Sunday, August 18, 2019

Nuance ...


... may be pleasing in art, but when applied to politics or policy proposals is either a catastrophic flaw or a mendacious dodge.

Discuss.

Friday, August 16, 2019

How You Know Most Americans Have Surrendered to the Terrorists (and the Establishment's Panic-Mongering)


New York Post:

Police are questioning a man who was allegedly seen leaving at least two rice cookers in a subway station, and sparking an evacuation in Lower Manhattan Friday morning, law enforcement sources told The Post.

spark, v. put in motion or move to act

Even the cops admit they don't know "whether it was to breed fear and alarm the public, or whether he was discarding items he was no longer interested in."

But they're already blaming him for the panic and police response.

People see a rice cooker lying around and lose their minds, and it's someone else's fault?

It's Alive!


I'd been mulling the possibility of converting my busted-screen Lenovo Chromebook into a desktop machine for a little while, but the "Your Chromebook has received its last software update in accordance with the Auto Update Policy" situation with my Asus Chromebox pushed me over the edge.

The problem: The Chromebook only has one video out port, and I must run dual monitors.

The solution: Either get a USB monitor, or find a way to hook another video type to USB.

Hello, eBay: "USB 3.0 to DVI Video Adapter."

And it works. HDMI out to my HDMI monitor, USB out to my DVI monitor, lid shut so it isn't trying to display on the broken screen. I'm in business.

I do need to grab a USB hub, because I don't have any ports left (one for the video out, one for a wireless keyboard/mouse dongle), but now I'm running a newer ChromeOS hardware platform (this one supports Android apps -- last time I checked, it didn't handle native Linux apps like some newer Chromebooks, but I haven't checked recently and there have been several OS updates) on the same amount of RAM (4Gb) and IIRC similar CPU type and  speed (Intel Celeron @ 1.x where x > 5 -- GHz).

But I'm still thinking about that Pi 4. The Chromebook takes up more space than I like and I haven't set my mind to figuring out a better place to put it where all the cables will still reach and so forth.

UPDATE SHORTLY AFTER POSTING: Bam! It does support a Linux virtual machine now! I'm rusty on my command line skills, but plan to try a few things.

Kimmel/ABC Should Fight This


Per BBC News:

ABC talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! has been fined $395,000 (£326,000) for mimicking a presidential alert on the programme, a US regulator has said.

The show replicated the alert tone three times, which is illegal, during a sketch mocking the warning system.

...

By simulating the alert tone, the Jimmy Kimmel Show! breached broadcasting rules, said the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates television in the US.

Under FCC rules, broadcasters are barred from mimicking the warning system "to avoid confusion when the tones are used, alert fatigue among listeners, and false activation".

"Copyright protection ... is not available for any work of the United States Government," defined as "a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties."

In other words, sights, sounds, words, tones, etc. produced by the federal government are in the public domain.

Using the Emergency Alert System's tones to commit fraud might be a crime, but so would be using the word "the" to commit fraud. Freedom of speech, not to mention absence of copyright protection, trumps the FCC's power to demand that others "avoid confusion."

Which Free Daily Newsletters do the Publishers of Free Daily Newsletters Read Other Than Their Own Free Daily Newsletters?



One free daily newsletter I read when I'm not putting together Rational Review News Digest is Morning Brew.

And if I get 10 other people to subscribe to it in the next few days, I get a free Morning Brew beer glass.

I want a free Morning Brew beer glass.

Please help me get a free Morning Brew beer glass.

Did I mention that this free daily newsletter is free?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Well, I'm a Little Peeved at Google Right Now


My Chromebox informed me that a new update was available. So, as usual, I re-started my machine for it to take effect at the first opportunity.

Hmm ... "Your Chromebook has received its last software update in accordance with the Auto Update Policy."

My Chromebox model was released in August of 2014.

Google's Auto Update Policy: "Google provides each new hardware platform with 6.5 years of Auto Update support."

They're short-changing me by about a year and a half.

I'm considering a Raspberry Pi 4 instead of a Chromebox for my next desktop machine. I got the 3 to play around with, and it's cool, but the 4 sports up to 4Gb of RAM and two HDMI ports for dual monitor mojo, which I consider essential for real work. I could probably make a go of that.

On the other hand, I have cables and adapters on the way that should let me use my busted-screen Chromebook (newer platform, supports Android, etc.) as a dual monitor desktop. So I may hang with ChromeOS a little while longer. But I'm becoming increasingly disinclined to spend money on ChromeOS hardware.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Grinds My Gears: Actual Allegations versus Ignorant and/or Dishonest Name-Calling


In 2008, Jeffrey Epstein took a plea deal on charges involving sex with females below the legal age of consent, with prosecutors claiming victims as young as 14. In 2019, Epstein was arrested, and again the stories/allegations involved victims as young as 14.

It looks like Epstein did a lot of bad things. None of the bad things he's publicly accused of doing, so far as I can tell, entail pedophilia -- sexual attraction to and/or sexual activity with prepubescent children.

Yet I see the p-word thrown around quite a bit vis a vis Epstein, including in reasonably "mainstream media" headlines.

Beating someone up is bad. Calling the person who beat someone up a "murderer" is inaccurate.

Robbing a liquor store is bad. Calling the robber an "arsonist" is inaccurate.

Words mean things. On the basis of the public allegations/evidence, using the word "pedophile" to describe Epstein can only be explained by either ignorance or dishonesty.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Things I Wish I Could Remember


Starting in 2009, I set up, hosted, and provided basic admin help for two blogs on subdomains at Rational Review:

A Passion For Liberty -- Tibor R. Machan @ Rational Review
J. Neil Schulman @ Rational Review

Neither of those bloggers are with us anymore -- Neil died yesterday, Dr. Machan died in 2016.

I suppose at some point I will make sure the final states of the sites are archived at The Wayback Machine and remove them from my hosting space, but there's no hurry. Heck, I may just leave them running in their current state. Both bloggers did agree to give me ad space. Haven't used that space in a long time. Maybe I'll start.

What bugs me is that I can't remember just why and how it came to be that I hosted Neil's blog in the first place.

Dr. Machan was having some kind of problem with a different pre-fab blog site, and also received frequent typo corrections from me (via email) on material that went up on that site, for which he expressed gratitude. Eventually I offered him a blog directly on my site. He was happy to have someone do the set-up work on a "real" blog and do very basic editing (spelling corrections, etc.) for him so that he could focus on the writing rather than on administrative BS.

But I can't remember what the deal with Neil was, and that bothers me. I have a policy of deleting emails that are more than a year old, so I can't go back and find out.

He knew basic HTML, and he maintained several sites of his own for e.g. his Pulpless e-book operation. Maybe he wanted to use Wordpress but didn't want to be bothered with learning yet another content management system or something.

The "intellectual property" status of content on both those blogs is a matter for the authors' estates, by the way. I don't accept the premise of IP, and I agreed with both of those bloggers beforehand that I would assert no IP claims on whatever they chose to publish on the web space.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

J. Neil Schulman, 1953-2019


I do not have 100% confirmation on this, and I hope it's not true, but based on the best information I have:

J. Neil Schulman died earlier today in Colorado Springs after a day or two in the hospital. He suffered a pulmonary embolism and cardiac arrest, then multiple organ failure.

I never physically met Neil, but I've "known" him for about 20 years or a little longer, and hosted his blog for about 10 of those years.

Best wishes to Neil's loved ones. I'm sure that I'll be sharing some Neil memories as time goes on, and that others will too.

If I Wrote a Thriller Based on Jeffrey Epstein ...


... the people he supposedly "belonged" to would have either killed him in jail or faked his death and hustled him off to a facility geared more toward continuous waterboarding than to pre-trial detention with poor suicide watch surveillance practices.

Why would those be the two plot possibilities?

Well, if he did indeed "belong to intelligence," presumably the objective was to gather information on powerful people for purposes of blackmail.

That kind of information is only useful for that kind of purpose if it remains secret (from the public, that is). Files were starting to be un-sealed by judges. There was always a possibility Epstein would decide to start talking, and not necessarily just to prosecutors who could be pressured to "leave it alone."

If he's dead, he can't talk -- and judges can probably be persuaded to keep remaining files sealed on the claim that there's now no public interest served by revealing the names of people who haven't been charged with crimes.

If he's thought to be dead but actually at some CIA black site, they can torture more information out of him than he previously gave them "voluntarily." Everything he ever saw, or did, or heard.

Those two plot possibilities seem to me to be both sufficiently titillating and sufficiently believable to make good fiction.

Of course, I'd spice the thriller up with the possibilities that he was killed by someone working for one or more of the people he got video of in flagrante delicto, or that he put his own considerable assets to use faking his own death to cover an escape from a federal detention facility, or that the intelligence agency running him helped him pull that off and took him first to a safe house and then to another, more off-the-books private island to live out his life in luxury.

