Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Those were the days

Heh. I'm hopefully mostly through an odyssey (courtesy of the nine-year-old's obsolete OS obsession) that involvesd getting the hard drive out of an old, completely fried laptop and putting it in another old, only partially fried laptop so that the latter can be turned into a Windoze 98 box.

I'm not sure exactly why this has to happen except that he was horribly unhappy with some aspect of 98's performance in VirtualBox (which he had downloaded, installed, configured and mounted 98 on all by himself on his Vista machine).

Anyway, I just got the message during setup a few minutes ago, something to the effect of "this hard disk is larger than 512Mb. Do you want to configure Large Disk yada yada yada?"

I remember the days when I wondered "who could ever need a whole gigabyte of hard drive space?" Now I see that terabyte drives are going for about the same price -- not even accounting for inflation! -- as the cassette tape drive for my Commodore VIC 20 cost back in 1983 or so.

I feel old.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A politician tells the truth

From the New York Times, an article on a company that runs "public" libraries under contract to city governments:

"The libraries are still going to be public libraries," said the mayor pro tem, Marsha McLean. "When people say we're privatizing libraries, that is just not a true statement, period."

I've written about this kind of faux "privatization" in the past, at C4SS.

It's the worst of both worlds. The "privatized" services are still paid for through coercive taxation, but operated by less accountable "private" management. The only thing that really changes is that the two entities -- the government funding a "public" service and the "private" company actually delivering it -- shift the blame for every problem with that service back and forth.

I love libraries. Always have (my elementary school librarian recognized me instantly, as I did her, when I walked past her 20 years after leaving that school; I'd probably read every book in the place before I left). I'd prefer that they be privately operated, but they need to be either privately or "publicly" operated, not a little bit of each with the worst features of both.

The American way, from the beginning, was "private" and "charitable" (in any number of towns across America to this day, if you look at the plaque on your oldest local library building, there's a very good chance it was built with the help of Andrew Carnegie).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Congress to Colbert: Come Up and See Us Some Time

So he did.

Judge: Miss West, are you trying to show contempt for this court?

Mae West: On the contrary, your Honor, I was doin' my best to conceal it.

We are all infinitely richer for Stephen Colbert's refusal to treat the US House of Representatives as gently.

Naturally, the usual suspects -- those bitter enemies of human freedom who want to abuse government policy to distort the labor market, conscript every last one of America's employers into service as unpaid ICE agents, and prattle on endlessly about laws that don't exist -- were outraged, in at least one case even in advance, over Colbert's appearance before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Security.

Friday, September 24, 2010

If she floats, she's made of wood

I've been meaning to post something about Christine O'Donnell (it just seems kind of obligatory). I've also been meaning to test out GrooveShark. Two birds, one stone!

Blog Housekeeping: Personal Maxim Update

Voting Republican for smaller government is like fvcking for virginity.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Three reasons I prefer cheaper hotels

I don't travel so much these days, but I used to get around quite a bit and still make the occasional foray.

Yes, I prefer cheaper hotels. Not necessarily the cheaper the better (there's a point below getting what you pay for makes for an unenjoyable stay), but definitely in the $70-$100 per night range, possibly as low as $50 if you take a stab at bidding through Priceline or whatever.

Three reasons:

1) It should be obvious: Cheaper rooms don't cost as much. All other things being equal, I'd rather pay $75 than $150 for a night in a hotel room. But, frankly, all things usually aren't equal, which brings me to the other two reasons.

2) Nearly every time I get roped into staying at a "luxury" hotel, my jaw drops when I walk into the room and realize that it's half the size of, and less attractively furnished than, something I'd get at Quality or Drury. The "luxury" beds are seldom as firm, or the linens or bathrooms as modern or as clean.

3) The "cheaper" hotel usually includes a lot of extras in the price that the "luxury" hotel charges for.

Any decent "cheaper" hotel will have "free" breakfast. It may be "continental" -- donuts and cereal -- or it may be a full hot buffet, or something in between (I like the "continental plus" that the Quality chain runs, which is the usual cold fare plus "make your own waffles"). Expect to blow $10-$15 for runny eggs and an English muffin at the "luxury" hotel's restaurant. And God help you if you get stuck in the bar, where every beer means thinking about taking out a second mortgage.

And of course what got me going on this little rant was a piece I ran across in USA Today about how "luxury" hotels are starting to "discount" Internet access.

Yes, discount. After popping you $150 a night for a linen closet they remodeled and labeled "suite," they want you to pay extra for the privilege of checking your email over their Wi-Fi setup.

Needless to say, any decent "cheaper" hotel has "FREE HIGH-SPEED INTERNET" featured prominently on the marquee out front. Or did, anyway, until it became so common that only the highbrow places still think they can get away with charging for Internet.

That the "luxury" hotel still exists as a class of lodging is, in my opinion, proof positive that there are indeed people with more money than sense.

Review: VaporKings.Com

My transition from smoking to "vaping" continues, and so far I'm very pleased with the results.

As of two weeks ago, I smoked 1 1/2 to 2 packs of cigarettes a day. When I took up "vaping," that amount rapidly trended downward; earlier this week I ran out of cigarettes, and I'm not planning to buy more. Within a couple of days of beginning with electronic cigarettes, I noticed that I was breathing more easily, coughing less and just generally feeling better.

Not quite two weeks later, I'm completely sold. If you smoke (or used to smoke) you're familiar with that "wake up coughing until you get your first cigarette going" feeling. It's gone, baby.

At the moment, I'm spending only a little less on "vaping" stuff than I did on cigarettes, but I'm in the middle of an equipment buildup. My costs will go down even more once I've got all the stuff I want to have on hand.

I've already purchased a USB "pass-thru" that lets me "vape" at my desk without running down a battery which then has to be recharged.

I've also ordered a third KR808D-1 battery to go with the two that Morey sent me to get me started (the ones he sent are push-button operated; the one I just ordered is "automatic" -- taking a "drag" on it activates it).

And I've ordered a few blank "cartomizers" so that I'll have extras on hand to refill and use. The non-equipment stuff I've purchased has been "e-juice," the nicotine-laced liquid that goes in the cartomizers and produces the inhaled vapor.

Total expenditure so far, about $45 including shipping ... the equivalent of two cartons of generic cigarettes, and I expect the "e-juice" to be at least a couple more weeks' worth (I've still got about 2/3 of the first bottle left).

Anyway, review time. So far I've only ordered from one place, VaporKings.Com. I just placed my second order with them. I will probably try out some other vendors soon, but so far VaporKings.Com has had the stuff I wanted at the best price.

Disclaimer: Neither VaporKings.Com nor anyone else is paying me, or giving me complimentary product or any other inducement, for this review.

If I had anything bad to say about VaporKings.Com, it would be that the site isn't as well-organized as I'd like. It's divided into handy sections, but there can still be a lot of scrolling involved to find particular products.

My first order was for the aforementioned "pass-through" ($12.95) and a bottle of "Nu-Port" menthol-flavored, propylene glycol-based "e-juice" at the medium nicotine level ($8.95).

I ordered late (after normal business hours) last Thursday. My order shipped Friday and arrived on Monday. Here's the good part: A lot of Internet sellers really rape the customer on "shipping and handling" charges. VaporKings.Com charged only $1.89 for USPS First Class mailing. I could have paid more for Priority Mail, but First Class got it to me about as fast.

I just placed a second order -- for that additional KR808D-1 battery and another bottle of the "e-juice" (I've still got plenty left, but I want to be stocked up). Shipping: $2.23. I ordered early enough that it may ship today, but even if it goes out tomorrow I once again expect to see it in my mailbox on Monday or Tuesday. Oh, and my first order came with a 10% discount code for this one, pretty much erasing that shipping charge.

As far as product quality goes, I'm more than satisfied. The "Nu-Port" flavor "e-juice" tastes pretty damn close to the menthol cigarette that shares a similar name. I initially thought they'd sent me a defective "pass-through," but it turned out that the problem was low power to my USB ports -- as soon as I hooked it up to a different machine, it went right to town for me.

I can't tell you that VaporKings.Com is the best place to get your e-cigarette stuff, because I haven't tried the others yet. I probably will, when they happen to have a good price on something I want. In particular, there's a local St. Louis startup -- face-to-face and cash only, although they're working on getting Intarwebbed and credit-cardy -- that I plan to check out. But so far I've had nothing but good service, fast shipping and superior product from VaporKings.Com. I recommend them.

