Tuesday, December 18, 2018


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."


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
868-079-3136 fax

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

Version: Mailvelope v2.2.2
Comment: https://www.mailvelope.com


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.


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.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Planned Obsolescence?

My Chromebox is an Asus model, running on a 1.4 GHz Intel Celeron CPU with 4Gb of RAM. Not a powerhouse by current standards, of course, but capable of doing plenty of things that I've done with older, slower CPUs and far less RAM in the past.

So, I was pleased to see that Google was introducing the ability to directly install and run Linux apps to ChromeOS, starting with version 70.

For some machines, but not others, as it turns out. And mine is apparently in the "others" category. As it is with the fairly recently introduced ability to run Android apps (my newer Chromebook handles Android -- haven't looked into the Linux angle on that one yet).

I handed my first Chromebox, a 2012 Samsung model, off to my son several years ago. It has similar or better specs than the newer one (I think it has a 1.9 GHz Celeron in it, and also has 4Gb of RAM). So far as I know, the only real hardware difference is that it's in a larger case. Not only is it not on the "can run Linux apps" or "can run Android apps" lists, Google apparently cut it out of getting further OS updates at all several months back.

I can see why older models of the same machine type would fall by the wayside vis a vis new capabilities on the basis of CPU type, supported RAM size, etc. But Google seems to be cutting machines out of software update/improvement schedules just because they're older, not because they're less capable.

And that's bullshit.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Surprise, I Have an Opinion on a Bob Dylan Related Matter

The Associated Press asks "Can a long-running debate for Bob Dylan fans be settled?" regarding Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

[S]hortly before the album’s release, on a holiday break home in Minnesota, an apparently unsatisfied Dylan convened a mostly unknown group of musicians and re-recorded half of the album’s 10 songs. Many of his fans, particularly those who heard illicit outtakes of what he recorded in New York, have long debated whether that was a mistake.

 Mistake? I don't know about that, but I do know that I like the tracks I've heard from the new More Blood, More Tracks release. In fact, I like most, maybe all, of them better than I like the versions on the album as it was actually released. Here are ten of the newly released takes for your consideration.

In particular, I never liked the original album version of "Tangled Up In Blue" that much. I won't say I hated it, but it just wasn't one of my favorites. The version linked above is one of my favorite Dylan listens.

"Up to Me" was recorded for Blood on the Tracks, but wasn't released until 1985's Biograph, and I like the More Blood, More Tracks version linked above a lot better than the Biograph take.

Of course, I could have a more informed opinion if I had the whole More Blood, More Tracks collection coming out tomorrow (hint, hint). But at this point I'm prepared to say that Blood on the Tracks would rate way higher up my list of favorite Dylan albums if he had gone with the New York takes instead of the Minnesota re-recordings.

Why? Well, that one's easy: The New York takes sound more like "early Dylan."

I'm not prejudiced against "electric Dylan," especially up through John Wesley Harding, mind you, and I'm increasingly warming up to his later stuff (like 2012's Tempest). But I still think his songs sound their best when it's him, his guitar, his harmonica, and little if any backing instrument noise.

God is reputed to have a choir of angels at hir beck and call, but I bet hir voice rings most true when ze sends them out for a coffee break and just performs solo, too.

Strictly Politics: A Much Shorter Note on "Birthright Citizenship"

I argue against Trump's proposal to amend the Constitution by decree elsewhere and in detail, but one thing I left out of that argument is the question: Why now?

Whether or not he especially wants to end "birthright citizenship" (he may), or  intends to try to do so in an unconstitutional manner (he may), the answer to "why now?" is:

Because he hopes that putting the proposal into the news cycle right now will get more of his "base" voters off their asses and to the polls for the midterm election.

Yes, it's really that simple, and no, there's not really any more to it than that. There is a secondary question related to "why now?" that proves it. That question is "why not at any other time in the past nearly two years, when he could have actually taken action instead of just flapping his gums?"

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

My Argument for Birthright Citizenship

I've read a number of libertarian arguments on principle against "birthright citizenship," and I agree with them. I should really pick just one, so I'll pick one by Nathan Barton. Excerpt:

I believe the very idea of "birthright citizenship" is contrary to basic principles of liberty. The concept (that I have no choice but to be an American citizen because of where I was born and because of what my parents decided) is bad. It takes away the liberty of millions.

I did not sign the Constitution (or even the Articles of Confederation). How can I be governed by that -- just because one or more of my distant ancestors might have been forced to accept the jurisdiction of the governments who DID sign that constitution or were admitted to the Union afterwards? We rejected inherited slavery a long time ago. Or did we?

Works for me.