But those possibilities would eventually crumble before my intrepid investigator's awesome skills and powers of deduction. And then ...

... then, nothing. Everyone but the investigator (and his or her client, maybe) would still be left wondering and speculating. Because even if the true story came out, not that many more people would believe it than if it hadn't come out.

It probably wouldn't produce a bunch of casualties among the rich and powerful.

It probably wouldn't bring down governments.

It would probably go down as just one more Paul McCartney died in a car wreck, Jim Morrison is raising horses in Oregon, Elvis is alive and living in a cabin near Mauna Loa with JFK story.

Which is exactly how the actual theories are likely to go down.

If I had to bet money on whether Epstein is alive or dead, I'd bet he's dead.

If I had to bet money on whether Epstein killed himself or was murdered, I'd bet he's murdered.

But right or wrong, I wouldn't expect to collect any winnings.

Friday, August 09, 2019

#GreenShirtGuy is Fun, But #BanjoGuy ...


About 1:50 into the video ...


I've always suspected that Jerry Garcia faked his own death. But I kind of pictured him settling in Oregon, maybe hanging out with Jim Morrison.

Guess he likes Tucson better. Glad to see he's still picking a banjo.

Fare thee well, Captain Trips!

So ... Who's the Bad Guy Here?


In Springfield, Missouri, a guy walked into a Walmart wearing a rifle around his neck.

Which, according to the accounts I've read (here, here, and here), he neither shot anyone with, nor threatened anyone with, nor pointed at anyone.

Panic ensued. The manager hit the fire alarm. People, including the guy with the rifle around his neck, exited the store.

At which point someone else pointed a pistol at him and held him at gunpoint until police arrived.

So, once police did arrive, who do you think they arrested? The shopper who apparently threatened no one, or the off-duty (non-cop, if it matters) government employee who waved a gun in the shopper's face?

To ask the question is to answer it.

I lived and/or worked in Springfield for about 15 years, until 19 years ago.

Based on pictures of this guy, if I had seen him in a Walmart back then, I'd have assumed he was dropping by for some more ammo or maybe for stuff to put in a cooler for a weekend camping/hunting trip. Everyone else would have probably assumed the same thing.

Apparently Springfieldians have lost their damn minds, or at least their gonads, since then. Twenty years ago they wouldn't have panicked in the first place, if they had panicked they wouldn't have blamed anyone but themselves for their irrational panic once they calmed down, if someone had called the police about a guy walking around Walmart with a rifle the response would have been "um ... so?... this phone line is for reporting crimes, idiot," and an off-duty firefighter who decided it would be fun to draw down on and threaten a shopper would have been looking at assault charges and probably unemployment, if he lived.

Here's what Springfield was like 25 years ago: Circa 1994, a couple of guys tried to mug me in a gas station parking lot. One of them brandished a stun gun at me. When I brushed back my jacket and they saw the .45 pistol in my waistband*, they decided to leave, quickly. Went inside, paid for my gas, and went about my business. No panic. No cops. No "situation."

* No, I didn't normally walk around with a .45 in my waistband. I've never even owned one. That night I was on my way to a remote and plausibly dangerous area where I expected to be handling significant quantities of cash, so I had borrowed it from a friend. It was in my waistband because I didn't want to leave it in the car where it might get stolen. Not the best neighborhood, as you might surmise.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

The First Five (of Six Total) "Headlines" on my Google News Page ...


... are specifically about, or related to, last weekend's mass shootings. The sixth is about House Democrats trying to get SCOTUS justice Brett Kavanaugh's records.

Pakistan and India on the edge of war over Kashmir? Suicide attack in Kabul? North Korean missile launches? Turkish moves in Syria? Unrest in Hong Kong? Bombing in Copenhagen?

According to Google News, all of that is small potatoes compared to two incidents in two cities (El Paso and Dayton) in which fewer people were shot over the same time frame than were shot in another (Chicago), and the political hysteria over them.

Yes, I know, if it bleeds it leads. But the bleeding stopped days ago and now it's just theater. Which doesn't really strike me as above-the-fold news.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

One Reason I'm Not That Good at Predicting Presidential Nomination Winners ...


... as opposed to general election winners, is that there doesn't seem to be as much state-level polling.

Keep in mind that, like the general election, the primaries are not a "national election." They're 50 separate elections, with delegate rules similar to, but not exactly like, the Electoral College system. That is, not every primary or caucus is "winner take all" for delegates, but it's still possible for a nomination candidate to get the most votes nationally yet lose the nomination.

"Nationally," Joe Biden continues to lead the Democratic nomination contest, and to lead in various sub-demographics (black Democrats, female Democrats, "somewhat liberal" Democrats, and "moderate/conservative" Democrats), the only exception being "very liberal" Democrats according to the latest Quinnipiac poll.

Biden dropped from 34% to 32%. Elizabeth Warren is gaining on him versus a week ago (up from 15% to 21%), Kamala Harris is fading (down from 12%  to 7% -- THANK YOU, Tulsi!), Sanders moved from 11% to 14%. Fourteen of the also-rans are at less than 1%.

The reasonably current (last two weeks) state polls at RealClearPolitics also have Biden leading in every state polled -- New Hampshire, Texas, Nevada, South Carolina, and Ohio.

1) It's early days and 2) I'd be more confident if there were 50 state polls every week. Among other things, that much information would make it worth digging into how delegates are distributed, who's doing well with the "superdelegates" (I hear Buttigieg is pushing hard on that front), etc. The state-level snapshots are too few and far between. The last California poll I see has Biden only edging out Harris by 1% there, and it's from nearly three weeks ago.

Based on the available current information, it still looks like a Biden/Warren race for the nomination and my best guess is a Biden/Warren ticket. But there's no way to be really confident about that yet.

Is This Starting to Sound Familiar?


From Wikipedia:

Leaderless movements may have a symbolic figurehead. This can be a public figure, a multiple-use name, or an inspirational author, who picks generic targets and objectives, but does not actually manage or execute plans. Media, in this case, often create a positive feedback loop: by publishing declarations of a movement’s role model, this instills motivation, ideas, and assumed sympathy in the minds of potential agitators who in turn lend further authority to the figurehead. While this may loosely resemble a vertical command structure, it is notably unidirectional: a titular leader makes pronouncements, and activists may respond, but there is no formal contact between the two levels of organization.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Ah, I'm Not the Only One Who Noticed!


The day after Burger King introduced their new taco-like product, I read a review claiming that the reality, unlike the purty pictures of, well, tacos in the ads, was that the BK taco-like product is just meat shoved into tortilla and deep-fried with maybe a spray of wilted lettuce thrown on.

This is what Burger King says their taco-like product looks like. This is not what Burger King's taco-like product looks like.

At which point my mouth began to water. That sounded suspiciously like the two-for-a-dollar taco-like product I used to buy at Jack In The Box back when I lived in a city with JITB (last time I noticed, the state of Florida has yet to join the modern world in that respect).

I had to have them!And I did have them. Not quite as stomach-turningly addictive as the JITB taco-like product, but close enough for the hinterlands, I guess, at least until I next travel through an area with the real thing.

Kevin Pang at The Takeout concurs.

Avoid the Kitchen Sink Op-Ed!


I write op-eds at The Garrison Center. I write them with an eye toward newspaper publication, but I submit them to a number of web sites as well, and I frequently get comment replies to the effect of "you left out [insert angle or sub-issue here], which I consider essential. Why?"

In my replies, I generally point out that I'm writing to a specific short word length -- 400 to 500 words -- because that seems to be the "sweet spot" for potential publication in the most newspapers.

Some newspapers will go as high as 800 or even a thousand words. I suspect that in the Internet Age, some of them are quietly doing away with length limits altogether since they no longer have to shoehorn everything into a certain number of column inches on real paper. But 400-500 words is long enough to not be a mere "letter to the editor" and short enough to appease editors who still ruthlessly enforce guidelines written back during the wax-backed paper and Zip-A-Tone manual layout days.

As I noted in my old book on writing op-eds:

If you submit your article to a newspaper as is, at 500 words versus the 400 specified in the newspaper’s guidelines, it may still be published. In those guidelines, you’ll likely have noted that the editor "reserves the right to edit for length."

You can cut it down to 400 words. Or the editor can cut it down to 400 words. Who do you trust to know your thoughts and priorities better? Yourself or that editor? Do you want the piece to reflect your priorities, or his?

Cut it until it bleeds. Someone is going to.

It's mostly just that simple. I can't think of a single issue for which it's possible to cram all the relevant facts and arguments into a 500-word op-ed.

You can pick a couple of facts and a couple of arguments, and work hard to make those arguments compelling to the reader, or you can offer that reader a laundry list that gives him no reason to change his mind about anything.

Anyone Know of a Good @Cloudflare Alternative?


Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince cut off his company's services to The Daily Stormer in 2017. Here's how he described that decision:

Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power. ... It’s important that what we did today not set a precedent. The right answer is for us to be consistently content neutral. But we need to have a conversation about who and how the content online is controlled. We couldn’t have that conversation while the Daily Stormer site was using us. Now, hopefully, we can.

Now we know the result of whatever "conversation" took place -- this morning, Prince pulled the same shit with 8chan that he did with The Daily Stormer.

I don't like either one of those web sites. What I do like is reliable service from providers who should be (and pretend to be) content-neutral. And Matthew Prince keeps proving that his service's reliability is a function of which side of the bed he wakes up on each morning.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

I Didn't Expect to Like This One ...


... but I did.

While I was on the road and in places without Internet access, my handy-dandy $5 garage sale Kindle allowed me to read J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (not an affiliate link).

The only reason I even bought the book was that I caught the Kindle edition on sale for $1.99. Otherwise, it might have been years while I awaited a 25-cent garage sale paperback edition find. I'm glad it worked out that way.

My people are hillbillies of a somewhat different sort than Vance's.

His ancestors (and many people like them) moved from the Kentucky hills (and coal mining) to the Ohio lowlands circa World War 2 (for factory work).

My ancestors (and many people like them) moved from the eastern Tennessee/West Virginia hills (and coal mining) to the southern Missouri hills (for farming, and for some eventually factory work) after the Civil War. There was a second migration before World War Two (to the west coast because of the Dust Bowl, Depression, etc.), of which my maternal grandparents and some of my dad's uncles/aunts were briefly a part but from which my maternal grandparents quickly returned to the Missouri hills.

Vance joined the Marine Corps right out of high school to get the hell away from where he was from. So did I. Vance ended up graduating from college and then law school and going into venture capital work. I went back home and worked "blue collar" (mostly in factories) for 15 years before becoming a full-time writer and editor.

We have enough in common that I find Hillbilly Elegy and its cast of characters quite familiar and touching.

The biggest differences are probably:


  1. A matter of time. I'm 22 years older than Vance. At the point in life where he was watching people kill themselves with booze and prescription opiates, I was watching people kill themselves with booze and methamphetamine (booze and both other drugs were around at both times, it's just that one or the other was the "bigger problem" at any given time).
  2. A matter of luck. By the time I was in elementary school my dad had given up booze and I was raised in a pretty strait-laced Christian home. So in terms of family and friends, I saw the substance abuse stuff from a distance instead of up close and horrible. But I had plenty of relatives and friends, some closer and some more distant, who drank or drugged themselves into bad situations (up to and including death), wouldn't or couldn't hold down jobs and relied on "public assistance," etc., not unlike those Vance knew.
Some of the proposed or implied solutions are things I don't agree with (Vance is more of a "moderate conservative" to my "libertarian"), but they're not really what the book is about. Hillbilly Elegy is a rewarding read that I expected to hate. You might find it worthwhile too.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Thank You For Your Service, @MikeGravel


Well, the only presidential campaign I've donated to so far this election season is over.

Yes, I knew from the start that Senator Gravel wasn't going to be the Democratic nominee or become president of the United States.

That's OK. The last time I voted for a winning presidential candidate was ... well, never.

Senator Gravel and a campaign team of youngsters with fire in their bellies did a great job of pushing an anti-war message just a little further into the public spotlight than it would have managed to get on Tulsi Gabbard's work alone, and he represented the possibility of a more trustworthy anti-war candidate than Gabbard (who was a darling of GOP hawks, neocon think tanks, and the Israel lobby at least as late as 2016). Their work was well worth the pittance I contributed.

Don't get me wrong about Gabbard. She's not all bad. Her kamikaze run at Kamala Harris the other night was a great thing, an act of prospective self-sacrifice for the greater good. She threw away any chance of a cabinet appointment in a Harris administration, as well as support for future campaigns from Harris or the DNC if Harris does go all the way. But in doing so, she probably made sure that Harris won't go all the way, and that's a good day's work right there.

But Gravel was the real deal. Even where I disagree with him (and I do, a lot), there's no doubt about where he stands, or that he'll keep standing right there.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Well, Back to the Democratic Primary Prediction Drawing Board ...


I'm fairly good at predicting the outcomes of presidential general elections. In 2012, I predicted the outcomes in 48 states and got all of them right; in 2016, I predicted the outcomes in all 50 states and got 48 of them right.

Party primary outcomes, not so much. Early on in 2008, I expected Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination. In 2016, I didn't expect Trump to be the GOP nominee.

This year, I thought I was on track when I very tentatively predicted that the Democratic ticket would be Biden or Warren in the top slot, likely with Warren for VP if Biden won the presidential nomination.

But now this:

Ben Shapiro summed up the two nights of Democratic presidential debates by declaring Sen. Kamala Harris'[s] "moment" has ended and predicted a two-person race between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

One of my many argument/claim sorting shortcuts for both issues debates and political predictions is:


THE DEFAULT STARTING ASSUMPTION SHOULD ALWAYS BE THAT BEN SHAPIRO IS WRONG


No, he's not always wrong.

But assuming he's going to be right is like sticking a bunch of monkeys in a room with a stockpile of amyl nitrite and a movie camera, then betting money that they'll emerge the next day having created a startlingly true-to-the-original remake of Behind The Green Door.

So what are we looking at here -- Williamson/Yang? My confidence in Biden, Warren, or Biden/Warren is shattered.

The Problem with US Military Adventurism Abroad ...


... is not which side the US regime picks in this or that conflict between other regimes (or would-be regimes).

The problem with US military adventurism abroad is that the US regime thinks other regimes' fights are any of its business at all.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

I'm Liking Lyft Quite a Bit


Until my trip to Missouri a few days ago, I'd only used Lyft once. No particular reason -- it was just Uber that I thought of first when needing to hail a ride, except for the first time I decided to install the Lyft app on my phone.

But, money being tight and all, and nobody having responded to my plea for Uber gift cards to help out, I noticed that I'd received a "$1 off all rides through July 31" offer from Lyft, so when I arrived at the Springfield airport, I checked both apps.

Lyft was about $3 cheaper than Uber even before the dollar discount to get from the airport to the nursing home my mother lives at, and the estimated wait time was about the same, so ...

Altogether I needed three rides in Springfield -- from the airport, to the airport, and one in between to go meet friends (who dropped me off after). Each time, the Lyft fare was cheaper than Uber even before the dollar off. Each time the car arrived in a timely manner and was clean and comfortable and had a courteous driver who got me where I needed to go in an efficient manner. I spent about $75 total (including tips). With Uber, it would have been $85-$90.

I'm not saying you should use Lyft rather than Uber. I'll probably continue comparing prices each time I need a ride myself. But I'm not seeing any reason to arbitrarily go with Uber as a default. Both services have worked well for me, so price seems like the only reason to pick one or the other.

And by the way, isn't this "hail a ride with your phone" some gooooooood stuff? I remember the days when I had to call for a cab well in advance, talk to a human being about scheduling, and then cross my fingers and hope the driver arrived in a timely manner without a lot of confidence that it would happen. Now I press a button and if the app says the driver is x minutes away, he or she usually arrives within x-1 minutes of the estimate, and I can "see" where the car is at on a map on my screen.

What Elizabeth Warren Can't Do and Shouldn't Fight For


Warren, admonishing John Delaney:

I don't understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn't fight for.

What she wants to do -- what she is openly fighting for -- is the power to run virtually every aspect of every American's life.

I suspect many voters, including many Democratic voters, might think that they can run most aspects of their own lives better than Elizabeth Warren can.

If they think about it at all, anyway.

The political danger for her is that many of them just might think about it.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Heading Out ...


... for Tampa shortly. Instead of Tamara getting up at oh dark thirty to drive me two hours to the airport, she'll drive me there this evening and I'll pass the night there before my 6:xx am flight out to Springfield, Missouri.

There may actually be more blogging than usual. Or less. Don't know. I'll be spending the days with my mom and have tentative evening "dates" on Sunday with a favorite cousin and Monday with an old Marine Corps comrade.

How much "free/unoccupied" time I'll have is anyone's guess. But if you're in that area and want to get together, hit the contact form. And if you're willing to subsidize my travels, I've got Uber gift cards on my Amazon wish list.

I expect to be back at my desk Tuesday evening. Have a great weekend.

O Canada (or, a different take on homeschooling, ideology, and the "culture war")


Kent McManigal rightly points out that government schools are used to indoctrinate kids as pro-state troops in the "culture war."

He does so in response to some wit's claim that that's the purpose of homeschooling (just that homeschooling is boot camp for the other side of said "war").

Part of my response to the wit would be somewhat like Kent's -- that is, pointing out that much of the purpose of "public" education is to turn helpless kids into helpless adults -- "good citizens" who do as they're told and don't think too terribly much.

But the other part would be to note that my own reasons for homeschooling my kids, to the extent that they had anything at all to do with "culture war," weren't to turn them into culture war soldiers, but quite the opposite.