In which I reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin

I hereby declare the monkey off my back:

If democracy is a religion (and it is -- "the worship of jackals by jackasses," as Mencken so indelicately phrased it), elections are its principal sacrament. Voting is communion, complete with miraculous Transubstantiation of the Most, in which a plurality or majority of ballots cast are magically transformed into the "consent of the governed."

Upon this rock the entire church of state is built. Every nuance of the perpetual Black Mass we call “government” -- every act of theft, extortion, brutality, murder, war read in solemn tone from the Liturgy of Realpolitik -- justifies itself on the basis of this alleged “consent,” in turn symbolized by the stickers handed out across America to those leaving the polling place: "I Voted!"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Republican Priorities Revealed!

Not that most government spending labeled "defense" is actually for defense, but Republicans would like you to believe it is.

So, how important is that "defense" spending to Republicans? Less important than using government policy to bash gays and persecute immigrants.

Them Islamo-fascists are coming to get you! And the Repbulicans will save you ... but only if you let them save you from the queers and wetbacks, too.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Project Outline: Think Tank / Policy Institute in a Box

Nothing against the think tanks and policy institutes which operate on millions, or at least tens of thousands, of dollars per year. I just happen to be one of those guys who tries to do everything on a shoestring budget.

Here are a couple of rough outlines I've been working on, thinking they might be useful to Activist A with Cause B that he or she would like to build at least a skeleton web-based promotional organization around. There are bigger projects that have been done for less -- this is just some noodling and doodling that I thought worth sharing.


- $1,000 buildout and annual overhead:

Web Hosting: $432 (one year of GoDaddy's "Value" Virtual Dedicated Server package @ $36/month -- 30GB storage, 1,000Gb/mo bandwidth)

Domain Registration: $50 (one year of registration for .org, .com and .net domains, plus maybe .info, etc. if they're on sale)

Phone Service: $250 (one year of Net10 Service, 2.5 hours per month, $30 bi-monthly, with $70 allowance for phone hardware; Google Voice number to link to the phone is free)

Content Management System: Pay for a CMS? Are you INSANE? Depending on your needs, WordPress or Drupal should do nicely

Email List Management: $210 (Trafficwave.Net offers unlimited lists/autoresponders with all the double-opt-in doodads and such, serving up to 10,000 subscribers @ $17.50 per month)

Misc: $58 (templates, themes, stock photos, clip art, etc. to trick out the site)

Total: $1,000

- $9,000 Operating costs:

Development Director: $1,000 (10% commission on fundraising gross of $10,000)

Contribution Processing Costs: $500 (5% of $10,000)

Bloggers: $5,100 (four paid substantial "commentary" blog posts per week @ $25 each x 51 weeks -- take the week between Christmas and New Year off!); you fill in some, and expect the paid bloggers to throw in the occasional two-paragraph "well whaddya know about that" or "Jesus, did you see Obama's EARS?" post without payment.

Monthly Policy Paper: $2,400 ($200 x 12 months -- let your bloggers have this work, if they want it, when possible!)

Total: $9,000

Grand Total: $10,000


- $135 buildout and annual overhead

Web Hosting: $120 (one year of Hostgator's "Baby" shared hosting plan -- unlimited domains, unlimited storage and bandwidth, but if it gets busy you'll get shut down for consuming more than your share of CPU on the shared server)

Domain Registration: $15 (.org domain only)

Phone Service: $0 (get a Google Voice number and forward it to your personal landline and/or cell)

Content Management System: Free

Email List Management: Free (use Google Groups or Yahoo Groups)

Misc: None (do all your own templating, theming, artwork, etc.)

Total: $135

- Operating Costs

Development Director: $0 (all fundraising done via web site/email appeals)

Contribution Processing Costs: $125 (5% of $2,500)

Bloggers: $1,200 (you do half the work gratis and pay some eager beaver $100 a month to do the other half)

Monthly Policy Paper: $1,000 ($100 x 10 months -- you do two of them; let the aforementioned underpaid eager beaver have as many of the other 10 as he wants!)

Misc: $40 for an iTunes gift card, sent in a CafePress mug with the think tank's logo on it, at Christmas for the eager beaver

Total: $2,365

Grand Total: $2,500

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Orthogonal thought

I've previously described the line connecting "birtherism" with Freudian "Kenyan anti-colonialism" as, well, a bullshit continuum, its gamut being lowbrow to highbrow.

Without respect to the issue of whether or not it's all bullshit, Robert Stacy McCain takes exception to the Left's umbrage on the whole thing. And it seems to me there may be a lesson in there for Republicans:

The facts of Obama's life cannot be questioned, and the narrative meaning can only be construed in the most flattering light without eliciting the accusation of mala fides.

Contrast this with how the liberal media treated Ronald Reagan. No matter what he accomplished, from the 1960s through the ’80s, no journalistic profile of Reagan was complete without a snarky reminder that Reagan was a “B-movie actor,” the star of corny dramas like Knute Rockne: All-American and still cornier comedies like Bedtime for Bonzo.

And how did that work out for them?

Reagan got himself elected governor of California twice.

Then President of the United States twice, going from 44 states and 50.7% of the popular vote in 1980 -- with his party taking a majority in the US Senate for the first time in 28 years -- to 49 states and 58.8% of the popular vote in 1984.

It was primarily his popularity that carried his successor, George H.W. Bush, into the White House. And a good case could be made that he provided the momentum that let Newt Gingrich "nationalize" the 1994 election and achieve GOP control of both houses of Congress.

Of course, a better comparison for the paranoid mindset versus Obama might be Bill Clinton. Four years of Whitewater, Vincent Foster, HillaryCare, cattle futures and "Clinton death lists" increased his popular vote rake-in by about 7%.

If I were a Republican, I'd ... well, I'd stop being a Republican most ricky-tick, even if I had to throw myself off a cliff to get the job done. But before I did that, I recommend to my fellow Republicans that they stop asking why the mainstream media howls when they get all weird about Obama and start asking themselves whether getting all weird about Obama is going to win elections for them.

You Can Write It Down

US Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is now US Senate candidate Lisa Murkowski (IWR-AK). The "IWR" is for "Independent Write-In."

This could get interesting, in a horse-race cum train-wreck kind of way.

According to Wikipedia's article on write-ins, Strom Thurmond is the only US Senator ever elected as a write-in candidate.*

Could Murkowski become the second?

She's got a $1.5 million war chest. She won't be getting any more money from the national GOP. That doesn't mean she won't be getting any more money, but let's assume for the moment she's raised most of what she's going to have.

In 2008 -- a presidential year with an Alaskan on the GOP's national ticket, so probably high turnout -- about 320,000 votes were cast for US Senator. Let's guess the turnout at 300k for this November. It's a nice, round number and it's probably in the ballpark, maybe even a little high.

Can Murkowski snag 150,000 votes -- 50% -- if she spends $10 per vote? How about a 40% plurality (120,000 votes) at $12.50 a pop?

Here's a rough-in:

$400k for media -- radio, TV, newspaper, Internet.

If she has a good voter list and voter ID op, she can get out three mailers (the last one a sample ballot with a sticker to put on the real ballot if Alaska uses paper ballots) @ $2 each to the right 150,000 voters for $900k.

That leaves $100k, or about $230 for each of Alaska's 438 precincts, for Election Day signs and volunteer-distributed sample ballots/stickers.

And a final $100k for sundry expenses -- staff salaries, travel around Alaska to kiss hands and shake babies, etc.

That's if she doesn't raise another dime. I bet she'll raise quite a bit. If you were a corporate lobbyist how much would you pay to elect a US Senator beholden to you and not subject to edicts from "party leadership?" Those guys throw money at winners and losers. You don't have to be a sure thing to get their bucks, you just have to have decent odds, and Murkowski has better odds than many candidates.

Right now the polling makes it look like a Miller/Murkowski fight, but don't count on it staying that way. A month ago, it was a safe Republican seat. As of now the Democrats would be stupid not to throw some money into the mix and go for a surprise Senate pickup.

I don't know if Murkowski can win it, but she can sure as hell affect it.

