Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

My demeanor may alter during tonight's celebrations, such that blogging would be contra-indicated. Or maybe not -- hard to know in advance, but you know how these party scenarios go. Sorry I can't proffer more details (monition dictates mere allusion), but I just wanted to get my "Happy New Year!" out atcha while it's still safe (relatively speaking) for me to approach a keyboard. Enjoy it, and be safe.

[update: It went very well -- an ecstatic New Year, to all of you - TLK]

A Weakness in the "Small Batch" Manufacturing Paradigm?

I'm a huge fan of the changes described in Kevin Carson's The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto.

I love the fact that technology is enabling things like the re-localization of manufacture and a "small batch" ethos that lets people get something a lot closer to what they want instead of just having to settle for whatever one-size-fits-all model some megacorp produced a billion of.

If there's a weakness there, I think it looks something like this [hat tip -- Judy Morris].

Fisker has built only 239 units of its 2012 Karma hybrid car, and is recalling them all because of a possible fire risk from coolant leaks.

Yes, the advantages of product continuity, economies of scale, etc. are over-rated in some important respects. But producing large quantities of a product that's altered incrementally does lend itself to gathering more data from which problems can be detected and predicted.

Just as a ferinstance, as of 2010, Ford had sold more than 2.3 million Focuses over a 12-year period. Presumably real-world-experience information gathered from each previous year's model (and over the history of its predecessor, the Escort) was used to improve the current one.

When you've only made 239 of a car, and only put 50 of those on the road, there's a lot less specific data to generalize and improve from.

And what if the actual build of the car is done not by "repeat the same action over and over" assembly line workers, but by the actual customers; and not at one facility, but at one of a number of "micro-factories," as with the ultra-cool Local Motors Rally Fighter? It seems that would make it a lot harder to reach a determination along the lines of "ah, that's what's causing those breakdowns -- we should change the design to call for x pounds, instead of y pounds, of torque on that bolt." Because you really have no way of knowing if your customer who built his car from your kit actually put x pounds of torque on the bolt, do you?

Then again, if you only produce 239 cars, I guess you don't have to worry about recalling 3.8 million at one whack, do you? So if problems are more likely to go undetected/unpredicted in early design/testing, they're also less widespread and easier to correct when you do detect them.

And the smaller the batch and/or more bespoke the final product, the more it's a case of people getting what they actually want instead of what some bureaucratic suitie in Detroit decided they should have. Which, I think, goes a long way toward balancing out increased risk of undetected/unpredicted flaws. Especially since the Big Guys haven't actually eliminated that risk, and in at least some cases seem to have just factored it in as a risk worth taking versus the bottom line.

Dropbox gets even more useful

I remain a fan of Dropbox. It's the sync tool that's never failed me yet. Save stuff in my Dropbox folder on any computer ... BAM! ... it's there on any other computer when I'm looking for it.

Now there's a new tool for Dropbox that looks pretty cool: Dropbox Automator [hat tip -- TechCrunch].

Dropbox Automator lets you set up "recipes" for handling files you save in your Dropbox folders. For example, you could tell it that any file saved in a folder labeled "documents" should be converted to PDF or uploaded to your Google Docs account. Or that any picture you save in a folder labeled "pix" should be uploaded to your Flickr account.

Not sure how I'll use it myself, but if you have tasks of that sort as part of a regular routine, it should be a time-saver.


Cold, even.

Two guys are trying to cross Antarctica without a support team, dragging everything they need with them. They're halfway there.

On their last outing, they kayaked from Australia to New Zealand.

What's next? Scale Everest, hang-glide from that summit to the summit of K2, and kick Chuck Norris's ass?

Friday, December 30, 2011

When Facebook Hands You Lemons ...

... HootSuite makes for pretty good lemonade (yes, that is an affiliate link -- I get a commission if you decide to go with their "pro" options, which may be the case if you're all about analytics and such, or use your social networks in a team setting; I'm using the free version and it does what I need it to do).

So, have you been caught in Facebook's "Timeline" hell yet? I got sucked into it myself. Don't like it much. Prettier in some ways than the last iteration of Facebook, but also more complicated and apparently it zapped my existing display/privacy settings in favor of some random hash. And while I've found some theoretical ways of backing out and getting back to "Old Facebook," they're complicated and I can't seem to find the stuff they tell me to look for.

