Monday, December 28, 2009

A note on the 2010 Libertarian National Convention


As most readers of KN@PPSTER probably already know, the Libertarian Party's 2010 national convention will be held in St. Louis over several days spanning Memorial Day weekend.

As some of you have probably gathered, I've started a blog, St. Louis on the Cheap, with an eye toward making it cheaper for Libertarians to attend that national convention.

I've heard from several sources that the subject came up at the Libertarian National Committee's meeting in Nashville, Tennessee earlier this month, and that Admiral Michael Colley (USN-Ret.), an at-large member of the LNC and its convention point man, expressed a worry that my little project might hurt the convention hotel's bottom line.

While I don't think that worry is warranted, I also don't think it's unreasonable -- it deserves a considered response. Here's how I see it:

My main purpose in pursuing this project is to allow people who would otherwise not be able to afford to attend the convention to do so. If that's the main effect the project has, then it should enhance, rather than harm, revenues for both the LP and the convention hotel. More convention packages (possibly the lower-priced ones, but more in any case) will be sold. More attendees will drop money at the hotel bar or the attached Starbucks coffee shop, and so forth.

Let me repeat myself: My project is aimed at people who simply won't attend the convention if they aren't able to cut the costs of doing so. That may or may not include: Staying at a cheaper hotel; eating at a fast food place down the street instead of at the hotel's pricier restaurant; grabbing mass transit for $4.50 instead of blowing $40-50 in cab fare to and from the airport or paying a sizable daily parking fee at the hotel; etc., etc. Spending several days in a city away from home is expensive. I'm just trying to make it less expensive so that more Libertarians can afford to do it.

If these additional people attend the convention, they will bring money with them, and they will spend some of it in the convention's environs. Not as much money as the people who have no problem ponying up for the deluxe package, renting a suite at the convention hotel for five nights, and taking each meal in the convention hotel's well-appointed restaurant, but every dime they bring will be a dime that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

Yes, there will be some people who would and will attend whether I was helping them find cheaper ways to do so or not, and they may also make use of some of my money-saving tips. I understand that this may result in the LP and/or the convention hotel taking in a little less money here and there than would otherwise have been the case.

I don't have a problem with that. I hope no one else does, either. While it's obviously a good thing for the LP to stay "in the black" for its convention, and for the convention venue's operators to be glad they had us as guests, it's also a good thing for Libertarians (like everyone else) to find, and get, the best deals they can on the things they want and need -- that's the free market, ladies and gentlemen. And while I can't guarantee that the hoped-for additional attendance will more than balance that possible effect out and produce a net financial benefit for the LP and the convention hotel, I think there's a good chance that it will. Hopefully this will be at least a minor win for everyone.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Senate left an extra present under your tree ...


... and it really didn't attract much notice with all the fanfare surrounding the vote on Cannibal Care, which passed and is now on its way to conference to tussle out the differences between the House and Senate versions.

Your second gift? The Senate voted to raise the "debt ceiling," i.e. to give itself the authority to borrow another $290 billion and forward the repayment demands to you. That's on top of the $12.x trillion in previously existing debt they're already trying to stick you with. Here's a letter I sent to "my" congresscritters after the House passed the measure last week (it's also available, with surrounding commentary, in my C4SS column for December 19th):

Dear Senator McCaskill,

I notice that the US House yesterday approved a $290 billion increase in the government’s "debt ceiling,” raising it from $12.1 trillion to $12.4 trillion.

Presumably the Senate will take up similar legislation in the near future.

I am not writing to yourself, Senator Bond and Representative Clay in order to urge any particular vote or action on the matter, but rather just to inform you that I’m not responsible for, nor do I intend to pay off, your debts.

I’ll be publishing this letter in one or more public spaces so that your creditors will be aware of this fact. If they’re going to loan money to the three of you and your 532 colleagues in the House and Senate, they may want to run credit checks first. Just so long as we’re crystal clear on the fact that I won’t be co-signing for you, the rest is between you and them.