* Of course, US Senators weren't elected by popular vote until after ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913 ... but prior to adoption of the "Australian ballot" in the late 19th century, a reasonable case could be made that all popularly elected officials, including US Representatives and presidential electors, were elected by "write-in." Most voters used pre-printed ballots given them by their parties of preference, but there was nothing to stop you from writing your ballot out by hand, and there were no government-printed ballots or rules for being "on the ballot."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Smoke'Em ... er, Vape'Em ... if You Got'Em

Got a package in the mail yesterday from Morey Straus in New Hampshire, containing "electronic cigarette" stuff. He's big on the idea and thought I might be too -- and he's right. I was planning to take a couple of weeks to produce a full review, but after only 24 hours I'm already sold and ready to talk about it.

The basic skinny on e-cigarettes is this:

Two soldiers of the Red Army have a break and smoke a cigarettes on the steps of the Reichstag in April 1945. Photo: Yevgeny Khaldeinull
Two soldiers of the Red Army have a break and smoke a cigarettes on the steps of the Reichstag in April 1945. Photo: Yevgeny Khaldeinull
An e-cigarette is composed of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (usually, but not always, shaped and sized in reasonable facsimile of a "real" cigarette), an "atomizer" (a heating element) and a cartridge containing "e-juice" (a liquid which may, but does not necessarily, include nicotine among its ingredients).

When you "smoke" an e-cigarette, you're inhaling a vapor produced by the atomizer's heating of the "e-juice" in the cartridge instead of smoke produced by burning tobacco.

There are variations on the basic theme. For example, the model Morey sent me, the popular KR808D-1, combines the atomizer and the cartridge into one unit, the "cartomizer." Atomizers do burn out eventually but they apparently last a month or so in normal use, making the "cartomizer" reasonably cost-effective and the whole rig simpler (two pieces instead of three to mess with).

Why switch from tobacco to vapor? I can think of several reasons:

- I'm not a medical expert, but I doubt that "e-juice" (propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine, plus flavoring and nicotine) vapor is anywhere near as harmful to the lungs as inhaled tobacco smoke.

- Vapor is less problematic than tobacco smoke in other ways, too. It doesn't set off smoke detectors. It doesn't seem to linger in the air after being exhaled, or to create a lasting odor. There's no particular reason (although I'm sure the Nicotine Nazis will try to make some up) that you can't have a "vapor hit" at your desk at work or whatever instead of having to go find an outdoor "smoking area."

- The experience doesn't incentivize more, or more frequent, use. Light a cigarette, it burns until it's gone or until you put it out (which is an incentive for you to puff it continuously so as not to "waste" it). You can hit that electronic cigarette once a minute or once a day, then stick it back in your shirt pocket with no "waste" (and without setting yourself on fire). I think I'm "vaping" less than I smoked, simply because when it's an e-cigarette sitting there, I don't have smoke wafting up and reminding me to keep puffing.

- I haven't empirically verified this yet, but from prices and manufacturer claims it looks like "vaping" will be cheaper than smoking for me -- a 30-50% savings is my guess (and I'm a frugal smoker who buys the cheapest cigarettes available -- if you're a brand-name smoker, we're talking BIG savings here).

Some Q&A stuff:

Q: Can the e-cigarette be a pathway toward breaking the nicotine addiction?

A: I suspect it may be. There are two components to quitting cigarettes -- the physical nicotine withdrawal and the breaking of the habits involved.

With e-cigarettes, getting over those two humps can be broken into two smaller tasks instead of one big task. The "e-juice" can be ordered with more nicotine, less nicotine, or no nicotine at all. So the quitter can keep on "vaping" while reducing the amount of nicotine involved, then work on breaking the habit part once the physical withdrawal is accomplished.

Q: Does the "vaping" experience really replace smoking?

A: That was what I was skeptical of.

In the last 24 hours, since getting the e-cigarette, my "real" cigarette usage has gone down by about 75% (I'm already thinking that when I finish this carton, I won't be buying cigarettes any more).

The cartomizers Morey sent are a fairly mild tobacco-flavored blend ("555"), milder than I'm used to, but in terms of flavor, "throat hit" (part of the inhalation experience), etc., they strike me as a successful analog to "smoking" in pretty much every way.

Let me put it this way: I had to put my cigarette lighter away in a drawer today after twice absent-mindedly picking it up intending to light the e-cigarette. After a couple of hours of getting used to the KR808D-1, it feels familiar and comfortable in my hand, just like a "real" cigarette. It's a little longer, a little bigger around, a little heavier ... but I got used to it very quickly.

Do you recommend any particular models, vendors, etc.?

A: No. That's why I was planning to wait a couple of weeks before writing about this subject.

So far the only model I've used is the KR808D-1. I like it, but there are others, and every model seems to have plenty of advocates out there. What I like about the KR808D-1 is its simplicity (two pieces instead of three with the "cartomizers") and the fact that it's fairly close in size, shape and weight to a "real" cigarette. Your mileage may vary.

There are also quite a few vendors out there. I've ordered from one (Vapor Kings), but that was a few minutes before writing this post, so I can't yet review them for product quality, shipping time, etc. Others I've looked at include Vapor4Life and FreedomSmokeUSA.

I went with VaporKings because they had a good deal on something I wanted ($12.95 for a R808D-1 USB "passthrough" -- instead of recharging a battery, you just plug this into a USB port, screw in a cartomizer and "vape" to your heart's content -- you can't walk around with it, but I spend enough time at my computer that it makes sense; I'll save the portable KR808D-1 for when I'm out and about) and cheap shipping ($1.89 for USPS First Class).

While I was at it, I ordered some menthol "e-juice" (I've always liked menthol, but don't usually smoke menthol "real" cigarettes because they're allegedly even harder on the lungs than regulars).

I'll update or supplement this post with vendor experiences as time goes on.

Those who know me well often remark on how much I smoke -- Chris Carter probably based that character in X-Files on me circa 1993-95, when I was a three pack a day guy. I've been down to a pack and a half a day or so lately, but I've probably averaged two packs a day over the last 26 years. So this is a pretty big change for me. And I like it. Thanks, Morey!

Penny for your ... never mind

Hat Tip: Robert P. Murphy

Shameless Commercial Flogging

When you're fresh out of story ideas, try to sell some stuff!

What I've Been Watching:

Dexter, Season One (via Netflix streaming video). If you live in an entertainment cave like I do (I never start watching a TV show until it's several seasons in -- I started on Lost a month before the final season began), the show is about a sociopath / serial killer who only kills "bad guys." Just finished the first (12-episode) season earlier tonight. Very well done -- strong acting, interesting story arc, etc. I'll be interested to see whether or not the show's quality holds up over multiple seasons.

What I've Been Reading:

The Great Book of Amber -- all ten of Roger Zelazny's Amber novels between two covers. This isn't my first time through the series (as a matter of fact I've lost count), but it's been a few years. Picked this single-volume edition up at a garage sale last week.

It's as good as I remember. Might as well get the comments ("Blasphemer!" "Infidel!") rolling in: I prefer Zelazny's Amber+Shadow to Tolkien's Middle Earth. It's not as fully elaborated but the people in it are more interesting and recognizable.

What I've Been Listening To:

Lots of stuff, but the two top playlist items right now are probably Rotten Apples: The Smashing Pumpkins Greatest Hits and Dwight Yoakam's Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.

I'm not even going to try to explain why those particular two. I guess I'm just a man of ... eclectic ... tastes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

To-Do List Item: Blogroll

When I ported KN@PPSTER to "New Blogger," my superfrap drop-down blogrolls stopped working, and I've yet to get around to putting that situation back in order. I'll get on it.

What put the bug in my ear was an incoming link from a personal hero of mine, Paul Jacob. Couldn't let that honor go by without a blogroll (re-)addition and a quick blurb.

I could probably list 50 ways I wish I was more like Paul, starting with "courage of conviction" (he went to jail rather than register for the draft when registration was brought back), ending with "just genuinely cares about the people around him," and a whole lot of "gets things done" and "makes things happen" stuff in between.

I was wrong about the Tea Party

Not completely wrong, and not wrong all the time, but wrong enough that an explained retraction seems in order.

When the Tea Party movement started out, it looked like it might be the beginning of an authentic, grassroots populist uprising. I was skeptical, but interested to see how things would turn out. I did (I still think correctly) reject the notion that it was entirely "astroturf" at the beginning.

