Sunday, June 24, 2018

Maybe Not a Win-Win, But at Least Not a Lose-Lose

At the Independent Institute, Craig Eyermann says "Growing Public Employee Benefits to Force School Cuts."

Americans expect that when they give public schools more money, this will help to fund the education of their children and to support programs that promote their children’s development, such as athletics or the arts.

What they don’t expect is for the money they give to be siphoned off in ways that will either never show up in a classroom or that will never benefit their children.

But sadly, that’s exactly what is happening at school districts around the country, because of the increasing cost of public employee benefits.

My take on it is somewhat different.

It's bad enough to have to fork over money to these people.

But I'd rather pay them to go away on retirement, family leave, etc. than pay them and turn them loose on innocent kids.

Eyermann's complaint here is roughly equivalent to "if I have to pay protection money to the mafia, couldn't they at least keep a few hoodlums hanging around my store, knocking stuff off the shelves, breaking windows, maybe roughing up a customer now and then?"

Saturday, June 23, 2018

In Addition to Being Wrong ...

... I'm hateful.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Eyes Have It

Actually, one thing the eyes don't have, yet, is glaucoma.

The initial "puff of air" test apparently gave an even higher than usual result than usual (it's usually "high normal"), into the glaucoma range, so I had to go through the whole thing with anesthetic drops and a more direct pressure test, dilation of the eyes and looking at them with a microscope, etc. "High normal," not glaucoma, no damage to the optic nerve, as always.

No diabetic retinopathy, either.

And, heck, not even any significant change in my prescription. Tiny change in one eye, but the doctor said not big enough that I really need new glasses unless I want them. I may get some soon just because I tend to be hard on frames and they get all loose and decrepit fairly quickly. I buy from -- affiliate link warning! -- EyeBuyDirect. So far as I can tell, the frames and lenses are as good as the ones I usually get at a regular place, and have never set me back more that $25 or so for the whole package. Then again, I always buy the cheapest clearance frames. If I was good looking, I might try to enhance that with my frame choice. Fortunately, I'm ugly enough that no frame choice would make a real difference in either direction anyway, so I save myself the money.

As to what the eyes do have:

  • Pigment Dispersion Syndrome, which is a risk factor for a second variety of glaucoma.
  • A nevus -- a mole or freckle inside the eye that's generally not a problem but that in rare cases turns out to be a melanoma.
  • Cataracts -- both far from being surgery-worthy and one apparently barely detectable.

Traditional medicine's answer to all of the above being "get checked out again in a year." But I'll be reviewing the non-traditional-medicine options at my disposal as well  :)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Happy Birthday, Edward Snowden ...

... says Paul Jacob. Me, too.

Paul has a great poster for sale -- I've got it hanging over my desk and you can too. Click the graphic to order.

Yet Another Startup Idea I am Completely Unqualified (and Unfinanced) to Pursue

Brittany Hunter has a cool piece at FEE today on medical tourism.

Here's what I'm thinking:

The cost differential between medical care here in the US and elsewhere in reasonably touristy locales (I've known people who've gone to Mexico and to the Bahamas for procedures to save money, cash on the barrelhead) looks like an opportunity to me.

My impression is that most "insurance companies" here in the US are actually "pre-paid health care" companies (nearly everything is covered, but you pay a lot), not insurance companies (a lower cost hedged bet against an unlikely but catastrophic illness or injury), and that they are linked to particular networks of doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, etc.

But what if an "insurance company" of either type offered a policy that explicitly covered various procedures only if you were willing to let them fly you to e.g. Acapulco and back for those procedures? Based on the price differentials I see bandied about, they could charge lower premiums and take bigger profits even accounting for transportation costs.

Even better, include a travel agency and let any dollars your family spends to accompany you count toward your deductible. You get your kidney transplant, they get a beach vacation but are nearby. Just sayin' ...

Forewarned is Forearmed!

Newsweek reports that Nebraska Antifa tweets that an Internet hero has produced a handy list, including photos, of known members of one of America's most dangerous criminal gangs.

An Up Side to the "Family Separation" Kerfuffle

They're still abducting and caging peaceful travelers who cross the ruling gang's turf lines ("borders") without permission from the gang. I'm not particularly impressed that they're now going to cage them together as families instead of spiriting the kids away to separate locations.

But, there is an up side. The whole thing proves that Donald Trump does at least occasionally respond to public and political pressure when it's brought to bear heavily enough on one of his hare-brained schemes.

On the other hand, it's possible that that pressure only works if it gets his wife and his daughter on his case about the issue in question.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Well, I am Waaaay Behind ...

... on, among other things, my goal of posting to this blog at least once a day.

And other things, too. Like counting the Garrison Center's media pickups for May (the count stands at 140, but I'm only about 2/3 of the way through the month).

I really am busy, but I can understand why it might look like I'm just taking it easy. I'll try to catch up, and keep up, but realistically it will probably be in July after this Libertarian Party national convention stuff wraps up.

I did take the first step (a domain name purchase) today toward getting together a necessary new project. I'll omit details for the moment, but suffice it to say that for 2020 I want to accomplish something that looks more like 2004 than 2016 in terms of my opposition research efficacy.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Let me be a Little More Blunt than Usual

If you willingly conspire toward or participate in mass child abduction schemes like this one, you are a violent criminal of the worst sort.

No one should shed a tear for you if one of your actual or prospective victims, or someone acting behalf of those victims, puts you down like a rabid dog and leaves your body lying in the street to be consumed by non-rabid dogs.

At the very least you should find yourself roundly ostracized by all decent human beings, unable to rent an apartment, get a table at a restaurant, buy groceries at a market, or be served communion at a church.

You have openly declared yourself an enemy of humankind and deserve to be treated as such.

That is all.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Old and Busted ...

Jonah Goldberg compares Singapore to Munich and Trump to Chamberlain.

Such comparisons are almost always unadulterated bullshit, but this one particularly so.

Hitler's foreign policy was always clearly expansionist, and his goal at Munich was to make sure he could occupy the Czech Sudetenland without facing a war with the UK.

North Korea's foreign policy has always been isolationist, and Kim's goal at Singapore seems to have been merely to get the US to at least temporarily suspend its provocative (to North Korea) and expensive and tactically useless (to the US) demonstrations of military power on North Korea's border and off North Korea's coast.

The political ideologies of the US versus North Korea aside, as regards foreign/military policy, any Munich analogy would have to feature the US, not North Korea, as the Third Reich to be believable.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Dog Bites Man! Film at 11!

From the Queens Examiner and seven other newspapers in the same chain (hat tip -- Joel Schlosberg):

Some Cryptocurrency Things Are Still a PITA

After ZenCash suffered a 51% attack last week, I was impressed by their quick handling and proposed future solutions. And since there was a price drop, I wanted to "buy the dip" and convert my meager cryptocurrency holdings from (almost entirely) Bitcoin Cash to (almost entirely) ZenCash. I'm not much of a speculator, and certainly nothing like a day trader, but it looked like a decent bet that ZenCash would recover fast and continue rising versus other cryptocurrencies, and since I had been mildly interested in ZenCash anyway ...

Shapeshift doesn't handle ZenCash.

Neither does Changelly (even though there was a story online a couple of months ago saying they were going to start).

Oh, well ... until a friend mentioned to me that Binance doesn't have all the "Know Your Customer" crap for small balances/transactions.

All well and good. My Bitcoin Cash is now ZenCash, in an amount only slightly less by dollar value.

But it took me a good hour and a half to set up my Binance account, deposit my Bitcoin Cash (confirmation time wait, of course), trade that Bitcoin Cash for Ethereum, trade that Ethereum for ZenCash (because I simply couldn't find any way to go directly from Bitcoin Cash to ZenCash on the exchange). We're talking less than $100 USD here -- not the kind of transaction I am interested in spending all damn day on.

I like Shapeshift and Changelly because they don't require me to maintain a balance on an exchange -- I can just trade directly to and from my own wallet. The only time my crypto is exposed is during the brief period I'm actually trading it.