There are also some libertarians attempting to argue against "birthright citizenship" on constitutional/legal grounds. I say "attempting" because their arguments do not and cannot hold water.

Just as an example, some quote the author of the "citizenship clause," US Senator Jacob M. Howard (R-MI) as follows:

This amendment which I have offered is simply declaratory of what I regard as the law of the land already, that every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.

Oddly, they interpret that to mean exactly the opposite of what it clearly means. What it means is that if you are born into the family of a diplomat who is representing another regime on official business in the United States and is therefore not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States (i.e. there is "diplomatic immunity"), the citizenship clause doesn't cover you. If you're born to anyone else*, it does.

The asterisk is intended to note that there was some discussion of Indians. Howard held that because the tribes were (at least theoretically) sovereign nations with their own jurisdictions and their own territories (the reservations), they were neither part of nor "under the jurisdiction of" the United States. So being born in, say, the Cherokee Nation didn't confer "birthright citizenship" because that was being born abroad.

"Birthright citizenship" was what President Andrew Johnson took the clause to mean. That was what Senate Judiciary Committee chair Lyman Trumbull (R-IL) took it to mean. That was what every Senator who expressed an opinion took it to mean. Not a single Senator argued against that interpretation.

In fact, those who argued against the clause argued against it precisely because that's what they understood it to mean. Edgar Cowan (R-PA), for example, was upset that it would apply to the children of gypsies and of Chinese immigrants. He didn't think the Civil Rights Act already applied to them and didn't want the 14th Amendment to either:

Mr. Cowan: I will ask whether it will not have the effect of naturalizing the children of Chinese and Gypsies born in this country?

Mr. Trumbull: Undoubtedly.


Mr. Trumbull: I should like to inquire of my friend from Pennsylvania, if the children of Chinese now born in this country are not citizens?

Mr. Cowan: I think not.

Mr. Trumbull: I understand that under the naturalization laws the children who are born here of parents who have not been naturalized are citizens. This is the law, as I understand it, at the present time. Is not the child born in this country of German parents a citizen? I am afraid we have got very few citizens in some of the counties of good old Pennsylvania if the children born of German parents are not citizens.

Mr. Cowan: The honorable Senator assumes that which is not the fact. The children of German parents are citizens; but Germans are not Chinese; Germans are not Australians, nor Hottentots, nor anything of the kind. That is the fallacy of his argument.

Mr. Trumbull: If the Senator from Pennsylvania will show me in the law any distinction made between the children of German parents and the children of Asiatic parents, I may be able to appreciate the point which he makes; but the law makes no such distinction; and the child of an Asiatic is just as much of a citizen as the child of a European.

Children born in the United States whose parents are not credentialed foreign diplomats, i.e. not under the jurisdiction of the United States, are citizens.  That's an incontrovertible fact of both US citizenship law going back to the founding of the country (and to English common law before that), and of the 14th Amendment's meaning. Any executive order or statute claiming anything to the contrary is repugnant to the Constitution and therefore void. Period.

Which leads me to my own argument: The strategic argument.

We should always hold the state to its own rules when  and where those rules deny new discretionary authority to the state.

A faction of the ruling class is demanding new discretionary state authority to decide who is and who is not a citizen.

The only plausible reason for demanding that new discretionary authority is the expectation that that discretionary authority will increase the state's general level of power over all of us.

The faction so demanding is claiming the prerogative of seizing that new discretionary authority in violation of its own rules requiring passage by 2/3 of both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures.

Why? Because they know they won't be able to get 2/3 of both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures to go along with the idea.

Well ... no. Screw'em. Every one of them claims those same rules as the basis for their existing authority. They don't get to drop the one without dropping the other.

A Harmonica Question ...

If any of my readers are harmonica players, maybe you'll know:

Why are lower-pitched harmonicas so expensive?

For example, a Hohner Marine Band in the key of C goes for $36.80 at Amazon, a Hohner Special 20 in C for $33.79. But the cheapest Hohner I can find in low C is the Marine Band Thunderbird at $164.00.

I can see why actual bass (and chord) harmonicas are more expensive -- they're giant, big comb, lots of reeds involved, etc. --  but more than $100 for a "mini" bass more than $1,000 for the whole enchilada seems a bit excessive.

Is it that low-key and bass harmonicas are such specialty items that 1) not that many people want them so they're not produced in large quantities, but 2) the people who do want them really want them and are willing to pay through the nose for them?

Or is it something else?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Because I Want to be the First Out with a Conspiracy Theory ...

James "Whitey" Bulger is dead, apparently beaten to death in prison.

His now-guaranteed silence seems very convenient for at least one prospective 2020 presidential candidate.

