Sunday, October 14, 2018

Why I Might Seem at Times to Prefer Bigger and/or More Powerful Government


The obviously needful advance disclaimer: I DO NOT.

In fact, given my druthers I would do away with the state entirely and would press Murray Rothbard's Magic Button right now if it appeared in front of me.

Within the existing state system and in terms of practical politics, I will support any policy move that I regard as genuinely "in the right direction" -- that is, any measure that I believe reduces the size, scope and power of government in any area and on any issue -- without deluding myself into believing that that measure gets to the root of the problem.

And then we have cases where none of the options "on offer" in a practical sense seem to meet the "right direction" criterion. At which point I look at those options, try to pick the one that seems least awful on non-libertarian criteria, and perhaps give that option lukewarm rhetorical support versus the other options (while still calling for the abolition of the state and/or real "right direction" moves).

For example:

In comments on an earlier post on healthcare, Jim L writes "I am usually a free marketer, but we don't have that.

To which I reply (as I have similarly said elsewhere and in other formats): "What we have is a mix of left-wing socialized healthcare (about 20% on Medicare, about 20% on Medicaid, 3% enrolled in VA healthcare, etc.) and right-wing socialized healthcare (HMO/PPO/ObamaCare, etc.). I'd rather have a free market. But if we're going to have almost entirely socialized healthcare, I suspect that 'single payer' would be better. Less complex, possibly less expensive."

No, I don't endorse "single payer," or "Medicare For All," or any of that nonsense. But if someone handed me a magic button and the only function it served was to let me choose between the existing system and "single payer," I'd probably go with "single payer."

To explain why, let me butcher and repurpose a quote from Abraham Lincoln:

"As a nation, we began by declaring that 'healthcare is something the market provides.' Over time we came to practically read it 'healthcare is something the market provides except for the elderly, and the poor, and veterans, and whenever the AMA monopoly doesn't like the market.' Increasingly more so over the last 45 years, we now read it 'healthcare is something the market provides except for the elderly, and the poor, and veterans, whenever the AMA monopoly doesn't like the market, and when Big Pharma and Big Insurance can lobby to have us all forced into its HMO/PPO schemes via e.g. tax policy.' I should prefer we make no pretense of loving the market and take our socialism pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."



Does Anyone Really Know How Much Medical Care Actually Costs?


Presumably so -- I've heard of practices and clinics that refuse insurance of any kind and are entirely "cash and carry." Even those prices are distorted by the overall climate, but at least they're prices directly negotiated between provider and patient, so they presumably communicate some kind of coherent information on cost of provision, scarcity of staff and equipment, etc.

For those of us with "insurance," not so much.

Case in point:

I recently had an office visit with a specialist.

The medical equipment involved included, to the best of my recollection, a scale, a thermometer, and a sphygmomanometer. In other words, stuff that is neither especially expensive nor costs a lot to operate (like, say, an MRI machine).

The visit's total length was around an hour, probably 20 minutes of which was spent waiting due to technical difficulties (a regular old desktop computer went down -- hard drive problem that kept it from booting up) and patient backlog (some older patients ahead of me had problem with the computerized check-in kiosk, etc., and it kind of cascaded). But let's generously call it an hour of raw time and three person-hours of work time between the doctor, the physician assistant (who did most of the heavy lifting), and other staff (receptionist, nurse, et al.). My real guess is less than two person-hours because most of those people are multi-tasking, but I don't want to lowball the costs of provision.

My co-pay was $35. Not bad at all.

According to billing, the full charge for the visit was $747.

That seemed high to me until I did some research on salaries, etc. In addition to going high on person-hours involved, I went with the higher numbers I found for doctor pay, etc. and used the two highest salaries I found (doctor and physician assistant), and multiplied even that by 1.5 to account for non-salary costs to employ someone. I came up with staff costs of about $420.

According to Becker's Hospital Review, median hospital labor costs as a percentage of operating revenue run 54.2%. Which, based on my labor calculations above, would mean that the hospital expected to bring in about $775. So the "real" price of my appointment (as opposed to my co-pay) was only about $28 (3.5%) off of what the labor numbers I SWAGed would lead me to expect.

The combined "real" bill for my echo cardiogram and nuclear stress test last week came to $4,787. Of course, those things involved expensive equipment, drugs, more focused staff time and more of that staff time involving people with specific technical credentials, etc. But once again my co-pay was $35.

If the whole pricing scheme just sounds bizarre and even crazy to you, it does to me too. But it occurs to me that my "insurance" pricing is tasked with absorbing some of the difference between actual costs and what the hospitals and clinics can bill for the same services when provided to Medicare and Medicaid patients, administrative costs of complying with government regulations, etc.

That is, I expect that in a free market, cash on the barrelhead pricing would be significantly less than the numbers you see above. But also more than I could afford to pay ;-)



Saturday, October 13, 2018

Florida Ballot Issues Endorsements: No on Amendment 3


I'm not sure how many of the issues on Florida's November ballot I'll bother analyzing here, but at least one or two, starting with Amendment 3. The relevant parts, excluding the word definitions section, etc. ...

This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida. This amendment requires a vote by citizens’ initiative pursuant to Article XI, section 3, in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law. This section amends this Article; and also affects Article XI, by making citizens’ initiatives the exclusive method of authorizing casino gambling.

...

Nothing herein shall be deemed to limit the right of the Legislature to exercise its authority through general law to restrict, regulate, or tax any gaming or gambling activities. In addition, nothing herein shall be construed to limit the ability of the state or Native American tribes to negotiate gaming compacts pursuant to the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act for the conduct of casino gambling on tribal lands, or to affect any existing gambling on tribal lands pursuant to compacts executed by the state and Native American tribes pursuant to IGRA.

In short, under Amendment 3 only the voters (not the legislature) can allow non-Indian casinos, but the legislature can still do things that make casinos more difficult and expensive to open or operate.

Who, I wonder, could be behind such an idea? Well, the top three donors to "Voters in Charge," the group pushing the amendment, are:

  • Disney Worldwide Services, because Disney doesn't want to compete with casino gambling for tourist dollars in Florida
  • The Seminole Tribe of Florida, because the tribe doesn't want to compete with non-Indian-owned casinos in Florida
  • No Casinos Inc., an anti-gambling (at least in Florida) organization

The "purpose" of Amendment 3 may be to put "voters in charge" of whether or not to allow casino gambling, but the goal of Amendment 3 is to make sure casino gambling isn't allowed.

My preferred casino gambling amendment to Florida's constitution would look something like this:

Don't want to own, operate, or patronize a casino? Don't own, operate, or patronize a casino. Don't want others to own, operate, or patronize casinos? Well, feel free to try to talk them out of doing so if that floats your boat, but it's not your decision to make for them. Things would probably just be much better all around if you minded your own f**king business.

That option not being on the menu, I intend to vote no on Amendment 3 and encourage others to do likewise. Not because I trust the legislature to mind its own f**king business, but because legislators at least might have some incentives (increased tax revenues, perhaps some expensive meals paid for by lobbyists, etc.) to possibly at least allow these businesses to operate.

Yes, there are competing incentives (I'm sure Disney, the Seminoles, and the evangelical obsessives or whoever is behind No Casinos Inc., can lay out a great prime rib and crab leg buffet too, as well as contribute to pols who toe their line and to opponents of pols who don't), but the prohibitionists wouldn't be behind this if they didn't think it was going to be, at least in the long run, a more effective and less expensive way of protecting their business interests through government force and/or running everyone else's lives through same.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Two Things the Kavanaugh Fiasco Did Damage to "From the Right"


Both are ongoing, but the Kavanaugh confirmation process both highlighted the damage and added to it.

Thing One: "Presumption of Innocence"

Here's a non-Kavanaugh-related example of the problem, from a piece on civil judgments pursuant to rape allegations. I agree with the author that people acquitted of crimes shouldn't face a lower standard of proof in subsequent civil actions based on the claim that they're guilty, but then he goes on to write:

For us to live in an open, liberal society, the presumption of innocence has to exist as a social idea as well as a legal one. We need to recognise that people should not be branded guilty of serious crimes unless judged to be so by their peers, against a high standard of evidence.

No. It is not that way. It's never been that way. It's never going to be that way. And it shouldn't be that way.