Best regards,
Thomas L. Knapp

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pants on fire


Politicians lie -- heck, lying seems to be part and parcel of the very definition of "politician." How and why they lie, though, may offer us insight into their thought processes. And of course the central figure as politicians go these days is Barack Obama.

Over at Reason, Jacob Sullum and David Harsanyi plunk down two pieces of the puzzle.

Sullum:

For connoisseurs of Obama-speak, the address featured a trifecta, combining three of his favorite rhetorical tropes. There was the vague reference to "those who” question his agenda, the "false choice" they use to deceive the public, and the determination to "be clear" and forthright, in contrast with those dishonest naysayers. These devices are useful as signals that the president is about to mislead us.


In other words, Obama carefully constructs his lies as part of his pre-game strategy. He sets his strawmen up and soaks them in kerosene, stocks the pond with red herring, etc., before he ever goes forth to do battle. He uses falsehood to fortify his castle before his first sally forth.

Harsanyi:

Holy burning bushes! Did you know that everyone — and I mean everyone — agrees with the president? Obama stressed this week that you can "talk to every health care economist out there and they will tell you that ... whatever ideas exist in terms of bending the cost curve and starting to reduce costs for families, businesses and government, those elements are in this bill."

Not "some" or "most" or "Peter Orszag on a two-day bender" but "every" health care economist in the entire world would tell you as much.

This sort of exaggeration reminds us of another whopper the president unloaded. While promoting the stimulus plan in January, he claimed that "there is no disagreement that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help to jump-start the economy."


Having pre-savaged his prospective opponents before making his argument, Obama now attempts to strengthen that case by denying the actual existence of those opponents. It's one of his patented lie types -- "you're either with us or against us" with a twist of "and there's nobody against us."

A third important piece of the Obama lie puzzle turns up in an interview with the Washington Post yesterday:

Every single criteria for reform I put forward is in this bill. ... I didn't campaign on the public option.


Except, of course, that he did exactly that:

THE OBAMA PLAN ... Offers a public health insurance option to provide the uninsured and those who can’t find affordable coverage with a real choice.


So now we know that Obama is willing to flagrantly lie about what he's said and done in the past, even in the certain knowledge that the evidence is there to demonstrate that yes, he's lying.

I always thought of Bill Clinton as a narcissistic liar -- he thought he wouldn't get caught because he was Bill Clinton.

George W. Bush, I never did quite figure out. It was a tossup between "he's crazy enough to actually believe the stuff he's reading off the telemprompter" and "he just really doesn't care whether we know he's lying or not ... he's the decider and the whole talking bit is just a way to pass some time with his subjects, not anything to be taken seriously or referred to later."

Obama's a liar of a different sort. His lies don't seem to be based on his own self-image, as inflated as that self-image may be; nor is he, to all appearances, shithouse rat insane; nor does he take the "decider" tack -- he strives to create a "consensus" by preemptively claiming that one exists, which must mean that he places at least some importance on the idea of consensus.

As far as I can tell, Obama's lies are based on his impression not of himself, but of you. To put it bluntly, he thinks you're stupid. He believes that you'll believe whatever he says, even if he was saying something different a year ago and even if what he's saying now is obviously and demonstrably false. I guess that was true of a majority of American voters a year ago, but it seems to be getting less and less so.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Obama "birth issue" resolved!




The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, they say; and it would explain a lot, including his latest war crime.

C'mon, think about it ... have you ever seen them together?

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Paul Harvey moment


The National Association of Latino Elected Officials is sponsoring distribution of a Christian-themed message urging cooperation with the 2010 census. Some religious leaders are calling it "blasphemous." I don't know about that, but it's certainly an incomplete account of events:



Yes, Mary and Joseph participated in the census. As a direct result, she ended up giving birth in a barn, after which they were forced to flee their country to avoid being murdered by their own government.

