Monday, December 31, 2018

Louis C.K. Enjoys a New Degree of Creative Freedom


"Listen: Fuck it. What, are you gonna take away my birthday? My life is over and I don't give a shit."

Outraged headlines samples:
CNN: "Louis CK mocks Parkland shooting survivors"
OUT: "Louis C.K. Is Just Fully Doing Transphobic Comedy Now"
The Daily Beast: "Louis C.K.’s Leaked Comedy Set Panders to the Alt-Right"

My opinion:

Great set. His best? I don't know if I'd go that far, but it's rock-solid stand-up. It's funny, and funny is what matters in comedy.

Mocking "the Parkland survivors" wouldn't have been funny if they hadn't tried to set themselves up as moral authorities just because they got shot at. But they did set themselves up that way, and part of the price tag on doing that is that someone's going to mock you.

His bit on gender identity wasn't even remotely "transphobic." He made fun of the habit of demanding that others use one's chosen pronouns. To the extent that that is in fact often uttered as a demand, it is, again, something that deserves to be made fun of.

His set was no more "alt-right" than any given bit from Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, et al. But in bringing him low, the puritanical proggies freed him to say whatever the hell he feels like -- and to be as funny as he's ever been.

I'm Shocked -- Shocked!


That yet another political class multi-millionaire has decided to run for president as a "regular working/middle class (if you don't look closely)" type.

I am Not Now, Nor Have I Ever Been ...


... a member of People For the American Way.

I got on their email list somehow (from a scan of my email archive, I think it had something to do with the Kavanaugh SCOTUS abomination nomination), but I've never joined and have no intention of joining.

For the last week or so, I've been getting emails from them begging me to "renew" the membership I've never asked for, paid for, been notified of, or accepted.

That's annoying.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Proposal: The LG Heuristic


Yes, philosophical, political, and policy issues can be complex and multi-faceted. And I do think it behooves us to explore them all as thoroughly as possible rather than just jumping to conclusions.

But, if you need a quick method of figuring out which way to lean, I propose the following.

  1. Do a quick news search to find out Lindsey Graham's position on the topic of the moment (he's never long in expressing an opinion on anything); then
  2. Provisionally and subject to convincing rebuttal, but with a reasonably high level of confidence, assume that said position is the exact opposite of the correct one.

Wrap + New Year's Resolution


There will be 365 days in 2018.

This is my 365th post of 2018.

So, I made my goal of averaging one post per day in 2018.

I'm not increasing the goal number for 2019, but I am resolving to not find myself in a November/December situation where I need to play catch-up. In other words, not just 365 posts for the year, but seven posts for any given week.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

DNC Openly Embraces the Creepiness of Constant Tracking ...


Subject line noticed in my inbox:

You haven't opened one of our emails in awhile, Thomas


"According to our records, it's been a while since you opened one of our emails. So we'd like to give you the option to stay in touch with the Democratic Party by receiving text messages instead."



Tip for Lost WordPress Users


With the release of WordPress 5.x, the "post editor" has changed to a new format called "Gutenberg," whic is geared toward creating "media rich pages and posts." That is,

WordPress is moving further from its origins as a blogging system and toward its current usage as a more overall Content Management System.

Gutenberg is the default post editor in new versions of WordPress. Changing to it is automatic when you update your WordPress installation to 5.x (and some hosting services automatically update WordPress installations "for" you after a certain amount of time, whether you ask them to or not and whether you want them to or not).

If your site is set up the way you like, and you don't want to change the way you create content, never fear -- there's a plug-in that lets you revert to the "Classis Editor." I've used it on two of my sites and, after a few days of use, I've found no problems with it

Note: Apparently some users, for some reason, have to go to their "Writing" settings and select "Classic Editor" as "default post editor." I didn't, it was automatic, but if you install the plug-in and nothing seems to change, that's where to look.

Friday, December 28, 2018

First "Historical" Find ...


I didn't find this in the hole where I dreamed there were pieces of eight. I was just kind of swinging the detector around while walking back toward the house from said hole, and ...


That's a nail, photographed next to a 100mm cigarette to show its size -- maybe 5" in length.

Minimal Internet research says that these were around as early as 1820 and started getting replaced by more modern nails in the late 19th century. So it's presumably at least 120 years old and maybe close to 200.

It was only a few inches under the surface, so I guess it might have been used elsewhere and then dropped in my yard much later, perhaps when a load of dirt was brought in or something. But for the moment, I'm going to assume that there was an old house, barn, whatever, 150-200 years ago,  in what is now my "side yard."

Well, it Works ...


The metal detector I ordered from Amazon using Purse (affiliate link!) at a 23% discount, that is.

It arrived today.

I tested it on a couple of known metal locations around the house, and it beeped.

Then I took it to the spot in the yard where I dreamed I found old Spanish pieces of eight*, and it beeped some more. Haven't found whatever's down there yet. Lots of tree roots to dig around. But it's beeping where I know there's metal, still not beeping where I know there's no metal, and finding metal I didn't know was there (an old bolt in the yard, after I got tired of digging and decided to sweep around elsewhere just to make sure I wasn't fooling myself).  So I think there's metal there.

I'm fairly confident I'll find some stuff that's at least fairly old in the area I'm focusing on. It's near some trees that separate my lot from my neighbor's. My neighbor had a tree guy tell her they were at least 200 years old, possibly older. If that's true, they were already big, mature trees as of the Civil War. I suspect they were a dividing line between plantations or plantation fields, or perhaps fronted property on a now long-gone road, and that it's reasonable to believe that at some point, people congregated to work, rest, party, whatever in their shade. And dropped stuff.

* No, I don't think that my dreams possess special predictive/locative powers. But that dream (probably 4-5 years ago) got me thinking about seeing what might be buried under the place where I live. The itch never went away, I finally decided to scratch it, and the dream location seemed both an appropriate and otherwise practical place to start.

Best of Both Worlds


Trump says that until he gets funding for his wall, the fake government "shutdown" will continue.

Perfect -- no wall and a smidgen less government. Can we just keep it that way for, say, another 50 years or so?

Thursday, December 27, 2018

What Would Market "Perfection" Look Like?


Max Gulker, writing at the American Institute for Economic Research, asserts: "Markets are not perfect, but markets are essential."

The piece is a response to this tweet from Niskanen Center president Jerry Taylor:


Gulker alludes to the economic concept of "perfect competition" and his take is quite interesting, but I'm going to take a different tack vis a vis "perfection" here.

While I usually discuss actually free markets versus the state-coercion-tainted markets we actually have, here I instead assert that each and every market transaction, state-coercion-tainted or not, is, and markets such therefore are, in fact "perfect" in the sense of being "Brought to consummation or completeness; completed; not defective nor redundant; having all the properties or qualities requisite to its nature and kind; without flaw, fault, or blemish; without error; mature; whole; pure; sound; right; correct" on the only metric that really matters. That is:

In any market transaction, all parties perceive themselves as better off due to the transaction than they would have been absent the transaction.

Let's take the example from Taylor's tweet: Places that rent (including "rent to own") furniture, appliances, etc.

The deals they offer are not "good." But they are "perfect." That is, the people renting refrigerators and televisions from them want those refrigerators and televisions more than they want the money they have in their pockets; and the rental places want that money more than they want to keep the fridges and TVs sitting unprofitably in their warehouses. Everyone may not be as happy with the transactions as they would have been with other, but for whatever reason unavailable, transactions ... but they're happier with the available transactions than they would have been without them.

Do I recommend the "rent to own" places? Nope, not for most applications. By the time you've gained ownership of a particular thing from them, you'll have paid four or five times its cash on the barrelhead price. So if you can pay cash at a regular store, or get reasonable financing terms, that's preferable. But if you only need something for a very short time, or if you just can't scrape together the cash and really, really, really need X now, it may make sense.

In the distant past, I've considered doing business with these places twice.

Once I did so. I needed to furnish a new apartment for a few weeks until I had time to get out and find used/inexpensive stuff -- I was working a lot of overtime, I had company coming, and wanted I furniture in there NOW more than I wanted the money it cost to rent the stuff. So, a perfect transaction.

