Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Resolutions for 2015


Yeah, I've got some:


  • Back on the Bike -- I got out of the habit after averaging 100 miles a week for several weeks over the summer. In 2015, I want to maintain a MINIMUM of three rides per week and a MINIMUM of 30 miles per week.
  • Off the Tobacco, on the Vapor -- I don't plan to buy any more tobacco once I run out of what I have on hand (that may not be on January 1st but it should be by the end of the week). When I'm completely off tobacco, I feel a lot better. And the vapor stuff is available enough now that "I ran out and got back on cigarettes while I waited for shipping" doesn't fly any more.
  • 500 Words a Day -- every day. Bare minimum. And I may up that to a thousand at some point. I've spent too long letting "writer's block" stop me whenever it drops in for a visit. So, 500 words minimum. Every day. No excuses.
  • Vacation -- I never really take them (usually if I take off work the last 10 years or more, it's because there's something I have to do, like move or attend a political event), and even on this I don't mean "stop working entirely for a period of time." But, at least one "purely leisure" trip that takes me at least 100 miles from the house for at least an overnight stay. Maybe by bike!
There are other things I want to do in 2015, but these are the big four I really want to check off the list.

What are your resolutions? Let's talk in comments.

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, 12/31/14


Brought to you by Darryl W Perry:





In this episode:


Happy New Year to all of KN@PPSTER's listeners and readers!

The Testament of James: A Post-Pre-Review Review


No need to reprise what I wrote a couple of days ago when I can just link to it -- before reading this review of The Testament of James by Vin Suprynowicz, please take a look at my pre-review (if you haven't already). Having now finished the novel, I don't see anything in the pre-review that I'd care to retract.

Now and then I see reviewers refer to a novel as a "romp." I don't know that I've ever done so before, but I'll do so now. I'm thinking of "romp" in terms of a fairly short story (The Testament of James weighs in at less than 200 pages, excluding explanatory notes) and a 1913 Webster's definition: "Rude, boisterous play or frolic; rough sport."

Among my favorite "romps" one might find, as exemplars, several of L. Neil Smith's North American Confederacy novels and F. Paul Wilson's "Repairman Jack" series up to the point where Jack's story really begins merging into the overall sunset scenario that eventuates in Nightworld.

I offer these two examples in particular because The Testament of James seems to be of a piece with them on another front. That is, it seems to be part of (not necessarily chronologically the beginning of) a series. The dust jacket implies (and Carl Bussjaeger seems to confirm in comments on the pre-review, per Cat Farmer) that there's another installment on the way. I'm looking forward to it.

We've got all the elements of a good series here. A home base from which storylines can naturally develop (Books on Benefit, a Massachustetts-based rare/antique book store), sympathetic protagonist duo with an ongoing love interest, a well-rounded supporting cast that I strongly suspect consists of thinly disguised real people that Vin really knows (and that you and I may know as well), plenty of cats that we all know, etc.

As to the subject matter of this particular story, well, your mileage may vary. I think it's the bee's knees. If you're looking for a good story, it's hard not to find one in the question "so, this Jesus guy ... what was that really all about?" Wars have been fought over that question. The overly curious or contentious have burned at the stake over it. How could it not be interesting?

Suprynowicz is far from the first writer to mine the ol' "lost document from antiquity that casts doubt on the story of Jesus as told by the powers that be" vein of story gold, but in my opinion he's done a better job of it than most in three key respects:

First, the historical background he gives to it makes a lot of sense. It may or may not be what actually happened (I suspect that much of it is what actually happened), but either way it's something you can believe without too much work unless you're really attached immovably to some other narrative.

Secondly, the story he tells (the novel's story, not just the historical background story ... but that too!) works as a story.

Thirdly, he doesn't drag it out just to drag it out. The story covers a short period of time (a couple of days) and is told in 200 pages because that's what it takes to get it told well. The pacing is perfect and the reader (this reader, anyway) is left both satisfied with the story as it is and wanting more of the characters and of the world it happens in (exactly the outcome a series writer wants!).

Any novelist who can get all three of those things right, in the same book, is providing honest value to the reader. Suprynowicz does it. Read this book.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

They Say it Like it's a Bad Thing ...


The New York Post, that is:

NYPD traffic tickets and summonses for minor offenses have dropped off by a staggering 94 percent following the execution of two cops -- as officers feel betrayed by the mayor and fear for their safety, The Post has learned.

...

Citations for traffic violations fell by 94 percent, from 10,069 to 587, during that time frame.

Summonses for low-level offenses like public drinking and urination also plunged 94 percent -- from 4,831 to 300.

Even parking violations are way down, dropping by 92 percent, from 14,699 to 1,241.

Drug arrests by cops assigned to the NYPD's Organized Crime Control Bureau -- which are part of the overall number -- dropped by 84 percent, from 382 to 63.

This is marvelous news, akin to the Germans giving Paris a weekend off from the occupation circa 1944.

But here's the problem: This is mostly about the police union trying to get NYC mayor Bill de Blasio to kiss ass. Once he drops to his knees and convincingly plants his lips on the porcine posterior, the NYPD's 24/7 extortion schemes and other gang activities will ramp right back up.

But maybe not to previous heights. Maybe some of New York's finest gangstas are at least a little afraid of what might happen if they go back to business as usual.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Boys, it is All Hell


Quoth Fox News:

[Lance Corporal Greg Buckley] wasn't killed in a firefight on a battlefield, or by a roadside bomb while on patrol. The 21-year-old was working out with fellow Marines at the base gym when an Afghan teenager walked in carrying an AK-47 -- and emptied the clip, killing Buckley and two others.

But Buckley was, in fact, killed in a firefight on a battlefield.

When the armed forces of one country invade and occupy another country, both countries, in their entirety, become battlefields and remain so until the war ends (really ends, not just formally ends).

Buckley's death is referred to as a murder, and that's true -- to the extent, and only to the extent, that all battlefield deaths are murders.

The US Marine Corps was obviously guilty of poor operational security in letting a local warlord bring male sex slaves onto its base and letting those sex slaves wander around unaccompanied by armed escorts at all times. But that's really the extent of it.

The thing about war is that it -- by "it" I mean the forces conducting it -- don't respect ideas like "we're having a wedding here, don't call in an airstrike" or "but this base is in the US ... an attack here is terrorism!" or "just because my dad said things you didn't like and you killed him with a drone strike doesn't mean you should also kill me in the same way because I 'chose the wrong father.'"

Americans seem to want to have it both ways ... especially American politicans, who haven't bothered to legally declare war on anyone since the 1940s and who don't want it to be war when, for example, they warehouse a bunch of prisoners at Gitmo and pretend they aren't POWs and so forth, but really most Americans. But they can't have it both ways. Go to war, reap the whirlwind. Whining about that is unseemly. If you don't want the fruits of war, don't plant the seed.

The Testament of James: A Pre-Review


I am, as of a few days ago, proud owner of copy #19 of a numbered, signed, hardcover limited edition (650 copies) of the first edition of Vin Suprynowicz's new novel, The Testament of James. Sweet!

Why a "pre-review?" Because I'd like to see that limited edition sell out quickly, and I'd like to help make that happen. I've read part of the novel and have a few impressions to offer, but not a complete review.

First, let me pass on a warning straight from the horse's mouth: The Testament of James is "something a little different."

Different, that is, from Vin's two essay collections (Send in the Waco Killers and The Ballad of Carl Drega) and his first novel (The Black Arrow). The first two, of course, are non-fiction red meat for libertarians; the third is a "tale of the resistance" in a near-future American police state (which, as you might guess, is also quite libertarian in both plot and theme). I value all three books highly in my own library and heartily recommend them.

So, what's "a little different" about The Testament of James? Well, so far (I've finished part one), there are definite similarities to his other books (no love for government; a strong female lead character similar to that in The Black Arrow; etc.). But to the extent that this novel is didactic, it's not teaching/preaching about politics, it's teaching about, or at least exploring, the history of Christianity.