And now you know ... the rest of the story!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Howard Dean is right


Via the Associated Press:

"You will be forced to buy insurance. If you don't, you'll pay a fine," said [former Democratic National Committee chair Howard] Dean, a physician. "It's an insurance company bailout."


That's the long and short of it. While I think that either the "public option" or the "Medicare buy-in" would make it even worse, and Dean thinks one or the other would make it better, as is the Senate "ObamaCare" bill is corporate welfare and nothing but corporate welfare -- a gunpoint demand that everyone write checks to the insurance companies, on pain of fine or jail.

Truth in advertising standards require that the politicians stop referring to this thing as the "Affordable Health Care for America Act." It's not affordable, it has no significant connection to health care, and it's an assault on, not a deed "for," America. Arthur Silber offered up a far more accurate and appropriate label for it last month, even before the "public option" and then the "Medicare buy-in" went away: The Fuck You Act.

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TIME, you ignorant sluts


The alleged criterion for TIME magazine's "Person of the Year Award?" It's supposed to be the guy or gal who "for better or for worse … has done the most to influence the events of the year."

So, who do they pick? The guy whose picture belongs in the dictionary next to the word "ineffectual."

If Hollywood could cast actors posthumously, they'd give Peter Sellers the lead in the Bernanke biopic and tell him to shoot for a happy medium between Inspector Clouseau and Chauncey Gardiner.

That is all -- the thing is just too damn dumb to merit more than a couple of one-liners. While I'm at it, though, I should probably remember to link to my C4SS column yesterday on this very topic.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A note on on negative social and economic preferencing


I admit it. Back in the day (the day when I hiked and even did a bit of climbing, that is), I owned a couple of North Face™ shirts. I doubt they're still around. If they are, I'll find them and sock them away for a public burning if it comes to that. I sure as hell won't ever wear them in public again, or buy another North Face™ product. And I'll probably go out of my way to have a little discussion with any friend I notice wearing North Face™ rags.

In other words, I am (and have just announced that I am) negatively socially and economically preferencing* North Face™.

Here's why.

Parody is clearly protected speech/commerce under US trademark laws. Even absent such laws, parody clearly does not constitute aggression, theft, etc.

South Butt™ is clearly parody. High school level parody, sure -- it was in fact founded by a high schooler (he's in college now) -- but unmistakably parody.

Instead of taking the parody in good humor, or better yet taking up South Butt™ on its offer to sell, North Face™ decided to throw its weight around with churlish "cease and desist" demands and then a lawsuit.

North Face™ may "win" -- in America's "justice" system, being right and a pocketful of quarters will get you a cup of coffee from the vending machine in the hallway outside the courtroom -- but they're wrong. They know they're wrong, I know they're wrong, and now you know they're wrong. They're humorless bullies. So screw'em.

Even if they "win," North Face™ has already lost. They've lost any and all future potential sales of their products to me and to anyone whom I have the opportunity/occasion to influence on the matter, yea unto the seventh generation, etc. (by which I mean, point your friends/readers at this post, please).

Negative social and economic preferencing does not strictly require an equal and opposite reaction (i.e. a matching positive social/economic preference), but in this particular instance I think one is justified. South Butt™ offers fun, attractive products at a reasonable price, and presumably buying from them will aid them in fending off the efforts of North Face™ to shut them down. I can always use a new t-shirt, and I expect I'll get my next one from South Butt™. Consider yourself invited to go now and do likewise.

-----
Note: For more on social preferencing and other solutions (actually, a framework into which social preferencing and other solutions fit) to the problems of human interaction, see the writings of Paul Wakfer and Kitty Antonik Wakfer at Self-Sovereign Individual Project.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Everything you need to know about Joe Lieberman ...


... you can get from the name of his political party: "Connecticut for Lieberman."

