Tuesday, March 26, 2019

One of Many Ways to Know You're About to Hear Something That's Completely Wrong

When someone says (or writes) "libertarians and conservatives" or "conservatism and libertarianism" as if the two were similar, you know you're about to be sucked down a rabbit hole of egregious error.

It's not that conservatives and libertarians never agree on anything.

It's that their philosophical groundings are different -- in fact, mutually exclusive -- making any such agreements mere temporary coincidence.

Even a home invasion robber and a home invasion robbery victim might happen to agree that it's better for the victim to hand over the jewelry than be killed. But they're operating from two very different desires.

The robber wants the jewelry and prefers to not have murder charges added to his tab if he's caught.

The victim doesn't want to give up the jewelry and would probably like to see the robber go down as hard as possible if caught.

But the victim wants to live, and the robber happens to have reasons to want to let him live. That's their only commonality.

They're not friends. They're not "kissing cousins." They're not aligned toward the same general goals.

Neither are libertarians and conservatives.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Mueller's Handicap

I've been calling the "Russiagate" "scandal" BS since pretty much the beginning, but I expected Mueller to find some way to assert collusion. I think I've figured out why he didn't, and I can name the tune in two words:

Hillary Clinton.

"Russiagate" was always about finding an excuse, some excuse, any excuse for Clinton's election loss that made it not her fault. Mueller's record is that of a guy who makes sure the establishment always gets what it wants. But in this case, he also had to carefully avoid giving the establishment what it didn't want, which was anything that made Clinton continue to look just as dirty as Trump on the same issues.

There WAS collusion between the Trump campaign and "Kremlin-connected Russians."

But there was ALSO collusion between the Clinton campaign and "Kremlin-connected Russians."

That is, both campaigns tried to tap "Kremlin-connected Russian" sources for dirt on their opponent. Trump campaign people met with a "Kremlin-connected lawyer." Clinton campaign people outsourced their Russian collusion to Fusion GPS and British MI6 agent Christopher Steele.

The only way Mueller could assert collusion without damaging Clinton just as badly as he damaged Trump would be if he found collusion of a very different type or on a vastly larger scale. Calling the collusion he did find "collusion" would just bring Clinton right back into things. It would be a worse problem for the establishment than just saying there was no collusion at all.

Likewise, indicting any Americans with real political clout (as opposed to Russians who'll never see the inside of a US courtroom) on those specific charges (as opposed to hiding money from the tax man and so forth), absent proof of different/worse collusion, would bring us to  another one of those "we can't go after Hillary Clinton because she's Hillary Clinton -- but yeah, anyone else who pulls that kind of shit goes under the jail" moments a la James Comey on Clinton's grossly negligent handling of classified information. Which, really, was the beginning of the end for Clinton in 2016.

Basically, Mueller would have had to catch Trump putting a piece of tape on a telephone pole, then leaving the nuclear launch codes in an envelope under a park bench for an SVR agent to pick up, to "get" him without "getting" Clinton too.

Friday, March 22, 2019

If You Were on @DougStanhope's Email List ...

... you would know what I know. So you should really sign up for that.

Note to Doug: I got married at that very hotel once. Hopefully things will work out better for you.

Second note to Doug: Stop being a primitive troglodyte asshole and get an RSS feed for your podcast, dude.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Missing Factor

From the St. Louis, Missouri Post-Dispatch:

For the 14th time this year, an Illinois trooper is struck by passing motorist

Authorities say the factors for other crashes involving parked police cars can include people driving too fast, being distracted or not being aware of the law that requires them to move over.

Here's another factor that nobody seems to mention:

Even a few years ago, when a cop pulled a motorist over, the cop then pulled in behind the motorist on the shoulder of the road.

These days, every time I see a cop-stop, the police vehicle is parked catawampus across the right traffic lane of the road, just waiting to be t-boned by someone who didn't notice the flashing lights. At which point physics gets to work and suddenly you have two large pieces of metal flying uncontrolled around the roadway where either or both are likely to hit the cop who's outside writing a ticket, or the parked car on the shoulder, or oncoming traffic, or some combination of those things.

Which seems to be what happened here -- the "passing motorist" also hit the trooper's car, and at the moment they don't know (or aren't admitting they know) whether it was the trooper or his car that got hit first.

I understand the theory -- the cop standing next to the pulled-over car is vulnerable, and if he parks his car catawampus across the road maybe it gives him some protection from that inattentive motorist. On the other hand, there's still some risk to the cop, and there's dramatically increased risk to everyone else on the damn road.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

RIP Dick Dale, 1937-2019

I could have sworn I posted this the day he died, but a reader asked me why I hadn't mentioned it, and ... well, obviously I didn't. He was one of the great ones. Here, have a video reminder of why.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A Serendipitous Coincidence

That cheap k-cup type single cup coffee maker I bought around Christmas time gave up the ghost today.

I can't really blame it. We used the hell out of that thing, to the tune of usually at least 4 or 5 cups a day. It started brewing half cups a few days ago. I de-scaled it, cleaned the needle, etc., per instructions. That didn't seem to help. The instructions also noted the reservoir could be cleaned by putting water in it and shaking it. After I did that, it stopped working entirely. Probably a thermostat or sensor  stopped working right and then the shaking tore something else loose.

But like I said, we used the hell out of it, and we're not going back to brewing a full pot. We don't normally use pre-bought "k-cups," but rather little "k-cup"-shaped filter baskets that we just put coffee in before brewing. That way, instead of me brewing a full pot, drinking aging coffee all day, probably brewing a second post, etc., we just make a cup when one of us wants a cup. Less coffee wasted, and it's fresh, and I get the kind/strength of coffee I want while Tamara gets the kind/strength of coffee she wants.

The serendipitous coincidence: I happened to get about $80 worth of Bitcoin Cash earlier today. And what do you know, there's an actual Keurig at Amazon for about $80 (not an affiliate link). Has a 52-ounce reservoir so we don't have to add water each time we brew a cup. And comes with a "variety pack" of coffee too. So I headed over to Purse (yes, an affiliate link). Should be here by the end of the week. I'll use the French press until then.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Wanna Hear Me Badmouth the Trump Administration on Russian State Media?

If so, tune in to Sputnik Radio at 6:40pm Eastern.

Sorry for the short notice, but the interview didn't get arranged until about 3:30pm and we taped at 4pm.

Update: You can find the interview here, starting at about 47:20.

Wow, That Was Quick

I reported for jury duty this morning. Lady took my summons and told me all the cases for the day had been resolved (plea bargains, I presume) and that they wouldn't be needing any jurors.

With a population of more than 250,000, I have to think quite a few cases must come through Alachua County's court system. It's depressing, although not surprising, that few of them ever get to a jury.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Well, That About Wraps it up for Beto

I'm sure that many, perhaps even most, presidential candidates have never taken LSD.

But damned if I'll vote for one who admits it.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

A Song You Should Listen to ...

... because it's a great song. And because A Picture Made is one of my favorite bands, and the more listens they get, the better it looks for them. It's an old song, re-recorded for their upcoming first album (they released an EP, Past, back in the '80s and it's still one of my favorite listens).

Friday, March 15, 2019

They've Got a Lotta Nerve

Some selected tweets:

The New Zealand attacker(s ?) killed 49 innocent Muslims. That's a rounding error in stats relating to the number of innocent Muslims killed in air strikes, drone strikes, SEAL raids, etc. ordered by these two.

Says the vile creature who chortled "we came, we saw, he died" when Muammar Gadaffi was brutally killed on video while around him thousands of innocent Muslims also died in a civil war she cultivated and cheered on, and who inquired as to whether she could have Julian Assange assassinated for exposing her own crimes.

Suggested response from innocent Muslims:

When Social Media Choose to be Part of the Problem ...

Per CNN:

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are struggling to halt the spread of horrific footage that appears to show a massacre at a mosque in New Zealand as it was taking place.

If Facebook, YouTube and Twitter had been around in 1963, they'd have been "struggling to deal with" -- that is to suppress -- the Zapruder film.

If they'd been around in 2001, they'd have been trying to make sure we never saw the second plane hitting the World Trade Center towers.

