Thursday, February 28, 2013

Two other Toms on the Instant Situation


"Current U.S. fiscal policy, including the recently concluded 'fiscal cliff' debt deal," writes Jagadeesh Gokale at the Cato Institute, "is placing an enormous financial burden on today'’s children and on future generations in order to deliver government benefits to current middle-aged workers and their elders." Or to put it a different way, as he does in the title of the piece, "We Are Bankrupting Future Generations."

That's a fairly common theme among libertarian commentators when it comes to government spending and government debt. For example, in a column last week, 2012 Libertarian Party vice-presidential nominee James P. Gray asserted that "[o]ur children will have to shoulder our debt during the rest of their lives ..."

Problem is, it just ain't so. I'm not saying that by way of supporting government indebtedness, but just because it's a fact. A couple of quotes from other eminent personages also named "Thomas" make it clear why:

As we are not to live for ever ourselves, and other generations are to follow us, we have neither the power nor the right to govern them, or to say how they shall govern themselves. -- Thomas Paine, Dissertations On Government; the Affairs of the Bank; and Paper Money

and ...

I suppose that the received opinion, that the public debts of one generation devolve on the next, has been suggested by our seeing habitually in private life that he who succeeds to lands is required to pay the debts of his ancestor or testator, without considering that this requisition is municipal only, not moral, flowing from the will of the society which has found it convenient to appropriate the lands become vacant by the death of their occupant on the condition of a paiment of his debts; but that between society and society, or generation and generation there is no municipal obligation, no umpire but the law of nature. We seem not to have perceived that, by the law of nature, one generation is to another as one independant nation to another. -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison

It's true that "we're bankrupting our CHILDREN!!!!!" makes for a pretty good propaganda line in a policy fight.

But I think it's more practical to address those who continue investing, through the purchase of government bonds, in the debts run up by Obama, Reid, Boehner et. al. and let them know that the likelihood of making their money back over the long haul passed "slim" quite some time back and as of now is right at "none."

Sooner or later -- probably much sooner than most people think -- that debt is going to be defaulted upon and repudiated. There is no "if" involved, only an unspecified "when." Heck, it may even be this generation! Regardless of when the when is, one thing is certain: You don't want to be holding T-Bills when it arrives.

Of course, none of us -- except for those who are or have been among the 435 members of the US House of Representatives, the 100 members of the US Senate, and the President of the United States --  have any obligation whatsoever to pick up the ObamaReidBoehner check.

But that's especially and doubly true of future generations of Americans who've never yet taken, nor yet been asked to take, any part in the "consent of the governed" charade that supposedly "legitimizes" enslaving them to pay for Nancy Pelosi's airplane rides and Lindsay Graham's theatrical productions.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Step 1: Arrest Colonel Denise Lind


Step 2: Charge her with violations of Article 92 (Failure to Obey an Order or Regulation), Article 98 (Non-Compliance with Procedural Rules) and Article 134 (the "General Article," specifically "conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces") of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Step 3: Give her the speedy trial she continues to allow the military to deny Bradley Manning, then let her spend some quality time making big rocks into smaller rocks.

Article 98 is the most relevant one:

Any person subject to this chapter who --

(1) is responsible for unnecessary delay in the disposition of any case of a person accused of an offense under this chapter; or

(2) Knowingly and intentionally fails to enforce or comply with any provision of this chapter regulating the proceedings before, during, or after trial of an accused; shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

The "speedy trial" provisions of the Rules for Court Martial are not unclear: The military had 120 days, from the date of his arrest, to arraign Bradley Manning. They took 638.

It doesn't matter if the prosecution, as Lind puts it, has "worked diligently" to build a case against Manning. You throw someone in the slammer and keep him there without bail after you have a case to prosecute, not for nearly two years while you try to figure out whether or not you can come up with something to charge him with.

For the sake of comparison, Scooter Libby never served a day in jail even after he outed a CIA agent and was convicted of perjury (just like Alger Hiss). Israeli spy Lawrence Franklin bailed out twice prior to trial, and after he plead guilty ended up serving 10 months -- not in prison, but on "house arrest" -- and giving some speeches to high school students about how breaking the law is bad.

Manning's been in jail for 1008 days now, and the prosecution still shows no sign of having its head and its ass wired together. Apparently they have a problem. Their problem shouldn't be Bradley Manning's problem.