The movement fairly quickly became an almost uniformly Republican Party phenomenon. Not especially surprising, and nothing I didn't take occasional public notice of. Apart from a few local mutations that don't seem to have much gas in their tanks (Scott Ashjian in Nevada, the Tea Party slate in Florida), the Tea Party is all Republican all the time.

Where I was wrong was in assuming that it was becoming an almost uniformly Establishment Republican phenomenon.

There were certainly elements of that -- US Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), whose campaign garnered considerable Tea Party support, could easily be the ideological love child of Mike Castle and Dede Scozzafava -- but over time it's become pretty clear that there's little love lost between the Tea Party movement and the GOP Establishment ... that they are, in fact, locked in mortal combat for control of the Republican Party.

Doug Hoffman, the Republican who defected to the Conservative Party in NY-23's special US House election last year, is back in the GOP fold and representing the GOP in this fall's regular election for the same seat [per The Other McCain, he was losing his primary narrowly last night -- I thought that he'd already secured the nomination].

Incumbent US Senators Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) lost to Tea Party challengers Mike Lee and Joe Miller in their re-nomination/re-election bids.

A sitting Republican governor, Charlie Crist of Florida, withdrew from the GOP primary for US Senate when it became clear that Tea Party darling Marco Rubio would stomp him in that primary (he's still running, as an independent).

Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle knocked over establishment candidate (former GOP state chair) Sue Lowden in Nevada's US Senate primary.

Delaware Republican senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell celebrates her win in the Republican primary at her campaign victory event in Dover, Delaware, September 14, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Delaware Republican senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell celebrates her win in the Republican primary at her campaign victory event in Dover, Delaware, September 14, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Just last night, the Tea Party notched at least two major victories: In Delaware, Christine O'Donnell beat sitting congresscritter Mike Castle in the GOP's US Senate primary. In New York, Carl Paladino beat establishment perennial Rick Lazio to represent the GOP for governor.

I don't know whether or not the Tea Party is actually winning this internal GOP power struggle, but they're certainly taking some prominent scalps.

As for the residual "grassroots" claims, they're wearing kind of thin -- the heavy hitters behind much of this Tea Party action are a long-time political consulting firm (Russo, Marsh, and Associates) operating as "Tea Party Express," and FreedomWorks, a thinly disguised lobbying operation masquerading as a "non-profit"* and associated with some very establishment names (Dick Armey, Jack Kemp, Bill Bennett, Steve Forbes).

At this point, the Tea Party looks more like a Republican Party civil war between the existing establishment and a would-be replacement establishment than like a genuine anti-establishment uprising, internal or general. And I can't say I'd want either of those establishments running my life or yours.

But, mea culpa -- I did get it wrong when I evaluated the Tea Party as a pawn of the existing GOP establishment. They've raised considerable hell by proving they're not that!

* NTTAWWT -- a lot of the FreedomWorks agenda points is meat and potatoes "smaller-government" stuff -- but let's not pretend they're the fucking sans-culottes, okay?

Advertising Change

I'm getting rid of those full-page ads that take you away from KN@PPSTER.

They do bring in a little money, but not that much.

The plain vanilla "they're annoying" complaints don't cut a lot of ice with me (none of them have been accompanied by "I'll buy a static ad if you ditch them, so you can still make a few bucks" offers), but the "locked up my browser" and "couldn't see the 'skip this ad' button to get back to the blog" complaints do.

Also, I've noticed that they seem to run more often than my settings say they should (any given reader should get one of those full-page thingies no more than once in any six-hour period). Often enough, in fact, to annoy me.

I'm keeping the sidebar ads, and adding those "roll over certain text, a little ad pops up" things. I see them on a lot of reasonably popular blogs, so I'm guessing they don't bother people that much (they drive me bugfuck, but oh well).

I've already replaced the code; there may be a lag between that and things actually changing.

Guess God's Gonna Cut Me Down

[G]o and tell that midnight rider ...
You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God'll cut you down

I guess it's more like "two in the morning rider."

Realized a little while ago that I hadn't been on the bike in the last 24 hours other than a short utility jaunt yesterday morning (hunting up one of the kids). I'm determined not to go a day without riding unless the weather makes it completely impossible, even if I just put in a couple of miles. I'm in much better shape than I was a month ago, and don't plan to slack off. I'm looking forward to weighing 165-175 pounds again, and most of that muscle.

No weather problem tonight. No traffic either; I saw a grand total of one moving car. Nice and cool, just enough light hitting the streets to let me avoid running into parked vehicles and so forth. I took a lazy ride around our little town: Gently uphill about half a mile on the main street, around a long side street loop (half downhill, half back up), back down the main drag a bit, a shorter loop terminating at the corner nearest the house.

I could get used to this night-riding thing for a lot of reasons -- more comfortable temperature, less traffic to worry about, a nice feeling of solitude -- but if so I guess I'll need to invest in some reflective clothing or something so I don't get run down like a dog by some random stranger in a hurry to get home from second shift at Taco Hell.

I haven't really started using the bike as "regular transportation" yet, other than "kid patrol" and one run to a nearby convenience store with Liam, just to say we did it. That's coming, though. Next time I have to be somewhere downtown or in the Central West End or whatever, I'll take it (the local buses have bike racks, and you can roll'em right onto and off of the trains).

Alrightythen ... the rules of the game dictate that if there are lyrics hanging on the wall at the beginning of the first act, a YouTube video must be fired by the end of the second. Enjoy:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Weigel on Gingrich on D'Souza

David Weigel @ Slate:

Every time [Dinesh D'Souza] publishes a new mess, it gets the full Pastor Jones treatment in the respectable press. That's had basically no effect on his ability to get published or his ability to get onto the stage at conservative conferences. But it is good for liberals. D'Souza was the first modern conservative author to discover -- the hard way -- that if you want to be a pundit, there is no downside to making a reprehensible argument. The downside comes for the people who may agree with your politics but not your argument.

D'Souza's latest crackpot theory is that US President Barack Obama's "rage" is rooted in Marxist "Kenyan anti-colonialism."

President Barack Obama, right, meets in the Oval Office with Rev. Al Sharpton and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to discuss education reform May 7, 2009. At left is Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. (Pete Souza/White House/Pinnacle Images).
President Barack Obama, right, meets in the Oval Office with Rev. Al Sharpton and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to discuss education reform May 7, 2009. At left is Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. (Pete Souza/White House/Pinnacle Images).
Newt Gingrich jumped into the D'Souza mud-puddle with both feet.

Why? That's a question Weigel doesn't attempt to answer, even though he poses it in the article's subtitle ("Why is Gingrich pushing Dinesh D'Souza's crazy theory about Obama's 'Kenyan anti-colonialism?'")

Since Weigel didn't answer it, I will.

Gingrich desperately desires to court the support of Obama "birthers" and other fringe conspiracy aficionados for his various ongoing projects, not to mention his prospective 2012 presidential campaign.


Gingrich also desperately craves "intellectual respectability." He's a former professor, given to long-winded historical analysis (sometimes in fictional form) that usually manages to be simultaneously banal and bizarrely revisionist. He craves recognition from The Smart People as one of their own.

The raw "birther" thesis -- that Obama's mother secretly traveled to Kenya to give birth, simultaneously arranging for a fake birth certificate and fake newspaper birth announcements, not to mention a suitably pregnant body double, in Hawaii so that her Manchurian Child could someday become President of the United States and turn the country into Disneyland as imagined by Frantz Fanon -- is ... well ... somewhat deficient on the "intellectual respectability" end of things.

D'Souza's forthcoming The Roots of Obama's Rage (the article Gingrich endorsed is a Forbes excerpt) is a repackaging of the "birther" thesis. D'Souza discards the old wrapping (easily disproven factual claims) and stuffs the thing in a spiffy-looking gift bag (from a university bookstore, perhaps), surrounding it with a tissue of the conservative equivalent of postmodern "discourse" psychobabble.

It's still bullshit, but now it's highbrow bullshit, see? Gingrich believes he can endorse it without The Smart People necessarily assuming that that endorsement means he also handles poisonous snakes while praying, secretly thinks he's the reincarnation of Charlemagne, or occasionally wakes up in an alley, soaked in his own urine, with a bottle of MD 20/20 still clenched tightly in one fist and his other arm around a naked close blood relative of indeterminate gender.

