Saturday, April 21, 2018

Some Housekeeping

Thing One:

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

Thing Two:

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

Version: Mailvelope v2.2.0


Thing Three:

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

From 1999: The Other House on Garibaldi Street

Some pieces age better than others. Unfortunately, the evil-doer featured in this one -- originally published in 1999 at the now-defunct SpinTech web zine -- died of natural causes before she could be brought to justice. And it was written before I went full-on anarchist, when I still had some misplaced faith in the possibility of "reforming the system." But, seeing as how it's the 25th anniversary of the Waco massacre (and, to the minute, the time the first flames became visible from outside), I'm still going to re-post it. Enjoy.

The Other House on Garibaldi Street

The Israeli government took sixteen years to track down Adolph Eichman at the little house in Buenos Aires where he had retired from a long and productive career of burning, gassing and machine-gunning Jews. How long will it take us to put U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno behind bars where she belongs?

Six years after the literal holocaust at Waco, Reno remains at large. When Hezbollah or Hammas claim responsibility for an act of terrorism, our officials piously vow to track them down and exact retribution, whatever the cost. When one of those same officials claims responsibility for the fiery deaths of 80 people, including twice as many children as Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold murdered at Columbine High School, she goes on to become the longest-serving Attorney General in the history of our nation.

But the times, they are-a-changin'.

In July, after documentary researcher Michael McNulty (a producer of the Oscar-nominated Waco: The Rules of Engagement) received permission to examine the evidence gathered by the Texas rangers in the wake of the conflagration, four incendiary devices -- commonly referred to as "flash-bangs" -- surfaced. They had originally been misidentified as homemade silencers, presumably in order to substantiate the ATF's oft-stated (and, as yet, wholly unproved) claims that the Branch Davidians were stockpiling "illegal" armaments. What's more, the evidence mapping reveals that these devices were recovered from the parts of the Mount Carmel building where the fatal fires started.

Naturally, Reno denied any knowledge of the incendiaries and continued attempting to shove the responsibility that she originally claimed off onto her victims, who, being dead, can't answer. But her case was horribly weak to begin with: it's hard to establish to the satisfaction of any neutral panel that cutting off the power to a building, waiting until the tenants resort to kerosene lamps for lighting, then assaulting the building with tanks and pumping flammable gas into the place doesn't constitute an attempt at murder. Especially when your own cameras show your own people herding the victims back into the fire with the aid of automatic weapons. Especially when many of the victims are women and children. And, most especially, when the whole mess is the result of an unprovoked attack by your own people.

"Flash-bangs" are designed to stun and immobilize their targets. Being trapped in a burning building does not combine well with having one detonated next to you. Furthermore, the primer charges in the devices are known to start fires in small, enclosed spaces. Spaces like the rooms at Mount Carmel, where kerosene lamps were tumbling over and spilling as the tanks rammed the walls. There, the atmosphere was full of CS, a "riot agent" that produces potassium cyanide when ignited, suspended in a flammable delivery solution.

As I write this, the FBI has finally admitted to using incendiaries on the morning of the fatal fire. Reno is back-pedaling for all she's worth, announcing a new investigation into the siege and how it ended. One wonders if the "lost" evidence from the first Congressional hearings into the matter -- things like the ATF's videotape of the initial raid, the door from Mount Carmel Center, and other conveniently missing items -- will resurface this time around. Do the calls for another round of hearings in Congress portend a satisfactory resolution of the case (i.e. are the murderers going to stand trial, be rightly convicted by a jury of their peers, and be led away in manacles)?

Somehow, I doubt it. The Clinton administration has invested far too much capital in protecting Reno from the consequences of its policies and her actions. Clinton will never admit that his troops fired the first unprovoked shots in a war that has so far claimed the lives of over 200 people, including the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, which supposedly took place as retribution for the events at Waco.

Reno would be an international fugitive if she was the Attorney General of Yugoslavia. She would be on death row if she had thrown a CS grenade into someone's kerosene-lit house and then rammed it with her pickup truck after beating them unconscious. But since she committed her crimes using the surrogate agents of the BATF and FBI, and since those crimes reflected the official policy of a government run amuck, she has her freedom. For now.

But what happens when and if those who value human life and human freedom assume the place in government that rightfully belongs only to them? What is Ms. Reno going to do when we elect an administration predicated on Bill of Rights Enforcement?

Will Janet Reno, former Attorney General of the United States and proud recipient of the (no joke) Torchbearer Award, flee the country and attempt to live out her natural life in the relative, if limited, freedom of an exile and a fugitive from justice? Will she descend into the underground, adopting a new name and pretending to be an old retired female impersonator, passing unrecognized on the streets except by fellow fugitives like Larry Potts and Lon Horiuchi?

Is there a Garibaldi Street in Miami?

And if there is, would she be welcome there?

Reno's claim to fame, before her elevation to national power under the aegis of the newly elected Bill Clinton, was her penchant subjecting children to everything short of the rack to get them to fabricate stories of molestation. A number of her victims are back on the streets, having served years in prison for crimes they didn't commit before their convictions were overturned. No, I don't think she'll find hospitality forthcoming on her old stomping grounds. After next year, she'll be out there somewhere, nervously waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And it will.

You can run, but you can't hide, Ms. Reno. The wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly, especially when happenstance puts someone like yourself temporarily in the driver's seat. But turn they must. Even a corrupt machine like the current one-party state can't afford to have its legitimacy undermined to the extent that the actions of ATF and FBI have undermined it on your watch.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will -- sooner or later -- be used against you in a court of law.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Second Application of an Important Truth

L. Neil Smith:

"[T]he one and only reason politicians, bureaucrats, and policemen want to take your weapons away from you is so that they can do things to you that they couldn't do if you still had your weapons."


"The one and only reason politicians, bureaucrats, and policemen want to hobble encryption and cryptocurrency is so that they can find out things about, and steal wealth from, you that they couldn't find out and steal if you still had strong encryption."

Monday, April 16, 2018

Um, No

Nobody who pays attention to trivia like relationships within the anarchist and libertarian movements will mistake me for a fan of William Gillis or vice versa. In my opinion he's either one of the dumbest guys on the planet or an infiltrator/agent provocateur, as evidenced by his advocacy of piss-poor decision-making and/or downright evil posturing at the Center for a Stateless Society, where he is now director.

Of course, as a former media director and fellow at the Center, I do try to keep up with their content and do what I can to promote the good stuff (occasionally some good stuff slips past Gillis and gets published). So I had a look at his "Director's Report: Spring 2018," which opens with this:

At its inception C4SS focused on getting timely editorials with an anarchist focus published in newspapers around the world. However, with the slow decline of print media, many of the community newspapers that served as our bread and butter have dried up.

It's true that the number of traditional newspapers in the US continues to shrink. Some are going out of business and some are moving to a web-only format.

But that's not why the Center has trouble getting its op-eds published.

One reason the Center has trouble getting its op-eds published is that the op-eds are overtly anarchist. That's a feature, not a bug, and certainly nothing to blame anyone over. The further from the "mainstream" an op-ed is, the fewer editors are likely to run it. Editors like their radicalism a little less radical. That is, just radical enough to get readers thinking, but not so radical that bricks might get thrown through newsroom windows.

Nonetheless, when I worked as the Center's media coordinator, its op-eds were published hundreds of (my recollection is more than a thousand) times in newspapers around the US and around the world.

When I left, two things observably happened.

One was that the Center couldn't seem to find someone who would a) do the media coordinator job, and b) stick with the job. Again, not especially the Center's fault. Frankly, it was a hard job that I created from scratch in 2010 and that I understand could burn someone out quickly unless that someone is, well, me.

Another was that the quality of the op-eds dropped:

Length constraints (I always insisted on a maximum of 800 words, but urged writers to aim for 400-500) got relaxed. Some papers will run longer op-eds, but 400-500 words seems to be the "sweet spot" for getting the most newspaper op-ed action. I just took a quick sampling of the most recently cataloged pickups (from 2016 -- I don't know if they stopped cataloging pickups or stopped getting pickups). Minimum length was more than 700 words and one went to almost 2400 words. That's not op-ed length, that's feature length.