English: Slogan for the support of the persecu...
English: Slogan for the support of the persecuted American ex-soldier who is claimed to have leaked secret documents to WikiLeaks Deutsch: Slogan für die Unterstützung und Freilassung von Bradley Manning, der beschuldigt wird, geheime Dokumente an WikiLeaks weitergegeben zu haben (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Maybe It's Time Florida Got Off the "Defense" Teat


Florida governor Rick Scott complains that the upcoming* federal budget "sequestration" would hurt Florida because:

Florida is one of America’s most defense centric states. Florida hosts three unified combatant commands, 20 major Air Force and Navy installations, and very large segments of the nation’s defense industry which annually contributes over $73.4 billion and more than 754,000 defense industry jobs to the economy.

This is precisely the wrong way -- 180 degrees ass-backwards -- to look at "defense" spending.

For the sake of argument, let me temporarily (very temporarily, and purely for the sake of argument -- I'm an anarchist) stipulate to the claim that "national defense" as written is a "legitimate government activity."

If that's the case -- if "defense" spending is "necessary" -- let's treat it as what it is: Overhead. A cost, not a "contribution." That money isn't appearing out of thin air. It's coming out of the pockets of the very Floridians whose interests Scott claims to have at heart. And from that standpoint, any analysis of whether the money should or should not be spent should be conducted solely on the basis of how it affects the government's ability to discharge the explicit duty (the meat), not on how many jobs might land in Florida as a result of it doing so (the gravy).

And if we're going to analyze it from that standpoint, well, we should be demanding far larger cuts than the sequestration provides for. The current US "defense" budget is -- and I consider this estimate very conservative -- at least four to five times the size required under any plausible scheme pertaining to "national defense." At least 75-80% of US "defense" spending  is a dog's breakfast of corporate welfare, congressional pork as district "jobs programs," and the kind of featherbedding that's only to be expected in a bureaucracy that's had seven decades to perfect the practice of lobbying for its own perpetual growth.

The US government spends more on "defense" than the next 20 national governments combined, even though it hasn't faced a credible external military threat in decades that wasn't entirely of its own making (largely due to that over-spending -- the military is so obese that the knotheads in DC can't resist the temptation to throw its weight around in places where it has no business).

The sequestration would temporarily (again, very temporarily -- when these things end, they always end in back pay for furloughed employees, etc.) reduce DoD spending to 2005 levels. I'm sure that all of you remember, as I do, those dark days of eight years ago: Pentagon employees paying for new tanks by putting on bake sales and car washes, pan-handling in Taco Bell parking lots to raise the money for aircraft carriers, etc.

If Rick Scott is serious about improving Florida's economy, he'll ask DC to shut down the military bases, cancel the procurement contracts, and refund the money saved to Florida's taxpayers so that they can spend it on real goods and actually useful services instead of on bureaucrats in Washington and make-work "jobs" for constituents and welfare payments to "defense contractors" in Florida.

* I went with "upcoming" instead of "looming" or "imminent" because the latter two make the thing sound a lot bigger scarier than it actually is.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

First Impressions: Super 510-T Electronic Cigarette


Electronic Cigarette Inhalation
Electronic Cigarette Inhalation (Photo credit: Michael Dorausch)
I've been stocking up on "vaping" gear with a slight sense of urgency, given the distinct possibility that the US Food and Drug Administration will attempt (again) to suppress electronic cigarettes on behalf of Big Pharma and Big Tobacco come April.

I started vaping back in 2010 after my friend Morey Straus sent me some KR808D-1 batteries, cartomizers and juice. I pretty quickly got off of "real tobacco," although I occasionally fall off the wagon when I run out of juice. My supplier of choice since then and until recently has been VaporKings, and I still have nothing but great things to say about them ... but I've recently broadened my horizons a bit.

When I arrived in Florida, I was ready to be off tobacco again but all my vaping gear was in storage / en route. So I picked up some Logic Power Series gear at a local convenience store (here's my review of that), and started ordering juice from MadVapes, because they're closer (in South Carolina instead of Oklahoma) and because they sell juice in big-ass 50ml bottles.

Before I get to the Super 510-T, let me put in an extra-special good word for MadVapes (no, I'm not a commissioned affiliate or anything ... yet). I've now ordered from them three times. Each time, I've gotten exactly what I ordered, lightning fast, at a fantastic price.