Why does that matter to me? Well, early on as crypto goes, I lost three Bitcoins in exchange hacks (MtGox and one before that that I can't even remember the name of anymore). If I had been the "hodl" type rather than the "use this as a medium of exchange" type, that loss would have, as of a few months ago, amounted to $60,000 (at the time, it came to more like $100).

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Brief Platform Committee Update

When I sought appointment to the Libertarian Party's 2018 platform committee, I made a few commitments. The three that come to mind are these:

  • To seek a committee recommendation that the Libertarian Party delete the final sentence of Plank 3.4, "Free Trade and Migration," as follows: "We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property." Thanks to the committee for considering, and passing, this proposal!
  • To attend, if humanly possible, all physical and electronic meetings of the committee. I am 100% on that so far and intend to fulfill that commitment to the end -- but see below.
  • To report from time to time on the committee's doings. That one is more difficult than it sounds, and this post is a catch-up effort.

First things first: Two resources for following the committee's work on your own are the Google Groups "reflector" of the committee's working email list and an "unofficial" Facebook group for discussion of the committee's work.

You'll note that the "reflector" list includes 151 different discussion threads. Not 151 messages, 151 topics (I think the longest topic is 63 messages, but assuming an average of 10, let's call it 1,500 messages). It's been running for about 90 days, so 17 messages a day or so on average. That's just the committee "in session," not any informal discussions two or more committee members may have had off-list.

We've also spent (quick mental calculation) about 20 hours in in-person and electronic meetings (not including travel time, etc. for the in-person meetings).

I don't think it's exaggerating at all to assert that the average committee member has put in at least  a full 40-hour work week on the committee in the last couple of months, in addition to our regular lives. So you might see why reporting on that work might fall off my radar at times. Sorry about that.

So far, the committee has passed 11 recommendations for the convention to consider. I'm just going to give you the brief descriptors here, as we have not finished rationales, a party member opinion survey, prioritizing, and putting together a report, and if you're interested you can look them up on the reflector list. There will be more recommendations, as there are email ballots running (and likely to pass) at this very moment. The passed recommendations:

Amend Preamble
Amend Current Plank 1.0 “Personal Liberty”
Amend Current Plank 1.7 “Crime and Justice”
Add New Plank “Individualism” to Section 1
Add New Plank “Religious Freedom” to Section 1
Amend Current Plank 2.4 “Government Finance and Spending”
Amend Current Plank 2.6 “Money and Financial Markets”
Add New Plank “Sex Work” to Section 2
Add New Plank “Licensing” to Section 2
Amend Current Plank “Internal Security and Individual Rights”
Amend Current Plank “Free Trade and Migration”

Now, as to my comment on attending meetings, above: The committee's chair, or a minimum number of members, can schedule an electronic meeting. A majority of the committee can cancel an electronic meeting. We have an electronic meeting on June 12, but I have requested (and been joined in my request by several others) cancellation of one scheduled for June 19. By way of explanation, here is the meat of an explanatory email I sent to the committee list:

So far, this committee has passed 11 recommendations. The tentative convention schedule allots 3 1/2 hours for "possibly platform" discussion.

Which means the convention delegates MIGHT, at the OUTSIDE, get an average of 19 minutes and 7 seconds per platform committee proposal, not counting considering minority reports.

The greater likelihood is that other stuff will intrude and the convention will spend perhaps 2 1/2 hours actually considering platform committee proposals, almost certainly spending not less than 30 minutes on each, mostly consisting of points of order, points of information, weird rambling microphone speeches, etc.

And the greater likelihood still is that we will pass several MORE proposals by email ballot, reducing the plausible time available for each to be considered if they are all considered, which they will not be.

If we are VERY lucky, five proposals will get an up or down vote.

I don't have a problem with passing more proposals, but email ballots WORK and with 24 days remaining until the convention opens, I don't see any particular reason for 20 people to spend hours at a time, multiple times, all of us at the SAME time, doing busy work to almost zero effect unless one considers increasing the LNC's printing costs to put out more pages of stuff that will not be considered, let alone acted upon, by the delegates, to be our mission.

I suggest that those who really, really, really want something considered that hasn't been considered should get a proposal written, line up co-sponsors for it, and get an email ballot in process ASAP. If we are doing ANYTHING after the 15th other than wrapping up the last couple of days of email ballot voting, completing rationales, working out rankings of our proposals for order of consideration by the delegates, and perfecting our report, we will be wasting time for the sole purpose of wasting time.

Yes, there's a little bit of sarcasm/venom there that would be beneath me if anything was beneath me. But you know that I like to plumb the depths :)

If we do have further electronic meetings, I will attend them. That's a commitment I made and intend to fulfill. However, I will also put my weight, such as it is, on the side of the scale opposed to having further electronic meetings. We've done a lot of stuff. We have more stuff to do. That other stuff doesn't require (nor is it necessarily well-suited to) an electronic meeting format.

See you in New Orleans!

Morning Laugh

"I don't do propaganda for anyone." -- Ralph Peters

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Two Things

Thing One -- Peter Beinart, at The Atlantic, on sanctions versus Iran:

Far from promoting liberal democracy, sanctions tend to make the countries subject to them more authoritarian and repressive. ... The reason is that sanctions shift the balance of power in a society in the regime’s favor. As sanctions make resources harder to find, authoritarian regimes hoard them. They make the population more dependent on their largesse, and withhold resources from those who might threaten their rule.

Thing Two -- A. Barton Hinkle, at Reason:

Sanctions such as these will hurt Iran, the administration and others argue, by depriving it not just of oil revenue, but of consumer goods and opportunities for employment. ... But that is the precise opposite of what Trump says about the United States. When it comes to America, the president claims limiting imports will help the country.

Or, as the sub-headline on Hinkle's piece reads, "Tariffs and import restrictions are the equivalent of putting sanctions on your own country."

My own arguments against tariffs have mostly been economic, to the effect that tariffs are not taxes on foreign exporters to benefit American workers, they're taxes on American consumers to benefit politically connected industries.

But as Beinart points out, state authority itself is an additional beneficiary of sanctions -- including self-sanctions in the form of tariffs. The more the tariffs break the legs of ordinary Americans, the more obedient and grateful those ordinary Americans are likely to be when the same state that broke their legs shifts blame to everyone but itself ... and offers them a crutch.

Monday, June 04, 2018

"If They Can Do That to X, What Can They Do to Me?"

After Scooter Libby (perjury), Joe Arpaio (criminal contempt), Dinesh D'Souza (illegal campaign contributions) and now prospectively Martha Stewart (lying to the feds) and Rod Blagojevich (public corruption), we have the answer. And it is:

Exactly the same thing, but you aren't famous enough to get pardoned or have your sentence commuted later.

Who Knew?

I noticed the origins of this story some time back, but hadn't really thought through the implications until the SCOTUS ruling broke:

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a lower court’s decision that allowed an undocumented immigrant teenager to obtain an abortion over the protests of the Trump administration. ... The Trump administration has enacted a policy of preventing access to abortion services -- even though the government is not asked to pay for the procedure -- for pregnant teens held in government-funded centers after crossing the border illegally.

So essentially the Trump administration is so pro-"anchor baby" that they insist on pregnant immigrants giving birth to shiny new birthright citizens even if those immigrants would rather have abortions and get deported. Or at the very least they're more anti-abortion than they are anti-"anchor baby."

Things that make go "hmmm ..."

Sunday, June 03, 2018

What a Fun Take on the Nigerian Prince Scam!

From my spam folder:

From: "Christopher A. wray"
To: [address elided]
Subject: Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters

Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters
935 Pennsylvania Ave NW



It is a pleasure to write you that we have reconciled with our logistic department on the reimbursement of some fund spent by you during the cause of your inadequate dealings with some imposters who claim to be staff in banks and other regional payment centers.

Our reconciliation teams with the prospectus instrument of the United Nations after freezing suspected imposters account. This support was fully effective with the help of World Bank after a summit meeting in United States, on the financial analysis on financial stability issues fluctuating their economy with the international global standard. After gathering of this sum, our logistic department gave us a list of customers to be paid who fall victims to this imposters due to unawareness. And mode of payment was as well specified for proper conducts and financial regulations to kick against criminality during process of payment.