Another thing that went out the window was the notion that op-eds had should be written with news hooks appropriate to general circulation publications in mind rather than addressing "inside baseball" issues -- that is, hacking on divisions within the libertarian and anarchist movements. The general public doesn't (and newspaper editors catering to the general public don't) give a rat's ass about that stuff. For that matter, most non-libertarian political publications don't either.

Last year, the Garrison Center had 1,139 op-ed pickups by mainstream newspapers and non-libertarian political publications.

As the main writer for Garrison, I enjoy one natural advantage over C4SS, and that is that every op-ed does not have to be specifically anarchist in character.

The other advantages I enjoy versus C4SS are entirely of my doing and of C4SS's not-doing:

- I submit op-eds (to the same list that I originally developed for C4SS) often and regularly (three a week).

- Those op-eds are written to current affairs news hooks of interest to the general public rather than to "inside baseball" topics of interest only to people involved in the libertarian/anarchist movements.

- Those op-eds are written to a minimum length of 400 words and a maximum length of 500 words.

C4SS didn't go into failure as an op-ed mill because papers are disappearing. C4SS went into failure as an op-ed mill because C4SS didn't find someone who would and could require C4SS op-ed authors to adhere to some fairly simple rules regarding what op-eds are.

The Population of Newnan, Georgia is Somewhere Around 35,000

One group of enemies of freedom -- likely a few dozen racist idiots -- intends to hold a rally there on April 21st. I'll be greatly surprised if they number as many as 1% of the town's population.

I'm more concerned by the size and agenda of another group of enemies of freedom: So far, nearly 50,000 people (more people than actually live in Newnan!) have signed a petition demanding that the city government of Newnan ignore the First Amendment and suppress the rally because they don't want racist idiots to be allowed to spout racist idiocy.

The only difference between these groups of enemies of freedom is that one of them admits to being a bunch of fascists.

I don't like fascism, even when it masquerades as anti-fascism.

The Missing Element in the "Doubling Every Day" Story

You've probably heard the old legend about the invention of chess: A king was so impressed with it that he offered its inventor anything he wanted, and the inventor said he wanted a grain of wheat on one square of the board, doubled on the second square, and doubled each square until all 64 squares were filled.

In some versions of the story, the king does the math, tells the inventor he can't do that but makes him a trusted advisor, etc. In other versions, the king starts having the request fulfilled and, when he realizes where it's heading (all the grain in the kingdom belonging to the inventor), he has the inventor beheaded instead.

The modern marketing version of that, emphasizing the power of "compounding" or whatever, is something like:

"Would you rather have a million dollars, or a penny doubled each day for a month?"

The "right" answer in the marketing scheme is the penny doubled each day for a month, which would come to more than $5 million.

But that scheme leaves one thing out: Risk that the scheme is a con or that it will fail.

If you hand me a million dollars, I have a million dollars.

If you give me a penny doubled every day for a month, I have $5 million.

But suppose that whatever your scheme is, it falls apart or turns out to have been a con after 15 days and I stop getting paid. My take that day is $163.84, and my total take is about twice that. In fact, it wouldn't be until day 27 of the scheme that my total take would come to more than a million bucks.

So unless I am very confident that your proposition will hold up for 30 days, I'm better off just taking the million bucks.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Understanding the Problem

I've been (alliteration alert!) commenting on the cluelessness of congresscritters concerning Facebook a bit. Christopher Burg has as well. Reading his comments finally switched on the light bulb in my head that should have been burning bright the whole time.

Burg: "This is part of the reason why political solutions always fail. There is no requirement that the politicians understand the problem to which they’re providing a solution."


Oh, but the politicians do understand the problem.

The problem is always that the politicians don’t have enough power.

And the solution is always the politicians awarding themselves some more power.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Donald Hohenzitler?

Wilhelm Hohenzollern II let himself believe that Russia wouldn't go to war for Serbia, that Belgium wouldn't go to war for its neutrality, and that England wouldn't go to war for France, and we got World War One.

Adolf Hitler let himself believe that France and England wouldn't go to war for Poland, and we got World War Two.

Donald Trump seems to be letting himself believe that Russia won't go to war for Syria.

I'd be inclined to suggest that it's 25th Amendment time, if not for the fact that he's surrounded himself with VP, staff, and cabinet seemingly as divorced from reality as he is.

Two Things About Zuckerberg's Testimony

Thing One

Several times (to the best of my recollection) during yesterday's Senate hearings, Senators asked Mark Zuckerberg questions pertaining to how Facebook sells user data to advertisers.

Each time, Zuckerberg was very careful to include in his answer a claim that Facebook doesn't sell user data to advertisers.

Which, unless Facebook has been lying all along, to everyone, about everything, is true.

Facebook sells targeted advertising. An advertiser tells Facebook "I want to reach males in Maine who are interested in magic," and Facebook shows that advertiser's ads to (as best it can tell from the user data it gathers) males in Maine who are interested in magic.

Facebook does not send the advertiser a list of people and their information.  "Mike in Mapleton is interested in magic, and so is Malachi in Mars Hill, and Matthew in Mattawamkeag ..." Facebook just shows the ads to Mike and Malachi and Matthew.

Thing Two

Several Senators seemed genuinely confused by the claim above versus the fact that Cambridge Analytica had a bunch of data concerning Facebook users. They couldn't quite get their head around the idea that Cambridge Analytica could get Facebook user data due to the actions of anyone or anything other than Facebook. And Zuckerberg kept not explaining it very well. I was yelling at the live feed:


Which is exactly what happened. There was an app. Facebook users saw the app, downloaded the app, installed/opened the app, and upon the app's request gave the app permission to access their Facebook data.

It appears that the app developer violated Facebook's guidelines pertaining to how much data could be taken and/or how it could be used and/or whether or not (and if so for how long) it could be retained. 

And perhaps Facebook didn't respond quickly or strongly enough. One complaint, which seems just a little bit over the top to me, was that Facebook didn't notify users immediately that data those users had given to someone other than Facebook might have been misused by someone other than Facebook.

None of the above is intended as a "defense" of Facebook, by the way. It's just that the Senators who were so eager to grill Zuckerberg about Facebook seemed woefully unable to grasp even the basics of what they were asking about.

Facebook's business model isn't about selling your data to advertisers. It's about selling your eyeballs to advertisers. Your data is just what they use to sell particular pairs of eyeballs to particular advertisers so that the advertisers are reaching the potential customers they want to reach instead of, say, paying to show air conditioner ads to residents of the Arctic Circle.

Word PSA

Over the last few months, I've noticed a trend on e.g. talk radio. Many people are beginning every (or nearly every) answer to any (or almost any) question with the word "so."

Q: What's your name?

A: So, it's Bob.

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: So, I am an Uber driver.

Q: What kind of car do you drive?

A: So, I have a Mazda.

If this took place in my physical presence, I would have to mightily resist an urge to start slapping the "every answer must start with so" person around the room.

Usually in Word PSA posts, I include the relevant dictionary definition of the word in question. This time, I am stumped. At I find 11 definitions for "so," none of which resembles "a word intended for meaningless insertion at the beginning of every answer to any question."

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Everything You Need to Know About the Coming US Strike on Syria

The AUMF we're operating under now passed the week after September 11 ... No amount of creative lawyering, in my view, can stretch it to cover intervention in Syria. -- US Senator Angus King (I-ME)

To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole. -- Robert H. Jackson, chief US prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal

Any questions?

Way to go, Senator Markey!

US Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) is very clear in the Zuckerberg hearing that affirmative consent should be required before gathering or using any information about anyone. He has a bill in process with just such a requirement.

So there goes the NSA, CIA, IRS, Social Security System, Census Bureau, TSA ... heck, pretty much the entire federal government.

Yes, I'm kidding. I'm sure he plans to exempt himself and his cronies. Laws are just for the productive class, not the political class.

Mid-Stream Impressions of Zuckerberg's Senate Testimony

Virtually every Senator questioning Mark Zuckerberg so far is going through a sort of smirky "we'd hate to have to order you to suppress content we don't like, so you probably ought to voluntarily suppress content we don't like (wink, wink)."

The ones who aren't taking that tack are just coming right out and saying "we're going to regulate you, how about you tell us what kind of regulation you'd like" (Lindsey Graham appears to like the EU model of time-sensitive censorship and got Zuck to admit to kind of liking it too).