In Joe's mind, his US Senate seat doesn't exist for the purpose of service to, or representation of, the state of Connecticut. Rather, the state of Connecticut exists for the purpose of providing Joe Lieberman with a US Senate seat. He's a grifter monarch, asserting his Divine Right to rule "in all cases whatsoever," with a fair degree of success.

Never be surprised when Lieberman changes his position, as he just did on the "health care reform" scam's "Medicare buy-in" provision (as recently as a few months ago, he was for it; now he's agin it).

For Joe, it's seldom about the policy -- it's about what makes Joe the power broker, the center of attention, the Big Kahuna.

It may be a little bit about the policy this time. He's all for the "individual mandate," which transfers money from your pocket to the bank accounts of his backers in the insurance industry ... but it could be that the "Medicare buy-in" would hurt his wife's relationship with her Big Pharma paramours if they get stuck with price cuts as a result of government "negotiations." But that seems a bit speculative. Occam's Razor says that this is probably just Joe Lieberman being Joe Lieberman as usual.

Talk about a piece of ... work.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Limited commercial interruption"


I love Hulu. Really, I do. I'm not much of a regular TV viewer, so when there's something I like ("House, MD," for example) or want to check out (the remake of "V") it's much more convenient to sit down and watch several episodes at once than to rearrange my life around a TV broadcast schedule.



BUT!

When I hear the words "brought to you with limited commercial interruption by X," I generally don't expect an ad at the beginning, an ad at the end, and five more ad breaks in between during a ~45 minute show episode. And that's what I counted while viewing the aforementioned "V" remake.

I'm not bitching about the number or frequency of ads here, at least not any more so than anyone naturally does. I understand that commercial sponsorship is what allows Hulu to deliver the goods and make money doing so. But please, can the "limited commercial interruption" garbage. If it was any less "limited," the commercial interruption would constitute everything between the opening scene and the closing credits.

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More holiday gift suggestions


First suggestion:

If it's a book or video, and if it's libertarian or related to libertarianism, check Laissez Faire Books before buying it elsewhere. Not only will you be supporting a movement institution, but there's a pretty good chance you'll save money.

Here's an article (authorship unattributed) I'm stealing from Winter 2009 edition of Laissez Faire! (a combination Laissez Faire Books catalog / ISIL news magazine, which you can subscribe to for free at the LFB site):

------
The Laissez Faire Difference


Can Laissez Faire compete in a world of giants? We mean can Laissez Faire Books compete in a world dominated by a large online book service? Yes, not only can we compete but the Laissez Faire difference means our customers actually save.

To test the different between Laissez Faire and the main online presence, we actually checked the price of every single book in this catalogue to see what our big competitor is offering. What we found surprised even us, and we knew we were better.

Ther are almost 150 different products for sale in this catalogue, all promoting the ideals of liberty and limited government. What we first discovered was that 27% of the products we list here simply are not stocked by our competitor. That's one out of four of the items we list here. That's not surprising. Our passion is liberty and we want to promote it, so we go out of our way to carry unique, quality items that the big guys just don't care about.

When we looks at the products that are carried by Laissez Faire and by our competitor, we discovered that our price was lower 67% of the time. The big competitor, who brags about how cheap they are, was actually more expensive two-thirds of the time. Out of all the titles we list in this catalogue, they had lower prices only 18% of the time.

More important is how prices compared when it comes to the bottom line. Remember our competitor simply doesn't stock 27% of the products we list here.

We added up what it would cost if you purchased every book and DVD in this catalogue that we both stock. If you bought them from our competitor, you would pay $160.82 more than if you bought them from us. Of the titles that they bother to stock, they were, on average, $1.87 per title more expensive.

With them you can place orders on line, with us too. But you can also call us directly and get personal answers to your questions. Our staff can help you with your choice in books; their staff can't, if you manage to speak to them. We can offer personalized shipping. You tell us what you need and we will go out of our way to help you. They tell you what they offer and that's that. We ask you what you want and do our best to give it to you.

With us, you can order by phone, with them you can't. We take payments by check, they don't. We will accept money orders, they won't.