Personally I don't think he can pull it off. But I'm not surprised that he's trying. The 2012 GOP presidential nomination will go to the candidate who can court the center while simultaneously giving the wingnuts a convincing wink and nod.

memeorandum thread

Monday, September 13, 2010

Don't Make'Em Like They Used To

Apparently the Castro brothers are about to actually do in Cuba what Republicans have been whining for decades that they'd like to do in the US, but can't because of them there evil Democrats and Islamo-fascists and campaign contributors: Reduce the size of the state.

A privately owned taxi is driven past Havana's university September 13, 2010. Cuba will let more than 500,000 state employees go by next March and try to move most to non-state jobs in the biggest shift to the private sector since the 1960s, the official Cuban labor federation said on Monday. According to Communist party sources who have seen the detailed plan to "reorganize the labor force," Cuba expects to issue 250,000 new licenses for self-employment by the close of 2011, almost twice the current number, and create 200,000 other non-state jobs. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan (CUBA - Tags: SOCIETY TRANSPORT EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS POLITICS)
A privately owned taxi is driven past Havana's university September 13, 2010. Cuba will let more than 500,000 state employees go by next March and try to move most to non-state jobs in the biggest shift to the private sector since the 1960s, the official Cuban labor federation said on Monday. According to Communist party sources who have seen the detailed plan to "reorganize the labor force," Cuba expects to issue 250,000 new licenses for self-employment by the close of 2011, almost twice the current number, and create 200,000 other non-state jobs. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan (CUBA - Tags: SOCIETY TRANSPORT EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS POLITICS)
Cuba has announced radical plans to lay off huge numbers of state employees, to help revive the communist country's struggling economy.

The Cuban labour federation said more than a million workers would lose their jobs -- half of them by March next year.

Those laid off will be encouraged to become self-employed or join new private enterprises, on which some of the current restrictions will be eased.

Check out that taxi! From other pictures I've seen, it doesn't appear to be a novelty item -- many, maybe even most, of the cars on the road in Cuba seem to be (more or less lovingly maintained) American models from the '40s and '50s. If trade channels are opened up, Cubans may be able to finance an explosion of economic prosperity just by tapping the US classic car collectors' market.

memeorandum thread

What could possibly go wrong?

Per the Wall Street Journal:

Muslims pray inside the Grand Mosque during the month of Ramadan in Mecca September 6, 2010. Muslims around the world abstain from eating, drinking and conducting sexual relations from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Picture taken September 6, 2010. REUTERS/Susan Baaghil (SAUDI ARABIA - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY)
Muslims pray inside the Grand Mosque during the month of Ramadan in Mecca September 6, 2010. Muslims around the world abstain from eating, drinking and conducting sexual relations from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Picture taken September 6, 2010. REUTERS/Susan Baaghil (SAUDI ARABIA - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY)
The Obama administration is set to notify Congress of plans to offer advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion, the largest U.S. arms deal ever, and is in talks with the kingdom about potential naval and missile-defense upgrades that could be worth tens of billions of dollars more.

I can't think of any potential down side to selling a fundamentalist Islamic regime 84 F-15 fighters, 70 Apache attack helicopters, 72 Blackhawks and 36 Little Birds. Can you?

I mean, the whole "shoring up Arab allies against Iran" thing worked out soooooo well with secular Iraq circa 1980-90.

memeorandum thread

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crowd estimate fun

Pamela "Damn, Left My Thorazine at Home Again" Geller claims 40,000 attended her anti-freedom hate rally to dance on the graves of the 9/11 dead in Manhattan today.

Politico put the number at about 1,500.

From the pictures Geller herself provides at the link above, my guess (based on taking some sample counts from various lengths-of-field and multiplying them out across like lengths-of-field sections) is that Politico lowballed the number, maybe by as much as 500-1,000.

By 38,500? Not a chance. The only way that crowd was over 2,500 is if several hundred attendees had midget barber shop quartets in their pockets.

Hundreds of protests against rally agaist the proposed "Ground Zero" Islamic mosque as thousands turned up to show support or opposition to the proposed Islamic mosque and community right on September 11, 2010 in New York City. UPI /Monika Graff
Hundreds of protests against rally agaist the proposed "Ground Zero" Islamic mosque as thousands turned up to show support or opposition to the proposed Islamic mosque and community right on September 11, 2010 in New York City. UPI /Monika Graff
What do you think? This isn't one of those "guess the number of nuts in the jar and win a Volkswagen" deal, just a fun thing to do if, um, you think estimating crowd sizes is a a fun thing to do.

I'm hoping Reuters/Fotoglif will turn up some more photos to make it easier; if so, I'll post one here [update: Got a Reuters/Fotoglif shot up now, but I've seen no "full-crowd" pics other than Geller's yet].

Friday, September 10, 2010

Literary, Arch-Type

Yes, the title is a very bad pun. Sorry about that, it's the best I could come up with.

Jonathan Franzen is in the news right now for Freedom, his first novel in nine years; apparently President Obama is among its first readers.

As usual, I'm way behind the times. I'm reading Franzen's first novel, The Twenty-Seventh City.

It's set in my adopted home area, the St. Louis metro, and although it was published 22 years ago it holds up very well in terms of evoking the locale. I recognize most of the places (and to the extent that some of them have changed I either remember or can believably mentally reconstruct their 1980s versions); some of the people, names changed to protect the guilty, are also familiar as individuals or types.

The antagonist, Jammu, lives either (I'm not really clear on it, and may have missed an outright statement on it) in the Chase Park Plaza hotel on Kingshighway or in a nearby apartment building. If the latter, it's almost certainly the building Tamara works in or one of the two others on the same block. The protagonist, Martin Probst, lives in Webster Groves, home of Webster University (where Tamara earned her degree). Franzen achieves verisimilitude (and not just in terms of physical description) with respect to both areas, as well as those around and in between the two.

This isn't intended as a review of the novel -- I'm taking my time with it and am nowhere near finished with my first full reading. One thing that strikes me pretty hard and that I'd like to share, though, is this description of what the antagonist is attempting to inflict on the protagonist (I'll leave the "why" of it out):

Fighting her enemies in Bombay and furthering the interests of her relatives, Jammu had developed the idea of a "State" in which a subject's everyday consciousness became severely limited. The mildest version of the State, the one most readily managed in Bombay, exploited income-tax anxiety. To the lives of dozens of citizens whose thinking she wished to alter, Jammu had the Bureau of Revenue bring horribly protracted tax audits. And when the subject had reached a state in which he lived and breathed and dreamed only taxes, she'd move in for the kill. She'd ask a favor the subject would ordinarily never dream of granting, force a blunder the subject six months earlier would not have committed, elicit an investment the subject should have had a hundred reasons not to make .... She'd taken liberals and made them guilt-stricken, taken bigots and turned them paranoid.

Not being a sophisticated literary analyst, I can't say for sure whether or not Franzen intends "the 'State'" as a metaphor for ... well, the state. It certainly works as that, though, and Franzen seems too smart to not have noticed what he's doing there.

Note: The cover image in the Amazon affiliate link thingum [which I've removed since I don't do business with Amazon any more -- TLK, 01/30/12] is from a 2001 reprint edition. I'm not absolutely sure on the perspective, but my guess would be that it's the Gateway Arch as seen either from the Metrolink rail bridge over the Mississippi, or from the building housing the Laclede's Landing Metrolink station on the Missouri side.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Candidate Stuff 101: Yes, You Need a Twitter Presence

This exchange on Facebook -- brought to my attention by commenter "Rae" in a thread over at The Other McCain -- absolutely floored me:

Ken Rineer: Any particular reason why you have not set up a Twitter account for your Senate campaign?

David F. Nolan: [I]t's because I think the whole concept of Twitter is inane. What can I say in 140 characters that anyone wants to read? Maybe someone can convince me that it's a good idea, but almost nobody I know uses Twitter.

David Nolan is neither a dummy nor a political novice, so if he doesn't understand why Twitter is an absolutely essential component of almost any campaign for political office, chances are a lot of other candidates don't either.

Let's start with "almost nobody I know uses Twitter."

