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Google Earth as a time machine
Jan 29th, 2007 by Ken Hagler


The satellite photos used by Google Earth are around five years old, at least for the LA area, which makes it possible to see some interesting buildings which no longer exist. Here is a photo of the Ambassador Hotel, a famous LA landmark which was destroyed last year to make room for a low security prison government school complex.

Let’s have some perspective
Jan 28th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Why Google will stay in China, despite “evilness”.

Ahh, I see over on TechMeme that Google’s founders say that being in China hurt its image.

So, why won’t Google just leave China and improve its image?

Easy: there are too many smart engineers coming out of Chinese Universities. Leave China and you not only leave a market with more than a billion people in it, but you leave all those smart people to join other companies who haven’t taken an oath to “do no evil.”

When I worked at Microsoft the most amazing software was being done in China (face detection, speech recognition, and video search, just to name three, are being worked on in China, and those are among the hardest things to build).

Why should we care about the quality of our educational systems here in America?

This is precisely why.

I personally support Google and other companies (a bunch of Silicon Valley companies are there, and have been there for years) being in China.

I was in China several years ago and realize that most Americans really have no clue about what’s going on over there. I sure didn’t, before visiting.

I want to visit China again to cover this ongoing story.

[Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger]

I question the entire notion that doing business in China is “evil” because the government of China is evil. Of course it is; it’s a government, and all governments are evil! Focusing on that overlooks two very important things:

  1. The Chinese people aren’t evil, they’re ordinary people living in a country which is rapidly becoming more capitalistic–more so, in fact, than many of the so-called “free” countries.
  2. None of the people complaining about doing business with China ever criticize Google or other companies for doing business with the government of the United States. Sure, the Chinese government has done some really horrible things in the past, but in the present, the American government is considerably more evil, and Google is one of the very few companies which has even tried to stand up to them.
Paging Miguel de Cervantes
Jan 27th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

New Hampshire Man Will Shoot Tax Collectors; Calls Come for Supporters.

Ed Brown has received multiple felony convictions for income tax evasion. After trying to take up his case in court, he and his wife believe that federal agents will storm their 110 acre home, which is like a fortress complete with watch towers and its own supply of electricity should the government try to cut off the Browns’ power.

According to Lauren Canario,

“In speech Ed Brown takes his ideals seriously. He explains his concepts of good and evil in a confident and patient tone, as if teaching an apprentice. He showed me the realistic paintings decorating his spacious home: a shining medieval knight bowing to be dubbed by a princess; a 19th century man and woman walking together; a mother and child that seemed illuminated by emotion rather than light. He seems to have lived his life believing chivalry, love and honor were possible, but now events have convinced him that he may have to die to uphold his ideals, and he accepts his possible violent fate with composure.”

Others are coming to support Brown. Some with guns, others with cameras or signs in the event of another Waco massacre. Still others are sending letters of support, flags, and are writing the sheriff’s office to ask the local police not to harm him.

It could be months before government agents try to enter his compound, since Brown is determined not to be taken to jail alive.

Here’s a link to the story, which also has information on how to support Brown.

Here’s a link to other developments as they occur.

Let’s hope this all ends non-violently, and that the criminal invaders come to their senses before attacking an old man and his wife who question the legality of the income tax.

[Mises Economics Blog]

This post tends to confirm my initial impression, that Ed Brown is a modern-day Don Quixote. I can’t imagine that there’s any chance he’ll be left in peace, so I can only hope that he manages to die quickly. Nobody deserves to be taken alive by the Evil Empire, but it would be a particularly horrible fate for such an idealistic man.

Record companies don’t want foreigners’ business
Jan 26th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Buying Songs From Other Countries On iTMS. It’s no secret that record companies like to sell different material in different countries. A quick comparison of various global Amazon sites versus the import section of your favorite local record store will give you a taste of what you’re missing. Slate has an interesting, Japan-focused article detailing some of the cool tunes you haven’t had a chance to hear. They also post an innovative work-around used by iTMS customers for instant gratification:

While iTunes Japan pegs foreign undesirables from their credit card numbers, it can’t screen fake Japanese addresses provided by prepaid iTunes Card users. There’s a small but ardent underground economy among Americans in dummy addresses and e-mailed scans of Japanese iTunes Cards, picked up by friends in Tokyo convenience stores or openly sold online.

[MacSlash]

It’s an interesting workaround, but not terribly practical for the general public. It’s ironic that the idiocy of the record labels in trying to restrict people from buying music based on where they live can easily be defeated by simply downloading the music without paying from one of the many pirate site.

Prime real estate
Jan 23rd, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Ever wanted to get away from it all? I spotted this eBay listing for a 160 acre lot in Panamint Valley, California. This isn’t even the middle of nowhere–it’s more like a forgotten back corner of nowhere. It’s the next valley west of the (much better known) Death Valley, and has a current population of (as near as I can tell) twelve. I gather nearby Panamint City does still attract tourists, though, so the transient population might go up by a dozen or two at various times.

I have to admit, if I wasn’t sure the price will be boosted into the stratosphere by the real estate bubble, I’d be tempted.