Think, for a moment, of the "culture war" as analogous to the US war in Vietnam.

"Public" education is the equivalent of drafting a kid into the US Army and preparing him to go kill soldiers serving with the People's Army of Viet Nam.

In the wit's version of things, homeschooling is the equivalent of putting the kid on a plane to Hanoi so that he can join the PAVN and fight the US Army.

In my version of things, homeschooling was the equivalent of throwing the draft notice in the trash and putting my kid on a Greyhound to Toronto.

Now, that's not to say that politics and "culture war" type topics never came up in our homeschooling journey, or that I refrained from filling my kids' heads with libertarian ideas when those subjects DID come up.  But to the extent that they came up, they were generally brought up BY the kids (we "unschooled," so they had substantial leeway to decide what they were interested in and study it in various ways, with "ask dad what he thinks" nowhere near the top of the list).

And "culture war" wise, I'd have to call the results very mixed. One of the kids is a trans version of Abbie Hoffman, the other is a troll version of Alex P. Keaton.

There's Nothing at All Stopping Uber Drivers from Unionizing


Whenever I read about lawsuits or legislation seeking to turn Uber drivers into "employees," one of the key talking points is that unless they're "employees" or otherwise somehow re-classified by the government, they "can't unionize."

The latest instance is in South Bend, Indiana mayor (and Democratic presidential primary candidate) Pete Buttigieg's plan to "empower workers in a changing economy":

Pete will support codifying the simple "ABC test" for classifying workers nationally in order to prevent workers in the gig economy from being denied minimum wage, overtime, and antidiscrimination protections -- and their ability to unionize. In order to classify a worker as an independent contractor under the ABC test, an employer must demonstrate that the worker (A) is free from the employer’s control, (B) is performing work that is outside the employer’s usual course of business, and (C) customarily works as an independent business in that industry. The test will also ensure that Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protections like the minimum wage apply. As a backstop to the ABC test and in order to guarantee collective bargaining rights to gig workers, Pete will also propose amending U.S. law to allow independent contractors with no employees, little capital investment, and substantially similar working relationships with a single company to unionize.

Here's what needs to happen for "independent contractors with no employees, little capital investment, and substantially similar working relationships with a single company to unionize":

NOTHING


Uber drivers are already free to join or form unions.

Those unions are already free to approach Uber and attempt to negotiate contracts covering various aspects of their members' relationships with the company.

What "progressive" politicians  like Buttigieg are trying to do (at the behest of a particular variety of rent-seeking fat cat business executives -- "union officials") is magically turn Uber drivers into "employees" rather than the independent contractors they actually are so that they can use the National Labor Relations Act to force 100% of Uber drivers to join a union (and pay dues to, and create rake-offs for, the aforementioned rent-seeking fat cats) if 50%+1 of those drivers vote to make it so.

Many of those same "progressive" politicians are openly calling themselves "socialists" while at the same time fighting tooth and nail against the core tenet of socialism -- worker ownership of the means of production -- and on behalf of the union boss fat cats' "right" to exploit Uber drivers and coercively extract surplus value from their labor.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Yet Another Domain Name For Sale


I bought it with a specific use in mind, and just never got around to it:


It expires relatively soon. I'd rather see it get a good home than just go back on the market.

And yes, sure, I'd love to get some kind of princely sum for it (or at least enough to defray my soon-upcoming Uber costs), but as long the "good home" provision is in play, if necessary I'll let it go for what it costs to renew/transfer it (less than $20, probably less than $15).

If you're interested, hit the contact form.

Discussion Topic ...




The Most Interesting Exchange in the Mueller Hearing


To me, anyway. Not much media play.

Here's a version I've cut down a little (where you see ellipses) to get it to more readable size. You can read the un-cut version here.

US REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Director, the FBI interviewed Joseph Mifsud on February 10th, 2017. In that interview, Mr. Mifsud lied. You point this out on page 193, Volume 1, Mifsud denied, Mifsud also falsely stated. In addition, Mifsud omitted. Three times, he lied to the FBI; yet, you didn't charge him with a crime. ... why didn't you charge him with a crime?

MUELLER: I can't get into internal deliberations with regard to who or who would not be charged.

JORDAN: You charged a lot of other people for making false statements. ... from about the moment Papadopoulos joins the Trump campaign, you've got all these people all around the world starting to swirl around him, names like Halper, Downer, Mifsud, Thompson, meeting in Rome, London, all kinds of places. The FBI even sent -- even sent a lady posing as somebody else, went by the name Azmiturk, even dispatched her to London to spy on Mr. Papadopoulos. In one of these meetings, Mr. Papadopoulos is talking to a foreign diplomat and he tells the diplomat Russians have dirt on Clinton. That diplomat then contacts the FBI and the FBI opens an investigation based on that fact. You point this out on page 1 of the report. July 31st, 2016 they open the investigation based on that piece of information. Diplomat tells Papadopoulos Russians have dirt -- excuse me, Papadopoulos tells the diplomat Russians have dirt on Clinton, diplomat tells the FBI. What I'm wondering is who told Papadopoulos? How'd he find out?

MUELLER: I can't get into the evidentiary filings.

JORDAN: Yes, you can because you wrote about it, you gave us the answer. Page 192 of the report, you tell us who told him. Joseph Mifsud, Joseph Mifsud's the guy who told Papadopoulos, the mysterious professor who lives in Rome and London, works at -- teaches in two different universities. This is the guy who told Papadopoulos he's the guy who starts it all, and when the FBI interviews him, he lies three times and yet you don't charge him with a crime. You charge Rick Gates for false statements, you charge Paul Manafort for false statements, you charge Michael Cohen with false statements, you charge Michael Flynn a three star general with false statements, but the guy who puts the country through this whole saga, starts it all for three years we've lived this now, he lies and you guys don't charge him. And I'm curious as to why.

MUELLER: Well I can't get into it and it's obvious I think that we can't get into charging decisions.

JORDAN: When the FBI interviewed him in February -- FBI interviews him in February, when the Special Counsel's Office interviewed Mifsud, did he lie to you guys too?

MUELLER: Can't get into that.

JORDAN: Did you interview Mifsud?

MUELLER: Can't get into that.

JORDAN: Is Mifsud western intelligence or Russian intelligence?

MUELLER: Can't get into that.

Is it possible that the whole "Russiagate" fiasco -- in which, need I remind you, a two-year investigation found no evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian state actors -- started with an intentional entrapment attempt by a US intelligence asset?

It's an Old, Old American Tradition


Human sacrifice as part of the state religion, that is.

Human sacrifice (Codex Laud, f.8)

Trump's god is named Winning, and his base loves the death penalty. That's all the explanation required for yesterday's announcement.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Reminder: I'm Heading for Springfield, Missouri on Sunday


(Actually, I'm leaving Gainesville on Saturday -- my flight out of Tampa leaves at 6:xx am so I'm going to catch a few zees at the airport overnight instead of expecting Tamara to drive me down at oh dark thirty).

I'll be arriving in Springfield Sunday morning and flying back out Tuesday morning. Just a quick run up there to visit my mother for her 86th birthday.

Since she goes to bed early, I expect to have Sunday and Monday evenings free (other than the time consumed by whatever mechanics are required to secure cashew chicken and McSalty's pizza) -- if you're in the area and want to get together, for coffee or something, hit the contact form.

Forewarning: I'll be staying at a hotel on South Campbell, and won't have a vehicle, so it's 1) Uber, 2) local bus, 3) I walk, or 4) someone picks me up.

I was planning to sign up for a 3-minute open mic set at the Blue Room on Monday night, but I just don't have three good minutes together at the moment (I took my writing in a different direction -- I'm developing a specific character and he's not hitting on all cylinders yet).

Whether you're in the area or not, if you want me to have transportation, feel free to hit my Amazon Wish List and buy me an Uber gift card. I figure I'll spend at least $50 on transport to and from the airport.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Who's That You Thought @RealDonaldTrump was Working For?


The Russians?

Well, maybe, I guess, although the evidence is better for Hillary Clinton having been Putin's mole in the US State Department than for Trump being Putin's mole in the Oval Office.

But a look at presidential vetoes might be somewhat more enlightening than anything related to the Russian proposition.

Trump has vetoed three bills.

One was of a bill saying he can't just rule by decree by declaring an emergency whenever Congress won't give him whatever he happens to want at the moment.

The other two, including one today, were for bills saying that no, Saudi terror kingpin Mohammad bin Salman isn't Supreme Exalted Maximum Leader of the United States.

And That Right There is the Problem with "Public Goods" Theory


Interesting piece on "public goods" by Jon Murphy at Libertarianism.org:

Samuelson shows that public goods will tend to be underproduced compared to a socially optimal level ...

Not exactly.

Yes, it's reasonable to predict that if a good collects "free riders" who use it but don't pay for it because it's non-excludable and they don't have to pay for it, less of that good will be produced than if everyone who used it had to pony up.