And that there is a bunch of bullshit.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

This post is about SlackSocial, which didn't seem to initially allow me the option of titling it. Just sayin' ...

This is a test post using SlackSocial, a service I just discovered for drafting, scheduling, and publishing posts to Facebook and/or Twitter and/or LinkedIn and/or Tumblr and/or here at Blogspot.

So far I like SlackSocial better than Hootsuite, which wouldn't leave me the hell alone when I had its Chrome app installed -- instead of waiting for me to invoke it when I wanted it, it would cover up important buttons with its own "hootlet" link on various sites. Since I only used Hootsuite for specific scheduling tasks on Google Plus, I ditched it when the API for that stopped working. I've tested SlackSocial on Twitter and LinkedIn. As you may have noticed if you're into it, Facebook has been down much of the day, so no joy there. If it works and plays well with Blogspot, I'll probably use it as my preferred scheduling app when I'm handling social media for clients, etc.

Anyway, if this is the kind of thing you use, feel free to check it out via my affiliate link (here -- and hmm, it's already having its first malfunction, "insert link" doesn't seem to work in its rich text editor, so I may have to edit the post when it publishes -- anyway, https://slacksocial.com/home/splash?ref=96567). There's a "free" level (that's what I'm using). If you join through me and decide you like it and need one of their premium levels, I get a 10% cut of your payments to them.

Let's see how this works out.

Update: Yeah, a couple of problems. The "insert link" function did something, but it wasn't visible and wasn't right. Might be something I can look up and find a solution to that I should have known all along. Also, there doesn't appear to be a way to title a Blogspot post within SlackSocial. But it does seem to work great on Twitter and LinkedIn, so there's that.

More Bait and Switch Price Fraud at eBay

I thought it would be cool to get one of the new Stephen Hawking themed 50p coins from the UK, and went to eBay to see what they're selling for:

Not being a collector of fine coins, just someone who thinks it would be cool to have a particular coin, I hoped that the $1.30 price represented a non-mint/circulated coin (face value of about 65 cents US), with the $20 US range being for mint/uncirculated.

Well, no. The $20 coins are indeed uncirculated. The $1.30 coins aren't coins. They're "mintage guides" (papers about coins).

But because these sellers had something in their listings priced at $1.30-$1.36, even though that thing wasn't the thing actually advertised, they showed up at the top of price-sorted listings for the thing advertised.

Scummy and dishonest and as I've said before, eBay should boot sellers who pull this kind of shit off their platform.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Flowers For Bo

That's the name of the guitar, not a song title -- it's just me noodling.

It's not finished yet. Gonna get rid of that "three on a bar" set of tuners (my mistake) and install individual Shane Speal signature tuners (I'll have to take a quarter inch of thickness off the headstock for that, I think), then decide whether to bring it up to open G or open E when the strings arrive. So far I'm reasonably happy with how it's coming out. You can't see it in the picture, but there's a piezo rod pickup inside and a pre-amp with control panel on the rear right bottom. And there will eventually be art on the box and headstock, and possibly fret markers (no actual frets -- it's for slide playing) on the neck

Sounds muddy, doesn't it? I didn't know for sure yet if that was the guitar (it has cheap electric strings on it, awaiting better ones, and as I expected that tin box really resonates/vibrates), or the low tuning (open D on three strings), or my playing (because, as we all know, I'm not very good). I jacked it up a couple of octaves in a sound editor and it came off as more crisp. But I guess we'll see how it sounds as it progresses.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

"It's official. We are living in the future."

That's the final line of a story on Android Authority about the expansion of Google Duplex to more areas (and, eventually, to phones other than the Google Pixel).

Google Duplex lets Google Assistant make phone calls (if necessary) on your behalf and schedule reservations/appointments. It has a human-sounding voice, but does identify itself as a digital assistant.

Like this: "OK Google, schedule a table for four at 9pm tomorrow night at [insert restaurant here]." After you do that, Google looks up whether or not the place takes reservations. If so, it schedules your reservation that way. If not, it calls up the restaurant and talks with them to get your reservation.

Which may seem kind of trivial, but I don't think it is.

Digital assistants can already handle or partially handle a bunch of things that used to be more difficult and/or time-consuming.

I don't use Google Assistant for much other than in the car when I need directions ("OK, Google, navigate to 123 E Street") or a quick answer to something of immediate importance or interest ("OK Google, what are the hours at Publix's pharmacy today?"), because my choice of "home" assistant is Amazon's Alexa system. So I'll go with that one since I know it better.

"Alexa, set an alarm for 6am" (instead of futzing with a clock).

"Alexa, what's the weather?" (instead of watching the news on TV or sitting down to look it up on the web).

"Alexa, play songs by the Grateful Dead" (instead of finding and using an album, cassette, CD, MP3 player, etc.).

"Alexa, turn off the living room light" (instead of getting off my fat ass and walking over to the switch).

Etc., etc.

All of which seemed like science fiction 20 years ago, I guess, but having a digital assistant interact with other humans or THEIR digital assistants for you takes it to a whole new level.

Science fiction, even pretty recent science fiction, is full of "fetches" and "avatars" and so forth -- digital assistants who basically handle all of your affairs if you let them and those devices are one way of signaling that the story is set in the future, not the present.

It does sound like we're just about there, doesn't it?

I'm kind of looking forward to the day when I can just yell "Alexa, book me a flight to Columbus on Thursday, to return the following Wednesday, and a rental car for all of those days, with a hotel for each night I'm gone convenient to [address]. Keep it under $X. Oh, outside of that budget I also want a table for two at [insert restaurant] at 6pm on Friday; you know my order, I'll fill you in on my guest's when I have it." And bam, the next time I look at my phone, there's my itinerary.

Privacy? Surveillance? They're watching all of us all the time anyway. Might as well take advantage of the conveniences that come with it.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

In the Same Vein as the Previous Post ...

Let me, like Barack Obama, be very, very clear here:

The "anti-anti-Semitism" resolution in the US House of Representatives isn't about anti-Semitism, or about any other kind of hate or bigotry.

It's about the Israeli lobby throwing its weight around.

The fact that the measure is actually controversial is good news.

It means that things are changing.

Until recently, an "anyone who criticizes this particular ethno-religious garrison state, or for that matter fails to support giving that ethno-religious garrison state's government anything it might happen to demand, HATES JEWS!" resolution like this would have passed pretty much without objection.

Until recently, any American politician with the unmitigated gall and temerity to fail to render sufficiently numerous and effusive standing ovations when the prime minister of Israel deigned to address Congress, to question the billions of dollars in annual US welfare checks to Israel or Israel's de facto veto over US foreign policy, or, heaven forfend, to even so much as mention the influence (heck, the existence) of the domestic Israeli lobby could count on (possibly after one warning, like the warning that turned Donald Trump from "neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" to "the most pro-Israel presidential candidate in history") very quickly finding a smoking crater in the spot where his or her future political prospects once resided.

The thing might still pass, but the fact that there's an actual fight over it means the time when that stuff can't be talked about without fear is passing.


If "anti-Israel" Means "anti-Jewish" ...

... does "anti-Russia" mean "anti-Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other religions and creeds which constitute an inseparable part of the historical heritage of Russia's peoples?"

Just asking.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Remember that SNL Sketch ...

... where Chris Christie says he'll vote for Mitt Romney but just hates, hates, hates, doing it? Heck, here it is (poor quality, best I could find that was embeddable):

That's about how I feel when it comes to defending that lying slimebag Roger Stone.


This gag order nonsense means I have to.

That is all.

Monday, March 04, 2019

I Think the Next Guitar Build ...

... is already "blessed."

I found this tin cake pan at a garage sale quite some time ago. It resonates like a mother****er when I hold an instrument against it and play. It's like a natural sound box.

I decided not to go "primitive" and "whatever I have lying around" on this one.

Went to Lowe's and bought an 8-foot poplar 1x2 for the neck. I had it cut into two prospective necks -- one 37" long, one 41" long, because I like prime numbers. Of course, the actual scale won't be nearly that long. Probably 25", based on advice I've received on the Cigar Box Nation build forums. That will allow me to string it as a conventional 3-string GDC "cigar box guitar," or as a light-string bass.