Once I didn't. I needed a working computer. Looking at the rental prices on what they were offering, I calculated that two months of rental fees equaled what I would pay for the computer I needed. So I reverted from Windoze to a DOS box for a couple of months, saved my money, and bought a newer PC when I could instead. What they were offering at the price they were offering wasn't worth as much to me as they wanted for it, and I was willing to do without a GUI for a little while (this was the mid-1990s), so we just didn't do the deal. A perfect non-transaction.

ChromeGrrr ...


Google constantly updates the Chrome browser and ChromeOS, and most of the changes are usually either not user-noticeable, or cool.

But it seems like every few months, they say "hey, why don't we change the appearance of the tabs at the top so that it looks terrible and makes it very difficult for the user, at a glance, to distinguish the active tab from all the other tabs that are open?"

At which point, I have to go looking for the fix to make Chrome go back to usable non-ugliness.

The fix usually shows up pretty quickly thanks to bloggers who understand better than I do how Chrome works under the hood.

So, ChromeOS build 71.0.3578.94 is out, and once again the "hey, why don't we change the appearance of the tabs at the top so that it looks terrible and makes it very difficult for the user, at a glance, to distinguish the active tab from all the other tabs that are open?" crowd got their way yet again.

Waiting for the fix.

Occasionally, Trump is Refreshingly Honest ...


... even if it's with a wink and a nudge.

Per CNN:

Video footage and the written report of Trump's visit with service members in Iraq showed the President signing "Make America Great Again" hats and an embroidered patch that read "Trump 2020."

But troops' requests for the autographs could brush up against Department of Defense guidelines for political activities.

...

Retired Rear Adm. John Kirby, a former Obama administration spokesperson and a CNN analyst, said on CNN's "The Situation Room" on Wednesday that service members having Trump sign the items was inappropriate.

"It is in fact a campaign slogan, that is a campaign item, and it is completely inappropriate for the troops to do this," Kirby said.

Kirby assigned some blame to Trump himself for political activity around the military: "Every time he's around military audiences, he tends to politicize it, and he brings in complaints and grievances from outside the realm of military policy."

Every time any president politician addresses a military audience, or visits troops in the field, it's a campaign event.

The only difference with Trump is that he doesn't make any really visible effort to pretend it isn't.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

"Prolonged?" Really?


Politico:

The partial government shutdown entered its fifth day Wednesday with no signs of a breakthrough and hundreds of thousands of federal workers about to feel the pinch of a protracted standoff.

Five days. Two of them were weekend, one was a holiday, and the Monday between was probably a very popular vacation day. Today is pretty much the first real day of the fake "shutdown."

I guess I can't blame Politico for hyping it a little. The Christmas-to-New-Year period is generally slow news time, precisely because (and thankfully so!) nobody's in Washington doing anything during that time frame.

They Say That Posts About Sex Get More Clicks ...


... so hey, here's a video about how !!!THEM RUSSIANS!!! used sex toys to !!!STEAL!!! the 2016 presidential election.


N.B. -- I'm not especially familiar with Jimmy Dore, and a little research says I probably disagree with him on lots of things. But the first five minutes of this video (I'm still watching it as I post this) are pretty freakin' funny.

Interesting!


I've read theories about biblical manna, and even Jesus, being psilocybin mushrooms.

What if Santa Claus was Amanita muscaria?


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

And Another Government Secrecy Thing


John Roberts, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, acted yesterday to hold off a contempt citation versus an unnamed company in an unspecified case.

The company's arguments against being required to comply with the subpoena are:

1) That it's not a US company and therefore not subject to US jurisdiction; and

2) That complying with the subpoena would violate the laws of the country it is from.

Which both make sense to me -- it seems the last few years, the US government just seems to assume that its laws apply to everyone and everything, everywhere. I strongly suspect the US government would react very negatively to, say, the Russian government trying to enforce Russian law in, say, the District of Columbia.

But at least as bothersome to me is the "unnamed" and "unspecified" part.

We're supposed to have a public judicial system in this country. Prosecutors and courts shouldn't be able to keep secrets concerning who has been subpoenaed and why.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Kevin Spacey Has Talent. And Balls.


He's not going gently into that good after-fame night after all ...


So What are YOUR holiday plans?


We don't do the "presents under the tree" thing. For one thing, our cats would make short work of a tree. We generally buy a few things for the kids (main things -- a Chromebook for one, a new mattress for the other) and each other (I got a sweet ukulele for Tamara, and my main present was the trip to Wisconsin), and give them when they arrive.

To my recollection, a total of one present hasn't arrived yet. I used some cryptocurrency via Purse to order a metal detector. I've been wanting to do that for years, ever since dreaming that I found some pieces of eight in the back yard. Which is actually possible! But I'll be happy to find any metallic evidence of, say, pre-1950s habitation.

We're having dinner with one of the neighbors tomorrow. I've got a standing rib roast and a ham to cook. There will also be mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (yech -- but the others like them), green beans, etc.

If you're not too busy, share what you're doing for whatever winter holiday (or just winter break) you celebrate.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

"File Under Mistrial" Revisited Revisited


So, they're holding the show trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman with a secret jury and in New York (the Constitution says it has to be a public trial and "in the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed," i.e. Mexico) and he's not even allowed to speak at his own trial.

Now, they're openly admitting to tampering with the witnesses.

The difference between this stuff and Vyshinsky's show trials in the Soviet Union is that people noticed the latter. Today, in America, it's just business as usual.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Still Heroic


Mark Rober built a great "package thief punishment device" ...


Now it turns out that some of the thieves who got filmed reveling in its splendor weren't thieves after all:

Rober explained that he'd asked his friends -- and friends of friends -- to try out his invention, even offering to pay those who could recover their packages.

What Rober didn't know, he said, is that some people called on their own buddies to pretend to be robbers, then sent the sham reaction videos to Rober, who passed them off on social media -- unwittingly -- as authentic.

Rober apologized when he found out:

Still very cool, though.

I Prefer Flying Cheaply to Feeling Special


Hannah Bogorowski at The Daily Caller:

Airlines are getting creative in an effort to streamline their boarding processes and get passengers on planes faster, but many see the rules as a guise to charge customers more and satisfy those who pay more.

The upshot: A lot of airlines are moving to things like paying extra to pick your seat, to bring a carry-on, to check a bag, etc.

My view: When I fly, I fly Allegiant Air if at all possible, and cost is a big part of that equation.

My round-trip flight from Florida to Wisconsin (specifically, Clearwater-St. Pete Internationl to to General Mitchell International in Milwaukee) came to a total of $120.

About six bucks of that was air fare ($11.xx minus a five-dollar discount for booking a round trip.

About $64 of it was government taxes/fees.

And I paid $25 each way for a checked bag.

I could have paid (IIRC) $12.50 each way to select my seat, but I was fine with sitting anywhere they put me. Yes, I prefer a window seat, but not so much that I'm willing to pay extra for one (I did have a window seat on the return flight, and an aisle seat on the return flight ... both of them better than the middle seat).

Each passenger is allowed a "personal item" -- a purse, laptop bag, whatever -- and the size allowance is fairly generous.

If you want a second "carry-on" item, you pay ($15 per flight, IIRC).

If you want to check a bag, you pay ($25 per flight).

Since I was going for a full week, the checked bag made sense (I did consider just mailing my stuff up and back in a flat rate box, but decided not to get too fancy just to save a few bucks).

If I was going somewhere for a day or two, I might save $10 per flight and just do a carry-on.

I like it that way.

The people complaining about this stuff prefer the old days when the fare was the fare (unless you bought first class), included a checked bag and a carry-on, and had "priority boarding" that made them feel superior to the people who had to get on after them. I'd rather be able to cut my expenses by taking only what I really need to take (instead of paying full fare even if I don't take everything allowed), and by getting on the plane whenever they feel like it's my turn to get on the plane.

So, the trip:

$120, plus gas (maybe 300 miles at ~30mpg, so add another $30 for gas). $150. About 2 1/2 hours of flying each way, with a short drive from Milwaukee to Racine and a two-hour drive at each end between Gainesville and St. Pete. So, total, call it 10 hours.