But a "socially optimal level" is a matter of subjective valuation, not some kind of indisputable factual claim.

When someone calls for government subsidies of a "public good" to spread the cost around, he's doing so because he thinks there should be more of it and doesn't want the costs to be borne only by those who agree, not because God struck "400 more tanks and 20 new fighter-bomber aircraft for the 'public good' of national defense" onto stone tablets and dropped them from the sky onto all our heads.

Some of us may not value those new arms at all. Some of us may even place a negative value on them (we'd be willing to pay to STOP them from being produced). The fact that they're not excludable doesn't mean we want them or think they're a good idea. Our idea of "socially optimal" differs from the "public goods" yammerer's.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Shocked -- Shocked!


That the Democrats and Republicans reached yet another spending deal that gives all of them everything they want and puts another $50 billion on the bar tab they expect us to pay.

They get the drinks. We get the hangover. Well, at least until the day when the interest payments stop coming and the bond-holders end up with a very bad case of the DTs, anyway. Which, hopefully, will be soon.

Friday, July 19, 2019

No, Trump's Strategy Shouldn't be to Target "Swing Voters"


Over the last couple of days, one of the criticisms I've been seeing of Donald Trump's decision to go after "the squad" is that it's bad political strategy.

Generic version: He's throwing red meat to his base, but what he needs to be doing is trying to bring "swing voters" into his camp.

That's wrong. Here's why:

With respect to Trump, there are no "swing voters." The same people who liked him last time like him this time. The same people who didn't like him last time don't like him this time. So throwing red meat to his base is exactly what he should be doing. It's more important to keep his existing supporters excited so that they get out and vote again than it is to run around looking for potential new supporters who don't exist and aren't going to suddenly start existing.

A factoid I've pulled out before:

In 2012, Mitt Romney received about 60,000 votes in Erie County, Pennsylvania.

In 2012, Donald Trump also received about 60,000 votes in that county.

But in 2012 Barack Obama received about 91,000 votes in Erie County, while in 2016 Hillary Clinton received about 58,000.

That 33,000-voter difference isn't made up of people who might vote for Trump this time. It's made up of Democrat-leaning voters who just couldn't bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Trump isn't going to get any more votes in Erie county in 2020 than he did in 2016. If the Democrats can re-motivate 2,000 or so voters out of that 33,000, they carry the county again.

Similar situations exist all over Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida.  The ball is in the Democrats' court. If they nominate a better candidate than Hillary Clinton (not too difficult) and run a better campaign than Hillary Clinton's (ditto), they're probably going to win.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

It's Not About Whether or Not Trump is a Racist


Maybe he is, maybe he isn't.

As for that set of tweets, no, they didn't specifically reference race, so if you want to make the argument that they "weren't technically racist," feel free to out yourself as a moron and I'll spot you a point. You get "not technically racist," I get "idiotic, revolting, and xenophobic." Does losing 3-1 really feel better than losing 4-0?

So, "not technically racist."

But clearly intended to appeal to racists and other bigots.

If this was the first time Trump had let slip something idiotic, revolting, xenophobic, and arguably racist, AND perhaps if he had caught himself, apologized for mis-speaking, etc., some other conclusion might be plausible.

But it's far from the first time and this time he didn't even give the audience he's appealing to a wink and nudge out like he did with, say, Charlottesville.

So either he's a drooling imbecile who never has any idea what the hell he's actually saying and probably needs someone to change his diaper, wipe the drool off his face, and hold his hand when he crosses the street, or he meant to do that because he considered doing that politically useful.

Take your pick. It's one or the other.

Change My Mind


"National Conservatism," aka Trumpism, is the Marriage of Peckerwood Populism to Mussolinist Socialism


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

An Interesting Film ...


Every so often I get an email offer from Vudu (not an affiliate link) -- watch one of their "free with ads" movies and get a discount on my next rental or purchase. When that happens, I pick a movie, start it running on one of my two desktop monitors ... and it either keeps my attention or doesn't. Either way, it runs and I get a buck or three off something I really want to see.

I wasn't expecting much from The Assignment except perhaps an opportunity to see Michelle Rodriguez naked. But hey, that's enough for something I don't otherwise have to pay attention to, right? Based on the trailer, I figured it would just be a cheesy "transploitation" action flick with, as I may have already mentioned, hopefully some naked Michelle Rodriguez.

It's actually quite interesting, and in a more than naked Michelle Rodriguez way. Much of it follows the doctor (played by Sigourney Weaver) who performed involuntary gender reassignment on a hit man who killed her brother (Rodriguez) as she's being interviewed about her motivations and actions by another doctor (Tony Shalhoub) while confined in a mental institution as mentally unfit for trial. I'll probably watch it again with my wife and (trans) daughter to see what they think about the discussions relating to transgender stuff.

Also, yes, you get to see Michelle Rodriguez naked, in two different genders. And Sigourney Weaver in a bathtub, but you really only see her head and hands. Which is more important to the movie than you might think.


Thursday, July 11, 2019

No Bail is Excessive Bail, Even for Jeffrey Epstein


The US Constitution's Eighth Amendment forbids "excessive bail." What does that mean? According to the Supreme Court of the United States (in Stack v. Boyle) it means "[b]ail set before trial at a figure higher than an amount reasonably calculated to fulfill the purpose of assuring the presence of the defendant."

Jeffrey Epstein is a very wealthy defendant, so what's "excessive" by that definition?

Per CNN:

Lawyers for Jeffrey Epstein proposed a bail package on Thursday that would allow the multimillionaire alleged sex trafficker to remain out of jail pending trial and live instead in home detention at his Upper East Side mansion, one of the largest residences in Manhattan and valued at $77 million, according to court documents.

The arrangement ... also would put Epstein under electronic monitoring by GPS, require him to post a "substantial" personal recognizance bond secured by his Manhattan home, and deregister and ground his private jet.

...

Along with home detention, Epstein's lawyers propose that he consent to US extradition from any country, require anyone who enters his New York home aside from his attorneys to have prior approval from federal authorities and have a live-in court-appointed trustee who would be required to report violations of his bail conditions.

Prosecutors' counter-proposal? No bail.

Constitution says: Nope, that would be excessive.

There is some set of conditions which could be reasonably calculated (nothing is 100%, of course) to ensure Epstein's appearance at trial.

If the prosecutors don't think the conditions his attorneys have proposed constitute such a set, their obligation is to propose a set of conditions that does, not just demand that the Supreme Law of the Land be thrown out the window.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

"Infighting" Isn't the Libertarian Party's Problem


I'm always hearing that it is. Usually that happens on Facebook, but I was hearing it before Facebook ever existed. The pitch usually goes like something this:

How can the Libertarian Party ever succeed when its various factions are always arguing about strategy or policy? The only way we're ever going to start winning elections is for everyone to stop arguing, otherwise we're just spitting in the wind.
The complaint about "infighting" comes up, naturally, in the context of the complainer's position on something (or the complainer hirself) being rejected, attacked, etc.

Thing is, the same argument gets made in every political party (or political movement organization), because such organizations are always arguing about policy and strategy.

In fact, in my experience, the Libertarian Party and libertarian movement organizations aren't nearly as plagued with "infighting" as either of the two "major" American political parties. And if you want to see real "infighting," drop in on any state leftist organization's events (or read conflicting accounts of such events).

I'm told that libertarians argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Maoists would never get to that point. They'd get bogged down on whether, and if so, the production of the pin was exploitative and whether or not it would oppress the angel proletariat to make them dance on it.

There's a reason that this video clip isn't just popular with libertarians:


Groups fight among themselves. Complaining about it isn't going to get everyone to sit down, shut up, and agree to do things your way.

The Laptop I Would Like ...


... wouldn't have a screen built into a lid.

It would have two built-in projectors, each treated as a monitor. Preferably projectors that could be focused to produce (among other options) nice, clear, 20" "screens" on a wall or some other surface two feet from the machine.

I know that there are some high-end laptops that come with single projectors built in to use for presentations or whatever. That's not what I'm looking for. I like having:


  • Two monitors; and
  • Large monitors
That's how I like to work, and I'd like to be able to work that way on the road without dragging my desktop rig and two big ol' monitors along with me (I've been known to do that when traveling by car and staying at hotel for several days, but that wouldn't fit in my carry-on on a plane nor would I want to put the setup in checked baggage and risk losing it or getting it damaged and also have to pay for an extra checked bag).


I suppose an optional "traditional" lid-size screen that plugs into an HDMI port would be cool for using the laptop, well, laptop-style while sitting on a plane or something. I wouldn't personally find it that useful, but I can see why some people might.

So, anyone know what the holdup is on something like that? I can't imagine I'm the only one who'd like it. Is it that projectors are still too expensive to really come standard on low-end laptops? Or that they haven't been sufficiently miniaturized for what I'm talking about? Or something else?