But there is another difference as well. All income from sales of Laissez Faire titles funds our educational efforts to spread the message of liberty. We actually publish important works on liberty, our competitor doesn't. We provide scholarships so students can attend libertarian conferences and we sponsor libertarian events.

Laissez Faire Books helps supply low-cost books to libertarian institutions that work with college students, helping them understand the ideas of freedom.

We carry these books because we believe in these ideas. Our goal isn't just making a profit, as nice as that would be. Our goal is freedom in our time. Can they say that?
-----

[Disclosure] I am not being paid by ISIL, or anyone else, to promote LFB. As a matter of fact, I'm no longer being paid by ISIL for anything at all, and could even reasonably assert that part of the reason I'm no longer being paid by them is that they decided it was more important to revive Laissez Faire Books than it was to continue funding Freedom News Daily, which I and the staff of Rational Review News Digest now publish on ISIL's behalf for no direct compensation (we do get to flog our ads to, and push our fundraisers with, FND's readers, which is a valuable consideration). As far as I can tell, the new incarnation of LFB doesn't even have an affiliate program.

So, if you're looking for an immediate personal profit motive on my part, no dice. I've been a fan of LFB for a long time now, except for a short period of puritanism under the previous management (they rejected Vin Suprynowicz's The Black Arrow for "gratuitous sex" which wasn't gratuitous at all and which was in fact far more meaningful in the story's context than Ayn Rand's rape fantasies were in her novels ... LFB didn't stop carrying Rand's stuff, of course). The movement needs a bookstore of its own (as the article notes, LFB carries some items which are difficult to find at the online equivalent of the "big box"), and LFB has the best and longest history of filling that role. So please patronize them.[End Disclosure]

Second Suggestion:

If you can't find it at LFB, and are interested in supporting what I do at no additional cost to yourself, check out my Amazon "aStore" (and from there, if you continue shopping at Amazon to find something I don't list, I'm pretty sure I still get a commission). Here are direct links to their book and computer "departments" for your convenience as well:





I'm sure you already know about Amazon.Com: Huge selection, good prices, etc. You're probably going to find what you're looking for there. If you do so through my link, I make a commission at, to repeat myself, no additional cost to you. It's usually not a lot of money -- I rack up enough commission to grab a $10 Amazon gift certificate two or three times a year on average. This is enough (barely) to keep me out of New Book Deprivation Syndrome seizure territory.

So: Check LFB, then hit Amazon. It's better than fighting the crowds at the meatspace stores!

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

US government terrorists beat, abduct science fiction writer


"Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario's first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

"In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face."


Please:

- Read all about it at boingboing.

- Match or exceed my pitifully small donation ($5) for legal defense, etc., by PayPal to donate@rifters.com.

- While you're at it, acquaint yourself with Peter Watts's Hugo- and Nebula-nominated writings -- they're available for free download under a Creative Commons license!

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Obligatory Tiger Woods post


It's not golf that he needs to take an "indefinite break" from. It's womanizing. Just sayin' ...

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Explaining the latest version of ObamaCare


Simply put, it's like this: If you're a member of Generation X or Y or whatever the hell they're calling the various post-Boomer generations these days, you are to be boiled in hot water until you're nice and tender and your meat and bones have separated.

The insurance companies receive the meat ("individual mandate").

The Boomers get the bones ("Medicare buy-in").

Beautifully efficient as cannibalism schemes go, don't you think?

Unlike the previously considered "public option" -- which might have had loopholes through which a clever youngster could have navigated his or her wallet to some semblance of safety -- the "Medicare buy-in" automatically gets the older, higher-risk types out of the insurance companies' way while pushing the younger, lower-risk population right into their gaping maws with the "individual mandate." Lower risks! Higher profits!

