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Apology Accepted, Captain Needa

February 13th, 2015 - 9:42 am

Sorry, but I ain’t buying it:

Pressured by Congress, the IRS said Wednesday it is changing its policies and apologizing for seizing banks accounts from otherwise law-abiding business owners simply because they structured bank transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements.

Their alleged crime: routinely making bank deposits of less than $10,000. That allowed the business owners to avoid reporting requirements designed to catch drug dealers and money launderers.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told Congress that the IRS is changing policies to prevent the seizures, as long as the money came from legal means.

“To anyone who is not treated fairly under the code, I apologize,” Koskinen told the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee. “Taxpayers have to be comfortable that they will be treated fairly.”

Let us speak frankly: Koskinen’s apology is bullshit, because now that President Look at Me Looking at Me has fully weaponized the IRS, it is legally and politically impossible to rein in that agency — and its powers are effectively unlimited.

The only solution is to repeal the Income Tax Amendment, nullify every law associated with it, fire every IRS employee, and destroy every IRS building with fire. From there we can move to either a Fair Tax or to a flat tax collected by the states and remanded to Washington based on good behavior.

If I’ve left anything out, please let me know.

News You Can Use

February 13th, 2015 - 8:31 am

50 SHADES

Firefighters don’t just put out fires. They rescue cats from tall trees, they give safety lessons to school children, and sometimes they use hydraulic cutting equipment to remove penis rings.

They expect to be doing more along the lines of that last item following the release of 50 Shades of Grey to movie screens:

Firefighters today warned the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey film could cause a spike in callouts from over-zealous lovers having bondage mishaps.

The London Fire Brigade said it is called at least once every day to “compromising” situations – including stubborn penis rings and a man with his genitals stuck in a vacuum cleaner.

In one instance in November last year the brigade was called by doctors to King’s College Hospital to help remove two steel rings which had been stuck on his penis for three days.

Firefighters were eventually able to remove them using hydraulic cutting equipment after the unfortunate incident.

You know you’re not supposed to…

…actually, knock yourself out and enjoy all the kinky thrills you like. But you might want to try not involving the local fire department.

Required Reading

February 13th, 2015 - 7:23 am

Seth Mandel writes that “we have to talk about Obama’s ignorance,” although some days it feels like that’s all we’ve been talking about for the last six or seven years. That old ennui aside, Mandel has brought together a lot of the President’s Greatest Misses into one column. Here’s the one which concerns us most today:

It is not my intention to run down a list of all Obama’s flubs. Everybody makes mistakes, and any politician whose words are as scrutinized as the president’s is going to have their share of slip-ups. Yes, Obama is a clumsy public speaker; but that’s not the problem, nor is it worth spending much time on.

The problem is that Obama tends to make mistakes that stem from a worldview often at odds with reality. Russia is a good example. Does it matter that Obama doesn’t know the basics of Vladimir Putin’s biography and the transition of post-Soviet state security? Yes, it does, because Obama’s habit of misreading Putin has been at the center of his administration’s failed Russia policy. And it matters with regard not only to Russia but to his broader foreign policy because Obama has a habit of not listening to anyone not named Jarrett. Obama appointed among the most qualified American ambassadors ever to represent the U.S. abroad in sending Michael McFaul to Moscow. But with or without McFaul, Obama let his own naïveté guide him.

We won’t really have a post-racial country until we can have an frank discussion about the real and lasting harm Valerie Jarrett has done to it.

Regulate THIS!

February 13th, 2015 - 5:25 am

If this post seems late, it’s because I sat on the story for nearly a week, watching certain websites for reactions.

With that, here’s what GOP FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai had to say about the Commission’s plan for net neutrality:

“President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet. It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works,” Pai said. “The plan explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband… These new taxes will mean higher prices for consumers and more hidden fees that they have to pay.”

In his initial cursory overview of the plan, the commissioner said it would hinder broadband investment, slow network speed and expansion, limit outgrowth to rural areas of the country and reduce Internet service provider (ISP) competition.

“The plan saddles small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs with heavy-handed regulations that will push them out of the market,” Pai said. “As a result, Americans will have fewer broadband choices. This is no accident. Title II was designed to regulate a monopoly. If we impose that model on a vibrant broadband marketplace, a highly regulated monopoly is what we’ll get.”