Google maps makes the drive to be about 1,100 miles, 16 1/2 hours each way. So driving would have been 33 hours and about $220 in gas if there were no hotel stays or meals purchased along the way.

Greyhound: At their cheapest fares, the trip would have cost $453.00 and involved nearly 80 hours on a bus.

I could have flown Delta or United out of Jacksonville, but that would have been at least an extra $100 in base air fare, not counting any baggage fees, etc.

Flying Allegiant, due to the features described above, saved me somewhere between $70 and $300 and between one and three days. And since my brother and his wife fed me well, etc., while I was up there at their expense instead of mine, and since I would have been eating if I had stayed home, I figure the trip was pretty much free. Heck, I may have made money on it!

So I'm not gonna complain about it.

Friday, December 21, 2018

This Could Get Interesting: @RealDonaldTrump v. the Perpetual War Lobby


Trump has announced a pullout of US ground troops from Syria.

Apparently a drawdown of the US presence in Afghanistan, by about one third, is in play as well.

The Secretary of Defense has announced his pending resignation, and he's not doing it on the usual specious "time to spend more time with my family" claim. He's very clear that it's because Trump's foreign/military policy views and his just don't mesh.

The usual suspects are wailing and gnashing their teeth.

Will he stick to his guns (typed before I noticed the pun, but heck, I'll leave it there)?

If so, good on him.

I just hope it doesn't turn out to be a "decrease ground presence, increase numbers of drone strikes on weddings, funerals, hospitals" move.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

More Than 500 Libertarian Op-Eds ...


... more than 1,000 comments, even though the site itself isn't where the op-eds are really intended to be read ...

... and, last time I checked, on track for more than 1,500 pickups of op-eds this year by mainstream newspaper and non-libertarian political publications (where the op-eds are intended to be read) ...

... that's what things look like at the Garrison Center as of today. I usually don't notice the total op-ed and comment numbers, but I happened to be in that part of the dashboard a few minutes while checking for any weirdness in the upgrade to Wordpress 5.x.

Pretty good outreach, IMO. If you agree, why not hit the sidebar here at KN@PPSTER and support what I do?

They Say Elections Have Consequences ...


... and in Florida, one of those consequences is that, as of January 8, convicted felons (excluding those convicted of murder or felony sex crimes) who have completed their sentences are eligible to 1) register to vote and 2) vote.

That's because last month, Florida voters approved (with nearly 65% of the vote) a constitutional amendment (Amendment 4) with said effect.

But Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner and governor-elect Ron DeSantis don't like how that vote came out*, so now Detzner says the legislature needs to provide "guidance" to election officials and DeSantis says the law shouldn't take effect until the legislature passes "implementing language."

That's bullshit. There's nothing unclear about the law and any delay in implementing it, or legislative attempt to alter its effect, is a crime under federal law.

Per Section 11(a) of The Voting Rights Act of 1965, "No person acting under color of law shall fail or refuse to permit any person to vote who is entitled to vote under any provision of this Act or is otherwise qualified to vote ..."

Section 14(c)(1) specifies that "The terms 'vote' or 'voting' shall include all action necessary to make a vote effective in any primary, special, or general election, including, but not limited to, registration ..."

And Section 12(a) specifies that "Whoever ... shall violate section 11(a) or (b), shall be fined not more
than $5,000, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both."

Any election official who fails, on or after January 8, to process the registration of someone made eligible to vote under Amendment 4 -- including the Secretary of State and the new governor, if either of them or both of them order election officials to so act -- should face the maximum penalty prescribed above.

* They don't like how the election came out because they're Republicans who expect the bulk of newly eligible voters to vote (if they vote at all) for Democrats.

See Something, Say Something, GoFundMe Edition


Some nob has started a GoFundMe campaign to finance Trump's Berlin Border Wall project.

In addition to being an evil and stupid idea, the campaign violates at least three sections of GoFundMe's rules on prohibited content:

Section 8: The campaign is specifically in "support of, or for the legal defense of alleged crimes associated with hate, violence, harassment, bullying, discrimination, terrorism, or intolerance of any kind relating to ... national origin ..." (since Article I, Section 9 and Amendment 10 of the US Constitution deny the federal government a power to regulate immigration, any attempt on its part to do so is unconstitutional and therefore illegal; and this particular violation of law is aimed specifically at persons of Latin American national origins).

Section 10: The campaign funds human trafficking/exploitation/vigilantism by making immigration more difficult and exposing immigrants to the cartels and "coyotes."

Section 21: The campaign facilitates the violation of proprietary rights of third parties (the land owners whose property is to be stolen through "eminent domain" for construction of the wall being funded).

There's a "report campaign button" at the campaign link. I used it. I hope others will too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Soooo Boring ...


I started catching on to the formula for Shutdown Theater back in the 1990s when it was the Republicans vs. Bill Clinton on "draconian cuts" to Medicare (in actuality, the argument was about whether to increase Medicare spending by one amount or by one infinitesimally smaller amount).

The formula looks something like this:


  • Have an argument about something that doesn't really amount to a hill of beans but riles up both parties' bases (in this case, it's about whether or not to spend a few billion bucks making the US-Mexico border just a little more East-Germanish);
  • Raise the specter of a "government shutdown" which is actually no such thing ("essential services," VERY broadly construed, aren't affected -- if a service ISN'T essential, why the hell is the government doing it in the first place);
  • Either one side wusses out and a "stopgap spending bill" prevents the supposed "shutdown" (that's what appears to be happening this time); or
  • America settles in for a few days of whiny feel-bad stories about how Mom and Dad can't take the kids to Yosemite because of the mean ol' Republicans, after which one side or the other wusses out and a deal is reached (under which all the non-essential bureaucrats who got sent home get paid for their vacations).
Trump seemed to be feinting toward the approach that I've always recommended (instead of whining that the shutdown stuff "isn't my fault," own it -- "damn right I'm responsible for the shutdown, and it will STAY shut down until you say uncle") this time, albeit over a stump-stupid demand. But after two years it's become obvious that if anyone can be counted on to wuss out, it's Trump.

Then There are Those Days When I Actually LIKE Trump




Per Bloomberg:

Donald Trump declared victory over Islamic State and ordered a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria in a sharp reversal of American policy that appeared to take the Pentagon by surprise.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” Trump said Wednesday morning on Twitter.

The U.S. military is working to quickly carry out Trump’s order, according to one official with knowledge of the plan. But it wasn’t clear how soon the approximately 2,000 troops would be coming home and what the president’s decision would mean for vulnerable Kurdish allies that they have supported.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

BUMP


Carl Bussjaeger read the 157-page "bump-stock ban" rule so you don't have to.

Austin Petersen points out that you don't need one of the banned devices to do what the banned devices let you do.

My opinion:


  • "Bump firing" is dumb. It sacrifices accuracy for high rate of fire. Such a trade-off only makes much sense in a few military scenarios involving units, not individuals (covering avenues of approach in a defensive position, forcing an enemy unit to keep their heads down while aiming shooters take them out in an ambush, etc.).
  • BUT: Any ban on any weapon or part thereof is inherently evil. Individuals have the right to defend themselves, and the right to possess and use such equipment as they deem needful for doing so.
The ban is a joke.

There's no "grandfather clause" and when it goes into effect the owners of the banned devices will be expected to turn in their gear within (IIRC) 90 days. I expect very low single-digit-percentage compliance with that demand.

I don't expect any real attempt to enforce it as such -- they'll just "enhance charges" against people nicked for other crimes (real or imagined).

If there are any organized attempts to track down and confiscate the devices, I expect we'll see a few dead bump-stock owners, a few more dead cops, and a quick declaration of victory and loss of interest in pursuing the matter further.

Which, frankly, may be the best possible outcome if it makes a few politicians re-think their more ambitious victim disarmament ("gun control") proposals.

If You Can't Win an Actual Election ...


... just wait for someone to retire and get yourself appointed, I guess. Per the Washington Post:

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has appointed fellow Republican Rep. Martha McSally to the Senate, he announced Tuesday, picking a favorite of GOP leaders to fill the seat John McCain held for decades.

