Friday, November 30, 2012

Sooo close ...


Antiwar.com is $7k short of its quarterly fundraising goal.

Since going to work with them -- in a part-time capacity and at what I think even they will agree is pretty low pay (not their fault -- I insisted on less than they offered as an in-kind way of increasing my own donation), I've not been as much of a blegger on their behalf, since it seems a bit self-interested. But hey ... if the bottom falls out of their budget, I'll continue as a volunteer. Maybe fewer hours, but folks, their work is important.

Help out if you can ... and hey, they accept Bitcoin now! Here's the address:

1M87hiTAa49enJKVeT9gzLjYmJoYh9V98

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Moving ...


... to:




Don't have an exact date yet, but some time in the next 30-90 days.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This Shouldn't Even Be Controversial


I have some "pro-Israel" acquaintances telling me that unless I support the "right" of Likud and Israel Beiteinu to kill any number of people they feel like killing, any time, any place, for any reason, I am an anti-Semite.

And I have some "pro-Palestinian" friends telling me that unless I rigorously focus on what an asshole Benjamin Netanyahu is, to the exclusion of mentioning the fact that Hamas is a state just like Israel (and supported by a bunch of other states, just as Israel is), or noticing the thousands of Hamas rockets raining down on the Israeli side of an imaginary line drawn on the ground by these gaggles of feuding politicians, I'm some kind of lapdog "establishment libertarian" and not really anti-state at all.

To both groups: Nice try, but I'm fresh out of cigars.

Resolved, that there are no good guys in a fight between states. There are only bad guys (the states and their troops) and their victims (everyone else).

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Friday, November 16, 2012

The Obligatory Gaza Post: It Practically (Re-)Writes Itself


I was going to write something about the Gaza dust-up, but first I wanted to go back and see what I'd written about similar incidents before. And hey, whaddayaknow, all I really have to do is cut and paste my own words from January, 2009, and throw in a couple of updates!


Want more of something? Subsidize it!

For decades, the US government has subsidized the defense of Israel to the tune of billions of dollars per year.

Is it any wonder, then, that the Israeli government -- and the Arab governments which also receive billions in "peace with Israel tribute" from Uncle Sugar -- always make sure to keep a dire, even existential, threat on low to medium heat to justify the continuation of those subsidies in perpetuity?

Or that they turn up the gas a little bit at key points ... points like, say, the weeks before the inauguration of a new US president?

The point has long since ceased to be whether or not Israel survives or the "Palestinians" get a state, if indeed that ever was the point. The point now is to make damn sure those checks keep getting signed.

Israel isn't going to crush Hamas, because their meal ticket would expire if they did. Hamas isn't going to settle, for the same reason. The show must go on.

High-quality theatre? Perhaps. But it's hell on the extras.

 I think the points remain sound, but there are a couple of deviations. Namely:


  • Ahmad Jabari, whom the Israelis assassinated on November 14th, apparently threatened to derail the gravy train described above. According to Haaretz (warning: Registration/paywall stuff involved), "Hours before Hamas strongman Ahmed Jabari was assassinated, he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the cease-fire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip. ... during the past two years Jabari internalized the realization that the rounds of hostilities with Israel were beneficial neither to Hamas nor to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip and only caused suffering, and several times he acted to prevent firing by Hamas into Israel." Truth be told, the assassination was very possibly a joint IDF/Hamas operation.

  • Both sides seem to be cranking the volume up a little higher than usual. Can you name that tune in one note? I can: Iran. Hamas wants Iran to pump more money and weapons into the conflict because Hamas needs more money and weapons. Likud wants Iran to pump more money and weapons into the conflict because that might give US President Barack Obama the excuse he needs to slap Iran around for them directly (i.e. with cruise missiles, etc., instead of just the economic sanctions that have kept the mullahs in power for 30-odd years). Look for a serious atrocity or military reverse for Israel in the next few days. If Iran won't provide one, Netanyahu and Co. will throw something together themselves.



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Petraeus on Benghazi: Stupid, Dishonest or Crazy?


Per The Hill:

Former CIA Director David Petraeus told lawmakers at a closed-door briefing Friday the agency believed the assault on the US Consulate in Libya was a terrorist attack from the beginning.

The media's focus on this, naturally, is all about Petraeus contradicting the Obama administration's early line (that the attack spontaneously emerged from a raucous demonstration against an anti-Islam video).

The focus should be on the fact that the statement is obviously really dumb, and/or a complete falsehood, and/or else an indication that Petraeus lives in a fantasy world.

Terrorism is "the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or ideological or religious in nature; this is done through coercion or intimidation or instilling fear."

The Benghazi attacks were attacks on US government facilities (the consulate and a "CIA annex"), not civilian facilities.

The casualties were US government personnel, including two CIA paramilitaries, not civilians.

Both of these facts were well-known and undisputed from the beginning. It was clearly not "a terrorist attack."