You might dismiss Pai’s statement because he’s a partisan. On the other hand, the tech sites I frequent, which are mostly in favor of net neutrality, have mostly been silent about this particular proposal. I’m thinking especially now of Daring Fireball’s John Gruber (whom I respect deeply on most tech subjects), whose support of Net Neutrality borders on holier-than-thou, but who hasn’t written a single word about what the FCC has up its sleeve.

Maybe the deafening silence is because we haven’t actually seen the proposal yet — but certainly we know enough to say something by now. So my gut feeling is that nobody actually likes this thing, everybody knows just how bad it will be, but few are willing to cross Dear Leader.

I hope I’m wrong, but we’ll see what happens — or doesn’t happen — after the FCC goes public.

Thought for the Day

February 12th, 2015 - 3:37 pm

BUDDIES

President Look at Me Looking at Me is still hanging out with known terrorists — and I’m not talking about the Iran negotiations. Read:

On Aug. 30, 2014, MSNBC anchor Alex Wagner and former White House chef Sam Kass got married at a private wedding north of New York City. It was widely reported at the time that President Obama, a longtime friend of the groom, attended the ceremony with his family. There were two other notable guests, however, whose attendance has been successfully kept secret: Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, the former campus radicals whose loose association with the Obama family over the years has inspired countless Fox News fever-dreams and led to Sarah Palin’s famous accusation that Obama “pal[s] around with terrorists.”

We recently heard that Ayers and Dohrn, both former leaders of the Weather Underground, the militant left-wing group best known for bombing empty government buildings in the 1970s, were also present for the Wagner-Kass celebration at the Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a restaurant and event space in Pocantico Hills, New York.

While the fact that Obama was literally partying with former advocates of violent struggle against the U.S. government will no doubt be taken by his critics as further evidence that he hates America, the most interesting thing about the wedding is the shocking proof it offers that—at long last!—Obama truly no longer gives a fuck about keeping up political appearances.

It’s after the election, and he has the “flexibility” he always wanted.

Keep that in mind on every issue.

Samsung Steps in it Again

February 12th, 2015 - 1:28 pm

I don’t mean to keep picking on the South Korean electronics giant, but this story is filled with ouch:

Thought you could watch that video on your local hard drive without ads? Think again: A number of owners of Samsung’s smart TVs are reporting this week that their TV sets started to interrupt their movie viewing with Pepsi ads, which seem to be dynamically inserted into third-party content.

“Every movie I play 20-30 minutes in it plays the pepsi ad, no audio but crisp clear ad. It has happened on 6 movies today,” a user reported on Reddit, where a number of others were struggling with the same problem.

Reports for the unwelcome ad interruption first surfaced on a Subreddit dedicated to Plex, the media center app that is available on a variety of connected devices, including Samsung smart TVs. Plex users typically use the app to stream local content from their computer or a network-attached storage drive to their TV, which is why many were very surprised to see an online video ad being inserted into their videos.

Putting ads into movies you own? Yep:

It looks like the ad insertion was accidentally turned on by default for apps that it wasn’t actually meant for, but the faux pas points to a bigger issue: Device makers like Samsung have long tried to figure out how to monetize their platforms and generate additional revenue in a time where margins on hardware are slim at best.

Back in the ’60s when color TV was introduced, Sony almost went broke by refusing to put out a color model. The reason for that was Sony founder Akio Morita didn’t want to sell a “me-too” color TV. The company’s B&W sets were the best money could buy, and he was going to make damn sure the same was true when the company finally put out color sets.

The result was the innovative Trinitron color tube, which went on to define the best color screens money could buy — for the next 35 or more years.

Today, everybody is using pretty much the exact same LCD screens, printed in massive sheets by inexpensive Asian suppliers. That’s sucked all the profit out of the big screen market, which is why TV makers are instead competing on how many software functions they can cram into your set.

Of course, none of these manufacturers know squat about good software or what might actually be a smart way to make TVs “smart,” and so consumers are stuck paying more for a lot of crap they mostly don’t use, and which barely works when they try.