And watch for ObamaCare's approval ratings to jump way up since that older, higher-risk group -- the over-55 set, which almost certainly constitutes an absolute majority of voters -- gets its health care subsidized by the younger, lower-risk group, too (through the payroll tax system, which is already tried, tested and and as escape-proof as anything the government's ever come up with ... just wait, it won't be long before the younger group's "insurance premiums" get folded into that scheme as well).

Efim Georgievich Evdokimov was a piker.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Survey sez


Palin is still not as popular Al Gore and remains more unpopular than Joe Biden, but her favorable rating is much higher than Dick Cheney's ...


That's CNN Polling Director Keating Holland on the results of a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday.

In other news, rabies is not as popular as Ebola and remains more unpopular than influenza, but its favorable rating is much higher than the bubonic plague's.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Spare me the pretense of surprise


Here's a quote for those who claim to be surprised at President Barack Obama's announcement of a "surge" in Afghanistan:

We have seen Afghanistan worsen, deteriorate. We need more troops there. We need more resources there. Senator McCain, in the rush to go into Iraq, said, you know what? We've been successful in Afghanistan. There is nobody who can pose a threat to us there.

This is a time when bin Laden was still out, and now they've reconstituted themselves. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates himself acknowledges the war on terrorism started in Afghanistan and it needs to end there.

But we can't do it if we are not willing to give Iraq back its country. Now, what I've said is we should end this war responsibly. We should do it in phases. But in 16 months we should be able to reduce our combat troops, put -- provide some relief to military families and our troops and bolster our efforts in Afghanistan so that we can capture and kill bin Laden and crush al Qaeda.

And right now, the commanders in Afghanistan, as well as Admiral Mullen, have acknowledged that we don't have enough troops to deal with Afghanistan because we still have more troops in Iraq than we did before the surge.


That's Barack Obama -- more than a year ago, before he was elected, in debate with GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

And no, that statement wasn't an anomaly, a miscue or a stumble. It was fully in line with his position as of July 2008:

If elected, Obama says, he would immediately withdraw thousands of ground troops from Iraq and send them to Afghanistan to help undermanned US forces defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

"It's time to refocus our attention on the war we have to win in Afghanistan," Obama said in a speech last week.


In other words, the difference between Obama's words then and his actions now are that it took him a little longer to get to it than he expected it would in July of 2008, but not quite as long as he expected it to by that October.

Anybody who voted for -- or against -- Barack Obama last year because they thought of him as "the peace candidate" simply wasn't paying attention. The 2008 presidential election, as fought out between the "major party" nominees, was a contest in who could be the most bellicose and the most convincingly hawkish. Obama won that contest, and he's keeping the promises he made while winning it.

What will be the ultimate impact of Obama's "Afghan surge?" I have to concur with the assessment of Victor Yermakov, a former Soviet general who commanded the USSR's 40th Army in Afghanistan:

Asked what difference the latest troop surge will make, the 74-year-old former deputy defense minister says, "I can see only one: Obama will be more often going to the airport to pay his last respects to the [airlifted U.S.] soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

"That's the only difference that I can see, whatever the size of the task force."

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Mac question


Y'all,

I've got a fairly simple problem, and I'd like to narrow down the possible solutions. I'm looking for:

- A text editor for MacOS that looks and works like Geany; or

- A version of Geany that runs on MacOS without some kind of weird conversion requirement.

By "looks and works like Geany," I mean that it

- Allows for tabbed text editing (i.e. like tabbed surfing in Firefox or Safari, only editing text files, so that I can edit, say, seven files simultaneously without it being troublesome to switch between them);

- Accommodates multiple encodings (ASCII, UTF-8, etc.);

- Allows conversion of line break types (Windows, Unix, etc.);

- Preferably toggles easily back and forth between word wrap "on" and off"

I'm using JEdit (a Java text editor) at the moment, and it comes fairly close, but not close enough that I wouldn't prefer something better. I've downloaded and tested several other editors, and I'd rather not go through another 50 before finding what I need. Anyone know what's out there that fits my requirements?

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