"Presumption of innocence" in the absence of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a standard/threshold for formally (through e.g. a criminal court proceeding) penalizing someone for a crime he or she is accused of committing. That's all it is, and demanding that its application be expanded to social interactions in general isn't just silly, it's dangerous.

If you think you saw me put something in your drink, you don't have to give me the benefit of doubt and consume the drink in the absence of video footage confirming that I did, witnesses credibly testifying that I did, and a jury of my peers unanimously concluding that I did.

Thing Two: "Due Process"

Brett Kavanaugh was being considered for appointment to the Supreme Court, not being tried for sexual assault. Vis a vis the sexual assault allegations, some people managed to convince themselves that in order for him to not get the job, "due process" required that he be "convicted" of those allegations by a reasonable doubt standard after a thorough criminal trial style proceeding.

"Due process" for a SCOTUS position is as follows: Presidential appointment and the "Advice and Consent of the Senate." That's it. That's all. There's nothing else.

On the "advice" end, presumably the Senate might send the president a list of people they think would be good for the position. On the "consent" end, there's absolutely, positively no standard whatsoever concerning how Senators may or may not vote. A Senator can vote yes because he likes the the nominee's hair color. A Senator can vote no because she doesn't like the nominee's shoes. Or, more to the likely end, a Senator can vote yes or no based on the nominee's perceived political affiliations.

Once Trump nominated Kavanaugh, the only thing Kavanaugh was entitled to was for the Senate to vote yes or no on his nomination after considering his fitness in whatever manner they chose, and to whatever standard they damn well felt like applying. And even that is far more than any other applicant for any other job is entitled to.

Monday, October 08, 2018

More Medical Meh


This morning, it was the hepatologist. Result: "You'll be getting a call to schedule your needle biopsy."

Tomorrow morning, first an echo cardiogram and then a radioactive isotope/heart-rate-increasing drug injection.

Then, Wednesday night, I have a tentative date scheduled with Hurricane Michael. Hopefully that won't turn medical.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

All Aboard -- or Maybe Not


I don't know if I've touted Caryn Ann Harlos's new podcast, The Big L Podcast, -- "your unofficial source for Libertarian Party news, arcana, and information for the liberty-minded political junky" -- here on the blog yet. If not, that's an oversight for which I apologize. If you dig the Libertarian Party at all, you'll dig The Big L Podcast.

The latest episode is part two of a three-part series on "The LP and the Enduring Importance of the Statement of Principles." Caryn Ann is doing some groundbreaking historical preservation work, both with the podcast and with other efforts. I don't always agree with her conclusions, but she's doing something most of us have done little or nothing like, which is finding source documents to support those conclusions.

I do want to take issue with one thing in this latest episode. It's not an historical claim I'm interested in disputing, but a common metaphor that I consider inadequately explored. Here's Caryn Ann's version of the metaphor, with one alternative to the usual understanding:

This legitimate disagreement [between anarchists, minarchists, classical liberals, et al.] is actually so tiny and so far off, the differences are so trivial when it comes to the ultimate goal of all human interactions being voluntary and peaceful, that absolute cooperation between us makes perfect sense. And this is where the metaphor ... comes into play... that is that we are on the same train head headed northward. Some of us will get off sooner than others. But this ... idea is disturbingly being denied by some within the party. It is claimed that no, it's like one train is going to New York from Florida and one is going to California from Florida and we can't travel together because our destinations are so different.


Caryn Ann disputes that. As a practical matter, so do I. That is, I figure that among those choosing to work within the American system of electoral politics, it makes sense for all those in favor of more freedom to establish common cause and cooperate with each other and to work together in support of whatever seems to move things in that direction at any given moment.

But, there is another way to look at the train metaphor, and that is that some of us are on a train chugging slowly in the right direction, while others among us remain back in Florida building a rocket ship for which we don't yet have a working engine or sufficient fuel.

In fact, we don't even know what the engine will look like or what the fuel will be. But we don't think the train is ever going to get where it's going (in fact, we expect it to end up a lot like the coal-powered locomotive that tries to make it through a long tunnel in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged), and we hope that circumstances -- political disintegration and revolution -- will provide the engine and the fuel at some time and in some manner which we can't venture to predict. At which we will leap-frog the train, land in the ruins, and build the free society.

Or something like that. Obviously there are variants, e.g. "build the newworld in the shell of the old." What those variants have in common are that they don't take for granted a linear, measured progression from Point A (where we are) to Point B (where we want to go), a progression with stops along the way where people can get off when they decided they've had enough of the progression and are right where they want to be.

That mindset makes involvement in electoral politics generally and the Libertarian Party specifically somewhat tricky. Should the LP be chipping away incrementally "in the right direction," or should it be more or less monkeywrenching stuff in order to bring about the desired collapse so that the real work can get started?

My opinion on that is that the LP's own structure and its situation within electoral politics dictates the former. Not because I think the "train" metaphor is correct versus the "rocket ship" metaphor, but because electoral politics as such is based on slow trains ... and big tents.

The LP does need to be right both on the whole (its vision/goal) and in detail (its actions vis a vis specific issues of the moment). But it needn't abandon train in favor of rocket ship, and in fact it wouldn't make sense for it to do so.

Anyway, that's my "making a mountain out of a molehill" contribution to the latest episode of The Big L Podcast. The rest of the podcast is much more fun, interesting, and informative than the part I chose to nitpick. You should listen to it.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Kavanaugh and the Midterms, Part 2


So, it looks like Brett Kavanaugh will squeak across the finish line and onto the Supreme Court this morning. In my last post, I mused that some Senate Republicans might be secretly hoping for a defeat here (at the hands of Flake/Collins/Murkowski), just to mobilize the GOP vote in November at his expense.

If so, they aren't getting what they wanted. Flake and Collins have announced they'll be voting to confirm. Murkowski says she'll vote "present." More on them in a minute.

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin is breaking the Democratic line to vote for confirmation too. Not really surprising. He might well have done so even if it was clear that Kavanaugh was going down. Manchin looks like he's in good shape for re-election -- Real Clear Politics has him up by an average of 9.4% over GOP horse Patrick Morrissey -- but as the RCP updates on the polling note, there are lots of undecideds out there. A no vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation could turn the race into, well, a race.

What are the political angles on Flake, Collins, and Murkowski?

Flake isn't running for re-election. He's campaigning for some as yet unannounced position -- a Trump appointment in the executive branch (ambassador to South Africa, perhaps), or president in 2020 or 2024, or whatever. He's trying to cut this baby in half, Solomon-style. He conditioned his Judiciary Committee vote on a half-assed FBI "investigation" (pleasing Democrats, enraging Republicans) and is now pretending that an actual investigation took place and exonerated Kavanaugh so that he can vote to confirm (pleasing Republicans, enraging Democrats). Will that work out to his benefit? Who knows?

Collins and Murkowski aren't up for re-election this year. What do they hope to get out of a Kavanaugh confirmation? A Senate where they remain powerful as "swing moderate" votes. If the Republicans pick up seats in the Senate, Collins and Murkowski become less powerful, less important, less well-positioned to demand concessions in return for their votes on other things. Sending Kavanaugh to SCOTUS maximizes the Democratic vote in November, reducing the chances of big GOP gains in the Senate. And they have a couple of years for controversy over their yes/present votes to fade from the minds of voters.

As far as Kavanaugh getting onto the court, my own feelings are mixed. In the short term, his big-government, anti-freedom, screw-the-constitution orientation seems likely to produce ugly results that will affect me as much as any other American, so I can't say I'm happy about it. On the other hand, his mere presence on the bench will tend lower the court's reputation even further and call its credibility into question even more. As an anarchist, I'm certainly OK with that.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Kavanaugh and the Midterms


My general prediction for the midterm elections has been:

  • No "blue wave." That is, the Democrats are unlikely to seize majorities of both houses of Congress.
  • If they win a House majority, it won't be a majority of more than a couple of seats.
  • There's even a significant chance of a net Democratic loss of seats in the Senate, simply because the Republicans have fewer seats to defend (nine of 34, IIRC) than the Democrats, and there are several distinctly un-safe Democratic incumbents (McCaskill in Missouri, Donnelly in Indiana, Nelson in Florida, Heitkamp in North Dakota, Tester in Montana).
I made those predictions before Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court became a much uglier thing than I expected. So here's an update on my predictions:

  • They remain pretty much the same. Not completely, but pretty much.
  • I'd say that Heitkamp, whose re-election was doubtful anyway, is toast now. That's going to be a GOP pickup.
  • Whichever party wins on Kavanaugh will do worse in the midterms than it would have otherwise -- the other side will have it as a king-hell Mobilize the Base/Get Out The Vote tool. That might swing some of the otherwise "too close to call" races.
In fact, on that last point, I think some Republican pols may be hoping like hell that Kavanaugh goes down by a vote or two. Not badly enough to vote against him themselves, but badly enough to hope that e.g. Collins falls on her sword and votes no on confirmation (after which they will promptly blame the Democrats, not e.g. Collins).