Ideally, a TV set should be a dumb screen like it always was, and consumers would each add the “smart” their own way — through the set-top box of their choice. But then companies like Samsung are stuck selling zero-margin dumb screens, and they don’t like that.

If TV makers really want to earn fatter profits on smarter hardware, then they’d better get a whole let better at writing software. To date however, they show zero talent for it.
(more…)

Vice President Butt Buddy

February 12th, 2015 - 12:24 pm

So this is a thing that just happened.

The Ukraine peace deal doesn’t look too bad on paper:

Guns would fall silent, heavy weapons would pull back from the front and Ukraine would trade broad autonomy for the east to get back control of its Russian border by the end of 2015 under a peace deal hammered out Thursday in all-night negotiations between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany.

“Jaw-jaw being better than war-war,” of course but this deal gives Putin most of he wanted — Ukraine cedes much of its national sovereignty to Russian-majority enclaves in the east. What does Kyiv get in exchange? Less:

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said there was no agreement on autonomy or federalization for eastern Ukraine, a longtime demand of Russia, which wants that to maintain its leverage over Ukraine and prevent its neighbor from ever joining NATO.

The deal, however, requires the Ukrainian parliament to give wide powers to the eastern regions as a condition for restoring Ukraine’s full control over its border with Russia — a provision certain to trigger heated debate in Kiev.

Uncertainty remained even on the cease-fire, as Putin admitted he and Poroshenko disagreed on the situation at the government-held town of Debaltseve.

It will be nice if, even temporarily, you have fewer people dying in Ukraine. Mostly what you have here in this agreement though is enough ambiguity to drive an armored maneuver brigade through.

Literally.

Putin will be back for more.

A Friendly Tip

February 12th, 2015 - 10:00 am

YOGA PANTS FREEDOM

You may have already read Sonny Bunch’s spirited defense of a woman’s right to yoga pants, but there was one thing which should have caught your eye — and I don’t mean the long-haired blonde in the third photo down. Although I could hardly blame anyone, male or female, if she did catch your attention.

Instead I mean the real meat of Sonny’s post, which was text quoted from a Mother Jones article:

Montana Republican state Rep. David Moore has a plan to guide America out of the darkness—ban yoga pants. Moore, who is upset that group of naked bicyclists pedaled through Missoula last year, decided that what his state really needs right now is tighter regulations on trousers. His proposed bill, HB 365, would outlaw not just nudity, but also “any device, costume, or covering that gives the appearance of or simulates the genitals, pubic hair, anus region, or pubic hair region.”

If you’re a GOP lawmaker in this age of the War on Women and whatnot, and you think you need to sponsor legislation with the phrase “genitals, pubic hair, anus region, or pubic hair region” in it, and your bill doesn’t involve health care…

…then you need to kindly sit down and shut up and think for one damn minute exactly what kind of Akin-level bullshit harm you’re doing to your cause and to your party.

You’re welcome.

Court OK’s Breast Groping at Work

February 12th, 2015 - 8:55 am

Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes this heartwarming story from Germany:

In a historic judgment, a German court today ruled that groping a woman’s breasts while at work does not constitute a ‘sackable’ offense. Particularly if done only once. A 37 year old man who had been fired in 2012 after a female employee working at the same garage as him complained of him trying to take undue liberties with her, he was sacked. Saying that he was upset at being thrown the door, the employee approached the court.

Judges of the Federal Labor Court sitting in Erfurt said that the car mechanic who groped the 26-year-old cleaner at his workplace while saying ‘these look like fun’ should not have been dismissed.

My advice? Don’t.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

February 12th, 2015 - 7:31 am

SIGNAL

And it’s a doozy — if by “doozy” you mean “up to tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars per co-op enrollee.” If you don’t remember the insurance co-ops from ♡bamaCare!!!, here’s a short primer from Melissa Quinn:

Under Obamacare, co-ops were designed to inject competition into markets with limited insurance options. Through the program facilitated by the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight—a subagency of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—23 co-ops were created and received federal funding.

To assist the new insurers in getting off the ground, the federal government disbursed $2.5 billion in low-interest startup and solvency loans as of December.

