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Quote of the Day
Aug 26th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fel­low man with­out
at last find­ing the oth­er end fas­tened about his own neck.

Fred­er­ick Dou­glass

Nikon finally makes a full frame digital camera
Aug 23rd, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Nikon D3, Full-Frame, pre­viewed. It’s here, after per­haps the longest peri­od of spec­u­la­tion ever Nikon has today lift­ed the cov­ers on their first full-frame dig­i­tal SLR, the new 12.1 megapix­el D3. The D3 is all about speed and sen­si­tiv­i­ty, twelve megapix­els on a big CMOS chip means large pho­to­sites (8.45 µm pitch to be pre­cise) and that adds up to base sen­si­tiv­i­ty of ISO 200 to 6400 with an addi­tion­al two stop boost over that (up to ISO 25600). The oth­er side of the speed sto­ry (apart from blis­ter­ing AF and shut­ter lag) is that the D3 can shoot at nine frames per sec­ond with AF track­ing or eleven frames per sec­ond with­out. Oth­er head­line fea­tures are a new­ly brand­ed EXPEED image proces­sor, a new 51-point AF sen­sor, col­or AF track­ing, dual CF com­part­ments (with UDMA sup­port), an amaz­ing 3.0″ 922,000 pix­el LCD mon­i­tor with Live View (includ­ing con­trast detect auto-focus), HDMI video out­put and even a vir­tu­al hori­zon func­tion which can tell you when you’re hold­ing the cam­era per­fect­ly lev­el. There’s too much to fit here so we crammed as much as we can into a pre­view. The D3 will be avail­able in Novem­ber, at around US$5000. [Dig­i­tal Pho­tog­ra­phy Review]

Years ago I had intend­ed to buy a Nikon full-frame dig­i­tal SLR when they final­ly came out with one. How­ev­er I sub­se­quent­ly trans­ferred to a new job at Syman­tec that cen­ters on archiv­ing dig­i­tal data, and real­ized that dig­i­tal cam­eras weren’t such a good idea for any­one who wants to keep their pho­tos around indef­i­nite­ly.

Bushevik wants to murder 25 million
Aug 20th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

UnFarah Tac­tics in the War on Ter­ror. Con­gress­man Tom Tan­cre­do has gained at least one vote with his call to nuke Mec­ca: Joseph Farah’s. Mutu­al­ly Assured Destruc­tion may have been good enough to face down the Sovi­et Union, says Farah, but it won’t work with ter­ror­ists, so the only alter­na­tive is to start nuk­ing Islam­ic holy cities, begin­ning with Mec­ca, Med­i­na, Tehran, Qom, Kar­bala, Kufa, Najaf, and Dam­as­cus (“Per­haps all of the above,” says the great Chris­t­ian pun­dit).

Lest Farah be accused of delight­ing in the deaths of mil­lions of Arabs, he writes: “I know I will be pil­lo­ried for mak­ing these sug­ges­tions today. Under­stand it is not because I want to see Islam­ic cities destroyed by fire and brim­stone. It is because I want to see U.S. cities spared from destruc­tion.” Oh, well, then I guess it’s okay since his inten­tions are hon­or­able. Yikes. [LewRockwell.com Blog]

Based on pop­u­la­tion num­bers gath­ered from Wikipedia, the cities that Farah wants to nuke have a com­bined pop­u­la­tion of (approx­i­mate­ly) 25,404,377. I have pre­vi­ous­ly point­ed out that Bushe­viks often talk about Mus­lims the same way that Nazis talked about Jews in the ear­ly 1930s. Appar­ent­ly some of them are ready to move on to advo­cat­ing anoth­er Holo­caust.

We can be sure that all the Bushe­viks who attacked the Pres­i­dent of Iran for sup­pos­ed­ly call­ing for the destruc­tion of Israel (although he real­ly didn’t) will, at best, remain com­plete­ly silent about Farah–and more like­ly will agree with him.

The Trouble With the Business Press
Aug 20th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

The Trou­ble With the Busi­ness Press. “Fake Steve Jobs” (aka Daniel Lyons of Forbes) makes a nice jab at the busi­ness press: Most busi­ness writ­ers hate all com­pa­nies. They hate busi­ness in gen­er­al. I’ve nev­er under­stood this. It’s like hir­ing guys who hate sports to be… [LewRockwell.com Blog]

This seems easy enough to under­stand to me. It’s easy to find jour­nal­ists who love sports to be sports writ­ers, but where is the busi­ness press going to find jour­nal­ists who love busi­ness? Once all three of them have jobs, your labor pool is reduced to the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of jour­nal­ists who are social­ist.