There are three possibilities here:

  1. Petraeus managed to climb to the top of the US military and intelligence pyramids without ever bothering to master basic military and intelligence concepts; or 
  2. Petraeus is -- like so many other members of the political class -- comfortable just lying about stuff because "terrorism" is much more effective as jingoist political propaganda than "we messed up; we were some place we should have known better than to have been, and we got our asses handed to us;" or
  3. Petraeus is completely delusional.

My bet is on a combination of (2) and (3).

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Next Health Issue


A few months ago I had an eye exam, pursuant to getting new glasses. The examiner told me my ocular pressure was running high and that even though he saw no nerve damage yet, I should consult an ophthalmologist.

So glaucoma, maybe.

Haven't been to that ophthalmologist yet. I may visit one, but here's the thing:

There are several available treatments for glaucoma.

The prescription drops and laser surgery are pretty expensive and I don't expect I'd get either of them even if a doctor so recommended.

Marijuana, I can't get a prescription for (and, frankly, I'm not a big fan of smoking it ... but if I get into a situation where I can get edibles or whatever, I may give that a go).

Ginkgo Biloba extract, I don't need a prescription for.

So anyway, I am now taking ginkgo extract standardized to 24% flavone glycosides -- 120mg a day.

I'm also eyeballing (pun intended) other supplements, including magnesium, Vitamin C and turmeric.

Anyone got any recommendations?
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The Apostrophe: A Quick and Dirty Guide to Usage


Greengrocers' apostrophe 1
ARGHHHHH!!! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Why? Because it's one of my pet peeves, that's why. I'm that guy who sneaks up to restaurant menu whiteboards and rubs his thumb over apostrophes that don't belong. The fist you see shaking through a car window when some professional sign painter has put an apostrophe where it doesn't belong? Almost certainly mine. So ...

  • The apostrophe IS NOT used to make singular nouns into plural nouns. "I have two ponies" is correct. "I have two pony's" is incorrect.
  • The apostrophe IS used to create contractions. "I'm" is a contraction of "I am." "Don't" is a contraction of "do not." And so on and so forth.
  • The apostrophe IS used between the end of a singular noun and the letter "s" to indicate possession, with three exceptions. "Bob's dog" and "Betty's car" are correct. "Bobs dog" and "Bettys car" are incorrect.
  • The apostrophe IS used after the "s" ending a plural noun to indicate possession. If three ponies have bridles, they are "the ponies' bridles." 
  • The three exceptions to the usage above are ancient proper names ending with "s"  ("Jesus' name," "Achilles' heel"), possessive pronouns ("hers" and "its," not "her's" and "it's" -- that last one is properly used as a contraction for "it is") and stilted uses of the word "sake" after words ending in "s" (e.g. "for righteousness' sake" ... but please, please, please, just go with "for the sake of righteousness" instead).
  • Note the word "ancient" above. For modern proper names that end in "s," use an apostrophe and an additional "s" -- use "Charles's head" and "Congress's prerogative," not "Charles' head" and "Congress' prerogative."
There you have it. If you don't want to accept the rules above on my authority, feel free to confirm with Strunk and White.

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Which Part of ...


... "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives," and "Congress shall have Power ... To borrow Money on the credit of the United States," does Matt Miller not understand?

In today's Washington Post, Miller trots out last year's bogus "14th Amendment argument" for a presidential power to raise the US government's "debt ceiling."

Let's be crystal clear here: That argument is 100% bogus. There's just no way to get from "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law ... shall not be questioned" to "the President of the United States can borrow money on the credit of the United States if he really, really, really wants to but Congress won't play ball."

It is Congress and Congress alone which has the power to raise revenue both in general and via the specific means of borrowing. The president can stop them from doing so with the veto, but he can't do it himself in their stead. There's no constitutional route over, under or around that fact.

So, no dice, Miller ... but you do get a consolation prize:

Only one house of Congress has the power to initiate the raising of revenue, and that is the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives. The Democratic US Senate and the Democrat president can concur with, or attempt to block, the House's decision to rack up more debt, but if the House doesn't propose it, that's the end of it.

So for the next two years, every last dime of government debt will be Republican debt. The Democrats don't get to spend it unless the Republicans borrow it.

If President Obama is smart, he'll force the GOP to own that instead of trying to find a way around it.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Secession!


Per The Daily Caller, there are now "We the People" secession petitions to the White House from all 50 states and boasting more than 675,000 signatures.

Interesting.

Small but hardcore secessionist movements have been around for years, and not just in southern states (AlaskaHawaii and Vermont  have been in the thick of things).

Is the post-election noisemaking just "blowing off steam" by disappointed Republicans, or is there some "there" there?

Comments?
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Let It Bleed


Bleeding Heart Libertarians is running a "symposium on left-libertarianism." Interesting stuff. The material is varied enough, and my own thoughts on that fragmented enough, that doing a full-on review/critique seems like a bad idea. So I'm picking one piece (Steve Horwitz's "On the Edge of Utopia"), and one tidbit from that piece, to respond to.