Just sayin' ...

Monday, October 29, 2018

Even Bloomberg (Temporarily?) Misunderstands What a "Loss" is

The headline as it appeared on Google News ...

Moutai Investors Lose $10 Billion as Liquor Maker Faces Slowdown

... seems to have been corrected at the site to ...

One of China’s most potent symbols of luxury spending at home -- the fiery liquor churned out by Kweichow Moutai Co. -- was dealt a $10 billion blow to its market value Monday, the latest company to be hit by anxiety over a pullback in spending by shoppers.

Moutai, which makes the baijiu liquor that’s favored by China’s leaders and often prized as a luxury gift, saw its shares plunge to the daily limit Monday after disappointing earnings stoked pessimism.

If you purchase a share of stock at $2 and the market price of that share subsequently drops to $1, you've only lost a dollar if you sell the share at that lower price.

If you don't sell the share, you haven't lost money yet. You bought a share. You still have a share. It may or may not produce income in the form of dividends. When you do eventually sell it, you may take a loss, or a profit, or break even. But not until you sell it (or until the company actually dissolves/goes bankrupt, leaving the share worthless and unsellable).

No, the Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack was not "the Worst Attack on Jews in American History"

That would probably be FDR's complicity in the murder of 227 of the Jewish passengers of the MS St. Louis. Just sayin' ...

Friday, October 26, 2018

My Endorsement of Amendment Four, and a Question

Amendment Four, per Ballotpedia:

A "yes" vote supports this amendment to automatically restore the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, upon completion of their sentences, including prison, parole, and probation.

I support this, and voted in favor of it yesterday. Personally, I would go further than that (prisoners should be able to vote), but it's a good start anyway. Florida is one of only a few states that prohibits voting rights to convicted felons who have completed their sentences. There's never been any real argument about the intent of that prohibition in southern states starting in the Jim Crow area: It was to intended reduce the number of African-Americans who were eligible to vote.

But anyway, now I read this:

[Cesar] Sayoc is a registered Republican in Miami-Dade County and listed as an "active" voter, according to Florida voting records. Court records show Sayoc has a history of arrests, notably a 2002 charge of making a bomb threat, which allegedly put him on law enforcement's radar. ... Sayoc was also convicted in 2014 for grand theft and misdemeanor theft of less than $300, and in 2013 for battery. In 2004, he faced several felony charges for unlawful possession of a synthetic anabolic steroid often used to help build muscles. He also had several arrests for theft in the 1990s and faced a felony charge for obtaining fraudulent refunds and a misdemeanor count of tampering with physical evidence. Lowy said he recalled that Sayoc also had a run-in with authorities over possession of steroids and another case in Broward County where he was charged with possessing a fake driver's license after altering his birthdate to make him appear younger.

Some of those things are listed merely as "charges," but the grand theft is noted as a "conviction." And in Florida, grand theft is a felony. So how the heck was this guy a "registered Republican" and an "'active' voter?"

Election Predictions, with Bob Dylan Goodness

So, will the Republicans find themselves tangled up in blue, or is it all over now, baby blue?

In a September Thanks For Asking! thread, Darryl W. Perry asked:

do you want to make any predictions (can be specific or vague) about the upcoming mid-term elections?

Some high points from my reply, which you can read in its original entirety at the link if you really want to:

  • [I]t is normal for the party that holds the White House to lose seats in the midterms. So I will predict Democratic gains in Congress.
  • I do not, however, predict anything that would amount to a "Blue Wave."
  • I do not expect the Democrats to take the Senate. In fact, there's a real possibility they will lose seats on net.
  • [The Democrats] need to pick up 24 seats to take the House. They might do that (they picked up more than that in 2006 and 2008, and the GOP picked up more than that in 2010). But if they do I think it will be just barely.

The "blue wave" talk in the mainstream political media was just beginning to take a stumble when I wrote that. Why?

Well, it could be the usual "we have to sound desperate to Get Out The Vote" tactic that parties pull even when they know they have it in the bag (for example, the outcome of Clinton v. Dole in 1996 was never in serious doubt, but the Democratic strategy was to pretend that it was so as to get their base alarmed and off its ass; and the Republicans, of course, pretended Dole had a chance for the same reason).

Or it could be that they sobered up and looked at the actual numbers.

As of today, 538 -- which hasn't done nearly as good a job as I do at picking overall outcomes over the last decade or so -- forecasts a one in six chance of the Democrats taking the Senate and a five in six chance of the Republicans keeping control of the Senate, with an 80% chance that the outcome will wall within the range of "Democrats gain two seats" and "Republicans gain four seats."

I think 538 is probably getting it right this time.