I told the guy cutting the board at Lowe's (I had to have it cut there since we aren't driving a car that an 8-foot board would fit comfortably in) what it was for, and we started talking. I joked that I might have to take this guitar out to Bo Diddley's grave and play it a little for him. Turns out he knew Bo Diddley, and makes music with the man's grand-daughter. Good juju.

So that's about $10 down.

I may glue a metal yardstick (another 50 cent yard sale find) to the neck as a fretboard. Or maybe not. This is going to be an unfretted guitar or bass, at least for now.

Then I went online to CB Gitty, the premier supplier of cigar box guitar stuff, and ordered a bunch of parts, some that come in quantities good for several builds: 12 ferrules (for feeding the strings onto the neck; I'll use six of them for three strings), 25 washer-head self-drilling screws (for attaching the neck to the pan; I'll use either two or three; the price was better than just buying two or three not-as-good screws at Lowe's), two bone nut blanks (I'll use one for the guitar), two maple "flying bridges" (I'll use one), four screened 1" grommets (for sound holes -- I may use all four); a set of six "three on a plate" tuners (enough for two guitars), and a pre-amp/piezo kit that I may use on the guitar, or set up as a stand-alone pre-amp for multiple instruments (I have a piezo lying around that I can use in this instrument if I want).

So that's another $50. We're into the range I pay for a cheap already-made guitar now, but I'm jazzed about this. I expect it to be my first really quality non-kit build.

I'm hoping to find some good art, have it laser-printed onto iron on transfer paper, and make that pan look interesting. I'm thinking of, hmm, Bo Diddley's face. I thought about getting some metal stain and just turning the thing into a Jackson Pollock knock-off, but that stuff is very expensive.

By the time I get strings on this thing and make noise with it, I may have $100 in it. But if I do the job right, I could probably sell the thing for $200 all day long. If I want to. But I won't want to. I've got the bones of a really nice instrument here if I don't screw it up.

Another (Non-Affiliate-Commission-Producing) Shout Out About How Freaking Great Hostgator Support is

Last Thursday, Rational Review News Digest went down. Hard.

It started with a "bad gateway" error. That only went on for a couple of minutes.

Then the site seemed to come back up, except that when I tried to create or edit content in Wordpress, instead of the post editor opening, the raw code for the post editor displayed.

I did the things I could think of (and completely spaced one thing I should have thought of), did some Googling that led me to a seemingly reasonable conclusion (that Apache was screwing up and a server re-start was needed), and contacted Hostgator tech support.

The support guy checked out the server status. No, there wasn't any obvious problem there, other sites weren't affected, and since I'm on "shared cloud" hosting, no, he wasn't going to bring all those other sites down temporarily with a server re-start.

Then he started trouble-shooting, one step at a time, asking my permission for each thing (e.g. "can I turn off all your Wordpress plug-ins and see if the problem goes away? If so, we can turn them back on one at a time and see which one has gone rogue").

After a good 15 minutes of this (during which he sent a ticket upward in their support structure), he suddenly noticed what I had forgotten:

Everything was still running through Cloudflare. I hadn't turned that off. So we were seeing cached content that wasn't going to reflect the changes we made.

Turned off Cloudflare. Changed to another theme, and Shazam! -- the site worked. Of course, it looked like hell because I run a heavily customized theme (to which I hadn't made code changes in more than two years), but obviously the problem WAS with my theme -- whenever I went back to the theme, the "shows the post editor code instead of the post editor" problem came back, and on the display end of the site a PHP error related to the theme came up.

So, that was the end of his job. Fixing or replacing the theme is my job. His job had actually stopped long before he stopped helping me. As soon as he knew that it wasn't something wrong at Hostgator, he could have just said "your problem, not ours, buddy" and gone on his merry way. Instead, he got me far enough along the track to finish the job myself.

So, thanks again to Hostgator for the above and beyond service I've lauded them for many times on this blog.

I ended up fixing the problem by:

1) Saving the parts of the theme I had customized;

2) Downloading a fresh copy of the theme;

3) Deleting the theme from the Wordpress "themes" folder on the site;

4) Uploading the fresh copy;

5) Replacing the default theme's files with my edited ones, one at a time.

Turns out the problem wasn't with any of my edited (long previously) files. I uploaded them all and the site kept working. My best guess is that a bit or three on the drive / in the default theme files got corrupted by a rogue cosmic ray or something.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

First Post ...

From the new Raspberry Pi 3B+, running Chromium in Raspbian!

The machine took maybe five minutes to put together. But Raspbian downloading updates during initial setup took an hour or more.

So far, so good. Next: Retropie and running a Commodore 64 in emulation!

Saturday, March 02, 2019

From the List of Things I Want to Do During My Life But Probably Won't

I want to appear in a film by Martin Scorsese.

Any part (including an extra who actually does show up in the final product) would do, and I don't care what kind of film. I'd get equally excited about being seen walking past while he interviews the subject of one of his documentaries, or as a body on the floor of a murder scene in one of his gangster flicks.

No lines? No problem. You don't speak to or stare at the director, he speaks to and stares at you? Works for me.

I suppose SAG might have a problem with me paying my own airfare to the shooting location and working without any pay whatsoever. Well, f--k SAG if that's the deal. I'll take it.

Not that it will ever happen. But it's on my list of things that should happen.

Yes, these are the kinds of things I sometimes lie awake thinking about at night.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Why We Might Get Federal Marijuana Legalization Real Soon Now

The Boston Globe reports that "All 2020 presidential candidates now support marijuana legalization efforts -- even the Republicans":

All 12 official Democratic candidates, as well as the potential Republican hopeful and former Massachusetts governor William F. Weld, told the Globe they now support full nationwide legalization, Canada-style.

President Trump, meanwhile, has said he supports states’ rights to legalize.

The idea seems really popular all around.

So if you're President Trump, what do you do right now? If you're smart (and I don't think he's as dumb as some people think he is), you take the issue away from those other candidates. You dispose of it just as the campaign season starts warming up.

Instead of them talking about how they would fix it for the next 20 months, it could be Trump talking about how he has fixed it for the next 20 months.

There are a couple of ways he could go about it.

One would be to go to Republicans in Congress and tell them to get up a clean legalization bill. That is, a bill that "de-schedules" marijuana at DEA and repeals all federal regulations that are specific to marijuana (presumably existing "general" regulations would automatically apply to it just like they apply to Prozac and tomatoes depending on whether it's being prescribed as medicine or sold as a houseplant -- unfortunate, but probably unavoidable if the bill is to pass).

The advantage to going that way would be that it would put all those Democratic candidates who claim to be for legalization, and are currently in the US House or Senate, on the spot. Either they support the bill and that's that (the issue falls out of their campaigning arsenal), or they oppose the bill and have to stop quacking about how they support legalization.

Another way would be for the FDA and DEA to report, respectively, to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General of the United States, in response to their "requests" for such reports, that the latest medical and scientific information don't support keeping marijuana in "Schedule I" status, and for the Attorney General to de-schedule (or at least re-schedule) it.

IMO, the second way would take longer:

Republicans in the US House and Senate will be able to see the political advantages of getting this done, and Democrats will know that voting against it amounts to pissing away potential votes in 2020. This is something that can get done in March unless Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer want to torpedo their own party's candidates with obstructionist BS.

FDA and DEA bureaucrats, on the other hand, could drag their feet for months. They'd look like douche nozzles doing so, too but they don't face the voters -- and since when have Scott Gottlieb or Uttam Dhillon ever given two runny shits what we mere mundanes think about them?

President Trump should schedule a meeting with Rand Paul and Justin Amash to hammer out a quick bill, then up call Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy to let them know that he expects every swinging Republican dick in both houses to co-sponsor it if they want any RNC support in their next re-election bids.

I think there's a better than even chance something like this happens in the next 90-180 days.

Match Request

For those of you who donate to the national Libertarian Party (including membership dues!) ...

The Libertarian National Committee is running a 2020 "Pay-to-Play Libertarian National Convention Theme Contest." Choose the convention theme you like. Make a donation. Theme that raises the most money wins.