Horwitz:

Left-libertarians often seem to argue that even just a little bit of statism so distorts markets that the results produced by the mixed economy bear little relationship to what a freed economy would produce.  Just as putting one drop of a liquid one owns into an unowned lake does not make the whole thing yours, neither does one drop of statism suddenly mean that the results of a mixed economy are vastly different from the results produced by a freed market.

I've got two problems with Horwitz's formulation.

The first is that there's never just a "little bit of statism" involved, nor, in my opinion, can there be. The evolutionary trend of the state runs in one direction: Toward more -- and deeper -- economic intervention and regulation. Rollbacks of state economic intervention/regulation are the exception, not the rule. Since the birth of the Westphalian nation-state, nearly every state has been, at nearly all times, progressing toward, not away from, total statism.

The second is that even little interventions which only slightly change the direction or velocity of a thing can result in very large effects over time. If you don't believe me, take off from Jefferson City in a small plane and fly 1000 miles due south, then 1000 miles at 20 degrees east of due south, then 1000 miles at 20 degrees west of due south. You'll find yourself in three very different places (very roughly, Baton Rouge versus Austin versus Tallahassee).

Contra Horwitz, I regard things like state-mandated limited liability for corporations as having likely produced long-term growth a) in very different directions, b) to much greater proportions and c) among particular entities, which would not have gone those ways absent the surplus profits created by the state miracle-ing away the need for investors to insure versus liabilities connected to their portfolios.

Unlike many left-libertarians, I'm less cocksure in my claims about precisely where things would have gone absent state intervention, or my predictions concerning precisely where they might go if the state disappeared this afternoon ...

... but I think it's reasonable to hypothesize that things economic would look very different today absent (to take three English economic interventions of past centuries because they're handy to my thoughts at the moment) the Statute of Anne, the Inclosure Acts, and the state privileges granted the East India Trading Company) ...

... and that it's reasonable to hypothesize that if Murray Rothbard's "destroy the state" button got pushed today, things economic would look a lot different a century from now than they will if, as I expect, the state continues to totter on for awhile longer.
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It's National Diabetes Month


I don't really get what that's supposed to mean. Are all us diabetics supposed to go out and recruit new ones or something? [rim shot]

But theriouthly, folkth ... I was diagnosed a little over two years ago, and the hardest part for me hasn't been reducing my sugar intake. All I had to do was quit drinking non-diet soda, replace sugar with stevia in my morning coffee, and cut way back on desserts (and try to eat my sweets right after meals; the doc said that would reduce the speed at which my blood sugar climbed). I also try to remember to include a little cinnamon in my diet (it allegedly helps). My blood glucose still runs high, but now it's usually "a little over 100" instead of "a little over 300."

Sucralose
Sucralose (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The hard part has been avoiding aspartame. The only diet soda I've come across (at least in regular, everyday grocery stores) that doesn't use it is Diet RC® (which uses sucralose, aka Splenda®). Recently I've started transitioning away from soda and to iced green tea sweetened with Splenda, cutting back on the sweetener a little at a time.

Fortunately -- or maybe unfortunately from a financial standpoint? -- I avoided all the diabetes drugs that are big tort litigation targets at the moment. Metformin is the only medication I use (and I've been out for awhile; I hate going to the doctor periodically for no discernible purpose except to get a renewed government permission slip for it).

So, anyway, I guess that's all I have to say about National Diabetes Month.
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The Perils of Non-Voting



Like a scene from "Maximum Overdrive," only with a Mitt Romney fan behind the wheel:

[Police allege that] Holly Solomon, 28, chased her 36-year-old husband Daniel Solomon with the family Jeep SUV on Saturday night over a political argument stemming from the fact he didn't vote, CBS station KPHO in Phoenix, Ariz. reported. She pinned him between the underside of the SUV and the curb when he tried to run for help.

The husband told investigators that Solomon believed her family was going to face hardship from President Barack Obama's re-election.

Witnesses told police that Solomon followed her husband in her car through a parking lot while screaming at him. He hid behind a light pole to protect himself while Solomon circled several times. She struck him as he tried to make a break for the main road.

Seems a little over the top, doesn't it? Even if voting could change some things, Daniel Solomon's vote wouldn't have changed anything: Romney carried Arizona by close to 200,000 votes. And punishing all 4.6 million Arizona non-voters in this way might backfire and increase sentiment for a "crazed Republican driver" addendum to the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.
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Monday, November 12, 2012

FTC Pushes Google for Immediate Bribe


Understand this, and understand it well: When the Federal Trade Commission "[presses Google] to offer to resolve the agency's antitrust investigation," there are no high principles involved. It's just a cash grab, plain and simple.

FTC even has its own internal "administrative court" where, as FTC Commissioner Jonathan Leibowitz points out, it can "wrap up the matter [of awarding itself lots and lots of Google's money] more quickly" than it could if it had to run things by people it doesn't, you know, employ and stuff.

