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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 élite. 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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