A good series of immigration articles
Aug 19th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Larken Rose on Immigration.

Larken Rose has sent out four new missives in his TMDS (The Most Dangerous Superstition) series:

17 Aug 2007: Understanding the Trick
18 Aug 2007: Illegal People?
18 Aug 2007: Hit a Nerve
18 Aug 2007: Temptation vs. Principle

Those of you who think the U.S. government should work harder to prevent "illegal aliens" from coming the the United States won't be happy. Those of us who realize that the government has no authority to exist, me for example, will applaud.

Quote:

A lot changes when you lose the self-contradictory belief in
"government." A lot of concepts you accepted as self-evident
evaporate, such as country borders, citizenship, patriotism, and
nationalism. Take, for example, that imaginary line between Mexico
and the U.S. What is it? How did it get there? It is the boundary
between the dirt which one set of tyrants claims the right to rule,
and the dirt which another set of tyrants claims the right to rule.
You can wave the flag all you want, and talk about "your" country
and "patriotism," but the fact is, country boundaries are based
entirely upon the inherently bogus, arbitrary claims of the RIGHT
TO RULE made by various megalomaniacs.

You have no more "right" to be here than someone born in Zimbabwe,
or Budapest, or anywhere else. Therefore, you have no right to use
force to stop them from coming here, nor can you delegate to
someone ELSE the right to do so. To put it as bluntly as I can, ALL
"immigration laws" are 100% illegitimate, unjustifiable violence--
all of them, in every country, under any circumstances.

...

Let's use a specific scenario, instead of sloshing around vague
generalities: Juan is an American citizen (of Mexican ancestry) who
lives in El Paso, and owns a restaurant. His cousin, Carlos, lives
just across the river, in Mexico. Juan wants Carlos to come live in
his big house, and work at his restaurant. Carlos wants that too.

Question: Do you personally have the right to take a gun, go to
Juan's house, and tell Carlos that he CANNOT live in that house,
and CANNOT work in that restaurant?

Answer the question, at least to yourself, before you continue.
Once again, you can hide behind various "authority" mythology, like
"Constitutions" and "laws," but what it comes down to in reality is
that if you forcibly chased Carlos away, YOU are the one initiating
violence; YOU are the one oppressing someone who has done nothing
to harm you or anyone else; YOU are the bad guy. And if you ask
someone ELSE to do the thuggery for you (like "government"), you
are still the bad guy.

[End the War on Freedom]

Where conspiracy crackpots come from
Aug 14th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ries.

Fas­ci­nat­ing New Sci­en­tist arti­cle (for sub­scribers only, but there’s a copy here) on con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, and why we believe them:

So what kind of thought process­es con­tribute to belief in con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries? A study I car­ried out in 2002 explored a way of think­ing some­times called “major event — major cause” rea­son­ing. Essen­tial­ly, peo­ple often assume that an event with sub­stan­tial, sig­nif­i­cant or wide-ranging con­se­quences is like­ly to have been caused by some­thing sub­stan­tial, sig­nif­i­cant or wide-ranging.

I gave vol­un­teers vari­a­tions of a news­pa­per sto­ry describ­ing an assas­si­na­tion attempt on a fic­ti­tious pres­i­dent. Those who were giv­en the ver­sion where the pres­i­dent died were sig­nif­i­cant­ly more like­ly to attribute the event to a con­spir­a­cy than those who read the one where the pres­i­dent sur­vived, even though all oth­er aspects of the sto­ry were equiv­a­lent.

To appre­ci­ate why this form of rea­son­ing is seduc­tive, con­sid­er the alter­na­tive: major events hav­ing minor or mun­dane caus­es — for exam­ple, the assas­si­na­tion of a pres­i­dent by a sin­gle, pos­si­bly men­tal­ly unsta­ble, gun­man, or the death of a princess because of a drunk dri­ver. This presents us with a rather chaot­ic and unpre­dictable rela­tion­ship between cause and effect. Insta­bil­i­ty makes most of us uncom­fort­able; we pre­fer to imag­ine we live in a pre­dictable, safe world, so in a strange way, some con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries offer us accounts of events that allow us to retain a sense of safe­ty and pre­dictabil­i­ty.

