Scott Bradford: Off on a Tangent
Politics A Six-Month Balanced Budget Plan Give Hagel an Up-or-Down Vote Did Clinton Just Endorse Civil Service Reform? President Obama Inaugurated to Second Term Legislation Based on Measurable Outcomes
Faith National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Habemus Papam! New Pope Elected Papal Conclave to Begin Tuesday, March 12 The Papacy and the Interregnum Gratias Tibi Ago, Papa Benedictus XVI
Liberty Recording Video in Public Isn’t a Crime ‘Full Faith and Credit,’ CHP’s, and DOMA 2013 Cruise: Embarkation and Security Theater On the Obama Gun-Control Proposals The Fourth Amendment: Alive, But on Life Support

Bomb Attack at Boston Marathon

Posted April 15, 2013, 4:22 p.m.

Three are dead and at least 141 injured in a terrorist bomb attack on the annual Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts. Two explosions occurred in quick succession just before three o’clock this afternoon near the marathon’s finish line on Boylston Street. Unconfirmed reports indicate that two or more additional bombs were found and destroyed or disarmed by bomb squad officials. According to witnesses and investigators, the bombs were hidden in trash cans along the marathon route, and were filled with ball bearings or other shrapnel likely intended to cause greater injury to victims.

Boston officials reported earlier that there was a related explosion at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, but that now appears to have been an unrelated mechanical fire.

There have been no reputable claims of responsibility so far. A Saudi man was apprehended by bystanders who claimed that he had been acting suspiciously immediately preceding the bombing. The man, whose leg was injured in one of the explosions, is being questioned by Boston Police at an area hospital and has been identified as a ‘person of interest.’ He has not been labeled a suspect and is not in police custody at this time. Sources close to the investigation have also said that a suspicious individual was turned away minutes before the blasts after attempting to enter a restricted area, and law enforcement agencies have been asked to be on the lookout for a ‘darker-skinned or black male’ with a foreign accent who was wearing a black backpack and sweatshirt.

Nearly twenty-seven thousand runners were participating in the Boston Marathon, and about two-thirds of them had already crossed the finish line before the explosions occurred. Hundreds of thousands of spectators line the marathon route each year. After the attack, the marathon was immediately stopped, and runners still on the course were directed to safe areas.

Law enforcement officials in Boston reported to the Associated Press that cellular phone service had been shut down in Boston for a period of time to prevent remote detonations, but wireless company officials contradicted this claim and have said that there were only limited interruptions to cellular service due to high call volume. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also implemented flight restrictions over Boston and a ground-stop at Boston Logan International Airport for a period of time, although most of these restrictions have now been lifted.

Other cities around the country have increased their alert levels, and the U.S. Secret Service has increased security around the White House in Washington, D.C., but officials have not cited any specific threats against any other sites or any indication that there is an increased risk of attacks elsewhere in the country.

Update, April 16, 2013, 3:00 p.m.: Officials now say that no additional explosive devices were found following the two explosions, despite earlier statements to the contrary. Law enforcement officials have also now recanted their claim that the cellular networks were turned off to prevent remote detonations.

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Posted in Briefly, Reports

National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Posted April 13, 2013, 9:31 p.m.

Earlier today, Melissa and I joined a number of people from our church—including one of our priests—for an excursion to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. The shrine is the largest Catholic church in North America, and it is among the ten largest church buildings in the world. It is dedicated to the patron saint of the United States: the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception.

Pope Saint Pius X approved the building of a U.S. national shrine in 1913, and construction began in 1920. The crypt level was finished in 1931, and the upper church was completed (and the entire shrine dedicated) in 1959. Blessed Pope John Paul II declared the shrine a minor basilica in 1990. Today, it is home to over seventy chapels and oratories, and houses countless gorgeous mosaics and statues—predominantly dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her various titles and patronages.

It is also an active church with six masses and five hours of scheduled confessions each day. Remember, the Christian devotion to the saints—including Mary, the greatest saint of all—isn’t an end to itself. The saints help to turn our hearts toward Christ by their example, and by their prayers. You can read some more about the Immaculate Conception and devotion to the saints in my 2010 piece, Immaculate Mary, Your Praises We Sing.

In addition to the various Marian chapels and artwork, there are also statues of many American saints, the tomb of Bishop Thomas Shahan (who founded the shrine), some papal memorabilia, Christological artwork, and more. I took a bunch of photos. Take a look! continued… →

Posted in Life, Photos, Religious

Recording Video in Public Isn’t a Crime

Posted April 11, 2013, 8:57 a.m.

Gizmodo reported early this morning on an incident in San Diego, California, where police officers attacked and arrested a man for recording them—in public—with a cell phone. A police officer stopped Adam Pringle on the boardwalk because he was smoking in a prohibited area, and Pringle decided to record the interaction. He was well within his rights to do so—don’t forget that police officers often record everything too, both to gather evidence and to protect themselves from false accusations. Law enforcement officers don’t have a special ‘I can record things and you can’t’ authority.

Courts across the country have repeatedly ruled that citizens have the right to take photos and record video in public, including when they interact with law enforcement officials. Some have even characterized the right to record police activity in public as falling under the First Amendment’s free press clause (an interpretation I happen to agree with). And yet, many police officers haven’t gotten the memo. Search YouTube and you can find countless videos of police officers illegally ordering people to stop filming, and becoming indignant and even violent when citizens choose to disregard that order and continue exercising their rights.