That outcome probably wouldn't produce a "red wave," but most of them would trade one SCOTUS pick's misfortune for a likely Senate seat gain seven days a week and twice on Sunday.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Bar Fights: Normal or Abnormal?


Over at Reason, Jacob Sullum writes that "Viewing Bar Fights As Normal Male Behavior Encourages Violence." Naturally, the basis for the piece is Brett Kavanaugh's questioning over one in 1985:

[A]ttempts to use the story against him have provoked a revealing debate about how common it is for young men to get into bar fights. Broadly speaking, Kavanaugh's defenders think bar fights are a rite of passage for men, so they are no big deal, while his detractors say most men don't get into bar fights, so Kavanaugh's involvement in one reflects on his character.

Sullum cites an online survey by Esquire in which 74% of respondents say they've never been involved a bar fight. If 26% of people have done something, can it really be that abnormal? I can think of a lot of things that fewer than 26% of people do that I wouldn't consider violations of social norms. Just as an example, buying a Taylor Swift album. OK, well, maybe a bad example.

Anyway, I'd say that my own bar fight history deserves to be divided into two categories.

Category 1: The Marine Corps

Bar fights were certainly normal in that culture when I was in (1984-95). Especially in base enlisted clubs where the patrons were from rival government organizations (e.g. Marine Corps and Army, or Marine Corps and Navy). I know, it's really hard to get one's mind around the idea of a strong correlation between 1) inviting a bunch of young, mostly male people whose jobs involve killing other young, mostly male people (or at least constantly training to do so) to come together and drink unusually cheap alcohol and 2) brawls breaking out, but in my experience such a correlation exists.

How many military bar fights was I in? Enough that I'm not equipped to offer an accurate count. Enough that at least three in particular stick out in my mind (my first, which also involved crawling across a base in ditches to avoid the base military police; another in which the MPs turned dogs loose on the crowd; and a third which started at an e-club on an Army base with a large Special Forces presence, when a Marine stood up on his chair and sang "one hundred Marines/took a shit today/and wiped their ass/with a green beret"). So definitely more than three.

Category 2: Not the Marine Corps

I can only think of three.

In the first one, I was not yet 21 and was confined to an upstairs "under-age" area of a nightclub/music venue. The exit happened to coincide with the exit from the bar area. A college-age drunk noticed my earring and called me a name. I just answered "f--k off" and was willing to leave it at that. But he took exception and broke my nose. I, taking similar exception, picked him up by his shirt, and used him to put a dent in the open metal door to the bar area, and his friends carried him away (to be fair, they were already mostly carrying him anyway). That dent was still in the door last time I saw the bar, years later (I worked there as doorman/bouncer for a couple of years after turning 21 -- I think maybe the club owner remembered that little dust-up; I only ever had to bounce one guy, and he didn't have any fight in him).

In the second one, I was at a different bar, hanging out with the doorman, Tiny (so-called for being maybe 7 feet tall and 350 pounds). A gentleman in line to enter, already either drunk or high, decided to slap his date around right there. Tiny told him to leave. The gentleman decided to fight instead. So Tiny heaved him through the plate glass door to the bar. The gentleman still wanted to fight, so Tiny obliged. The gentleman's date wanted to fight too, so I got scratched up a little (by her fingernails and by shattered glass) trying to keep her off Tiny's back while he banged the gentleman's head against the sidewalk every time the gentleman tried to get up to fight some more, until the police arrived.

I'm not sure that the third one doesn't belong in the Marine Corps section as well. I was out of the Marine Corps, but at a sports bar right off of an Army base. Another (intoxicated) patron decided to try to slap my (then) wife. So we fought, and genuinely tried to kill each other until security pulled us apart and kicked him out. His fighting style seemed familiar to me, and shortly thereafter when some of his friends came up to let me know they'd be waiting to pound me when I left, I discovered that he was (and they were) Marines who were at the Army base for a school. Once that was clarified, we were good friends for the rest of the night.

I'm open to the idea that bar fights are abnormal. But looking back, I'd have to say that they weren't abnormal for me between the ages of, say, 19 or so and 30 or so.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

So, Just Now ...





Why the Simulation Hypothesis Isn't and Can't be a Bona Fide Scientific Assertion


The Simulation Hypothesis is probably about as old as humankind. There's not really any essential difference between us thinking "perhaps we live in a computer simulation" and our ancestors thinking "perhaps we live in the imagination/dream of a god." But I'll go with Bostrom's trilemma:

A technologically mature “posthuman” civilization would have enormous computing power. Based on this empirical fact, the simulation argument shows that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) The fraction of human-level civilizations that reach a posthuman stage is very close to zero; (2) The fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running ancestor-simulations is very close to zero; (3) The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation is very close to one.

If (1) is true, then we will almost certainly go extinct before reaching posthumanity. If (2) is true, then there must be a strong convergence among the courses of advanced civilizations so that virtually none contains any relatively wealthy individuals who desire to run ancestor-simulations and are free to do so. If (3) is true, then we almost certainly live in a simulation.

So far as I can tell, the logic checks out, and my money is on (3).

But I keep seeing pieces that go like this one:

Now scientists are searching for ways to put the simulation hypothesis to the test. Bostrom is eager to see more concrete developments of his idea. Experiments that could distinguish physical reality from a simulation “are what would be needed for it to be a bona fide scientific assertion,” he told MACH.

The difference between a hypothesis/conjecture and a "bona fide scientific assertion" is that the latter is falsifiable. That is, it is possible to show that it is false (if it is, in fact, false).

The Simulation Hypothesis is not falsifiable because if it is true, the creators, programmers, or administrators who created the simulation we live in could have coded rules into that simulation that return experimental results reflecting what they want us to know or not know -- for example, false falsifications -- rather than returning experimental results reflecting the truth. In extremis, they could even re-start the simulation or run it back in time if we conduct an experiment that gets around such rules, and add some new factor to make sure that doesn't happen "again."

Going back to the first paragraph, I find it interesting that attempting to scientifically test the Simulation Hypothesis is not just the equivalent of attempting to scientifically prove the existence or non-existence of God, it is attempting to scientifically prove the existence or non-existence of God.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Jim Geraghty is the Sucker


Geraghty, writing at National Review:

I suspect Flake thought he was doing the right thing by giving Kavanaugh a way to dispel the accusations against him, and also by taking away the biggest argument from the Democrats, that “we need an FBI investigation.” But he assumed what few other Republicans did, that these objections from Democrats were made in good faith. Jeff Flake is a sucker.

The sucker assumption isn't Flake's, it's Geraghty's. It's naive to assume that Flake assumed -- or thought he needed to assume -- anything at all about the Democrats, or that if he did make any such assumptions they were anything other than the obvious one: That, like the Republicans, the Democrats are throwing whatever elbows they can get bent in the right direction at any given moment, for the purpose of scoring political points.

Flake's leaving the US Senate -- walking out of the ring on his own rather than being carried out after an election defeat. So it kind of looks like he's got nothing to prove, no voters to satisfy, etc. Complete freedom to "do what he thinks is right." I suppose we could leave it at that.

But you know me. I'm cynical.

Not running for re-election to the US Senate doesn't mean he's stopped being a politician.

Speaking in March in (ahem) New Hampshire, he took a far from Shermanesque line: "It has not been in my plans to run for president, but I have not ruled it out." And even if he never runs for anything again, there are always possible future cabinet positions, think tank gigs, what have you.

So, here he is, sitting on the deciding Judiciary Committee vote on whether or not to recommend Brett Kavanaugh to the full Senate for confirmation to the Supreme Court.

