Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Social Preferencing Note: Wired


For the last decade or so, the only print publication that my household has consistently maintained a subscription to has been Wired. It's hands-down my favorite monthly magazine, something I look forward to finding in the US Snail box by the door.

BUT!

There will be no more Wired renewals from this household so long as Wired continues to shill for the state versus Bradley Manning.

A complete reversal, a public apology and a substantial financial contribution to the Bradley Manning Support Network might get that subscription back in play.

The sooner the better, because my weekend to-do list includes going through the latest issue (which seerendipitously has a great article on the "collar bomb" robbery that I recently discussed with my son) and notifying every advertiser I can find an email address for that I plan to negatively preference, within reason/convenience, companies that do business with Wired.

Monday, December 27, 2010

By way of disclosure ...


I have lots of friends and associates; in this I consider myself much blessed.

I also consider it a basic obligation of disclosure to point out that by being my friend or associate, one may well be at risk of prosecution under US Code, Title 18, Chapter 115, §2384.

That risk exists because I would likely be convicted of -- if ever charged with -- violations of the same title, same chapter, §2383 and/or §2385 and/or §2387.

No, I am not herein "admitting guilt" to violations of said portions of the US Code.

For one thing, I don't recognize the US Code or said portions thereof as binding upon anyone who hasn't explicitly agreed to be bound by it.

For another, the things are so broadly written that anyone who votes, runs for public office, solicits votes (especially the votes of military personnel) or joins a political party is arguably in violation of all of them (if you don't think an election is a "means of force or violence," you're not living in the real world). So it's not like I'm uniquely in legal jeopardy here.

And finally, anyone who's observed the operation of what passes for a "court" in the United States in recent years knows that these institutions are, for the most part, mere extensions of the prosecution teams with only pro forma claims to just or even nominally impartial proceedings (although rare cases of jury nullification do sometimes act as a corrective). I hold such institutions in far too much contempt to "plead" if charged, let alone preemptively/prospectively admit the "guilt" which they assume from the start.

All things considered, maybe being my friend or associate isn't really any more dangerous than being anyone else's. In the declining 21st century United States, legal entanglements seem to be pretty much the equivalent of a straight-up roulette bet, at least if one lacks the "get out of jail free card" issued to members of the political class. But I still thought it worth apprising you of the risks.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The spirit of Christmas


h/t CLS --


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A rare agreement with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Missouri loses a US House district due to the new census figures. Tony Messenger and Bill Lambrecht of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tentatively predict -- and I non-tentatively agree -- that the existing 3rd District will be the one to effectively disappear.

That's Dick Gephardt's old district, and spin aside, it hasn't been a "safe" Democratic district in a long time. Gephardt held onto the seat the old-fashioned way: Knocking on doors and mobilizing organized labor support. Since he retired, Russ Carnahan rests uneasily on the throne, nearly losing to Republican Ed Martin -- a second-string player at best -- last month.

The lopsidedly Democratic city areas of the third will be used to bulk up the even more lopsidedly Democratic 1st District. The more Republican-leaning suburban/rural parts will be used to try to keep the existing 2nd (Todd Akin) and 9th (Blaine Leutkemeyer) districts Republican, and to pad out the "safe" GOP 8th (Jo Ann Emerson).

Sunday, December 05, 2010

What Mike said!


Over at NoState.Com:

I, Mike Gogulski Tom Knapp, hereby pledge that if Julian Assange should call upon me in need of a place to stay, I will provide it to him with no questions asked, indefinitely, and with the highest degree of security and confidentiality I can provide. I’m easy to get a hold of.

Now it’s your turn. Simply replace your name with mine and publish. Link here if you wish, but publish.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Is it game on, then?


The late 20th century stereotype image of the defecation intersecting with the rotating blades -- popular revolt, coup d'etat, or state suppression of either -- is the interruption of regular television and radio programming, usually with "patriotic music" substituted for that programming.

I generally eschew alarmism, but what we've seen over the last week or so may be the opening shots in the 21st century's Internet version of the same phenomenon.

In less than ten years, the US has gone from something resembling due process of law, to the USA PATRIOT Act and "National Security Letters," to "Joe Lieberman's office called -- give them whatever we think they want."

COICA is stalled in the US Senate, but "Homeland Security" seized dozens of domain names on spurious "intellectual property" grounds anyway.

Whether Amazon and Paypal acted under government pressure (as seems obvious) or on their own hook (as they claim) to suppress Wikileaks is an interesting question, but it's a distinction that doesn't make a lot of difference -- freely or under compulsion, they've sided with the state and against the truth and the people in a big and high-profile way.

In the US, the right would love nothing more than to suppress the left (including the libertarian left) under the guise of "national security." President Barack Obama is objectively allied with the right on this, if for no other reason than that he'd like to get the real left off his ass, or at least shut them up, on foreign policy and civil liberties issues.

If Amazon and Paypal have already swung into action to serve the state in its new war -- the war on YOU -- what makes you think your web host, payment processor, et. al won't?

Unless you were smart and located that kind of stuff offshore (and possibly even if you did), you're vulnerable. If you think you're not in violation of any Terms of Service, you obviously haven't read them -- ToS is in the eye of the provider, bubba.

Don't be surprised if you see pro-freedom web sites disappearing from the web over the next few weeks as their hosts suddenly "discover" ToS violations that only became violations with the change in political climate.

And if not sites, perhaps authors. How hard do you think it Homeland Security would find it to sweet-talk the major ISPs into closing the accounts of customers who have (for example) accessed Wikileaks?

I could be wrong, but I think that the times are about to get ... interesting.

The stakes go up


First Amazon, now Paypal.

This one's going to be harder to effectively respond to in terms of disentanglement, at least for me. Ideas, anyone?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Getcherbookshere (maybe)


My first order of business, having left Amazon, is to find a new preferred bookseller -- both as a reader and as an affiliate seller.

For now, I'm going with Powell's Books:


I say "for now," because I may go with more than one, and because I'm dedicated to brutal honesty:

I'm buying a book right now from Powell's and it's taking awhile.

Setting up a customer account isn't very intuitive. It takes you to a login screen, with a username/password button. It has checkboxes for "I have an account" and "I'm a new customer," but if you pick "I'm a new customer" and click the "login" button, you get an error.

The trick is this: Check the "new customer" box, put your email address in the username field, and hit "enter." That will take you to account setup.

One of the things I'm looking at in auditioning booksellers is the eBook area, and Powell's has around 300,000 e-titles of which more than 17,000 are DRM-free PDF.

What's really cool is that they have a book I've been looking for in e-format (the first volume of Darcy Richardson's Others), which wasn't available from Amazon for Kindle), and in that DRM-free PDF format to boot!

What's uncool is that I bought it about half an hour ago and it's still marked "transaction pending" in my account on the Powell's site. Instant gratification is a big part of eBook purchasing, at least for me.

As a new "partner," I'm pleased to see that my purchase was instantly recorded for commission purposes. As a new customer ... well, I want my damn book. 51 minutes now. Download still not available. I'll update on that as it resolves. [Update: I was away from the computer for awhile, came back, and the book was available. The download went smoothly and the DRM-free PDF is quite nice. I'll probably order something else soon, to see if the delay was a one-time thing or "the usual."]