If I were Google and other vulnerable enterprises, I'd consider establishing an arm's-length operation -- headquartered and operated from outside the United States, of course -- to keep an eye on FTC and start doing nasty things to its employees (with escalation of both severity and prominence of persons targeted as necessary), any time they cranked this kind of stuff up and until it stopped.

At this particular point in this particular situation, I think the FBI might have an anonymous tip in hand prompting them to get a warrant and pull Leibowitz's hard drives to search them for child porn.

But maybe that's just me. I'm not a very nice guy, nor very much disposed to put up with nonsense from bureaucrats.
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An Interesting Petition ...


... but it seems like bringing coals to Newcastle.

It's a White House "We the People" petition (one of a slew of similar petitions pertaining to various states) asking the Obama administration to "Peacefully grant the State of Missouri to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government."

Thing is, Missouri is the only seceded (effective October 31st, 1861) state that has never petitioned for, or been granted, re-admittance to the Union. So it seems to me that if people want to petition the US for something on behalf of Missouri, they should ask for an end to 151 years of US occupation or something of the sort. Just sayin' ...

Note: I do not favor creation of a new government for Missouri, although I'd be enormously happy to see the existing one dissolved.

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Why We Can't Have Nice Things


Via the Cleveland Leader:

If you're a fan of 7Up with antioxidants, you may want to consider stocking up. [The Center for Science in the Public Interest] has filed a lawsuit claiming that the drink's antioxidant claims are misleading and illegal, and at the same time, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group has said that the antioxidant drink line will be taken off the market by 2013.

Dr. Pepper Snapple Group says that the decision to take the product off the market has nothing to do with the lawsuit.

CSPI isn't claiming that the drink doesn't actually have the antioxidants in it, or anything like that.

It's suing, it claims, because consumers might assume the antioxidants come from fruits pictured on the container, and because "the Food and Drug Administration prohibits companies from fortifying candies and soft drinks with nutrients."

That prohibition is clearly against the public interest. But no matter, because that's not the real reason anyway. The real reason is that CSPI never misses a chance to whore for attention at the expense of the public's health and welfare (why am I not surprised that it was founded by alumni of Ralph Nader's fear mills?).

Among other public health debacles, CSPI was responsible for a wildly successful 1980s campaign against saturated fats in fast food. In response to that campaign, many chains replaced e.g. beef tallow with trans fats, which CSPI  described at the time as "relatively benign" (until they became its next PR bete noire).

Assholes.
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11


English: Portrait of Wilfred Owen, found in a ...
Wilfred Owen

Time for the annual Remembrance Day guest post 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.


British 55th (West Lancashire) Division troops...
British 55th (West Lancashire) Division troops blinded by tear gas await treatment at an Advanced Dressing Station near Bethune during the Battle of Estaires, 10 April 1918, part of the German offensive in Flanders. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



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Saturday, November 10, 2012

61.2



Cross-posted from the Center for a Stateless Society's "Stigmergy" Blog:

That’s my tentative estimate (based on Google election result and population statistics) of the percentage of Americans who voted for nobody for President of the United States on Tuesday.

US President Barack Obama knocked down about 60.7 million votes.

GOP challenger Mitt Romney polled about 57.8 million.

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, 1.14 million.

Green candidate Jill Stein, about 400,000.

A few others, a few thousands or tens of thousands.

About 38.8% of the population supported one of the candidates; about 19.5% of the population supported the alleged “winner.”

61.2% of the population did not consent to be ruled at all, and fewer than one in five Americans consented to be ruled by Barack Obama. The figures are likely similar for most or all of the 435 US Representatives and 33 US Senators “elected” on Tuesday.

If these politicians support the system of government they claim to support — one in which governments “deriv[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed” — then the only order of business they have to discuss is who will turn the lights off as they depart Washington.

Don’t bet the ranch on it.

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Congratulations to Missouri's Libertarian Partyarchs


Back in August of 2010, when I handed the chair's gavel of the St. Louis County, Missouri Libertarian Party over to Julie Stone, I swore that I would not attend an LP event for two years.

Think of it the way a newly recovering alcoholic might think of visiting with friends at his favorite bar: Lots of fun, but not the thing to do if you're afraid you might be tempted to have just that one beer.

I managed the two years and change -- 26 months. I attended the local Libertarian election night "watch party" on Tuesday. It was nice to catch up with old friends, and I wasn't greatly tempted to jump back into electoral politics.

The Missouri LP set new records this year -- partially buoyed by Gary Johnson's higher-profile-than-usual presidential candidacy, and by Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" implosion, but mostly by hard work on the part of the party's candidates and activists. Congratulations, guys.
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Got Frisky with the Chromebox


As I mentioned in my initial review of the new Chromebox, it arrived ... used. There was a user account for someone else on the box.

I'm told by the client who purchased the box for me that Amazon issued an apology and a store credit for selling an "open box" product as "new," so that's all good.

I was initially hesitant to mess with that existing user account. Its existence didn't mess with the stuff I do for the most part, and I found some scary stuff online about needing to "re-enroll" the box if I wiped it back to its factory settings.