As of the last update, the leader in the contest was "Ancapistan."

I loathe that idea. The LP is not an "anarcho-capitalist" party. Many of its members aren't anarchists; many of them aren't capitalists. The theme doesn't signal anything about the party that's substantive and truthful.

My preferred alternative, which happens to be in second place as of the last update, is "TANSTAAFL" (it stands for "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch").

I don't know if TANSTAAFL the very best of all possible convention themes, but it's the one with the best chance of beating "Ancapistan," and I suspect it will be very relevant next year, especially if the "Green New Deal" is still a thing as the election cycle heats up.

Nice kicker: Any donation you make to the LNC, including for this contest, accrues toward dues for your annual "sustaining membership" or even toward the $1,500 (must be within a 12-month period) "lifetime membership."

I went ahead and popped $25 for TANSTAAFL, and to take care of my upcoming "sustaining membership" renewal. If you're a member/donor, I respectfully ask that you match my donation. Hopefully for TANSTAAFL, but heck, maybe there will be something else you like better in the list of options.

See you next year in Austin!

The Next Thing I'm Planning to Spend Time Messing with ...

is this (graphic links to Amazon, but it's not an affiliate commission link or anything):

I have a running deal with my younger son. Periodically he'll want something he finds on eBay, but he respects (or at least fears) their Terms of Service too much to set up an account there before he turns 18.

So, I buy or bid on (and pay for) the stuff, and once he owes me enough money to buy me something I want on Amazon, he does that and we settle up.

The thing above is a Raspberry Pi 3B+, with useful accessories (case, heat sinks, power supply) bundled into a kit.

I may just install Raspbian (a Raspberry Pi version of Debian Linux) on it and see if it works well as a substitute for my ChromeOS desktop machine. I'm doubting that it will (it only comes with 1Gb of RAM), but you never know.

Or I might stack Retropie on top of Raspbian. Retropie emulates a bunch of old computers and game consoles. I could re-live my teen "writing games in Commodore BASIC" years (albeit on a faux-64 instead of my beloved VIC-20), or play all the old consoles/games I couldn't afford back when they were new.

Most likely outcome: I get it put together and running, quickly decide I'm bored, and the kid who owed it to me gets the run of it.

But it should be a bit of fun however things turn out.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Don't Panic (Momo PSA)

That is all.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

I Am Not a Financial Advisor ...

... and this is not investment advice.


If I was looking to buy stock right now, I'd be snapping up shares of Stamps.com. shares. Here's why.

The share price lost more than 50% on Friday, because talks between the company and US Snail broke down. At issue: USPS wanted Stamps.com to continue selling USPS shipping exclusively, while Stamps.com wants to also work with e.g. FedEx, UPS, and Amazon.

Smart move by Stamps.com, even if it is temporarily hurting their share price.

The only thing keeping USPS in business at all at this point is its government monopoly on first-class mail (which is waaaaaaay down since email came about) and its waning ability to swing last-mile deals with Amazon (which is starting to do its own deliveries).

Friday, February 22, 2019

Hey, It Makes Noise, and That's Good Enough

This is Dead Man's Hand:

I wanted to go primitive in building a "diddley bow." For example, none of those new-fangled metal geared tuning machines. I ordered four wooden friction pegs on eBay (and broke two of them before I got the hole in the "headstock" just large enough for a tight but turnable fit):

One good excuse for going "primitive" is that the only power tools I own are an electric drill and an electric stapler. I didn't use the latter at all. I used the former to drill the tiny hole for the string at the tail, to drill a tiny pilot hole in the headstock, after which I used an awl to enlarge it in tapered fashion for the peg, drill the sound holes, etc.

Other than that, the instrument is:

  • Body -- A little cigar box I found for 50 cents at a garage sale, which I painted green and decoupaged the "dead man's hand" (aces over eights) onto from a dollar store deck of used casino cards (from the Flamingo, IIRC -- so now I've got Bugsy Siegel in addition to Wild Bill at play). Used a hand saw to cut holes for the neck to fit through. 
  • Neck -- A piece of wood I found hanging loose off of a dresser that someone had left at the curb as trash. Cut it to length with a hand saw and cut/chiseled a bit off the top to account for the cigar box's lid thickness (didn't go a very good job).
  • Bridge and nut: These are a couple of "bats" for smoking you know what. I ordered them specifically to use as bridge and nut for a different (cigarette-themed) homemade guitar project which quickly went to hell. I am probably going to replace the one I'm using as a bridge with a couple of souvenir casino chips.
  • Tuning machine: The aforementioned friction peg, presumably meant to be used on a violin.
  • String: A used guitar string I had lying around.
Things that went wrong:

  • That neck is very old, very dry wood. It developed a crack/split by the time I got the friction peg into it. I may try to repair that, or I may just let nature take its course.
  • I had planned to drill the centers out of the aforementioned casino chips and use them as borders around the sound holes. Who knew that casino chips were metal in the center? So now my plan is to use them (I have two), stacked, as the bridge once I get to the store and buy some super glue.
  • The body is just too small to put very big sound holes in. So it's just not going to be very loud.
  • I had planned to slowly and carefully build the thing over "Christmas break." Got busy. Put it off. Then did it in a sudden fit of activity one Friday afternoon a couple of weeks ago. When you hurry through something, it's half-assed.
  • When I sat down to record something with it for this post, I hit "record" and then realized I hadn't thought about what to play. So I fumbled badly through a few bars of Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Gotta Move."

I'm sure I'll get back to homemade instruments in the near future, and maybe come up with something better (I've got an old cake pan and ideas for making it into a bass guitar). For the moment, my musical energies are going into practicing the D major pentatonic scale on the mandolin.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Something Else That Became MUCH Cheaper But That I Seldom Buy Now

Back in the mid-1980s,  music was pretty much my life. I was knocking down $3.85 an hour ($154 a week gross, about $125 net) at my first post-high-school job, but living with my parents and didn't really have bills beyond car insurance and such. That $3.85 went up to $5.00 pretty quickly. But $200 gross, maybe $170 net still wasn't a insanely high pay -- $459 a week in 2019 dollars.

Every Friday, as soon as I got off work, I cashed my paycheck and went to the record store (a local one until that one closed, later one an hour away in the town where I always spent my weekends watching live bands at the coolest nightclub in town, which had an "all-ages" area). And every week, I bought two albums.

My recollection is that new releases ran $7.99 on vinyl or cassette (I considered CD the work of the devil). I would often buy one new thing (say, The Head on the Door by the Cure) and one older item, usually either a punk classic or something from the '60s. New vinyl or cassette, maybe $5.99. Used, $3 or $4. I seem to recall that I thought my average spent on recorded music each week was about $12, or $27.50 in 2019 dollars.

These days, I pay for maybe two new albums a year. Usually that's buying a CD at a gig to support a band I like, or going ahead and buying the "deluxe" streaming version of something I really, really, really care about. And even when I do pay for new recorded music, the price is perhaps $10 -- far less than the inflation-adjusted cost of an album back when.

In fact, I've become a complete miser when it comes to paying for recorded music. I use YouTube. I use the free version of Pandora. I use the free version of Spotify. I pay for Amazon Prime, which comes with (they say) more than a million songs, but I haven't purchased their upgraded version with a lot more music (at least twice a week, Alexa tells me that a song I asked for isn't available, would I like to sign up?).

For less than $10 a month (less than $5 a month in 1986 dollars), I could pretty much have the recorded music world at my feet. Sure, it would be digital rather than physical media, and from the streaming services it would go away if I didn't keep paying, but I used to cheerfully spend $120 a month on recorded music and now I balk at 1/12th that amount.

Why? Because I can find almost anything I want "free" if I'm willing to spend a few minutes looking for it.

I Get Mail

Usually it's little "e-packets" from China containing guitar picks, hats, etc., that I bought on Wish or eBay, or those annoying after-party notices trying to make you think they're your domain registrar. Stuff like that.

But occasionally it's something different ...