About 45 million Americans use Twitter. 82% of them are of voting age. 51% of them have undergraduate or graduate degrees. 58% of them earn $60k per year or more. [Source: Quantcast Audience Profile]

If you're a politician and you don't know these people, you need to know them. They're the people who follow campaign news, write checks to campaigns, volunteer for campaigns, and make it to the polling place even if it's raining.

Next, let's go with "[w]hat can I say in 140 characters that anyone wants to read?"

Here are a few suggestions:

"Reminder: Candidate meet and greet tonight at Bob's Diner, 6th and Main, 7pm!"

"Interviewed with KKNA TV today -- should air on tonight's 6pm news. Check it out."

"We're only $200 short of being able to air the next campaign ad. Who wants to put us over the finish line?"

Here are some things Twitter, used correctly, can help you accomplish:

- Bring visitors BACK to your campaign web site (hook your campaign blog into Twitterfeed.Com to automatically tweet title and link whenever you post news).

- Remind your supporters, actual and potential, of scheduled events.

- Hit your supporters up for campaign contributions.

- Turn your supporters into volunteers and help coordinate their efforts ("We're doorbelling the 5th ward tomorrow -- meet 8am at the Denny's on Jefferson").

- Keep your campaign bug in journalists' ears (yes, reporters love Twitter -- it saves them the effort of constantly checking up on you "manually" ... an effort they probably weren't going to make anyway if you are a third party candidate).

Does every campaign need a Twitter presence?

I suppose that a very local campaign in a very small constituency -- city council in a town of less than a thousand, for example -- could get by without one.

If you're running for US House of Representatives, US Senate or any statewide office, though, failure to maintain a Twitter presence amounts to nothing less than denying yourself potential campaign contributions, warm bodies at events, volunteer hours, media coverage and votes that you could have had a shot at for amazingly little work (half an hour tops to set up, a minute here and there to "tweet").

Rosco Purvis Coltrane, George Orwell Edition

North Carolina's law enforcers must be fresh out of murders, rapes, abductions, assaults, armed robberies, burglaries and petty acts of vandalism to investigate -- they're begging for more work:

Sheriffs in North Carolina want access to state computer records identifying anyone with prescriptions for powerful painkillers and other controlled substances. The state sheriff's association pushed the idea Tuesday, saying the move would help them make drug arrests and curb a growing problem of prescription drug abuse.

And people in hell want icewater.

hat tip -- memeorandum

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Romney Shows Some Spine

Mitt Romney kept a low profile on the issue of the non-mosque several blocks from "Ground Zero," but apparently the Florida Quran-burning thing is a pogrom-in-embryo too far for him.

Republican U.S. Senator-elect Scott Brown is congratulated by former Massachusetts Governor and former U.S. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) at Brown's victory rally after Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race to replace the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy in Boston January 19, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Republican U.S. Senator-elect Scott Brown is congratulated by former Massachusetts Governor and former U.S. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) at Brown's victory rally after Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race to replace the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy in Boston January 19, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Interesting. I don't see any great political gain for him in standing up on this issue. As a matter of fact, it tends to highlight his own religious background -- he's a Mormon -- which, if the conventional wisdom is correct, is a political liability.

Frankly, this is the first sign I've seen that Mitt Romney believes in anything but Mitt Romney.

I can definitely feel where he's coming from on the subject, too. Evangelical Christian churches have been known to burn copies of the Book of Mormon, and not just in "the old days."

I was raised Pentecostal, but in the mid-1980s I converted and was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (no, I am not still a Mormon). Not long after, I attended a "revival" at my old church. The subject was the evils of rock-n-roll, but the visiting evangelist ran an anti-Mormon ministry as well.

When someone told him that there was a Mormon in attendance, he sought me out and gave me a copy of The God Makers, a book purporting to expose the evils of Mormonism. In the spirit of reciprocity, I gave him a copy of The Book of Mormon. I was later told it ended up in the bonfire (fueled mostly by rock albums brought in by congregation members) that ended the "revival."

It didn't really bother me, but it bothered some other local LDS members a lot, even after they got it through their heads that I hadn't given it to the guy with the intention of seeing it burned, or to mark my own apostasy from the One True Faith.

The reason it bothered them so much isn't that hard to figure out.

In the mid-to-late 19th century, Mormons were regularly persecuted and driven out of numerous places where they attempted to settle (yes, I know there's more than one side to that story, but let's look at it through Mormon eyes here).

Out of New York to Kirtland, Ohio.

Out of Kirtland to the Independence, Missouri area.

Out of Missouri (with government bounties on every Mormon head!) to Nauvoo, Illinois, where the founder ("prophet, seer and revelator") of the church, Joseph Smith, was lynched by a mob.

Then west under Brigham Young, settling in Utah, followed by confrontations with the US government that stopped just short of all-out war and resulted in the suppression (eventually affirmed by a convenient "revelation") of a key church sacrament, "plural marriage."

Mitt Romney's great-great-grandfather, Parley Pratt, was murdered over Mormon polygamy. His great-grandparents were polygamists; his grandfather and father, though not polygamists themselves, were born in Mexico's "Mormon colonies" where plural marriage apparently openly continued for some time after it was suppressed in Utah by the US government.

Mitt Romney's diligently recorded family history (diligent recording of family history is a Mormon religious obligation) gives him plenty of good reasons to be sensitive to how crazy things can get when people start throwing religious texts on bonfires.

Good on Mitt.

"Fidel is at an early stage of reinventing himself"

That's the opinion of Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations, as quoted in Jeffrey Goldberg's account of a recent visit with Fidel Castro.

Castro's recent statements on various matters seem to fit that hypothesis. I'm not as interested in what Castro's doing or thinking or saying as I am in the question that popped into my mind as soon as I started reading the article:

How would I respond to an invitation to sit down and shoot the bull with a monster like Fidel Castro?

The answer, frankly, is ... well ... I don't know for sure, but I'd probably accept the invitation.

I don't see it as a personal safety issue -- so far as I know he doesn't invite Americans down allegedly for interviews and then clap them in irons and ship them off to Isla de Pinos la Juventud or anything.

A woman walks past graffiti on a wall that reads "Fidel", which refers to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in Havana September 6, 2010. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa (CUBA - Tags: POLITICS)
A woman walks past graffiti on a wall that reads "Fidel", which refers to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in Havana September 6, 2010. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa (CUBA - Tags: POLITICS)
Yes, Fidel is a monster, but he's an interesting monster. He pulled off a revolution, or at least a glorified coup d'etat, and he's held its resulting regime together for 50 years 90 miles off the coast of, and through constant conflict with, the greatest "superpower" in human history. He's no idiot.

And hell, I've talked with monsters (and less interesting ones to boot) before. Some of them I didn't know to be monsters at the time (at least one murderer, at least one child rapist), some of them I did (klansmen/neo-nazis, congresscritters who voted in favor of legislation that resulted in at least as many innocent deaths as can likely be laid at Castro's feet, for example), some of them merely potential monsters (presidential candidates whose fingers I'd tremble to imagine anywhere near the nuclear button).

So yeah, I think I'd accept the opportunity to talk with Fidel Castro, on the off chance that I might come away from the encounter with a better understanding of what makes monsters tick.

Would you?

Murky's Bluff?

That's what commenter "Carl" over at The Other McCain thinks is going on here.

The short of it for people who haven't been following: After losing the GOP primary for re-election to the US Senate from Alaska, and after being told "no" by the Alaska Libertarian Party once, Lisa Murkowski is talking to the ALP about their ballot line again, which of course has the rumor mill turning.

"Carl's" hypothesis runs something like this (read it yourself, though -- this is my gloss on it):

- If Murkowski runs on a third party ballot line (or possibly even as an independent write-in), the Democrats will likely pick up a Senate seat, current polling that shows her winning on the LP ballot line notwithstanding.

- What she's looking for is a lifeboat -- a nice, lucrative job as a corporate lobbyist, VP of a "defense" contractor firm, something like that that keeps her well-paid and down south.

- The bluff -- aimed at the Republican establishment higher-ups who can summon that kind of lifeboat for her with a few words in the right ears -- is "hook me up or I hand this seat to the Democrats."

I think Carl's hypothesis makes sense.