We have arranged your payment through our swift card centers, which is the latest instruction from federal bureau investigation Reconciliation Office. The card center will send you an ATM Debit card which you will use to withdraw your money in any ATM Center, Banks and Union Pay Credit outlets in the world, You are hereby selected as an honor for this payment approval, which you are to acknowledge the receipt of this mail in returning the required below to the Logistic Department by email listed below. Office of Reconciliation and Logistics Vaults, federal bureau investigation (FBI)

1. Full Name
2. Phone and Fax Number
3. Your age and Current Occupation
4. Contact Address where you want your ATM Card to be delivered to (P.O Box Not Acceptable)

For your information, you have to stop any further communication with any other person (s) or office (s) to avoid any hitches in receiving your payment because of Impostors, we hereby issued you our code of conduct, which is (ATM-7740) so you have to indicate this code when contacting the Card Center by using it as your subject.

Kindly be informed that recipients shall be liable to all cost arising for the delivery of the donation parcel.This is due to Legal law protecting all donation funds misappropriation.

Yours in Service,
Christopher A. wray
FBI Director

Film Theory

I haven't seen Solo: A Star Wars Story yet. No surprise there, as 1) it's not very often I catch a film on the big screen and 2) the only Star Wars film I've really, really, really liked since Return of the Jedi has been Rogue One (which I didn't expect to like and thus missed on the big screen).

I'm actually a fan of the idea of a Hans Solo spinoff. I might have to get out and see this one. But the point here is that I have a theory about why I'm seeing all these stories about it bombing at the box office. The theory:

It's really hard to separate the character from the actor who played him in the early films. Harrison Ford owns that face, that voice, those mannerisms. Anyone else trying to pull them off is going to be expected -- by many, at least -- to offer an inferior impression of the original actor playing the original character.

Personally I plan to give Alden Ehrenreich advance benefit of doubt if for no other reason than that I want to see whether or not he pulls it off by either doing a really good impression of Harrison Ford or convincingly taking possession of the character himself. If either, I predict the latter (I've seen the trailer and the voice, at least, is distinctly non-Fordish).

But I can understand why many Star Wars fans might decide to take a pass on it.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

All Is Not Madness

No general comment (other than to note that some of it is, well, stupid) on Casey Chalk's piece, "Public School Sex-Ed’s Descent Into Madness," at The American Conservative. But I did find one of Chalk's complaints -- that a sex-ed curriculum "excis[es] clergy from a list of 'trusted adults,' interesting. My comment (awaiting moderation at TAC):

"excising clergy from a list of 'trusted adults.'"

That seems fair -- although, for the same reason, other authority figures (teachers, coaches, cops, etc.) should likewise be excised.

Authority attracts people who abuse authority.

That's not to say that all religious leaders, or even most religious leaders, abuse their authority. But someone with a desire to abuse the vulnerable is more likely to seek out a position from which he or she can do so.

Resolved, that a congregation’s priest, pastor, etc., is probably more rather than less likely to engage in sexual abuse than a random member of the congregation.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Oh, For Crying Out Loud

A century ago, give or take, it took allegations of rape and rumors that the rape involved a champagne bottle to destroy a big actor's career or knock a successful show off the screen (big screen back then, smaller as time went on).

Nope, didn't read the tweet or tweets.

Nope, haven't watched the Roseanne reboot.

Nope, don't need to do either of those things to say this:

  1. Roseanne Barr has built an entire career on wandering back and forth across the thin line that separates "merely very abrasive" from "seemingly batshit insane." I see no reason to assume that whatever she tweeted unintentionally violated whatever presumed standard it was held to. Intentionally violating presumed standards is part of her job description as a comedian, and so far as I can tell she stays on the job pretty much 24/7.
  2. ABC knew (1) damn well when it picked up the reboot of her eponymous show. Why buy the ticket if you aren't willing to take the ride?
A bunch of people -- cast, crew, etc. -- just lost their jobs. Not because Roseanne Barr is offensive, but because ABC's execs are a bunch of cowards.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Story of My Life: Cheap Guitars

I am not a talented guitarist. Enthusiastic (when I have time to play), but not good.

I'm also a cheapskate, which means that with the single exception of the Joe Pass Emperor II I inherited from my dad (which I only take out rarely and reverently), I play cheap guitars. An old Epiphone dreadnought ($150 close to 20 years ago, and it came with gig bag, etc.), three Rogues (an acoustic dreadnought, an acoustic/electric dreadnought, and a lap steel) that came to less than $200 combined brand new, an Epiphone Les Paul ($95 on sale), a Walmart "First Act" strat clone ($10 with amp at a yard sale) ...

... and my current favorite, a student-sized First Act acoustic that I picked up for $2 at another yard sale. One of the tuning keys was completely shot, but that doesn't matter because I'm running it with only three strings (tuned to G-D-G) and using an old 3/4" socket as a slide while I run through some video lessons from online and await the arrival of my newest acquisition, a $35 mass-production take on a cigar box guitar (not an affiliate link):

I'm don't recall when I first noticed cigar box guitars, but they've appealed to me ever since for two initial reasons:

  1. They're cheap and you can build them yourself (I will likely build one at some point, but not from scratch -- CB Gitty offers parts and kits).
  2. Three strings in an open tuning is a LOT easier to make noise that's identifiable as music with than six strings in standard tuning.

Then there's my life-long blues conundrum. Since I was a teenager, I've listened to e.g. Robert Johnson and wondered how the hell those old blues guys managed to sound like they were playing two guitars with about five hands. I just assumed they were virtuosi. And they were.

But they were also playing open tunings, keeping the rhythm on all the strings except one and playing lead on that remaining string. In fact, many of them had started out as children on single-string "diddley bows" (Ellas McDaniel renamed himself after that instrument) and then just transposed what they did with those onto single strings of multi-string instruments in open tunings.

Cool: I'm certainly no Blind Willie Johnson and never will be, but I'm starting to be able to play something that's identifiably slide blues guitar instead of just sour mush by cutting the number of strings I have to keep track of in half and using a stubby slide to noodle with the blues scale on the high string while keeping rhythm on the other two.

Cooler: An acoustic/electric guitar, with a slide and play-along CD, for $35 new.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Are "Progressives" Thinking This "Guaranteed Job" Proposal Through?

Maybe, maybe not.

[I]f you came in here in a wheelchair and blind in both eyes and were silly enough to insist on enrolling, they would find you something silly to match. Counting the fuzz on a caterpillar by touch, maybe.

That's the doctor giving Johnny Rico his physical exam in Starship Troopers. He's explaining that (in Heinlein's universe), anyone can join the Federal Service, regardless of physical/mental ability, skill set, etc.

Bernie Sanders envisions something like this. If you want a job, the government will give you one, period.

Apart from the general evil of this idea (there's no way for the government to give someone a paying job without stealing the money to pay for that person's salary and benefits), it seems to me that some consequences naturally follow.

Consequence #1: There goes the "progressive" argument against "work requirements" for welfare enrollees, "unemployment insurance," etc. "I can't find a job" will no longer be an excuse because anyone can have a job for the asking. In fact, since these magical government jobs will presumably pay a "living wage," the rationale for food stamps, housing subsidies, etc. will disappear as well. I'm just guessing here, but my guess is that the aggregate Democratic constituency for all of those programs is much larger than the likely Democratic constituency for pie in the sky full employment ideas.

Consequence #2: At some point, the pool of government "employees" in make-work "jobs" from which they can't be fired gets large enough that the actual productive economy starts slowing down. Why take a private sector job where you have to perform or get sent home when you can just take a paycheck from Uncle Sugar for e.g. sharpening pencils and can't get fired even if your output is eight sharpened pencils in eight hours?

Consequence #3: At which point Sanders (if he's still alive) or one of his successors starts preaching that in order to "save the economy" from the consequences of the jobs guarantee program, the government needs to just take over that actual productive economy and start slotting the program's job applicants into those  jobs. In other words, escalating state socialism, state seizure of the means of production.