But, there turned out to be some things I couldn't do as long as that user account was on the box. I was not the root/superuser, so I couldn't manage other users, control updates, and so forth. And a little more research helped me figure out that the "enrollment" stuff only applied if the box was for a business that used multiple Google Apps accounts.

So ... turn off the machine, use a pin to flip the switch on the back to "developer mode," turn it back on, follow some (scary!) prompts to get it to wipe the machine, let it roll, flip the developer switch back, restart the machine.

Done. Worked like a charm. Now I'm the godlike superuser on the machine and that previous owner's account is gone. And all of my stuff made it through the changeover just fine via Google Sync.

Feeling newly empowered, I went in and changed the OS updates setting to the "beta channel." So now I am running new hotness Chrome OS 23.0.1271.84 beta instead of old and busted Chrome OS 21.x. So far so good.

I also redeemed the offer for 100Gb of free storage for two years on Google Drive. Don't know that I'll use anything like that much space, but might as well have it available as not.
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Periodic Reorganization No. 4,321


You know I do this every once in awhile, especially when I start blogging more regularly -- clean out the dead wood and stuff.

I got rid of the "sponsor this blog" a la carte advertising that I had to handle myself (IIRC, all of it was done either in trade long ago or as favors to friends; there were no sales that I can remember), and cut out a couple of other advertising-y gadgets as well. I'm going back to AdBrite "contextual ads" ... and putting them right below the post title. A minor distraction, and hopefully lucrative. Not gonna do those funky "interstitials" or inline linked words ads, just the little bloc at the top of each post.

Blogs should be monetized, monetized, monetized. But not in ways that really get in the way of the blogging, or make the site load slow or funky.

For a blog of this size, frequency and readership, my sights are set low. If I can knock down a venti iced white chocolate mocha or two a month from KN@PPSTER, my toes will continue tapping.

Update, 11/11: AdBrite rejected my ad zone for reasons that make no sense ("not a top-level domain" -- I am running AdBrite zones on other sites in subdomains). I just activated a Google AdSense account that should theoretically put an ad below each post, and have applied with at least one other ad service. Guess we'll see how much more it is getting to monetize a blog.

Second Update, 11/11: AdSense says no as well. AdsGadget it is, then. I decided to put them at the bottom of posts, though.

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Why the Petraeus Departure is Good for the GOP


Official photo of General David Howell Petraeu...
David Petraeus (Wikipedia)
Naturally, there's a lot of speculation -- for example, is it possible that Obama's people blackmailed Petraeus into not contradicting the administration's line on Benghazi? Or that they let him go on his own terms as long as he waited until after the election (to avoid a possible "Obama canned Petraeus" backlash)?

I'm sure that in due time we'll all know more than we want to know about the general's love life, and get a face full of wild theories about what went on behind the scenes, but the one thing I have to say about it is that this is good for the Republican Party.

As long as Petraeus remained a top military/intelligence/political figure, with "bipartisan" chops to boot, he was an obvious candidate for the Republican Party's presidential or vice presidential nomination in 2016.

And a plausible candidate, too. He certainly has the experience. He would probably be a lock for VP and a serious contender for the top slot.

But his ability to compete at that level would have a lot to do with the GOP's tin ear on "defense" issues -- he would be a bad pick.

Even (maybe especially) if the US is substantially free of its current set of expensive military entanglements -- Afghanistan especially -- by 2016, voters are still going to be war-weary and suspicious of any candidate fitting a "likely ultra-hawk" profile.

The timing is good for the GOP too. Maybe not as good as having the whole thing create a scandal that helped Mitt Romney would have been, but at least it's soon enough after this election that if it cuts the other way it won't hurt the GOP in 2014 or 2016.
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Friday, November 09, 2012

The Ask Before Us


taxes
(Photo credit: 401(K) 2012)
Here we go again. Per WaPo, as part of his post-election "avoid the fiscal cliff" offerings, US President Barack Obama says he supports "asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes."

No he doesn't. That's a bare-faced lie.

The government doesn't "ask" for taxes from anyone.

They're taxes. They're not requested. They're collected pursuant to demands backed by forcible seizure and possible criminal penalties in cases of non-compliance.

If you support taxing "the rich" -- or anyone else -- at least be honest about what that involves.

If you want to argue that taxes aren't theft, i.e. that they are morally acceptable pursuant to some kind of binding "social contract" or whatever, feel free, but even in that case nobody's "asking." Collecting remains a coercive process (i.e. one backed by force or threat of force) whether or not it is an immorally aggressive process (i.e. one that violates a victim's rights).
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More Post-Election Analysis: GOTV


I don't know that it was in any way decisive, but apparently the Republican Party's Get Out The Vote effort fell completely to pieces on Tuesday [h/t The Other McCain] due to over-centralization and reliance on tech that was just not ready for prime time.