One of "my" Senators, Bill Nelson, seemed gobsmacked by the bizarre idea that if Facebook couldn't sell advertising it would have to find another way to make money, like charging users. Of course, Nelson usually does sound like a senile idiot, so that's not especially surprising.

And of course the Democrats are all pretending that Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, and !Them Russians! are to blame for Hillary Clinton's disaster of a losing presidential campaign.

Nothing good is going to come of this. But you didn't need me to tell you that.

Is It Possible ...

... to enable publishing that cannot be taken down, and to do so in a way that is easily accessed by the public and does not leave anyone in control of what is published?

I'm asking because of FOSTA/SESTA, the continuing federal witch hunt versus Backpage, etc.

I'm thinking in terms of e.g. P2P file sharing, torrents, blockchains and so forth.

What I would like to see is a "classified ads site" that can't be stopped, blocked, frozen, taken down, seized, etc., and that in fact, once set in motion is not under anyone's control in the sense of "being a publisher." And one more accessible without special software and such, than "dark web"/onion sites.

That would at least put the state's thugs back into the position of chasing after individual victimless "criminals" (drug dealers, sex workers, et al.) instead of having a visible, high-profile, single target to harass.

Just asking.

What the Cohen Raids Mean

Just my opinion, of course, but I think this is the important part (per WaPo):

The raids [on Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's office, home, and hotel room] -- part of an investigation referred by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to federal prosecutors in New York ...

Like WC Fields said, "if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit."

Mueller keeps coming up empty-handed on the former vis a vis the subject of "collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian regime to screw up the 2016 presidential election," so he has to constantly resort to the latter (taking down Paul Manafort over pre-campaign money laundering accusations, trying to turn the Russian troll farm/Facebook ads thing into more than a teapot tempest, etc.).

With this move, he's hoping to either "get" Trump on something other than the obviously dead "collusion" issue, or else bait Trump into firing him so that he can get a new wave of indignation going over "obstruction."

You'll have to take my word that I haven't watched Scott Adams Says since the raids (I haven't been able to get the videos to play on my Chromebox since the last ChromeOS update), but I see he has something up about the raids and I bet that his thoughts include something like the above.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Just Because Something's Irrational Doesn't Mean it Didn't Happen

Thing One:

It would have been completely irrational for Vladimir Putin (or one of his underlings in Russian intelligence) to order the assassination of Sergei Skripal using novichok.

For one thing, Skripal was part of a sort of protected class: A spy for the west who was caught, tried, and sentenced to prison in Russia, then exchanged for Russian spies who had been caught, tried, and sentenced to prison in the US. The thing about prison exchanges is that if one of the exchanging parties comes back and starts killing the spies they exchanged, such exchanges will grind to a halt.

Which means any such killing would not have been for the purpose of "sending a message," since that's not a message Putin would want to send. Which in turn means that even if the Russian state was behind the attack, it wouldn't have been carried out using a weapon that would make everyone say "ah, the Russians must have done it." The attack would have been made to look like an accident, or a burglary gone wrong, or whatever.

Thing Two:

It would be completely irrational for Bashar al-Assad to piss off the world with a chemical attack every time his regime was having some success putting down the rebellion in Syria.

For one thing, each of the chemical attacks he's been accused of has occurred after a significant line of military success has been crossed, not at a time when such an attack might have made a material difference to the outcome.

For another, he can't help but know by now that such attacks are treated as a "red line" by his enemies from abroad and are likely to result in attacks on his own forces which would not otherwise have happened.

So, extreme skepticism is warranted when assessing claims that the Putin regime had Skripal attacked with novichok and that the Assad regime had Douma attacked with chlorine.


Just because something is completely irrational, that doesn't mean a government generally, or a particular government employee, wouldn't do it. Governments and their employees do irrational crap all the time.

Travel Plans ...

... in case anyone wants to hook up.

I'll be arriving in Springfield, Missouri on the afternoon of Thursday, May 10. That gives me not quite a day and a half in town. Of course, I will be wanting to spend most of that with family, but I can probably shake an hour free to meet with a friend.

At 12:01 am on May 12, I'll be getting on a Greyhound in Springfield. There's a half-hour layover in St. Louis from 3:30 to 4am, when you should be asleep and not at a bus station, then it's on to ...

Columbus, Ohio, arriving on the afternoon of May 12 and leaving on the afternoon of May 14, with a Libertarian Party platform committee meeting on Sunday and Monday but presumably free on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

The travel is all booked -- St. Petersburg to Springfield via Allegiant air, then Greyhound to Columbus, then Allegiant back to St. Pete.

I Didn't Leave Facebook. Facebook Left Me.

That's how it feels, anyway.

A few months ago, I stopped getting most updates on e.g. most groups I belonged to, discussion threads I was participating in, etc. So far as I can tell, I didn't change any settings. Facebook notifications just suddenly dwindled from hundreds a day to near zero.

Simultaneously with that, I noticed that I wasn't getting as many likes, shares, etc. of my posts. I assumed that this was because the same thing was happening to other people as was happening to me. That is, they weren't getting SHOWN my posts, by email notifications or in their timelines.

 I wondered if I was "shadow-banned" or something. Maybe, but in any case out of sight, out of mind. Other than posting my Garrison Center columns, and automated posting of Rational Review News Digest items, I hardly ever drop in there anymore.

Since all that started, a lot more people have become perturbed enough by Facebook for various reasons that there seems to be a real exodus going on. I've been getting lots of friend requests at MeWe, a social network I had joined and promptly forgot about. I just went there to accept requests and so forth. I'll give it a harder look as I can, especially if I see real activity there. I'm also on, which has IMO been going downhill the last couple of months in terms of user experience as it tries to remake its "points" system into a cryptocurrency and stuff like that.

I have to wonder: Is it possible that "social media," as we've understood it since Twitter and Facebook took off, is just dying? And if so, what's next?

A Long Early April

Yes, I was AWOL for the whole first week of April. It was one of those weeks.

On March 31st, Tamara's car took a sh*t and died.

There's actually a silver lining.

The car was a 2001 Subaru Forester that she paid $1500 for. She loved the car. I had been hectoring her to put some money into it if she really liked it and planned to keep it. The seller had cautioned her that it would need wheel bearings in the not too distant future, the CV joint was popping, and new tires would have been a smart buy.

She put those things off, which was fortunate because the transmission suddenly went. It hadn't been slipping or anything. Just boom, "if you put it in gear it makes a horrible noise, if you try to put it back into park it grinds for about a minute before locking in."

Replacing it would be $2100. For a $1500 car. In addition to those aforementioned things. So that was the end of the Subaru.

Which meant a week of getting around being difficult, and of car shopping, which is something I have to leave the house and participate in.

So anyway, she bought a car yesterday. Or, rather, a truck -- a 1999 Toyota 4Runner SUV. A little bigger than the Subaru, but she's comfortable driving it.

That was the big time consumer and the main reason you haven't seen much of me, but there were other things too (for example, spending 24 hours at a friend's house as "watch person" after a medical procedure).

Anyway, I'm back and will try to get with the blogging.

Friday, March 30, 2018

It's Over 9,000!

Because, well, it's over 10,000.

My doctor is always after me to exercise, and my problem with exercise is this: I go at it aggressively, I make real improvements in strength, endurance, blood glucose level, blood pressure, weight loss ...

... but then when something knocks me out of my aggressive routine -- a cold snap, for example -- there's about a 50/50 chance that I will stay knocked off of it for weeks or months. I was riding the bicycle 10 miles a day, etc. for about a month starting in late November. IIRC, I did a 20-miler on Christmas Eve, or perhaps the day before that. Then there was a week of lows in the 20s and highs in the 40s or 50s, and I hate riding in the cold. So I stopped, and never really got back to it.

Now I'm taking a different approach. Instead of getting all hyped up and locked into something that's just too easy to let myself quit, I'm walking 10,000 steps a day. I got one of those little wrist monitors to keep track. Not one that keeps track of heart rate, sleep patterns, etc. This one just counts steps, estimates distance and calories burned, and works as a wristwatch (it also connects to my phone via Bluetooth for storage of stats and such. I paid $5 for it at Ollie's. So far, five days of 10k steps. I think this is something I can keep up and build on.