I'm beginning to wonder if they really, really, really like or hate my family. Tamara got summoned (and picked, and did a short trial) a few months ago. Astel got summoned (and dismissed without being selected for a jury) last month. Liam's not 18 just yet.

I've only reported for jury duty once (in Missouri), and they got all the jurors they needed before they even got to the point sticking me in a group to be considered. I got summoned two or three times in a period of six months back in 1991 -- while I was out of the country for Desert Storm.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Thanks For Asking!, 02/20/19

Weekly, fortnightly, twice a month ... something like that ... it's the periodic AMA thread brought to you by Free Pony Express!

Ask me whatever you want to ask me in comments below this post. I'll answer in comments, on a potential future podcast, with a blog post ... one way or another!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Chaos @CatoInstitute?

Up until a few weeks ago, the Cato Institute was pretty reliable in terms of posting its text commentaries and podcasts on its web site.

That is, on any given day, usually by the early afternoon, the "Cato Daily Podcast" for that day would be up on their web site and showing in my RSS feed. Ditto the text commentaries written by its analysts and usually published that day, or the day before, or scheduled for publication soon, in this or that newspaper or magazine.

Starting around the turn of the year, though, the Daily Podcast  "for" Date X shows up on the web site five days, a week, or two weeks after Date X.

And the commentaries are hit or miss for showing up on the web site at a time/day consistent with the date they were supposedly "published" on. For example, this morning there's a commentary in my RSS feed, and on the Cato site, with a publication date of February 11. But it wasn't actually posted on February 11. They just "back-dated" it.

Why do I find this bothersome? Well, I publish a daily roundup of news, commentary, and audio/video that's presumably "of interest to libertarians." Cato's definitely in that mix. Or was, going back to the 1990s. And still would be, if their stuff was actually published when they said it was published.

There's not a hard and fast time frame rule, but I generally try to grab stuff within 24-48 hours of publication. If you say you published it on the 11th, but don't actually publish it until the 18th, it's ... stale ... by the time I see it. And by the time anyone else sees it, too.

My guess: Perhaps some staff departed and the positions haven't been filled yet. Maybe I should submit my resume?

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Among the Things That Have Become Better Over Time ...

... are cheap shoes.

Remember the old Traxx tennis shoes they used to sell at Kmart, circa the early 1980s?

Those things were the bane of my existence.

Hitting junior high and high school, naturally I wanted what something like what the Kool Kids wore (except that I specifically didn't want Nikes because that seemed too much like playing "keep up with the Joneses -- Adidas, maybe, or Asics).

But my family, while not poor exactly, definitely had to remain on the frugal side. Which meant I got school pants from Monkey Ward instead of Levis or Jordaches or whatever. And often shirts from Goodwill. And those Traxx shoes.

My recollection is that they ran about $7.99, but let me jack that down to $4.99 just to be on the safe side. IIRC, the first pair of Nikes I bought (because I was told to bring tennis shoes to boot camp in 1985) were about $40, or $93.57 in current dollars.

$4.99 in 1980 dollars comes to $15.24 in current purchasing power. $7.99 would come to $24.41.

Those $5-8 Traxx tennis shoes started coming apart within weeks, sometimes within days, of putting them on for the first time. Usually the first sign was the sole peeling away at the toe. If the damn things lasted six months, by the end of it the soles were flapping at both ends and the dark blue fabric had faded to light blue and was disintegrating. I hated them because they were ugly. I hated them because they were uncomfortable. And I hated them because they made me look like someone whose parents either couldn't or wouldn't clothe him decently.

I have three pairs of shoes right now that I paid $20 or less for.

One is a pair of Walmart store brand pull-on shoes ($9.97, IIRC) that seem to be promoted as a sort of after-game slipper for athletes. I've had them for three years, I think. They're starting to show their age, but they're also still completely intact. They get worn around the house, while doing yard work, etc.

The second is a pair of lace-up tennis shoes that I bought via Amazon for (once again, IIRC) $17.xx. They're more than a year old, probably about two years old. I bought them for exercise (walking and running), but wear them all the time when I go out for anything but don't want to dress up. They still look and feel pretty much new. I'd be surprised if they have less than 300 miles on them.

The third is a pair of suede work boots, another Walmart special. I paid $19.97 for them three months ago when I was getting ready to head for the Great White North to help my brother move house. Now, in addition to the Traxx tennis shoes, I usually got store brand Mork'n'Mindy style hiking boots (the new ones look a lot like that) for the winters when I was a kid, and I think they ran $12-15 ($36.66-$45.82).  So far, the boots at about half the real price seem to be a lot more durable, although I haven't worn them as much in a like period of time as I did the ol' Mork'n'Mindys.

I don't like to write in the OMG! Capitalism! vein, but I do have to admit that when it comes to footwear, you can get a lot better gear for a lot less now than you could 35-40 years ago.

So I Had a Really Cool Idea This Morning ...

... and, as is often the case, I quickly discovered that someone else has already had it and is already working on it.

Which is cool, since I wouldn't have had the technical expertise to implement it anyway.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

An Incentive Question Concerning Inheritance Taxes

If the state gets a bonus when you die, isn't that a very good reason for those whose jobs entail grabbing as much loot as possible for the state to hasten that event in any way they can think of that doesn't cost as much as the prospective bonus comes to?

Word(s) PSA

Well ...

The comic strip Non Sequitur in Sunday’s Orlando Sentinel and others papers across the nation included a vulgar comment directed at President Donald Trump. ... Julie Anderson, editor-in-chief of the Orlando Sentinel and the Sun Sentinel, said the cartoonist’s action was "a breach of trust with our readers."

Hmm ...

breach of trust, noun 1. Law . a violation of duty by a trustee. 2. a violation of duty or responsibility.

I doubt that there was ever any agreement, explicit or implicit, between cartoonist Wiley Miller and the readers of the Orlando Sentinel, under which he was obligated to never, ever, ever use a word that most of those readers probably occasionally use themselves and that 99.x% of them would never have noticed the use of if the Sentinel's editors hadn't called the matter to their attention.

Such an agreement might have existed between Miller and his syndication agent, or between that agent and the newspapers to which it provided Miller's work, I guess, but that's a different matter entirely.

Readers who require fainting couches and smelling salts when exposed to one of the most common "swear words" in the English language probably gave up newspaper comics long ago lest they put their souls at risk of eternal damnation or whatever.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Venezuela: A Tentative Prediction

While a US ground invasion to tip the scales in favor of Juan Guaido's presidential claim seems very unlikely, here's something that (to me, anyway, doesn't):

A couple of weeks ago, the US regime seized control of the Venezuelan regime's US bank accounts, putting them under control of Guaido's faction rather than Maduro's. Beyond any cash already in those accounts, the idea was that revenues generated by the state-owned Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA, would end up financing Guaido instead of supporting Maduro.

Maduro's first response was to order that ships leaving Venezuela with oil wouldn't be allowed to leave port until the oil had been paid for (with the funds going to his regime rather than Guaido's).

Yesterday [h/t Steve Trinward], PDVSA began directing incoming oil revenues to Gazprombank AO, a Russian bank (the Russian regime supports Maduro v. Guaido).

My tentative prediction: Unless something else breaks big with the Venezuelan situation pretty soon, we may see a sort of half-assed reprise of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Step 1: Guaido asks the US to help him stop Maduro from "stealing oil and oil revenues" by selling the oil and accepting the money into Maduro-controlled accounts rather than Guaido-controlled accounts.

Step 2: The US blockades Venezuela, intercepting tankers and not letting them leave until it's been established that the oil they're carrying was purchased with money deposited to Guaido-controlled accounts.

Step 3: The Russians send ships to escort tankers carrying oil for which Maduro, rather than Guaido, was paid.

Step 4: US-Russian naval standoff (or even violent encounter).

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

When I Feel Like I'm Getting Low on Musical Instruments, I Often Go Rogue

Disclaimer: I'm not being compensated in any way for this post by Rogue or any other musical instrument maker or seller, nor are the links "affiliate" links. Just my opinion, because I feel like it.