Friday, July 05, 2019

4th of July Speeches


Trump's 4th of July comments:



The KN@PPSTER Caucus response, delivered by Ron White:


Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Good Idea, @DougDucey, but Dumb Reason


Arizona governor Doug Ducey plans to withdraw an offer of government bribes to Nike if it opens a plant in his state.

Good. Arizona's taxpayers shouldn't be forced to hand money over to private enterprises that politicians want to bribe. If Arizonans want to give Nike money, those Arizonans can buy Nike's shoes with said money.

On the other hand, the only reason Ducey is withdrawing the bribe offer is that Nike has decided to not produce a shoe with an American flag on it.

Yes, you read that right. Ducey  apparently hates the American flag so much that he wants you to step on it over and over and over and won't bribe Nike unless they go out of their way to help people desecrate the flag by producing a shoe that would be illegal to sell in the District of Columbia.

Oh, well. At least the whole incident exposes the "government bribes for businesses" scam as being just another political game.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Thanks For Asking! -- 07/02/19


You've got questions. I've got answers. They may not be correct answers. Hell, they may not even be answers that are particularly relevant to what you seek when you ask the questions. But the only way to find out is to ask. This "Ask Me Anything" thread is brought to you by Free Pony Express!


So:


  • Ask me anything (yes, anything) in the comment thread below this post; and
  • I'll answer in comments, or a stand-alone post, heck, maybe even on a surprise return of The KN@PP Stir Podcast.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Pings My Irony Meter Every Time


 Others cover stories. We uncover them. 


That's the message I get at the Washington Post ... in the paywall scold box that pops up to, um, COVER the story I'm trying to reach once I've reached my "free" article limit for the month (or whatever timing cycle they're on).

Name That Progressive Democrat



We need a labor market that offers dignified, rewarding work to every worker who wants it .... We need to encourage business investment in workers rather than capital hoarding, investment that will drive new opportunities to the towns and neighborhoods of the American middle class. ... [W]e need a better understanding of liberty. For in the end, liberty is more than selling or buying or the right to be left alone. It’s the ability to have a say, to have a stake, and together, to set the course of our own history.

Elizabeth Warren? Or perhaps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Nope.  It's freshman US Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), channeling William Jennings Bryan at The American Conservative.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Back on the Bike ...


Taking it easy to start -- three miles each morning the last two mornings. I plan to take it up to five miles daily later this week, then eventually top out at a maximum of ten miles daily when I'm riding for exercise (if I'm actually wanting to go somewhere for some non-exercise reason, I'll ignore the cap).

Hopefully that way I won't work my knees into chronic pain that only ceases with "extended" time off the bike, which always turns into "indefinite" time off the bike.

My rear-rack pannier bags arrived from China yesterday. They seem to be pretty high quality for the price (~$10).

I've got a set of cheap Chinese "regular or strobe" rear lights on the way (batteries included; cheaper than buying a battery for the old one at a local meatspace store).

I'd thank the individual who bought me two spare tubes off my Amazon Wish List, but that was my son, who did it in return for me spending about the same amount of money renewing a domain that I've been holding/parking for him (and paying for) since he was a toddler.

I'm missing one wrench or socket for my in-the-saddlebag repair kit. I'm sure I've got one around somewhere, just have to find it. It's the 5/8" or metric near-equivalent for actually getting the wheels off if I need to change a tire. Since I'm not going further than a mile-and-a-half from home the next few days, I'm not too worried about that.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

A Question for @KamalaHarris


Senator Harris,

How many African-Americans did you put in prison for non-violent petty offenses (like, say, marijuana possession) as California's "tough on crime" state attorney general? You know, back in the old days before you became a presidential candidate shaking her head oh so very sadly over, and promising to do something about, police violence and systemic racial injustice?

Asking for a friend.

A Mass Transit Fail and a Specific Request for Would-Be Supporters


I am flying into Springfield, Missouri on July 28 and flying back home on July 30 (I'm going up there to visit my mother for her 86th birthday).

That actually gives me longer in town than it sounds like, because I'll be arriving in Springfield a little after 8am that Sunday morning.

I have a brother in town but he doesn't drive much lately, and he does go to church on Sundays, so I wouldn't want to get him up at oh-dark-thirty to collect me from the airport.

So I thought to myself, as long as I am at the nursing home Mom moved in to late last year by 10am or so, it's all good. She'll have had time to get up, have breakfast, etc. but won't have been waiting around all day for me to arrive.

Hey, instead of blowing $25-30 on Uber (or Lyft) to get there in 25-30 minutes, I can just hop on a city bus for $1.25, maybe plus 10 cents for a transfer and get there in an hour and 15 minutes or so!

And then I thought to myself, hey, I could even grab a couple of $3.75 "all-day" bus passes! I don't plan on going a LOT of places while I'm in town, but at least one of those places (a comedy club where I'd like to do an open mic set on that Monday evening) isn't within easy walking distance. It's worth $3.75 to have a reasonable degree of evening mobility those two nights. I'd like to visit the spot where a good friend died (as it happens, right outside the bus system's central hub) and maybe see if a nightclub I used to work at (a block or so from said spot) is still open, perhaps making it a point to walk across the spots where Wild Bill Hickock and Davis Tutt stood during their 1865 shootout en route.

Cool.

Don't get me wrong. I hate government mass transit in general, and abolishing this particular bus system was part of my campaign platform when I ran for Springfield city council 22 years ago. But hey, those buses are running, and the money is being spent to run them, whether I ride them for $1.25 or take Uber (or Lyft) instead. I don't feel any more guilty about saving some money that way than I do about driving on government roads instead of getting everywhere by jet pack.

BUT THEN!

I don't know how many cities in America


  1. have public mass transit systems that
  2. don't serve their own airports
but Springfield Missouri seems to be one of them. I've contacted the transit authority there to find out, but so far as I can tell, the nearest bus stop is, well, a considerable Uber (or Lyft) ride away from the airport.

Which means I'm expecting to spend $50-$75 on Uber (or Lyft) instead of at most $5-10 on bus fare.

If anyone cares to help out with Uber (or Lyft) gift cards, I'd much appreciate it.

As it happens, only Uber has gift cards available via Amazon (they're on my wish list) and Bitcoin.com (my email address is kubby dot communications at gmail dot com). 

Lyft sells gift cards on their site, if you want to go that way instead. I don't know if they're delivered by email address or by phone (if it's that, hit the contact form for my number, which I hate giving out because I hate talking on the phone).

Thanks in advance to anyone who wants to subsidize my non-government transportation ;-)

Friday, June 28, 2019

And again, the 2020 Math


If Donald Trump keeps every last 2016 vote he got in 2020 in each state (nobody has died, nobody who voted GOP in 2016 votes Democratic in 2020, nobody who voted GOP in 2016 stays home in 2020) ...

... the Democratic presidential nominee can beat him by picking up as few as 77,747 more votes in 2020 than Clinton got in 2016, in three states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) with a combined population of 28.5 million.

That's a little more than a quarter of one percent of those populations.

In 2016, voter turnout nationwide (and in Wisconsin) hit a 20-year low (in Pennsylvania, it remained at 2012 levels, in Michigan up just a hair). Republicans were energized; the turnout deficit came out of Clinton's hide.

All the Democrats have to do to win in 2020 is a better job than Hillary Clinton of enthusing a handful of Democratic-leaning voters in three states.

Could they blow that simple job? Sure. Is it likely? No.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Quick Takes on the Second Democratic Debate



  1. As the former vice-president and the current polling front-runner, Joe Biden's big job was to shut down Bernie Sanders good and hard to clear the path ahead of himself. He didn't. On the other hand, Sanders didn't shut him down either.
  2. This was Kamala Harris's big chance to show off some redeeming persuasive quality -- gravitas, charisma, policy grasp, empathy with and apologies to the people she fed into the maw of her ambitions as a prosecutor, anything  other than a narcissistic sense of entitlement to four years at 1600 Pennsylvania as a reward for being a loyal long-time party ward-heeler while black and female. She didn't. She did, however, show some courage by going for broke, tearing into Biden in a way that eliminates any chance of second chair to Biden on the eventual Democratic ticket.
  3. Andrew Yang was never going to be the nominee, but he did a reasonably good job of selling his big issue (Universal Basic Income) to the extent that it can be sold. When that idea's time comes (and I suspect it will, although I don't support it), he'll deserve some credit for helping put it on the map.
  4. Marianne Williamson was never going to be the nominee, but if there's a casting director out there looking for someone to convincingly simultaneously reprise Gilda Radner as Baba Wawa and Marlon Brando as Colonel Walter Kurtz, her agent's phone is ringing right about now.
  5. Pete Buttigieg is another one who isn't going to be the nominee. He didn't break out, or particularly distinguish himself, but he didn't handle himself badly either. When Maddow (IIRC) threw a hardball at him about his handling of police violence in South Bend, and others piled on, he didn't fall apart and acquitted himself fairly well.
  6. No real thoughts on the other also-rans.
IMO it's still a Biden/Warren/Sanders race. Also IMO, the DNC wants a Biden/Warren ticket. These first two debates didn't really move them noticeably closer to that, but neither did the wheels come off the scheme.