This is not new ground for me. I've read and enjoyed several of the books that Suprynowicz cites as references to the factual claims the story revolves around (lost gospels, differing opinions on the nature of Christ and the events leading up to his crucifixion, etc.). In terms of being "a little different," I guess what Vin is getting at is:

If you're looking for a libertarian political tract wrapped in a good story, this probably isn't for you.

If you're looking for a good story -- with a libertarian streak, of course -- that challenges some of the beliefs you probably grew up around and perhaps even hold yourself, you'll want to read it.

Quick summary of the book's beginning: An employee of Books on Benefit, a rare/antique book store, has suddenly died and a rare old manuscript he was thought to be handling seems to be missing. As you might guess, the manuscript is called The Testament of James and several people want it for various reasons (including to destroy it).  Matthew Hunter (the store's owner) and Chantal Stevens (his love interest) are on the case.

Quick teaser: If the dust jacket isn't just pulling my leg, we can expect another Hunter/Stevens adventure -- this one dipping into the Cthulhu mythos! -- in 2015.

Goest thou and purchase the book. You know you want to. I may well come back with a more detailed review later, but having read the first part I am already hooked. And I don't expect to be disappointed later, except that I do expect to want more.

[Addendum, a few minutes after the post: I completely forgot to mention that my copy of The Testament of James is a "review" copy. I didn't pay for it. To the extent that that makes this "sponsored content," I thought you should know. But you should also know that I'd have written what I wrote even if I had paid for the book - TLK]

[Addendum, 12/31/14 -- After the pre-review comes the post-pre-review review]

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Online Poker Recommendation


I used to play online poker at PokerStars.Net. Then came the Great Preet Bharara Thug-Fest of 2011 because omigodomigodomigod some Americans had been playing with/for real money at the dot-com version of PokerStars without Preet Bharara's permission, so of course he had to seize all of Pokerstars' stuff for the consumerrrrrrs (if you think you've noticed a recurring anti-Preet-Bharara or anti-Catherine-Hanaway thread in my stuff, you're right -- they're gangland terror lords of the first water and when the revolution comes I won't feel a bit bad if they happen to get put up against the wall).

So anyway, once it turned out that Bharara didn't have a legal leg to stand on even in the current "the government can do anything it wants" environment, PokerStars got their stuff back. But by then I was moving off of Mac (for which there was a downloadable Pokerstars client) and onto ChromeOS (for which, so far as I know, there was and is not).

A few months ago I discovered Replay Poker. It's a nicely set up site, has frequent tournaments and "sit and go" games of all the popular poker variants (I'm an Omaha Hi-Lo aficionado myself) and it's "free" (you can buy extra chips if you like, but they're free in limited quantities and of course they are "for entertainment only" -- you don't win money there, at least that I know of).

Yes, it's an affiliate link -- I get free chips ("for entertainment only") if I send them new players. So if you're into online poker and haven't checked them out, consider yourself invited to do so.


Apology for Podcast Absence, With Additional AMA Goodness


But first, of course, let me thank my sponsor, Darryl W. Perry:


You want excuses? I've got excuses:


  • While my family is traveling, I'm doing what amounts to "spring cleaning." Only it's not spring. It's cool and damp. And I'm raising lots of dust what with the constant dusting, vacuuming, etc. So my throat, which has been raspy since ... well, about the time I decided to start podcasting ... is even worse and I am even more congested than usual.
  • Said "spring cleaning" also occasions a complete rearrangement of my home office and I haven't quite got the "sit and talk into a microphone comfortably" ergonomics down yet (I didn't before, either, but that's one of my goals; it may entail a new desk).
  • Oddly enough, though I don't go out much usually and don't have my normal chauffeuse available to drive me around, I am leaving the house more so than usual right now. Had an "after Christmas Christmas dinner" with the neighbor yesterday, and drinks after that. And today I have to get to the store because I did a poor job of planning for household needs (e.g. food for myself and animals). I may bicycle the five miles into Archer and back or may ask the aforementioned neighbor for a ride.
  • Finally, while I have been podcasting weekly, my commitment when requesting sponsorship was to podcast at least monthly ... and even that commitment was actually from January to December of 2015. So all these pre-2015 podcasts are in the nature of "bonus material."
My plan at the moment is to do a New Year's Eve or New Year's Day podcast, maybe even a longer one than usual, to cover last week and this week. So, let's crank up the AMA again with that in mind. Discuss, with figgy pudding.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

There Are Ways to Promote Florida's "Business Climate" ...


... and then there are ways to just piss away tax revenues -- ways which harm, rather than help, that "business climate."  From this morning's Naples, Florida Daily News (hat tip -- @sayfiereview):


State economic development officials are again seeking a pot of money to create a brand for Florida's big-money business recruitment efforts.

The plan is being spearheaded by the Department of Economic Opportunity, which wants $5 million to promote "Florida as a prime business location, and branding the state as such," according to a department funding request.

...

The state currently has seven programs that offer things like tax credits, tax refunds, and cash grants to recruit businesses from other states and incentive [sic] business expansion.

The way to promote "business climate" is to keep taxes low and red tape to a minimum.

Florida has no state income tax, its property taxes are lower than most other states with no income tax (Texas, for example) and its sales taxes are lower than most other states with no income tax (Nevada, for example). I'm also given to believe that in most parts of the state (relevant for interstate businesses, rather than locally-focused ones, e.g. a bar in Miami or a restaurant in Orlando), real estate prices are pretty attractive.

I don't really have a fix on the "bureaucratic obstacles to doing business" angle, but I will say that in Alachua County I see a lot of "pop up on the roadside" businesses covering everything from produce to guitars to recurring "yard sales" to food trucks/stands. So my SWAG (Scientific Wild-Ass Guess) is that the whole business licensing thing is relatively non-intrusive as well.

And what about real climate? Here's a hint: Nobody ever calls in to work and says they're snowed in in Florida. The roads are never closed to commercial trucking due to dangerous ice. And there are plenty of highway and rail links running up and down the state for bringing materials in and shipping goods out. Plenty of airports, too. Oh, and 11 port cities.

If I was starting up (or looking to relocate) a business, especially one that sells by mail/delivery around the country, Florida would be high on (probably first on) my list of places to check out. And not only would I not consider "tax credits, tax refunds, and cash grants" necessary inducements, I'd oppose them. Because once I'd used them, I'd end up getting tapped to pay for them for other businesses, including my own competition.

I guess five million bucks to run commercials about how great Florida is won't break the bank or anything, but why bother? Smart business people know how to do math. Unless they have an overriding reason to relocate in some money-sucking hell-hole like California, Florida's got to be at or near the top of their lists already.

Friday, December 26, 2014

@sayfiereview -- Well, it would be a good start anyway ...


I get my Florida political news each morning from Sayfie Review. 90% of the time if I comment on a Florida political news story, that's where I found it. This morning's tidbit, via the Lakeland Ledger:

Juries would have to be unanimous before recommending the death penalty for defendants in murder cases under a bill filed Tuesday by a South Florida lawmaker.

The bill (HB 139), proposed by Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, will be considered during the 2015 legislative session. Under current law, a majority of a jury can recommend that a defendant receive the death penalty, with a judge ultimately deciding whether to impose the sentence

Now, I oppose letting state employees kill anyone in cold blood (as opposed to "in the heat of the moment" necessity in defense of the lives of self or others), period. And I don't think that position is something justified solely in terms of my own anarchism.

For you "limited government" types out there, how can a government be considered "limited" in any sense if it has the acknowledged power to kill someone who is, at the moment, not a threat to the lives of others by virtue of having been brought to bay and caged? Any other power can be curtailed ex post facto: Taxes can be refunded, property that was taken can be given back, innocent people who were jailed can be released and paid restitution for the damage done them. Once you've killed a guy, it's done. There's no way to undo it, there's no way to compensate the dead person if it turns out he or she was innocent of the offense, etc. Capital punishment is, by any reasonable definition, an instance of unlimited government.