On the print side, I've purchased from Powell's a time or two in the past. The service has been quick, friendly, reliable and the books have arrived as advertised (they do new and used). So check them out, anyway.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light


Reproduced verbatim from an article by Punk Johnny Cash at Gonzo Times:

How To Access WikiLeaks

After their domain name has been siezed you may be wondering “how can I access WikiLeaks?” Early this morning WikiLeaks posted their direct IP on Twitter encouraging us to get the word out there. Their url has been taken, but we can still access information directly. We must spread this information, provide links, mirrors and keep the information in the public eye.

@WIKILEAKS: Free speech has a number: http://88.80.13.160
via Twitter / WikiLeaks: WIKILEAKS: Free speech has ….

Please help get this information out there to the general public. The state is doing all they can to deny access.

The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops.

You can be assured that this is only the beginning of the states war on truth and WikiLeaks.

Please save the IP address http://88.80.13.160.

Also Google still has a Cache of the site that can be found here.

Please re-post this on your blogs to help get the word out there.

Other Ways To Access WikiLeaks:

In case something happens, here are some mirrors etc.. via: http://mirror.wikileaks.info/

Real mirrors on different IP Addresses

We need more real mirrors. If you have information on these please send it to me. If you have further sources to access the information also please forward it to me so I can post it all here. You can reach me here.
  • wikileaks.info – Mirror hosted in Switzerland [62.2.16.94]
  • wikileaks.se – Mirror hosted in Sweden [88.80.6.179]
  • nyud.net – Mirror hosted in the United States [129.170.214.192]

Domains Pointing to:

Important Wikileaks Links

Taking Amazon at their word ...


Amazon.com's spokesperson says (as reported by the Wall Street Journal) that the company's reasons for booting Wikileaks from its servers were half ideological, half just plain false, and not due to pressure from the US government:

It was "inaccurate" to claim that pressure from the U.S. government or large-scale attacks by hackers caused the company to discontinue its service of WikiLeaks, said Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener in a statement ...

The false part:

WikiLeaks "doesn't own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content," one of the stipulations of Amazon's contractual terms, he said.

There are no "intellectual property" implications here. US government documents aren't protected by copyright. Whether "nobody" owns them or "everybody" owns them is an interesting question, but what's absolutely certain is that Wikileaks is not violating any "intellectual property" rights by making them available. Herdener is, at the very least, prevaricating wildly there.

The ideological part:

Mr. Herdener said that Amazon's terms of service also require that content "will not cause injury to any person or entity." Yet he said "it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren't putting innocent people in jeopardy.

So the spokesperson for the largest bookstore on earth publicly claims that words are dangerous and can hurt people and that Amazon wants nothing to do with words like that. Chalk up a new high for cognitive dissononance.

And for hypocrisy -- as of a few minutes ago, Amazon is still selling The Communist Manifesto, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, Mein Kampf, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and In Praise of Public Life: The Honor And Purpose Of Political Service.

If words really are dangerous and really can hurt people, well, each of the aforementioned books can be plausibly linked to more deaths than the entire Wikileaks ouvre has been so far.

So much for Amazon being the "victim," as some opponents of a boycott -- at least one of whom for some reason felt the need to email me with an invitation to go fuck myself for even temporarily dissociating myself from Amazon while I awaited their explanation -- have claimed.

So far as I'm concerned, my negative social and economic preferencing of Amazon has now transitioned from temporary to permanent: I just don't care to do business with the company any more. Your mileage may vary, and that's fine. You can even bust my balls about it if it makes you feel better.

If anyone wants to do something techy to support dissociation by Amazon affiliates, some Blogger and WordPress scripts for removing/replacing Amazon links in an automated manner would be really cool. That's a task I'm not looking forward to doing manually.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Please Don't Feed the Amazon


Amazon.com has apparently booted Wikileaks off of its hosting services. Antiwar.com is calling for a boycott of Amazon.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a long-time Amazon customer (pretty much since they started) and an affiliate. I'm not a big customer, but I've been pretty loyal. I'm not a big affiliate, but since I've made a little money from them, they've presumably made a little money on me.

Earlier this morning I:

- Notified Amazon that until I see an explanation from them, I'm taking my shopping elsewhere (hint: It's Christmas shopping season, which probably accounts for the bulk of my Amazon purchases each year); and that unless that explanation is damn good and pretty quick in arriving, I'll permanently dissociate myself from them as both a customer and an affiliate.

- Donated €3,50 (a little under US$5) to Wikileaks in lieu of a $3.99 Kindle purchase I'd been planning to make (I recently downloaded the Kindle app to the kids' Windoze machine, have downloaded some free books and purchased a couple, and was about to give it a favorable review).

On the off chance that Amazon will come back with a believable "wait a minute guys, it's not like that at all," I'm not going to start the arduous task of combing through a hundred thousand posts or so (close to 1,700 here at KN@PPSTER, 90,000+ at Rational Review, etc.) and removing Amazon links just yet. But please, don't click on Amazon links here, and don't buy from Amazon, at least for now.

Speaking of all this, my latest piece at C4SS is about the Wikileaks "diplomatic cables" saga. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dragnet!


Per WaPo:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the Justice Department and Pentagon are conducting "an active, ongoing criminal investigation." Others familiar with the probe said the FBI is examining everyone who came into possession of the documents ...

Everyone?

Circulation of the New York Times: 951,063
Circulation of the Guardian: 283,063
Circulation of Le Monde: 331,837
Circulation of Der Spiegel: 1,050,000

So, counting only the paper (not Internet) circulation of only the four "primary publishers," the FBI is already "examining" 2.6 million suspects.

Because, you know, there aren't any real crimes they should be busy with or anything.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Coming Soon to a Web Site Near You



Passage of the latest Internet censorship bill (COICA -- "Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act") is stalled for now in the US Senate, but since when has DHS ever worried about little niceties like, you know, having an actual law behind their activities?

As TorrentFreak reports, government "intellectual property" thugs are already stealing the domain names of sites that don't even actually host "infringing content" themselves:

When a site has no tracker, carries no torrents, lists no copyright works unless someone searches for them and responds just like Google, accusing it of infringement becomes somewhat of a minefield -- unless you're ICE Homeland Security Investigations that is.

DoJ/NIPRCC/DHS/ICE/Acronym of the Day is apparently just throwing this shit against the wall to see what sticks, finding out what it can get away with grabbing, COICA or no COICA, before it meets significant resistance.

How long before politically inconvenient domains get seized -- perhaps just temporarily at key times, handed back with an "our mistake, so sorry about that" as necessary? Can't happen here? Ever heard of Albert S. Burleson?


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Yes, Yes I am!


A domestic extremist, that is.

Note to Janet Napolitano: Not a domesticated extremist. You might want to lay out some newspaper in the corner if you're expecting to have me over.

Hat tip: Pogo Was Right via Mike Gogulski.

P.S. Pretty please, in advance ... DO IT TO JULIA!

Brief web host review w/affiliate link goodness



I've been using Hostgator for years. How many years? I don't recall, but more than five.

They provide cheap, reliable web hosting.

I can think of two minor catches:

As you can see, the ad says "unlimited storage" and "unlimited bandwidth." Those are both true.