McSally, who lost a close race for Arizona’s other Senate seat this year, will succeed Sen. Jon Kyl (R). Kyl will step down at the end of the year following a brief time in McCain’s seat after McCain’s death in August.

The Interesting Ways of "Influencers"


From a piece by Taylor Lorenz at The Atlantic:

A decade ago, shilling products to your fans may have been seen as selling out. Now it’s a sign of success.

...

the hardest deal to land is your first, several influencers say; companies want to see your promotional abilities and past campaign work. So many have adopted a new strategy: Fake it until you make it.

Sydney Pugh, a lifestyle influencer in Los Angeles, recently staged a fake ad for a local cafe, purchasing her own mug of coffee, photographing it, and adding a promotional caption carefully written in that particular style of ad speak anyone who spends a lot of time on Instagram will recognize.

...

When a local amusement park paid several bloggers to attend the venue and post about their experience there, Joshi, a fashion and lifestyle influencer, went on her own dime and posted promotional posts as if she were part of the bigger influencer campaign.

A few years back, when the "influencer" cult was really just getting started (with e.g. the recently defunct Klout), I had a little bit of fun and scored some free products for review, sponsored blog posts, etc.

I never considered pretending that stuff was sponsored/compensated when it wasn't, though. In fact, I went out of my way to make it clear whether or not that was the case (and I still do vis a vis affiliate links and so forth).

I'm obviously not an "influencer" on the scale of a well-known athlete, model, or whatever, but I do hope I exert a certain amount of benevolent influence on those who bother to check out what I'm up to.

Maybe I ought to start promoting (and thanking) "sponsors" who've never heard of me?

Monday, December 17, 2018

One Thing I Missed While Traveling



Alexa, what's the weather?

Alexa, set an alarm for 4:30am.

Alexa, who won the University of Florida's football game today?

Alexa, what's the square root of 934?

Alexa, play songs by Bob Dylan.

Alexa, play reveille on all devices.

If you ever buy one (not an affiliate link), you'll probably get used to it, and start relying on it for various things, very quickly. I did, anyway. And yes, I know some of you don't like something listening in on you all the time and would never dream of sticking one in your house. Which is fine. But I like it. We have three of the damn things.

Bingo, Sort of


"This is the one investigation that the sole purpose of the investigation is produce crimes, not to investigate them." -- former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino on Fox & Friends.

I disagree on the "this is the one investigation" part. In fact, the FBI's general modus operandi seems to run toward either actively inciting, or just plain manufacturing, crimes. Sure, when there's a real high-profile crime or suspect, they'll investigate. But if they've got nothing real on a suspect, they'll just throw a "lying to federal agents" charge at the wall and see if it sticks. And if they're not busy, they'll go out and actively work to radicalize young Muslim men and hector them into pulling the triggers on fake bombs just so they can make the evening news.

That doesn't mean Trump's clean. In fact, I'd bet money he's dirty in 50 different ways. But the purpose of the Mueller probe isn't to investigate that dirt per se. Rather, the purpose of the Mueller probe is to discredit (and, so far as possible, nullify) the outcome of the 2016 presidential election so that Vladimir Putin, rather than Hillary Clinton, can be deemed responsible for Hillary Clinton running a piss-poor loser of a campaign.

OK, so Once Again I am Behind the Blogging Curve


Yep. I had planned on average two or more posts a day in December. More than halfway through the month, this is my third. I'm not great with math, but I think I'm lagging the goal a bit.

I got back home early Sunday morning after spending a week in Racine, Wisconsin (where I had breakfast one morning with Dave Kristopeit, aka The Racinian). The occasion for the trip was my brother Mike's move from a drafty little apartment to a new (well, not new -- built in 1930, in fact, but new to him and his wife, Pam) house. The air fare was $35 each way and hopefully I saved him hundreds of dollars on hiring a moving crew (we moved little stuff in his pickup truck and rented a U-Haul for one day to move the big stuff).

The situation there was not ideal for blogging, etc. There was Internet access at the apartment, but not the house, I was working on a laptop (I hate working on a laptop and seriously considered checking a bag with my desktop and two monitors), and in addition to publishing RRND and writing one of the three Garrison Center columns I should have (I got one out; Joel Schlosberg, whom I had contracted to write three in three months, brought his final one of the deal in and partially covered my ass), well, there was about eight hours a day of move-related stuff to do (packing boxes; shopping for, staining, installing a knob in, and unsuccessfully trying to hang, a new door in the house, etc.).

So, blogging got short shrift.

Nice trip, though. I hate cold, and Wisconsin was colder than I liked, but not terrible. I love Mike and Pam and was glad to spend some time with them. I like volcano chicken, and got a plate full of that at a place called Sticky Rice in Racine, which I highly recommend if you're in the area.

While I was gone, my 20-year-old finally got her driver's license, then promptly totaled the family car (at least we think it's totaled, have to wait for the insurance company to say one way or the other) in an encounter with an off-ramp guard rail on her way to a cosplay event in Orlando. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

Anyway, I am back and expect to blog more. Maybe a lot more. I want to hit the 365-post mark for the year.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Food for Thought


Suppose you (a US citizen) visited Mexico.

And suppose that while you were visiting Mexico, you got arrested and told you would be extradited to China.

For violating Beijing's trade sanctions on Rwanda.

That's how ridiculous this is.

Wow ... It's Been More Than a Week Since Last I Blogged?


I guess it has. Doesn't feel like it. Between Tamara traveling to Miami for work (she got home last night) and me getting ready to head for Wisconsin tomorrow, with other minor emergencies and regular work stuff interspersed, that's what got put off.

But I need 33 posts this month to make my "one post per day on average" goal for the year, so ... make that 32, and I'll try to get with it a little.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Do I Have Any Readers in the Racine or Milwaukee Areas?


A sudden decision, partially driven by the $35 air fare each way:

I'll be visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Racine, Wisconsin (flying in and out of Milwaukee) from December 8th-15th. They just bought a house so hey, why not help them move in?

If you're in that area and would like to grab coffee -- or if there happens to be e.g. a libertarian movement event I could drop in on -- please let me know (contact form is here). The 8th and the 15th will both be mostly travel days (getting in on the evening of the 8th, leaving the afternoon of the 15th), but most other days I could probably get free for a little while.

At least one lunch or dinner time is reserved -- I have to get back to Sticky Rice in Racine for more volcano chicken (for some reason I can't find it in Gainesville). Last time, I had it with one "star" of heat (the options run zero to five). There was sweat on my forehead (in Wisconsin in April, so it wasn't the climate) and my sister-in-law told me my face was fire engine red. So I think this time I may go for two stars.

Frankly, I don't think this trip will amount to much out of pocket cost. After taxes and baggage fees and so forth, the round trip air fare came to $120, the drives to the airport in St. Petersburg shouldn't use up THAT much gas, and I figure the relatives will throw me a baloney sandwich every couple of days to keep down food expenses. But remember, I am always fundraising -- that's how I manage a writing/editing lifestyle instead of mopping floors or changing tires for a living, both of which I have also done -- and you can help out over in the sidebar if the spirit moves.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Yeah, I'm Doing the Petition Thing Again ...


It's something I've complained about right here on the blog before (but not so much that it's worth finding and linking to).

Please sign my petition urging Netflix to release the "Gore" biopic that they produced then put on the shelf because Kevin Spacey took a massive fall.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Really, It's Long Past Leg Iron and Orange Coverall Time for These Thugs


If immigration is indeed "invasion," then US law enforcement committed a war crime at the juncture of gang turf lines ("US-Mexico border") yesterday.

But who can bring the perpetrators to jusice?

Presumably the US regime would exercise its veto power over any UN Security Council resolution holding it accountable.

However ...

While the stories I'm reading on the war crimes (use of chemical weapons) aren't specific enough to tell for sure, it seems that the US regime thugs sent their CS canisters flying over to the Mexican side of the turf line.

Mexico is signatory to the Rome Statute, which brings war crimes committed on its claimed turf -- and the war criminals who commit them, whatever their nationality and whether or not THEIR government has ratified the Statute -- under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

Time for the court to take notice, procure permission from its Pre-Trial Chamber to open an investigation, and issue Interpol Red Notices for the arrests of Donald J. Trump, Heimatsicherheitsdienst ("Homeland Security") secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, US Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost, and all others for whom probable cause can be established vis a vis involvement in conspiring to commit, ordering, or actually carrying out the attacks.