I also think that while the Alaska LP is willing to string the whole thing along for as much publicity as it can get, they'd probably stop short of actually giving her the ballot line. I may have missed it, but I don't remember ever hearing anyone call out Murkowski's name as an example of a "libertarian Republican," a "libertarian-leaning Republican," or even one of the weaker labels that sometimes appeal to libertarians ("fiscal conservative," "constitutionalist," etc.). Playing along for awhile is good publicity for the ALP, but actually going all in on the thing would probably damage their brand big-time, and they probably realize that.

memeorandum thread

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

I Predict an Insanity Defense

There are advantages to being !!!Teh Queen of Crayzee!!!

One of them, presumably, is that when you get sued for making false and defamatory claims about someone, the jury will probably believe you when you argue "I'm barmy as Ed Gein on crystal meth* and should therefore not be held responsible for anything I say."

Hat tip -- Little Green Footballs.

* No, I don't think the comparison to Gein is too much. He enjoyed literally dancing around in the skins of dead people. Geller does the same thing metaphorically with the dead of 9/11.

World's Tiniest Violin Tuning Up ...

Yes, Obama's opponents are mean to him. No meaner than George W. Bush's opponents were, though. It just goes with the territory.

If you don't want to be talked about like a dog, stay out of politics.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

"The American Combat Mission in Iraq Has Ended ..."

And if you believe that, I've got a bridge you might be interested in buying. It connects my oceanfront properties in Kansas (also for sale) to the magical island where I keep my leprechaun-sourced gold hoard.

The body of victim is seen on the ground of bomb attacks site in Baghdad September 5, 2010. Up to five suicide bombers, some armed with rifles, tried to storm an army base in Baghdad on Sunday, killing 12 people and wounding 36 less than a week after Washington declared U.S. combat operations in Iraq over. REUTERS/Stringer (IRAQ - Tags: CIVIL UNREST)
The body of victim is seen on the ground of bomb attacks site in Baghdad September 5, 2010. Up to five suicide bombers, some armed with rifles, tried to storm an army base in Baghdad on Sunday, killing 12 people and wounding 36 less than a week after Washington declared U.S. combat operations in Iraq over. REUTERS/Stringer (IRAQ - Tags: CIVIL UNREST)
From the Washington Post's account of an attack on an Iraqi army base today:

The Americans provided covering fire while Iraqi soldiers pursued the attackers who had entered the compound, said Lt. Col Eric Bloom, a U.S. military spokesman. The U.S. intervention also included helicopters and drones, he said.

50,000 US troops remain in Iraq. Re-labeling them ("advisers") doesn't take them out of harm's way. No magic, bulletproof "we're not combat troops any more" force field pops into existence around them just because POTUS made a speech. They're still there, and the fighting continues.

The American combat mission in Iraq has ended? I need not deplete my own meager rhetorical arsenal for a pithy response -- Confederate cavalry warlord (and, to his eternal discredit, Ku Klux Klan founder) Nathan Bedford Forrest provided that response 140-odd years ago:

Damn such nonsense. War means fightin' and fightin' means killin'. Turn the grindstone.

Cross-posted to AntiWar.Com

Saturday, September 04, 2010

If Only!

Apparently one of the rumors making the Election 2010 circuit is that if the Republicans do well (take the House, get a majority or a filibuster-certain minority in the Senate), the fight between Congress and the White House will result in a "government shutdown" next year.

I wish.

I'd put the chances at better than even that there will be something called a "government shutdown" in 2011, 2012 or both. But like so many other words, "shutdown" is defined very differently inside the beltway than in the real world.

These "shutdowns" happen when the clock ticks to zero on appropriations and such -- when Congress hasn't sent the President a budget or spending bill, or when they've sent him one that he's unwilling to sign.

Unfortunately, most of Leviathan's "essential" funding is locked in through automatic procedures (read: Backroom deals to make sure the politicians don't screw the pooch and find themselves running down the street chased by crowds carrying torches and pitchforks) these days.

A "government shutdown" doesn't mean lights at out at the White House and padlocks on the Capitol's doors. It just means the suspension of "non-essential services."

During a "government shutdown," the Washington Monument closes up shop, but the Pentagon doesn't. The guy who dusts the clocks at the Social Security Administration may be furloughed (will he get paid for the time off when the "shutdown" gets resolved? You betcha!), but the people who operate the check printing machines won't be.

In other words, tastes great but less filling.

The question I used to ask my congresscritters, back when I was silly enough to think it might do some good or at least gain me some enlightenment, was "if those services aren't essential ('Important in the highest degree; indispensable to the attainment of an object; indispensably necessary' -- Webster's 1913), then why the hell are they funded through coercive taxation abdprovided by the public sector instead of the market in the first place?"

And no, I never got a satisfactory answer.

First Thoughts: iTunes Ping

So far, I'm not impressed with Apple's new social networking service, Ping (included in the latest version of their iTunes software).

I've already run into two technical dislikes with Ping:

First, it doesn't seem to support multiple profiles. One iTunes account, one profile on Ping.

Our household uses one iTunes account for the whole family. If we each had an iPod or other "digital rights management"-afflicted device, multiple accounts might make sense. We don't, so it doesn't.

So, Ping is set up with my name, my photo ... and by default the musical preferences of the entire family, although I can intervene to adjust that.

Multiple profiles makes sense. It would probably enhance music sales.

Presumably the efficient cost of any single profile to Apple in terms of storage, CPU time, etc. approaches zero -- the server overhead, bandwidth, etc. are distributed across a lot of customers. Allowing up to five profiles wouldn't break the bank or anything.

With multiple profiles, I could talk bluegrass and 60s garage punk with my Ping friends, under my name, with my photo; Daniel could discuss Green Day, Lady Gaga, etc. without a picture of his old man appearing next to his posts; etc.

Secondly, the preferences aren't very granular. I can choose whether to be open to being "followed" by everyone, or only allowing people I want as "followers." I can choose what kind of music to "feature" in my profile. But if I'm reading the options right, once I have a "follower," I don't control whether or not that "follower" gets notified that I bought "Gold: Abba's Greatest Hits" or "ZooFest 2009: The Sounds of Wimmin Having Sex with Farm Animals."

Those are the things I found and did not like in the first ten minutes.

The bigger problem for me is figuring out why Ping makes any sense in the first place.

I know why it makes sense to Apple -- they think that that there social networking stuff will increase sales.

But why would it make sense to me? I'm already a member of any number of social networks (though honestly the only one I make much use of is Facebook), and I can discuss music on any or all of them. I can discuss everything else, too ... whereas on Ping it looks like I'm limited to showing off what albums I bought, what groups I like, and maybe writing some reviews of same.

I may mess around with Ping some more, but so far it's 10% not so good and 90% yawn.

Not even if they're for ... er, ON ... sale?

Catholic blogger Mark P. Shea (hat tip -- Ryan W. McMaken):

I have abandoned the game of supporting candidates who advertise themselves as "30% less evil than the other leading brand." I will not support candidates of any stripe who ask me to support intrinsic grave evil. Please don't tell me that's expecting perfection. It's not. It's a bare minimum request for least common denominator civic decency.

Hear, hear, although I suspect that Shea and I probably disagree on several points pertaining to the precise details of evil (of the intrinsically grave or any other type).

File under "well, so much for that voting business."

So Retro

My kids, I mean.

Daniel turned 12 in late August. As kind of an afterthought to other presents and activities, I asked him if there were any albums he'd been wanting (I had a $5 bonus credit lying around for MP3 downloads at Amazon). It took him about 30 seconds to decide that he really just had to have Green Day's 1994 major label debut, Dookie.

Liam, nine, is obsessed with obsolete video game systems (I think the most-used system he has is his Sega Dreamcast), computers (he has a stack of old Mac laptops, and an Amiga desktop that we haven't picked up a monitor or keyboard for yet) and operating systems (he wanted Windows 98 so badly -- something to do with an abandonware game that won't run on newer Windoze versions, I think -- that he found, downloaded and installed Virtualbox, then acquired an ISO somewhere and burned it so that he could run it as a virtual machine inside Windows 7, all without any adult intervention whatsoever; he's frustrated right now because the copy of OS/2 warp he found at a thrift store is on 3.5" floppies and he has no drive to read them).

Question for other parents out there: Is this normal?

My recollection is that I was 14 before I hit my first "retro" enthusiasm (Beatles fandom), and that it took a specific event (the murder of John Lennon) to trigger that that digression. I'm not saying that I was always "ooh, I must have the newest X," but when I try to think of things that were popular years before I was born and no longer au courant when I took them up as a kid, I draw a blank.