What you don't get -- with their "shared hosting" option, anyway -- is "unlimited resources" or "unlimited automatic backup."

Your hosting account will share a computer with other clients, and there's a percentage limit to how much of the CPU time your web sites can monopolize. My recollection (I could be wrong) is that that limit is 25%. If other people's sites are slowing down because your site hogs the CPU, Hostgator will shut you down until the problem is figured out.

Early on, I briefly got shut down because one of my WordPress sites was opening way too many mySQL database connections. That turned out to be an easy fix (installing a cache plugin so that WordPress didn't have to go to the database and generate a page "on the fly" every time someone hit the site).

Another time, a campaign site I was running (for Libertarian Party presidential nomination candidate Steve Kubby) got big traffic from Digg and the account shut down over what was the (not intentionally malignant) equivalent of a Distributed Denial of Service attack -- thousands of visitors in a matter of minutes.

So, if you think you've got the next I Can Has Cheezburger? on the drawing board, do yourself a favor and get your own server (Hostgator offers those, too), not a "shared hosting" account.

Similarly, once you surpass a certain amount of content -- as measured by number of individual files, not total file size -- Hostgator stops backing up your entire site automatically, They still do some kind of backup (the mySQL databases, I think, but not the site structure files), but not the whole enchilada. So if you've got an incredibly large site, you'll want to arrange other backup for it.

For most web sites, Hostgator "shared hosting" is more than sufficient. Their prices are good, their customer service is good, their admin interface (cPanel, with Fantastico for "one-click" installation of popular software like WordPress, Drupal, etc.) is fantastic. And if you sign up with them through that banner above, I get a little piece of the action.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Homage to Johnny Lemuria ...


Creator of Anarchy Ape:


The LA Times vs. American Travelers


That's the subtitle of my latest piece at the Center for a Stateless Society (the main title is a poke at some poor writing by the Times's editors). Teaser:

Is it just possible that among the thousands of US airports — around 15,000 of them including hundreds of “primary airports,” i.e. airports with scheduled service and more than 10,000 annual passenger boardings — there’s room for experimentation in best security practices?

Given that we still enjoy the services of multiple airlines — fewer than we once did, largely due to the tender ministrations of state intervention in the industry, but still several major carriers and many smaller ones — and that these airlines tend to work through separately assigned gates at the airports they serve, is there any particular reason why we shouldn’t also enjoy competition among those airlines in balancing security with customer satisfaction?

Read all about it ... and please, support the Center's work.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

David F. Nolan, 1943-2010


No substantial or verifiable details to report as yet, but I have it from several reliable sources that David F. Nolan, generally considered the founder of the Libertarian Party, died suddenly on Saturday evening.

David and I didn't always agree on everything -- who does? -- but we always got along quite well. We served on the LP's Judicial Committee together starting in 2002, and worked on various projects together over the years.

The last time I saw David was this May at the 2010 Libertarian National Convention. He took me up on my offer to meet Libertarians at the airport and help them navigate public transit to the convention venue. We also worked together on an IPR "straw poll" after the debate between candidates for the chairmanship of the Libertarian National Committee. And we had a beer or two, too.

It was a privilege to call him friend. I'll miss him, and my thoughts are with his loved ones.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

When a politician or bureaucrat quacks about "security" ...


... make sure you understand what (s)he is really saying.

It's not about your security -- your safety from terror attacks, etc.

It's about their security -- specifically, their job security.

TSA is a welfare program for:

- Politicians who think they can't get re-elected without telling you Osama bin Laden's hiding under your bed;

- Contractors who think they can't turn a profit selling real products and services to willing customers;

- Bureaucrats who aren't competent enough to keep an accurate inventory of toilet paper and bleach at an average-sized department store; and

- Rank and file employees who are either too lazy or too stupid to hold down jobs deploying that toilet paper and bleach to the bathroom stalls and bowls in the stores the bureaucrats are incompetent to manage.

These people think that you owe them not only a "job," but a slight bow at your waist, a tip of your cap, and a respectful aversion of your eyes whenever you happen to encounter them doing that "job." They're lords, you're serfs. Their job is to issue orders, your job is to follow those orders ... and pick up the check.

Not only do they not give a tinker's damn if you get blown out of the sky or get your throat cut as a starting point for "negotiations" over the fate of the plane their spiritual siblings in al Qaeda have taken over, they'll welcome any and every such incident as an opportunity to seek a raise and more responsibility authority.

And the longer you wait to tell them to go fuck themselves, the harder it will be to get it through their heads that you mean it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

How to make an enemy for life


My household got its DMCA cherry popped this morning.

The immediate effect was that a file (an MPEG of "South Park -- The Original Unaired Pilot") was removed from a hard drive, an application (UTorrent) uninstalled from a computer, and the rudest notice of "compliance" I could wordsmith on short notice submitted to the vultures.

The second line effect is that ...

Viacom International Inc., Atom Entertainment, Inc., Black Entertainment Television LLC, Comedy Partners, Country Music Television, Inc., Network Enterprises Inc., 51 Minds Entertainment, LLC, and Mindring Productions, LLC (collectively, the Rights Owners), one of which is the owner of exclusive rights alleged to be infringed herein

... have incurred the eternal enmity of a nine-year old with a long-term history (a couple of years, at least) of spending significant portions of his (admittedly rather small) disposable income on things like "South Park" DVDs (including the "Bigger, Longer and Uncut" movie and two season boxed sets) "South Park" plushies (Cartman), even the "South Park" video game for Windoze 98 (he figured out how to install and run Win98 as a virtual machine for the sole purpose of playing it).

Smooth move, idiots. You just turned a paying customer -- a devotee, even (he's been creating his own animations "in the style of 'South Park'") -- into a boycotter over his alleged possession/sharing of something that was only making you money by being handled exactly the way he was handling it (being passed around and increasing/extending interest in the show).

The third line effect is that you seem to have helped him bring his personal deliberations over the validity of "intellectual property" claims (a subject he's spent a good deal of time thinking about and asking me about) to a conclusion.

Needless to say, it's not the conclusion you'd want any of your actual or prospective customers to reach. Matter of fact, I rather suspect you've created a future anti-IP "Dr. Chaos," so to speak. Even Stephan Kinsella (whose work I've had him browsing) hadn't managed that yet, but you did it in about two minutes flat. Heckuva job, Brownie.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Real Optimist Club


If the CIA is right (don't bet the ranch on it, okay?), I can reasonably expect to live to the ripe old age of 78 years and change, which means I kick off in, give or take, 2044.

If that's the case, I expect to outlive the United States of America, at least in anything resembling its current or historical form.

That's the good news, and it deserves its very own musical interlude:



The bad news? There really isn't any. However, I would like to see better, rather than worse, things happening in the territory the US once occupied before I take my dirt nap.

Working on it!

And, as always, I very much appreciate your assistance and/or participation. More info here.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Thing About Earmarks


Ever heard the one about "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?"

The congressional earmarks saga is a tale told by charlatans trying to distract you from the Really Bad Stuff.

For those who don't follow this stuff closely, here's a simple version of how earmarks work:

1) Congress appropriates $130 billion for "Agriculture" (yes, that number is close to the current figure).