I ordered the Super 510-T kit from MadVapes because it was on sale at an incredible price: Two batteries, two atomizers, five tanks, a USB charger and an adaptor for the charger to plug into wall current, all for $26.99. Oh, and a little bottle with a "needle end" for filling the tanks comes with it too, all in a very nice storage box.

First things first: The Super 510-T is a different kind of electronic cigarette than the KR808D-1 or the Logic Power Series.

Those two are "two-piece" units. There's a battery, and then something called a "cartomizer" -- that is, the atomizer to heat up the juice, and a cartridge that holds the juice by soaking it up in some sort of cotton batting, in one piece.

The Super 510-T is a "three-piece" unit. There's a battery, an atomizer that heats up the juice, and a little plastic tank that holds the liquid in free liquid form instead of soaking it up in a cloth medium.

When I first started vaping, I just figured the two-piece models were the way to go -- more convenient. But lately I've been thinking that a three-piece might produce more vapor and have a better flavor (when the two-piece units start to get low on juice, the vapor gets a slightly burned flavor).

I was right on both counts. The Super 510-T puts off a LOT more fog, and it tastes better. I've had mine for about two hours (ordered it Friday, it arrived Monday -- like I said, the MadVapes guys are fast) and it's already hands-down my preferred electronic cigarette.

Because I've only had the thing for a few hours, I can't speak to its durability, but it feels well-made, hefty and with a kind of rubberized exterior.

It's bigger around than those two-piece units, and the battery alone is about as long as a "100"-style cigarette. With the atomizer and tank/tip on it, it's about half again as long. I guess the best comparison would be to a fairly thin, tipped cigar. It's comfortable to hold, though.

The Super 510-T is a "push-button" unit. That is, it has a little button on the side that you push to make it start heating your juice and turn it into vapor. Some electronic cigarettes have "auto" batteries which power on when you puff them like a "real" cigarette."

Some reviews of the Super 510-T scared me a little on three grounds: It sounded a little complicated, some reviewers complained that it leaks, and some reviewers said the button tended to stick "on."

It turned out to be very simple: Screw the atomizer onto the battery. Fill the tank with juice and pop it into the atomizer. Vape away. I've also had no leakage problems yet, and I'm on my second fill (I put just a little juice in the first time, so it wouldn't be lost or wasted if the thing didn't work; once I was satisfied that it DID work, I filled the tank up). When I press the button, it vapes. When I let go of the button, it stops vaping.

Another nice thing about the Super 510-T is that it can be used as a "pass-thru" -- that is, when you plug it into the USB charger, you can vape as it charges. I have a KR808D-1 dedicated "pass-thru" that was plugged into my computer until this thing arrived, but with the 510-T I have one unit that can be used both "in the wild" on battery power and at my desk using my computer's current.

And oh, the vapor! Lots of it, and it tastes like the flavor I bought (menthol), not like burning cotton.

So far, the Super 510-T looks like a real winner to me. I'll update this review if things go south, but I am 500% happy with the product, with the price, and with MadVapes for getting it to me in such a timely manner.
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In Florida, Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others ...


... or at least some tree thieves get a better deal than others.


Exhibit A:

Any person who proves by clear and convincing evidence that he or she has been injured in any fashion by reason of any violation of ss. 812.012-812.037 or s. 825.103(1) has a cause of action for threefold the actual damages sustained ... -- Florida Statute § 772.11

Exhibit A(1):

(1) A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently:
(a) Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property.
(b) Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property. -- Florida Statute § 812.014

Exhibit B:

Three years after what a grand jury called a flagrantly illegal $2 million tree giveaway to a well-connected Panhandle billboard company, the Florida Department of Transportation settled for pennies on the dollar.

The state agree to accept just $100,000, although $90,000 of that is yet to be collected. The payments will be made interest-free over the next five years. -- Matt Dixon at Politijax

Sunday, February 24, 2013

No, Not From the Onion ...


...  from Fox News. But it ought to be from The Onion:

Yahoo! tells employees to stop working from home

It's going to be a long week. It's only Sunday, and already the second time I've said "this is the stupidest thing I've read this week."

(h/t Steve Trinward at RRND)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I Am A Chick Magnet


Heck, I've picked three up already today*, and it's only late afternoon.