But, while I'd like to get rid of capital punishment altogether, I can endorse pre-application limits on it as an interim measure without judging myself hypocritical. I think requiring a unanimous jury recommendation is a good start.

A good next step would be to forbid voir dire questioning of prospective jurors with respect to their views on capital punishment (in at least some states, the law allows for or requires dismissal of jurors from capital cases if they oppose the death penalty).

A good third step would be to outlaw the practice of keeping the identities of the killers and their accessories secret, as some states already do or are moving to do (the current excuse being that pharmacies won't sell the state its killing drugs unless their identities are kept secret from the people who pay the bills).

But the next to the absolutely best thing would be to simply deny the state the power to kill in cold blood (the absolutely best thing would be to abolish the state altogether, of course).

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!


A little early, but I'd rather get it up now than forget later. Best wishes to all of you for a Merry Christmas (or other holiday; and if you don't celebrate any of the assorted seasonal holidays, please at least have a damn nice last week of the year)!



That's Me in the Corner, That's Me in the Spotlight ...


... at Liberty.me.

I'd been thinking about joining for some time, but kept procrastinating. Three things pushed me over the finish line:


  • Jeff Riggenbach has a new podcast series at Liberty.me. Title: Kranky Notions. It's available to outsiders via Soundcloud and whatnot, but I was thinking about joining Liberty.me to support good content of the sort Jeff creates.
  • Last night there was a live event I wanted to "attend" -- Angela Keaton interviewing Lucy Steigerwald (among other great things they do, they're my co-workers at Antiwar.com).
  • I was actually getting ready to go over and join when an email from Liberty.me hit my inbox. New site design, etc. ... and new pricing. Five bucks a month. Can't beat that. I'm in.
So far as I can tell, there's not a referral/affiliate program there, so this isn't one of those "try to generate some sales commissions" things (although if I am wrong and there is such a program, I'll be right on it). I just think Jeff Tucker, Mike Reid, et. al have created something really cool and want to send people their way.

Oh, yeah -- I'll be blogging over there. A lot of it will probably be cross-posts from KN@PPSTER and such-like, but some of it may be exclusive. So if you find my stuff interesting, consider Liberty.me yet another source for it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Week AMA


Yes, there will be a Christmas week podcast. And yes, like all of them through the end of 2015, it will be brought to you by Darryl W. Perry:


I haven't decided what day the podcast will be recorded/released yet, but I figured I should get the AMA out early since the holidays probably have people busy.

So, ask (in comments) and you shall receive (answers) ...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

I Just Put Up a New Post ...


... for my Patreon supporters.

Four hundred words or so on the big news story of the day. Title: "No, I Don't 'Support Killing Cops' ..."

Excerpt:

... but those who are trying to set the line that you either "support cops, period" or else you "support killing cops" are either inadvertently missing the point or intentionally trying to avoid confronting the truth.

The truth is: Actions have consequences.

Will the full post appear here at KN@PPSTER? Maybe, maybe not. If so, it will probably be 24 hours or more before it does. Gotta give my patrons special stuff, which means advance and/or exclusive content.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Well, It's About Time


Per Creative Loafing Tampa:

In a a 7-2 decision Frida the U.S. Supreme Court voted to allow a an end to a delay on same sex marriage imposed in anticipation of appeals after a federal judge deemed the state's ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. The request to extend the delay of course, came from Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi.

I wonder how many taxpayer dollars and government employee labor hours Pam Bondi has wasted on various Hail Mary plays to save marriage apartheid in Florida? My guess is at least seven figures on the financial side and thousands of hours on the labor ... er, lawyer ... side.

I'm glad the matter is apparently done and over with, even though it makes the letter I wrote to the editor of the Gainesville, Florida Sun the other day obsolete.

The "issue" of same-sex marriage shouldn't have taken nearly as long to resolve as it has, because it's really simple: If you don't like the idea of same-sex marriage, don't marry someone of the same sex.

Wow! Easy, huh? It only gets complicated when some people suddenly come up with the idea that they're special snowflakes, born to rule, and that their preferences should therefore govern everyone else's actions.

Of course, that part isn't going to change just because the good guys won in this single instance. I'm sure Pam can and will come up with new ideas. And I can't help but like her just a little. After all, we have so much in common. For example, we both want to run my life.

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, 12/20/14


Brought to you by ...





In this episode:


  • I play guitar badly and explain why;
  • Cuba and North Korea and Sony, oh, my!
  • Even more of a ramble than usual this week due to filial sabotage, up with which I shall not put.

Bleg: Advice (and possibly DEvice)


OK, so I've ordered a Google Cardboard rig (at $3.83 including shipping, that seemed like a much better use of my time and money than trying to assemble one from scratch).

Now I've got to get a device to put in it.

I don't want a phone. I've got a phone. It's a $5 (on sale) LG "flip phone" that I spend less than $7 a month to maintain a Tracfone account on. I'm not much of a phone person, even on landline. I got this one for the occasional cases where I am out and about and might need to reach someone or be reached by someone (or to send with one of the kids when they venture out into the world unaccompanied by myself or Tamara). I don't use anywhere near all of the minutes I buy for the minimum plan. A "smart phone" for use as a phone would be a spectacular waste of money for me.

The specifications for the device I need, according to the eBay listing for the rig I bought, are "Compatible Smartphone (pref with NFC with max LCD of 5.0") running android 4.1 or higher."

Anyone know of an ultracheap 5" Android tablet meeting those specs (or better -- Android 4.4 preferred)? I've done some looking and found stuff in the $50 range, but I'm guessing some of you actually use this kind of stuff on a regular basis and might steer me away from really bad stuff.

Or, there's always the possibility that one of you has a relatively new Android tablet or phone (with Wi-Fi capability -- I am not going to buy a cell phone account just to mess around with virtual reality stuff) sitting in a drawer because you upgraded or whatever, and might be willing to trade it for advertising or something. If so, hit the contact form and let's talk.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Something That Annoys Me


Every time I notice or bother to check, the unemployment rate among veterans of the US armed forces is higher than that among non-veterans. No, I'm not going to bellyache about that. I'm sure there are many reasons why it's the case.

BUT!

You'd think that with all those unemployed veterans out there, the movie and television industry could get rock-bottom rates on advisers to help them un-screw productions that portray military personnel.

I'm not going to go into specific instances because I don't need to. Just pick pretty much any TV series where military personnel ever make a showing. Yes, there are movies about the military that take great care to get the little details right. But almost every time I see something related to the military in passing -- a scene in an otherwise non-military movie, an episode in a non-military-centered TV show, etc. -- I see things like marching formations where nobody is in step with anyone else even though there's a voice chanting "left, right, left," garrison caps at variable-up-to-45-degree angles on heads during inspections, incorrect behaviors of e.g. platoon sergeants, platoon commanders, company commanders, etc. in front of formations, and always ... ALWAYS ... incorrect display of ribbons, badges and medals on uniforms.

Yes, I realize that it may not be really cost-effective for an episodic TV series to spend a lot of time and money getting haircuts and close order drill instruction for a bunch of extras who will be visible for a minute and a half. But if that's the case, re-write so that they aren't visible for a minute and a half displaying and/or doing a bunch of stuff that's just obviously incorrect BS. And spend a day's pay at whatever scale for that kind of thing is to have some former lance corporal come in with a ruler and put believable ribbons/medals on the characters' uniforms correctly instead of just throwing some kind of weird salad on there and assuming no one will notice.

So, To Summarize ...


In 1950, the US went to (undeclared, and under pro forma UN auspices) war with North Korea.

In 1953, the parties (the US, the UN, South Korea on one side, North Korea on the other) negotiated a cease-fire, which has now been in effect for 61 years.