And, quite possibly, the deciding vote in the full Senate on that confirmation.

He throws Republicans a bone by advancing the confirmation to the full Senate.

He throws Democrats a bone by making it clear he'll vote no in the full Senate unless there's an FBI investigation.

Check out Flake's big bipartisanship on Brett!

And later this week he gets the spotlight again when he announces whether or not he finds the investigation and its conclusions satisfactory (and votes yes), or not (and votes no).

Either way he goes gives cover to two other wavering Republicans (Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) to go the same way.

If he votes yes, he's back to being a Republican hero with his past anti-Trump transgressions forgotten.

If he votes no, he inherits the title of another (recently deceased) US Senator from Arizona: "Democrats' Favorite Republican."

Either of those will be politically useful, albeit in different ways and for different aspirations.

Just as an example, I happen to notice that he served as a Mormon missionary in South Africa and speaks Afrikaans.

The ambassadorship to South Africa seems to be vacant (Patrick Gaspard left in December 2016 and so far as I can tell the show there is now being run by a charge d'affaires, Jessye Lapenn) ...

If he votes yes on confirmation, perhaps President Trump suddenly notices the vacancy and Flake's qualifications for the position. If he votes no, then perhaps a Democrat elected in 2020 or 2024 decides that "Democrats' Favorite Republican" is the man to make the new administration look suitably bipartisan.

Or whatever. Flake's no sucker. He's playing politics. And he seems to be good at it.

A Book Deal You Won't Want to Miss


Get the Amazon Kindle edition of Basics of Resistance: Book I of The Practical Freedomista -- from Claire Wolfe and Kit Perez -- for 99 cents today, $1.99 tomorrow, or $2.99 Wednesday. After that, it's still a steal at its regular price of $3.99.



Sunday, September 30, 2018

I Have No Classic Gmail and I Must Scream


"New Gmail" is just awful.

I have yet to discern a single redeeming feature in it.

It looks like hell.

It goes wonky and makes it difficult to move my cursor back to the message title or message content fields when I try to paste large numbers of addresses into the send fields.

Google moved access to contacts out of Gmail where it belongs and into its own separate function where it's a pain in the ass to get to.

New Gmail doesn't seem to do anything better than the previous version, and does some things worse, and again it looks like hell.

But of course they're forcing it on everyone and the time period where I could revert to Gmail that actually works seems to have ended.

I'm still auditioning replacement services while hoping someone will come up with a style extension that brings back the old inbox look -- the new one literally makes my eyes hurt -- because changing over is going to be such a pain in the ass. But not as much of a pain in the ass as putting up with this.

When It's All Said and Done ...


... will Matt Damon go down in the history books as the guy who really and for true slammed the door on Brett Kavanaugh's SCOTUS aspirations?


Friday, September 28, 2018

There's a Trustee Who's Sure


Frivolous litigation is gold
And he's still suing over Stairway to Heaven

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Thing I Hate Most About Health Issues ...


... may be the amount of time they take up. I had an appointment with a cardiologist this morning. By the time I got home I had calls waiting to schedule three more appointments (two tests the cardiologist ordered, and the follow-up consult for a different test, the test being already scheduled for next week). So, one step forward, two steps back, sort of.

I can't complain a bit about the medical treatment/service at Shands/UF in Gainesville. I've never had to wait past an appointment time, and in fact often when I arrive early they get me in early (I arrived at 8:40 for my 9:30 this morning because that was how transportation issues fell out; they had me in before 9 and out five minutes after my appointment was supposed to start). I've never experienced anything but friendliness and the doctors and nurses, etc. seem to be thorough and professional.

But between preparation, transportation, making sure I arrive a little early, etc., a single appointment is basically four hours out of my day, and it's looking like I can expect two or three appointments a week for the next few weeks, even assuming no surgery or whatever.

Anyway, what came of this visit was 1) a third ECG confirming what the first two said (left branch bundle block), 2) orders for an echocardiogram and a cardiac stress test to check for other issues (I have an abundant family history of angioplasty, stent, bypass, aortic aneurysm, etc. and the doctor wants to check all that out before proceeding on the initial thing), and 3) a dramatic increase in prescribed dosage for an existing medication that some friends tell me I shouldn't be taking at all (atvorstatin).

I guess I shouldn't complain about the time factor while taking time to blog about it, should I?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Cody Wilson: Did You Notice This?


From the NPR version, since it works as well as any and I happen to have it open at the moment ...

Camera One: "The 30-year-old had reportedly fled [to Taiwan] after having been tipped off that the girl had spoken to law enforcement about their alleged encounter."

Camera Two: "Wilson was released Sunday from the Harris County Jail in Houston after posting a $150,000 bond."

Translation: The guff about him "fleeing" is purely for media/public consumption. If there was really any evidence to substantiate the claim, prosecutors would have raised the roof to have him held without bail as a known flight risk. At the very least he would have faced very high bail, probably have been required to wear an ankle monitor, etc.

Just sayin' ...

I Agree


"We cannot allow the world's leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet's most dangerous weapons."
US President Donald Trump to the United Nations General Assembly, 09/25/18

Naturally, I look forward to hearing what immediate steps Trump proposes to follow through on that sentiment by bringing the US into compliance with its nuclear disarmament obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

This May be a Dumb Question, and I May Have Asked it Before ...


... but after not thinking about it for some time, I'm thinking about it again and don't remember asking it or getting answers. So:

There are various "mini-routers" for sale that seem to chiefly serve the function of letting one interpose a VPN and/or Tor in between a laptop and a public WiFi hot spot, hotel WiFi, etc.

If I use one of those (with Tor installed/configured/running) to connect a Chromebook or Chromebox to a WiFi network (such as my home network), am I getting such functions as Tor offers? That is, am I connecting to .onion web sites via entry/exit nodes with full Tor connection privacy protections, (aside from as regards the connection between my computer and the router itself, and the fact that my ISP would "see" that I'm using Tor)?

Yes, I understand that Tor isn't quite the bee's knees some people think it is. It's obviously not going to make me "anonymous" at a site where I log in using the same credentials I use to log in when I'm not using Tor.  I understand there are (or at least were) vulnerabilities.

In fact, I'm not thinking about it because I want to visit sites that might get me in trouble or anything. I look at it the same way I look at encryption: The more people using it, the less any one person using it stands out. So considering how cheap these things are, if they effectively let me use Tor on a Chromebox, I might grab one some time.

Side note: I've seen a Chrome extension that lets one access .onion sites from a Chromebook/Chromebox. But as I understand it, that extension doesn't actually provide any of the confidentiality benefits of Tor. It just lets you get to the sites.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Days of Leaving High School Foolery Behind are Over


Brett Kavanaugh's high school yearbook is playing a increasingly big part in the effort to convince the public that he's the type of guy who might have sexually assaulted a fellow teen.

"Keg City Club (Treasurer) -- 100 Kegs or Bust."

"Renate Alumnius" (Renate being the name of a girl who attended a nearby school and whom Kavanaugh and friends apparently boasted of, you know ...).

And so on, and so forth.

That yearbook is from 1983.

Note to teens and pre-teens who aspire to someday be elected to office, appointed to SCOTUS, etc. ... don't even sign up for social media accounts. Hell, don't even use email.

No, I'm not saying that Kavanaugh's yearbook scribblings support his innocence of anything.

I'm saying that 35 years from now, you might be surprised at what feels innocent now but could be read then as confirming your guilt.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

If You Don't Think the Cody Wilson Prosecution is Political ...


... ask yourself this:

An American is accused of the non-federal crime of hiring a not-quite-of-legal-age sex worker.

The federal government tracks the accused to a foreign country.

In the absence of an extradition treaty, the federal government revokes the accused's passport and diplomatically cajoles that foreign government into turning the accused over to US federal law enforcement via some kind of fast-track deportation proceeding.

US federal law enforcement then flies the accused back to Texas and hands him over to state authorities for pre-trial incarceration.

All in a matter of five days.

What are the chances of those things happening, that fast, if the American's name isn't "Cody Wilson?"

Saturday, September 22, 2018

B-12 Bomber?


So, my two-week quest to increase my platelet count got its success measured yesterday. I added 500 micrograms of B-12 to my supplement stack, increased the red meat and green leafy vegetable components of my diet.

Result: My platelet count went down from 137k to 129k.

