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.

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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?


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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!

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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.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Homage to Johnny Lemuria ...


Creator of Anarchy Ape:


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.



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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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?"

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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.

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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.

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