* A White Leghorn, a Brown Leghorn, and a Black Sex Link (not what it sounds like, really!).

Brief Note on Alternative Energy


A lot of people seem to think that solar and wind energy are expensive and complicated. I beg to differ.

The cost of a new electric clothes dryer seems to start at about $250 and go up from there depending on how big you want it to be, what brand you prefer, etc. And then actually running it probably means $250 or more per year in electricity and/or gas costs. And if you've ever installed one, you know what a pain it is to get it to your place, get it into the laundry area, hook up the exhaust, etc.

My homemade wind and solar clothes dryer cost about $3 to assemble (one dollar for clothes line, two for clothespins), came home in a grocery bag, took about five minutes to install, and has zero electrical operating costs.

Just sayin' ...



Thursday, February 21, 2013

Brief Note on the GOP's Orgy of Public Self-Mutilation


Oh no, Br'er Cornyn and Br'er Graham! Please don't throw Br'er Obama into the briar patch!

For some reason, Republicans think that calling US Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel  out as insufficiently loyal -- not to the United States, but to a foreign power which attacks US vessels, conducts aggressive espionage operations against America's military, intelligence and industrial communities, sells sensitive US military technology to the Chinese, and cashes a bigger US government check every year than any other foreign welfare queen -- is a winning political hand.

I think Republicans are saying exactly what US President Barack Obama wants Americans to hear Republicans say.

He contrived to stampede them into not just admitting, but openly bragging, as loudly as humanly possible, that they put the interests of a foreign power (and one not nearly as friendly toward America as its PR flacks would have us believe) before the interests of the United States. And it worked.

Perhaps Obama is just a tad more clever than his opponents give him credit for.

Why I Don't Think Sequestration Will Happen


The conventional wisdom (and the White House line) seems to be that sequestration is just too terrible for reasonable people to really contemplate -- a "fiscal cliff" off which America must not fall, economic Armageddon, and so forth -- and therefore a deal will be made.

I think a deal will be made too, but for a very different reason: Sequestration is so insanely trivial that if it happens, neither side will be able to convincingly argue that it's creating noteworthy levels of suffering.

The very biggest and most allegedly draconian cuts would hit the Department of Defense. How hard would they hit it?

By a whopping, Goliath, draconian 2.25%.

No, I didn't misplace the decimal point. "Armageddon" to the Beltway types is the specter of the most corruptly bloated government institution in human history -- at least five times as big as any plausible case relating to "national defense" could be made for -- suffering a temporary reduction to 43/44ths its previous size. Oh, the humanity!

Can you imagine Rachel Maddow trying to jerk tears over such a thing?

"Amanda Bel Rive and Charlack Darby, life-long friends and wives of two assistant Under-Secretaries of Toilet Brush Procurement at the Pentagon, were forced last week to let their live-in housekeepers go and split the services of a single part-time maid."

"Rear Admiral Fred Glouck, adjutant to the Under-Secretary of Defense for Aleutian Island Kayak Commando Operations,  has known suffering and privation all his life, but that's okay -- he's a stand-up guy who's willing to make sacrifices for his country. He's downgrading his family's membership at the Bethesda Golf and Equestrian Center: No more valet parking; no more premium wine list privileges; he may even switch from call drinks to well."

Not exactly "We Shall Overcome" material.

Neither party wants to actually reduce the size, scope or power of the federal government, so sequestration is only useful to them as a prospective bogeyman. They don't want it to actually happen, because if it happened it wouldn't be scary any more.

House of Cards: Not Your Father's West Wing


An anarchist reviewing an inside the Beltway political drama? Yep! They're one of my guilty pleasures. I just recently finished re-watching The West Wing from beginning to end, and was pleased to learn that I could carry on past the finish line with another political show direct from Netflix -- their first original series, based on a British political book and BBC mini-series, and allegedly priced out at $100 million for its first "season" (all 13 episodes were released at once, so I'm not sure that term really works ... "volume," perhaps?).

Let me start by saying that the two shows are polar opposites:

The West Wing is about fundamentally good people trying to do good things in an environment where that's never easy and not always even possible. Even a cynical libertarian like me, who would do cartwheels if the entire District of Columbia slid into Chesapeake Bay, never to be seen again, could empathize with the characters and their situations at times, and right-wing bellyaching notwithstanding, the show went out of its way to present "both" sides of a lot of issues fairly.