Naturally, about the time I decided to do it, a new study came out saying that 15,000, not 10,000, steps per day is optimal. But instead of jumping right in on that, I decided to start at 10k and then do one or more of several things:

  1. Raising my step goal by 1,000 ever yso often, once whatever level I'm at seems so easy that it's probably peaked in terms of benefit; and/or
  2. Start requiring myself to jog parts of my daily step goal, likely in 10% increments, intermixed with the walking a la fartlek.
  3. Adding in some other form of exercise in between walks/jogs. Maybe the bike (which I do want to get back to using for transportation anyway), maybe the kettlebell, whatever.
Complicating that is the fact that I do a good deal of the walking while holding onto a leash with a dog at the end of it. Since she's getting older and her legs are about six inches long, there are limits to how fast or far I can expect her to hang in there.

But anyway, I'm going to see if I can resist the urge to throw myself into the exercise stuff and get burned out such that I find myself stopping and not re-starting at the first excuse to do so.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

All of a Sudden

I got a bunch of friend requests on MeWe, a social network I joined a long time ago and then promptly forgot all about.

The friend requests are almost entirely from libertarians.

Is there an en masse libertarian Facebook emigration phenomenon going on and I didn't get the memo?

Monday, March 26, 2018

One Letter, a World of Difference

gunplain, v. To whine about guns, gun owners and gun rights.

gunsplain, v. To inconvenience a gunplainer with facts that make it clear he has no idea what he's talking about and is thus not entitled to have his opinion respected by anyone who cares about the truth.


I know what you're thinking -- another post about Trump. Nope. This is a post about social media and data-mining.

I'm seeing commentary from a bunch of people, operating from various ideologies, to the following effect (not a quote, a paraphrase of a number of such claims):

Social media giants (e.g. Facebook) and data miners (e.g. Cambridge Analytica) dispose of such enormous power in terms of "opinion leader" mojo that they are effectively (and effectually) engaged in mass brainwashing of the hapless mass of ordinary voters, skewing election results, opinion poll results, etc.

But the fact that that claim is being made constitutes an implicit claim itself: The claim that the person making the claim is somehow magically immune to this brainwashing, unlike the rest of us poor gullible wind-up toys. All of us rubes just need to pay attention to the special people who are immune to influences outside themselves (and who, of course, have only our best interests at heart), and we'll all be saved by and by.

Oddly, most of these people are the same types who claim to be dedicated to "democracy" -- that is, rule by people who are so congenitally mentally crippled that a "Help Jesus Beat Hillary" ad on Facebook will throw a wrench into their capacity for judgment and ruin everything.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

But Speaking of Payza ...

Apropos of this morning's post on the US regime's attempt to take the online payment service down:

I do not like the service, and do not recommend it.

Payza has been around for several years, and functions as an alternative to PayPal for many "Internet Marketing" sites, especially since PayPal pulled a weird crackdown on such sites that pay affiliate commissions (yes, I am still involved in Internet Marketing -- fortunately my latest project involves no movement of money between myself and customers).

Payza always looked cheesy to me, and I never used it until recently.

I wanted to buy something from a site, and saw that the site accepted Bitcoin. When I pressed the "buy" button, it turned out that the Bitcoin payment would be routed through Payza. No problem.

OK, well, problem.

Once I sent the Bitcoin to the specified address, I got an error message referring to network congestion and directing me to send in a help ticket, which would first require me to create a Payza account of my own. So I did.

After I created the account and sent in the help ticket, I got an email informing me that the Bitcoin transaction had gone through. Not to the merchant I was sending it to, but to my new Payza account.

I conferred with the merchant, who confirmed that he hadn't received the Bitcoin or even seen a note on the transaction. Then I went back and forth with Payza, whose rep:

1) Denied that the problem was what Payza had said it was (network congestion);

2) Suggested that the problem was with the merchant; and then

3) Switched to insisting that the problem was with me, because I had multiple Payza accounts -- the one I had just set up, and one I've never heard of, associated with an email address I've never seen before.

I finally stopped talking to them, and shortly thereafter saw something else, somewhere else, for just under the amount in my Payza account, and bought it. So I think I have 75 cents or so in Payza, and have no ambition to have any more, or to conduct any further transactions through them.

Which doesn't mean I approve of the US government abducting one of the company's principals, charging a company in Canada with violating a local District of Columbia money transfer licensing scheme, etc. All it means is that I don't like the company much.

There Really Need to be Repercussions

Per CoinDesk, "Digital payment processor Payza has been charged by the U.S. government with running an unlicensed money services business. ... The court filing lists several charges: conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business, conspiracy to launder money, and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business in the District of Columbia."

Except that Payza isn't in the District of Columbia. It's in Canada.

The authoritahs abducted one of the firm's founders while he was in Detroit (which is also not in the District of Columbia). The other remains "at large," which presumably means "at home, in Canada." The indictment actually dates from 2016, but seems to have been publicly released in conjunction with the abduction.

Not the first time the feds have pulled this kind of shit. Several times they've abducted executives of online casinos that operated from foreign countries, when those executives would happen to travel through the US, and charged them with breaking US law because some of their customers happened to be Americans.

They've also prosecuted Swiss banks for doing business in Switzerland, because some of those banks' customers may not have told the IRS everything it wanted to know about their business dealings.

Since the Canadian and Swiss regimes seem disinclined to react to this Barbary pirate style bullshit in the same way that the US reacted to, um, the Barbary Pirates, it seems to me that foreign-owned-and-operated businesses need to set up some kind of insurance pool,  under which professionals are retained for high-speed reactions to this kind of thing.

When DoJ abducts an insured business owner, US Department of Justice employees start disappearing.

When the DoJ releases the abductee, the insurer releases the DoJ employees.

Perhaps a timeliness clause, in keeping with the "tough on crime" posturings of the US regime, under which for every month the thing drags on, the head of a US Attorney shows up at 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in a flat rate Priority Mail box or something like that.

I hate to recommend the latter even for terror kingpins like US Attorneys, but if businesses don't start getting tough with these DoJ thugs, the nonsense won't ever stop.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The NERVE of That Guy!

Calling up Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his victory in Russia's presidential election? Who ever thought the US would have a president who would do something as low and tin-eared as that?

Oh, wait ...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I Wonder ...

In a piece published yesterday at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Cory Doctor points out something important:

This week, we made you a tutorial explaining the torturous process by which you can change your Facebook preferences to keep the company’s "partners" from seeing all your friends’ data. But what many folks would really like to do is give you a tool that does it for you: go through the tedious work of figuring out Facebook’s inscrutable privacy dashboard, and roll that expertise up in a self-executing recipe -- a piece of computer code that autopiloted your browser to login to Facebook on your behalf and ticked all the right boxes for you, with no need for you to do the fiddly work.

But they can’t. Not without risking serious legal consequences, at least. A series of court decisions -- often stemming from the online gaming world, sometimes about Facebook itself -- has made fielding code that fights for the user into a legal risk that all too few programmers are willing to take.
I admit to still wrestling a bit with the morality of, for example, ad blockers. Using one is basically saying "I am going to use your resources (e.g. bandwidth and CPU time) to serve content to myself, under rules other than the rules you, the owner or renter of those resources, have set for using those resources." Which sounds a lot like theft. I finally started using an ad blocker when it became basically impossible to get anything done without one, but I'm still not comfortable with the idea and wish that someone would come up with a plausible argument that it's not an initiation of force.

Anyway, the question that just occurred to me is this:

Regarding the property status of the content itself, rather than the resources for serving it, are there people who support the notion of "intellectual property" while simultaneously thinking it OK to view or listen to that content while avoiding the (at least implicit, and in some cases explicit) content "owner's" payment condition of "you have to put up with ads?"

Yep, Looks Like I'm Sticking with ChromeOS

With some travel coming up, I've been looking around for a better laptop.

My circa 2013 Samsung Chromebook is showing its age. With an ARM CPU and only 2Gb of RAM, it slows to a crawl with only a few tabs open or apps running. Also, it's an 11.6" screen and my eyes just aren't what they were even five years ago. Don't get me wrong. It's been a fine machine. But time to move on and up.

On the other hand, I do not want a Windoze machine, after my most recent Mac experience that's not where I want to go either, and just about any new laptop I'd want to put Linux on (other than a Chromebook, which I might use Crouton to turn into a dual boot machine) doesn't compare well on price for specs (versus my needs) to the Lenovo IdeaPad 14" Chromebook.