Consequence #4: When it turns out that the government jobs program applicants don't want those kinds of jobs, and that the current workers in those industries don't want to work for the government and/or for whatever the government has decided is a "living wage," universal labor conscription. In other words, an attempt at full state socialism, aka Lenin/Stalin/Mao style state communism.

Okay, so maybe they have thought it through.

Aren't We Entering the Timeframe ...

... where it's time for the same people who, two years ago, claimed that incomplete federal investigations must not be publicly discussed by federal law enforcement officials with an election coming up, to start demanding a  de facto temporary shutdown (at least as regards public announcements, intentional leaks, court filings, reports to Congress, indictments, etc.) of Robert Mueller's "Russiagate" probe?

After all, there's an election coming up again, right?

No? I don't think so either, but it seemed worth mentioning.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Not Exactly a Word PSA But Still a Pet Peeve

Wikipedia gets this one right:

Barbecue or barbeque (informally BBQ or barbie) is a cooking method, a style of food, and a name for a meal or gathering at which this style of food is cooked and served. Barbecuing is done slowly over low, indirect heat and the food is flavored by the smoking process, while grilling, a related process, is generally done quickly over moderate-to-high direct heat that produces little smoke. [emphasis mine] does not capture this important distinction, probably because over time grills have come to be called "barbecue grills" and then just "barbecues."

Resolved, that cooking a burger, or a chicken breast, or a steak, or whatever, over a wood and/or charcoal flame is not "barbecuing" and the food itself is not "barbecue" even if you then smother it in "barbecue sauce."

Because of the aforementioned usage shift, I can't "prove" that by pointing at the dictionary, which is why this is not technically a Word PSA post.

But I believe it as fervently as a Pentecostal minister believes in the eternal lake of (presumably not low-temperature, hickory-fueled) fire.

I like to grill. There's no better burger than one that's been cooked fairly quickly over a wood and/or charcoal flame. Call it half an hour beginning to end, from lighting the charcoal and letting it burn down a little to walking in the house with a plate full of burgers (and usually a couple of hot dogs for variety, and now that Tamara is a vegetarian, possibly a skewer adorned with chunks of tomato, pepper and onion). The burgers get one flip halfway through, the hot dogs and veggie skewers get rotated in quarter circumferences, and they're all done shortly after they got started.

I also like to barbecue.

Barbecue starts the night before when I prep the meat (usually a slab of pork ribs, from which I remove the membrane, after which I store it in the fridge overnight either soaking in a marinade or covered in a dry rub and wrapped in tinfoil).

In the morning, I pull the meat out of the fridge and let it warm toward room temperature while I get a charcoal fire burning down to to coals and throw my first batch of water-soaked wood chips (hickory if I am smoking ribs, mesquite if I am smoking chicken) onto those coals to flavor the smoke.

Then I put the ribs on (with my barrel-type "barbecue grill" configured to circulate smoke rather than to maximize heat) and spend the next 6-8 hours trying to keep the temperature between 200 and 225 degrees Fahrenheit so that the meat cooks slowly up toward an internal temperature of 180 degrees, and gets maximum exposure to smoke during the process. This means occasionally adding charcoal (burned down to coals on the side, not inside the smoking area!) and more wood chips, removing charcoal, raging at the heavens if the temp gets out of control, etc.

The ribs occasionally get a light "mop" of liquid (water and either vinegar or vinegar, depending on my mood, with some garlic, pepper and mustard mixed in) to keep them from drying out.

For the last hour or two, I wrap the ribs in foil and let the temperature rise so that the outside gets just a little crispy. Then they come off the grill/smoker/heat and rest for a few minutes before I cut them.

Sauce is added by the eater, in the amount/type preferred by said eater.

Note: Another ingredient, cold beer, is added to me while I sit around watching/adjusting the temperature. It may not be the most important ingredient but it's important.

See the difference there? If grilling is a witty saying, barbecue is a fully elaborated philosophy. I barbecue once or twice a year. When the weather is right, I grill once, twice, even three times a week.

It bugs me to hear the two conflated.

That is all.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

IDW is the New Blog

All of a sudden I'm hearing a lot about "the Intellectual Dark Web," presumably because of this New York Times piece by Bari Weiss.

Weiss defines the Intellectual Dark Web as "a collection of iconoclastic thinkers, academic renegades and media personalities who are having a rolling conversation -- on podcasts, YouTube and Twitter, and in sold-out auditoriums -- that sound unlike anything else happening, at least publicly, in the culture right now. Feeling largely locked out of legacy outlets, they are rapidly building their own mass media channels."

In other words, it is really about format, not about content, even though the cited examples seem to be a) controversial and b) mostly considered "right-wing."

Everything new is old again.

Not quite two decades ago, it was the emerging "blogosphere" that positioned itself as the alternative to establishment media.

Twenty years before that, it was amateur "zines" which became easy and cheap to print with the advent of computer printers and the mass deployment of photocopy technology (or, before that, access to a mimeograph).

And before that it was alternative newspapers and magazines of a higher order of print quality, though not necessarily by much, than the "zines" -- the Berkeley Barb, for example, and I.F. Stone's Weekly.

People seem fascinated by format, and prone to assume that new format necessarily implies new content type. I don't think that's the case.

Yes, format affects content. A lot of the stuff I put on this blog, I once put on "e-zines" (the intermediary step between the old print zines and the blogs). But this blog also includes a lot of short (and not so short) asides like this one that I would never have submitted to a newspaper, or a zine, or an ezine. I don't think the substance really changed. It was just that more could be put out, more easily.

I say the same things on podcasts that I say on my blog, that I said in e-zines, that I wrote a little of (not much, I was young and busy with other stuff) in zines, and that I put in letters to the editors of regular papers.

I'm guessing the printing press inspired similar reactions. And hell, maybe the invention of decent pen and paper tools, and tablets and chisels for cuneiform, etc. Maybe among smaller populations until literacy caught on, but still.

So far as I can tell, the "Intellectual Dark Web" people aren't saying (on e.g. YouTube) anything really different than those same people were saying in other formats before the "Intellectual Dark Web" suddenly became a name.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

@Twitter: "Net Neutrality" For Thee, But Not For We

Camera 1:

Currently, the Internet provides an almost frictionless experience for an individual to communicate with the world, and it also provides the lowest barrier to competitive entry for businesses the world has ever seen. It serves as a great equalizer in the access to information and in reaching a global audience. If you have an opinion or a new innovative web-based service, you don’t have to get permission to share it with the world at large.

This openness promotes free and fair competition and fosters ongoing investment and innovation. We need clear, enforceable, legally sustainable rules to ensure that the Internet remains open and continues to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers. This is the heart of Twitter. Without such net neutrality principles in place, some of today’s most successful and widely-known Internet companies might never have come into existence.

Camera 2:

Twitter has long had a strange disdain for third-party Twitter apps, but it’s allowed many of them to pass under the radar for the last several years. That’s starting to change this summer, when Twitter will revoke a key piece of access that developers currently have to the service, replacing it with a new access system that limits what they can do. The changes aren’t going to make third-party Twitter clients useless, but they are going to make the apps somewhat worse.

The changes, which go into effect August 16th, do two main things: first, they prevent new tweets from streaming into an app in real time; and second, they prevent and delay some push notifications.

Or, to put it a different way, Twitter is going to prioritize content, with a "fast lane" for its own streams/notifications and a "slow lane" for other companies' streams/notifications. Sound familiar?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Camera 2

Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on the Gaza situation:

The blockade is by definition an act of war, imposed and enforced through violence. Never in history have blockade and peace existed side by side. From September 2007 onward the question of who started the war or who fired the first shot became momentously irrelevant. There is no difference in civil law between murdering a man by slow strangulation or killing him by a shot in the head. From the moment at which the blockade was imposed, active hostilities had commenced and Palestine owed Israel nothing of her Charter rights.

Oh, wait, sorry. As Jon Schwarz points out at The Intercept,  that was actually Israel's foreign minister, Abba Eban, on why Israel was justified in attacking Egypt in 1967.

I Didn't Vote for Hillary Clinton Just Because She's a Woman ...

... so why the hell should I support the nomination of a different felon to head the Central Intelligence Agency just because that felon is a woman?