House of Cards is about relentlessly ambitious House Majority Whip Francis Underwood (a Democrat), to whom policy is always and only a tool and to whom principles are, on their best days, dangerous and unwelcome distractions. As the series opens, he learns that he's been screwed out of a promised Cabinet appointment and revenge is very much on his mind. Over the course of the first 13 episodes, he ruthlessly runs down everyone who gets between him and his goals. How far will he go? No spoilers, but at least as far as you're willing to believe he'll go, and maybe a little farther. The first volume doesn't end in a cliff-hanger, really, but it does close with the pieces set up for what looks like a political mini-Armageddon in the making. I understand that Netflix has ordered a second volume.

The West Wing is the kind of series I like and don't really want to admit to liking. House of Cards is the kind of series I like and wish I didn't like. Frank Blair makes Machiavelli look like Mother Teresa. At pretty much any moment, you can be pretty sure something is coming that you want to see, but don't want to want to see.

The show has a hell of a cast -- built around a couple of big names (Kevin Spacey as Underwood, Robin Wright as his wife Claire), rounded out with talented up-and-comers (Rachel Brosnahan, Kristen Connolly, Kate Mara) and more experienced actors whose faces you'll probably recognize but whose names may not be especially familiar because they mostly do stage and episodic character work (Ben Daniels, Michael Kelly, Corey Stoll).

Here's where things get brutally simple: You either like Kevin Spacey or you don't.

If you don't (and I know a lot of people don't, and understand why), this show simply isn't for you. The cast is talented and the characters are sometimes compelling, but make no mistake, this is not an ensemble show with equal play for multiple character development lines. It's a show about Frank Underwood (although Zoe Barnes, the reporter played by Kate Mara, does put up a little bit of fight for story share). Even when he is not on screen (and he's on screen a lot), Underwood's shadow looms over every event and development. The show is about how other people interact with or are affected by Underwood, and little or nothing else.

If you do dig Spacey -- and I do -- you're in for a treat. His bombast is ever in full bloom. He frequently breaks the fourth wall to lecture the audience on the nature of power, etc. Spacey tends to dominate anything he's in, and in House of Cards his character does as well.

Beyond that, I don't have too much to say about the show.

The production values, music, etc. don't scream "Emmy" or anything, but I've got no complaints.

No single plot twist has knocked me back on my heels or anything, but there are plenty of juicy little surprises to keep things interesting. I'd like to think I can predict what's coming (I'm usually pretty good at that, and I'll risk one such prediction right now -- next season, I expect Doug Stamper's loyalty to Underwood to be tested severely by the matter of Rachel Posner), but at least a couple of times I've been wrong.

So: If you like political dramas and you like Kevin Spacey, you'll like the show. If you dislike either, watching it would be 10 hours of your life you'd wish you could get back.
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There Ought to Be a Law ...


... against passing laws for reasons like "It just gives it a pause, and I call it a timeout, because I think there’s a proliferation of those things and a lot of people have questions about them."

How do Republicans throw out idiocy like that -- stopping expansion of an entire class of business because "a lot of people have questions" -- and then expect to be believed when they claim to be "pro-business" and "pro-growth" and "pro-freedom?"

I have a lot of questions about stuff too (including these "cafes" -- I've seen a couple), but I don't expect the world to stop turning until those questions get answered.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Intellectual Property" Update


I used to publish KN@PPSTER under a Creative Commons "Attribution" license. I've decided to change that:



CC0

To the extent possible under law,
Thomas L. Knapp
has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to
KN@PPSTER

This work is published from:
United States

Note well the "to the extent possible under law" part -- I'm waiving all "intellectual property" rights [sic] in KN@PPSTER which I am characterized by the current political regime as possessing, and that waiver is retroactive to the entire existing content of the blog all the way back to its birth in 2004, but I obviously can't waive on behalf of others whom I quote, cite, link to, feature, etc. So if you're not sure something is entirely by me, and therefore entirely unencumbered, you might want to check before using it.

ADDENDA:

It's my understanding that some "intellectual property" analysts consider the forgoing license to possibly be unsound -- I don't claim to understand exactly why, but the gravamen of their arguments seems to be that the "rights" involved are somehow inalienable such that if I decided to renege on the waivers above in the future, a court would uphold my ownership claims in spite of said waivers.