That excludes me from further participation in the research study / drug trial that discovered three health concerns (left branch bundle block in the heart, fibrosis of the liver, and the low platelet count).

I certainly can't complain. I got all that information, and $100, out of the deal. I do feel bad that the study folks spent all that time and money getting that information for me and don't get a study subject.

Next: Doubling the B-12 and planning to eat more steak.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Three Things You Should Know About the Cody Wilson Affair



A couple of news stories to catch you up if you haven't been following this:


Three factoids to help you put the matter in perspective:

  1. No, Wilson is not accused of actually sexually assaulting anyone. He's accused of violating a Texas statute which labels sex, consensual or otherwise, with individuals under 17 years of age "sexual assault of a child." There's a difference.
  2. No, the "victim" is not a "child" under any reasonable definition. She's a sex worker who claimed to be 18 years of age or older as a condition of registering at a "Sugar Daddy" web site (sugardaddymeet.com), which is where she (allegedly) connected with Wilson prior to (again allegedly) having sex with him in return for payment. She is allegedly 16.
  3. The basis for the affidavit under which an arrest warrant was obtained (included in the Wired story) does not depict the "victim" as alleging any kind of assault, sexual or otherwise, when interviewed by a detective (she merely described a consensual sexual encounter for pay), nor was it the "victim" who went to police (it was an unnamed "counselor" to whom the "victim" described the encounter).
A few additional questions/thoughts ...

Q: Was it a "setup?"

I've seen ideas thrown out there ranging from "the police set it up as a sting from the beginning to get Cody Wilson" to "the 'victim' is anti-gun and when she came across Wilson on the sugar daddy site she saw an opportunity to get him, or it's the 'counselor' who is anti-gun and saw such an opportunity."

If there's anything hinky on that end of things, and I am not saying there is, I'd guess one or both of the latter two rather than the first one. If the police were setting up a sting, they'd have used an adult cop posing as a minor and tried to get Wilson to overtly reference a desire to have sex with a minor, then nabbed him when he showed up for the meet.

Q: Does it matter if he didn't know she is a minor?

According to the statute, no. But the statute is clearly defective in trying to get around the intent angle by making the sex illegal "regardless of whether the person knows the age of the child at the time of the offense."

Let's go to analogy here and suppose a statute defines killing a person with poison as murder "regardless of whether the person knows that he or she is feeding the victim poison." Would that pass mens rea muster? Not a chance.

Q: Is Cody Wilson a pedophile?

Not based on this charge. The "victim" was clearly both post-pubescent and posing as an adult. If he was a pedophile, he would by definition have been looking for sex with a prepubescent child.

Q: Do you think Wilson should go to jail for this?

Based on the available facts, to the extent that I think I know them, no. This charge is complete bullshit from beginning to end. He allegedly engaged the services of a sex worker, which should not be illegal. She turned out to be younger than a number drawn out of a hat by some politicians, which does not define actual ability to consent. She seems to have 1) falsely held herself out as older than the number drawn out of the hat, 2) convincingly held herself out as fully competent to consent, and 3) actually consented.

Q: What does this mean for Defense Distributed?

Wilson is alleged to have picked the "victim" up in a vehicle registered to Defense Distributed. Depending on what the asset forfeiture laws look like in Texas, the state might seize that vehicle, any computers used in arranging the encounter, and possibly even go after the non-profit's assets.

And, of course, the whole thing will be used to demonize both Wilson personally and Defense Distributed itself. In theory, that shouldn't affect the outcome of the free speech / free press case regarding publication/downloading of CAD files for home manufacturing of guns, but it will certainly be used to influence public opinion on the case.

Q: Is there a defense fund, and if so will you contribute to it?

I've looked and there doesn't seem to be a defense fund yet. When and if one pops up, yes, I will contribute to it and I hope you will too. At this point, I see no case for anything less than full moral and material support for both Wilson and Defense Distributed from all who support freedom.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Kavanaugh


No, I have no opinion on whether or not he did what he's accused of having done during high school.

I do find this passage from a piece by Quinta Jurecic at The Atlantic thought-provoking:

What level of certainty about the nominee’s guilt should drive a senator to vote against that nominee? The standard to convict a defendant in criminal court is often understood as requiring anywhere from 95 to 100 percent certainty of the defendant’s guilt. In civil court, the “preponderance of the evidence” standard requires 51 percent certainty. As the economist Justin Wolfers asked on Twitter, “Would you appoint someone to the Supreme Court if you think there were a 25 percent chance they’ve done bad things? A 10 percent chance? A 5 percent chance? A 1 percent chance?”

And what about the nature of those bad things? What about whether an adult man, against whom no further charges of sexual harassment or assault are known to have been raised, should be denied a seat on the highest court in the land because he did something objectionable—even horrifying—as a boy on the cusp of adulthood?

The only advice I'd give a Senator who was dumb enough to ask me for advice would go something like this:

Assuming that he's qualified credentials-wise by whatever criteria you deem relevant (the only actual qualifications for serving on the Supreme Court are that the president nominates you and the Senate confirms you -- if the president chose the White House janitor or his kindergarten-age kid's favorite playmate and the Senate concurred, it would be so), does your gut say that he's honest and trustworthy or that he's a lying, scheming weasel? Vote accordingly.

I haven't seen more than a few minutes of Kavanaugh's Senate hearing testimony. He pings my Lying, Scheming Weasel Meter pretty hard. Or at least my Smug, Entitled, I'm in the Club so Let's Get These Formalities Over With and Quit Pretending You're Actually Thinking About This, Shall We? Meter.

I'm less bothered by what Kavanaugh may or may not have done 30 years ago than by who he is. Former fellow in the office of the Solicitor General of the United States. Former Associate Counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel. Former Associate White House Counsel. Former Assistant to the President. Former White House Staff Secretary.

In. The. Club.

I'd like to see a constitutional amendment that rips out the open door and puts up a wall, or at least a time-locked door, between the legislative and executive branches of government on one side and the Supreme Court on the other. Something like:

No person shall be appointed to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States who has previously [alternative weaker version: within a period of 20 years prior to his or her appointment] served as an elected official of, or an employee in the executive or legislative branches of, the government of the United States.

If I could pick my ideal Supreme Court justice, he or she would have spent a couple of decades working as a criminal defense attorney (possibly a public defender, non-federal) and have never, ever, ever fed at the federal trough.

Time for a Leaker to Step Up


US president Donald Trump has ordered some material declassified. Hold that thought, because we'll be back to it in a moment.

Bloomberg reports:

President Donald Trump has demanded the “immediate declassification” of sensitive materials about the Russia investigation, but the agencies responsible are expected to propose redactions that would keep some information secret, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department, FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence are going through a methodical review and can’t offer a timeline for finishing, said the people, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive matter.

The authority governing classification of information is Executive Order 13526. In other words, the whole setup is a matter of presidential authority -- this a case where the president really is "The Decider."

So. Trump has ordered some material declassified.

That means it is declassified.

Which, in turn, means two more things:

First, the people who are using "going through a methodical review and can’t offer a timeline for finishing" are illegally keeping public information secret.

Secondly, anyone who "leaks" that public information isn't breaking the laws on classified information because that information isn't classified anymore.

So, let's see it.

Best Libertarian Podcast EVAH ...


... on the subject of slavery, the causes of the Civil War, etc. Anthony Comegna vs. John C. Calhoun in episode 74 (an updated version of episode 61) of  the Liberty Chronicles Podcast!


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Is Declassifying Information a Way to Hide Something?


Just came across an overheated piece by Melanie Schmitz at ThinkProgress concerning Trump's declassification of some "Russiagate" material. My opinion on that is up at the Garrison Center.

Schmitz:

The move to declassify is troubling for several reasons. ... Even if the decision to declassify did not fly directly in the face of national security, it still represents a gross attempt at obstruction. ... It could be argued then that the impetus for Monday’s decision was concern over what the Page FISA might eventually reveal. In trying to undermine the purpose for that surveillance, Trump and Republicans could potentially be working to hide crucial information relevant to the Russia investigation’s conclusion -- an act that would clearly constitute obstruction of justice.

So Trump is endangering "national security" and "obstructing justice" and "working to hide" stuff by revealing stuff. The derp is strong with this one.