Over the years, various incidents have occurred which strained the cease-fire. From the point of view of an American media consumer, most of those incidents (the taking of the USS Pueblo, sinking of the ROKS Cheonan, the artillery duel on and around Yeonpyeong, etc.) have been blamed on the north, but ...

Earlier this year, Kim Jong-Un's regime declared that the impending release of a film, The Interview, constituted an act of war. And we all laughed. Well, most of us laughed. I know I did.

Then, earlier this month, the studio releasing the film -- an American subsidiary of a Japanese company -- came under cyber attack by hackers unknown. Part of the fallout from that hack was disclosure that, well, the production and planned release of The Interview WAS pretty much an act of war. That is, the US government encouraged and facilitated its production for the clearly stated purpose of encouraging the assassination of Kim Jong Un and the overthrow of his regime.

Oops.

Now, most of us are probably still laughing.

I still was, until the Obama regime announced its certainty -- unbacked by any disclosure of real evidence, that's "classified," see? -- that the Kim regime was behind the hack and that the Obama regime plans some regime-to-regime retaliation.

Well, now. This shit is starting to get real all of a sudden, isn't it?

Could the US go to back to open war with the DPRK over the matter? I'd like to laugh at that notion, too, but then I remember what the Obama regime has done or tried to do to individuals who have initiated embarrassing disclosures about it (the four who come immediately to mind are Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Barrett Brown).

When the US accuses a foreign government of doing things that it has jailed (or tried to jail) and exiled people for, war doesn't really seem beyond the realm of likelihood. And the US government's bellicosity abroad seems to run on the same cycle as its descents into banana republicanism and police statism at home. We're at a pretty high tempo on the latter front right now, for reasons including but not limited to the Ferguson intifada. New attempts at Internet control and censorship here at home, with the Sony hack as an excuse, will almost certainly top the next session of Congress's to-do list.

Kinda scary.

The $64,000 Question on Cuba


US President Barack Obama is acting to "normalize relations" with Cuba, to include opening an embassy and appointing an ambassador.

Pro-Communist politicians in the US Senate have vowed to protect and extend the 50+year reign of the Castro regime by blocking these moves.

The first thing that occurred to me was that Obama could steal a march on the Communist fifth column in the Senate by making a recess appointment. And of course I'm not the only one who thought of that. USA Today, for example, notes that possibility:

In addition to keeping the embargo in place, congressional opponents of the president's Cuba policy, including GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have threatened to block anyone he nominates to serve as U.S. ambassador to Cuba and to strip money the administration would need to build an embassy in Havana.

But Obama may be able to circumvent the first option by making a recess appointment of an ambassador to Cuba later this month.

But here's the thing: The Senate is not "in recess." It has "adjourned sine die." There's a difference, and as you may recall, Obama got shut down by the Supreme Court over recess appointments awhile back.

Now oddly enough, in that decision the Senate really was formally/legally in recess, but for some reason SCOTUS decided that a three day recess wasn't long enough because ... well, just because.

So, now that Congress is actually not formally/legally in recess (just "adjourned"), but by any reasonable definition is in recess -- a recess about five times as long as the one that figured in NLRB v. Noel Canning -- can Obama get away with appointing an ambassador?

If he can and does, that ambassador will serve until the end of the next session of Congress, which pretty much means the end of 2015 ... and if US/Cuba relations really are liberalized in terms of trade, etc., that probably wraps it up for the Castro regime. By January 2016, there won't be any totalitarian regime left in Cuba for Cruz, Rubio, Menendez et. al to prop up.

If he can't or doesn't, I guess the Communists win again.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Don't Let the Terrorists Win


Is North Korea's regime really the moving force behind the Sony Pictures hack? Hell if I know -- and as Kim Zetter points out over at Wired, the case for it is not as strong as one might think from just reading the headlines.

I don't really care who's behind it, and I hope Sony Pictures and the cowardly theater chains dropping The Interview change course, quick.

If they do -- if the film gets the theatrical release that the chains just dropped and that Sony just canceled, I'll probably go see it. Maybe even on Christmas day, the scheduled premiere date. Not because I'm a huge Seth Rogen/James Franco fan (I'm not -- not that I don't like them, just not a squealing fanboy), nor because I think it sounds like a particularly entertaining movie (I don't; it kind of feels like they're just trying to top Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Team America and whatnot).

I'll go see it precisely because of the alleged terrorist threats accompanying the prospect of its release. Damned if I'm going to acquiesce to censorship as a terror tactic or to terror as a censorship tactic. Whoever's making the threats, please listen carefully: Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

There's a certain amount of posturing about all this. For example, making fun of the Kim regime's bellicose statements on the film ("act of war!"). In my opinion, much of that posturing has a pot/kettle/black quality to it. Let me put it this way: If a studio decided to make a comedy about a couple of guys trying to assassinate Barack Obama, they'd almost certainly hear from the Secret Service, enjoy round condemnation across the entire spectrum of "respectable" political opinion and have lots of trouble getting their movie shown. But you know what? If that happened I'd go see that film too, for the same reasons.

Addendum: An Alternative Scenario for Releasing The Interview

So, some time in the next few days, The Interview shows up on the web as a "pirated download." And Sony Pictures issues a pro forma complaint that they must have been hacked again, oh well ... hey, we're just going to go ahead and renounce any IP claims, everyone have fun.

Hey, it could happen. They've already plowed a LOT of money into this thing (above and beyond production costs, the TV commercial promotion has been relentless), and if they don't show it (which the theaters apparently won't do because terror threats) and can't release it on DVD (which I bet the chain stores won't carry because terror threats), why not at least exploit the buzz to maximum publicity benefit?

A Joke


I just made this one up. Right now. But I bet someone made it up before me because it's too obvious not to have been used before. I did some web searches (with emphasis on Henny Youngman) and didn't find anything like it but I bet someone will come up with a previous similar thing:

I tried to break up with my girlfriend. Told her we shouldn't date any more. Told her adieu. So now she thinks we're married.

(rim shot)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The KN@PP Stir AMA, Wednesday, 12/17/14


The next episode (to be recorded/released on Thursday, Friday or Saturday -- I just don't know for sure yet, but probably not Thursday) of The KN@PP Stir Podcast will be brought to you by ...



Why a Wednesday AMA thread if I'm not planning on a Thursday podcast? Well, two reasons:

  1. Why not?
  2. Remember how I mentioned earlier this week that I am currently committed to writing 500 words per day? Well, today's writing has come in smatters -- a 150-word (because that's the limit) letter to the editor of the Gainesville, Florida Sun, and a couple of short blog posts (even shorter when I exclude block quote material from the word count, which I do). Popping up an AMA thread is a quick and easy way to round out the ol' 500 words.
So, as always, "Ask Me Anything" (within normal parameters of reason and civility) and I'll answer it either in comments or on the podcast.

Bonus points (not that we keep score or anything, right?) for questions that are either holiday-related or really make me think hard (or both!). After all, this is supposed to be fun.

It Takes a Lot to Get Me to See a Good Side to Jeb Bush ...


... but whaddayaknow, I got a little help. Think Progress reminded me that when Michael Schiavo wanted to murder his wife, Jeb Bush tried to stop him. Of course, I disagree that saying no, you can't murder your wife is "opposing individual liberty" and "enforc[ing] their personal views on you."

So, a point in favor of Bush. But he'll need a lot more points than that to really get me on board. I just don't see it happening.

Baby Steps, But Better Than Nothing


Per Reuters:

The United States will restore diplomatic relations it severed with Cuba more than 50 years ago .... The policy shift will mean a relaxation in some aspects of commerce and transportation between the United States and Cuba, but it does not mean an end to the longstanding trade embargo, which needs congressional approval that Obama may face a struggle getting.