Here's the problem for Democrats:

Of the 35 Senate seats up for election (33 normal, two special elections), 26 are currently held by Democrats and only nine by Republicans.

To put it a different way, Republicans only have nine seats to defend, leaving them free to attack those other 26, while Democrats have to defend 26 seats and only have nine places to go on the attack.

The Democrats are almost certainly going to lose a seat in North Dakota, are very likely to lose a seat in Missouri, and are quite possibly going to lose seats in Montana and Indiana. As of the thread above, I also had Florida in play, but at the moment I'm expecting it to stay Democratic. So let's call it four seats that they may lose.

How many currently Republican seats might they gain? 538 has Arizona and Nevada in the toss-up category. I think the GOP will almost certainly hold Arizona and am skeptical that the Democrats can take Nevada. But even if Democrats win both those states, that's a net loss of two seats.

I could be completely wrong here, but you know how I am. I'm going to go ahead and call it and then see if I'm right or wrong. I think it will be a GOP net gain of four seats.

As always, it comes down to "who gets the vote out best."

It was already looking to me like the Republicans were going to win on that metric when I replied to the Thanks For Asking! question. To the degree that the midterms were a referendum on Donald Trump, his base still loved him and was going to go vote because he told them to, while the Democrats still seemed attached to the stump-stupid idea that whining about !Them Russians! beating Hillary Clinton two years ago would get their people out.

The "October surprises" don't seem likely to change the equation. I think that Trump is having better luck scaring the bejebus out of his base with the "caravan" nonsense than the Democrats are having or are going to have with anything they've done or are likely to do.

In fact, I suspect that the likely Democratic strategy for the next two weeks -- screeching that the Trump base is pretty much entirely composed of people who mail pipe bombs to Democratic politicians -- will help the Republicans more than it helps the Democrats on GOTV terms.

I do expect Florida to stay blue at both the US Senate level and for governor, because:

  • For Senate, Floridians just seem far more tired of two-term governor Rick Scott, the GOP nominee, than they are of Bill Nelson, the three-term Democratic incumbent. They both suck, but the suck is especially strong with Scott.
  • For governor, the Democrats nominated a corrupt African-American southern mayor (Andrew Gillum) and the Republicans nominated a nutzoid racist creep (Ron DeSantis). That's a tough call, since southern voters seem to love both corrupt mayors and nutzoid racist creeps. But I'm betting that 1) two terms of Rick Scott has worn out the GOP's welcome in the governor's mansion for a term or two, and 2) the African-American vote will turn out big (not just for Gillum, but also for a ballot measure aiming to restore former felons' voting rights, denial of which has been a tool to suppress the African-American vote since Reconstruction). I also suspect, or at least hope, that the nutzoid racist creep factor will drive a some "moderate Republican" votes away from the GOP and to my friend Darcy Richardson, the Reform Party's nominee.

"I Voted" is a Lot Like "I Farted"

I feel like holding my nose when doing it, but afterward I'm glad to have it over with.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Prognosis: Celine Dion

My Heart Will (Probably) Go On, that is.

The short version of my visit with the cardiologist this morning is "you're fine, quit smoking, take your statin, and come see me again in a year."

Longer version:

When a doctor sees "left branch bundle block" on an ECG, the first thought is "guy may have had a heart attack," but that's not always the case and more testing is called for.

In my case, the additional testing (echo cardiogram and nuclear stress test) says no heart damage, no arterial blockage, no obvious underlying "problem." I may eventually need a pacemaker if the bundle block worsens/changes, but I don't need one now.

He did say there's one more test they can do -- something about a more exact measurement of arterial plaque -- but that he doesn't see any reason for it unless I just feel like blowing some additional money (I don't).

So, heart down, liver to go.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Thanks for the Experience ...

... and since several of you helped me get there, I figure I owe you a bit of a write-up on Bob Dylan's show in St. Augustine, Florida on October 19.

Not a "review," mind you, because that's just not something I can even consider doing. If anything, I've previously low-balled my description of why it was important to me to see Bob Dylan perform live. Think of what making the haj means to a devout Muslim, and you're somewhere in the ball park. So the performance could have sucked and that would have been OK, because the quality of the performance wasn't the point.

The performance didn't suck. I'd rather have had better seats so as to be able to discern facial expressions and such, but no problem. I was actually glad there were no stage-side Jumbotrons, since I came to see Dylan, not watch Dylan on TV (it's not a gigantic venue, about 5,000 seats). The sound quality/acoustics were fantastic.