2) The Honorable Gentleman from Iowa puts an item -- an "earmark" -- in that appropriation requiring that the US Department of Agriculture $10 million of that $130 billion to fund the [the Honorable Gentleman from Iowa's name] Corn Research Center in Ames (I just made that up, but I wouldn't be surprised if it resembles a real earmark).

The case against earmarks is that they:

- Are "pork" used by incumbents to buy re-election ("I earmarked $50 million in the Defense budget to ensure that the little dials on the Army's radios would be manufactured right here in Secaucus").

- Promote corruption (Acme Guide Missile Systems, Inc. gives a congresscritter a big campaign donation or a brown paper sack full of cash; said congresscritter earmarks an even bigger amount in a way that forces it to be spent with Acme Guided Missile Systems, Inc.).

- Result in silly/extraneous spending just to bring home the bacon (I seem to recall reading that the late US Senator Robert Byrd [D-WVa] once earmarked money to restore an old store as an "historic landmark" because it was the second location in the US to sell Chanel No. 5 perfume).

All of these things may be true, but here's the case for earmarks:

- They generally constitute less than 1% of the federal government's total budget. If that rate holds true for Agriculture, call it $1.3 billion total in that particular area. All the rearing and pitching about them is mostly just a way to distract from the fact that Congress is spending $128.7 billion in non-earmarked funds on Agriculture. Think maybe there's a little fat in that bigger piece of the budget puzzle? But that doesn't get talked about, because everyone's throwing a fit about the Corn Research Center or whatever.

- They limit the power of the executive. Instead of handing Barack Obama $700 billion for "defense" and turning him loose to buy lollipops for the Russians and bombard Baghdad with packages of mail-order Swiss Colony cheese logs, Congress tells him that at least some of that money has to be spent in very particular ways. Granted, it pretty much amounts to those cheese logs going to Boeing workers in St. Louis instead, but any leash on the president, even one held by that bunch of reprobates down the street at the Capitol, is better than no leash at all.

So the two-part case for earmarks is a) they're not a big deal in the scheme of things and b) they may have at least one mildly positive feature.

I agree that that's not a very strong case, but it's a case, at least.

The important thing to remember is that all the caterwauling over it is intended to distract your attention from the 99% of the federal budget that isn't earmarked. It's pretty much a more boring version of "teh gays are gonna GETTT YEWWW!" or "Osama bin Laden may be under your bed right now -- take off your shoes and stand in front of the porno scanner, please" or "the brown people who speak Spanish are going to take your job if you don't give us another $10 billion to fight them off."

Watch the birdie.

Blast from the Past -- Without a Net: Compromise versus Calculation


The piece below is one I occasionally like to refer back to in argument, but it seems to have disappeared from the web due to crashes, remodels and closures of various other sites over the years.  Probably not the best writing job I've ever done (I will probably eventually revise, or even rewrite, it), but a couple of arguments/applications are reasonably novel so far as I can tell, so I'm putting it where I (and others) can find it easily -- KN@PPSTER

INTRODUCTION: ORDER OF BATTLE

If we place the ongoing "purist"-"pragmatist" conflict within the libertarian movement under a metaphorical microscope, it immediately becomes apparent that what we're looking at is not one conflict, but rather a bundle of conflicts composed of numerous intertwined disputes with overlapping intra-movement constituencies for particular outcomes. While the movement can be reasonably viewed as split between overall "purist" and "pragmatist" camps, the vast "No Man's Land" between them is a constantly swirling milieu in which it's not always perfectly clear who is shooting at whom -- or why. Various constituencies raise their flags over specific coordinates and give battle, hoping to temporarily claim some patch of territory for their concern of the moment or, perhaps, to extend the lines of some larger alliance to encompass more of the disputed field.

The hill upon which I intend to raise my flag -- the banner of the "purist" faction, broadly defined -- in this paper encompasses the notion of "incrementalism." Whoever controls that hill in turn overlooks, and may exploit, a key route across the plain of "realpolitik."

May, I say, or might: The incrementalist high ground has been occupied, for some time and without substantial opposition, by "pragmatist" forces which have declined to actually sally forth versus the state, preferring instead to simply occupy it, hold a few grandiose parades on its slopes, and deny its use to "purists" who might actually use it as a base from which to strike real blows for liberty.

However, it's come to my attention of late that the hill is only weakly occupied:

- Its garrison's composition greatly resembles that of a Confederate "home guard" militia regiment during the Late Unpleasantness, as described by an inspecting general: "3 field officers, 4 staff officers, 10 captains, 30 lieutenants, and 1 private with a misery in his bowels." To put it bluntly, for all their guff about holding the heights over the plain of realpolitik, the "pragmatists" have thus far proven themselves signally unsuccessful, to an even greater degree than the "purists" they disdain, at achieving political victories.

- The "pragmatist" garrison -- which had at its disposal the heavy artillery of genuine incrementalism had it cared to use it -- chose to mothball that formidable weapon and instead field a lighter piece, of shorter range and minimal power -- one more suited to twirling, slapping and shouldering at ceremonies held for the purpose of congratulating themselves on their superior political acumen than for actual use in battle. The popgun I refer to is, of course, "compromise."

The hill is, in other words, ripe for a bayonet charge. It is occupied by troops who are not interested in fighting, and who, if forced to, have at their disposal a weapon guaranteed to fizzle half the time and explode in its firer's face the other half. It is the "purists" -- unabashed and uncompromising libertarians who may differ on how far to go but who know which way they're going -- who have a rightful claim to, and know how best to exploit the advantages of, an incremental approach.

Forward, march.



Thursday, November 11, 2010

Two poems, without comment, for Remembrance Day


In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Dulce et Decorum est, by Wilfred Owen:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime ...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues --
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Now THAT Dog Might Hunt!


Alex Pareene calls it "today's most insane 2012 speculation,", but it has the ring of a good thing.

Some bolder prognosticators (cough!hack!WayneAllynRoot!) have predicted that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will contest the 2012 Democratic presidential nomination, maybe even sending Obama to the bleachers and certainly handing the election to whatever old nag the GOP can chivvy onto the track.

I just don't see that happening. Unless Obama keels over with a fatal coronary or something, Clinton will remain a dutiful apparatchik until and unless she feels up to making another run at it in 2016.

Howard Dean, on the other hand, he's got guts.

He got robbed by the Democratic establishment in 2004, but he came back and orchestrated the 50-state campaign that put the Democrats in charge of Congress in 2006.

Then he got robbed by that same establishment again when Obama and Co. pissed all his hard work away.

Third time's the charm, maybe?

Most rank and file Democrats with two neurons still up to forming a synapse know damn well that if Dean had won the Iowa caucus, he'd have run the table for the nomination and beat George W. Bush like a red-headed stepchild that November.

They probably also think -- rightly or wrongly -- that he'd then have had the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan by mid-2006, and that he wouldn't have allowed "national health care reform" to become just another all-you-can-eat buffet for the insurance industry's welfare queens.

If he took on Obama, he might just pull it off. And if he pulled it off in the nomination process, he'd romp in November 2012.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

So, how did my election predictions pan out?


On the House, I was just wrong. I predicted (in a comment thread somewhere else, and I don't remember where to link to it) that the Republicans would pick up 45 to 55 House seats. They rang up 65.