It's early days.

One Technical Suggestion for the Democratic Debates


Give the moderators the ability to turn off candidate mics when they 1) go over their allotted time and won't shut the hell up and/or 2) start talking over other candidates whose turn it is.

On the other hand, I guess leaving all the mics on does serve the valuable purpose of helping us figure out which ones are least able to contain their narcissistic and/or bullying tendencies. Kamala Harris may or may not be the most frequent interrupter, but she seems to be the one who, when she does interrupt,  keeps running her yap with the most determination, until everyone else shuts up so she can throw out her trite anecdote, smirk, and wait for applause.

Justin Raimondo, 1951-2019


I would be lying if I said Justin Raimondo and I were friends. Hell, I'd be lying if I said we had even been on speaking terms recently. Severe differences of political opinion and (in retrospect trivial, but far from one-sided) work conflicts created a situation in which we probably only communicated directly three or four times in the last three or four years, and not at all comfortably.

But I'd also be lying if I said I didn't love the guy.

He co-created one of the most important political sites on the web.

He authored the first (and so far as I know, still only) book-length biography of Murray Rothbard (not an affiliate link).

He wrote stridently, trenchantly, and well on the issues he cared about (mostly foreign policy).

I only met him once in person, when he came to Washington University in St. Louis to speak against the impending US invasion of Iraq. He tore that fucking room down.

He was a badass.

I miss him already, and the antiwar movement will miss him, and remember him, for a long time.

Here's his obituary.

Is Cheap Shipping Going to Collapse?


I've been following the "shipping wars" with some interest over time.

Amazon has started doing quite a bit of its own shipping, even the "last mile" part (these days when I order something from Amazon it usually arrives in an Amazon van rather than via USPS, UPS or FedEx). They recently upped their game by giving Prime members "free" one-day, rather than two-day, shipping on a bunch of stuff. They're running their own vans. They're running their own planes. They're even building their own airports. Not to mention working on delivery by drone.

They also recently "broke up" with FedEx, which responded by offering merchants 2-day air shipping at their previous ground shipping rate. Walmart and Target are trying to compete on "free" and "quick" shipping, too.

As mentioned in a previous post, I ordered a refurbished Chromebook via Newegg (but fulfilled by another merchant) on Tuesday. It's arriving today. That Chromebook was on clearance, $50 off its regular $129 price. It's arriving today. No shipping charge added. How much is two-day shipping on an eight-pound package taking out of that merchant's hide?

At what point does getting stuff to customers in one or two days with no shipping charge added turn out to be unprofitable without very noticeable price increases on the products themselves?

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Sigh ...


I'll probably watch this stupidity tonight and tomorrow night so you don't have to.

But I don't expect to like it.

The candidates for each night were supposedly randomly chosen, but I don't believe it.

In my opinion, the DNC carefully picked the two-night lineup for the express purpose of keeping Elizabeth Warren (who appears on the first night) and Joe Biden (who appears on the second night) apart -- the idea being to let them each pummel, and possibly KO, a few of the also-rans separately, so as to begin a process of narrowing the field down to the two of them.

That doesn't mean none of the others have a chance, whether through a debate breakout or some other development. But the intention is to get it down to Biden and Warren ASAP.

Markets and Competition Produce Variety, Not Monopoly


Summary of a conversation from Facebook:

Guy: Solar, wind, etc. can never succeed because nuclear is most "efficient" in terms of "energy density" -- that is, a given volume of space used for a nuclear reactor will produce much more energy than that same volume of space used for solar panels, wind turbines, whatever. "Standard economic theory" (his words, not mine) says that the most "efficient" way of providing a good will crowd out all the others and "win."

Me: You don't understand markets.

Here's a counter-example to his claim vis a vis a different form of energy:

Planting, growing, and harvesting an acre of wheat delivers 6.4 million calories. That same acre of ground would deliver 12.3 million calories if planted in corn, 17.8 million calories if planted in potatoes. And only 2.1 million calories if planted with soybeans, 1.1 million calories if used to raise beef, 3.5 million calories if used to raise pork, 1.4 million calories if used to raise chicken. (Source: Walden Effect)

23.6 million calories if planted with 200 apple trees. (Source: LocalHarvest)

If the guy was right, we'd be eating all apples all the time, assuming energy density/efficiency was a decisive metric.

But it turns out that lots of people like wheat, corn, potatoes, soybeans, beef, pork, and chicken in addition to apples, presumably for reasons other than energy density. And they're willing to pay for those things instead of, or along with, apples. So there's demand, and where there's demand, people seeking profit will supply.

People have reasons for preferring say, solar to, say, nuclear for electrical generation as well.

One of those reasons in my case (if I ever build my own home it will be built with solar; if I buy an existing home it will be retro-fitted with solar) is efficiency of distribution rather than production. More than once, I've gone without electrical power for several days, up to a week -- many more times for as long as a day or a day-and-a-half -- because storms took down a bunch of power lines. All the efficiency of power generation in the world does me no good if the power isn't actually reach my refrigerator. If I have on-site solar, distant accidents won't cut my power.

Another reason is time preference. I'd rather spend $X now than trickle out $X over an extended time period. Hypothetically, say spending $5k on a solar set-up now, with occasional maintenance and refurbishing (say, $5.5k over 50 months), versus paying $100 a month for 50 months to a utility company (only $5k over 50 months). I'm willing to pay more to be semi-done with it and not have regularly recurring bills.

For some people, the reason is that they consider nuclear unsafe and solar "green." I can empathize with that, although I hope the newer reactor schemes will obviate such concerns. And if an affordable home reactor came on the market, I'd certainly consider that, since it would address my preferences above.

If the government nationalized utilities tomorrow, built a bunch of nuclear reactors, and gave everyone "free" electricity, there would still be some people who wanted, and were willing to pay for, home solar arrays (or, if allowed, for grid power generated using solar). And where there are people willing to pay, there are people willing to take their money.

Markets do produce "winners," but they don't produce single winners. If you don't believe me, go to your local grocery store and see how many brands of mustard, coffee, and soup are on offer, of various qualities and at various prices. Not to mention a bunch of other foods that aren't apples.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Pulled the Trigger ...


... on a new (OK, new to me) Chromebook.

Where I was:

I had a reasonably priced but also reasonably state of the art 15.6" Asus Chromebook on my Amazon Wish List. The screen on my previous Chromebook went out and it would have cost more to replace it than I deemed worth paying (may still turn that Chromebook into a "headless" desktop, since it's newer than my existing Chromebox). I've removed that item from the wish list.

Where I am:

I'm about a month out from a trip to Missouri so I need to get my traveling computer needs seen to.

Got an email this morning from Newegg. Clearance sale time! $79 for a refurbished HP Chromebook that hits my three main requirements: At least 14" screen (this one is 14"), at least 4Gb of RAM (this one has 4Gb) and an Intel rather than Arm CPU (check).

Not ideal -- I like the biggest screen I can get, and since this model is from 2015 it's unlikely it will run Android apps and certain it won't run native Linux apps -- but I hardly ever use a laptop except when traveling and I seldom travel more than a week or two of every year, so I think I can put up with a slightly less than optimal machine for a lot less money for that amount of time.

One of the triggers, obviously, was the clearance sale email from Newegg.

The other was an AMA question yesterday from Thane Eichenauer  about $79 "PC on a stick" machines. For the same price I just got a better processor, more RAM, and three times as many USB ports, not to mention a built-in screen, keyboard, and mouse.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt, Streaming Media Edition


Thousands petition Netflix to cancel Amazon Prime's Good Omens


More than 20,000 Christians have signed a petition calling for the cancellation of Good Omens, the television series adapted from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 fantasy novel -- unfortunately addressing their petition to Netflix when the series is made by Amazon Prime. ... [according to the petition] Good Omens is "another step to make satanism appear normal, light and acceptable," and "mocks God’s wisdom." God, they complain, is "voiced by a woman" -- Frances McDormand -- the antichrist is a "normal kid" and, most importantly, "this type of video makes light of Truth, Error, Good and Evil, and destroys the barriers of horror that society still has for the devil."

The show is actually quite fun, and in some ways thought-provoking. I've watched five of the six episodes; the finale is a planned family (minus one kid who's too cool to watch TV) sit-down tonight or tomorrow night. Here's the trailer. Remember, you won't find it on Netflix, even if you pray really, really hard:



Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Note to @MaxineWaters: Please Stop Congress-ing Until I'm Ready for You to Start Again


Fair's fair. You want Facebook to just sit dead in the water until you get around to telling them what to do. Sauce for the goose and all that, right?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Springfield, Here I Come!


I'll be in Springfield, Missouri from the morning of July 28 to the morning of July 30.