Friday, September 03, 2010

AP Pours the Regime Kool-Aid [TM] Down the Sink

Internal Associated Press memo, via circuitous route (Poynter Online As Seen On TV! memeorandum):

[C]ombat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials. The situation on the ground in Iraq is no different today than it has been for some months. ... 50,000 American troops remain in country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on.

For the 30-second version, cue Winston Wolf:

Your Tax Dollars at Work, Suckers ...

... and this kind of nonsense goes on every day, all over the country:

An Arnold man pleaded guilty to a federal meth-related charge Thursday and admitted buying more than 5,000 cold pills .... [he] admitted that he sold the boxes to others knowing that the pills would be used to manufacture methamphetamine and that he used the money to pay child support and other expenses. ... He could face roughly nine to 11 years in federal prison when sentenced later this year.

How many murders, rapes, armed robberies, assaults and other crimes against persons and property went unsolved in Jefferson County, Missouri while "detectives with the Jefferson County Municipal Enforcement Group" pored over pharmacy records looking for an easy bust?

How many lives does Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Winfield destroy each year? How many gallons of innocent blood drip from each stolen paycheck she cashes?

The victim, whose name I won't sully by mentioning it in the same post as Winfield's, bought a perfectly legal substance and sold it to people who used it in the manufacture of something that, in anything resembling a civilized society, would be a perfectly legal substance.*

He did it to pay the bills.

He did it to support his family.

For that, he gets to spend the next several years in a cage -- and, no doubt, be presented upon his release with an invoice for the child support he couldn't earn or pay while incarcerated -- while the blood-sucking monsters who put him there remain at large to rinse, lather and endlessly repeat.

And we'll put up with it, until we stop putting up with it.

* This is the part where I'm supposed to say that methamphetamine is really bad and that you shouldn't use it, so that some eager beaver at DEA doesn't flag this post and ask the local police to walk their dogs through my house.

OK, it's really bad and you shouldn't use it. I can even say that from experience, having tried it once ... once, many years ago. I briefly dated a woman with a meth problem (a bad one -- I doubt she's still alive). After we broke up (I dropped her, mainly because she kept getting stupid and going back to it) I decided to see what the big deal was.

I couldn't tell what the big deal was. It hit me as very much a take it or leave it thing, and I left it. It was expensive, it wasn't especially pleasant (think of a jangly, sleep-deprived caffeine high, only a full order of magnitude higher in all the worst ways), you could go to jail for it, and I could see that using it seemed to be producing sustained negative effects across a wide swath of the population my age and younger in my hometown (Lebanon, Missouri).

My only subsequent encounter with meth was a few years ago when some idiot filled every yard in my neighborhood overnight with pseudoephedrine boxes, presumably left over from a cooking session. I called the police to complain -- about the litter.

As a side note, officer, if you walk the dogs through my house, the only thing of interest you'll find is a bottle of perfectly legal Old Crow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey ... if I haven't finished it yet ... and a guy with a firm (and sure to be vocalized) grasp of the Fourth Amendment. You don't want to go there -- I'm not going to share the bourbon.

But anyway, where was I? Yes, meth is some nasty stuff. I don't use it. If anyone asks me, I'll strongly recommend against using it.

But there's just no up side to it being illegal.

The people who want to use it are going to use it, legal or not.

The people who make it and sell it are going to make it and sell it especially because it's illegal, which drives the price up high enough to make it profitable (if it was legal, the guy in the story above wouldn't have even had the opportunity to do what he did!).

They're going to find cut-outs to buy their pseudoephedrine and their anhydrous ammonia and whatever the hell else goes into it, they're going to find mules to haul the stuff around for them, they're going to involve unknowing others in their schemes (a cousin of mine and his wife went up for several years on conspiracy charges, apparently because they let a friend park his truck at their house overnight -- and he had stuff in it for making, you guessed it, methamphetamine; that was back in the aforementioned hometown, or nearby), and they're going to blow up suburban kitchens and expose their kids to dangerous vapors when they cook it.

All so parasites like Jennifer Winfield and "the Jefferson County Municipal Enforcement Group" can wield power and make bank. Fuck that noise.

In which I become a financier

I've been meaning to sign up with Kiva for a long time, but never got around to it until tonight ... oddly enough after reading this downer of an article (hat tip -- memeorandum, not that the bastards ever link to me any more).

I don't have a lot of money, but I just took on a little extra work and figure that there are worse things to invest $25 in than a trio of ladies in Nicaragua who want to upgrade the food stands they own/operate.

The overall Kiva repayment rate is 98.86%. The org I loaned through there shows a high delinquency rate (31.33%), but a non-existent default rate, which I take to mean that I'll almost certainly get my money back, but perhaps not as quickly as the repayment plan calls for.

Now that I'm a member of the exploitative banker class, I guess I need to invest in top hat, stickpin, spats and a droll body servant with an authentic British accent. So there goes the rest of that little windfall.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Haley Barbour, si se puede!

I've never rated Mississippi governor Haley Barbour's chances of garnering the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nomination very highly.

Apparently he doesn't think much of the odds either. That's the only explanation I can think of for him feeling free to talk sense (limited sense, but sense nonetheless) on immigration:

You can just hear his Super Tuesday primary numbers ticking down like the alarm in the hatch on Lost even as he speaks. The nod to Iowa, the mini-pander to the Know-Nothings on "securing the border" (hint: If the US ever manages that, it will be the first country in history to do so), even the "ground zero mosque" demagoguery aren't enough to cover up the "we need to quit being morons about immigration" (ahem) straight talk.

Good on him.

Hat tip -- Think Progress via memeorandum

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

This one's gotta smart ...

I've never been particularly fer or agin the Kochtopus. I like some of the people, organizations and causes they fund; others, not so much. If they sent one of my own projects a check, I'd consider what strings might be attached before cashing it, but I do that with every check.

Anyway, the "evil left-wing media" have been up in the Kochs' stuff this week. If any of the "revelations" involved are particularly damning, they're probably to be found in this piece from the New York Observer: "7 Ways the Koch Bros. Benefit from Corporate Welfare."

Let's talk about "rights"

Are "rights" --

a) "[M]oral principle[s] defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context;"

b) Defective shorthand for what should be thought of as "Stipulations concerning Entitlements and Responsibilities within a new conception of a Social Contract in order to facilitate the achievement of the Social Meta-Needs -- the Members of the Society being those who Execute the Contract together with all their Property;"

c) Occasionally and sporadically recognized areas of detente in the never-ending war of all against all; or

d) Something else?

For most of my adult life I've tacitly or explicitly operated on a doctrine of "natural rights," and for about half that time the particular doctrine in question has been Objectivist (but feel to riff on some other version for "a" above if you choose).

Over time, though, I've often noticed Underpants Gnome problems ("Phase 1: Collect Underpants; Phase 2: ?; Phase 3: Profit!") in implementation of "natural rights" doctrines:

1) Rights are inherent in the nature of man;

2) ?

3) X is/is not a right.

... with "natural rights" advocates replacing the question mark in "2" with whatever claim about the nature of man they need in order for "3" to yield the answer they want to get.

I also run into a few problems with the whole "in a social context" thing.

A not uncommon claim from "natural rights" advocates -- who tend to be individualists -- is that one cannot delegate or trade a right which one does not inherently possess. But if rights exist only in a "social context," nobody possesses them until that context is operant. A man alone on a desert island neither has nor needs "rights" because there is no "social context" in which they can exist. "Rights" as a concept only makes sense if there are other parties to either respect or violate them. Rights are only functional in a social, i.e. collective, environment.

In the Objectivist community, I've also run into people who take the "context is everything" further than "in a social context." For example, one guy argued to me -- seriously, I'm not making this up, although I'm probably phrasing it more harshly than he'd like -- that Iraqis didn't/wouldn't have "rights" until Americans had bombed them enough to force them into the appropriate "social context." The "rights" of those killed during said bombing weren't violated, because they didn't have those "rights" yet.

So, I'm definitely questioning the whole "natural rights" edifice.

As for "b," "c" and "d," for the moment I'm going to treat all of them as one class based on their mutual exclusivity with "a." We can go there after we thrash out "a or non-a?"