Of course, Obama faces howls of pain from the "Cuba Lobby," a curious "opposition" movement which has resolutely worked to keep the Castro brothers in power for half a century so that it can make continuous political and economic bank on its alleged aspirations to overthrow them. US Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) acted with alacrity to assume a position at the head of the Movement for the Perpetual Preservation of Cuban Communism.

It's weak tea and probably not nearly enough -- the Castro regime wouldn't last six months if the embargo was lifted -- but it's also a pretty bold move by Obama. It's very possible that the last president who gave real consideration to doing what Obama is doing right now paid for that consideration with his life.

Interesting ...


I see that the monopolists' lobby has ads running in the sidebar. I use one of them there "contextual" ad services. They might ought to tweak the ol' algorithm. Just sayin' ...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Four Theories on Oil Prices


I've come across each of these theories in more than one place:


  • Saudi Arabia is keeping oil production high (and therefore oil prices low) in order to make US and Canadian exploitation of shale and tar sands oil unprofitable and keep it from becoming competitive.
  • Saudi Arabia is keeping oil production high (and therefore oil prices low) in order to damage Iran's economy.
  • Saudi Arabia  is keeping oil production high (and therefore oil prices low) at the behest of the Obama administration in order to damage Russia's economy and make Vladimir Putin bow to US/EU/NATO demands on Ukraine, etc.
All of those seem plausible to me, but here's a fourth possibility I haven't seen thrown out there:

  • Saudi Arabia is keeping oil production high (and therefore oil prices low) at the behest of the Obama administration for a limited time ... so that come next spring the Democrats can point out how cheap gas was getting until the Republicans took over and then started rising again.
Back in 2012, one of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign tag lines was "remember $2 gas?" My understanding is that gasoline prices have fallen nearly that far in some parts of the country. Watch for Democrats to steal and use that line in 2016.

Election 2016 Prediction: An Un-Warren-ted Top of the Democratic Ticket


Yes, Elizabeth Warren is generating quite a bit of presidential buzz. No, she will not be the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nominee. Here's why:


  • While it's true that she hasn't put out a Shermanesque refusal, she's been a lot more adamant than most "just playing hard to get" politicians who actually plan to run. I don't think she'll acquiesce to the "draft" efforts, put together a campaign and go for it.
  • The Democrats haven't run an even slightly-to-the-left-of-center presidential candidate since at least as far back as 1988 (probably 1972, actually) and I doubt they're going to start now. Bill Clinton mopped the floor with Jerry Brown in 1992 and the Democratic Party's centrist wing has dominated the nomination process ever since by hook or crook. Al Gore whipped Bill Bradley in 2000, John Kerry aced out Howard Dean in 2004 and no candidate of an even slightly leftist bent made a significant showing in 2008. Warren knows this, and therefore she knows that even if she wanted to run, she would end up doing so as a flag-shower and sacrificial lamb, not as a likely nominee. And why do that when there are other things to do that advance her agenda more?

I also doubt that Warren will be on the short list for veep. If Hillary Clinton receives the nomination, she'll probably choose a male running mate on the supposition that even if America is ready for a woman in one of the two top slots, it's not yet ready for a woman in both at the same time.

I won't be surprised if Warren ends up with a cabinet position, though. Assuming the Democratic nominee wins the White House, that is. At the moment, that looks like a safe assumption, but two years is forever in politics.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Intentional Irony or Complete Cluelessness?


Australian prime minister Tony Abbot on the Islamist hostage-taker in Sydney:

It is profoundly shocking that innocent people should be held hostage by an armed person claiming political motivation.

Just what the hell does he think the state does other than exactly that?

Accessibility: Bing is Doing it Wrong


Bing is my default search engine because, well, rewards. It's not the best search engine as such and I often end up wandering off elsewhere while researching to actually find what I'm looking for, but hey, it gives me stuff in return for using it. But in addition to not being the best search engine as such, Microsoft is now making it harder to use (if you want to participate in the rewards program). From a December 2 email:

On February 5th, Bing Rewards will no longer support Facebook as a sign-in option. To keep earning credits -- and get more ways to earn exclusive offers -- transfer to a Microsoft account.

This is exactly 180 degrees ass-backward from how things should be. Service login convergence is the order of the day. Users -- including me -- are getting more and more accustomed to being able to sign in pretty much anywhere using credentials from pretty much any major service (Facebook, Twitter, Google, et. al) via the 0Auth standard.

Presumably the purpose of Bing Rewards is to bring in new users and keep them there. Why would Microsoft go out of its way to make the program harder to enroll in, harder to log into, harder to benefit from?

It's. Just. Dumb.

I'm Tempted to Call it Out as a Democratic Psy-Op ...


... but I have to concede the possibility that Republicans really are this stupid:

If encouragement from major GOP donors and favorable polling isn't enough, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney now has a super PAC launched by an unknown benefactor urging him to run.

Reporters received a press release announcing the launch of the Ready for Romney super PAC Sunday night, with Boston resident Jeffrey Goff named as the group's executive director.

Is this the best they can do? Maybe. After all, Wendell Willkie and Harold Stassen aren't available.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I've Got a Problem ...


... but it's a good problem. Or, rather, a better problem than the problem I had.

A few days ago, I posted a "story snippet" for my Patreon supporters. It's from what I'm working on -- and from what I expect to eventually be a novella or perhaps even a full-length novel. I briefly outline the future history in which it takes place in a post right here at KN@PPSTER from 2006, "The rapture for nerds."

I've been thinking about this future history since long before that blog post, by the way. In fact, I've been thinking about since, if Google isn't leading me down the primrose path of results that look correct but aren't, 1989 ... when a now-defunct magazine called Omni interviewed a guy by the name of Hans Moravec and the idea of "uploading" a human consciousness into a computer or a robotic body first came to my attention (for some reason this synced, in my mind, with the plot of William Hjortsberg's Gray Matters to lead my little story-making up mind in the direction it went).

Here's my big problem with the story as I kept working it in my head: It's a state socialist utopia. The state finds a way to "save" Social Security by offering the elderly, dying, etc. immortality in virtual reality. The story I had in mind to write in that world was a simple murder mystery (victim's uploaded consciousness is erased, as are all backups, in what's supposed to be such a secure and redundant environment that that just shouldn't be possible) that doesn't really affect the disposition of the future history as such.

Of course, I don't want to write a state socialist utopia. I'm not a state socialist. I'm not saying I want to write a libertarian tract, but I certainly want a libertarian plot and theme.

I think I've found a workable way out of the state socialist utopia trap. Also a working title that's rather a bit too clueful: To Dust We Shall Return.

So anyway, I'm working in that direction. My new problem, of course, is how to get from where I'm at to where I want to go. In other words, I have to write the damn thing. But that's better than trying to make myself write something I knew I wouldn't be happy with.

As a bonus for bothering to read this post, I'm going to give you part of the "story snippet" I shared with my Patreon supporters. Not all of it, just a chapter intro, written by someone you may have heard of:

Of course my interest was piqued when Denis [McDonough, White House Chief of Staff] told me that John Paul Holdren [Director of Science and Technology Policy] had requested a meeting and specified that it be held in the White House Situation Room. That room is reserved for matters of the utmost secrecy and, of course, usually for matters directly relating to national security. Even more tantalizing was the fact that John refused to give Denis even a clue as to what the meeting might be about and insisted that it be just the two of us: "For the President's ears only." You know all about it now, but it started off as, well, beyond "top secret." He wanted to talk to me about immortality. -- Let Me Be Perfectly Clear: Remembering a Presidency, by Barack Obama, 2029





A First Step Toward Writing Discipline


Starting a week from tomorrow, I plan to write -- excluding email correspondence, comments on Facebook,  block quotes of other writers' material, etc.; in other words actually write -- a minimum of 2,000 words a day through the end of the year. Forgive me for omitting details as to why and just offering the generality: I'm expecting a week of relative peace, quiet and freedom to do whatever the hell I feel like doing, and I am planning in advance to make myself feel like writing.