The co-ops aren’t huge, although you could argue that 500,000 or so enrollees is a big number, compared to ♡bamaCare!!!’s modest total enrollments. The interesting number is how much it costs us to insure co-op customers:

However, an analysis conducted by The Daily Signal published yesterday found that just one, Maine Community Health Options, was profitable last year.

Using the latest quarterly filings for 22 co-ops, The Daily Signal examined how much money (in federal dollars) co-ops received per consumer who enrolled in a group or individual plan. On average, each co-op received $17,344 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services per enrollee.

$17,344 in co-op subsidies doesn’t look like “competition” to me; it looks like another massive government boondoggle. To be fair though, the taxpayer expense differs wildly from state to state. A co-op customer here in Colorado doesn’t cost much more than a typical ♡bamaCare!!! dole recipient, at “just” $5,700 per. But in Ohio the expense runs to nearly $26,000, in Illinois nearly $47,000, and — brace yourself — the Massachusetts/New Hampshire program runs $85,863 in taxpayer money for each and every enrollee.

That same money could have bought each person a sane policy in some other state, with a fine German touring sedan on the side. Instead, the money went… where, exactly?

Remember when Massachusetts was heralded as a model for the country? Seems like forever ago, doesn’t it?

News You Can Use

February 12th, 2015 - 6:10 am

DUMPSTER

As a professional drinker, I’m starting to take personal offense at these amateurs’ antics.

A History of Lying

February 12th, 2015 - 5:00 am

And Brian Williams isn’t the only lying anchor who lies.

Is the MSM Terrified of Scott Walker?

February 11th, 2015 - 3:36 pm

Russ Smith says Jeb can’t beat Hillary — but Walker can:

I think the reason why [Daily Beast lefty Michael] Tomasky — soon to be followed by less blatantly biased journalists — is bashing Walker as if he’s a joke candidate like Donald Trump, Al Sharpton or Herman Cain, is because if the Governor prevails in the primaries he has a real shot of winning. (Unlike Romney, whose ham-handed campaign, save for that Denver debate, was a debacle start to finish.”) Conservative activists are nervous that Walker’s going soft on immigration (and Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texan demagogue, will have a ball with that), but are still impressed by his three victories in four years (one a re-call) in the blue-leaning Wisconsin.

Yet Walker’s biggest attribute, which is barely acknowledged by the media in a campaign environment that’s income inequality non-stop, is that he’s a middle-class pol who hasn’t enriched himself by exorbitant speaking fees or board directorships. Think of multimillionaire Hillary Clinton (and the high-rolling Wall Street/Hollywood donors in her corner) trying to explain how she’s one of the “regular folks” who, borrowing from her husband, “feels their pain.” Walker isn’t charismatic (nor is Hillary), but that might not matter in this post-Obama cycle. Walker’s a union-buster, which is a popular stance in most of the country—and it’s not as if any Republican will attract union voters anyway. Walker, like all the GOP candidates, is anti-Obamacare, which also won’t hurt him.

I’ve no idea whether Walker will pull a Rick Perry and flame out early, but I suspect he’s far too wily for that and will be prepared for the debates.

He hasn’t had to play at the national level yet, but in Wisconsin Walker has been alternately dismissed, then trashed, then dismissed, and then trashed again — but he keeps on winning. He keeps on affecting fundamental changes in policy, too. Whether you agree or not with Walker generally or on individual issues, there’s no denying that he’s one politician who stands for something.

You don’t have to like him, but everybody should at least respect him.

And that’s why the Tomaskys now, and the MSM later, will try once more to ridicule him to death.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

February 11th, 2015 - 2:14 pm

CARE

Latinos are supposed to underpin the Permanent Democratic Majority, but they’re slow to buy into the President’s signature legislative achievement:

Latinos represent about a third of the nation’s uninsured and for a number of reasons, signing them up has been harder.

As of Jan. 16, just 10% of those who had signed up for plans in the 37 states served by healthcare.gov are Latino — up slightly from 7% during the first few months of last year’s enrollment, despite concerted efforts to reach them, according to government data.

Experts caution that those numbers are reported by applicants and there’s no requirement that anyone signing up for coverage state their race or ethnicity. Nonetheless, government and pro-Obamacare groups have stepped up their efforts through media campaigns and emphasized the kind of in-person assistance the Santaolallas and many other Latinos seem to prefer.