OK, so Let's Say it IS an "Invasion"


Immigration authoritarians -- including US president Donald Trump -- urge us to think of the "caravan" now trying to get its members across the gang turf line ("border") as an "invasion."

That's a very common argument from immigration authoritarians about immigration in general, and of course it's bullshit. Some guy trying to get from Juarez to Topeka to get a job plucking poultry isn't an "invader." Neither are 5,000 of them an "invasion." They're not looking for a fight and they're not trying to seize territory. They're doing the same thing you're doing if you travel from Nashville to New York (crossing numerous city, county, and state "borders" along the way) for a job interview.

But now Trump has used the "invasion" idiocy to justify stationing military forces at the turf line and having US "law enforcement" attack the immigrants.

Well, OK, then. Let's take him at his word, just for the sake of argument.

An "invasion" implies a war.

And using CS ("tear gas") is a war crime.

So, is it still an "invasion?"

If so, the United Nations needs to constitute a war crimes tribunal and demand the handover of the entire chain of command involved in this fiasco, up to and including Trump himself, to face the music. Under the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which the US is signatory, "[e]ach State Party undertakes not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare" (among other things (including not having those weapons in the first place).

Hey, don't complain, immigration authoritarian "invasion"-quackers. Words mean things.

An Up Side to Trumpism?


Continuing from ...

I will admit that my timeline for re-categorizing people, on an individual basis, from "libertarian in error" to "knows better and doesn't care" is getting shorter and shorter.

The Trump era is certainly proving consequential within the libertarian movement.

His presidential campaign and the 2016 election moved some fairly recent "authoritarian, but 'libertarian' sounds really cool, sooo ..." arrivals to the movement to out themselves, either by admitting they weren't really on board with libertarianism and departing, or engaging in pathetic attempts to Trumpalize the movement.

His focus on immigration is also bringing the "libertarians in error" versus "knows better but doesn't care" distinction on that subject to a head.

For many years, I was fairly comfortable with treating the former as the (rebuttable) presumption and the latter as requiring a high burden of proof. But now that immigration's finally a major marquee issue again, and now that some people to whom I previously gave that benefit of doubt are e.g. moving from "the problem with DACA is that it's not within Obama's legit executive power" to "Trump should have a free hand because people crossing gang turf lines without my permission to get jobs is an invaaaaaaaaaasion," presumptions of any kind make less and less sense. They seem to be saying what they really mean to say, so it would be arrogant to presume that they don't really believe it.

I was somewhat unsettled a couple of years ago when Vin Suprynowicz banned me from his site for pointing out that his position on immigration is authoritarian, not libertarian. He kept treating that (indisputably correct) claim as a claim that he is an authoritarian, not a libertarian, and therefore indescribably rude and an unacceptable repudiation of years of friendship.

I was honestly flustered that he didn't seem to understand the distinction between "libertarian mistakenly taking an authoritarian position" and "not a libertarian," and yeah, it hurt to be disassociated from over such a misunderstanding.

But given Vin's full-on public conversion to Trumpism since then, it's become quite clear that either his dedication to that one authoritarian position trumps (ahem) all other principles and has dragged him away from libertarianism entirely -- a manifestation of one form of Trump Derangement Syndrome, perhaps? -- or that the libertarian guff was all an act in the first place. I'd like to think the former. So much of his stuff was so damn good for so many years that it's hard to believe it was all an act. So I won't.

I'm still going to hang with the "libertarian in error" presumption where I can, but that presumption is just a lot less tenable lately. Immigration specifically and Trumpism generally are visibly separating the authoritarian sheep(le) from the libertarian goats.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Some Electoral Strategies are so Dumb You Assume You're Reading Fiction


I just have to wonder what the hell Mississippi governor Phil Bryant was thinking when he appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith to the US Senate to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Thad Cochran.

Thinking strategically, when a governor has a special election coming up to fill a vacancy, he presumably wants to temporarily appoint the person who already has the best prospects of winning that special election for his party, so as to add the advantages of incumbency to that candidate's prospects.

So who did Bryant appoint? A candidate who seems custom-made to piss off Republicans and Democrats more or less equally.

It's obvious why she pisses off Democrats. She was a Democrat for ten years in the state senate, then conveniently switched parties (changing the balance of the senate to an exact 26-26 partisan split) when she started considering a run for statewide office.

While voters on the fence are certainly noticing the "I'd go to a public hanging" remark and the "hey, I'm a politician, I know what's smart -- I'll get myself photographed in a Confederate hat!" thing, they probably also remember that even as a Democrat she was pulling the neo-Confederate stuff, e.g. trying to get a highway renamed after Jefferson Davis. She isn't saying, but I'm guessing that she chose The Most Hated and Distrusted Woman in America over That Black Fellow in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

On the Republican side, she's the "establishment" candidate, a party-switching opportunist who beat out conservative horse Chris McDaniel in the "jungle primary." McDaniel isn't a party-switcher. He's been serving in the state senate as a Republican for as long as Hyde-Smith did as a Democrat. He got similarly snubbed in 2014 when he ran to replace "establishment" incumbent Cochran. Yes, he's terrible, but he's terrible in a Southern Republican red meat kind of way.

Hyde-Smith is definitely a Get Out The Vote star -- for supporters of Democratic candidate Mike Espy. For Republican voters, not so much.

It's like Phil Bryant just woke up one morning and decided to stand on the front porch of the governor's mansion screaming "Republicans, don't vote! And if you do vote, don't vote Republican!"

Of course, Mississippi, Mississippians, Americans, and freedom are already guaranteed to lose this election. But it's just kind of surprising that Republicans apparently don't want to win it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Let's Do a Listicle! or, Five Things I Like about @DaveWeigel



  1. Even since leaving Reason and ending up at the Washington Post, he's given fair, balanced, and attentive coverage to the Libertarian Party and its candidates. Not fawning/saccharine coverage, mind you. He's neither fool nor flack. But it's nice to have a journalist of stature sweep his spotlight across our poorly-covered and seldom-covered niche now and again for some purpose other than giggles.
  2. Maybe he's just a good guy, or maybe he has that gift so coveted by salesmen and politicians as well as journalists. He remembers people. I probably spent a grand total of five minutes around him and two minutes talking with him at the Libertarian Party's national convention in 2008. At the 2016 convention in Orlando, I happened to be behind him in the line at the registration desk. He turned around and said "oh, hey, Tom!" and we talked for a couple of minutes. Half the time I can't remember someone's name for eight minutes, let alone eight years. Including, sometimes, my own. So I find that charming.
  3. He wrote a book on progressive rock. Not especially my cup of tea (you know me, I'm more of a folk/blues/country type), but I am still planning to read it. Some time. Real Soon Now (hint: There's a link to my Amazon wish list in the sidebar). Heck, I'll give y'all a quickie review when I do. The description mentions some bands I dig (Yes, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Rush), not all of whom I would necessarily dig on prog rock terms per se, but what do I know?
  4. If he's really rocking that 'stache from the pic on his Twitter feed, (I recall him as clean-shaven last time we encountered each other), well, sir I stand in awe.
  5. I don't have to go hunt him down any more. He writes an email newsletter, The Trailer. It's awesome. Good nuts and bolts stuff on what just happened and what's going to happen in US politics. You really ought to subscribe.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part


Earlier this week, I moved as much as possible of my (pitifully small) cryptocurency holdings into Bitcoin Cash (BCH), in anticipation of the announced "hard fork" (what was Bitcoin Cash is now Bitcoin ABC, still with the BCH ticker on most exchanges).

At present, my particular wallet (Coinomi) still has BCH transactions in suspension and I haven't heard when (if?) they will end that suspension and add the new fork-generated coin (Bitcoin SV, ticker apparently BSV), of which I should enjoy an equal balance.

In the meantime, cryptocurrency in general took a beating yesterday. Wrecked Bitcoin (BTC) is down to less than $4,500 (a week ago it was at $6,300) and all the other major cryptocurrencies are way down as well.