I'm not really sure what to do about that. I mean, how can I account for the possibility that, if I turn out to be a liar, some judge or other political authority won't have the common fucking sense to say "hey, you gave all that up, it's right there in black and white, go pound sand," or else might be susceptible to e.g. bribery or whatever on my part?

To strengthen, as much as possible, the case of anyone who might become entangled in such a future theoretical claim of non-waiver on my part, I hereby incorporate three three addenda into this post;

Addendum A: The forgoing waiver is intended to apply to all material  published  at KN@PPSTER (root URL knappster.blogspot.com and all subsidiary URLs) from September 24th, 2004 until now, and is explicitly intended to be held by any arbitrator, mediator or political government body to be irrevocable and effective in perpetuity. It is also intended to apply to, and to be held by any arbitrator, mediator or political government body to apply to, any material published at KN@PPSTER in the future, up to such point in time as an equally formal notice is published at KN@PPSTER which explicitly withdraws said waivers for material to be published at KN@PPSTER subsequent to said notice.

Addendum B is hereby incorporated by reference [here's one link -- here's another] as explanatory material for the use of any future arbitrator, mediator or political government body regarding my attitudes and intentions with respect to the forgoing waivers. I aver that I heartily agree with the sentiments expressed therein.

Addendum C is my statement, here freely given, that I concur, with respect to all material covered by the forgoing waivers, with the sentiment of Woody Guthrie as reflected in a written statement he placed in a songbook he distributed in the 1930s: "This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."

If all of the above is not enough to convince you that you can copy my stuff without fear of legal entanglements ... well, you're hopeless, and you can feel free to send me a check and a release to sign before copying my stuff, if it makes you feel better.

What's There to "Grapple" With?


Florida law and SCOTUS rulings conflict over the matter of life sentences for minors. The courts and the politicians and the prosecutors and the defenders are all tangled up in what to do about that.

It shouldn't be a big deal, because this is a simple issue. I'm not big on the death penalty, but one of the few exceptions I'm willing to make is for politicians who legislate, or prosecutors who invoke, the prosecution of minors "as adults." They're right up there with Third World rebels who conscript child soldiers and require them to rape and kill their mothers as a rite of passage. They should be shuffled off to Starke in leg irons and orange coveralls and, as per Florida practice, be given their pick between electrocution or lethal injection.

Like most states, Florida makes very specific distinctions in law between categories of people designated "children" (or "minors") and "adults." If such distinctions are going to be made, they need to run equitably in both directions.

If the law says you're "not old enough" to drive a car, vote in an election, have consensual sex, marry without your parents' permission, enlist in the military, file a lawsuit, incorporate a business, sign a lease, buy a copy of Penthouse, get a tattoo, smoke a cigarette or drink a beer, how the hell can you be "old enough" to be reasonably expected to parse and comply with the 1013 chapters (split out under 48 separate titles) of Florida statute, under threat of the penalties prescribed therein for those who are considered "old enough" to do those other things?

You can't, and anyone who says you can is a lunatic, a cannibal or both.

They're kids, or they're not kids.

It's one or the other.

They can't be kids when you don't want them to puff on a Marlboro or make the beast with two backs with their BFF on your sofa while you're out golfing, then magically transform into adults the instant they run an old lady down in the crosswalk or stab the neighborhood crack dealer to death for a rock or two and some quick cash.

Florida is the fourth most populous state (After California, Texas and New York), but has America's third largest prison population, with nearly twice as many inmates as fourth-place New York1 (and somehow, even without -- or perhaps because it's without -- all that incarceration, New York manages to keep its rate of violent crimes per capita down to about 60% of that of Florida2).

Florida's politicians are looking for ways to cut the cost of keeping so many people in cages.

Here's one: Stop putting kids in those cages.

-----
1. US Bureau of Justice Statistics [PDF].
2. Statistical Abstract of the United States, Violent Crimes per 100,000 Population -- 2006.
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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Nobody's Serious About "Immigration Reform" ...


Barack Obama's circulating draft proposal is such weak tea that calling it "reform" at all comes off as a bit of a joke, but its biggest weakness is that it doesn't require the Republicans claiming it goes too far to reveal what planet they're from. Because it sure as hell isn't Earth.