Mueller has had nearly a year-and-a-half to get the goods. He's gone after Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI (about events that took place after the election the Russians allegedly meddled in). He's gone after Paul Manafort for tax evasion (on income earned before the campaign the Russians allegedly assisted). He's indicted some Russians he knows will never testify in court. He's gone after Michael Cohen for paying off a porn star (an American porn star, not a Russian porn star).

Where's the "collusion" beef, Mueller? And why don't your people want the rest of us to see it?

Declassify it all. Every text message, every memo, every warrant request, everything related to this investigation.

No, I Don't Want to be an Obsessive Health Blogger ...


but since I recently mentioned the "I may have had a heart attack and not even noticed" and "hmm, I seem to have swapped livers with an old wino" stuff, I should probably update you.

Went to the doctor yesterday. Got a new ECG. Yep ... I seem to have experienced something that causes a cardiac problem, specifically a "left branch bundle block." It's an electrical problem. So I'll be seeing a cardiologist for further investigation. Among other possibility it looks like there may be a pacemaker in my future. I'll also be seeing a hepatologist about the liver fibrosis, but I have a lot less information on that, just "yeah, you need to see a hepatologist."

Cato Implicitly Agrees With Me: School Vouchers are a Terrible Idea


From a Cato commentary by Corey A. DeAngelis, dated yesterday:

Why does regulation reduce the quality of private schools that participate in voucher programs?

Individual private school leaders decide whether to participate in voucher programs each year. The decision is made by comparing expected benefits to expected costs. The primary benefit associated with voucher program participation is, of course, the additional voucher funding. The main cost of participation is additional red tape. Private schools that participate in voucher programs have to comply with many regulations such as admitting students on a random basis, requiring all teachers to have bachelor’s degrees, and administering state standardized tests.

Of course, what DeAngelis wants is for government to back off on its regulation of "private" schools that accept vouchers.

That's a utopian fantasy. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

I'm not speculating here. We've seen the same effect previously with the GI Bill, government-guaranteed-or-granted college student loans/Pell Grants, etc. When the state hands out money, that money always comes with requirements that the recipients do things the state's way.

Vouchers don't bring market values to government ("public") schools. They turn market schools into government schools.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Trump Imposes New $20 Billion Tax Increase (Rising to $50 Billion in 2019) on US Consumers


That's what the headline SHOULD read, because that's exactly what he's doing. But of course CNBC covers it up a little:


OK, I've Had Enough


To whom it may concern:

Google keeps sending me "content that we won't  tell you what it is except with a garbled identifier that means nothing to anyone but us has been removed because we've incorrectly classified it as spam and if you keep posting the stuff we won't tell you what it is your account may be suspended, and no, there's no plausible way to discuss this with us" messages regarding the Rational Review News Digest Google+ page.

Rather than risk problems with my other Google services, I'm shutting down RRND at Google+. You can still find us at various other venues:

Web: http://rationalreview.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/rationalreview
Facebook: http://facebook.com/RRNewsDigest
Diaspora:  https://joindiaspora.com/people/187447f02c4e0135f35c0242ac110007
Liberdon: https://liberdon.com/@rationalreview
Liberty.me: http://rrnd.liberty.me/

Sorry for any inconvenience.

I also post daily editions (and other non-RRND stuff!) on my personal accounts at:

Minds.com: https://www.minds.com/thomaslknapp
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Yours in liberty,
Tom Knapp
Publisher
Rational Review News Digest

Strange Questions That Pop Into My Mind at Odd Times and Without Obvious Reasons #784,589,045


In The Matrix, agents are irresistibly strong and incredibly fast. They can e.g. dodge bullets. And an agent can re-spawn occupying the body of anyone who lives in the Matrix.

So in the subway fight scene, why is it that after Agent Smith is run over by the train, he has to stop the train (much more quickly than trains actually stop, btw) and exit the door like a regular passenger?

Why not just break a window and jump out? That train isn't moving as fast as he can move, and dealing with the effects of jumping from a moving train onto a concrete platform doesn't seem out of line with his abilities.

Or, better yet, why not just occupy the body of someone walking past the station so he can intercept Neo at the top of the stair instead of chasing him from behind?

Just wondering.



Friday, September 14, 2018

Are You on Liberdon Yet?


Come on in, the water's fine.

What is Liberdon? It's an "instance" of Mastodon, a decentralized but networked social media app. Functionally a lot like Twitter. In format, a lot like TweetDeck, probably the best of the apps for making Twitter make sense.

The cool thing is that anyone can start an instance and anyone with an account on one instance can follow someone else even if their account doesn't reside on that particular instance. There are instances devoted to various niches/interests, "general conversation" instances, etc. Liberdon is an instance specifically built for libertarians. Hope to see there (I am @thomaslknapp)!

Some Unsolicited Advice for Podcasters


The libertarian podcast scene is growing like Topsy. Over the last couple of years, Rational Review News Digest has gone from struggling to find five cool podcast links to feature each day to easily finding ten, often 15.

In particular, at least three libertarian podcast networks  -- Rodger Paxton's Pax Libertas Productions, Chris Spangle's We Are Libertarians, and Johnny "Rocket" Adams's The Launch Pad Media -- have been growing fast, adding new and fun shows.

It's all good from my point of view, except for one minor gear grind:

Many of the newer shows I'm seeing present only as "play the podcast as Flash media from the episode page." Some others offer only one additional option -- "download an MP3."

It can be a bit of a hassle, but guys ... please take the time and make the effort to make your podcasts available via iTunes, Google Play, and a bunch of the other outlets available to podcasters and used by prospective listeners. It's a hassle that takes time and effort, but it's pretty much a one-time "fire and forget" project. My own podcast is by no means popular or widely promoted, but about 20% of the most recent episode's listens came from those external venues.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thanks For Asking! -- 09/13/18


This AMA thread, and the episode to follow, are brought to you by Darryl W. Perry and Free Pony Express ...


ASK ME ANYTHING ...

In the comment thread below this post. Or, if you'd like to throw a dollar my way, via Earn.com. If you use the Earn.com route to ask me something, please specify that you're asking for public/AMA consumption.

... AND I'LL ANSWER!

In the comment thread, or on a future podcast, or both.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Word PSA


mandatory, adjective 1. eauthoritatively ordered; obligatory; compulsory: It is mandatory that all students take two years of math. 2. pertaining to, of the nature of, or containing a command. 3. Law. permitting no option; not to be disregarded or modified: a mandatory clause.

Apparently Fox News needs dictionaries:

As more than a million people head for higher ground, South Carolina officials say they have no plans to move 650 inmates at a medium-security prison -- opting instead to have them take their chances with a monster Category-3 hurricane barreling towards them.

Current plans call for a pre-planned crew and inmates at MacDougall Correctional Institution to stay put as Hurricane Florence -- expected to gain strength Wednesday night -- heads right for them.

...

MacDougall is located in Berkeley County, one of five counties under a mandatory evacuation from the governor.

Another Kind of Unreasonable Bail Condition


The 8th Amendment to the US Constitution reads:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

I've commented on excessive cash bail requirements -- and outright denial of bail -- in the past, opining that given the supposed presumption of innocence in American courts, the only legitimate purpose of bail is as an incentive to appear at trial. The whole "he could be dangerous, don't let him out" argument doesn't fly, because insofar as the legal system is concerned, until he's been convicted there aren't any grounds to treat him as if he actually committed the crime.

It seems to me that that argument gets stronger and stronger as more and more cases get resolved with pre-trial "plea bargains." Presumably the single-digit percentage of defendants who go to trial rather than cop a plea do so because they believe they'll be acquitted, which would seem to be an incentive to show up and get their bail money back (or not have a bail bond company's bounty hunters after them).

But then there are also "bail conditions" other than merely posting a cash or property bond against a future court appearance.

I've noticed such a condition several times that strikes me as both "excessive" and as "cruel and unusual punishment." Here's the exact wording from one court document:

... that he have no access to the internet, text messaging or email, or devices that were capable of executing these functions ...

As of the end of 2016, more than half of US adults had ditched landlines entirely and had only cell cell phones. The percentages ran higher for demographics probably more likely to be charged with a crime (renters, the poor, Hispanics) than e.g. white middle class property owners. And those percentages are probably increasing across all demographics. As far as non-phone communication, I'm guessing that the vast majority of Americans use email in preference to sending a postcard or whatever.