Now hear this: You can lose a hotly contested election even with a great ground game and very effective GOTV (for example, by telling the fastest-growing voter demographic that their relatives should "self-deport"). But you can't win a hotly contested election without them.

I live in St. Louis county (Missouri). While the city and north county are overwhelmingly Democratic, south/west county are largely Republican, and county-wide races can be competitive.

In an election year, it goes something like this:

- Months before the election, I start getting direct mail from candidates of both parties.

- Weeks before the election, Democratic candidates start leaving stuff on my door and sometimes knocking on it.

- Weeks before the election, Democratic party workers start knocking on my door to find out whether or not I am registered to vote and GET me registered if not (presumably they do not do this in the Republican parts of the county -- they're hitting areas where they expect the people they register to almost certainly vote Democrat).

- A week or two before the election, I start getting robo-calls to tell me how close it is and how important it is that I vote. Those calls run about 3:1 Democratic.

And on election day, my phone rings off the hook with prominent Democrats urging me to vote, offering me a ride to the polls, screeching that the election depends on my participation, etc. Back when I voted, those calls stopped once I and my wife had voted, which leads me to believe that there's a watcher at each polling place, communicating to the phone banks when they can scratch names off lists.

At the polling places, both parties have signage out, and both parties have campaign workers greeting voters with sample ballots, brochures, etc. There are usually 15-20 Democrats and one or two Republicans. The local Democratic Party workers -- and in many cases the candidates themselves -- come around in the morning with coffee and breakfast food for those workers. They come around at noon with box lunches. They come around in the afternoon with bottled water.

This is in an area where there is no doubt whatsoever that the Democratic candidates will win the  races in the immediate area. The reason for the herculean GOTV effort is to boost the Democratic vote count for county-wide and state-wide races and in the presidential election.

In 2008, I ran for Congress in the gerrymandered Republican second district down in south/west county*. And what did I find there? Same thing -- the Democrats had everything wired up to perfection. The Republicans were barely visible. The Democrats knew they weren't going to win that congressional seat, but they still wanted as many Democratic votes as they could get to influence the outcome in the countywide and statewide races. The Republicans either figured they didn't need to work a safe district and could take the day off, or else they bused their workers to other places where the local outcomes were more in doubt.

I suppose it is possible that there are areas of the country where the GOP is as well-organized as the Democrats are here. But I've never heard of them. When I hear about a well-oiled ground game and GOTV project, it's always the Democrats.

The Romney campaign's "Project ORCA" appears to have been an attempt to put together an election day GOTV effort as good as Obama's. It fell apart in implementation, but they tried. And even if it had succeeded, it was too little, too late. Their ground game needed to have extended back into the weeks and months before (and by "ground game" I don't mean big rallies and sign-waving, I mean identifying and registering likely Republican voters and motivating them to get their asses to the polling places -- or to vote NOW in early voting states). Their GOTV effort needed to have emphasized early voting by the base as well.

My personal friend and political opposite, Eric Dondero, went Greyhound from Texas to Ohio to help out the Romney campaign. His description of his work there sounds like his dedication and willingness to work were not efficiently utilized. They had him doing things like waving a sign and button-holing random passersby in areas where there might be some votes to be had. If he had been put to work with a list of likely Republican voters, knocking on their doors and driving them to early voting centers, he'd probably have drummed up more Romney votes. Not his fault, of course. He showed up and asked to be put to work. They just didn't make the most of that.

Was ground game / GOTV the decisive factor in the election? I don't know. I'm still pretty sure that demographics, especially the Latino vote, played a big part. But it was certainly a major factor in the outcome.

-----
* My Republican opponent was Todd Akin, he of "legitimate rape" infamy. I polled more votes than any third party candidate, or any combination of third party candidates, had polled in that district since at least as far back as 1996.


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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Post-Election Analysis


So ... I called it and I called it right.

How? Simple -- I paid attention to the polls, I did my own anecdotal weighting of those polls based on how I thought the demographics would break down (e.g. I thought the polling was under-weighted with respect to likely actual Latino turnout, especially in Florida and Nevada), and I took a cue from what the campaigns were concentrating on over the last few weeks (Obama spent the final month in hardcore "get the voters I already have in pocket to the polls" mode, while Romney got bogged down in "try to get those last few undecided voters to decide on me" mode).

That's pretty much all there was to the handicapping. No rocket science, no crystal balls, no tarot cards, and most of all, no inclusion of any personal preferences in my calculations (it helped that I didn't really have any personal preferences).