What to do?

Well, in my case there's nothing to do but sit and wait, seeing as how my BCH/BSV balance isn't movable at the moment.

If I could add to that balance at the moment, I would.

The following is not investment advice. I am not a financial advisor by inclination, occupation, or gummint certification. Do your own research and reach your own conclusions.

My expectation is that the crypto market will begin to rise again before the end of US holiday weekend (perhaps even today) and that most significant cryptocurrencies will regain their USD price of a week ago no later than mid-December and probably before that.

My further expectation is that once all the hard fork agitation is done, BCH will quickly regain its previous market value and trend upward, while BSV may enjoy a short honeymoon before quickly fading away. Which means that absolutely as soon as possible, I'll be trading my shiny new BSV for BCH.

But per the disclaimer above, that's just me.

A Proposition


Resolved, that "opposition to freedom of migration" is a specific instance of the more general class "support for war."

Discuss.

Monday, November 19, 2018

These Aren't Affiliate Links, But They're Still Pretty Cool


At Guitar Strings For Life, you can get "free" guitar strings. They're actually $2.98 "shipping and handling," but not a bad price. I've purchased two sets. Unfortunately, I haven't had a need to use them yet and so I can't review them. But I'm a cheap strings kinda guy, and I expect that they'll be perfectly good cheap strings. They also run a raffle that you can enter once a day. The drawing is every few months. The prize is a $100 (IIRC) Guitar Center gift card.

Udemy is an online course provider. They're running a $9.99 "Black Friday" type sale right now. Once you've purchased a course, the materials (video lectures, audio, PDF lesson files, etc.) are available for life. I've taken two courses (one on guitar, one on harmonica). Haven't completely finished either one, but I've learned quite a bit from both and am planning to take more once I finish these. Not just music, either. Pretty much anything you might want to learn about.

Concertina Theater


In early November, US president Trump raved about the "beautiful barbed wire" going up to protect MURKA from the evil furriners.

I pointed out (somewhere, I don't remember where) that it wasn't really barbed wire but concertina wire. Nasty stuff. Instead of little barbs, it's festooned with razor blades. It will cut your ass right up. When I was in Saudi Arabia, a Marine in my company stepped off a bus without looking and right into concertina. IIRC, he was cut up badly enough that he got sent home rather than returned to duty in country.

Anyway, Eric Boehm points out at Reason that the military is "securing" 1,900 miles of border with 22 miles of concertina. Or, to put it a different way, they're "securing" 22 miles of border.

But they're not actually "securing" anything.

I'm willing to bet money that Mexican hardware stores, like their US equivalents, stock wire cutters. And concertina wire cuts just like any other wire.

The purpose of concertina is to slow an attacking enemy down and or channel his approach so that you can hammer him with machine gun and rifle fire from your defensive positions behind it.

So, let's assume that the US government actually wants to defend that concertina line instead of just leaving wire there that anyone who wants to get through can cut and boogie on past. I'll try to be conservative here.

On the one hand, they wouldn't need World War 2 style concentrations of, say, an infantry company per thousand meters, along the frontal defense. The "enemy" is small groups of unarmed or lightly armed migrants who'd rather not fight, crossing presumably lightly vegetated terrain -- not exactly the Wehrmacht trying to break through US lines in the Ardennes in December of 1944.

On the other hand, that 22 miles of wire would need to be reasonably covered by effective fire.

The range of the M-60 machine gun is about 1,200 meters, but you don't want to be firing at extreme range and you want overlapping fields of fire. So let's call it an M-60, backed by riflemen, etc. every 500 meters. There are six M-60s in a rifle company's weapons platoon, so the company could cover 3,000 meters.

22 miles is about 35.4 kilometers. Let's call it 36 for simplicity's sake. You're going to need 12 Marine rifle companies -- that's four infantry battalions (or a regiment plus one battalion) of three rifle companies each, backed up by a weapons company and a headquarters company for each battalion -- to cover that territory.

So about 3600 Marines (not including regimental assets), or 100 per mile.

Assuming an average rank of very junior lance corporal (I'm being conservative, remember?), none of whom get extra pay for dependents (ha!), etc., their base pay alone ($1,931) is going to come to close to $7 million per month. That's not counting their food, their medical care, the costs of housing them, the costs of operations, etc.

Want to do that all along the 1,900 miles of US-Mexico border? Per my lowball junior lance corporal formula, the pay alone will come to a little over $600 million per month, or $7.25 billion per year.

Let's be realistic about the pay and call it $15 billion a year because most of those Marines won't be lance corporals and most of them will be getting extra allowances for dependents, etc. And that's before they eat a meal, show up at sick bay with the clap, start their Hummers up and burn gas going on patrol, etc.

I'm guessing that real "border enforcement" of that type would run $50 billion a year, easy. It would also require more than half again as many people as the Marine Corps currently has serving in all occupations,  and far more than the US Army has serving in infantry.

And anyone with a pair of wire cutters and the ability to keep quiet (or a working boat) who really wanted in would probably get in anyway.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Something I Just Realized


I usually think of my time with The Freedom Movement's Daily Newspaper as having begun on December 23, 2002, which is when the first edition of Rational Review News Digest came out with me as "publisher." So 16 years next month.

At the same time, I date the publication back to 1991 by incorporation/descent (in the beginning there was Libernet, which became Freedom News Daily, which went out of business spawning Rational Review News Digest, which then came back and incorporated a resurrected RRND).

But I'm pretty sure my time with the publication actually exceeds 20 years. I don't remember offhand when Free-Market.Net bought out Libernet and rolled it into FND, but I started working with Free-Market.Net circa 1995 and started working more specifically on FND itself some time between then and 2000, when I became FMN's managing editor. I think I started working with FND in 1997.

Maybe I should buy myself a gold watch ...

Friday, November 16, 2018

Some Quick Acosta Predictions


So, a federal judge has ordered Jim Acosta's White House "hard pass" temporarily restored, pending resolution of CNN's frivolous lawsuit claiming that the First and Fifth Amendments require the Trump regime to give unfettered White House access to Very Special Important People Who Are Affiliated with Very Special Important Organizations.

So he gets to go sit in the White House press room again.

Where he will be ignored.

Neither Sarah Huckabee Sanders nor anyone else speaking from the White House press room platform will recognize him when he wants to ask a question.

The interns who hand out the microphone will have strict orders against handing it to Jim Acosta.

At some point, some other journalist will seek to be recognized, and get the mic, and hand it over to Acosta. At which point the mic will be shut off and that other journalist will go on the same shit list.

And then CNN and Acosta will go back to court, harumphing about how Very Special and Important they are and how mean ol' Trump needs to be ordered to stop being mean to them.

I generally don't watch White House press briefings even when they air live. But I'll be microwaving some popcorn for this stuff.

There Seems to Be a Loophole in the Law ...


18 U.S. Code § 241 - Conspiracy against rights:

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same .... They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

The way I read that, we can't throw the people responsible for this nonsense in the slammer and schedule their lethal injections until and unless they actually manage the proposed kidnapping and bring their victim into a US State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District.

As a general rule I oppose capital punishment except as administered at the scene and time of a violent crime by the victim or someone acting on the victim's behalf. But we seem to have a growing problem with Vyshinskyism among prosecutors, judges, etc. and it needs to be brutally stamped out by any means necessary.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Conspiracy-Minded Me, For a Moment


Today, a newspaper editor responded to an email he received "from" me:

This invoice GUU_59636372, and our October invoice are both extremely overdue.

Please can you conform a payment date and get this cleared urgently to avoid us having to proceed with legal action.

Thank you for your business - we appreciate it very much.

Thomas Knapp
675-548-7736
868-079-3136 fax
E-Mail:media@thegarrisoncenter.org

That email address is my email address at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

Of course, The Garrison Center doesn't charge newspapers for op-eds. They're free. Heck,they're immediately put in the public domain precisely so that editors and publishers will know they don't -- can't -- cost  them anything (I think it's great outreach; if you'd like to support the project, see the right sidebar at this blog).