The only disappointing aspect I can think of is that the man didn't play any guitar, and I would like to have seen him do that. But the man is 77 years old, and played a solid 90-minute set, with no breaks, not including a double encore ("Blowin' in the Wind" and "Ballad of a Thin Man"), under what looked like pretty hot lights and wearing a (white) suit. If he didn't feel like hanging a heavy guitar around his neck, who am I to say he should have?

He spent most of the show at a grand piano, and played plenty of harmonica from there, too, but walked out front and did vocals only on a few songs, including "Scarlet Town."

That one, "Early Roman Kings," and "Gotta Serve Somebody" were the high points of the show in my opinion. Which is odd, since only the last one of those three has ever appeared on any version of my Very Important Dylan Songs checklist. In fact, I don't even own the 2012 album (Tempest) on which the first two appear, being more of an early Dylan (John Wesley Harding and before, heavy on the pre-electric) fan.

One thing that struck me, and that I talked with a few people about -- they said he's done this forever, or at least for a long time:  No talk. Period.

No "how ya doin', St. Augustine, are you ready to rock?" stuff.

No story-telling between songs.

Dylan and his band came out, started playing, kept playing until they were done playing, took their bows silently, and left. That felt appropriate. It also reminded me of something he said when someone asked him why he didn't put any original songs on his first album, to the effect that he wasn't ready to "give too much away" at that point. These days, he promises a musical performance, nothing more, and he delivers a musical performance, nothing more. That's all he owes anyone for the price of a ticket.

And it's plenty.

Thanks for making it possible for me to go.

Side note: I also got to visit with two of my other heroes, Darcy Richardson and Austin Cassidy, in St. Augustine. We met for dinner (a local pizza/pasta buffet) before the show. That was cool, too.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Two Statements That Don't Mean The Same Thing But Often Get Treated as if They Do

Statement #1: "That idea/belief/position of yours is not libertarian."

Statement #2: "You're not a libertarian."


Wednesday, October 17, 2018


We bought the Dylan tickets on August 25.

I started learning about left branch bundle block and liver fibrosis on September 2.

If the order had been reversed, I probably wouldn't be going to see Dylan on Friday, due to the financial uncertainty that comes with getting new but limited health information.

But hey, the tickets were already paid for and in hand. We're driving to and from on the same day (saving a hotel bill), borrowing a friend's car (instead of renting), and another friend has indicated an interest in treating us to dinner.

So yep, going to see Dylan.

I Wish They'd Just Let it Die

I wasn't a big fan of the original Roseanne, never bothered to watch the reboot, and have no intention whatsoever of watching The Conners. If I'm going to watch/listen to Roseanne Barr, I'd rather do so in the context of standup, roasts, etc., where nobody will bat an eye at stuff that gives everyone the vapors if it's network television related.

So, I'm not really entitled to an opinion of The Conners, I guess. Perhaps it's all in all a fun show. I'll likely never know.

But I have an opinion anyway: ABC should have either strapped on some guts and continued with Roseanne, or killed it, cremated the corpse, scattered the ashes, and moved along.

I wasn't a big fan of Valerie, either. I think I watched maybe one episode. And I watched no episodes after they killed Valerie Harper's character off in a car crash and limped the thing along for four more seasons as Valerie's Family and then The Hogan Family over a salary dispute.

All this crap about how "we need to come up with a way to continue this thing so that we don't have to lay off cast and crew" is, well, crap. Shows get canceled all the time, and if ABC and the production company and so forth were really that worried about what was going to happen to the actors and writers and camera operators and gaffers and best boys and editors and assistants, they could have drummed up a completely different show for some of them, shuffled others off to other existing productions, etc.

Make a show or don't make a show, people. Half-assing it because you didn't have the courage to out-wait a Twitter storm is just stupid.

I Don't Understand the Supposed Surprise

A sample of what I'm talking about from CNN:

There is no God -- that's the conclusion of the celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking, whose final book is published Tuesday.

The book, which was completed by his family after his death, presents answers to the questions that Hawking said he received most during his time on Earth.

Other bombshells the British scientist left his readers with include ...

"Other bombshells" implies that Hawking's non-belief in the existence of a god or gods is itself a "bombshell."

bombshell, n. 2. a shocking surprise

I'm no expert on Hawking, but like many people in the late '80s / early '90s, I read his first popular work, A Brief History of Time. I had to look up this quote, but the gist of it has stuck with me for 30 years:

With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the universe to break these laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the universe should have looked like when it started -- it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start it off. So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?"

In fact, Hawking said -- and made headlines for saying -- that he didn't believe in a creator many, many times during the three decades of his life when he was internationally famous (and presumably many, many times before that as well).

How in God's name (pun intended) is him saying what he's said over and over a "bombshell?"

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 ;-)

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