4Gb of RAM and a dual core Intel processor slightly faster than the one in my Asus Chromebox, which is still working just fine for me. A 16Gb solid state drive, and likewise that has proven plenty of on-board storage for me over the years across Chromebooks, Chromeboxes, an old "netbook" that was my first machine with an SSD rather than an old fashioned hard drive. If the reviews I've read are correct, it is part of the new generation of Chromebooks that will run Android apps, too.

Yes, it is ChromeOS. Yes, ChromeOS is Google. I know that many people decline to trade as much personal information and personal privacy as Google demands in return for its "free" browser, OS, email client, word processor, etc. Can't say I blame them. But the deal works for me. So I've arranged with a client who buys me a new machine every few years to make the IdeaPad the next one.

Anyone Know an Easy Way ...

I had no intention whatsoever of buying the "petro," a cryptocurrency issued by Venezuela's Maduro regime. I don't want state-sponsored "money" in general or Maduro-connected money specifically.

But now Donald Trump says I can't buy the petro.

Anyone know which wallets/exchanges support the damn thing? I'd rather not go to a lot of trouble, and I certainly won't go to any great expense, but if it's reasonably easy and reasonably cheap I'll get some precisely because Donald Trump thinks he gets to tell me what I can and can't buy.

Fuck him and the horse he rode in on.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Huntin' for a Good RSS Reader -- Again! -- Blues

Dammit: "Digg Reader is shutting down on March 26, 2018."

I'm testing Inoreader (my old favorite before it got slow and I moved to Digg), NewsBlur, and the Slick RSS Chrome extension.

I used Slick today, and like it better than NewsBlur (for my purposes -- your mileage may vary).

Tomorrow I will see if Inoreader has solved whatever problems it had that drove me to go to Digg.

I remember not being a big fan of The Old Reader when I tried it back when, but I may give it another look as well.

Naturally, I hate paying for anything when there are so many "free" options out there, but I spend much of my work day hunting down stuff on the web and plugging feeds into an RSS reader is the best way I've found to do that. So I may fork over a little if I find the right app.

Is Donald Trump Suicidal?

Per NBC News:

President Donald Trump announced new steps to combat the opioid addiction epidemic on Monday, pressing for "toughness" in punishing drug dealers -- even if it means sentencing them to death.

"If we don't get tough on the drug dealers, we're wasting our time," Trump told the crowd, some of whom shouted "yes!" in response to his statement that "that toughness includes the death penalty."

Thing is, Trump himself is a drug dealer, engaged in the manufacture and trafficking of alcohol. And at least as of 2016 he was involved in several other conspiracies to manufacture and traffic in drugs, including Pfizer, Merck, Celgene, and GlaxoSmithKline. In fact, I'm pretty sure all of those companies deal in precisely the drugs that Trump wants to "get tough" on dealers of.

So if he gets the measures he wants, is he going to turn himself in, don orange coveralls to match his complexion, and request his legendary McDonald's order for his last meal?

Or are the rules he wants just for those other drug dealers?

Thanks to an Anonymous Supporter and a Commissioned Piece of Writing ...

... I've effectively got the trip to Columbus in May, for the Libertarian Party platform committee meeting, paid for.

As I wrote in a blog post yesterday, it pays to schedule creatively and shop for air fares.

Flying major commercial, I would have spent an absolute minimum of about $350 to land at the airport about 20 minutes before the meeting started (11am Sunday), and probably have had to leave a little before its set adjournment (2pm Monday) to clear security, etc. for the flight out.

Flying Allegiant and going Greyhound, I will be able to arrive in Columbus the day before the meeting, maybe have to leave a little before adjournment to catch my flight home, and pay my mother in Missouri a pre-Mother's-Day visit en route for about $300. And that visit to Mom actually makes the schedule easier since Allegiant doesn't fly everywhere every day.

I'm figuring another $100 for two hotel nights. Maybe not quite as much -- I've got two roommates lined up -- but that's what I'm budgeting.

That leaves $100 of my projected $500 budget for food and sundries. Of course, I would be eating anyway, but it will be a little more expensive on the road, and I figure I'll do a little drinking, too, something I don't indulge in much any more.

Not that I would turn down more support, mind you -- see the sidebar for options -- but it looks like this particular expense is covered. Thanks, anonymous supporter!

I Don't Think That Word Means What Paul Rosenberg Thinks It Means

parasitic, adjective 1. of, relating to, or characteristic of parasites.

parasite, noun 1. an organism that lives on or in an organism of another species, known as the host, from the body of which it obtains nutriment. 2. a person who receives support, advantage, or the like, from another or others without giving any useful or proper return, as one who lives on the hospitality of others. 3. (in ancient Greece) a person who received free meals in return for amusing or impudent conversation, flattering remarks, etc.


Facebook, Google, and all the free services operate as parasites. So do the "discount with card" groceries, etc., etc. All of these operations are pushing you to give them your information, which they will use to manipulate you. And when they’re done manipulating you, they’ll sell your information to others, so they can do the same.

Regardless of how creatively this is justified, it is plainly parasitic.

It is true that when it comes to these kinds of "free services," the user is the product, not the customer. The customers are the advertisers, etc. who get your information or the use of it.

But that doesn't make the user/provider relationship "parasitic."

First of all, Google and Facebook don't swim up under your arm and attach themselves without your knowledge or permission. If you have a Google or Facebook account, you have one because you decided to get one and took steps to make that happen.

Secondly, what's taking place is an exchange of value. The user values Google's GMail or Hangouts or Voice or whatever service because he or she can use them to do stuff. Google values the user's information because it can use that information to sell ads to people who want to sell stuff to the user. Ditto Facebook's social media outlet, Messenger service, etc.

You may or may not like the product. You may or may not like the price. You may consider the deal too creepy for you, or just not sweet enough to be attractive. But "parasitic?" No. At least not any more so than buying a burger or a pair of shoes, or taking part in a focus group in exchange for cash or samples.

I know people who avoid Facebook and/or Google and/or some other such companies for various reasons, including not wanting their personal information floating around being used by God only knows who. And that's fine. It's even fine to try to convince me to do likewise. But if the best argument you've got is the absurd claim that the relationship is "parasitic," try again.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Let's Call it What it is

From a WaPo piece on Saturday's shooting at a California mall:

The gunshots at the shopping center with open-air and indoor shopping space led to some chaos and a lockdown.

Jeffrey Simpson, 17, was shopping with his mother at a department store when an announcement came over the intercom about a threat outside the mall.

'I went to Nordstrom to get pants, and the next thing I know, the doors are being sealed,' Simpson told The Associated Press.

He said he and his mom were "a little shaken" but OK. They were in the store for more than an hour but shoppers were free to move around and employees were helping people stay comfortable and calm, Simpson said.

If it was me, I'd be feeling a lot more comfortable and calm after receiving the multiple settlement checks for false imprisonment, etc. Presumably those checks would be large enough for me not to really notice the deduction of the cost of the plate glass window and whatever I put through that window to get out of there very much.

"Lockdown" is just shorthand for "we're doing something to you that we'd go to jail for if we didn't persuade you to think of it as a 'lockdown.'"

No Competition in Air Travel? In What Universe?

I've seen this complaint numerous times, most recently from Glenn Harlan Reynolds (hat tip -- Steve Trinward):

[I]n today’s airline world, there’s not a lot of competition. The fact is that between airline mergers and hub-and-spoke networks, most air routes are dominated by one or two airlines. It’s not like the heady competitive days of the 1980s, which is why fares are up and service is down.

Now, it just so happens that last night I booked my flights for May, to attend the Libertarian Party's platform committee meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

Let's look at the competitive environment in my area:

Fares are high to fly directly in and out of Gainesville, Florida's small airport. But there are at least five other airports within a three-hour drive: The large airports in Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa, as well as the smaller Orlando-Sanford and St. Petersburg-Clearwater.

When I ran an initial search for flights that covered the major airlines, I got choices ranging from $330 to $1,000+.

Then I went to see what Allegiant Air (flying out of Orland-Sanford and St. Petersburg-Clearwater) and Frontier Airlines (flying out of Jacksonville, Orlando-Sanford, and Tampa) had to offer. Allegiant had what I was looking for:

St. Petersburg, Florida, to Springfield, Missouri, total cost $125. That's ticket, taxes, baggage, the works.

Columbus, Ohio to St. Petersburg, Florida, total cost $72.50.