Naturally, I had to wonder whether this was just a regular scam ... or an intentional attempt to discredit the Garrison Center with publishers.

I found the answer in the phone numbers.

Neither of them are mine, or in any way related to the Garrison Center.

The area code for the first one is not in use in North America but is the country code for Papua New Guinea.

The area code for the second one is for Trinidad and Tobago.

These are almost certainly "premium" phone numbers, sort of like 900 numbers in the US. That is, when you call them, in addition to the phone bill itself, you get charged some ungodly amount of money per minute, with the money going to the owner of the phone number in question.

The whole idea of the "invoice" was that the scammer hoped the editor would be mad enough to pick up the phone and call with the intention of giving me a piece of his mind, rather than just replying by email, and end up with a $20 (or, hell, maybe $200) charge on his phone bill.

So, probably not any kind of political skulduggery. But still a very bad and evil thing.

My New Public Key


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A Prediction


Obergruppenfuhrer FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb just announced that he and his gang plan to ban menthol cigarettes.

By the day before any such ban takes effect, convenience stores will begin stocking one or more products that turn unflavored cigarettes into flavored cigarettes.

It's not like such things don't already exist. Camel Crush cigarettes come with little menthol capsules in the filters. You squeeze the filter, feel a little crunch, and bam -- it's a menthol cigarette.

Gottlieb is just enough of a little fascist scumbag to outlaw the sale of "menthol flavor modules" as a food and/or drug. So sell them as air fresheners or whatever. Not Circle K's fault if you buy them at the same time as a pack of smokes and use them as soon as you walk out of the store, right?

An Angle to the Florida Election Fight That Most People Don't Seem to Notice


It's a given that when an election runs even a little close, one side will demand a recount and the other side will pull out all stops to prevent a recount. Especially in Florida.

But this year, there's an added reason why Republicans are especially desperate to hold on to the governorship, and to have two Republican Senators who won't be inclined to intercede with, say, the US Department of Justice on certain matters.

That reason is Amendment 4. It passed with 64.5% of the vote and it restores the vote to convicted felons (excluding, for some reason, those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses).

How many new voters will this create? Toward which party will they likely lean?

The number I've heard for those who will become eligible to vote is 1.6 million.

Let's assume that half of those can actually be prevailed upon to register. That's 800,000.

I've seen varying statistics for race/ethnicity of convicts prisoners, but the conservative estimate seems to be: About half of them are African-American. That's 400,000.

And somewhere around 90% of African-Americans who vote usually vote for Democratic candidates. That's 360,000.

Other racial/ethnic groups don't break for either party to such a high degree, so those non-Africa-American inmates (35% "white," 15% "Hispanic," give or take) are probably pretty much a wash.

In 2014, Rick Scott beat Charlie Crist for governor by about 64,000 votes.

In 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton for president in Florida by 112,000 votes.

So you can see what 360,000 newly minted Democratic voters means for the future of Republicans in Florida statewide elections.

The Democratic strategy regarding voters is to register as many of them as humanly possible, and then get as many of those registered voters to the polls as humanly possible. And yes, I'm well aware that sometimes "humanly possible" means "fake it and hope we get away with it."

The Republican strategy regarding voters is to make it as difficult as possible for people who might not vote Republican to 1) register to vote and 2) actually vote.

So the Republicans' only hope of holding on to Florida next time is to keep control of the state's executive branch this time -- and spend the next four years throwing up as many roadblocks as they can think of to prevent the "former felon vote" from actually coming into existence.

And it would also be helpful to have two Senators who can be relied upon to not lobby the Voting Section of the US Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division vis a vis complaints about the GOP's voter suppression campaigns in their state.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

More Stupid Email That I Get


I keep getting emails urging me to donate to  Florida "recount funds."

Some of the emails are from Republican outfits and/or Rick Scott's US Senate campaign. Some are from Democratic outfits and/or Bill Nelson's US Senate campaign. Some are from or name-check Andrew Gillum's campaign for governor. To the best of my recollection, I haven't heard from Ron DeSantis, but I may have.

The thing is, these aren't "recount funds." The costs of the recount itself are already fully covered by Florida's taxpayers.

I'm being asked to donate to cover the two parties' costs of public relations and litigation, not the costs of the recount.

No thanks.

Action Suggestion


Suffer not any surveillance instrument operated by a government or government contractor to fulfill its functions.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Continuing Source of Puzzlement


I've probably seen a million posts or emails along the following lines, so I'm not going to single out the source for this version by name (you can probably Google the exact quote and find it if you're that interested):

Over a month ago, I commissioned a new site. It is not ready yet and probably will not be till the first of the year. I would love to put us on a new site tomorrow, but the costs of just getting a temporary site up and running amount to upwards of $10,000.00, which I cannot justify.

The existing site is a blog. On a subdomain of an existing service. Based on the content, commenting system, formatting (very simple theme), it looks like the only thing that cost any money -- or at least should have cost any money -- was the logo. I'm not including content, of course. I understand that many sites are going to have to pay writers to create new content on an ongoing basis. And for that I am grateful!

Apparently there are some site functionality problems, although I haven't run into them myself in my brief perusal of the site. But it looks to me like "getting a temporary site up and running" would be a matter of exporting the content, importing it into an installation of Wordpress on shared hosting or a cheap server, or hell, even Wordpress.com, which is essentially a better competitor of what he's on now (the number of comments would seem to indicate not a whole lot of traffic), choosing a theme that the logo works nicely with (probably a free theme, maybe a $50 theme), and pointing the domain name at the new name servers.

That would also be more or less what it would take for a move to a permanent new site. If the guy thinks it would cost ten grand to set up a temporary site, I shudder to think what he's paying whomever he "commissioned" for that job.

Of course, I am not an expert site developer these days. I was circa 1995, when "expert" meant "can hand-code HTML in a text editor and animate a GIF." Times have changed. But they've changed for the better.

I've probably built 100 Wordpress sites and 10 Drupal sites, some better looking than others, most of them as good or better looking than the one above, over the last 10 or 15 years. Some required me to learn a little PHP. Some were built using themes or graphics that I spent money on. None of them required any level of expertise that a person of average intelligence couldn't pick up in low double-digit hours. There's a free or cheap plug-in out there that will do just about anything you can imagine wanting to do. It's as simple as searching for it, clicking "install," clicking "activate," and possibly entering some settings.

If you don't want to do it yourself, Wordpress developers are thick on the ground and hungry, and discrete small blog creation tasks can even be farmed out for five bucks a pop on Fiverr.

Sure, there are kinds of sites that need king-hell infrastructure to run across multiple servers serving millions of visitors a day with high-bandwidth, highly interactive, or sensitive (e.g. banking) information.  But about the most complicated thing one might really needs for a political site is a "find out who your congresscritters are and email them" form (for which Google has a free API and for which there are free plug-ins).

So, what am I missing? Are these "need tens of thousands of dollars for a new web site" pleas just fundraising guff, or are people really spending that kind of money on ... blogs?

Florida: Didn't Trust the Count. Won't Trust the Recount.


So the latest on the Florida recount is that governor Rick Scott is suing to have ballots, voting machines, etc. impounded by the state police at all times when votes aren't actually being counted.

Seems reasonable on its face. If you think that the Democrats are manufacturing ballots and sticking them in the pile, it's natural to want to have someone keep an eye on 1) the machinery used to generate and count ballots and 2) the piles of existing ballots.

But the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is run by Richard L. Swearingen, appointed by Rick Scott in 2015 to replace Gerald Bailey, who was removed without explanation by Scott. And the Florida Highway Patrol is overseen by the executive director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Terry L. Rhodes. Also appointed by Rick Scott in 2015. And Rhodes appointed the current chief of the Highway Patrol, Gene Spaulding, later that same year.

So essentially Scott is asking for his people to split halvesies access with those other people to the ballots and machinery for generating same. After eight years of an in-your-face vaudeville routine of trying to make sure that people who won't vote for Rick Scott don't get to vote at all.

Who actually won the elections? We'll likely never know. We're basically down to the question of which party will be most successful at stealing them.

How to Double Your Support for KN@PPSTER ... Sort of


So, Bitcoin Cash, aka BCH, aka Real Bitcoin, is coming up on a "hard fork" on November 15.