Sarah Huckabee Sanders isn't Madeline Albright, but she plays Madeline Albright on Twitter:

Donald Trump also agrees with Albright and makes the case that Clinton, rather than he himself, should have been elected president:

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Some Thoughts on Platform Prose

In my earlier, very brief, report on the 2018 Libertarian Party platform committee's meeting in Columbus on Sunday and Monday, I noted that "[a]mong other things, we were also able to pass (IIRC) two of Mike Seebecks's proposed style cleanups on material toward the top of the platform ..."

Mike is working toward three goals with his proposals:

  1. Proper spelling, grammar, and sentence construction;
  2. Uniform compliance with the Libertarian National Committee's style authority (The Chicago Manual of Style); and
  3. Format uniformity in which each plank in the platform incorporates policy proposals ("Libertarians support/oppose" in the first instance in a plank, "we support/oppose" in subsequent instances within a plank) and the underlying philosophical reasons ("Libertarians believe/we believe").
I wholeheartedly support all three goals and applaud Mike's hard work at going through the platform line by line and offering up the changes/corrections as proposals. He's been agitating for years for a style committee to take care of that stuff so that the platform committee can concentrate more on the substance than the writing. He hasn't gotten his way, so he's doing the hard part and asking the platform committee to incorporate that work in our proposals to the convention.

Those proposals ran into a couple of objections at the platform committee meeting:

Objection One: This stuff just isn't that important, let's get into substantive changes to the platform, i.e. adding planks on new issues, correcting material in planks that doesn't appropriately reflect the party's positions and accord with its Statement of Principles.

I consider that objection legitimate to a point. We have to set priorities, and it may be that the "substantive changes" are more important than the "style changes." Two ways of handling the importance issue are:

  1. Modifying our agenda to get to the "substantive stuff" first (which we did, after much argument both setting the agenda -- "style first" -- and modifying it -- "substance now").
  2. Putting the "style" changes toward the bottom of our rankings in the committee's report, so that the convention delegates get to them after handling the "substance" changes, which we will likely do.
Now, why do I say "to a point?"

Well, the committee was scheduled to meet for nine hours on Sunday and five hours on Monday. My recollection is that we spent a good three hours on Sunday and at least half an hour on Monday arguing about the agenda instead of debating the proposals. Whether we were working on the "style" or "substance" material, we could probably have finished up at least a couple more items if not for the agenda fighting.

Also, the "style proposals" were available for us to work on for weeks before the physical meeting. We could have handled them by email ballot and it wouldn't have been an issue. But several delegates made clear early on that they would only support proposals that they could vote on from a hotel meeting room hundreds or even thousands of miles from their homes. After which nobody really bothered pushing email ballots. And there was quite a bit of overlap between those who would only vote at a hotel and those who complained that once they got to the hotel, all that "unimportant" stuff they had refused to handle quickly and easily by email was there waiting for them to handle slowly and with great difficulty.

On the latter point, my sympathy is, shall we say, minimal.

Objection Two:  I'm going to name names here, because I don't believe there's any shame at all in the objection. Aaron Starr of California doesn't like the format uniformity part, where every plank has a "Libertarians/we believe" part and a "Libertarians/we support/oppose" part, because he thinks it makes for boring reading. Nobody, in his opinion, wants to sit there and read a gazillion paragraphs that all follow the same format.

From a certain standpoint, I agree. The platform, taken as a whole, might seem a bit dry if written that way.


I disagree.

Not very many people are going to sit down and read the platform from top to bottom.

Most people who aren't LP members/activists come to the platform wanting to know what "Libertarians believe" about, and what actions "Libertarians support/oppose" regarding, a particular issue. They're there to see what we think about abortion or gun rights or immigration or trade. Maybe two of those, but probably not three or four and almost never every issue the platform addresses. They aren't going to be bored by the uniformity because they're going to read the plank or three that they're interested in and then go back to swilling brandy and playing Bejeweled while, hopefully, thinking it over.

Party members/activists will also likely read a plank or three at a time but come back often, and they will benefit from having a format that makes it very easy to get directly to what the party supports/opposes and why on any given issue.

In my opinion, Aaron's objection to a uniform format only makes sense if we assume that people are going to read the platform from beginning to end and go away disappointed that it didn't rip along like a suspense novel with a cliffhanger at the end of each plank.

I don't want the platform to be boring, but I do want it to be accessible with minimal effort and to be written in a way that tends to spotlight the party's consistency of approach to the issues. That consistency is a feature, not a bug. It's a strength, not a weakness. We should show it off.

Word PSA

Lieu \Lieu\ (l[=u]), n. [F., OF. also liu, leu, lou, fr. L. locus place. See Local, Locus.] Place; room; stead; -- used only in the phrase in lieu of, that is, instead of.

Not too terribly long after 9/11, some friends received a note to the following effect (paraphrased from memory except for the phrase "in lieu of") from their kids' school's administration:

Dear parents,

In lieu of the war on terror, [school] is implementing the following measures:

[insert a bunch of silly security theatrics here]

I came across the same bizarre usage this morning in another context.

This one isn't complicated: "In lieu of ..." means "instead of ..." not "because of ..." or "due to ..."

Monday, May 14, 2018

VERY Quick Platform Committee Meeting Report ...

... since I am sitting on the floor at the airport awaiting my flight home.


Thanks to Jim Fulner pushing a modification of the agenda to get to it, and after several hours of debate, the platform committee passed the one recommendation that I promised all of you I would push for:

3.4 Free Trade and Migration

We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.

There were several attempts at amending the motion to merely remove that last sentence, and there may be minority reports calling for different and/or additional changes. But as of now, the platform committee WILL be asking the delegates at the 2018 Libertarian National Convention to strike that sentence.

Among other things, we were also able to pass (IIRC) two of Mike Seebecks's proposed style cleanups on material toward the top of the platform (e.g. preamble); and, right before I had to leave for the airport but before the meeting ended, a sex work plank that is not all I had hoped for and that may also get the minority report treatment, that is definitely better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Yes, it was a long, slow slog of a meeting. Yes, there were some complaints of certain members being dilatory and trying to run out the clock. Frankly, there was a lot less of that than I expected and I prefer to attribute a lot of it to good faith differences on the issues rather than malice. I congratulate our chair, Caryn Ann Harlos, for keeping things on track in spite of the challenges, thank our secretary, Mimi Robson, for her fine work in keeping dueling proposals straight, and thank all of my fellow committee members for their hard work.

Also, thanks to the party members who showed up to assist us, urge us to do right things, etc. As is typical of LP meetings, the hanging out and yakking with each other was the best part. Especially since it meant I got to try out Tim Hortons for the first time (one sentence review: Not bad, but the coffee isn't as good as Starbucks and the donuts aren't as good as Krispy Kreme).

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Not a Complete Emergency, but a Time-Sensitive Project

So, the Libertarian Party's platform committee is meeting this coming Sunday and Monday in Columbus, Ohio.

And that committee has already provided, in a non-technical sense, for streaming the meeting for those who want to watch it.

In the technical sense, however, I just found out a few hours ago that the meeting venue lacks wi-fi (I suspect that's one reason it was selected by the person who proposed it).

I'm a bit rushed for time (I fly out tomorrow), but if one or more people are willing to put up the money I am willing to go buy a "hot spot" device and some bandwidth for the specific purpose of streaming the meeting. I'm guessing about $100 for the device and a bunch of bandwidth. There's no time to get one shipped because I will be out of here before even one-day shipping would reach me.

Gimme a yell via the contact form if this is something you're interested in backing. If not, I think that we'll manage to cobble something together come what may.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Libertarian National Convention Bylaws Proposals (w/ My Recommendations), Part 2

This post is part 2 of a multi-part series. Click here for part 1. I'm going over the 2018 bylaws committee's proposals for consideration by the Libertarian National Convention in New Orleans at the end of June.

A note that I should have made earlier, in the form of a comment at Independent Political Report by Chuck Moulton: "The report is in order of support from the bylaws committee, so in general the further you go the more controversial they get." In the PDF of the proposals, each includes a committee vote count, e.g. 9-0.