Like most Republican proposals, Obama's would conscript every business owner in the United States as an unpaid Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent (using the "E-Verify" system, which would be Orwellian if it was actually functional in any meaningful sense).

Like most Republican proposals, Obama's includes a raft of pork-barrel funding for "securing the border" nonsense (Rand Paul says he'll be adding an amendment requiring the GAO to periodically lie its ass off by certifying that US borders are "secure").

Obama's proposal does offer a "path to citizenship," but it's not a soft and fuzzy one. "Illegal immigrants" (a category of persons which, per the US Constitution, cannot possibly exist in federal law) would have to apply for visas, undergo criminal background checks, submit biometric information and pay fees to get on to that path in the first place. Eight years later, those who qualified for the visa could apply for permanent resident "green cards," and later for US citizenship.

If it was a Republican  offering this plan, I might call it a good start (as I did when George W. Bush offered a "reform" proposal way back when). But Obama really needs to go the extra mile. Supporters of dramatically expanded immigration freedom probably provided his margin of victory for re-election on the one hand, and on the other he's been far more draconian in office than his Republican predecessors (he deported more immigrants in 3 1/2 years than Bush did in 8).

To get "serious," Obama should go at least as pro-immigration-freedom as, say, Ronald Reagan or Bush 41.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

He said, they said ...


San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon:

We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr. Dorner out

Starting about one minute into a recording of police radio activity at the scene, on the other hand:

Voice One: All right [Steve? Stace?], we're gonna go, uh, we're gonna go forward with the plan, with the, with the burn ...

Voice Two: Cabin?

Voice One: Wanted to ... like we talked about ... [some time elapses] ... [inaudible] burners deployed and we have a fire ...

Voice Three: Copy, Seven, burners deployed and we have a fire.

... after which they proceed, in a disciplined and orderly fashion, one step at a time, to ensure that the cabin is "fully engulfed" in flames.



I suppose McMahon will argue that his statement was technically truthful -- that the intent of burning the place down was not "to get Mr. Dorner out." They didn't want him "out," they wanted him dead. And unless that audio is fake, there's no reasonable doubt whatsoever that the the fire was set intentionally and pursuant to a plan to burn the cabin down.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Two Things I Heard ...


Frequently, repeatedly, without ceasing during my 14 active years in the Libertarian Party:
  • "If we agree on 98% of the issues, why sweat the other 2%?"
  • "America is a center-right country."
As to the first part, it seemed to make a certain amount of sense ... but for some reason it always seemed like that 2% that I wasn't very happy about was always the pig that got poured into a formal gown and trotted out onto the floor for a couple of turns of the macarena with crimson lipstick smeared around its snout.

So, vis a vis electoral politics, I've been thinking lately: Why not come at things from the other end? If one agrees with a bunch of people on 2% of the issues, and that bunch of people is willing to put that 2% out front, why sweat the other 98%?

As to America being a center-right country, I agree 100%. America is a center-right country. It hasn't elected a president from so much as a millimeter to the left of center since FDR (who ran the first time as a slightly-right-of-center-right-rightist, but then did a 180 and co-opted what remained of the formerly energetic US left), nor has any major party even nominated a candidate whose platform and program ran noticeably to the left of Richard M. Nixon's since, oh, 1972.

The successful and would-be permanent managerial revolution -- yes, I still think Burnham got it pretty close to right back in 1940 -- pulls politics toward the center when things are going okay (and the LP has fallen into that gravity well).

When things are not going well and it has to leap rather than creep, it pulls them to the hard (and authoritarian) right.

If any kind of substantial directional change can be achieved via electoral politics (I'm more than skeptical of the idea) the energy for that change will have to be generated on the third party left because that's the only place left where it plausibly could be generated. Electoral politics outside the left amounts to, and only can amount to, riding America's uni-directional wave of decline until the riptide grabs us and drags us under.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

An Issue So Ripe, Even Republicans Know It When They See It


An offhand comment (on an issue close to my lungs) in an email to Eric Dondero and some other guys becomes a blog post at "Libertarian Republican" ...

Teaser quote:

This is an issue that plays to the same sentiments as e.g. lowering the drinking age, getting rid of seatbelt laws, etc., but in some ways it is even better, because it's pretty transparently the Democrats a) trying to preserve tax revenues from cigarette sales and b) doing a favor for Big Tobacco, even though they know that that favor will cost lives.

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