So this kind of bail condition is essentially a demand that the defendant hold himself incommunicado except for in-person, face-to-face conversations or maybe writing notes on paper airplanes or something.

Seeing as how pay phones exist only in a few places these days (I've seen some at airports and bus stations), how is a defendant even supposed to communicate with his lawyer in between office visits? And how many people work in environments where texting and email are part of the job?

In cases where the concern is that a defendant will harass his or her alleged victim, what difference does it make that the harassment would have to take place over a landline instead of via email, text, etc.?

Any judge who imposes no-phone/no-Internet bail conditions should be required to adhere to precisely the same conditions. Including at work.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The KN@PP Stir Podcast, Episode 144: 24 Sixes of One, Twelve Dozen of the Other


This episode is brought to you by Free Pony Express and Darryl W. Perry!


In this episode: Thanks For Asking! (John McCain and the Sound of West Side Story Music -- full thread here); #ShunMunn. [Note: Soundcloud licensing notes notwithstanding, all episodes of The KN@PP Stir Podcast are published under a Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain Dedication -- use them as you like!]



Monday, September 10, 2018

Some of These Things Are Not Like the Others


Justin Raimondo, 2003:

While the domestic arena is pretty much impervious to Presidential bullying, except in a national crisis, such as an economic depression, it is only in the realm of foreign policy that a President can make his real mark, as the case of George W. Bush makes all too ominously clear. Congress long ago ceded this arena to the imperial Presidency, abdicating its constitutional duty in the process, and so what happens, every four years, is that we elect a foreign policy dictator who can take us into war -- or out of it -- at will.

Justin Raimondo, 2008:

[T]he growth of presidential power -- epitomized in the openly authoritarian legal "theories" of the current administration, which give the White House something very close to absolute power in wartime -- is greatly accelerated by imperialization. Indeed, this has been the main engine of the growing imbalance of power between the three branches of the federal government. They don’t call it the "imperial presidency" for nothing.

Justin Raimondo, 2009:

In the age of the imperial presidency, where Congress and the people play only an advisory role, the emperor can certainly choose to "listen" to various petitioners, whether they be members of Congress or just ordinary non-titled mortals, but in the end The Decider decides -- and he does so, we are told, in a void, as the vessel of a perfect objectivity, in utter isolation from both lobbyists and the voters who put him in office.

Justin Raimondo, 2018:

Isn’t the President the most powerful person on earth? Doesn’t he (or she!) determine US foreign policy? Well, no, the President is not a dictator, nor is he the final arbiter of US policy: he is, in large part, at the mercy of the 'permanent government,' i.e. the career bureaucrats who persist no matter which party is in power, and without which the government cannot function. ("A President Held Hostage?" 04/19/18)

On one side is the Deep State, with its self-interested globalist leadership so invested in our interventionist foreign policy that even Trump’s limited (albeit surprisingly radical) critique poses a deadly threat to their power. On the other side is Trump, the outsider, who often has to work against and around his own government in order to pursue his preferred policies. ("Saboteurs of Peace: On the Road to Helsinki," 07/16/18)

[P]lease don’t bother me with objections like “But what about our Syria policy?” or “Didn’t he just impose new sanctions on Moscow?” whenever I point to Trump’s transitional role as the harbinger of a new foreign policy. Because the real culprits are the self-selected “officials” of the “steady state” set up by the coup plotters in the White House basement. ("The Seditionists," 09/10/18)


Google's One-Way Conversational Style


So, the other day I suddenly started receiving email messages that read like this:

Hello,

Your Google+ content has violated the Google+ User Content and Conduct Policy, which is against the Google+ Terms of Service. As such, your content has been removed or blocked.

Content type: Post or comment
Reason for removal: Spam
Content identifier: z13wvtwpjo2jwt2ts232gp0gbku4efjkr

Certain removal reasons may result in your content being visible either only to you, or only in certain countries.

Sincerely,
The Google+ Team

Replies to this email will not be monitored. If you have other questions or concerns regarding Google, please visit the Google Help Center.

I've been unable to turn that "content identifier" into any way of um, identifying the content.

This morning, that passel of emails was followed up with this one:

Dear Google+ user,

Your Google+ post or comment activity has recently violated the Google+ User Content and Conduct Policy.

Spamming, including sending unwanted promotional or commercial content, or unwanted or mass solicitation, is not permitted.

This is a warning, and your access to Google+ should not be currently impacted. If you continue to create or share content that violates our policies, you may lose the ability to use some or all features of Google+. Learn more

Sincerely,

The Google+ Support Team

Replies to this email will not be monitored. If you have other questions or concerns regarding Google, please visit the Google Help Center.

So -- warnings that I am "spamming" one of my own accounts (it's the Rational Review News Digest page on Google+)*, with no way to identify what content the warnings refer to and no one to ask WTF. And then a "we're STILL not going to tell you what you're doing, but you better stop doing it" warning. The links, including "Learn More" lead to non-specific help pages, not any useful information on the specific case.

Kinda pisses me off.


* I try not to be paranoid, but I have an inkling that the warnings are generated from user complaints, and that this set of user complaints is a spiteful little prank by an admin on another social medium who accused me of "spamming" while proving that he or she has no idea what "spamming" is (what he or she was actually complaining about was "flooding" -- small user base, more messages per hour from one user than he or she liked,  a complaint which I addressed accordingly while simultaneously urging him or her to stop defaming me with a false "spam" label).

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Of Course, He Doesn't Mention Why


Ian Urbina in the New York Times:

Sold from vending machines in Pennsylvania, feed depots in Nevada, pharmacies in Georgia and jewelry stores in Texas, ammunition is in many states easier to buy than cold medicine.

As you can probably guess, Urbina doesn't proceed to suggest that it be made easier to buy cold medicine. He wants it made more difficult to buy ammunition.

And he doesn't even mention that the REASON it's hard to buy cold medicine is the evil, anti-human, unconstitutional "war on drugs" and the fact that cold medicine can be used to make methamphetamine.

Friday, September 07, 2018

That LP News Article I Mentioned Earlier ...


... is now available online in PDF format here. My bit on the Libertarian Party's immigration platform plank change is on page 5, and there's lots of other interesting stuff in the issue.

Of course, if you are a sustaining member of the party, you get the print edition in the mail before everyone else sees it online. Maybe I'll get asked to write more stuff for them in the future :)

World's Smallest Violin Time


Washington Times headline:

Assaults on ICE, Border Patrol surge
as illegal immigrants [sic] get more violent

If true, perhaps this will incentivize some of the the ICE/Border Patrol gang-bangers to give up the thug life, stop leeching off taxpayers to support their amoral and degenerate lifestyle choices, and seek legitimate employment in the productive sector.

I Learned Another New Word Today!


"Thrombocytopenia."

Normal platelet count in blood is 150,000 or more.

Mine's 130,000. Probably related to the liver fibrosis that I found out about from the same research study (which also basically informed me that I've probably had a heart attack and didn't notice).

I'm starting to feel like Drew Barrymore in Santa Clarita Diet, only not nearly so attractive. I have an appointment soon with my primary care physician to discuss all this and am beginning to think that the whole conversation may end up being about hospice options!

At least I'm not at risk for ligma.

Update: On the up side, the pulse oximeter I ordered from Amazon via Purse (affiliate link!) on the recommendation of reader dL arrived a few minutes ago, and is giving me readings in the normal range (94-98%), even though I've been a smoker for ~35 years. So hopefully that heart damage the ECG indicates is minor.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Yikes!


More test results ...


VCTE (measures liver fibrosis)

6.0 - 7.5: mild or borderline fibrosis

Above 7.5: moderate liver fibrosis

Above 10: severe fibrosis and/or cirrhosis (> 12 or 14)

Your score 14.0

The blood work would seem to rule out hepatitis, and any "hard-drinking" image I might have is more cultivated by talk than realized in action.

That is, in my early 20s I suppose I drank to excess on occasion, but not on a sustained daily or even weekly basis. Even that tapered well off by the time I hit 30.

In the last 20-22 years, I have probably only been even a little "drunk" less than 10 times, completely sozzled once or twice, and these days probably average less than a drink a month (for example, the last time I drank was in New Orleans at the beginning of July; over the course of three days, I consumed one double bourbon and cola, and one swig of moonshine; before that, I think I had one double bourbon and cola in March).