In the Senate I predicted here at KN@PPSTER that the Republicans would not take control of the Senate. I was right. I predicted that they would only pick up four Senate seats. I was wrong, but it remains to be seen how wrong. They've got a net pickup of at least five, with two races -- Washington and Alaska -- still in the air.

My prediction for Alaska was that incumbent Lisa Murkowski -- who is now an independent write-in rather than a Republican -- would win. At this time it looks like she has, but it will probably be weeks before the write-in votes are all verified.

In Washington, I predicted that Democrat Patty Murray would beat Republican Dino Rossi. That one is too close to call, but it looks like I was right.

I was wrong on two details, but they canceled each other out: I picked Republican Buck to beat Democrat Bennet in Colorado; Bennet won. I picked Democrat Giannoulas to beat Republican Kirk in Illinois. Kirk won. Republicans won in Pennsylvania and North Dakota as well -- races that for some reason weren't even on my radar.

So, I'd give myself an F on House predictions and, unless something changes in Alaska and Washington, a C- on the Senate.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Folie à Plusieurs


Pretty phrase, isn't it? It's French for "madness of many."

I'm pretty sure the English equivalent is "election," and there's a cure.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Why is it ...


... that whenever I hear a politician or pundit talk about "taking the electorate's temperature," what goes through my head is "with a rectal thermometer, no doubt?"

A lawsuit I can't get behind


Per ABC News:

Google is suing the U.S. Department of the Interior over a request for bids for a new e-mail and messaging solution it says favors rival Microsoft. ... Google Inc. alleges that in August, the government put out a request for bids that limits respondents to use Microsoft Corp.'s business productivity software, which was designed for the federal government.

I've no informed opinion as to whether or not the bid request, as Google alleges, is "'unduly restrictive' and in violation of the Competition in Contracting Act."

I do have a very strong opinion, however, on what kind of software the federal government should be using, and Micro$haft's chewing-gum-and-baling-wire virus vectors disguised as operating systems and applications fit the bill perfectly. God help us if they get computers that actually work.

Props for Amazon


[Update: I no longer associate with Amazon, for reasons explained elsewhere, but neither do I see any need to "memory hole" my past comments about them. All links in this post have been changed to point to Powell's]

I complain when I don't feel like I've been treated right, so I should likewise trumpet it when I'm treated exceptionally well.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned here on KN@PPSTER that I had pre-ordered F. Paul Wilson's new Repairman Jack novel, Fatal Error, along with two used books (Fractions, comprising the first two books of Ken Macleod's Fall Revolution cycle, and The Cassini Division, the third book in that cycle).

Fractions was available, and arrived almost immediately. The other two books were held to be shipped together.

Here's what happened next:

- I got an email from Amazon letting me know that they were refunding $3.15 of my money due to their "low price guarantee" -- they lowered the price of the Repairman Jack novel before it was shipped, and gave me the better price.

- I got an email notifying me that the order had been shipped.

- I waited. And waited. And then forgot. And then remembered. And then looked at my account screen on Amazon this morning and saw that the order was marked as "delivered" on the 15th of October.

- I consulted Amazon's "help" and "contact us" stuff, and sent them a brief note explaining that I hadn't received the shipment.

- About ten minutes later I received a courteous response. The F. Paul Wilson novel is being re-sent, with courtesy upgrade to one-day shipping. The Macleod novel was used and is out of stock. They refunded my money on that one, and gave me a link to find other available used copies of it.

- I promptly followed that link, but on a hunch I decided to see if any cheap copies of Divisions, which includes the missing book and the fourth book in the cycle, were available. They were. I bought one for $1.29 more than the single (but gone missing) book had cost me.

That, folks, is customer service. A bit of a delay (mostly due to my inattention), and I ended up getting an extra book ... for $1.86 less than I initially paid.

I should also mention that I've been an Amazon customer since 1995. I placed only one order that year (their first year in business), for a copy of L. Neil Smith's The Probability Broach. They sent me (and, I assume, all their other customers) a mousepad for Christmas that year. Since then I've placed several orders every year. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever had a problem, and it was corrected damn near instantly once I reported it.

I like Amazon.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Carlin sums it up


Hat tip -- Lloyd Sloan:


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yeah! What he said!


Jacob Sullum on same-sex marriage in Reason:

I realize opponents of same-sex marriage think they have good reasons for denying gay couples the rights and privileges that straight couples enjoy, and they would argue that homosexuals and heterosexuals are not "similarly situated." But you know what? Screw them. I am tired of defending the constitutional principles that social conservatives use to restrict liberty, because they so rarely return the favor by supporting those same principles when the effect is to expand liberty.

Apropos of nothing in particular


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Monday, October 25, 2010

Heh!


I scooped Wired by six hours.

Of course, the Wired piece is much more detailed and comprehensive.

Who Knew?


Did they know I was coming, or is there just a general bestiality problem at Grant's Farm?


Just kidding (pun intended) -- good way of getting a high-value keyword in a blog post, though, don't you think?

Here's Liam feeding, and Daniel brushing, the critters:


The animals seemed quite taken with my cane. A couple tried to eat it, several used it as a post to scratch themselves on, at least one tried to get it to fight.

We hadn't been out there in a number of years, but Tamara got a "Groupon" for $10 -- free parking (they charge $11 per car, usually) and $10 in scrip for the concession stand.

If you haven't visited Grant's Farm, it's a nice day trip in the St. Louis area (and cheap -- free admission, although they do take you for the parking).

As the name indicates, it was the farm of Union general and later US president Ulysses S. Grant before the War Between the States. The original cabin he built is still there.

The Busch family (of Anheuser-Busch fame) bought the place in the early 20th century. Much of it is now a wildlife park (mustangs, buffalo, elephants, llamas, camels, various species of deer, cattle, birds, etc.). And of course the baby goat petting zoo is a hit with kids and adults.

There's also a big outdoor food court ... and an Anheuser-Busch hospitality bar where each adult can get two free samples (six-ounce or so cups). The up side of the AB/InBev merger is that Stella Artois is one of the available brews now.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wikileaks "Iraqi War Logs" reveal chemical weapons finds?


From the Wikileaks "Iraq War Logs" --

ATTK ON ___ BUNKER ___ BY TF -___ IVO : ___ INJ/DAMAGE
2005-08-20 04:51:00

AT 1015D IVO ___, A TF -___ PATROL CONDUCTING ROUTINE RECONNAISSANCE OF THE ___ CHEMICAL COMPLEX VIC ___ IDENTIFIED AN ATTEMPTED BREACH OF BUNKER ___. PATROL REPORTS A LARGE EXPLOSION HAD BREACHED THE TWO LAYERS OF DIRT AND THE EXTERIOR CONCRETE ___. INTERIOR CONCRETE ___ REMAINS INTACT. TF -___ IS ON SITE AND IS ASSUMING ___ SECURITY MISSION. PATROL HAS INCREASED ___ LEVEL FROM READY TO ZERO. INITIAL ASSESSMENT IS NEGLIGIBLE RISK TO WARNED EXPOSED SOLDIERS AT THIS TIME. FURTHER EFFECTS ON AREA OR OTHER IMPACTS ARE BEING ASSESSED AT THIS TIME. ADDITIONAL ASSETS ISO TF ___ BEING COORDINATED. UPDATE THE BUNKER CONTAINED NON PERSISTENT NERVE ___ THAT WAS ___ INERT BY ___, MUSTARD AND BLOOD ___. TF - ___ ALARMS AND REMAIN ___ OF BREACH.