Without going into the technical details of a hard fork, here's the result:

After the hard fork, there will be two coins where there was formerly one -- and if you own a wallet to which you control the keys, you will have the same amount of both coins as you previously had of the one.

So, for example, when Bitcoin split into BTC and BCH, if you had 1 BTC in your wallet, you subsequently had 1 BTC and 1 BCH.

Now, obviously, the two coins will not subsequently be worth the same as each other. Depending on how the market receives the hard fork, their respective market values will diverge. Using the previous example, the 1 BTC you had in your wallet is, at this moment, worth about $6,400 while the 1 BTC that came into existence due to the hard fork is worth about $530.

Anyway, here's the thing:

If you donate some BCH to me from the right sidebar at this blog, I'll be holding on to it until after the hard fork, at which point I will have exactly as much "Bitcoin ABC" as I do "Bitcoin SV" (at least I think that's what they're calling the two coins).

And if you donate some other cryptocurrency, I'll probably convert it to BCH and hold it until after the hard fork as well. So your donation of X will magically become a donation of X and a donation of X-variant.

So pretty please with sugar on top, if you've been considering throwing some crypto at me, do it now :D

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Who Won in Florida? Your Guess is as Good as Mine.


Before I moved to Florida, I lived in a Democratic Party machine district in the St. Louis, Missouri area. I've seen up close the way votes often mysteriously appear out of seeming thin air to fix outcomes in favor of Democrats.

On the other hand, I've also lived in Florida for most of Rick Scott's tenure as governor, and couldn't help but notice that he spent a lot of time, effort, and taxpayer money on the project of making it as difficult as possible for people who looked like they might not vote Republican to vote at all, or to have their votes counted if they did by chance negotiate their way past his roadblocks.

So, who got the most votes in Florida? Republican Rick Scott or Democrat Bill Nelson for Senate? Democrat Andrew Gillum or Republican Ron DeSantis for governor?

I just really don't know. Both sides tried, and are still trying, to steal those two elections. One will pull it off in each case, and the other won't.

My public prediction was that Nelson and DeSantis would win (and my private prediction was that it wouldn't even be particularly close), but that prediction was based on anecdotal  observations in one particular area of the state more than on poll data, etc.

On the third party front, the Reform Party's Darcy Richardson knocked down 47,081 votes according to the New York Times. Also according to the Times, DeSantis only beat Gillum by 36,002 votes. So if anyone wants to whine about "spoilers," it looks like Darcy fits the bill!

Friday, November 09, 2018

No, the Election is Not Over Yet ...


... and I'm not talking about recounts in Florida.

There's a special election coming up for a state legislative seat in Texas.

Last time he ran for that seat, Clayton Hunt knocked down 10% of the vote.

This time he can do better than that: The winner of that election just resigned and Clayton will likely be facing multiple opponents of the same party (Democratic), including the loser of the last Democratic primary for that seat. Also-rans will be splitting the Democratic vote and Clayton will be the alternative.

Clayton runs a lean, mean, loud, effective campaign. Please help him out.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

It's Embarrassing What Passes for a "Left" in the US These Days


I had an email this morning from People For the American Way. They wanted me to come out and protest.

Against the firing of far-rightist Jeff Freakin' Sessions.

Because his replacement might interfere in the project to pin blame on someone, anyone, other than center-rightist Hillary Clinton for center-rightist Hillary Clinton's 2016 election loss.

WTF, PFAW?

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Got Him




Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Well, Now, This is Kind of a Rookie Mistake in Strategic Political Thinking ...


Writing at The Atlantic, Alexis C. Madrigal calls 2018 "The Facebook Election That Wasn't."

Campaigns have spent $3 billion on TV and radio, doubling their spending from 2014. The dueling campaigns for one of Florida’s Senate seats and for the state’s governorship alone have plowed $354 million onto the airwaves. According to Facebook’s Ad Archive Report, that’s almost exactly what all political advertisers combined spent on the platform from May to November 3. We might have spent the past two years talking about Facebook’s electoral impact, but the people with skin in the game are betting it is about a tenth as important as TV and radio.

How much was spent on one thing versus another, in and of itself, tells us very little about how "important" either thing is.

There are a bunch of different ways to reach voters. Some of those ways reach the same voters as others. Some of those ways reach different voters than others. Some reach more voters more times at the same cost.

If it costs me $1 to reach a voter using Facebook, $2 to reach that same voter with a piece of direct mail, and $3 to reach that same voter with a radio or television ad, it does not follow that because I spent $1, $2, and $3 on those things respectively that the last one is "more important." It just means that I spent what I had to spend to reach that voter via each medium.

And it may cost me $1 to reach that voter 10 times, rather than one time, via Facebook (and to reach 100 other voters because that voter shares it with all his friends) and $30 to reach that same voter 10 times by radio or television. Should I multiply my Facebook spending by 30 just to show that I consider Facebook "important" even if I don't need the additional repetitions?

I would say that the last part is very relevant. If I get a flier in the mail, I probably don't run over to show it to my neighbor. If I see an ad on television, I probably don't DVR it and invite everyone I know over to watch it. But if I see an interesting piece on Facebook, I might well "share" it to my ~5,000 "Facebook friends" and 100 of them may take a look at it.

Social media is cheaper, but that doesn't mean it's less "important."

If you're a voter, ask yourself this: Which affected your thinking about the various candidates more -- TV ads or memes your friends threw at you on Facebook?

Looks Like Heavy Turnout to Me ...


I went out this morning to put Richardson/Argenziano signs up at the 21st of 21 polling places I was able to get to in Alachua County, Florida, and hung out for a couple of hours waving one of the signs at traffic. More on (another candidate's) signs at the end of this post.

I'd classify this polling place as "suburban" -- maybe two miles outside the Gainesville city limits and pretty much surrounded by middling to upscale housing developments.

Alachua County has about 180,000 registered voters divided into 63 precincts, so about 2,850 voters per precinct.

In 2016, 44% of Alachua County's registered voters voted early rather than on election day. I suspect that percentage is higher this year, but let's go with it. For this precinct, that would amount to 1,254 voters who have already voted, leaving a maximum possible number of 1,596 voters who could potentially cast ballots.

The polls are open for 12 hours, from 7am to 7pm. So in order to hit 100% voter turnout (excluding the early vote), we'd be talking about an average of 133 voters per hour per precinct.

I didn't try to count traffic during the morning rush hour leading up to 9am.  Traffic in general was heavy because it always is (the polling place is on a main road leading into Gainesville. Lots of work traffic, and lots of school buses slowing that work traffic down), but I didn't pay attention to how many vehicles were turning in to the polling place.

Between 9:20am and 9:30am, I did two separate "minute counts." Each of them had four cars per minute coming in to the polling place.  That's 240 cars per hour, which would result in maximum turnout in less than seven hours.

No, I'm not expecting 100% turnout. There will presumably be slower stretches through the day.

But I will not be surprised if there's higher turnout this year than in 2016. Early voting locations looked very busy last week as well.

About those signs:

There are three county commission candidates: Democrat Marihelen Wheeler, independent Scott Costello, and Libertarian Greg Caudill.

I saw lots of sign-waving for Costello at early voting locations, but as far as stationary signage at polling places goes, Caudill seemed to be beating both of his opponents as of last night and this morning. I saw a Caudill van out hitting polling places at the same time I was last night. This morning at the polling place I went two, there were two Caudill signs, one Wheeler sign, and no Costello signs.

BUT: One of the Caudill signs had been bend down flat to the ground by its frame, and the other one had been torn off its frame entirely and left lying on the ground. I unbent the one, and lent one of my own frames to the other. Shame on whoever pulled that shit.

Monday, November 05, 2018

One of My Rare "Speaking as a Veteran" Posts


Speaking as a veteran, I don't see any good reason why veterans should be considered off-limits for the kind of mockery directed at other people -- especially politicians.

In fact, I'll take it a bit further than that:

If you're running for public office, or even just expressing a political opinion, while playing the "veteran" card, whining like a three-year-old when someone makes fun of you kind of blows the whole Sergeant Stryker image.

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