So, my daughter Astel has indicated an interest in taking up guitar. Since I only have one acoustic dreadnought, one acoustic/electric dreadnought, one cigar box guitar complete and one stalled in-build, one 3/4 size dreadnought configured as a three-string with drop-in pickup, two electrics, and one electric lap steel at the moment (I gave away one of my old acoustic dreadnoughts to a friend who seemed to need it, and tore up my $10 Strat clone for parts), a ukulele, and an ancestral mandolin that's not playable (it hangs on the wall) ...

I decided to buy this:

The guitar is the same model black Rogue RA-90 as the one I gave away. And after a coupon code, it came with the mandolin for $90.

A benefactor bought me the same mandolin, in black rather than sunburst, years ago (at least six, but I think more like nine). I messed with it a little bit but never got serious, and passed it off to someone who was interested when I was shedding stuff for the move to Florida. But I've been listening to a lot of bluegrass and blue-grassish stuff lately and that bug is biting again.

I'll pass off my other Rogue RA-90 -- an acoustic-electric that I bought open-box -- to Astel and replace it with the new one as my "when I sit up and bed and feel like practicing my blues scales -- Alexa, open Backing Buddy" axe. I don't have an amp in the bedroom anyway.

So anyway ... this will be my fifth and sixth Rogue instrument (my third dreadnought and my second mandolin -- the lap steel is also Rogue), and I've never found much to complain about. I think the lap steel was the most expensive at about $80, and I've always found that I get much more than I pay for with Rogue. I had to raise the action on the previous RA-90 acoustic to get rid of some string buzz, and I always put new strings on either immediately or fairly quickly. but that's just part of setting up and breaking in a new guitar. Other than that, the instruments produce good sound quality, the intonation isn't off (that would be a nut-to-bridge distance problem with fret placement), and they're not delicately built.

There are cheaper guitars out there. My reading of reviews says they're worth even less than they cost, tending to arrive with bowing necks, separating fretboards, etc. Rogue produces an inexpensive instrument, but in my opinion and experience a quality one that's better than one has any right to expect for the price.

Note: I've come across a number of claims concerning who makes Rogue instruments -- that they're made by Fender, by Squier (which is owned by Fender), or as an in-house brand of Musician's Friend. Since I can't find an official Rogue site, or any Rogue references on the Fender or Squier sites, I assume the last is the correct answer (especially considering that's where I've always bought them).

Here's the Thing About Weld's Departure

Over at We Are Libertarians (a fun podcast, btw), one of the participants (I'm not  always so good at identifying voices, but I think it may have been WAL chief poobah Chris Spangle) bemoans treating it as a "victory" that the Libertarian Party managed to "drive someone away" (quote from memory).

I'm not sure seeing the back of Bill Weld (again) is a "victory," exactly, if for no other reason than that it's not obvious that said departure had anything to do with intra-party "infighting" or criticism.

What it is is, just possibly, a first step on the way to repairing the massive damage he's done to the to Libertarian Party's prospects and the Libertarian Party's brand over the years.

In 2006, Weld ran simultaneously for the New York gubernatorial nominations of the Libertarian Party and the Republican Party. The LPNY nominated first. He was publicly asked to pledge to remain the LPNY's nominee even if he lost the GOP contest. He so pledged -- and then dropped out as the LPNY's nominee within hours of failing to procure the GOP nomination. That put "permanent" ballot access out of LPNY's reach for a minimum of four more years (it ended up being 12).

In 2016, Weld told LP national convention delegates he had changed on gun rights issues, right before going out in the hall to reassure CNN viewers that he hadn't changed on gun rights issues. And despite that bald-faced lie and his screw job on the LPNY ten years before, got the party's vice-presidential nomination.

After which he went out and campaigned against due process and gun rights for people on secret government enemies lists, and in favor of continuing the war on drugs that aren't marijuana.

Damn right I'm glad to see him gone. Not just because he's a lying, traitorous snake whom no one should ever, ever, ever trust even an eensy teensy little bit, but because every past association between him and the Libertarian Party has damaged, and any future such association will damage, the latter.

Of course, we're not entirely shed of that association -- if he does run in the Republican presidential primary, both supportive media and his opponents in the GOP (to the extent that they deign to notice him) will tout his LP vice-presidential nomination, further tarnishing the LP's reputation and hurting its 2020 prospects every time they do so.

There's even a pretty good chance that after he collects some media coverage and loses a couple of Republican primaries, he'll come sauntering back to the LP wanting its 2020 presidential nomination. If we respond to that by doing anything other than laughing him out of the room, we're a bunch of fucking idiots.

Anyway -- the more distance we put between ourselves and Bill Weld, the better. Damn right I'm glad to see him helping with the distancing.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Frag, 02/04/19

Asa Pine always wakes up a second or two before. A second or two before the alarm goes off. A second or two before the phone call comes through. That's how he always remembers it, anyway. It's been like that since boot camp and the first subtle breath of needle noise before reveille tried to shake apart the squad bay's sound system.

He's staring at the clock radio as 3:36 a.m. becomes 3:37 and his phone lights up. Ring tone: "Riders on the storm / Riders on the storm / Into this world we're thrown ..."

He doesn't sit up or unplug the phone from the charger before swiping the answer icon and hitting "speaker."


The answer is not the expected: "Storm," or just a perfunctory order.

"Deputy Pine, this is Sheriff Susan Dorsey of Alachua County. How quickly can you get to Cedar Key, lights and sirens?"

Pine blinks, thinks. "Forty minutes."

"Don't stop for anything or for any reason. Meet me at the Sumidero County Sheriff's Office in 35."

"Yes ma'am."

No click, just a "call ended" message.

Pine pops a k-cup in the machine while he pulls on a uniform. He's out of the house with his insulated travel cup of joe four minutes later. One minute after that, as he turns on to Highway 24, he hits the lights. No siren. No need to wake people up unless he hits traffic. At a quarter to 4 in the morning, that's unlikely.

Just northeast of Otter Creek, past the Upper Waccassa Conservation Area, the strobes of several law enforcement and emergency response vehicles light up the sky to his north. An un-labeled gravel service road, or perhaps a very long driveway, leads in that direction. Pine ignores it and accelerates.

He pulls into a parking spot in Cedar Key 41 minutes after "call ended." Not 40. Certainly not 35. It's going to have to be close enough for government work. All of the department's vehicles except the sheriff's Ford Explorer are out. He's pretty sure he knows where.

Dorsey awaits just inside the employee entrance. Pine hears tension in the steady but unintelligible hum of talk from the dispatcher's desk down the hall.


"Yes ma'am." They've met before, at a law enforcement banquet. He's not surprised she doesn't remember him. He barely remembers the event himself, but she's hard to forget.

"Ronnie Storm is dead."

Oh, shit.


"Doesn't look like it."

Oh. Shit.

"Let me make this as simple as possible. The sheriff's department can't investigate the death of someone who happens to be the sheriff's daughter, the chief deputy's girlfriend, and another deputy's ex-girlfriend. Alachua County will handle the investigation until and unless the state decides to take it from us. We're going to need a liaison. You answer to the description -- a reserve deputy, with an alibi, from the other side of the county, who has never dated Ronnie Storm."

Alibi? Pine files that one away for the moment.

"How's the sheriff holding up?"

"I don't know. I haven't had time to monitor his emotional well-being. He called me the minute the news came in and we had about 30 seconds of so sorry, how can I help before I had to get to work on this. He's in his office. Leave him alone for now. We've got work to do."

As she turns away with an unspoken direction to follow, Pine brushes the star over his breast with one hand before filing the matter away under THINGS I DIDN'T SIGN UP FOR BUT THAT HAPPEN ANYWAY.

Word PSA

complimentary, a. Expressive of regard or praise; of the nature of, or containing, a compliment; as, a complimentary remark; a complimentary ticket.

... does not mean the same thing as ...

complementary, a. Serving to fill out or to complete; as, complementary numbers.

You're welcome.

Friday, February 01, 2019

You Know I'm Not a Fan of Roger Stone, Right?

He brought his "Nixon dirty trickster" toolkit to the Libertarian Party, ruining one of its best chances in years at continuing ballot access in New York, etc. He is simply not one who should ever, under any circumstances, be trusted.