Maybe they just don’t like paying Cadillac prices for catastrophic plans, ya think?

So this one might actually be a win, depending on how you score it.

Understatement of the Month

February 11th, 2015 - 1:00 pm

DISQUIET

So what do you think of that NYT headline? Saying a Clinton political organization shows “signs of disquiet” is akin to saying “Steve thinks cocktails are mostly OK.” Good lord, we’re talking about Team Clinton here — where backbiting, leaks, firings, and scandal are the orders of the day.

In any case, here’s the latest disquiet:

At issue is controlling access to the deep-pocketed donors whose support is critical to sustain the outside organizations that are paving the way for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. It is a competition that has been exacerbated, many Clinton supporters said, by Mrs. Clinton’s reluctance to formally enter the race and establish a campaign organization with clear lines of authority.

The dispute broke into the open on Monday after David Brock, a Clinton ally, accused Priorities USA Action — a pro-Clinton “super PAC” whose co-chairman is Jim Messina, Mr. Obama’s 2012 campaign manager — of planting negative stories about the fund-raising practices of Mr. Brock’s organizations. Mr. Brock resigned from the super PAC’s board in protest.

If this were a Republican campaign acting like this, the story wouldn’t describe the situation as “disquiet.” Rather, the headlines would scream, “CAN THEY GOVERN???”

Which brings us to Hillary’s Dilemma.

Although by 2016 it will have been 20 years (!) since a Clinton ran a winning national campaign, older voters probably remember all too well just how effing exhausting it was having the Clintons in the White House. That team used to wage policy and personality battles — in public, mind you — like the Russians and Germans fought at Stalingrad, with the losers treated badly enough to make Friedrich Paulus weep. Millions remember Bill Clinton’s term fondly, but far fewer relish a return to his Administration’s… disquiet.

And for younger voters, it will have been 20 years (!) since a Clinton ran a winning national campaign. That’s a generation ago, and Hillary is a big step down from Bill Clinton’s youth and charisma of the 1990s, and an even bigger step down from Barack Obama’s youth and charisma of the last eight years.

Perhaps she’s gone into “hiding” because completely disappearing from the public radar for a few months is her one and only chance to seem fresh before she actually has to go out and campaign.

Profiles in Courage?

February 11th, 2015 - 11:57 am

Required Reading

February 11th, 2015 - 10:29 am

Walter Russell Mead says the Obama White House is growing isolated over Iran:

The growing chorus of sober and informed critics of the White House approach to Iran aren’t for the most part attacking the idea of negotiations over the nuclear issue or even of a possible future rapprochement with Iran. This isn’t even primarily an argument about exactly how many centrifuges the nuclear talks allow the Iranians in the end – or about any of the other technical details of a proposed nuclear understanding. The skeptics are criticizing what looks like a disjointed and misguided approach to the relationship with Iran that threatens to further destabilize the Middle East. It is possible that the administration has good answers for them, but up until now the White House has preferred not to engage with the serious arguments against its Iran approach. The longer the President and his top aides keep pretending that critics have no concerns that are worth taking seriously, the more they feed the narrative that the White House is in over its head on Iran—that it has lost sight of some important considerations in a headlong drive to get a deal. That perception, unless refuted (rather than mocked, caricatured or ignored) will ensure that neither Congress nor the country will allow the White House to pursue an Iran strategy that lacks public buy-in and consent.

Read the whole thing — a terror-sponsor state in pursuit of nuclear weapons and it’s our leadership feeling isolated.

Whatever you feel about Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s Iran policy, or what you think our policy should be, his insular and isolated approach should come as no surprise after watching six years of the same approach to most issues foreign and domestic.

The Global Debt Explosion

February 11th, 2015 - 9:37 am

DEBT

Niall McCarthy explains:

Since the onset of the financial crisis back in 2007, the level of debt across the world has continued to grow steadily. According to a McKinsey and Global Institute study, global debt has increased by $57 trillion (40.1 percent) over the past seven years.