Add in a $100 Greyhound ticket, and I'm going still going to be able to make a side trip on the way (to visit my mother in Missouri) for at least $50 less than I would have spent flying straight to Columbus and straight back on one of the big carriers.

Reynolds's point stands, sort of: Air fares would likely be far lower absent all the regulation (with attendant regulatory capture) and other government involvement. And the nature of air travel, taking place to and from centralized locations instead of from your driveway to someone else's parking lot, makes it very vulnerable to that stuff.

But there's still plenty of competition even in that broken environment.

And not just price competition. I've always found the planes just as clean and comfortable, and the staff just as polite, on Allegiant as on the major airlines (I haven't flown Frontier, but Tamara has and she says they do well on those metrics too).

As far as price competition goes, one way the budget guys do it is by having a very low base fare and then charging extra for, well, extras. You don't get free drinks on the plane. You get one carry-on "personal item;" if you want an additional carry-on or a checked bag, you pay more (the fares I mention above include a checked bag, btw). If you want to pick your seat, it costs extra. But that kind of works both ways, doesn't it? If I fly one of the big airlines, I get -- and pay for -- all that stuff "included" whether I want it or not.

Where do the budget airlines not compete well with the big guys?

Well, they don't fly to and from as many cities. I'm very lucky because I live in Florida. Basically on Allegiant you can fly between 1) Florida or 2) Las Vegas and a bunch of other places, but not so much between those other places (it's not hard to figure out why). So I couldn't fly Allegiant from Missouri to Ohio, thus a 13-hour Greyhound ride is in my future in between the two Allegiant plane rides.

Also, most of their flights don't run every day, presumably because they want to run their planes as full as possible. Any given flight might run once, twice, or three times a week. If you want to fly budget, your trip is probably going to be at least a couple of days long, not "there today, back tomorrow."

But we face the same kinds of choices in every area: Price, features, and convenience are all things we balance when we buy pretty much anything. Store brand bread from Walmart, or name brand from a convenience store? Buy, maintain, fill up and insure a car, or summon Uber when you need to go somewhere? Different people in different situations will make different decisions based on their priorities.

By all means, let's push to de-regulate air travel as much as possible (how about completely?) ... but over-stating claims about lack of competition doesn't seem to be a very good way of convincing people.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Simple Solution ...

... to the phenomenon of cops getting exposed to deadly drugs during car searches.

Stay out of other people's stuff.

Problem solved. You're welcome.

Quick Garrison Center Update

For various reasons, it took me until nearly mid-month to count up last month's "pickups" and "citations" of Garrison Center op-eds.

A "pickup" is when a mainstream newspaper or non-libertarian political publication publishes one of the op-eds. A "citation" is when a mainstream newspaper or non-libertarian political publication mentions or responds to one of the op-eds.

So anyway, last month's pickups plus citations (that I've found) come to 162. That's the Center's record month, as was January (135) before it. If March returns similar results, the first quarter of 2018 will come to not quite as many pickups/citations as the entirety of 2015.

Most interesting pickup in February: "Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of Russiagate" appeared in the Times of Oman. So far as I know, my first publication, and the Center's, in that country.

Of the two "citations," one was a radio interview about my take on the Korea "situation," and the other was a horrified letter to the editor concerning my argument for abolishing the FBI.

Thanks to my financial supporters for making this stuff possible (if you'd like to be one of those supporters, see the sidebar for options).

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Goods, Borders, and Armies

When Don Boudreaux latches onto an issue, it tends to be with a great deal of tenacity. For quite some time, that issue was the minimum wage, but lately and for obvious reasons, it has been tariffs and protectionism.

In a letter to the New York Sun published today on his blog, Boudreaux points out not just the obvious holes in the case for "national security" as a reason to put tariffs on steel and aluminum, but also notices that if the national security case was sound, the kvetching about "unfair trade practices" by other governments would be irrelevant.

I want to hit one "national security" angle that I don't think Boudreaux has touched yet. Actually, he may have, because he's been posting two or three items on tariffs/protectionism per day lately and I may have missed it. But anyway:

"When goods don't cross borders, armies will."

That saying is often attributed to Bastiat, but it's actually Otto T. Mallery.

So suppose that the US buys lots and lots of steel from, say, China. And suppose that that steel is vital to national security.

The fact that China supplies the US with all that steel is an incentive for the US to NOT go to war with China since it needs the steel, and it's an incentive to China to NOT go to war with the US since it needs the money.

I just went looking for a video clip of an old episode of The West Wing, where Toby Ziegler makes the point I'm making here ...

... and that's pretty much the case. Tariffs and protectionism are the opposite of "national security."

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

I Just Got a New Doorstop

My old copy of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 11th Edition disappeared some years ago and frankly I don't miss it. But since a significant portion of the Libertarian Party's platform committee activity seems to be about Professional Registered Parliamentarians [TM]* claiming "the rules mean I get anything and everything I want," I had to order a new copy.

716 pages of fairly small print.

The 1970 edition appears, per Amazon, to have been less than half as long and to have used a larger typeface.

Why so much stuff? Well, part of it is to deal with new developments like email and electronic meetings. But I would bet that most of it is sea lawyer bullshit intended not to facilitate orderly meetings, but to let a priesthood tie those meetings in knots and get whatever outcomes they want (or to charge fees for untangling the messes their system makes of things).

The Libertarian Party should switch from RONR to the Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure as its parliamentary authority. It should also strongly consider modifying its membership pledge to "I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals, and that I am not a Registered Parliamentarian [TM], a Professional Registered Parliamentarian, or a member of the National Association of Parliamentarians [TM]."

Just sayin' ...

Friday, March 09, 2018

Columbus, Ohio, May 13-14 -- Libertarian Party Platform Committee Meeting


When I ran for platform committee, and was eventually chosen as a state alternate, I told you that I would make the effort to attend any in-person meetings of the committee, but would probably ask for assistance in meeting the expenses.

Well, we have a meeting scheduled -- starting at 11am on May 13 at the heaquarters of the Libertarian Party of Ohio in Colulmbus, and likely ending (there's an email ballot on setting a "hard" end time so that people can schedule flights, etc. in expectation of getting to the airport on time) by 2pm on the 14th.

I've been looking at the expenses, and the number I'm coming up with is ~$500.

Going by budget airlines, I can probably fly for about $200 if I don't check a bag ... but the schedules aren't daily, which would mean I'd spend at least a day more than necessary in town, with the attendant expenses.

Going by major airline, the cost will be $300-350, including checked bag. I can do without the bag if necessary, but it would be nice to be able to take a suit and so forth instead of just cramming a couple of light casual outfits in a carry-on. And I can make up the airfare difference by spending 1 or 2 nights at a hotel instead of 3 or 4 nights.

Uber to and from the airport looks like $25 or so each way, so that brings the total cost up to $350-400.

As far as hotel goes, my three priorities are 1) near the meeting venue (so I can walk instead of paying Uber or cab fare), 2) cheap, and 3) acceptable to one or more roommates to split the cost (I've already got a rideshare/roomshare thread going on the platform committee email list). My best guess is two nights at $50 per night (there are nearby hotels starting at ~$65 per night, but I'm figuring on it being more with taxes, and on probably splitting out a slightly more expensive room with more than one bed, or perhaps even a cheap suite).

So that gets it to $450-$500.

I'm going to eat whether I'm in Gainesville or Columbus, of course. If I can afford to go out for a nice ($20 or less -- I understand there's a Waffle House near the LPOH HQ!) meal with some fellow Libertarians, I will.

I may look at flights into or out of other cities where I might meet a local committee member and share a car ride. But I'd expect any airfare savings to be spent on helping with gas.

Of course, I plan to go whether I get much assistance or not -- but your help will make it much easier.

For those who care:

  • I voted against having an in-person meeting. It's 2018, not 1988. Electronic meeting facilities are well developed and they don't cost $500 or more per person for meeting.
  • I specifically voted against meeting in Columbus. Not because I have anything against Columbus specifically, or Ohio generally, or of course against the state's Libertarian Party, which generously offered its offices as meeting space to save the LP facilities rental costs, but because Columbus is not a major airport hub and that means higher fares and less accommodating schedules. Which, frankly, is the reason it was proposed (by a guy who once put a state LP convention on a cruise ship to keep the "povertarians" from attending).
So, if it matters, I didn't just say "hey, I think I'll take an opportunity to hit Libertarian activists who support my work up for more money." I had hoped for no in-person meetings except a day early at the national convention, and if we had one my personal recommendations were for Chicago or Atlanta. But Columbus it is, and so to Columbus I shall go.