Oth­er research has exam­ined how the way we search for and eval­u­ate evi­dence affects our belief sys­tems. Numer­ous stud­ies have shown that in gen­er­al, peo­ple give greater atten­tion to infor­ma­tion that fits with their exist­ing beliefs, a ten­den­cy called “con­fir­ma­tion bias”. Rea­son­ing about con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries fol­lows this pat­tern, as shown by research I car­ried out with Mar­co Cin­nirella at the Roy­al Hol­loway Uni­ver­si­ty of Lon­don, which we pre­sent­ed at the British Psy­cho­log­i­cal Soci­ety con­fer­ence in 2005.

The study, which again involved giv­ing vol­un­teers fic­tion­al accounts of an assas­si­na­tion attempt, showed that con­spir­a­cy believ­ers found new infor­ma­tion to be more plau­si­ble if it was con­sis­tent with their beliefs. More­over, believ­ers con­sid­ered that ambigu­ous or neu­tral infor­ma­tion fit­ted bet­ter with the con­spir­a­cy expla­na­tion, while non-believers felt it fit­ted bet­ter with the non-conspiracy account. The same piece of evi­dence can be used by dif­fer­ent peo­ple to sup­port very dif­fer­ent accounts of events.

This fits with the obser­va­tion that con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries often mutate over time in light of new or con­tra­dict­ing evi­dence. So, for instance, if some new infor­ma­tion appears to under­mine a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, either the plot is changed to make it con­sis­tent with the new infor­ma­tion, or the the­o­rists ques­tion the legit­i­ma­cy of the new infor­ma­tion. The­o­rists often argue that those who present such infor­ma­tion are them­selves embroiled in the con­spir­a­cy. In fact, because of my research, I have been accused of being secret­ly in the pay of var­i­ous west­ern intel­li­gence ser­vices (I promise, I haven’t seen a pen­ny).

Lots of good stuff in the arti­cle, includ­ing instruc­tions on how to cre­ate your own con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry.

[Schneier on Secu­ri­ty]

Absurd con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries have been pop­u­lar with a cer­tain seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion for as long as I can remem­ber.

Candidate questionnaire
Aug 7th, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Whom Do You Sup­port?. A neat inter­net ques­tion­naire. (Thanks to Dale Fitz)… [LewRockwell.com Blog]

The ques­tion­naire cov­ers all the Demo­c­rat and Repuli­can can­di­dates and (cor­rect­ly) con­clud­ed that I strong­ly sup­port Ron Paul (fol­lowed dis­tant­ly but still with a fair­ly high score by Mike Grav­el). My scores for Giul­liani and Rom­ney were large neg­a­tive num­bers, appro­pri­ate­ly enough.

Silly twits of the world, unite
Aug 2nd, 2007 by Ken Hagler

Do blog­gers need a union of their own?.

A group of blog­gers and labor activists today con­sid­ered whether blog­gers might need their own union, and if so, what form it would take. Also, whether Repub­li­cans would be admit­ted.

Read More…

[Ars Tech­ni­ca]

At first I thought this was a joke, but after read­ing the arti­cle it appears that the morons are real­ly seri­ous. Just who exact­ly do they think their pro­posed union would extort?

More from the Federal Baby Incinerators
Aug 2nd, 2007 by Ken Hagler

The FBI’s Twist­ed Pri­or­i­ties: Mur­der, Wrong­ful Impris­on­ment Some­times Nec­es­sary to Pre­serve Drug Inves­ti­ga­tions.

Last week, a fed­er­al judge exco­ri­at­ed the FBI for not only hid­ing excul­pa­to­ry evi­dence that would have exon­er­at­ed four inno­cent men who served more than thir­ty years in prison, but for reward­ing those who did the hid­ing and cov­er­ing up with bonus­es and pro­mo­tions. For this crime against Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers will now shell out more than $100 mil­lion. Thus far, none of the gov­ern­ment agents actu­al­ly respon­si­ble for this crime have been held account­able. Only reward­ed.

Well, we’re just get­ting start­ed. On July 19th, the House Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee held hear­ings on the use and abuse of con­fi­den­tial drug infor­mants. The tes­ti­mo­ny Assis­tant Direc­tor of the FBI Direc­torate of Intel­li­gence Wayne M. Mur­phy gave at that hear­ing is tru­ly aston­ish­ing.