I see from a little online research that fibrosis occurs more rapidly in men (check,) people over fifty (check), people with compromised immune systems (not that I know of), people who drink heavily (see above), and people with insulin resistance (check). But as to root cause, I have no idea yet.

Word PSA


victim, n. 1. One who is harmed or killed by another, especially by someone committing a criminal or unlawful act: a victim of a mugging.

When you launch a sudden, surprise, unprovoked* physical assault on someone, knocking him to the ground, and your victim then shoots you in self-defense, it stretches that definition well beyond the breaking point to describe you as, or at least exclusively as, the "victim."

*No, talking to your girlfriend from several feet away, absent an offer to do harm, does not create a legitimate "defense of self or others" claim on your part.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Live from the West Wing ...



Sad News


I just learned via email that Steve Gordon has passed away after a heart attack.

For those who don't know of Steve, he was a life member of the Libertarian Party and LPHQ's former press secretary.

Before that he was campaign manager for Aaron Russo's 2004 campaign for the party's presidential nomination (I was privileged to serve under him as that campaign's communications director, and then to follow him to Michael Badnarik's post-nomination presidential campaign where he was the communications director and I worked for him again with a title I don't recall at the moment).

In between those two party bookends, he was key staff on Bob Barr's 2008 LP presidential campaign where we went up against each other (I managed Steve Kubby's nomination campaign and also worked for Mary Ruwart). He won that round, but we had a few drinks over the fight :)

I miss him already and my prayers and Tamara's are with his wonderful wife, Deb, and his other loved ones.

More on funeral arrangements and so forth when I hear more myself.

A Modest Proposal to Test True Sentiment


Bryan Caplan notes a seeming dearth of gratitude to Big Tech for its provision of awesome "free" services of types pretty much unheard of (in some cases, maybe not even much imagined) 30 years ago but considered essential these days.

[Y]ou might expect these giants of the internet age to be popular, admired, even loved. Instead, they’re drowning in resentment. How often does a pundit or politician give a speech thanking them for their astounding work? Virtually never. Instead, we live in a world where pundits bemoan the market leaders‘ alleged failures -- and politicians casually threaten to regulate them -- or even treat them like public utilities.

You could remind me that, “Actions speak louder than words.” People who contently use Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon far outnumber the complainers. This is a fine observation -- if you want expose the pettiness and myopia of the critics. "If company X is so bad, why do they have hundreds of millions of repeat customers?" is not a decisive response to complaints, but it is a mighty response nonetheless.

So who cares what the naysayers say? Sadly, every satisfied customer of these great companies should care, because in politics, words speak louder than actions. Pundits and politicians seek fame and power by saying and doing what sounds good, even when the consequences are awful.

Disclaimer: As you might guess if you're a regular reader here, I do not agree that the "free" services -- Caplan doesn't put scare quotes around the word and seems to believe it -- are in fact "free." Gmail is not a service that's "given" to the user. It's a service that's traded to the user in exchange for personal information, the use of which is then rented to the real customers, Google's advertisers.

I also don't agree that words necessarily speak louder than actions. Or, rather, I think that particular actions by Big Tech could elicit words from its currently contented users that carry more political weight than do the protestations of e.g. Mark Zuckerberg in Senate hearings.

There's a certain kind of strike that the left brings around every so often, usually without great effect -- "A Day Without Women" or "A Day without Latinos" or whatever, in which people of particular identities are encouraged to stay home so that the rest of us see how much we need them.

I think such a strike might be a bit more effective if the strikers were the Big Tech companies, a la:

503 Service Unavailable
The server is currently unavailable (because it is overloaded or down for maintenance). Generally, this is a temporary state. In this particular case, a 24-hour temporary state. Given recent rumblings in Congress, we've decided to take a day off for an employee seminar on the regulatory outlook. We've shut our servers down for that time period since our employees will be busy discussing what the politicians are trying to do to us. [Google search, Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google News, Facebook, Twitter, et al.] will resume service at [time/date]. If that leaves you with nothing to do, consider calling your US Senators and Representatives to discuss the dangers of toying with things they neither understand nor are entitled to control. Have a nice day!

I Like Numbers with my Election News


In yesterday's Democratic congressional primary for Massachusetts US House District, "progressive" Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley defeated 10-term incumbed Michael Capuano.

I've now read five accounts of the outcome at fairly major news sites: Yahoo! News, the Boston Globe, Fox News, the New York Times, and The Daily Beast.

The first paragraph of the Daily Beast account informs me that "it wasn't even close." And then goes on for another thousand words without telling me how not-close it was.

The New York Times story notes that Capuano conceded with "barely 13 percent of the votes counted," but offers no clue as to how many votes were cast or what the final result was, other than that Pressley won.

Fox reports that Pressley had a lead of 10,682 votes with 69 percent of precincts reporting. Out of how many votes cast?  What relative percentages does that number reflect? Nary a word.

The Boston Globe piece is an editorial that refers to a "resounding victory" and links to a paywalled article that may or may not have actual numbers. I guess they get half a pass here since they're discussing something they've apparently already reported elsewhere.

No numbers at all in the Yahoo piece.

It seems to me that vote percentages -- even if only incomplete ones because not all precincts have reported -- are the third basic and essential element in a news story about how an election came out (the first two being what office the election was for and who the candidates were).

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Double Issue: Things I Hate to See #913,461/Things I Hate to Hear #4,623,531


Things I Hate to See #913,461: A doctor getting a raised-eyebrow, quizzical look on her face while looking at my ECG.

Things I Hate to Hear #4,623,531: "Are you sure you've never had a heart attack?"

Well, I was pretty sure, but I did hedge my answer: Not that I know of.

And it turns out that I may just not have known. I've known people who hadn't known what they were having were  heart attacks when first having them, and who had to be told by ER doctors, "yeah, that's a heart attack you're having there." But I kind of figured that if you had a heart attack and didn't notice it, the next thing you would notice would be be being dead, or in an ambulance with people yelling 'clear' and shocking you with paddles, or something.

I still don't know that I have had a heart attack, because this ECG was part of a physical for participating in a drug trial. It wasn't this doctor's job to diagnose me, just to establish whether or not I'm eligible to participate. So she sort of told me the minimum while telling me I need to take a copy of the ECG to my primary care provider.

That minimum: There seems to be some kind of "conduction problem" (i.e. problem with parts of the heart's transmission/receipt of electrical signals), and diabetics are among the population that might not notice heart attacks because diabetic neuropathy can reduce/block pain signals.

Bonus: The drug trial is liver-related, so there was also an ultrasound-type procedure to look at that. Some fibrosis. That surprised me too. Other than the usual "wooh! Party on!" stuff in my late teens and early 20s, I've never been a chronic heavy drinker and -- back to "that I know of" -- have never been diagnosed with e.g. hepatitis.

Possible second-round bonuses: They drew blood and I should hear about those results next week.

Looks like there might be treadmills and biopsies in my future.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

For Some Reason ...


Disqus email notifications are taking several hours to reach me the last day or so. Please pardon any seemingly undue delay in responding to comments.

What's the Opposite of "to Fisk?"


I read -- or at least give a quick once-over to -- dozens of political commentaries every day. About twice a week, I come across one that really grinds my gears for a particular reason.

 fisk,  verb  1. slang to refute or criticize (a journalistic article or blog) point by point 

The kind of piece I have in mind does the exact opposite of fisking. It does absolutely nothing except quote another piece, in chunks, prefacing each chunk with a summary of the claim the chunk makes and following the chunk with an announcement that the chunk did indeed well prove the claim.

Note well: I am not condemning pieces that make their own claims and cite various other bits of writing in support of those claims, or that here and there do the claim/chunk/acclaim of chunk thing. I'm condemning pieces that are nothing but claim/chunk/acclaim of chunk, with every chunk from the same piece.

It's sort of like posting "I agree" in the comment thread on some blog posts, and then presenting the blog posts and "I agree" comments in aggregate as a supposedly original creation. At least the final step of the fisking formula (claim, chunk, criticism of chunk) implies something beyond an ability to summarize, copy, paste, and type "I agree."

New coinage:

 fusk,  verb  1. slang to agree with (a journalistic article or blog) point by point in the most boring way conceivable 

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