As to how we arrived at the situation leading into the result, a few thoughts:


  • Romney did not lose because he was "not libertarian enough" and certainly not because he was "too libertarian." Nor did he lose because he was "too conservative" or "not conservative enough." Ideology had very little to do with the result. The ideologues knew for whom they would be voting for months ago.
  • The conventional wisdom is that late undecideds tend to break for the challenger rather than for the incumbent, and for the centrist rather than for the more extreme choice. The real truth is that late undecideds tend to break for the candidate who has a story and sticks to that story. That break usually favors the challenger, who can frame a devastating critique of the incumbent and hammer that critique home without much variation while the incumbent has to be all over the map defending each and every screw-up of the previous four years. This year that break favored the incumbent. Obama stuck resolutely to his story, while Romney got caught up in a constantly shifting pander-bear routine.
  • Which takes me back to January, when I asserted that Newt Gingrich was the only candidate who had both a shot at the GOP nomination and a chance of beating Obama. Gingrich will piss down your back and tell you it's raining -- and if you turn around and catch him with his pecker still out and dripping, he'll get huffy and ask you if you believe him or your own lying eyes. The only time Romney showed that kind of backbone was with his "Jeep is getting ready to move to China" play, which failed not so much because it was a bald-faced lie as because it was a bald-faced lie aimed precisely at the only constituency in America who knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that it was a bald-faced lie (voters in Ohio's auto manufacturing areas).
The only surprise for me last night -- and it was not an unpleasant surprise -- is that Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson apparently broke a million votes.

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Monday, November 05, 2012

Final Presidential Prediction


No dramatic changes from my other recent predictions, although I was at one point thinking Obama might fall as low as 290 electoral votes. Here is my "night before the election" prediction in the form of a screen grab/edit from the "build your own map" thingum at RealClearPolitics:




I didn't use any "leans this way or that way" shading. If it's blue, I'm confident that Obama will carry it; if it's red, I consider it in Romney's pocket. I'm only uncertain at all about two states. I give Obama even odds to take Florida. North Carolina is a much longer shot, but I still think it's a possibility.

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Seeking the ideal Chrome text editor


Any time I switch operating systems, I run into the same problems with some of the work I do.  I usually start by winging it and doing a bunch of extra manual scutwork to get the same results and output I was getting easily in the previous OS (after having gone through the same cycle then). That's what I've been doing for the last week since the Chromebox arrived.

After awhile -- I am at this stage now -- I get serious about making the changes that produce the output/results I want without the extra work.

This time around, those changes are of two varieties, one of which I just took care of a few minutes ago (adapting a Wordpress template to accommodate some output differences between Chrome and Firefox so that I get the number of line breaks I want, in the places where I want them, when I cut and paste), the other of which I am still working on.

Here's what I'm trying to do:

1) Copy a bunch of text from a web page.

2) Paste it into a text editor and have the fancy crap automatically disappear. I want straight ASCII apostrophes and quote marks. I want two hyphens, not long non-ASCII dashes. That kind of thing.

In other words, I want the Chrome app equivalent of Notepad or TextWrangler.

Bonus points for automatic syncing to a service that doesn't mess up (2) above -- or screw with my file extensions, as I eventually FTP some of these files onto a server -- on saving.

Google Docs doesn't seem to fit that bill. If I don't convert a file to Google Docs format, I can't edit it directly in Docs. If I do convert the file to Google Docs format, then I've got a .gdoc file, not the .txt file or .php file that I need to upload to the server.

I've tried several editors that sync to Dropbox (which is my personal favorite anyway). The best I've found so far is WriteBox, but it doesn't seem to handle the ASCII-fying part.

If necessary, I'm willing to give up the nice sync functionality and just save docs to my small solid state drive.

EXTRA bonus points for a Chrome FTP app that doesn't suck. The only one I've found so far that works at all is something called FTP Editor, and it's kind of creaky (among other annoyances, it supposedly saves my login info, including unrememberable password, but when I come back that data is never saved).

Any suggestions? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

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Saturday, November 03, 2012

Cloud Atlas


I wasn't expecting to catch Cloud Atlas this weekend, but both Tamara and the kids wanted to, so we did -- 4:45 matinee at the Moolah.

I was surprised that the kids wanted to see it. I was even more surprised that they sat through all three hours of it without visible loss of interest.

Short review: A great big mess of a movie, but a beautifully rendered mess. I expect I'll be seeing it several times (probably not on the big screen again, though).

Up sides: Stellar acting from a stellar cast. Magnificent visuals.

Down side: Three hours just isn't time enough to fully elaborate six separate plots, even though they are theoretically inter-related plots. I don't know what the filmmakers could have done to remedy that without the thing dragging out to another three hours (at least). Maybe nothing.

At any rate, I didn't leave the film wanting my three hours back. Not a grand slam, maybe not even a home run, but at least a ground rule double.



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Thursday, November 01, 2012

US Senate Elections Handicapping


My US Senate outcome predictions for next week. Sorry to disappoint anyone expecting really outrageous picks. A couple of these are a little risky, but nothing way far out.