Quote of the Day
Jan 9th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Humanity many times has had sad experience of superpowerful police forces…. As soon as [the police] slip out from under the firm thumb of a suspicious local tribune, they become arbitrary, merciless, a law unto themselves. They think no more of justice, but only of establishing themselves as a privileged and envied elite. They mistake the attitude of natural caution and uncertainty of the civilian population as admiration and respect, and presently they start to swagger back and forth, jingling their weapons in megalomaniac euphoria. People thereupon become not masters, but servants. Such a police force becomes merely an aggregate of uniformed criminals, the more baneful in that their position is unchallenged and sanctioned by law. The police mentality cannot regard a human being in terms other than as an item or object to be processed as expeditiously as possible. Public convenience or dignity means nothing; police prerogatives assume the status of divine law. Submissiveness is demanded. If a police officer kills a civilian, it is a regrettable circumstance: the officer was possibly overzealous. If a civilian kills a police officer all hell breaks loose. The police foam at the mouth. All other business comes to a standstill until the perpetrator of this most dastardly act is found out. Inevitably, when apprehended, he is beaten or otherwise tortured for his intolerable presumption. The police complain that they cannot function efficiently, that criminals escape them. Better a hundred unchecked criminals than the despotism of one unbridled police force.

Jack Vance, The Star King, 1964 (later included in The Demon Princes)

New radio
Jan 7th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

I just bought a Sony ICF-SW7600GR shortwave receiver. It’s very small and light, about the size of a paperback book. It runs on four AA batteries, or an optional power adapter that wasn’t included.

I’ve only had it for a day, but so far it seems to work pretty well. There’s no reception inside my apartment, between the construction of the building and all the electronics, so I took it up to the roof for a quick test. Using just the built-in telescoping antenna (without the clip-on wire that comes with it) I was able to pick up KBS World Radio on 9560 kHz, which is broadcast from Sackville, Canada. That’s clear on the other side of North America–not bad for a three foot antenna!

Importing Capitalists
Jan 6th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

The Impact of Immigrant Innovators. Ramakrishnan writes “The Wall Street Journal is carrying a report on immigrant innovators and entrepreneurs. According to the piece, nearly a quarter of all California startups which went into business between 1995 and 2005 had an immigrant as a founding member. These businesses, together, employ almost half a million workers and generated about $50 billion in sales in the year 2005. The study seems quite topical, given recent discussions in the U.S. capital. From the article: ‘Supporters of an immigration bill are likely to use the study to argue the importance of foreign-born workers to the U.S. economy. An immigration bill passed by the last Congress and heavily lobbied by business groups would have greatly increased the number of green cards available to skilled workers. Business has long argued that the U.S. schools aren’t turning out enough scientists, mathematicians and engineers, and that the economy will lose its competitive edge without more skilled foreign workers.'”

[Slashdot]

I can believe it. There are many small businesses in LA, especially here in Koreatown where few large chain stores exist, and I’d say around 95% of the ones I’ve been to are owned by immigrants.

Labels’ share of online music revenue
Jan 4th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

RIAA Admits 70 Cent Price is ‘In the Range’. NewYorkCountryLawyer writes “In its professed battle to protect the ‘confidentiality’ of its 70-cents-per-download wholesale price, the RIAA has now publicly filed papers in UMG v. Lindor in which it admits that the 70-cents-per-download price claimed by the defendant is ‘in the range’.(pdf) From the article: ‘The pricing data really may not be all that secret. Late in 2005, former New York Attorney General (and current Governor) Eliot Spitzer launched an investigation into price fixing by the record labels, alleging collusion between the major labels in their dealings with the online music industry. Gabriel believes that making the pricing information public would ‘implicate [sic] very real antitrust concerns’ as the labels are not supposed to share contract information with one another … Beckerman argues in a letter to the judge that the only reason the labels want to keep this information confidential is to ‘serve their strategic objectives for other cases,’ which he says does not rise to the legal threshold necessary for a protective order. The proposed order would force the labels to turn over contracts with their 12 largest customers. Most details–such as the identities of the parties–would be kept confidential, but pricing information and volume would not.'”

[Slashdot]

I’d done some extensive research on the iTunes Music Store a few years ago for a musician friend. At the time, 60 cents of the 99 cent per-track charge went to the label and the artist. Exactly how that got split up depended on the label. For music sold via CD Baby, the artist got 54 cents and CD Baby got 6 cents. At the time that was the best deal available for the artists, and no doubt has a lot to do with the fact that most of the independent artists I know uses them. No doubt the split for major labels is much, much worse for the artist.

Interesting arguement against police
Jan 2nd, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Are Cops Constitutional? The United States of America was founded without professional police. Its earliest traditions and founding documents evidenced no contemplation that the power of the state would be implemented by omnipresent police forces. On the contrary, America’s constitutional Framers expressed hostility and contempt for the standing armies of the late eighteenth century, which functioned as law enforcement units in American cities. The advent of modern policing has greatly altered the balance of power between the citizen and the state in a way that would have been seen as constitutionally invalid by the Framers. The implications of this altered balance of power are far-reaching, and should invite consideration by judges and legislators who concern themselves with constitutional questions. [Constitution Society]

An interesting, if long-winded, article questioning the Constitutionality of modern police. From the hundreds of footnotes, I’d guess that this started out as some kind of academic paper.

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