The main purpose of the trip is to visit my mother for her 86th birthday, and obviously I plan to spend quite a bit of time with her out of that approximately 50 hours (I get in at 8am or so on Sunday and leave before noon on Tuesday -- call it 45 hours including transport to and from the airport and waiting in line, etc. AT the airport).

I'm also going to be relatively lightly financed unless people hit the sidebar to help out. As in, McDonald's value menu, not Olive Garden with cocktails.

All that said, I should be relatively free Sunday and Monday evening. She goes to bed early, and I don't.

If anyone's in the area and wants to grab a coffee, a beer, a comedy open mic night, etc., give me a yell!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Ah, a Referral Compensation Bump!


Yes, I'm still a Dollar Shave Club member.

Yes, I'm still loving their products, their prices, and their delivery scheme.

And right now I get $15 instead of $5 in credit for every referral I make.

So if you've been considering the possibility of getting great razor blades much cheaper than you'd get them at the store, now would be a good time for both you and me for you to act on the idea here.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Election 2020: How One Measly Dollar Could Make a Difference


I've only donated to one 2020 presidential campaign -- Mike Gravel's.

He's already missed the cut for the first Democratic presidential primary debate, but as of today he's at about 47,500 donors of the 65,000 he needs to get into the second debate.

I want to see him in that second debate not because I agree with him on everything but because I believe his voice in the debate would be disruptive, in a positive way, of the American political conversation.

Yes, Gravel's a Democrat -- a Democrat unlike the current herd of cowards.

A Democrat who helped end the draft and who read the Pentagon Papers into the congressional record.

A Democrat who's stood up in defense of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Julian Assange for years.

A Democrat who's been antiwar for more than half a century (unlike Tulsi Gabbard, who spent several years as a darling of Republican hawks before suddenly deciding that "antiwar" might be a politically profitable market niche).

Will he win the Democratic nomination? Unlikely. Will he ever be president? Even more unlikely.

But he can affect the process and the discussion, and you can help him do so with a donation of as little as one dollar.

Friday, June 14, 2019

It's That Time of Year ...


... when the weather alternates between "nearly 100 degrees" and "pouring rain."

Not the best cycling weather.

But my tires are holding air and I've got a working pump, a tool kit (the wrench on it sucks, but I have one around here somewhere), and a patch kit, so I'm taking short rides down the street to get, well, back on the bicycle. I'll start going further when I get a spare tube Real Soon Now.

On the way (from China): Rear pannier bags that are big enough for e.g. grocery shopping, ultralight camping, etc.

Still to get (hint: My Amazon wish list is linked in the sidebar): A couple of new tubes and tires; not an emergency but definitely needed soon.

I'm hoping to be back up to riding into town and back (15-20 miles) occasionally by late July (when I hope to get OUT of town for a few days to visit my mother, finances allowing).

And by the fall, logging 50 miles a week minimum. I don't plan to get back to routine 100-mile-plus weeks until next spring, if ever. Until score an electric bike, of course. Once that happens, hell, I might do the occasional hundred-mile-plus DAY for a trip to the beach, Jacksonville, wherever.

More Musings on Election 2020


In a recent post, I made three predictions:

  1. Donald Trump won't win any states in 2020 that he didn't win in 2016 (current confidence: 100%).
  2. Wisconsin goes blue in 2020 (current confidence: 99.x%).
  3. Florida goes blue in 2020 (current confidence: Higher than 50%; the X factor on that is whether or not the Republicans can mount a successful voter suppression campaign against e.g. the constitutional amendment passed by voters last year restoring former felons' voting rights).
I'm going to set the second and third predictions aside for a moment and come at it from a different angle based on the first one.

In 2016, Trump knocked down 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton's 232. Or, to put it a different way, Clinton came up 38 electoral votes short of victory.

Trump's absolute ceiling, according to my prediction, is 306. If he didn't win a state in 2016, he's not going to win it in 2020 either. He has nowhere to go but down in the Electoral College.

Where is a Democrat most likely to pick up electoral votes from Trump next year?

In my opinion the places to look are states where Trump won by less than 5% in 2016, and the places to look hardest are the states where he won by less than 5%  and a third party candidate or candidates polled 5% or better.

Explanation:

In 2016, Trump won with an energized base versus a demoralized base. His turnout was at the top of its potential; Clinton's wasn't. I expect that he will do as well or nearly as well at turning out his base this time as last time -- but that the Democrats won't do as badly at that next time as they did last time.

2016 was a very good year for third party candidates. Not because those candidates were better candidates than third party candidates usually are, but because both the "major" party candidates were so awful. "Wasted vote" PTSD from 2016 is probably going to cost third party candidates votes in 2020, and those votes are going to go disproportionately to the Democratic candidate (especially, but not only, if the Libertarians nominate a "second Republican ticket" for the fourth time in a row).


Arizona -- Trump margin of victory, 4.1%, third party total 5.1%, 11 electoral votes
Florida -- Trump margin of victory 1.3%, third party total 3.2%, 29 electoral votes
Michigan -- Trump margin of victory 0.3%, third party total 5.1%, 16 electoral votes
North Carolina -- Trump margin of victory 3.8%, third party total 2.8%, 15 electoral votes
Pennsylvania -- Trump margin of victory 1.2%, third party total 3.6%, 20 electoral votes
Wisconsin -- Trump margin of victory 1%, third party total 5.2%, 10 electoral votes

That's 101 electoral votes in play according to my theory. The 2020 Democratic nominee only needs 38 of them.

The closer and the longer I look, the more difficult Trump's path to re-election looks.

On the other hand, experience tells me that if the Democratic Party can find a way to lose an election, it will find a way to lose that election.

But at the moment, I have to add Michigan to Wisconsin as a "VERY confident Trump will not win" state. Those two and Florida come to 55 electoral votes, bringing the as-yet-unidentified Democratic nominee to 287 and victory.

No, that's not my final prediction. You'll see that in October or early November of 2020. But that's how it looks to me right now.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Domain For Sale!


I started the site Who Is Bill Weld? at whoisbillweld.com for the express purpose of shedding light on Weld in the event that he sought the Libertarian Party's 2020 presidential nomination.

He decided to return to the Republican Party instead.

So I don't see the need for the site anymore and don't plan to pay to renew that domain.

It expires in a few days.

Anyone want it? I'm willing to let it go for "best offer" (including "I'll [insert something cool you'd do with it], but am unwilling to pay more than the transfer/renewal fees." Hit the contact form and let me know.

Sweetener: If you just want to maintain/improve the site as it currently exists, I'll continue hosting it and give you Wordpress access to admin it.

Oh, Spare Us The Hypocrisy


In 2015, the Washington Free Beacon hired Fusion GPS, which in turn hired Christopher Steele, to tap foreign sources for opposition research material on several Republican candidates, including Donald Trump.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign hired Fusion GPS and Steele to tap foreign sources for opposition research material on Donald Trump.

Also in 2016, individuals associated with Donald Trump's campaign met with foreign sources for the purpose of tapping them for opposition research material on Hillary Clinton.

Now Trump admits that he'd do again what he did last time (something which, by the by, the Mueller report did not deem to have constituted anything illegal), and the same people whose only interest in the Steel Dossier back then was in whether the material in it was helpful to them, not in where it came from or even whether it was true, are publicly losing their damn minds.

CORRECTION, 06/14/19: The Washington Free Beacon did indeed hire Fusion GPS to do oppo research in 2015, but on further research, I find that the newspaper claims that Christopher Steele was not involved at that time, and that none of the material gathered on their behalf would have appeared in the "Steele Dossier." Sorry, I got that part wrong.

Cui Bono?/Occam's Razor -- Gulf of Oman Edition


Not every attack is a "false flag" event. Most attacks almost certainly aren't.

But they do happen. And the attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman last month and today seem to me pass two screening criteria for thinking there might well be "false flag" fuckery afoot.


  1. Cui Bono? That is, who benefits? The Iranian regime doesn't seem to want war with the US, Saudi Arabia, and friends. The Trump regime keeps pushing for war with Iran, then backing off. The Saudi regime might suffer temporarily in such a war, but if the US "won" the war that would likely take Iranian oil off the world market for longer than Saudi oil, and reduce Iran's influence in the region, both of which the Saudi regime wants. And the Israeli regime has a continuing interest in seeing Muslim regimes fight each other rather than gang up on it.


  2. Occam's Razor. That is, the explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct. So, is there some deep, complex Iranian plan in which bringing down the military ire of the US and its allies on its own head by ineffectually attacking tankers then denying it somehow produces an as yet unknown victory condition? Or is this exactly what it looks like -- an attempt by the US and/or the Saudis and/or the Israelis to manufacture an excuse for war?


How long until we're presented with some bodies conveniently found lying outside Sender Gleiwitz in Polish Army uniforms? And will those bodies turn out to have come to Sender Gleiwitz alive from Poland or dead from Dachau?

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