Arizona -- Flake (R) beats Carmona (D) [Republican Hold]
California -- Feinstein (D) beats Emken (R) [Democratic Hold]
Connecticut -- Murphy (D) beats McMahon (R) [Democratic Hold]
Delaware -- Carper (D) beats Wade (R) [Democratic Hold]
Florida -- Nelson (D) beats Mack (R) [Democratic Hold]
Hawaii -- Hirono (D) beats Lingle (R) [Democratic Hold]
Indiana -- Donnelly (D) beats Mourdock (R) [Democratic Pickup]
Maine -- King (I) beats Summers (R) and Dill (D) [de facto Democratic Pickup]
Maryland -- Cardin (D) beats Bongino (R) [Democratic Hold]
Massachusetts -- Warren (D) beats Brown (R) [Democratic Pickup]
Michigan -- Stabenow (D) beats Hoekstra (R) [Democratic Hold]
Minnesota -- Klobuchar (D) beats Bills (R) [Democratic Hold]
Mississippi -- Wicker (R) beats Gore (D) [Republican Hold]
Missouri -- McCaskill (D) beats Akin (R) [Democratic Hold]
Montana -- Tester (D) beats Rehberg (R) [Democratic Hold]
Nebraska -- Fischer (R) beats Kerrey (D) [Republican Pickup]
Nevada -- Berkley (D) beats Heller (R) [Democratic Pickup]
New Jersey -- Menendez (D) beats Kyrillos (R) [Democratic Hold]
New Mexico -- Heinrich (D) beats Wilson (R) [Democratic Hold]
New York -- Gillibrand (D) beats Long (R) [Democratic Hold]
North Dakota -- Berg (R) beats Heitcamp (D) [Republican Pickup]
Ohio --  Brown (D) beats Mandel (R) [Democratic Hold]
Pennsylvania -- Casey (D) beats Smith (R) [Democratic Hold]
Rhode Island -- Whitehouse (D) beats Hinckley (R) [Democratic Hold]
Tennessee --  Corker (R) beats Clayton (D) [Republican Hold]
Texas -- Cruz (R) beats Sadler (D) [Republican Hold]
Utah -- Hatch (R) beats Howell (D) [Republican Hold]
Vermont -- Sanders (I) beats MacGovern (R) [de facto Democratic Hold]
Virginia -- Kaine (D) beats Allen (R) [Democratic Hold]
Washington -- Cantwell (D) beats Baumgartner (R) [Democratic Hold]
West Virginia -- Manchin (D) beats Raese (R) [Democratic Hold]
Wisconsin -- Baldwin (D) beats Thompson (R) [Democratic Hold]
Wyoming -- Barrasso (R) beats Chestnut (D) [Republican Hold]

So a net Democratic pickup of one seat or two seats (depending on whether we count Maine's King as a de facto Democrat), unless West Virginia's Manchin switches parties after the election.

I guess I should throw in my presidential prediction, too, as I don't think I've really done so here (but I have elsewhere). Obama will win in the electoral college with a minimum of 290 votes to Romney's 248. He may notch up as high as 334 to 204 (332 if Florida and Virginia slide out of the Romney column; 334 in the less likely event that it's Florida and North Carolina).

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The Chromebox is Here!


First impression: This machine is sweet.

I've seen various boot times mentioned in reviews -- six seconds, eight seconds ... I didn't count, but I'm relatively certain it was under 10 seconds from pressing the button to the thing being ready to use.

Thanks to Google Sync, all my stuff is up to date (mostly, anyway -- while waiting for the new box, I had been working in Seamonkey instead of Chrome on the Mac, so a stray bookmark/password here and there are probably missing).

It's quiet, it's fast, and there doesn't seem to be a high learning curve here.

I do have some "getting used to" things to ... well, get used to. Mostly re-learning keyboard shortcuts since there's no longer a Mac "command" key. And I don't have the fonts just right for my pranged eyesight yet. That's always an adventure when I change machines.

And I have to start figuring out the cloud way to do the few things that I previously used hard-drive-based apps. I'll be working in Google Docs instead of TextWrangler, using an FTP extension instead of  Cyberduck, and so on, and so forth.

Sweet. Badass. But I've only been using it for maybe an hour, so I can't be sure something weird won't come up.

Brief, mildly disturbing update: When I first turned on the computer, there were two login prompts. One had a name, and the other was "guest." I figured the "name" one was some kind of cheesy sample/tutorial thing, and didn't think any more about it until later when I went into "manage users" and found out that no, that name was a real person, and the "root" user for the machine.

In other words, I was shipped used merchandise. Specifically, "open box" merchandise. With a little Googling, I was able to identify and contact the previous owner, who had returned the box immediately,  because it didn't support a particular dual monitor configuration he uses.

In my case, this happens to be a minor thing. The nature of the Chromebox is that there's not a bunch of stuff on a hard drive that I could use to do bad things if I was a bad guy. And the machine is in perfect condition, so I see no need to return it. But it's bad business to be selling "opened box" merchandise as "new," and it could even be dangerous from an identity theft standpoint.

The seller of the box is ... drum roll, please ... Amazon. I've advised the client who purchased the machine on my behalf to remonstrate with them. He deserves some store credit, and they need to understand that "opened box" computers need to be checked out thoroughly before resale (and not sold as "new").

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Some graphics and styles ported from a previous theme by Jenny Giannopoulou