My educated* guess at the unredacted penultimate sentence:

UPDATE THE BUNKER CONTAINED NON PERSISTENT NERVE AGENT THAT WAS RENDERED INERT BY SUPER-TROPICAL BLEACH, MUSTARD AND BLOOD AGENT.


-----
* I think "educated" is a reasonable claim. "Expert" would be pushing it. I completed military courses in Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Survey/Monitor and Decontamination (first by correspondence and then, circa 1992, a two-week course under the aegis of the 3rd Marine Air Wing at MCAS El Toro, CA) and did a stint or two (both before and after that school) as NCO in charge of continuing training on the subject for a Marine Reserve infantry company.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like a deleted scene from Downfall


I'm talking about Joe Miller's campaign for US Senate, of course. The latest:

The editor of the Alaska Dispatch website was arrested [sic] by U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller's private security guards Sunday as the editor attempted to interview Miller at the end of a public event in an Anchorage school. ... the owner of the Drop Zone, the private security firm that's been providing Miller's security, accused Hopfinger of trespassing at the public event, a town hall sponsored by the Miller campaign.

As you can see, Anchorage Daily News journo Richard Mauer bobbled the lede there.

"Arrested" implies an at least nominally lawful detention of someone, usually by police, on suspicion of having committed an actual crime.

When one is grabbed and handcuffed to a chair by a couple of goons who ended up working "private security" because they couldn't get into the military or police force even under the "relaxed" standards of the post-9/11 era, for asking inconvenient questions of a political candidate at a public event on public property, one hasn't been "arrested," one has been "assaulted and abducted."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Are Baca and Cooley in stir yet?


And has the Governator requested that Holder be extradited to California yet?

When you publicly announce your participation in an illegal conspiracy to commit mass violations of the California Penal Code (sections 207 and 236), there should be consequences.

Friday, October 15, 2010

He shoots, he scores


Paulie, in comments at Independent Political Report:

Historically, right and left wing are determined by goals. Right wing goals are the maintenance of existing social and economic privilege, traditional social and religious values, and existing social and economic hierarchies. They also frequently include degrees of cultural, social and national chauvinism. Left wing goals are to level the playing field for the underdogs, break down barriers of privilege, and in general the opposite of the right wing goals as outlined above.

Libertarianism is a philosophy of acceptable means. Radical libertarians believe in completely outlawing initiation of force, while moderate libertarians seek to minimize initiation of force while maintaining that a functional society is impossible without some initiation of force.

Big government is the opposing philosophy of means -- that is, whatever your goals are, they are best achieved by a powerful state.

So, the assumption above -- one shared by most people in America today -- is that big government is what serves to achieve leftist goals, and small government leads to rightist results. But, I believe that in fact the opposite is the case ... that big government naturally goes hand in hand with big institutions and static hierarchies in all other fields of life.

A TV Liberal Explains


As The West Wing's CJ Cregg told an unhappy PR client:

You know why the New Coke marketing campaign failed? Because nobody liked New Coke. The movies were bad, Roger. If they were unknown, I could help you, but they weren't. They were just bad.

Note to Smitty, One Each:

The commenters aren't the problem. The problem is, you filled your race card with brokedown nags. No amount of admonishing the spectators to quit pointing and laughing will turn Christine O'Donnell into Secretariat or Joe Miller into Seabiscuit.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Switch's Law


There's really only one thing we can say for sure in answer to the question "what will the stateless society look like?"

Not like this ... not like this.

Is Joe Miller getting nervous yet?


He wants to be the next US Senator from the state of Alaska, but he also wants his prospective constituents kept in the dark about his previous history as a government employee.

Matter of fact, he's lawyering up to keep their prying eyes off his record as attorney for Fairbanks North Star Borough. Why am I not surprised to see that Sarah Palin's "threaten to sue anyone who doesn't just unquestioningly reprint our spin" guy got the gig?

Miller has to know that continuously acting like he has something to hide will cost him votes. Apparently he's betting that it will cost him fewer votes than coming clean would.

And I'm still betting that either approach will cost him more votes than he can afford to lose.

I'd like to feel sorry for the Tea Partiers, but I just can't. A movement that adopts Palin as its mascot, falls for the Scott Brown scam in Massachusetts, and even invites Wayne Allyn Root to speak at its events is effectively hanging a big "GULLIBLE -- CON ME!" signboard around its own neck. I'd have been surprised if the charlatans hadn't swarmed.

-----
memeorandum thread

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Geller, the Short Version


Anne Bernard and Alan Feuer killed a lot of trees today -- about 3,500 words in the New York Times -- attempting to explain Pamela Geller.

I can name that tune in 20 words: "Geller is crazy as a shithouse rat, has figured out how to turn a buck on bigoted hysteria, or both."

At least as accurate, far more environmentally friendly. You're welcome, no charge.

As usual, Memeorandum has the blogosphere reaction collection.

A couple of notes on the Cranick fire


Gary Chartier considers the whole thing in more depth over at LiberaLaw. Definitely worth a read!

I had hoped there would be a public support/rebuild fund for the Cranick family, and finally found it, courtesy of Keith Olbermann.

The usual: I'm not a wealthy guy, but I'm usually willing to help someone out, and to ask those I know to do so as well. I'm in for $5, PayPaled to CranickFireFund@Yahoo.com (screen capture below). Please match me!


House Un-Beautiful


Writes Gonzalo Lira [hat tip -- LewRockwell.Com]:

TV has given us the illusion that anarchy is people rioting in the streets, smashing car windows and looting every store in sight. But there's also the polite, quiet, far deadlier anarchy of the core citizenry -- the upright citizenry -- throwing in the towel and deciding it's just not worth it anymore.

If a big enough proportion of the populace -- not even a majority, just a largish chunk -- decides that it’s just not worth following the rules anymore, then that society's days are numbered: Not even a police-state with an armed Marine at every corner with Shoot-to-Kill orders can stop such middle-class anarchy.

Glittering prospect ... but I suspect that if it comes to that fork in the road, the political class will throw some of its members under the wheels for additional traction and take the other option, even if it only gets them a few more miles down the road in the driver's seat:


Think it can't happen here? Think again.

Nationally, 21.5% of mortgaged homes are "underwater," i.e. in negative equity -- the buyers owe more on the mortgage than they'd reasonably expect to get for the home if they sold it.

That's the average. Try 2/3 of homes in the Phoenix, Arizona area, nearly 3/4 in Las Vegas and, a friend tells me (I don't have a sourced stat for you on it), 46% in the state of Florida.

A lot of people are at the point of showing the banks their middle fingers and walking away, credit scores be damned. And now it looks like many of them may not have to:

The banksters got sloppy -- maybe even criminally dishonest -- with the paperwork. They're running into troubles with foreclosures as a result, and President Obama just vetoed a bill rammed through Congress for the purpose of slipping them a free pass.