Without further ado:

PROPOSAL #4: Clarifying Procedures for Regional Alternates

All this proposal does is add "and alternate(s)" to the bylaws language concerning regional representatives to the Libertarian National Committee. I don't see any problem with it.

PROPOSAL #5: Simplify Article 4 Language on Membership

This proposal takes a meat ax to the bylaws language concerning "sustaining membership" and reduces that language to:

“Sustaining members” are members of the Party who:
a. During the prior twelve months have donated, or have had donated on their behalf, an amount of at least $25; or
b. Are Life members.

This one, I have two problems with.

The first problem was pointed out at IPR by Dr. George Phillies of Massachusetts, and that is the trailing 12-month $25 dues requirement. If someone renews early, they lose sustaining membership time.

Example: Suppose I become a sustaining member on January 1st. Then, on December 1st, I renew my membership, a month before I have to. I lose a month. If I don't send my NEXT $25 in by the following December 1st, I'm not a sustaining member anymore. So I send it in on November 15th to avoid being late and lose ANOTHER two weeks of sustaining membership.

Sustaining membership should always be extended by 12 months for each $25+ payment. If I become a sustaining member on January 1st and renew on December 1st, my sustaining membership should be extended by a year, not by 11 months.

That first problem is obviously a language oversight, an unintended consequence.

The second problem is intentional and, in my opinion has precedent explaining why it's a problem. It is this language: "or have had donated on their behalf."

I don't have a problem with one person paying another person's dues per se, but the ability to create new sustaining members out of thin air invites people with a little money to inflate delegate apportionments to particular states.

I'm going to tell this story without a lot of detail because it's been a little while, because I don't recall all the details, and I don't want to get details wrong:

A few years ago, a person made a substantial donation to a state affiliate. That affiliate used the donation to renew a bunch of expired sustaining memberships "on behalf of" the sustaining members who, for whatever reason, hadn't renewed themselves. As a result, that state affiliate got to send more delegates to the next national convention than it otherwise would have.

It would take quite a bit of money to exert a really big effect on delegate numbers that way (at 20,000 sustaining members, it would be one delegate per 280 members, which means $7000 in $25 dues payments per additional delegate). But why explicitly open the door to that unless the intent is to explicitly open the door to that?

I could support this proposal, simply because it makes the bylaws more concise, if the "or have had donated on their behalf" language was removed and the trailing 12-month problem was fixed. But not without those fixes.

PROPOSAL #6: Make Elected Libertarians Automatic Delegates at Convention

This proposal allows, unless specifically disapproved by the affiliate or national convention delegates, "any sustaining member serving in public office subject to a vote of the general electorate" to be a national convention delegate.

I oppose this change for three reasons.

One is that I am long on record in favor of reducing, not increasing, the number of delegates to the Libertarian National Convention. My preferred number is ~538, apportioned among state affiliates exactly as presidential electors are apportioned among states (the ~ would be an additional delegate apportionment to the District of Columbia LP and to any US territorial LPs of the number of presidential electors their population would entitle them to if they WERE states). I'm not going to make an argument for that preference of mine here, but it is a preference of mine and colors my opinion of this proposal.

The second is that the language is fuzzy. Since some appointed public officials can be recalled or otherwise removed by voters, they are in fact "serving in public office subject to a vote of the general electorate."

The third is that different states offer wildly different possibilities for getting elected to "public office." At least at one time, low-level election judges were elected in Pennsylvania in non-partisan races (I helped a couple of people get elected to that office); in Missouri, they were appointed and had to be either Republicans or Democrats. Ballot access laws also vary from state to state. So having more or fewer elected officials doesn't necessarily mean that a state affiliate is "better" or "worse" than another, or that it deserves or doesn't deserve extra representation at the national convention.

I am in favor of Libertarians serving in public office also serving as national convention delegates. But their state affiliates should offer them the normally apportioned delegate seats instead of getting an extra apportionment.

OK, that's part two (I've decided to cover three proposals per post). Catch ya later.

Monday, May 07, 2018


Did he do it?

I don't know.

But given his obvious obsession with using government force to control people's lives and get his own way in the general/collective sense, I can't say I'd be surprised if he turned out to be a retail abuser as well.

Libertarian National Convention Bylaws Proposals (w/ My Recommendations), Part 1

[This post is part 1 of a multi-part series. Click here for part 2. I'm going over the 2018 bylaws committee's proposals for consideration by the Libertarian National Convention in New Orleans at the end of June.]

The Libertarian Party's Bylaws Committee has released its recommendations for this year's national convention to consider.  Here's a direct link to a PDF of those recommendations, and here's a link to an Independent Political Report article (with comments from several people, including me) on the topic.

Since Chuck Moulton asks for my opinion on all of the proposals (we don't always agree but tend to respect each others' opinions), I'm going to give it the old college try. BUT! I take off on Thursday for this weekend's Platform Committee meeting in Columbus, so I may be pressed for time. I'll do what I can, when I can.

PROPOSAL #1: Allow Debate on Proposals to Delete Platform Planks

This proposal is exactly what it sounds like. Each national convention delegate receives "tokens" which they place in boxes representing platform planks that they would like to see deleted. Any plank which gets tokens representing 20% of credentialed delegates gets an up or down deletion vote. Currently, "Such votes shall be cast without amendment or debate." Under this proposal, there would be ten minutes of debate before the vote.

I oppose this proposal, but it's not a major issue to me. Why do I oppose it? If 20% or more of delegates want the plank deleted, chances are it's a controversial enough plank that the delegates are aware that it's controversial and already have firm opinions on it that won't be changed by 10 minutes of debate. So it's basically a proposal to waste 10 minutes times however many planks are at issue. And the national convention is always pressed for time anyway.

PROPOSAL #2: Clarify Method of Electing Judicial Committee

If I'm understanding this proposal correctly, all it does is make it clear that Judicial Committee members are elected by ballot rather than by a voice or rising vote. Which makes sense, and is something I'd obviously support. If I'm misunderstanding it, hopefully someone will explain what I'm misunderstanding so I can modify my opinion as needed.

PROPOSAL #3: Appoint Credentials Committee Members Earlier

Right now, state affiliates which are entitled to appoint members of the credentials committee must do so no later than 30 days prior to the convention. This would change that deadline to six months before the convention.

I don't have a strong opinion here.

On one hand, a deadline of one month before the convention would give state affiliates more time to appoint such members at their state conventions, which are usually less than six months prior to the convention.

On the other hand, a six month deadline would give LPHQ more time to attend to other things than bugging the affiliates about their appointments, and the committee more time to do anything it might need to do prior to the convention.

But on the third hand, a six-months-ahead deadline does offer more opportunities for arm-twisting and subversion, and the credentials committee has been a source of problems in recent years, as for example when, two conventions running, it recommended approving credentials for a fake state affiliate from Oregon rather than for the real one (that was corrected in 2016, over the vocal protests of a supporter of the fake Oregon affiliate who, with accomplices, is on this year's bylaws committee). So I'm a bit suspicious. Anyone else have an opinion?

And that's all I have time for at this moment. More -- and more controversial -- later as time allows.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Who Knew? For That Matter, Who Knows?

The latest prescription drug to get used as an "abuse/addiction" fetish by the drug warriors is gabapentin. From an AP article:

Many doctors aren't aware of gabapentin's potential for abuse, particularly among those with a history of misusing drugs, said Rachel Vickers Smith of the University of Louisville.

People tracked in her research describe gabapentin as a "cheap high" that is almost "always available."

OK ... what the actual fuck? So far as I can tell, gabapentin is not only not a "cheap high," it's not a high at all. And I've been using it three times daily for several years. The back story on that:

A long time ago (circa 1990), a tie-down strap on a boat trailer broke and the tongue of the trailer hit me in the small of the back (I worked in shipping at a factory that built boat trailers). It hurt for a few days, then went away except when I did things like run for more than a mile or so.

In the late 2000-oughts, the pain went from "only when Tom runs long distances" to "even when Tom walks very far" and then "sometimes just all the time." It got worse and better, worse and better. I generally used a cane if I knew I'd be walking much. At one point I was looking at ramp blueprints on the assumption that I would be in a wheelchair fairly soon.