By way of working up to and getting the creative juices flowing toward that 2,000 words per day level, I'm starting today at a minimum of 500 words per day. KN@PPSTER is moving more toward a central role as "author platform" for me, so I suspect you'll see quite a bit of that 500 words a day here. But not all of it. I hope to knock out at least two or three C4SS op-eds and a couple of fiction "story snippets" to show to my Patreon supporters.

Am I featherbedding already by including this post in my first day's 500 word count? You betcha. But it does have a real purpose. Consider this a bleg for topic/venue suggestions. I'm pretty sure any subject I care to write on can be turned into something worth publishing or posting somewhere. C4SS is first venue for anything relevant to market anarchism, of course, but I'd like to get back to being able to "spread the verbiage around" some.

Putting together the 20-year collection was a little like a blast of cold water in the face. Circa 1995-2000, I wrote for a variety of newspapers, web sites, web "zines," print magazines, etc. Since then, I've tended to concentrate on one venue at a time for months or years at a stretch, even if that venue happened, like C4SS, to act as a "gateway" to other publications. I'd like to get back to a little more diversity on that front.

Holiday Shopping Guide, Sort Of


Yes, it's that time of year ...


Of course, most bloggers look for ways to "monetize their content," but let's face it, this is more along the lines of being content to monetize. It's the annual "things you should buy so that I make money while you're doing your Christmas shopping" extravaganza.

So, the first and foremost bestest thing ever you could buy someone for Christmas this year is, of course, my book. KN@PPSTER's Big Freakin' Book of Stuff is the ideal Christmas gift for anyone who reads. Or for anyone who needs a paperweight. Or a doorstop. And the price ranges all the way from $13.99 (dead tree version) to free (PDF electronic version). No, I'm not kidding. Feel free to send 50 PDF copies to the 50 people you know you should get something for but don't want to spend any money on. Click here for all the gory details.

Sticking to books -- and while these book purchases won't make me any money, they'll support Antiwar.com with a sales commission -- I'm now past the mid-point of William H. Patterson's two-volume biography of Robert A. Heinlein, which I'm thoroughly enjoying and which should be of great interest to any fan of science fiction or of the 20th Century in America in general (Heinlein was born in 1907 and died in 1988, so his life spans most of the high points and you'd be surprised how many of them he was at least indirectly involved in). The first volume is Learning Curve, the second The Man Who Learned Better. You'll be hearing more from me about this biography as time goes on, I'm sure.

Another few books, and once again, not an affiliate link for me (maybe I just don't have the hang of this monetization thing): Just go to the Distro of the Libertarian Left site and pick some thing or things. Preferably all of them, but if I have to pick one, I'm going to point you at Kevin Carson's The Homebrew Industrial Revolution. I don't promote my C4SS comrades' work as much as I should, so let me take a moment to make clear how important I think that work is. I think that work has visibly moved "the freedom movement's" center of gravity over the last decade, and moved it toward a better place.

For some other things that might make good gifts, I suggest you visit the Free Press Publications Shop. Yep, another link that doesn't make me money ... but FPP's Darryl W. Perry sponsors The KN@PP Stir Podcast and I think sending him some precious metals buyers, Bitcoin shoppers, etc. is the right thing to do especially since I don't feel like flogging all that stuff myself. So hopefully I'm helping both him and you out here.

OK, that's a bunch of stuff right there, most of which won't make money for me but will hopefully make holiday shopping easier for you. I'll end it with one final book recommendation that would, in fact, generate an affiliate commission for me:

As you've probably noticed, I'm on a Heinlein kick lately and I'm actually thinking about spilling a good deal of ink next year discussing his (in my opinion) masterwork, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. If you haven't read it, I hope you will. If you have read it, I hope you'll read it again. If you already have two copies (one for the bookshelf, the other for wherever you happen to be in the house at the moment), I hope you'll buy one for an ignorant and unenlightened friend. Finally, I hope you'll say something about the book in the comment thread under this post so that I can gauge interest in, more or less, a "reading circle" or "book discussion club" project dedicated to TMiaHM in 2015.

So, there's the holiday shopping extravaganza, such as it is. Speaking of which, happy holidays to you and yours, regardless of what holiday you celebrate and why. And if you don't celebrate a holiday, well, just have a damn fine winter.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, 12/13/14


Brought to you by:



In this episode: AMA answers and such. It's a short episode -- I'm sick and have a sore throat and would probably have just skipped a week, but dammit, I want to stay on a weekly schedule. So kind of a weak effort, but I do hope you enjoy it.

Recently at C4SS ...


Yeah, I still keep forgetting to blurb my C4SS stuff as soon as it publishes there. So, three pieces so far this month:

Video technology is certainly part of the solution to police violence, but that solution should remain in the hands of regular people, not the state. More and more of us every day come into possession of the ability to record video on the spot, while instantly porting it to Internet storage so that it can't be destroyed at the scene or tampered with after the fact. Cops need to be on cameras they don't control.

But part of the solution is still just part of the solution.

That's from "Police Should Be On, Not Behind, Cameras."

As any recovering addict will helpfully inform you, the first step is admitting the problem. The US government and American media (and presumably following them, the America public) still resolutely refuse to do that.

In story after story, we see references to "enhanced interrogation" and "brutal interrogation tactics." Those are weasel words. They're not admissions of the problem, they're attempts to talk around the problem.

We're not talking about "enhanced interrogation techniques." Nor are we discussing "brutal interrogation tactics." The subject in question is torture.

From "The First Step is Admitting That It's Torture."

It's surprising what passes for high political drama these days. After a DC dust-up similar to, but neither as exciting as watching paint dry nor as convincing as professional wrestling, the US House of Representatives passed a $1.1 trillion "Cromnibus" bill to fund the federal government through September 2015, passing it on to the US Senate, which most expect it (as I write this) to pass as well.

Why does the whole thing fail as theater? Two reasons:

First, it lacks the true conflict essential to a good yarn. Protagonists and antagonists. Winners and losers. One side wants one thing, the other wants something not just different, but substantially incompatible. "Cromnibus" fails on that level because all sides transparently want the same thing -- to keep things going exactly as they've always gone.

Secondly, the stakes are too low. "Government shutdown" just isn't the bogeyman it used to be.

From "Shutdown Theater -- Off-Off Broadway Follies."

And yes, there is a podcast coming later today. "See" you then.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Busted Goes Both Ways ...


The official story:

An undercover police officer, who had been marching with demonstrators, aims his gun at protesters after some in the crowd attacked him and his partner in Oakland, California on Wednesday.

The other version of the story:


Hat tip -- Brian Boring.

The KN@PP Stir AMA, Thursday, 12/11/14


As will be the case at least through 2015, The KN@PP Stir Podcast is brought to you by Darryl W. Perry:


And as the case has been so far, I'm still on a weekly schedule and still running a weekly "ask me anything" thread in advance of the Friday or Saturday podcast.

So ... ask away in comments! I'll answer in the comment thread and/or on the show.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Variable Star Power


I did not want to read Variable Star, and put off doing so for eight years. I was afraid I wouldn't like it. I was afraid I would like it. I was afraid of it in general. Before I explain all that, let me cut directly to the chase: If you are a fan of the work of Robert A. Heinlein or Spider Robinson or both, don't be afraid. Read this book.

So, am I a Heinlein fan? You're durn tootin' I am. So far as I know I have read (and re-read) every word of his that was published in his lifetime for mass consumption (I've also read some of his posthumously published letters, etc.). In particular, I try to get around to reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress every year or two and Starship Troopers and "If This Goes On ..." (the short novel that begins Revolt in 2100) not quite as often, but often. His "juveniles" were still the best thing around for young readers 20 years or so later when I discovered them and I proceeded to the "adult" section immediately thereafter. By the early 1980s I eagerly awaited, snapped up and found myself completely absorbed in any new Heinlein material (The Number of the Beast, Friday, etc.). Yes, I even had a cat named Pixel.