That's what pushed me to take a second look at HootSuite. I registered there awhile back and it looked pretty cool, but I usually don't adopt multi-tool "dashboards" without some kind of compelling reason. My Facebook profile suddenly and irreversibly looking like MySpace on a bad day is a compelling reason.

HootSuite lets you put all your social media streams on one page (and in one browser tab), organized the way you like, with internal (and very arrangeable/configurable) tabbing to keep things straight. You can post to any or all of those streams, and even schedule posts in advance.

Right now I've got Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn plugged into the dashboard. Very nice. I haven't used LinkedIn much before; maybe I will now that it's sort of in my face a bit. Everything's neat, organized, accessible. I can tell what's on my damn Facebook wall, which is nice. The main network that's missing (from my perspective) is Diaspora. A little Googling tells me that they're working on that.

Anyway, give it a try. If you use social networks very much, this will probably make it easier. If nothing else, you're not running three or more apps or browser tabs to keep up with the various sites.

[Update: Ooh, I just noticed another cool thing in Hootsuite. I can turn any Facebook thread into its own stream/tab, so that I don't have to hunt for it when I want to catch up with it a little later. That's nice - TLK]

English! Do You Speak it, M*#!)%*er?!?

Nick Gillespie brings up the question of state-to-state "reciprocity" in victim disarmament arrangements at Hit & Run.

The instant case involves a Tennessee woman, licensed to carry concealed in Tennessee, who made a good-faith effort to check her gun at the 9/11 Memorial in New York and got dragged off in handcuffs.

Here's where Gillespie goes off the rails:

Assuming New York's and the city's laws pass constitutional muster ...

But there's simply no reasonable argument that they do pass constitutional muster.

Other people have done grammatical breakdowns and other analyses of the US Constitution's Second Amendment, and I'm not claiming mine is original. But I do claim that it conforms to both the original intent of the amendment's authors, and to anything resembling a common sense reading.

To wit:

The money shot clause in the Second Amendment reads "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

That clause was not casually written. It is clearly and beyond any reasonable doubt universal in application to all levels of government.

If the framers had intended only to forbid the US Congress to pass "gun control" laws, they'd have phrased it the same way as they did in the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law ...").

If the framers had intended to leave open the question of whether gun rights inhere in "the people" or powers to regulate the keeping and bearing of arms devolved to "the states," they'd have done exactly that (just as they did in the Tenth Amendment).

The Second Amendment clearly recognizes the right to keep and bear arms as a right of "the people."

The Second Amendment clearly forbids any infringement of that right. Not just infringement from Washington. Not just infringement from Albany. Not just infringement from New York City Hall. Any infringement, period. With whipped cream and a cherry on top.

Nor do bizarre arguments that the US Constitution generally binds only the federal, and not the state, governments hold any water. Article I, Section 10 imposes a raft of restrictions on the states, and Article IV imposes a number of requirements on same.

Speaking of Article IV, if the US government took sections 2 ("The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States") and 4 ("The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government"), New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg would be busy making big rocks into little rocks at Fort Leavenworth -- or perhaps offering a bodily demonstration of pendulum action -- right now.

But what really bugs me to no end is that anyone writing for Reason needs to be told any of this.

For a Limited Time ...

... probably 24 hours ...

I'm selling my ebook, Roulette for the Leisure Gambler, 3rd edition (normally $4.97), for the low, low price of one tweet.

[Promotion Has Ended]

Note: Depending on how your web browser is set up to handle PDF files, it may just open up in a browser window, meaning you may have to do some kind of "save as" routine to actually get the book onto your hard drive.

Q: Book? What?

A: See here for more information. But if the "pay with a tweet" button is still up there, use it instead of sending me $4.97.

Q: Why?

A: To promote the book. And to test out the whole "pay with a tweet" concept.

Q: Why for a limited time?

A: Well, I want to sell some books too, you know. For, like, money. Those who "pay with a tweet" ASAP get the book for the low, low price of a tweet. Those who wait until the offer is over may still be interested in the book, and they can get it too. For the low, low price of $4.97.