Finally, I gave in and got a referral from my doctor to a spinal surgeon, who looked at the images and told me "yes, you have an old injury, with a little bit of degeneration. It should hurt, but it shouldn't hurt nearly as much as you say it hurts. I think that it's more a matter of referred diabetic nerve pain than pain from the injury itself." And she prescribed gabapentin.

Miracle. Drug. Within weeks, I put the canes away. I walk several miles a day every day now, with very occasional twinges of lower back pain (usually in the morning -- probably need a better mattress). I've even been doing a little bit of running (spurts of a quarter mile or less during my walks -- I need to lose weight for that to not be too hard on my knees).

But getting high? I have never, ever, ever noticed even the slightest psychoactive effects from the drug. Or even sleepiness or anything like that.

Three clues from the same article:

Medical journal articles estimate that between 15 and 25 percent of opioid abusers also use gabapentin. And emerging research suggests combining gabapentin and opioids heightens the overdose risks.


Gabapentin was detected in a third of fatal overdose cases analyzed by Kentucky medical examiners in 2016.


Michael Polydefkis, a neurologist at John Hopkins University who primarily treats seniors with nerve pain, says he has never seen patients deliberately misuse gabapentin.

They're finding gabapentin in the bloodstreams of people who are overdosing on opiates, particularly opiate pain medications.

Well, duh. People who overdose on opiate pain medications are overdosing on opiate pain medications BECAUSE THEY ARE IN PAIN. Apparently, in pain that neither the opiates nor the gabapentin are, at that moment and in reasonable doses, effective in fighting.

My guess is that the "cheap high" talk is along the same lines as the bananadine phenomenon or an old wives' (young singles'?) tale that I remember hearing about in junior high school relating that one could get high just as with cocaine by grinding up aspirin and snorting it.

My guess is that the origin of that idea is some people syllogizing thusly:

  1. Opiates are effective in treating some kinds of pain;
  2. Opiates will get you high;
  3. Gabapentin is effective in treating some kinds of pain; therefore
  4. Gabapentin will get you high.
But, of course, the drug warriors and the "addiction" industry are always in dire need of new stuff to scare people with. And gabapentin happens to be next on their list of excuses for trying to run other people's lives.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Sending Crypto is Getting Easier ...

I've made several purchases recently using to let me pay in any crypto I have handy. That way I don't have to, for example, pay a Shapeshift fee to convert Ethereum or Bitcoin Cash (BCH) to Old Wrecked Bitcoin (BTC). I just pay directly using what I have on hand.

That's pretty cool, so I decided to  buy a CoinPayments "Pay By Name" tag (cost: A whopping 1.99 USD) and add that to the ways you can support my work at KN@PPSTER and the Garrison Center. There's a link over in the sidebar (and here's one too).

Instead of futzing around with converting one coin to another, or asking me for a wallet address for WildAssBizarreCoin, just choose what you want to send (from a pretty wide range of options) and I'll get it. Even cooler, if you have your own CoinPayments wallet, there aren't any fees for sending coins from your wallet to mine there.

If you don't have a CoinPayments account, well, here's an affiliate link. If you sign up through it, I earn a commission on your transaction fees. A lot of sites accept payment via CoinPayments, which means that you could actually send me money without sending me money, just by creating an account to do the OTHER stuff you do :)

Some More Housekeeping

Hash: SHA256

I've been thinking about warrant canaries lately -- I maintain them here at KN@PPSTER and also at the Garrison Center.

The idea behind a warrant canary is that the feds have a habit the last few years of issuing "National Security Letters" demanding information from web site operators, etc. and forbidding them to disclose the fact of that demand. A warrant canary is a reverse engineer kind of thing. If it is updated, it means there's been no such demand. If it isn't, anyone who notices can assume that there has been such a demand. So all the victim has to do is not act to communicate the fact of a federal demand.

So anyway, I was thinking recently about the fact that the feds are not required to be truthful in any way, shape, manner or form. They're free to lie their asses off to get something they're after. So what's to stop them from just fraudulently updating a victim's warrant canary themselves?

It's hard to come up with a perfect solution to such a thing, but I have added an extra layer of verifiability to both the aforementioned warrant canaries. They are now PGP-signed and will be signed each time they are updated. My latest PGP key (fingerprint: 39EF 85F2 53CA C3B0 476A DF0B 2ECC E0C6 B0ED 3584) is available elsewhere on this blog and I will paste it in at the bottom of this post as well.

But how do you know I'm not just a fed making this up? You don't -- but I have sent private, encrypted messages to two readers -- Darryl W. Perry and MamaLiberty -- with what I hope are sufficient bona fides of my identity to establish the trustworthiness of the key. So if you don't already have my key saved and/or don't trust it, and if you doubt that the PGP signature on the canary is really me, you could presumably contact one of them and ask them to verify the signature. Not foolproof (and please don't fill their mailboxes up with requests just for the hell of it), but a start.

Version: Mailvelope v2.2.0


Version: Mailvelope v2.2.0


Thursday, May 03, 2018

Listing Pollution is Getting Worse

About a year and a half ago, I noted and complained about it as practiced on eBay. I even put up a petition asking eBay to crack down on the practice. It got a whopping 15 signatures.

A year and a half later, listing pollution is more widespread and far worse. Shopping for clothing items on Amazon is far more annoying than it should be, and takes far longer because now most stuff seems to be priced "from" $X.

For example, in search results, a pair of "brown dress shoes for men" is listed as "from $13.99." What does "from" mean? When you click through, you probably learn that if you want the shoes in size Triple Extra Small Narrow, and in Puke Green with Meat-Colored Flecks, yes, they are $13.99. But if you want them in any normal size and/or in any normal color scheme, they're $27.99.

Question #1: If I'm not willing to pay $27.99 for the shoes if that's what they're advertised at, why the hell would I be willing to pay $27.99 for them after Amazon wasted my time and pissed me off by trying to trick me into thinking they would be $13.99 or something close to that?

Question #2: If I ask the search results to show me only items that are eligible for Amazon Prime (i.e. free two-day delivery), and they show me a result with the little Prime logo next to it, isn't it reasonable to expect that when I click through I will not see "not eligible for Amazon Prime" and a minimum delivery wait of three weeks under every size and color option I click on? I pay good money for Amazon Prime, and while I don't expect every item on the site to be Prime eligible, I do expect items that Amazon tells me are Prime eligible to actually be Prime eligible.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

I Probably Should Have Done a Little More Research ...

... and spent just a few extra bucks.

Arriving tomorrow: A Thetis FIDO U2F Security Key.

Every time I am about to travel, I get more security-conscious. Going from a PIN to a full-blown passphrase on my phone and reducing the inactive time before it locks, for example. And updating my PGP keys. And setting up Boxcryptor.

I finally decided that part of all that is upping to two-factor authentication with respect to various sites I use (an added security layer in case my Chromebook gets lost, stolen, or held hostage by government ghouls) and that I would prefer authenticating with a dongle to receiving a code via phone (with the phone as backup in case I lose the dongle).

The Thetis only supports U2F authentication, not OTP. I did research U2F versus OTP and am convinced U2F is pretty good to go. What I hadn't really noticed, though, is that not nearly as many sites support U2F as OTP (here's a site that keeps track of which sites support two-factor dongle authentication and what types).

Neither of my preferred password managers (LastPass, which I use, and Password Tote, which I just took out for a test drive) supports U2F (they both support OTP, although LastPass only does so in its premium version, which I might have bought if it supported U2F). That's kind of a buzz-crusher.

Fortunately, Google and DropBox DO support U2F, and that's a good portion of what I want to keep behind a little more protection than e.g. my RSS reader or Disqus account. But for $5-10 more I could have had both U2F and OTP. Live and learn, I guess.

This is What a Sh*thole Country Looks Like

Per ABC News:

As teachers across the country combat the growing numbers of students vaping in schools, administrators are now using technology in high school bathrooms to cut down on e-cigarettes.