Am I a Spider Robinson fan? Yes. Not nearly to the level of my Heinlein fandom, but definitely. In fact, I think the first time I noticed him was in 1980. In "Rah, Rah, R.A.H." (in Destinies, a Baen "magazine" that was actually a thick mass paperback book every, IIRC, quarter ... cool!) Robinson eviscerated "critic" Alexei Panshin's "criticisms" of Heinlein (no, I've never read Panshin's gripe firsthand). So he was firmly connected with Heinlein in my mind from the start. I haven't read his entire oeuvre, and I'm just going to offer one selection that I've always found particularly interesting but that many might consider very unrepresentative: Night of Power.

So here was the basis of my fear:

We've all watched it happen. One day the books on the local store's shelves are labeled "Tom Clancy" or "James Patterson." Then awhile later they're labeled "Tom Clancy's [series name]" or "James Patterson with [author you've never heard of]."

This means one of two things. Either the author in question has died under circumstances in which a publisher has acquired the "intellectual property" rights to continue publishing novels set in that author's "world," or the author has stopped writing such novels himself and farmed the task out to others, perhaps doing a bit of initial outlining or whatever.

Either way, it almost always indicates an immediate, steep and continuous drop in story and story-telling quality. If I'm a fan of Author X, I want to read books by author X. Not books "in the tradition of" Author X. Not books Author X thought up but had someone else write. Not a series begun by Author X and continued by others.

So you can see the first half of my problem, I'm sure. I love Robert Heinlein like nearly no other author. I like Spider Robinson ... I like him a lot ... he's always been associated with and compared to Robert Heinlein ... but he is not Robert Heinlein.

Except when he is. And in Variable Star, he is.

And there's the second half of my problem, folks. If he is Robert Heinlein, then what I'm reading is the last of the Robert Heinlein novels. There will never be another, and I know that even as I read it. I know that at the end I am going to find myself aching for just one more book, one more story, one more page, one more sentence from the universe Heinlein surgically implanted in all his fans' hearts.

Which is exactly what happened. I raced through the book. Then I had a good cry because this was it. The End. Finis.

But you know what? It was worth it.

Reading up a bit, I see that Robinson "was told by his publisher that they wanted him to write in his own style, not Heinlein's, and the abundance of profanity and puns makes it clear that this is not a Heinlein novel." Your Honor, I object. Neither a few puns (recalled Heinlein line, I think from The Number of the Beast: "Je t'adore." "You shut the door!") nor a smattering of profanity (just noticeable but not overbearing at all) can turn Variable Star into anything other than what it is.

What is it? A Robert Heinlein novel, obviously plotted (because of when it was plotted) in the style of his "juveniles" (young character finds a compelling reason to take off for space unknown, making his way and winning through with the help of strong women, bold leaders and committed friends) but with some of the added depth and subtlety of his later work. Yes, there's some sexuality, but nothing approaching the level of, say, Stranger in a Strange Land and certainly not to anywhere close to To Sail Beyond the Sunset). And that's all you're going to get from me by way of details/spoilers. Read it yourself.

I am convinced that this book is, nearly to the word, the novel Heinlein would have written had he lived another few years and decided to dig the outline out of his files and get it written. I don't mean this disrespectfully -- Spider Robinson is a fine author in his own right -- but it's frankly a little spooky. He clearly channeled Robert A. Heinlein.

Read the book. Read it! Read the damn book!

Side note: One character, Solomon Short, particularly warms my heart. A David Gerrold/War Against the Chtorr reference. Huzzah!

Second side note: I also see, in the Wikipedia article linked above, that "Robinson posted a note on his website in 2009 noting that his agent had sold a trilogy of sequels based on the novel and its characters." At Robinson's own web site, no further news on that and neither I nor anyone else has any right to get snivelly or pushy about it (among other tragedies in the last few years, he's lost his wife, had a heart attack and, just last week, his daughter, Terri Luanna Mountainborne Robinson da Silva, died of cancer ... best wishes, sir, whatever you do next and forever).

I am ALWAYS Working on a Novel


 I come up with plot ideas, I start working on outlines, I write scenes or parts ... the closest it ever came to resulting in a finished novel was 10 or 12 years ago when I published the first 20,000 words of The Halaunbrenner Grant in serial form (it's lost now -- the micropayment site I published at went kaput and the hard drive the files were on did too -- but there's a brief excerpt in my book).

So, killing two birds with one stone ... the first bird being to motivate myself to actually get a whole novel finished, the second bird being to reward my Patreon patrons with content, I've decided to start publishing snippets from what I'm working on over there at Patreon. The patrons see this stuff first. And not just first, they may be the only ones to see it, at least until and unless there's an actual finished book to publish. So if you're interested in that sort of thing (and if you're a writer yourself, remember that my stuff is all free to copy, use or riff on and I think I have some cool plot/theme ideas) ... well, you know what to do. I just published the first snippet.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Let's Get Physical


After a longer wait than I expected or liked, I finally received my dead-tree copy of KN@PPSTER's Big Freakin' Book of Stuff today via FedEx. As I've said previously, I wanted to hold the thing in my hands and look it over before recommending that you purchase a hard copy.

So, a quick evaluation:

  • It's a nice book in the physical sense -- a trade paperback on reasonably high-quality (so far as I can tell) paper. The cover art and text survived transition from electronic to physical format without a lot of degradation. I don't like the spine text; that's one of two things I can blame on FastPencil rather than on myself (they offered only a few fonts, all of the same general class, with no sizing options).
  • Every time I look at the book in any format I see typos I missed when editing the book prior to publication. This time, a very large and very ugly one in the bio text on the back cover and one within the first few sentences of the introduction. No excuses. My fault. I didn't hire a proofreader or editor. I should have.
  • The other thing I can blame on FastPencil is the page count. In all electronic drafts, reports from FastPencil on length, etc., the book weighed in at 406 pages. That's why I've boasted pretty much everywhere (including in the book itself) that it tops out at "more than 400 pages." Well, the print edition comes to 388 pages. And that includes a lot of blank pages which puzzle me in the e-formats but which I now realize are a formatting convention related to the FastPencil book template I used and the fact that I designated each article a "chapter" (when the "chapter" ends on odd, i.e. right hand, page, the rear of that page is left blank).
So, am I going to go back and correct all those typos and such? Nope. The end of the FastPencil publishing process results in an "edition" of the book. Once I've done all the final approvals and paid, that's the end of it. If I want to make changes now, I have to go back and do another "edition" ... and pay them again.

It's only $20 ($30-ish if I want another physical copy) ... but so far, according to the automated royalty reports, I've only made about $20 from this "edition."

I didn't publish this book for the money, but the way I see it, when I go to the trouble of creating a 400-page ... er, 388-page ... book, giving it away free in PDF format and selling it at rock-bottom prices in other formats, there's a limit to how much additional time, effort and money I should put into the creation/perfecting end of it once I've got a reasonable product. So for now it stays as is, embarrassing typos and all.

Will I use FastPencil again? Probably. Almost all of the problems with this book were my fault, and I suspect the ones that FastPencil owns will be solved shortly. Did I mention I created KN@PPSTER's Big Freakin' Book of Stuff in a new beta version of their site, and that I sent in support tickets on all the issues? They're pretty good, in my humble opinion, and I expect they'll be getting better, quickly.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'll be packing this copy into a padded mailer and shipping it off to my mom (for reasons explained in the book itself) ASAP. If you're at your wits' end on selecting a Christmas present for someone who reads, well, yeah ... buy the book! I won't complain. But don't say I didn't warn you about the typos.

[Brief addendum: It looks like we're at about 500 downloads of the free PDF version of the book (my cool orangedox counter shows 380; I'm guesstimating 100-150 before I created the counter link). I had hoped to hit 1,000 a week or more ago. So let me repeat one thing and ask one favor. The one thing is it really is free free free free free. No obligation. No ads that you have to put up with. Download, read, enjoy, share. The one favor is that you tell your friends about it so they can get it too. FREE. REALLY.]

