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At least the British still give lip service to the rule of law
Mar 27th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Britain responds to the “rule of law” nui­sance.

Britain responds to the “rule of law” nui­sance: Via Salon: Glenn Green­wald.

(updat­ed below — Update II)

One of the prob­lems for the U.S. Gov­ern­ment in releas­ing Guan­tanamo detainees has been that, upon release, they are free to talk to the world about the treat­ment to which they were sub­ject­ed.  When the Bush admin­is­tra­tion agreed to release Aus­tralian David Hicks after almost 6 years in cap­tiv­i­ty, they did so only on the con­di­tion that he first sign a doc­u­ment­ing stat­ing that he was not abused and that he also agree — as The Aus­tralian put it — to an “extra­or­di­nary 12-month gag order that prevent[ed] Hicks from speak­ing pub­licly about the actions to which he has plead­ed guilty or the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing his cap­ture, inter­ro­ga­tion and deten­tion,” a gag order which “also silence[d] fam­i­ly mem­bers and any third par­ty.”

Last month, in response to increas­ing pres­sure in Britain over reports of British res­i­dent Binyam Mohamed’s dete­ri­o­ra­tion in Guan­tanamo, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion released him back to Britain.  Ever since, he has been detail­ing the often bru­tal tor­ture to which he was sub­ject­ed over sev­er­al years, tor­ture in which British intel­li­gence offi­cials appear to have been, at the very least, com­plic­it.   read more »

[Pri­va­cy Digest: Pri­va­cy News (Civ­il Rights, Encryp­tion, Free Speech, Cryp­tog­ra­phy)]

Hope­ful­ly the British inves­ti­ga­tion will be allowed to pro­ceed. Unfor­tu­nate­ly I sus­pect it’s more like­ly that either the Evil Empire will order them to drop the mat­ter or else they’ll fol­low the exam­ple of cops and find them­selves inno­cent of any wrong­do­ing.

Freeman Dyson and ecofreaks
Mar 25th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

The Civil Heretic [The New York Times]

A lengthy and well-written article on Freeman Dyson and his disbelief in the "global warming" religion.

Occasionally I see job listing…
Mar 12th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Occa­sion­al­ly I see job list­ings say­ing “high stress job sup­port­ing three dif­fer­ent projects” and I think “Wow, sounds like a vaca­tion.”

Truth in advertising
Mar 11th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Seen on the menu in an LA restau­rant: “Nano Burg­er.” When your $13 gets you a burg­er the size of a quar­ter, at least they can say they warned you…

Kindle 2 Review
Mar 6th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Last week I got a Kin­dle 2 from Ama­zon. Here are my impres­sions so far.

Phys­i­cal­ly, the Kin­dle 2 looks like an over­sized iPod. The screen is notice­ably bet­ter than any oth­er com­put­er screen I’ve seen. The con­trast is a bit less than a print­ed book, but unless you’re read­ing in very low light this won’t be a prob­lem (and read­ing in such low light wouldn’t be very com­fort­able with a book either). I’ve found that I can read the Kin­dle screen all day with­out get­ting the headache I would from a computer’s LCD mon­i­tor. The inter­face is sim­ple and well-suited to its rather min­i­mal job of keep­ing out of the user’s way while he reads.

The device is a bit wider than a paper­back book, but still nar­row enough to fit in the car­go pock­ets of my fatigues and the large inside pock­ets of my photographer’s vest. For peo­ple with less prac­ti­cal wardrobes, it would prob­a­bly be nec­es­sary to car­ry it in a brief­case or purse. Although it doesn’t come with a cov­er, it would be unwise not to buy one. The offi­cial Ama­zon cov­er works well, hold­ing the Kin­dle with two flat met­al hooks and pro­tect­ing the screen with thick card­board cov­ered by soft cloth on the inside and (alleged­ly) leather on the out­side.

Ama­zon claims that the bat­tery life is four days with wire­less on. I’m sure that’s true some­where, but it’s not good for four days on any plan­et I’ve heard of–I’d say it lasts for about twelve hours of use. Bat­tery life is great­ly extend­ed by turn­ing off wire­less. Since the wire­less fea­ture is basi­cal­ly a cell-phone trans­ceiv­er, it’s a good idea to leave it off almost all the time any­way, unless you like the gov­ern­ment track­ing your every move.

Besides the “Ama­zon Kin­dle” for­mat, the Kin­dle 2 can read Mobipock­et and plain text files with­out any con­ver­sion. The Mobipock­et for­mat seems to be fair­ly com­mon among ebook sell­ers oth­er than Ama­zon. Books from sources oth­er than Ama­zon can be loaded via the includ­ed USB cable, or emailed and then deliv­ered (for a ten cent charge) over the wire­less con­nec­tion.

I’m less impressed with Amazon’s pric­ing of Kin­dle books. They seem to con­sid­er $9.99 the “stan­dard” price for Kin­dle books, with some going for more and old­er books going for less. It seems fair­ly ridicu­lous to charge more than a paper­back for some­thing with no man­u­fac­tur­ing or dis­tri­b­u­tion costs. The selec­tion also has some rather large holes in it–nothing by J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Forester, for exam­ple.

That’s not to say that Amazon’s Kin­dle store is entire­ly worth­less. They do have some books old enough to be out of copy­right for free, such as The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Steven­son. There are also peri­od­ic pro­mo­tions where they sell books for sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduced prices or even give them away for free for a short time.

For­tu­nate­ly, I nev­er intend­ed to rely on Amazon’s Kin­dle book­store for my read­ing mate­r­i­al. For years now, most of my fic­tion read­ing has come from pub­lish­ers who sell ebooks for con­sid­er­ably more rea­son­able prices, such as Baen Books, and from entire­ly free fic­tion pub­lished only on the Inter­net, such as the (many, many) works of Eyrie Pro­duc­tions. Now I can read those books any­where, with­out being depen­dent on a lap­top (and with­out the headache).

Over­all, I’d say the Kin­dle is an excel­lent choice for any­one who already reads exten­sive­ly from online sources, or who trav­els often and cur­rent­ly car­ries heavy stacks of nov­els with them. For any­one else, though, it’s prob­a­bly not worth pay­ing the inflat­ed prices.

A strange sort of vulture
Mar 2nd, 2009 by Ken Hagler

People wait for a chance to sneak into apartment buildings.

Peo­ple wait for a chance to sneak into apart­ment build­ings.

Late­ly I’ve been see­ing groups of peo­ple like this lurk­ing like vul­tures out­side apart­ment build­ings in Kore­atown. They wait for some­one to enter or leave a build­ing, and then one of them pounces on the door, hold­ing it open so that the entire group can enter.

I’m not cer­tain what their goals are, but the some­what bizarre yet sim­i­lar nature of their cloth­ing and the print­ed mate­ri­als they car­ry rather strong­ly sug­gest that they are a bunch of reli­gious fanat­ics look­ing to harangue res­i­dents.

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