Edward Salina, the superintendent for Plainedge Public Schools on Long Island, New York, told ABC News' Brad Mielke during an interview for the "Start Here" podcast that Plainedge High School is involved in a pilot program for Fly Sense, a sensor system that alerts school officials when students are vaping.


Fly Sense, which is also an anti-smoking and anti-bullying sensor system, can be placed where cameras aren't allowed, such as in bathrooms or locker rooms. Salina said the high school has cameras located outside bathrooms to catch people five minutes before they enter and five minutes after they exit the bathroom.

Our would-be masters have pretty much dropped any pretense that their "public schools" are anything more than combination day prisons and serf indoctrination/conditioning centers.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

A Couple of Fun Facts

Fun Fact #1: In 2015, the Garrison Center's first year as a going concern, the Center's op-eds were picked up by mainstream newspapers and non-libertarian political publications 545 times. In the first four months of 2018, Garrison Center op-eds were picked up by mainstream newspapers and non-libertarian political publications 571 times.

Fun Fact #2: Not long ago, I opined that perhaps one reason Garrison is doing better than the Center for a Stateless Society in the op-ed mill racket is that C4SS's op-eds have to be explicitly anarchist while Garrison's don't.  I may have been wrong. Here's the final paragraph of the April 26 Garrison op-ed, in support of California secession:

"Ultimately, political government itself is the problem and a system of market anarchy or panarchy (competing “public service” providers within the same geographical area) is the solution. Until we can feel our way to such an arrangement, peaceful secession, decentralization, and devolution are probably the best outcomes we can reasonably hope for."

Anarchy, panarchy, and secession, oh my!  Too radical for mainstream newspapers? Nope. Picked up by USA Today, the Reno Gazette Journal, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, the Des Moines Register, the Fon du Lac Reporter, the Saint George Daily Spectrum, the Fort Collins Coloradoan, The Arizona Republic, the Detroit Free Press, the El Paso Times, the Nashville Tennessean, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Indianapolis Star, OpEdNews, the Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, and the Winchester, Tennessee Herald Chronicle.

Fun, fun, fun.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Note to Roy Moore

Of course there was a "political conspiracy" against you.

There was also a "political conspiracy" for you.

Different groups of voters and "concerned citizens" conspired to send different candidates to the US Senate.

In this case, the other candidate got more conspirators to the polls than you did.

It's called an election, you whiny, entitled, ephebophile snowflake.


Bob Dylan is going into the whiskey business.

At $60 a bottle, I doubt I'll be buying. And I do wish he was making the bourbon in Kentucky, where great bourbons are made, instead of in Tennessee where that Daniels fellow's rotgut comes from. But maybe I'll put on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, have some Old Crow, and pretend.

About That Michelle Wolf Monologue

One might think, from the news reports, that all she did was make Sarah Huckabee Sanders feel bad. That was about one minute out of nearly 20 minutes, and if you've ever watched a real celebrity roast (I've seen that comparison) she was actually fairly gentle by comparison.

I won't say her monologue was necessarily balanced evenly between pokes toward left versus right, but she did manage to spread the mockery around quite a bit. All the heartburn I'm seeing seems to boil down to "slow news day, what can we drum up to feign outrage over?"

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


After being leaned on heavily by both Thane Eichenauer and Steve Trinward, I've slowly become a bit of a Scott Adams fan.

Immediate effects of that have been that I occasionally mention him here or there, and usually cover his daily Periscope videocasts in Rational Review News Digest.

Now, however, there is a financial relationship that I think bears disclosure. Not because I think that it will necessarily affect the way in which, or the frequency with which, I mention Adams to y'all*, but because I think that should be something you know about and judge rather than me just not mentioning it. So anyway ...

I'm investing $10 or so (the "or so" involving transaction fees and any slight price moves in Ethereum -- the transaction is confirming on the blockchain now) in the Initial Coin Offering for WhenHub Interface, a company/app for which Adams is Chief Strategy Officer. It's an interesting "connect people to 'experts'" idea, and the first ICO in which I've invested personal funds (as opposed to accepting airdrops and such).

There being a referral bounty, please feel free to download the Interface beta app and receive 500 WHEN Tokens (part of this disclosure is that I'll get 3% of that amount as a referral bounty) for trying it out. You can use the app to find an expert or to be an expert who gets found and paid for his or her time in those tokens) by people wanting to talk with you.

* Nor because of what any idiot FTC bureaucrat might think. Screw them. I disclose what I think is important, not what they order me to disclose.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

I Still Think Kim Should Try This

Kim Jong Un has declared a moratorium on new nuclear weapons testing. The public pretext seems to be "hey, we've got working nukes, we don't need to test anymore." The obvious message to the US is "OK, we're giving you something as a prelude to these coming negotiations."

Of course, the US goal is for Kim to give up his existing nukes, not just to stop making and testing new ones. Most of the commentators I'm reading predict that that proposal will be received with words along the lines of "it will cold day in hell ..."

But I think Kim should go big in a way that leaves the US in a "put up or shut up" position.

He should offer to get rid of his nukes at the same time as, and at the same percentage rate as, the US.

If he has 10 nukes and the US has 1,000 nukes, he'll decommission one nuke for every 100 the the US decommissions. With mutual inspections for verifying both the declarations of numbers and the decommissionings, of course.

If the US negotiators don't just harumph and ostentatiously walk away from the table -- making the US look like a douche nozzle rogue state to the rest of the world -- their obvious objection will be "but all these other countries have nukes, and we can't get rid of ours until they get rid of theirs."

To which the obvious North Korean counter is "well, let's get them in here around the table and get this whole thing done, then."

Of course the US negotiators would just harumph and ostentatiously walk away from the table. Getting rid of weapons of mass destruction is always for those other regimes. And we'd be right back to the status quo ante.

But I still think that's the way Kim should go.

Suicide Squad: Not Really a Review

I've been wanting to see Suicide Squad ever since it came out, and unsuccessfully tried to talk the family into catching it on the big screen. I finally rented it on Friday (my "day off" as such things go).

Lots of fun. I'll try to avoid spoilers and this isn't rally a review, just some thoughts.

Reasonably good actors doing reasonably good acting, especially Margot Robbie. The film does visually (and promotionally in trailers, etc.) rely quite a bit on her physical assets, emphasis on the first three letters there, which might cause some to misunderestimate her acting ability. She makes the movie in a lot of ways. I've never been a huge Jared Leto fan, but I thought he did pretty well, especially in a role where he was expected to fill the shoes of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger. Will Smith is always a pleasure. And so on, and so forth.

The film is obviously the latest attempt at putting together a DC ensemble that can compete with Marvel's Avengers and X-Men. Fantastic 4 was apparently a commercial calamity (still haven't seen it).

I think it works, and hope for sequels. Of course, they openly cribbing from the Avengers template in certain ways:

The Avengers are recruited/assigned by former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury. The Suicide Squad is recruited/assigned by another black character, Amanda Waller -- they just made Nick Fury female and her position a little more ambiguous (no formal agency for the sole purpose of the project).

Instead of having the straight arrow military guy be a superhero type (Captain America), they go with a regular human (Colonel Rick Flagg -- I wonder if he's related to Randall?) who happens to be in love with one of the "meta-humans" -- June Moone/Enchantress). But they still have the straight arrow military guy.

Instead of Hawkeye with his ever-ready bow, they have Deadshot who can't miss with a firearm.

I'm not saying that there's nothing original about the film. It certainly stands on its own. But it's pretty obvious, once again, that DC is tired of only being able to do stand-alone superhero flicks (Batman) and wants one of those big group deals. I think they got it right with Suicide Squad.

I Really Don't Say This Often Enough

F**k Coinbase.

They're the answer to the question "if cryptocurrency could get cancer, what would it look like?"

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Some Housekeeping

Thing One:

Yes, I know I've been lax in updating the warrant canaries here at KN@PPSTER and over at the Garrison Center. They are now updated and valid through May 31.

Thing Two:

It's been nearly two years since I revoked my PGP key pair and created a new one. Done. Here's the new one:

Version: Mailvelope v2.2.0


Thing Three:

I just donated about $5 USD worth of Bitcoin to the WikiLeaks legal defense fund. If you are so moved please match my donation!

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