Yes, in Fact, I do Remember ...


I was on a mortar range at Camp Pendleton, California.

Specifically, I was sitting in front of the tent (two shelter-halves "pup tent") I shared with my squad leader, Corporal Hoth, eating an MRE for noon chow.

I already had reason to remember that day. That morning my platoon (81mm Mortars, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines) had arrived at the range. I was a few feet away from our commanding officer when a 155mm artillery round burst overhead. Short round from some cannon-cockers, miles behind us and firing into the same impact area. Everyone jumped about four feet in the air and then of course the CO put on one of those "happens all the time, but I'm cool under fire" body poses.

So anyway, there I am chowing down on "ham slice, 1 ea." or something and a few feet away another enlisted man who had grabbed a recent news magazine or something to while away any field leisure time and was just now browsing through it, said it.

"Ow, wow. Robert Heinlein died."

That was June, 1988. Heinlein had actually died on May 8, but this was back in the days before anyone who cared about anything got instant notification about that thing via the Intertubes. You had to actually look, and usually pretty hard, for the information you wanted unless it was information on the order of "Pearl Harbor Attacked!" or "JFK Assassinated!"

So anyway, the reason I'm remembering that I remember where I was when I heard Heinlein had died is because that very phenomenon is mentioned in the introduction to Learning Curve, the first volume of William H. Patterson's two-volume Heinlein biography. It covers the period from Heinlein's birth in 1907 to the effective midpoint of his life, 1948.

I'm racing through the book now and it's a fascinating read. Normally you'd see a "buy it" link with a cover photo in the right sidebar, but apparently Powell's doesn't have it in stock at the moment, so here's Claire Wolfe's Amazon affiliate link.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Two Things About the US Constitution and "Amnesty"


[Note: This post was published yesterday morning as a "preview/sneak peek" for my Patreon supporters -- become one today for early and/or exclusive access to my stuff!]

Look, I expect authoritarians to have trouble grasping the US Constitution. When you have no intention of obeying a law that limits your authority, there's a built-in incentive to misunderstand -- or at least pretend to misunderstand -- that law (cue Nancy Pelosi on questions about limits to Congress's constitutional authority: "Are you serious? Are you serious?").

But it really bugs me when libertarians, especially libertarians who stress and emphasize strategies like Bill of Rights Enforcement, either misunderstand or just flat ignore significant parts of both the Bill of Rights and the rest of the US Constitution. Like this:

The present occupant of the White House has illegally usurped the power to grant "executive amnesty" to tens of millions of foreigners either in the United States illegally, or about to come.

Let's hit the Bill of Rights portion first and work backward on the "illegally" part:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

That's the last sentence of the Bill of Rights and its meaning is not unclear. If the Constitution doesn't delegate a power to the federal government, the federal government doesn't have that power. Period.

So, does the Constitution delegate the power to regulate immigration to the federal government?

No. And not only no, but it specifically and unambiguously prohibits that power to the federal government. Here's Article I, Section 9:

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

The framers considered this clause important enough (probably because the Constitution wouldn't have been ratified without it) that in Article V they prohibited even amending it out of the Constitution before 1808 ... which establishes beyond reasonable doubt that after 1808, the only way to create the power alluded to is to amend it.

Feel free to go and find the amendment in question. I'll wait ... OK, are you back? Didn't find it, did you? That's because it's not there. Congress can charge immigrants ten bucks, but that's the entirety of constitutional federal power vis a vis immigration; nobody even bothered pretending any more power than that existed until the 1870s when an activist Supreme Court started fantasizing such things into the Constitution.

There's no such thing as an "illegal alien."

BUT! Just this once, for the sake of argument, I'm going to pretend that history didn't happen the way it did, that the framers didn't explicitly (and for stated reasons after considerable argument) prohibit the federal government from regulating immigration. I'm going to pretend that so that I can address US President Barack Obama's "illegal usurpation" in the form of "amnesty" to people who are in the US "illegally." Here's another section of that pesky Constitution:

The President shall ... have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Once again, there is no such thing as an "illegal alien." But if there was, the president of the United States would be entirely within his constitutional authority to pardon or reprieve any or all such "illegal aliens."

Yes, it really is that simple.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, 12/06/14


Brought to you by ...




In this episode:


  • AMA Q&A
  • Rand Paul
  • Minneapolis E-Cigarette Ban
  • Kennesaw Islamic Prayer Center
  • Some more Rand Paul
  • Anarchism/Libertarianism/Property/Meaning
Note: The only thing I nailed on this podcast, IMO, was the time hack -- EXACTLY 15 minutes, and I got it there without any post-read editing. Other than that, well, it was recorded at 5 in the morning following a day of Internet/technical difficulties. Meh. But hopefully I'm getting a little better with audio, and in actuality I'm treating this last part of 2014 as a "soft opening" period. I expect to be performing to a higher standard as of the beginning of the year. Anyway, enjoy.



Thursday, December 04, 2014

Nice Free Country Ya Got There. Be a Shame if Anything Happened to It ...


Per NBC 11 in Atlanta, Georgia:

The Kennesaw City Council voted on Monday to reject the request of a group of Muslims seeking to establish a worship center in the city.

...

The local Islamic group wanting to rent the retail space for their worship center agreed to every limitation that the Kennesaw city attorney wanted to impose ...

Naturally, the media is framing this as a matter of religious liberty, and that's true as far as it goes.

But ...

"Request?"

"Conditions?"

Last time I checked, Kennesaw, Georgia wasn't in North Korea. Neither Muslims nor anyone else should have to "request" permission from, or submit to the "conditions" of, Kennesaw's politicians to rent property or to pray (or do anything else peaceful) on that property.



Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The KN@PP Stir Podcast -- Now on Blubrry!


So I've got Soundcloud (native), Stitcher and now Blubrry set up, iTunes still on the way.

What does Blubrry bring to the table? Apps that let you listen to The KN@PP Stir Podcast via Roku, Boxee, Google TV, Android, LookeeTV and Samsung SmartTV.

I'll keep adding the show to every venue that will take it, on the supposition that the more available venues, the easier it will be for interested people to find and listen. You can keep up with all the available options on the podcast page here at KN@PPSTER.

Wednesday AMA Thread


OK, y'all know the drill -- ask me anything in comments and you'll get an answer at least in the comments and probably on the Friday podcast. Which, by the way, is brought to you by our sponsor ...




As previously mentioned, you can now catch The KN@PP Stir Podcast on Stitcher.

iTunes is coming, but that requires me to get on a Mac or Windows machine, since iTunes doesn't do ChromeOS. I'll get one of the kids to give me half an hour of computer time, hopefully this week, and get that set up.

If you know of any other podcast platforms or directories where the show should be listed, please let me know.

Claire Wolfe Reviews KN@PPSTER's Big Book of Stuff


A fairly short review (she's in partial "hermit mode" for the winter, so any blog attention at all is something special), but a very flattering review coming from one of the writers who has inspired me greatly over the years. You probably know about 101 Things To Do Till the Revolution, Don't Shoot the Bastards (Yet), Hardyville Tales and RebelFire: Out of the Gray Zone -- all of which I heartily recommend, but especially that last one if you have any teenagers in the house who might appreciate books for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.  (maybe box it up with one or two of Heinlein's "juveniles" and perhaps the Hunger Games trilogy, both of which it shines at least as brightly as).

In fact, while I hope her review will encourage people to download the free PDF of KN@PPSTER's Big Freakin' Book of Stuff, I'd rather you spent your money on her books than on mine if it's an either/or thing, and not just because those first two links are "affiliate commission" links. I hope my book is fun and informative; I know her books are classics that belong in every freedom lover's library.

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