By the second quarter of 2014, global debt stood at just under $200 trillion. In the fourth quarter of 2007, total debt as a share of GDP stood at 269 percent but that increased to 286 percent by the second quarter of 2014.

China in particular has experienced a meteoric rise in its debt levels.

Don’t worry too much about corporate debt, as it is generally used to finance future growth and productivity gains. Household debt however can put a damper on future growth by inhibiting future spending. And the near doubling in government debt? That debt is no different from putting your weekly groceries and your monthly mortgage payments on a low interest Visa card — with little ability to pay down the principle and an interest rate the bank will eventually have to adjust way up.

Altar Skelter

February 11th, 2015 - 8:45 am

JILTED

I don’t know where to begin with this story, other than to say that anything which denies Charles Manson even the slightest bit of worldly happiness has got to be a good thing.

The Independent has the details, should you actually need them.

UNC Shooter: Obama Supporter, Religion Hater

February 11th, 2015 - 6:55 am

HICKS 1
HICKS 2
HICKS 3

A quick stroll through Craig Hicks’ Facebook page reveals a troubled man filled with a lot of rage — I selected two of his nice posts.

Who will teach Progressives not to hate?

Thought for the Day

February 11th, 2015 - 6:06 am

News You Can Use

February 11th, 2015 - 5:09 am

JUMP

It’s not exactly Florida Man, but New Jersey Man is giving him a run for his (probably stolen) money:

Nicholas DiBlasi suffered leg injuries and faces criminal charges after the Sunday stunt at Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack, N.Y.

The 21-year-old was possibly drunk when he took the $50 bet from a friend, Clarkstown Police Sgt. Glenn Cummings told CBS New York.

The Park Ridge, N.J., man was conscious but confused after the 12:30 p.m. leap, police said.

“He informed our officers that he, on a bet from a friend, had jumped off the second floor, which is about 20 feet,” Cummings said.

You know you’re not supposed to do that, right?

Hitler Finds Out About Brian Williams

February 10th, 2015 - 3:58 pm

Get Covered — Or Else

February 10th, 2015 - 2:11 pm

That’s the message Cornell is sending its students with a new plan to impose a $350 “fee” on students who don’t buy the university’s health care plan. Kaitlyn Schallhorn has more:

In an email to students, Cornell President David Skorton informed students that the university has “strained to keep pace with increasing healthcare costs.” As the additional $350 is a fee—not a tuition hike—it’s unlikely that financial aid will cover the additional cost.

“Although introducing a new fee is never desirable, moving to a model that includes a health fee—a standard in college health nationwide—will make student costs more predictable and encourage students to seek the care they need,” Skorton wrote.

He said the new fee would enable the Ivy school to “maintain and improve accessibility of health services” already offered on campus.

The new fee will go into effect for students for the 2015-2016 school year. Students who bought into Cornell’s health care option for the 2014-2015 academic year paid $2,352, according to the Cornell Review.

One way or another, you will be brought into compliance, Comrade Student.

The Second Megapixel War

February 10th, 2015 - 1:50 pm

Sunset

Canon just laid down the big thump with a pair of 50 megapixel SLR camera bodies, trouncing previous crown holder with a whopping 40% more pixels than the Nikon D810. Ken Rockwell has all the details you need to know about Canon’s new 5DS and 5DS R models.

I hadn’t bothered worrying about megapixels in almost ten years, but Canon has me rethinking that — let me tell you why.

For the typical SLR shooter, 10mp is more than enough. Back in 2006, I had a three-foot-wide print made of a sunset shot I made with a 6mp Nikon D70 — and it looks great. When was the last time you ordered a print bigger than maybe 11×14, much less 36×24? Since then I’ve shot & owned a 10mp D200, a 12mp D300, and a 16mp D7000. At no point did I think, “Gosh, what I wouldn’t do for more pixels.”

Mostly what I wanted was something faster and easier to shoot, which kept me upgrading for reasons other than megapixels.

For really large prints I spent a few months messing around with a medium-format Mamiya and a bag full of rolls of old-fashioned film, but was quickly reminded why medium format pretty much sucks for civilians, and why we were all happy to ditch film for digital.