It's about to get ugly. Scratch that -- it's already ugly and will almost certainly get a lot uglier. The question is how just how ugly it can get, and for whom. Two years into this game of catch-me-fuck-me with the banks, it's starting to look like sudden-death overtime with the banks on fourth down, long and fresh out of friends among the referees.

-----
Graphic is a screen capture from Kurumi's Signmaker

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Mini-Review: Cignot


I continue to enjoy "vaping" -- sucking nicotine-laced vapor out of an "electronic cigarette" instead of lighting up a tobacco-filled paper tube. I've placed additional orders with VaporKings.Com, which I review elsewhere, and continue to be happy with the quality and price of their products and the speed of service.

However, VaporKings doesn't carry one thing I wanted to try, so I had to look elsewhere.

Specifically, I wanted "e-juice" made from a base of vegetable glycerine rather than propylene glycol. Some reading on the web indicated that "VG" liquids produce more vapor than "PG," and that the flavor is more pristine ("PG" apparently lends a slight additional sweetness to any flavor of "e-juice").

After looking at various vendors' web sites, I settled on Cignot for my test purchase of VG liquid.

PROS: The prices are eminently reasonable, in line with or cheaper than other vendors of similar products. I paid $9.00 for a 20ml bottle of menthol "e-juice" with 26mg of nicotine (I meant to order the 16mg dosage -- I don't know if the mistake was mine or if there's a bug at Cignot's site, but I'll take the blame until I know for sure). I was paying $8.95 for 10ml or $21.95 for 30ml of 16mg "juice" at Vapor Kings. I placed my order on the 5th; it arrived today (the 7th).

So, decent prices, fast shipping. The VG "juice" does, in fact, produce more vapor. So far, I like it. I'll probably switch to it entirely once I've run out my supply of PG "juice." I can't say whether or not Cignot's product is better than others of its type, since I haven't tried any other VG "juices."

They're also friendly, with a personal touch (the packing slip had a hand-written "thanks, Tamara" (the stuff was ordered on my significant other's card) and a flowery doodle. Not to read too much into that, but it indicates to me that the people at Cignot think of their customers as people, not just account numbers on invoices. I'm guessing they've got good customer service at the "my order was wrong" complaint end and so forth, too.

CONS: VaporKings has cheap shipping -- I've run $1.xx to $2.xx per order for US Snail "First Class" delivery. Cignot's lowest rate is $5 "flat," meaning that my $9.00 order actually came to $14.00. That makes Cignot less competitive on price than it looks at first, at least for small orders. Unfortunately, other VG "juice" vendors seem to have similarly high shipping rates.

That's a fairly small "con" in my view. Now that I'm fully equipped for "vaping" (three portable "e-cigarette" batteries and a charger, a USB "pass-thru" that I can use when I'm sitting at my computer, a stock of "e-juice" and quite a few "cartomizers" to hold/heat the liquid and discharge vapor), I'll probably place less frequent, but larger, orders in the future, meaning that my shipping costs will come down as a percentage of total costs.

Conclusion: Recommended!

Contra Long


Writes Roderick T. Long:

1. Should a fire company be legally required to put out the fires of nonpayers?

In a free market, the answer is obviously no. In an oligopolistic market where the company is the beneficiary of artificial restrictions on competition -- or, as in the recent case, is an actual government monopoly -- the case for yes grows a lot stronger.

I guess the Obion, County Tennessee firefighting market is oligopolistic -- and moreover, artificially/coercively so, to the extent that the South Fulton city fire department is subsidized by city taxpayers, where private competitors would not be.

So long as South Fulton is willing to fight fires for rural county "subscribers" at $75 per year, the market for a private for-profit alternative shrinks and is distorted. Presumably the South Fulton FD couldn't charge such a low fee if its equipment and operating overhead weren't tax-subsidized. The same distorting effect applies to efforts to get the county voters to approve a tax-supported county fire department -- why reinvent or buy a copy of the South Fulton wheel when that wheel is for rent?

It is not, however, an "actual government monopoly" outside the city limits of South Fulton (it may not be one even inside the city limits of South Fulton). There's no law to stop a private firefighting company from setting up in the county, or to keep the county's residents from forming a volunteer fire department (there are a bunch of volunteer fire departments in Tennessee, including at least four in Obion County), or to keep the county's voters from supporting formation of a tax-subsidized firefighting operation.

That's not the only part of Professor Long's article I disagree with.

I reject the notion that a "positive obligation" exists to provide a service that one has offered for a fee if the fee hasn't been paid.

I also disagree that "[s]eeing a nonpayer forced to pay full price for having their house saved seems like sufficient incentive." As I've pointed out elsewhere, fire protection is basically a long-shot hedged bet. If you can still get the payoff without tying up your money by placing the bet in advance, even if you have to pay something of a premium, you're a lot less likely to make that hedged bet.

And the hedged bet is probably what allows the fire department, private or public, to equip itself, train its personnel, and keep them on the clock to respond if you "win" that bet. There are other possible mechanisms, e.g. selling stock in the department and such, but my guess is that a firefighting operation that bills at point of service instead of generating ongoing subscriber revenues isn't going to be nearly as attractive to investors, for the same reason that the hedge bet isn't placed if the payoff is available without placing it ... the return becomes less certain, less even, etc.

But, it's a thoughtful piece, anyway, so raad it.

Penetrating Political Insight of the Day


In my Senate predictions post, I called the Delaware election for Democrat Chris Coons and said that Christine O'Donnell isn't going to win.

Christine O'Donnell, Delaware Republican U.S. Senate nominee, smiles during remarks to the Family Research Council's Values Voters Summit in Washington, September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Christine O'Donnell, Delaware Republican U.S. Senate nominee, smiles during remarks to the Family Research Council's Values Voters Summit in Washington, September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
One obvious reason for that prediction is the polling: O'Donnell trails Coons by double digits.

There's more to it than that, though.

As a commenter over at Libertarian [sic] Republican notes, "Scott Brown was polling 11 points behind [Martha] Croakley [sic] less than two weeks before the [Massachusetts January special] election."

True. But are the situations similar?

So far as I can tell, Scott Brown has never lost an election. He started off as a local property assessor, served three terms in the lower house of Massachusetts's legislature, won a special election to fill an unexpired term in the State Senate, and was subsequently re-elected to three full terms before running for US Senate.

O'Donnell, on the other hand, has never been elected to public office. This is her third run for US Senate -- she ran once before as the GOP nominee, and another time as a write-in after losing the GOP primary.

I don't care one way or another who wins that election. I don't live in Delaware, I'm not a voter, and even if I did live in Delaware and even if I did vote, I wouldn't vote for a Republican or a Democrat. But res ipsa loquitur, people: When you've lost this same election twice before, when you're down double digits in the polls, and when you're still stuck trying to convince your state's voters that you're not a witch a month before the election, the smart money just ain't on you.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Like Stan on South Park ...


... I learned something today.

What I learned is that even a link from the comments at Hot Air means a sizable bump in traffic at the ol' blog ranch. Thanks, Rae!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

November Senate Predictions


About a month out seems like the best time to make predictions -- far enough in advance that if I'm right I'm a prognosticator, not just someone who watched the exit polls. Of course, I'm also a lot more likely to be wrong, but hey, that's how it works.