In this case, the officer ordered Pringle to stop filming and to put his cell phone away. Pringle told the officer that he was within his rights to film in public, and then the officer bizarrely attempted to claim that the cell phone could be used as a weapon. When Pringle still continued filming, the officer knocked the phone out of his hand (at which point the video stops) and another officer threw him to the ground, injuring his chin. Pringle was then carted off to jail to spend the night behind bars . . . for having committed no crime but the initial minor smoking charge.

I have a lot of respect for public safety and law enforcement officers, generally speaking, but I am very troubled by these incidents. Too many officers seem to think that they should be above the law and immune from photography or video in public. Like too many other public officials, they seem to forget that they are agents of the state. They work for us. In a free republic, everybody has the right to monitor the activities of agents of the state. Public officials must be subject to public scrutiny. We have the right to watch the watchers.

Nikon D3100 at Great Falls Park

Posted April 7, 2013, 7:29 p.m.
Nikon D3100

Nikon D3100

For the last three years I’ve had a Canon PowerShot SX20 IS camera. Before that, when I wanted to take nicer photos than my smartphone could muster, I borrowed Melissa’s PowerShot S3 IS—a camera that I really liked, until it died with a sensor failure. I was borrowing it from Melissa often enough that it made sense for me to get my own camera, and since I liked the S3 and was comfortable with it, it was only natural that I get its successor, the SX20.

Both cameras were slotted into the Canon product line as ‘prosumer’ or ‘bridge’ models. They sort-of looked like full digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras and had similar interfaces, but they used a slower (and smaller) sensor system, an LCD view-finder, and didn’t have an interchangeable lens. They also cost a lot less than DSLR’s, which was a big part of the decision process. I’m not a pro photographer, so spending a thousand dollars or more on a camera was hard to justify. The SX20 cost less than half as much.

It has served me well, but lately I’ve found myself longing for an upgrade—something with interchangeable lenses, faster auto-focus, a usable manual focus, and quicker image capture. Initially I considered one of the new compact mirrorless camera systems like the Canon EOS M or Nikon 1 Series, but I soon found that full DSLR cameras are available in the same price range. Entry-level DSLR offerings from both Canon and Nikon are available for less than five hundred dollars, which definitely wasn’t the case when I bought my last camera!

I decided on the Nikon D3100 with included 18-55mm lens, which was available on for less than $450. I’m partial to Nikon for SLR’s, but Canon fans can find a similarly priced EOS Rebel T3 package. I’m planning to sell my SX20, which is still in great condition, to recoup some of the cost.

Yesterday, Melissa and I went out to Great Falls National Park so I could try it out and start getting used to it. I’m satisfied with the results, generally speaking. I spent most of my time in automatic mode, since I am finding that I need to brush up on my technique and re-familiarize myself with f-stops and shutter speeds before I start doing anything advanced. I will also be upgrading the lens at some point (for something with a better zoom and manual-override) . . . but this one will do for the time-being. Read on to see a bunch of shots from my first outing with the new camera. Since I want you to really see how the camera performs, I’ve only done some minimal straightening and cropping. I’ve made no adjustments to the levels or anything else. Enjoy! continued… →

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Posted in Life, Photos, Products

In Google We Trust?

Posted April 5, 2013, 12:15 p.m.

Google Reader

Back in October 2009, I wrote a somewhat curmudgeonly post about how little I trust the ‘cloud’ for my important data. I like to control my own information. I like to know how my backups are executed and how they are stored. The major Internet service companies are pretty good about avoiding data loss, but I can’t trust them to be half as concerned about my stuff as I am.

After that 2009 post, I did slowly begin integrating ‘cloud’ services into my tech world. Since switching to Google Android as my mobile operating system, I embraced many Google services—Gmail, Calendar, Drive, and Reader. With my Windows 8 installs and Office365 subscription, I’ve also begun to adopt Microsoft’s SkyDrive service for ‘cloud’ storage, documents, and notes. I use Amazon’s Kindle services, ToodleDo todos, and miscellaneous other web-based applications.

But don’t think that I’ve stopped being paranoid! I back up my data from every last one of those services on a regular schedule. If a cloud service doesn’t provide some mechanism for back ups in standard, portable formats, I won’t use it. This process has come in very handy recently. With Google’s announcement that it was shutting down the Reader RSS service in July, I found myself needing to move a long list of RSS subscriptions to another service. I used Reader, in part, because it provided ways to export my subscriptions in an industry standard OPML format, and it had reasonably robust API’s for integrating with other services. As such, it was pretty painless to move to Newsblur—the Reader alternative that best met my needs.

Reader’s demise should serve as a reminder to all ‘cloud’ service users: Don’t trust the ‘cloud.’ Don’t trust Google. Don’t trust Microsoft. Don’t trust Apple. Don’t trust anybody to provide a permanent home for your data, because the service you rely on today might be gone tomorrow. It is incumbent on us, the users, to only use services that allow for data portability, and to make our own regular back ups. The only person who really cares about your data is you.

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Posted in Briefly, Opinion


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From the accepted doctrine that the United States is a government of delegated powers, it follows that those not expressly granted, or reasonably to be implied from such as are conferred, are reserved to the states, or to the people. To forestall any suggestion to the contrary, the Tenth Amendment was adopted. — Justice Owen Roberts

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife and two cats.

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