The tran­script below was pro­vid­ed by the ACLU. It comes from the Q &A ses­sion after the wit­ness­es pro­vid­ed their ini­tial tes­ti­mo­ny. Murphy’s being ques­tioned by Rep. Dan Lund­gren (R-Calif.) and Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.). The con­text: Lund­gren and Delahunt have cit­ed inci­dents in the past in which the FBI has cov­ered up evi­dence that its con­fi­den­tial drug infor­mants have com­mit­ted vio­lent crimes (includ­ing mur­der) in order to pro­tect their iden­ti­ties, so that they could con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the bureau with infor­ma­tion. They’ve cit­ed oth­er inci­dents, includ­ing the case above, in which the FBI has hid­den excul­pa­to­ry evi­dence, and allowed inno­cent peo­ple to go to prison. Lund­gren and Delahunt want Mur­phy to assure them that the FBI has insti­tut­ed poli­cies to ensure that these sorts of inci­dents won’t hap­pen again–that mur­der­ers won’t be pro­tect­ed and inno­cent peo­ple sent to prison in order to pre­serve drug inves­ti­ga­tions.

Remark­ably, Mur­phy refus­es to make such assur­ances. We pick up the tran­script just after Lund­gren has asked his ini­tial ques­tion, and Mur­phy has obfus­cat­ed. Lund­gren fol­lows up:

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lun­gren: If I could just ask my ques­tion once again very sim­ply. That is: Is there a pol­i­cy in the FBI to share infor­ma­tion with local and state law enforce­ment offi­cials when you, the FBI, have become aware that your con­fi­den­tial infor­mants have engaged in seri­ous vio­lent felony activ­i­ty, not all crim­i­nal activ­i­ty, seri­ous vio­lent felony activ­i­ty, in the juris­dic­tion of the local or the state authorities?â€

Mur­phy: It is my under­stand­ing Con­gress­man that there is not a spe­cif­ic doc­u­ment­ed pol­i­cy, direct­ly to answer your ques­tion sir.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lun­gren: Well I thank you for that because you may have giv­en me the basis for enact­ing our leg­is­la­tion to require that. Do you think it should be?

Mur­phy: I think it’s dif­fi­cult to make a gen­er­al­iza­tion that will fly in every cir­cum­stance. And in fact in some cas­es there are activ­i­ties which are close­ly coör­di­nat­ed with a local law enforce­ment activ­i­ty but have equi­ties that affect oth­er local law enforce­ment activ­i­ties. We’re being asked to respect and sup­port the acts of one local law enforce­ment agency against anoth­er. And I want to say again, I don’t mean in terms of con­fronta­tion­al but in terms of bal­anc­ing the equi­ties and the inter­ests of a long term inves­ti­ga­tion. So I don’t think it would be fair or accu­rate for me to try and char­ac­ter­ize a gen­er­al solu­tion .…

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lun­gren: All I can say is that if I were still a law enforce­ment offi­cer in the state of Cal­i­for­nia and you were to tell me that the FBI was reserv­ing judg­ment about whether to tell me that you have CIs in my juris­dic­tion that are com­mit­ting seri­ous vio­lent felonies, I would be more than offend­ed.

I’ll say. And let’s keep some­thing in mind, here. This would be a moral­ly dubi­ous pol­i­cy even if were were talk­ing about mat­ters of, say, nation­al secu­ri­ty. But we aren’t. We’re talk­ing about the FBI con­ceal­ing evi­dence of mur­der and oth­er vio­lent crimes, and of know­ing­ly allow­ing inno­cent peo­ple to go to prison in order to not dis­rupt drug inves­ti­ga­tions. In oth­er words, all of this is nec­es­sary, the FBI is say­ing, to keep peo­ple from get­ting high. And when con­front­ed by the Unit­ed States Con­gress, the FBI can’t even say out­right that this is cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly a bad idea, nor can it promise that it will insti­tute a pol­i­cy pre­vent­ing these things from hap­pen­ing in the future.

We get more of the same when Rep. Delahunt ques­tions Mur­phy:

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Delahunt: The scan­dal occurred in the Boston office in the late ‘90s, about a decade ago. These issues have exist­ed for decades now.… Is there a legal respon­si­bil­i­ty on the part of the FBI, in the case of mur­der, to report infor­ma­tion to local or state law enforce­ment agen­cies?

Mur­phy: Con­gress­man the Attor­ney Gen­er­al guide­lines in their infi­nite…

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Delahunt: I’m not talk­ing about the Attor­ney Gen­er­al guide­lines. Do they have a legal respon­si­bil­i­ty, cur­rent­ly, to report evi­dence, both excul­pa­to­ry, or evi­dence of a crime, when a homi­cide is being inves­ti­gat­ed?”