I do hope that any Libertarians who can make it to Columbus to visit with the platform committee will do so. We'd love to hear your thoughts, and to have you keep an eye on our work. Or at least I would :)

Anyway, ways to support me are in the sidebar, and please feel free to drop a note designating anything you send for the specific purpose of getting me to this meeting, as opposed to financing a visit to a casino or something.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

File Under "Headlines That Titillate for an Instant before Disappointing"

As thousands of cheerleaders exposed ...

Oh, yeah!


Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Of Legs and Meetings

Q: How many legs does a dog have if you call its tail a leg?

A: Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

Q: Between email meetings, telephone meetings, web-conferencing meetings, and in-person meetings, how many kinds of meetings are there if we define an email meeting as not being a meeting?

A: Four. Pretending that words don't mean things doesn't make them stop meaning things.

meeting, n. 1. a formally arranged gathering 2. the social act of assembling for some common purpose

Very Brief Libertarian Party Platform Committee Update

OK, the platform committee has got itself moved over to an email list on the LP's server. Its future discussions should be mirrored here if you'd like to follow them.

The committee will meet electronically from 8-10pm Eastern this evening via Adobe Connect. If I am not mistaken, this is the link if you'd like to observe. When entering the "room" and asked for a name, please preface your name with "zz" -- e.g. zzDonaldTrump. The purpose of that is to clump all the actual committee members together for easier vote counting, speaking recognition, etc. And also because observer status at a platform committee meeting makes you an honorary member of an iconic Texas blues/rock band with great beards.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Let's Be Clear on What Trump is Doing and Why

Regarding the newly announced steel tariffs:

Trump wants to take money out of the pockets of people who buy stuff made of steel and put it into the pockets of the shareholders of American companies that produce steel. That way those latter companies don't have to compete with foreign steel producers who charge less.

Which, in terms of economic impact, is about as "America First"ish as 9/11.

So, why? Why does Trump want to make a lot of the stuff you buy more expensive and do massive damage to the US economy just to pay off a few fat cats?

Well, this is exactly the back-scratch I'd put out there for steel producers if I owned, say,  a construction company and expected some reciprocity. I'm just sayin' (and we're just payin').

Speaking of Trade Deficits ...

How much did you pay in taxes last year? Federal income tax, state income tax (if your state has one), property taxes, sales taxes, etc.?

For the sake of argument, let's go ahead and stipulate that maybe you got some things in return that you wanted -- roads, schools, whatever. The fact that you were forced to buy that stuff is important, but it's another basked of snakes than what I'm talking about here, so let's just say that you bought stuff from "your" local, county, state, and federal governments.

Um ... what stuff did they buy from you and how much did the bill come to?

Unless you're a government employee or contractor, the answer is probably "not a damn thing and not a damn dime."

It seems to me that based on his concern with "trade deficits," US president Donald Trump should implement an executive order requiring the federal government to start spending as much to buy stuff from you as you're required to spend buying stuff from it.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

A Promise Fulfilled

It's a promise I only vaguely remember, but someone recalled it to my attention this morning and I do like to keep my promises, so I did.

That promise was that if I ever served on the Libertarian Party's national platform committee (something I didn't expect would ever happen when I made the promise, but that has now in fact happened), I would propose the adoption of the World's Smallest Political Platform. To wit, replacement of all planks in the platform with a single one:

The Libertarian Party supports reducing the size, scope and power of government at all levels and on all issues, and opposes increasing the size, scope or power of government at any level or for any purpose.

A few notes:

  • The only part of the platform that would not be superseded/replaced by this, because it's hard-coded in the bylaws to require a 7/8ths vote to touch, is the Statement of Principles. Other than that, everything -- the preamble and all the planks -- would be replaced by that single sentence.
  • No, I do not expect the committee to approve, nor the convention to adopt, the WSPP, for a number of reasons, many of them good, including but not limited to the process being, well, parliamentarily arduous (it would presumably require a separate vote on the deletion of each of the other planks).
  • No, I'm not sure I would want it to be adopted, especially since it is just half of an agenda, the other half (creation of a biennial program) of which would have to be dealt with in bylaws. The platform without the program would be less than ideal.
It takes four co-sponsors to bring a proposal to an email ballot. In addition to me, Darryl W. Perry of New Hampshire is sponsoring the proposal. That's not especially surprising given that he has in the past served as chair of two of the three political parties which have used the WSPP (the Boston Tea Party and the New Hampshire Liberty Party -- the third, of which he has not served as chair, is the Libertarian Party of Maine).

I don't expect to see third and fourth co-sponsors or an email ballot, but if that does happen I'll report back.

Anyway, promise kept. And now that I think about it, I wonder if anyone has ever written a political platform adopted by three different political parties in the same country before? I rate the WSPP as a big part of my exceedingly tenuous claim to eventually being a minor historical footnote in American politics (along with being one of only two, so far as I know, former US vice-presidential nominees who are also former Marines, the other being Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, in the same year I ran; if the LP had nominated Larry Sharpe in 2016, he would have been the third that I know of).

Let Me, Unlike Obama, Be Perfectly Clear

The past 24 hours are not unusual in that:

  • I've found myself blasted as a "Trump apologist" in one place, for continuing to notice that not a shred of credible evidence has yet been presented to suggest that Trump and/or his campaign colluded with the Russian state to change the outcome of the 2016 presidential election; and
  • In another venue, a reader tells me he has "had quite enough of your angry liberal anti-Trump bullshit statements ..." because I pointed out that Trump is an evil, authoritarian, human-shaped, shambling stack of feces.
So, to clarify:

  1. I dislike Donald Trump intensely on both a personal and political level. I did not vote for him, nor did I vote for his major party opponent, and in fact the only really positive thing I can say about his election is that at least that major party opponent didn't win. I would be tickled pink to see the son of a bitch impeached, removed from office, and sentenced to a long stretch in whichever federal prison has the worst living conditions ... BUT
  2. Only for something he actually and irrefutably did. For example, offhand, sanctioning the murder of 8-year-old American girl Nawar Anwar al-Awlaki.
  3. I'm only a "liberal" in the sense that libertarianism overlaps with "classical liberalism." Usually these days the term "liberal" is freely exchanged with the term "progressive." I am not a progressive. I'm especially  not a whiny, rich, entitled, business-as-usual establishment progressive like, say, Donald Trump.
That is all.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Libertarian Party National Platform Committee Update

It's been a little while since my last update, and simultaneously quite a bit has happened and not much has happened.

  • Caryn Ann Harlos was elected permanent chair of the committee.
  • Mimi Robson is in the middle of being elected secretary (the email ballot hasn't ended yet, but IIRC there's been one NOTA vote and a whole bunch of votes for her).
  • The chair is in the process of moving the committee from old and busted Yahoo! Groups to a better email list which will have a public reflector.
  • An email ballot is in process on a motion from the chair that "that all electronic and in-person meetings of the Committee will be open to all state and national Party members and may be recorded and broadcast through a streaming service." It looks set to pass.
  • An email ballot is in process on a motion by myself to strike the final sentence of plank 3.4, Trade and Migration: "We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property."
There's also an email ballot on a physical meeting, and an announcement of an electronic meeting set for March 6, 6-8pm Mountain Time (I'll post details for those who want to watch it when it gets closer).

And there's a rules controversy over whether a member of the committee who is both his state's representative and first national alternate can squat on an entitlement to two votes and cast the one he finds most advantageous (Robert's says no). That will get hashed out.

There's quite a bit of talk on the abortion plank. I don't see it going anywhere, and I certainly don't see any change away from a pro-choice position (I will not support such a change).

Note that I didn't mention how the email ballot is going on the Trade and Migration amendment. I haven't counted lately, but I'm under the impression that it's failing. Not on its merits for the most part, but because several members of the committee have announced that they won't vote for any motions until and unless their asses are cradled in hotel conference room chairs. Oddly, several of them have both made supported motions by email ballot when serving on previous platform committees. Suffice it to say that it's more about a personality-centered factional divide on the committee than about anything ideological.