But this "gag order" stuff is, pardon my Esperanto, bullshit.

Your free speech rights don't magically disappear just because a political hack in a black dress fears that your narrative, which presumably differs from the prosecution's, might reach as many people as the prosecution's does.

The pre-trial proceeding should not be a "public relations campaign,” Judge Amy Berman Jackson said, adding that she's worried that Stone treating the pre-trial process "like a book tour" could taint a potential jury at a future trial.

She gave Stone and the government until Feb. 8 to submit arguments about whether she should impose a gag order.

I hope that Stone puts his contrarian qualities to good, rather than evil, use with this, and has his attorneys submit the following "argument":

Mr. Stone will ignore any "gag order," except in circumstances where he chooses to publicly mock it. He has also pre-recorded and pre-positioned content violating/mocking it with assorted allies so that if he's jailed to shut him up the violation/mockery will continue to flow unimpeded. Do you really want to play this game against this guy?

How to Talk to a Career Politician, if You Must

Thanks For Asking!, 02/01/19

It's the first of another month, so how about a new Free Pony Express-sponsored AMA thread?

  • Ask me anything (yep, anything); and
  • I'll answer in one form or another.
Let's do this.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

I Just Got an Email Calling me "Right-Wing" ...

... for suggesting that workers seize the means of production (er, transportation) from the state.

Then They Came for the Jews ...

... the Jewish sitcoms, that is.

Michael Scammell explains it better than I can (or at least than I have time to) at spiked.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

An Interesting Question

What kind of world do you wanna live in? Do you wanna live in a world where somebody says something that's not a good idea, in public, and then they just have to stick with it even after everybody tells them it's not a good idea? Is that what you want? You don't want that world.

That's from today's edition of Scott Adams's daily Periscope.

My take:

Adams is absolutely right. It's better to change one's mind about a bad idea than to hold on to that bad idea after you know it's a bad idea.


When a politician articulates a bad idea in public, and everyone has a cow, and within 24 hours the politician starts "walking back" that idea, is it plausible to believe that the politician has actually changed his or her mind?

I think the context strongly militates against assuming that he or she has. And against assuming that the initial remark was informative as to his or her actual beliefs in the first place.

In this particular, Adams is talking about Kamala Harris's public statement that she wants to "eliminate" private health care options in favor of "Medicare For All."

Cue public reaction, followed by a statement from her press secretary -- not her -- that "she would also be open to pursuing more moderate reforms."

She's been preparing herself, and being groomed by the Democratic Party, to run for president for at least two years. She's clearly the party establishment's preferred candidate, at least in the early running. She's bringing in money. She's hiring pro staffers. If there's a front-runner at the moment, she's it.

Her "eliminate" remark is not something that came thoughtlessly or accidentally out of the blue. Or if it is, then that proves she's not very quick on her feet and probably shouldn't get in the debate ring with an opponent who is.

She said it at a CNN "town hall" event, for which she was presumably extensively prepped by that pro staff, and she was speaking to a major policy issue on which she's presumably been boning up for some time.

She presumably said it because she believed, or was told by her pollsters to believe, that it was what her audience wanted to hear, not in some accidental sudden fit of verbal diarrhea.

And neither the initial remark nor her campaign staff's "oh my God, we didn't expect THAT reaction!" attempt to walk it back tells us anything about what she actually thinks, or about what she would do if given significant power to influence policy.

It just tells us she's a pander-bear.

Frag, 01/30/19

Write new fiction for at least ten minutes everyday. It’s so simple. Turn off everything else, but all the other projects away, and just write for ten minutes. -- Shaunta Grimes, "The One Thing That Matters for Fiction Writers"

Challenge accepted. I probably won't post all, or even nearly all, my exercises of this sort here, but I figure if I kick off with one and then fall silent for an extended period, one or more of you will kick my ass back into gear.

Until and unless I get my teeth into a specific project, these will likely be "frags" -- fragments, little pieces of plot or dialogue that run around in my head with some frequency but haven't started to grow the surrounding stories around them.

So ...

[In previous unwritten sequence Asa Pine (who is sort of but not quite exactly a "real cop") accosts Eddie (without physical contact) to ask him some questions and Eddie goes after Pine with a "push dagger"]


The scuffle was over almost before it began. Eddie dabbed at a bloody lip with one shirt sleeve. I adjusted my tie and dropped the knife in my pocket.

"Just what the hell do you want from me, Pine?" he asked.

"Answers. Starting with exactly where you were circa 10 pm on Friday night."

Smirk. "Well, let's just say I was enjoying some female companionship."

"Not good enough. Until I have a real alibi that I can confirm, you're a suspect. In fact, you're the suspect."

"No can do. The lady wouldn't want our relationship out in the open."

"Why not?"

"Pillar of the community stuff. Married to someone else stuff. Playing for the other team considerations. And so on, and so forth."

"I don't care about any of that unless it's relevant to who killed Ronnie Storm. If it is, I'll find out anyway. If it isn't, your secrets are safe with me."

"Yeah, but who decides whether or not it's relevant? And why should I give a shit?"

"Me. Because I can make not giving a shit hurt worse than telling me what I need to know will."

"Like I said, no can do. There's more going on here than you know. More than you want to know. Believe me."

"Like what?"

"Let's just say ..."

Knee in his groin. One hand grasping his collar. Up against the wall. Finger aligned with the bridge of his nose, hovering about an inch from the space separating his eyes.

"No, Eddie, let's not just say anything. Let's say the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Get your part in this over with, before the games begin in earnest."

"You think you know games, Pine? You don't know shit. If anyone's seen me with you, I'm probably dead already. If the wrong people think I talked, there's no 'probably' about it. Speaking of which, you're probably dead already too."

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

OK, Now I'm Interested

For some reason, the idea of former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz running for president struck me as ... well ... indescribably boring. So much so that I paid almost zero attention to the stories floating around about the possibility.

But I'll read pretty much anything Nick Gillespie cares to write (even when, as is often the case, I stridently disagree with him), and his piece today in Reason makes a decent case that there may be some "there" there worth checking out.

No, I don't plan to vote for Schultz. But if he's really pursuing the kind of "public conversation" that Gillespie thinks he's pursuing, I'll root for him to be successful in that pursuit.

Yep, Amazon Home Delivery is Here

In Gainesville, at least.

A week or so ago, a package arrived -- and instead of a US Postal Service truck pulling into my yard, it was a van marked "Amazon."

I had seen a couple of these vans in parking spaces in town, and had seen a news story saying that Amazon was opening both a local warehouse operation and a local delivery operation. But both of those things were several months ago, and I was wondering when it would come to fruition. Obviously, it has.

I talked briefly with the driver. She said she liked the job better than her previous desk job, that the money was pretty good, etc.

Gainesville isn't a huge city (~130,000). I don't know if that means Amazon "last mile" delivery is a finished product that has just now penetrated that far down in terms of city size, or if Gainesville is an experimental/pilot area for the idea. I suspect it's a good city for Amazon what with the large university presence and tech hub aspirations. If I had to guess, I'd guess the area buys more from Amazon per capita than average.

In any case, we have it pretty good here vis a vis Amazon. Two-day delivery almost always means exactly that. A Whole Foods went in last year, and they have "Amazon lockers" -- if you have a porch pirate problem in your neighborhood, you can just pick your package up at Whole Foods instead of having it left on your porch while you're out and the house is empty.

I'll be interested to see how this plays out vis a vis US Snail. Trump did a bit of belly-aching that Amazon was receiving a "subsidy" from the Postal Service, while both Amazon and USPS replied that no, USPS turns a profit delivering for  Amazon. If Trump was right, I suspect Amazon wouldn't be in such a hurry to take over its own local delivery operations.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Anthony de Jasay, RIP

Per Pierre Lemieux at EconLog:

"Anthony de Jasay died yesterday in Normandie (France), where he was living."

Friday, January 25, 2019

Project EWUltra?

Elizabeth Warren doesn't want to soak millionaires or multi-millionaires with her proposed "wealth tax."

Just "ultra-millionaires."

Warren, of course, being a mere multi-millionaire, not one of those rich people.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Fastest One on the Mouse Button Gets It ...

