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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 coordinated 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 matinee 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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