OK, I think I covered everything. Questions welcome.

The Exceptions That Prove the Stupidity of the Proposed Rule

Florida governor Rick Scott proposes to [PDF]:

Require all individuals purchasing firearms to be 21-years-old or over. Exceptions include active duty and reserve military and spouses, National Guard members, and law enforcement ...

Members of the military (including reserve and National Guard units) are not required to purchase the weapons they use on duty. Those weapons are issued by their units. Why should they, let alone their spouses, get a special exemption from this rule (especially given that, at least anecdotally, military veterans seem heavily represented in the ranks of mass shooters)?

And why should "law enforcement" get an exception for weapons other than those purchased expressly for carry while on duty?

Of course the entire idea is evil pandering to hysteria. But if you're going to go evil and pander to hysteria, why not take it all the way?

My counter-offer: Ban all employees of the government of the state of Florida and its political subdivisions (yes, including police) from owning or possessing any firearm at any time or for any reason, with immediate termination of employment and prospective jail time as penalties, then we'll talk.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Another Proposal to Ameliorate the Negative Effects of an Idea I Oppose

The Universal Basic Income craze doesn't seem to be blowing over as I had hoped it might. I keep seeing stories about small-scale experiments with the concept (in America, something of the sort is about to start in Stockton, California). The craze includes quite a bit of commentary from the nominally libertarian end of the political spectrum. Today, it's Ryan Bourne commenting at the Cato Institute regarding UBI's effects on employment.

But if such a scheme were to be implemented, I would say that one immediate consequence should be:

Repeal of the minimum wage.

After all, the idea of a Universal Basic Income is that it's a basic income, right? Anything above and beyond it is gravy, extra. And since it's universal (everyone gets it), there won't be anyone who can't afford to live while getting paid whatever deal he or she can drive with an employer instead of there being a government-mandated floor, right?

Now, just to be clear, I am not going to burn my libertarian purist card and support UBI, which I consider both evil and cockamamie. It's not some kind of "trade" I'm saying should be "offered." I'm just saying that if the one does happen, the other should be required to happen with it.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Russiagate

It's been a long time since I've read Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (or excerpts from it -- it's been so long that I don't remember which!), so I'll just rely on a snip from the Wikipedia summary:

Witch trials in 16th- and 17th-century Western Europe are the primary focus of the "Witch Mania" section of the book, which asserts that this was a time when ill fortune was likely to be attributed to supernatural causes. Mackay notes that many of these cases were initiated as a way of settling scores among neighbors or associates, and that extremely low standards of evidence were applied to most of these trials.

As applied to witches, that dynamic apparently resulted in quite a few stretched necks, burned corpses, etc.

As applied to Russians, well, the hysterical ninnies and the demagogues (it's not always easy to tell who is which) are getting faster and louder with their bizarre comparisons of some "Help Jesus Beat Hillary" Facebook ads to Pearl Harbor and 9/11 (for example, here and here and here and here).

Which, if people don't CALM THE FUCK DOWN, could eventually end up producing a much higher body count.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Where is the Line?

In my opinion, it's not a real Smashing Pumpkins tour unless D'Arcy Wretzky is there on bass.

In my opinion, Axel Rose is right out for any band that wants people to believe they're AC/DC.

Then again, back in 1987 I saw a version of the Byrds that didn't include Roger McGuinn (the only "real" Byrds it included were original drummer Michael Clark and later bassist Skip Battin), and I was OK with that.

Where do you draw that kind of line?

If Ringo and the ringer who replaced Paul toured with two other guys as The Beatles, would that fly for you?

"File Under Mistrial" Revisited

In a recent post, I noted that the prosecution of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman doubly violates the US Constitution's Sixth Amendment -- the jury is neither identified (so the trial is not, as required, public) nor are the jurors from Mexico (so they aren't, as required, from "the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed").

Now it violates the First Amendment as well:

At the hearing, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan denied Guzman's request to speak in open court about the case after prosecutors expressed concerns he could be trying to send messages to his cohorts. The judge said that in the future he would need to be notified in advance on what Guzman wanted to talk about before he could speak.

Even if you happen to think that El Chapo is, as Donald Trump would put it, a "bad hombre" and that these are "exceptional circumstances," this is strikes me as one (actually, three) of those "give them an inch and they'll take a mile" kind of things.

Interesting ...

In 2008, I just couldn't bring myself to vote for the Libertarian Party's presidential ticket of Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root.

Nor was the Boston Tea Party's ticket (Charles Jay for president, me for vice-president) on the ballot or registered as a write-in option in Missouri.

So I voted for the Green Party's ticket of Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente. They seemed like the "most libertarian" option available (McKinney voted with Ron Paul in Congress more often than most Republicans did and, unlike Barr, appeared at an event with Paul to accept his generalized endorsement of voting third party).

On last night's Free Talk Live, I found out that Adam Kokesh did the same thing I did that year.

Why did that come up? Because FTL is broadcasting from the Anarchopulco  conference, where Kokesh used his speaking time to introduce McKinney as a newly declared anarchist. They interview Kokesh and McKinney. Good stuff.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Question About Russiagate

So Robert Mueller has finally procured indictments against some Russians, for "election meddling" of the same type/variety as the weird "Help Jesus Beat Hillary" Facebook ads. This time it's stuff like having someone dress up as Hillary Clinton in a prison uniform and pose in a fake jail cell. Still not seeing any there there on the whole Trump campaign collusion thing, but ...

... purely for the sake of argument, let's suppose that the Russian government actually did take an active interest in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and that, the lack of evidence for the claim aside, did in fact make a serious effort to influence that election's outcome in Donald Trump's favor.

My question is ... why?

Yes, Clinton made some anti-Russia noises as US Secretary of State, but presumably those noises were obligatory, seeing as how she made them at the same time she was raking in millions of dollars in Russian bribes to e.g. shepherd the Uranium One deal through the US regulatory approval process and whatever else the Russians would expect such a well-paid mole in such a high position to do for them. It's hard to imagine that the Kremlin would take such cover maintenance noises so seriously as to intervene against putting one of their own agents in the Oval Office.

Did her Kremlin handlers ask her to do something beyond the pale even for her, and take umbrage at her refusal?

Did she not deliver all the goods she was getting paid to deliver?

Or did she perhaps actively double-cross them and actually thwart some design she'd been ordered to advance?

It seems to me that it would have to be something pretty big for Vladimir Putin decide he'd give up on putting a highly compromised SVR asset in the White House and settle for a loose cannon like Donald Trump instead.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Here I Go Suggesting Government Efficiencies Again

Yesterday's Garrison Center op-ed is about the Trump regime's proposal to partially replace "food stamps" (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka SNAP) with the "America's Harvest Box." The column focuses on the real purpose of the "food stamp" program (to justify farm welfare) and why that real purpose makes it possible that Congress will go for the proposal.

An ABC News headline has me thinking about a solution to one of the objections raised by opponents:

USDA proposes replacing food stamps with delivery service, added work requirements

From the piece:

Current USDA requirements say that able-bodied adults without children can only get three months of food stamps in three years unless they work or participate in a job training program at least 20 hours a week. USDA would likely not change that requirement but could grant states waivers to impose stricter requirements at the state level.

So, a major objection to the plan is that its supposed cost savings doesn't account for the cost of actually getting the food to recipients' doorsteps.

Well, why not have some SNAP recipients fulfill the work/training requirements by packing and delivering the boxes? Pick the recipients who are 1) able-bodied and 2) unemployed and have them take those boxes to the recipients who are 3) disabled and/or 4) employed.

It seems like an obvious measure from both cost-cutting and putting-welfare-clients-back-to-work standpoints.

They learn to work on a packaging assembly line and/or drive a delivery truck -- both skills that will help in the job hunt.

If the work is hard enough, it might also constitute a figurative boot in the ass to go find jobs that pay in something other than SNAP bennies.

Yes, I'm against "food stamps" on principle.

And yes, I think this particular proposal is even more stupid than the existing program if for no other reason than that if I'm going to pay for a program to feed poor people, I'd rather they just got the cash because they're better judges of their own needs than some USDA bureaucrat could possibly be (see Milton Friedman's four ways to spend money).

But if feeding the hungry and reducing the costs of doing so and putting non-working people to work and/or teaching them how to work are all priorities, why not make that single program serve all three priorities?

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