Mur­phy: If you will indulge me Con­gress­man, I’d like the oppor­tu­ni­ty to answer that ques­tion offline because there are var­i­ous cir­cum­stances under which that ques­tion might be answered dif­fer­ent­ly that would include some of the aspects about how we man­age sources, how we make deci­sions about the man­age­ment of sources. And I would appre­ci­ate the oppor­tu­ni­ty to answer that ques­tion for the record offline.

The hell with that. If the FBI is “man­ag­ing its sources” in a way that allows for inno­cent peo­ple to be mur­dered by its infor­mants, or sent to prison for crimes they didn’t com­mit, we damned well need to know about it.

To his cred­it, Rep. Delahunt doesn’t back down.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Delahunt:I’m not ask­ing about qual­i­ties or guide­lines or con­sid­er­a­tions. Does there exist today, in your opin­ion, a legal respon­si­bil­i­ty for the FBI to com­mu­ni­cate, in a homi­cide inves­ti­ga­tion, either excul­pa­to­ry infor­ma­tion to the state and local author­i­ties, or evi­dence that would indi­cate that an indi­vid­ual is respon­si­ble for mur­der? That’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ ques­tion.

Mur­phy:I would pre­fer to answer that ques­tion offline if you wouldn’t mind, thank you Con­gress­man.

Delahunt: Well I do mind. And I don’t see the rea­son why that answer has to be pro­vid­ed offline. That’s a legal ques­tion.

Now, go back and read about the “House of Death” case.

Delahunt and Lund­gren say they plan to intro­duce leg­is­la­tion that will force the FBI to both divulge excul­pa­to­ry evi­dence and divulge evi­dence that its infor­mants have com­mit­ted vio­lent crimes. Good for them.

Rather hor­ri­fy­ing, though, that we’d need a law like that in the first place.

Track­Back (0) | [The Agi­ta­tor]

Even more hor­ri­fy­ing is the cer­tain­ty that even if such a law should some­how make it into the books, the FBI would just ignore it and keep right on with what they’re doing.

Self-destructive theater companies
Aug 2nd, 2007 by Ken Hagler

The Decep­ti­cons are Here. One good thing to come out of the YKos FCC ses­sion: I was tipped off to this sto­ry, which I hadn’t heard of even though it hap­pened in a movie the­ater I occa­sion­al­ly patron­ize.

Jhan­net Sejas and her boyfriend were cel­e­brat­ing her 19th birth­day by tak­ing in a mat­inée show­ing of the hit movie “Trans­form­ers” at the the­ater at Ball­ston Com­mon mall.

Sejas was enjoy­ing the movie so much that she decid­ed to film a short clip of the sci-fi adventure’s cli­max to get her lit­tle broth­er hyped to go see it.

Min­utes lat­er, two Arling­ton Coun­ty police offi­cers were point­ing their flash­lights at the young cou­ple in the dark­ened the­ater and order­ing them out. They con­fis­cat­ed the dig­i­tal cam­era as evi­dence and charged Sejas, a Mary­mount Uni­ver­si­ty sopho­more and Annan­dale res­i­dent, with a crime: ille­gal­ly record­ing a motion pic­ture.

Sejas faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 when she goes to tri­al this month in the July 17 inci­dent.

But Sejas was try­ing to con­vince her broth­er to spend mon­ey on a movie.

Kendrick Mac­dow­ell, gen­er­al coun­sel for the Washington-based Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of The­atre Own­ers, said that ille­gal pirat­ing of films costs the indus­try bil­lions of dol­lars and that the indus­try was step­ping up efforts to stamp it out.

Because of that, he said, there has to be a “zero-tolerance pol­i­cy at the the­ater lev­el.”

A “zero-tolerance pol­i­cy?” Come on, that’s cant. Grab­bing 20 sec­onds of a movie isn’t like giv­ing some­one a tiny sam­ple of cocaine. What Sejas was doing wasn’t much dif­fer­ent than what iTunes does, whet­ting your appetite with a 30-second clip of a movie or song. 

[Hit and Run]

So from this we learn that, if you want to inter­est your lit­tle broth­er in a movie, it’s real­ly much bet­ter to down­load the entire thing off the Inter­net and avoid deal­ing with the­aters at all.

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