General prediction: The Republicans will pick up three four* US Senate seats. That gets them to 44 45*, which will make it easier to block cloture on bills -- less need to whip "moderate" Republicans into line or shill for "Blue Dog" defections.

This is actually a good outcome for the Republicans. Even if they were to gain a majority in both houses of Congress, they still wouldn't be able to get anything done. Obama has a veto pen. But if they get a majority in even one house, Obama will be able to lay on the "Republican obstructionist" stuff more thickly and more credibly. Remember, Bill Clinton's numbers went up after the 1994 "Republican Revolution." Remaining in the minority now boosts Republican prospects in 2012, because they can spend the next two years forcing the Democrats to accept ownership of everything that comes (or doesn't come) out of DC.

Specific Predictions

Alaska: Lisa Murkowski will become the second American, after Strom Thurmond, to be elected to the US Senate by write-in vote.

Arkansas: Not even getting caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy can stop Republican John Boozman from unseating incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln.

California: Incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer will be re-elected. Not by a huge margin, probably, but she'll pull it out. It's not so much that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown has coattails for her as it is that his Republican opponent, "NutMeg" Whitman, has negative coattails for GOP Senate nominee Carly Fiorina.

Colorado: This state will be a GOP pickup as Ken Buck unseats incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet.

Connecticut: Democrat Richard Blumenthal bests Republican Linda McMahon for the state's open (due to Christopher Dodd's retirement) US Senate seat. As with California, this won't be a blowout. It may even be a nail-biter (Blumenthal's lead has been shrinking for some time). But it's just not going to happen for the GOP there.

Delaware: Sorry, guys, Christine O'Donnell isn't going to win. Chris Coons holds Vice President Joe Biden's former US Senate seat for the Democrats.

Florida: A few months ago, I'd have picked Republican governor Charlie Crist to win this US Senate race as an independent. I was wrong on that. Republican Marco Rubio has it pretty much in the bag.

Illinois: The polls show Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk in a tight race for the US Senate seat formerly held by President Barack Obama and currently filled by Roland Burris. Don't believe the polls. There's no way the Democrats are giving up this seat, even if the dead have to rise and go to the polls to help them keep it.

Indiana: Another Republican pickup, with Dan Coats beating Brad Ellsworth to replace the retiring Evan Bayh.

Missouri: Republicans will hold on to the seat being vacated by retiring Kit Bond. As disgusting as the GOP nominee, US Representative Roy Blunt, may be (however tall he is, I didn't know they stacked shit that high), I can't really blame Missourians. The Democrats managed to find and nominate Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, one of probably only three politicians in Missouri less popular than Blunt (of the other two, Claire McCaskill was busy being a Senator already and former Governor Matt Blunt didn't run against Dad).

Nevada: Incumbent Democratic Senator Harry Reid will beat Republican nominee Sharron Angle like a drum.

Washington: Incumbent Democratic Senator Patty Murray will beat GOP nominee Dino Rossi.

I think the only even nominally competitive race I'm leaving out there is DioGuardio v. Gillibrand in New York. It doesn't look that competitive, and I'm betting it's even less competitive than it looks -- Gillibrand in a walk.

So, like I said, three four* Republican pickups in the Senate.

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Update, October 8th: FOUR! FOUR GOP PICKUPS IN THE SENATE! I was just looking back over this post, and jumping Jeebus, I spaced an entire state, and an important one -- Wisconsin. Big brain fart, and I have no excuse or explanation for it. If the current polls and the trend are right, and I think they are, incumbent Democratic Senator Russ Feingold will go down on November 2nd to be replaced by Republican challenger Ron Johnson.

Feingold's scalp is probably the most prominent one that will get mounted on the GOP's trophy wall this year. He's high on the Republicans' hit list (for good reasons, including "McCain/Feingold") and low on the Democratic Party's support list (for bad reasons such as the fact that he didn't stop talking about torture, civil liberties, etc. once his party took the White House and commenced Bush's third term). Them's the breaks.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Cranick's Folly


No, Daniel, this isn't "bad for the libertarians." It's bad for Gene Cranick.

I'm sorry the guy's house burned down, really I am, but given the circumstances it was the best thing that could have happened.

My guess is that homeowners in Obion County, Tennessee are lining up to pay their $75 and get their fire protection right about now -- and that local insurance agents are getting up form letters to let their customers know that their homeowner/fire policies will be discontinued if the $75 isn't paid.

When this is all said and done, the results will be that the South Fulton Fire Department will be better funded and better equipped, and that those homeowners will be better protected than they were before.

If the firefighters had saved Mr. Cranick's home, on the other hand, people who paid the $75 last year would have received a clear signal that they don't need to pay it next year, and eventually there wouldn't be a fire department to respond to county fire calls.

This scheme is basically a form of insurance -- a hedged bet. Your house probably won't catch on fire, but it's worth $75 to know that if it does, the guys will rush out to hose it down for you.

It costs a lot more than $75 to roll the trucks out and extinguish a single sizable fire. Those guys don't buy their trucks and helmets and oxygen tanks and so forth when they get the call that there's a fire to put out. They have to buy those things, and learn to use them, beforehand ... and that costs money. This insurance scheme lets them get that equipment and that training, and puts it at the perpetual disposal of the customer who will probably never need it.

Cranick's Folly makes it clear to everyone just what's at stake. That's bad for Mr. Cranick, but it's a good thing to the extent that it teaches his neighbors an important lesson. And it's much better than stealing $75 from every homeowner in the county, even the ones who are willing to risk losing their stuff in a fire rather than pay it, just because Daniel Foster's "moral intuition" tells him that stealing's okay if he means well.

A perfect example of libertarianism in action? No. For one thing, the fire department in question isn't, strictly speaking, a private organization (it's a public city fire department that offers its services in the county for that $75 fee). But a damn good one, and certainly not one that libertarians should give conservatives or liberals a bullshit "moral intuition" pass on.


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Come and See the Violence Inherent in the System!


For some reason, the video below seems to have a number of libertarians all freaked out.

I say "for some reason" because I can't for the life of me figure out why.

I understand the opposition to message content -- a lot of libertarians reject the notion of anthropogenic global warming and regard calls for people reduce their "carbon footprints" as so much nanny state bullshit.

In terms of presentation, however, I have to suspect that most of the individuals linked above have watched and enjoyed one or more of the following: Monty Python's Flying Circus, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, etc.

"It's only a wafer-thin mint." "It's only a flesh wound, c'mon, wot, you scared?" "We have come for your liver." "No Pressure" is 100% in the Monty Python tradition of over-the-top humor -- a bit drawn out and belabored perhaps, but what I'm seeing isn't criticism of comedic skill, it's the kind of bizarre response I'm used to seeing from politically correct lefties when a public figure uses a word that sounds suspiciously like something which might be racist even though it isn't.

Guys ... chillax and enjoy the violence inherent in the system:




Update: Hmmm, I was actually closer than I knew to the truth. Per Stephen Gordon (unfortunately in full PC overreaction mode like, it seems, everyone else), the author of the video is Richard Curtis of Black Adder fame. Not Monty Python, but very much in the immediate vicinity as such things go. Huzzah! Room for another affiliate link!

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