I just noticed that I still have one copy of David Hathaway's Immigration: Individual vs National Borders (Kindle Edition) left over from an old Amazon giveaway, and that Amazon will let me use it in a new giveaway. It's first come, only served, so ready, set ... CLICK IT TO WIN IT.

If you don't win the giveaway, you should still read the book. It's 99 cents for the Kindle version, $3.60 for paperback -- here, not an affiliate link.

Thanks For Asking!, 01/24/19

OK, so weekly AMA thread was, um, aspirational. How about "occasional" AMA thread? Brought to you, of course, by Free Pony Express:


  • Ask me anything (yes, anything); and
  • I'll answer. Maybe in comments. Maybe in a longer-form stand-alone piece. Maybe, if the spirit ever moves again, even in a podcast.
Hit it.

My Thoughts on the Oscar-Nominated Films, Part 1: First Reformed

This may or may not be a "continuing series," but let's assume it will be. I plan to watch as many of the films nominated for Academy Awards as I can get through before the awards are actually conferred, and blog my impressions of those films (hopefully avoiding major spoilers, and with warnings if I can't). First up, First Reformed, nominated for Best Original Screenplay:

I really looked forward to this movie. I like Ethan Hawke. A lot. The premise, made pretty clear in the trailer, was promising: A troubled pastor, going through his own crisis of faith, encounters a potential suicide bomber.

I hated almost every minute of actually watching the film. It's just a big ol' downer, full of heart-rending events (its mood reminded me of The Road) and with an outrageously unsatisfying ending (think The Sopranos).

But hating watching a movie is not the same thing as hating a movie.

I'm going to watch this one again (FYI, it streams "free" for Amazon Prime members).


For one thing, it incorporates some of the best elements of the "horror" and "suspense/thriller" genres, packaged into "serious film" format and pulled off perfectly. I was horrified. I was thrilled and held in suspense. That's not necessarily enjoyable, but it's worthwhile.

For another, the acting is just top-notch. Not just Hawke as troubled pastor Ernst Toller, but Amanda Seyfried as the congregation member who asks for his help with a serious problem, Cedric "The Entertainer" Kyles as head pastor of the "mega-church" that bought First Reformed out of near-destruction (with the help of a big businessman played by Michael Gaston) and gave it to Hawke to run because he was in a bad place, and Victoria Hill as Esther, choir director at the mega-church (and, we fairly quickly figure out, someone with whom Toller had an extra-marital relationship of some kind). Philip Ettinger, who plays the potential suicide bomber, did a good job too, but something about him just unsettlingly reminded me of Zach Galifianakis. Nothing against him, but I don't know that I'd have made that casting decision.

And, finally, it deals with some big questions and does so in a thoughtful rather than cut-and-dried way. It made me think, and it sent me off to Google several times to check out various theological/philosophical subjects (but not in the middle of the film; while I had to take a break in the middle, it wasn't because the thing wasn't gripping).

I think there's a trap for the climate-change-fascinated "serious film" community, relating to "cut-and-dried" perceptions, built into First Reformed 

The potential suicide bomber is not an Islamist. He's an environmentalist.

Hawke's character, Reverend Toller, becomes obsessed with the same cause that obsesses the would-be suicide bomber ... and the film seemingly turns into an argument in favor of accepting (and doing something, maybe even something "extreme," about) anthropogenic global warming.

I suspect some of the people who nominated the film did so because they think it makes a strong argument for that cause.

Not only do I not think it does (one reason I don't mention Michael Gaston as one of the acting attractions is that he seems to have been handed a paper-thin, perfunctory character to play as the polluting industrialist, Edward Balq), I don't think that that's what the movie is about, even a little bit.

What First Reformed is about, among other things but IMO most pointedly, is the question "what causes someone to become so obsessed with something that he'd detonate a suicide vest in a crowd of people?" And it makes clear that it's something other than the obvious something that causes such obsession.

I can't honestly tell you that you'll like First Reformed. But I can tell you that there's more to it than initially meets the eye and that if the subjects it deals with fascinate you, it will be a rewarding watch.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Well, Those Aren't Headlines You See Every Day ...

Crypto Proponent John McAfee Fleeing United States After Being Charged With Felonies by IRS; Will Run Presidential Campaign from a Boat


John McAfee Says the IRS Is After Him So He’s Running His 2020 Campaign From the Sea

He's got his campaign theme tune out, too ...

Monday, January 21, 2019

A Great Primer on One of my Pet Peeves

Shaunta Grimes explains active voice vs. passive voice.

If you write, you should probably subscribe to Shaunta's "Ninja Writers" email list. I think the form on this page will get you there if you click the "OK with sending you updates" box.

No, I am not trying to sell you the courses, etc., nor am I a marketing affiliate. But there's some good stuff on her list, on her sites, and on her Medium blog.

One Counterpoint to the "MAGA Hat Kids v. Assorted Other Protesters" Thing

Yes, there's definitely more than one side to the story.

One of the students involved, Nick Sandmann, has released a statement amounting to "not only was I not looking for a confrontation with the American Indian dude of anyone else, I was just trying to remain calm until I could get out of there."

OK, that's fair. To a point.

BUT! Sandmann writes:

I never understood why either of the two groups of protestors were engaging with us, or exactly what they were protesting at the Lincoln Memorial. We were simply there to meet a bus, not become central players in a media spectacle. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever encountered any sort of public protest, let alone this kind of confrontation or demonstration.

First of all, no, this is not the first time he's encountered any sort of public protest. His group had just participated in a public protest (the "March For Life"). In fact, they had traveled 500 miles one-way for the specific purpose of participating in that protest.

Secondly, when a bunch of people in MAGA hats congregate in a public place adjacent to very, very, very non-MAGA protests, it's presumptive that those non-MAGA protesters are going to perceive the MAGA hat crowd as counter-protesters and "engage" with them in some way.

That's not to defend the particulars of what happened, but Sandmann is being disingenuous on the first of those things and either disingenuous or exceptionally naive on the second.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Those Who Cannot Remember the Past are Condemned to Fall for the Same Old Military Industrial Complex Scams

Camera One, pointed at The Atlantic:

America Scrambles to Catch Up With Chinese and Russian Weapons

Camera Two, pointed at Wikipedia:

The missile gap was the Cold War term used in the US for the perceived superiority of the number and power of the USSR's missiles in comparison with its own (a lack of military parity). The gap in the ballistic missile arsenals did not exist except in exaggerated estimates, made by the Gaither Committee in 1957 and in United States Air Force (USAF) figures. Even the contradictory CIA figures for the USSR's weaponry, which showed a clear advantage for the US, were far above the actual count. Like the bomber gap of only a few years earlier, it was soon demonstrated that the gap was entirely fictional.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

This is What the Cult of the Omnipotent State Looks Like

From The Hill:

The FDA has the ability to stop e-cigarette sales

Not in a million years will the FDA ever have that ability.

For evidence of my claim, hit Wikipedia and read up on the history of "attempts to stop sales of" cannabis, cocaine, heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, etc.

E-cigarettes are batteries that power a heating element to vaporize common food ingredients (propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine) with nicotine (which can be extracted from a number of plants in the nightshade family, or synthesized in a lab).

I'm not saying we won't see a war on batteries, food additives, and common plants. I'm just pointing out that in any such war the batteries, food additives, and common plants (or, rather the people who want and use them) will win hands down.

But what struck me vis a vis the quoted statement was arguments I've had over the years with people who claim there is no "Cult of the Omnipotent State."

What would you call someone who just assumes, in the face of millennia of evidence that runs without exception to the contrary, that the state has the magical power to make batteries, food additives, and common plants disappear from the market?

I'd call that person a cultist in the grip of a bizarre superstition that the state can do anything its priests decide should be done.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Hi, @ScottAdamsSays, I'm Tom Knapp

I'm the guy you don't believe exists -- the one who wants open borders even if the welfare state continues to exist (I don't do Stockholm Syndrome), even if you tell me scary stories about sharia law, even if the possibility exists that the immediate economic fallout might not be to my benefit, etc.

Nice to "meet" you.

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