But getting up to 50mp gives you a camera with the ability to resolve a photo just like a medium-format camera. That puts a lot of art-print-quality power in the hands of any serious hobbyist willing to put up the money. Living just minutes or hours away from some of the most beautiful and pristine wilderness in the Lower 48, I can’t begin to tell you how tempting that is.

Now I’m a patient man, and I don’t want to trade in all my Nikon gear to pay earlier adopter prices for Canon’s latest and greatest. But a couple years from now, when prices have come down and Nikon trumps Canon with the 65mp D850 or whatever… and my sons are bigger and easier to take on road trips…

…I can imagine spending some serious time in the Rockies trying to get that perfect mountain sunset shot I can blow up to eight feet wide.

Worthwhile California Initiative

February 10th, 2015 - 12:25 pm
Your Digital Papers and Effects

Your Digital Papers and Effects

This once, I’m not being facetious saying something positive about the Tarnished State. Cyrus Farivar has the story for Ars Technica:

Mark Leno, a state lawmaker who represents San Francisco, is set to introduce a new bill, called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (CalECPA).

If passed, it would not just impose a warrant requirement to access e-mail, but would also require that law enforcement officials not interact with any electronic device in the possession of a citizen—to put the law in formal compliance with the unanimous 2014 Supreme Court decision Riley v. California, which required a warrant to search a cellphone.

“Californians lives are relying evermore on digital information and following the NSA debacle, more Californians recognize the risk to their privacy and their Fourth Amendment constitutional rights,” Leno told Ars.

“Other states have moved ahead, bypassing California. Texas, Maine, Utah, are among 15 states that have put into law similar protections and the Supreme Court of the United States has urged state legislatures to update their warrant requirements for the digital age. This time, different from before, we have near universal support from the tech industry.”

Here’s the relevant text from the bill quoted in the article:

1546.1. Except as provided in this section, a government entity shall not do any of the following:

(1) Compel the production of or access to electronic communication information from a service provider.

(2) Compel the production of or access to electronic device information from any person or entity except the authorized possessor of the device.

(3) Access electronic device information by means of physical interaction or electronic communication with the device, except with the specific consent of the authorized possessor of the device.

The phrase “except as provided” is always worrisome, so I pulled up the PDF containing the entire language. The provisions are:

A government entity may compel the production of or access to electronic communication information or electronic device information, or access electronic device information by means of physical interaction or electronic communication with the device, subject to subdivision (0) and only pursuant to a Iwiretap order pursuant to Chapter 1.4 (commencing with Section 629.50) of Title 15 of Part 1, or pursuant to a search warrant pursuant to Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 1523), provided that the warrant shall not compel the production of or authorize access to the contents of any electronic communication initiated after the issuance of the warrant.

I don’t see any big loopholes here, do you?

Let’s applaud Assemblyman Leno and hope his bill becomes law — and that other states follow suit. Ideally though we’d get national legislation out of Congress, and a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court in favor of digital Fourth Amendment protections.

I’m not holding my breath for those last two items, however.

Thought for the Day

February 10th, 2015 - 11:09 am

Meet the Pro-Cop Black Panther

February 10th, 2015 - 10:01 am

Although Houston’s Quanell X didn’t start out that way, a little training time with the Missouri City Police Department changed his mind:

“Wow. Damn,” he said, after unloading countless paintball rounds at a mock suspect who was refusing to stand down in a routine traffic stop scenario.

Quanell went through four scenarios where he was required to, “shoot, hold fire, or use his taser,” KHOU News reports.

“Shoot him in the leg? I was very close because he kept coming,” an obviously distressed Quanell said.

Most interesting was Quanell’s response to a distressed man with a baby. In that situation, Quanell chose his taser and explained, “if he would’ve pulled a lollypop out of his pocket the same way he just did, I still would’ve used forced to stop him, and then somebody could’ve said, well all he had was a lollypop. But you don’t know when it’s happening so fast like that.”

KHOU New reported that race was never a consideration for Quanell.

“If I’m in a high crime area that I’ve worked and I know it’s a high crime area and I know the kinda calls we get, I could easily see me pulling my gun on a simple call,” said Quanell.

His takeaway? Always comply with the police.

My advice is: Don’t be obsequious, but do politely and calmly comply with all legal requests.