashdot]

The history of governments putting up spy cameras at major intersections and freeway overpasses suggests that the privacy advocates are right to be concerned–and that it won’t matter, because very few people in America actually value their privacy.

Outrageous Comparisons .
Nov 15th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Outrageous Comparisons. Remember the furor this summer when Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) read off a description of how prisoners at Gitmo were… [Hit and Run]

It turns out that the Feds treat prisoners of war like captives in a Soviet gulag because the Feds made a deliberate decision to imitate Soviet torturers.

Cold War Software Bugs .
Nov 14th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Cold War Software Bugs. Here’s a report that the CIA slipped software bugs to the Soviets in the 1980s:

bq. In January 1982, President Ronald Reagan approved a CIA plan to sabotage the economy of the Soviet Union through covert transfers of technology that contained hidden malfunctions, including software that later triggered a huge explosion in a Siberian natural gas pipeline, according to a new memoir by a Reagan White House official.

A CIA article from 1996 also describes this.

EDITED TO ADD (11/14): Marcus Ranum wrote about this. [Schneier on Security]

The report mentions that:

bq. “The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space,” he recalls, adding that U.S. satellites picked up the explosion.

A claim like this makes me doubt the validity of the story. The St. Helens explosion of 1980 was seen from space, and that was about 350 megatons. Are we really expected to believe that a natural gas explosion was bigger than that?

And that’s if we assume that the author meant “seen from space by Humans, which rules out all the really big non-nuclear explosions. We can tell that it couldn’t have been as big as the largest Yellowstone explosion, for example, because the world didn’t end in 1982.

Army confirms use of white phosphorus for city combat .
Nov 10th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Army confirms use of white phosphorus for city combat. IT’S TRUE. THERE ARE CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN IRAQ. The U.S. Army confirms it. And so do the Marines, who are having their big birthday today (though historically the birthday has been flexible). Where, or where, oh where, are the international war-crimes tribunals when you need them?
[Wolfesblog]

Of course white phosphorus rounds are not actually chemical weapons. Claiming they are is just like the tactic used by anti-freedom politicians of talking about “assault weapons” to mislead the ignorant. Using trickery and deception doesn’t help those of us who are opposed to the war–it’s just sinking to the level of our enemies.

Military Uses for Silly String .
Nov 10th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Military Uses for Silly String. Really:

bq. I’m a former Marine I in Afghanistan. Silly string has served me well in Combat especially in looking for IADs, simply put, booby traps. When you spray the silly string in dark areas, especially when you doing house to house fighting. On many occasions the silly string has saved me and my men’s lives.

And:

bq. When you spray the string it just spreads everywhere and when it sets it lays right on the wire. Even in a dark room the string stands out revealing the trip wire. [Schneier on Security]

That’s a good trick to know. It can be used by rebels too–the military uses flares and mines with trip wires.

Ask John Smedley About Star Wars Galaxies .
Nov 10th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Ask John Smedley About Star Wars Galaxies. Late last week, Sony Online Entertainment announced a fundamental revamp in the way that the Star Wars Galaxies MMORPG will be played. The Everquest-like autoattacking gameplay and multitudes of player classes are being removed. This marks the most dramatic change ever made to a MMOG already live, and Sony Online President John Smedley is willing to take questions from the Slashdot community about the changes. One question per comment, and we’ll send the ten best questions on to Mr. Smedley. We’ll post his answers as soon as they’re returned. More details are available below, as are some preliminary responses from Mr. Smedley about the broad picture they’re aiming for. [Slashdot]

Apparently Sony wasn’t satisfied with driving off many long-time players (including me) with their previous redesign of the game. Now they’re getting rid of the last traces of the original system and making it just like every other generic level-based MMORPG. Naturally this won’t prompt me to renew my subscription. In fact, Sony Online Entertainment has done such a good job of demonstrating bad faith and incompetence that I dropped my Matrix Online subscription when SOE bought it.

Hate .
Nov 9th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Hate. Given the recent events in France, I thought it might be worth calling attention again to the film Hate on the Mises film list. Here is what I wrote about it a couple years ago (also see my related review of Once Were Warriors):

Hate
(1995)

Welcome
to the international welfare culture. Starting in a
government housing project in Paris, this black and white film follows
three bored and angry youth around for twenty four hours. Said, Vinz
and Hubert, who are Arab, Jewish and African French respectively, are
able to unite together despite racial differences in their hatred of
the life they feel trapped in. They are angry at the cops, the System
or anyone they run across. They don’t know what precisely is wrong or
who is to blame but they know they want to hit back and break free of
it somehow.

Starkly
and compellingly told, the film presents no answers but
presents the questions urgently. This government housed and government
funded culture dots the urban landscape of the developed world, marked
by common elements that now transcend borders like graffiti and rap,
(in fact much of the soundtrack for this French film consists of
Americans rapping in English). The system has three messages for these
young men: you are not useful, you are not responsible and you are a
victim. It is not a system for humans. It must be stopped. In French
with English subtitles. Rated R for violence and language. Read a
review

[Mises Economics Blog]

News: Man imprisoned for 24 hours for snapping photos of a balloon .
Nov 3rd, 2005 by Ken Hagler

News: Man imprisoned for 24 hours for snapping photos of a balloon. In the continuing criminalization of photography, MSNBC reports on a man who was imprisoned for 24 hours and had his name and mug shot broadcast on local news reports for….. taking “artistic photographs” of a balloon and a table at a state fair in Texas.
[Photoethnography.com]

bq. The prosecutor said the system ultimately worked because Vogel was never formally charged.

If the system really worked, the cop who arrested the photographer would have been charged.

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