Too Bad the Name "Illuminati" is Already Taken

Our household transitioned to Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) light bulbs years ago. We did it over time, replacing our incandescent bulbs as they burned out. At this point, the only remaining incandescents in the house are those "makeup bulbs" in the significant other's vanity lamp.

Why did we change over? Because the CFLs were advertised -- truthfully, so far as I can tell -- as longer-lasting and more efficient, such that they more than cover the higher cost. My recollection is that in four years or so, we've had one CFL "burn out" (and a couple get broken, but incandescents would have broken in similar situations too). We're happy with the quality of light, I don't have to climb around changing bulbs as often, and the effect on our electric bill, if relatively small, has at least been in the right direction.

Personally, I think CFLs, LEDs, etc. are the bee's knees. But let's get one thing straight: The "incandescent light bulb ban," intended to make you use them, has little or nothing to do with energy efficiency. It's about money and it's about using government regulation to strangle competition.

Here's how it works:

Big light bulb players (General Electric, Phillips, Osram Sylvania) develop and patent CFL technologies, and put big money into facilities to mass produce them. Then they milk what money they can out of their patent-protected monopolies.

But it turns out to not be as much as they'd have liked -- most people would still rather spend 50 cents on a 100-watt incandescent bulb than three bucks on a 26-watt CFL. And there are plenty of smaller companies still making those cheaper bulbs. When the patents expire, instead of rushing to produce CFLs too, those smaller companies just keep cranking out those cheap incandescents. And the big guys keep taking it in the shorts, or at least not making nearly as much money as they believe they're entitled to make.

Solution? "Hey, we spent bazillions of dollars developing and implementing this technology that not everybody wants ... let's spend a little lobbying forcing them to use it ... and while we're at it, let's force those smaller firms to either spend bazillions of dollars implementing it as well or get out of the light bulb business, too."

In a real free market, CFLs, LED bulbs, etc., would -- in my opinion -- have eventually triumphed over the incandescent bulb (with some niche/aesthetic exceptions) by getting ever cheaper and ever more efficient. But why continue to compete and innovate when you can just drag a few papers sacks full of cash down K Street and get your competition outlawed?

Some people refer to this as "light bulb socialism." I call it "actually existing capitalism."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Possess nothing and be possessed by nothing"

The saying is attributed to Ahmed Ibn Abu al-Hassan al-Nuri.

No, I'm not a scholar of Sufism. I came across the quote in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy years ago, and it spoke to me in a certain way -- not as a moral or religious principle per se so much as a practical strategy for avoiding undesired entanglements, particularly vis a vis the state.

The jury's still out on how well that works, by the way.

Anyway, I thought I'd throw it out there for discussion.

New at C4SS -- Mic Check: I See What You Did There


Most “right-libertarians” see free markets and capitalism as the same thing ... and America’s un-free markets as therefore not capitalist at all. An interesting sub-species of "right-libertarian," dubbed the "vulgar libertarian" by my C4SS colleague Kevin Carson, compounds the conflation by defending non-free-market entities like corporations as if they were free market, and therefore "capitalist," entities.

Most "left-libertarians" see free markets and capitalism as not only not the same thing, but incompatible ... and America, as a capitalist nation, as inherently non-free-market. The left-libertarian critique of capitalist entities such as corporations centers around their symbiotic relations with the state, through which they gain privilege and protection at the expense of freedom in the market around them.

The signal contribution of the Occupy movement with respect to this issue is that it’s closing the obvious perceptual gap in favor of the left-libertarian claim, at the expense of state involvement of any type in the economy (and therefore at the expense of the state, period).

Here's the whole thing.

Would You Like a Soda with Your Wi-Fi?

Emily Price at Gizmag:

Free Wi-Fi is on its way to some Japanese vending machines. Working much like a mobile hotspot at your local coffee shop, people located near the machines would be able to connect to the internet for 30 minutes at a time and surf the web.

... and after that 30 minutes, all you have to do is sign in again.

Pretty cool idea, but I think I'd attach it to a stronger revenue model than "hey, this will keep people near the machine and maybe they'll buy something." On the other hand, setting up a way to require purchases by individual users would be a complicated pain.

What I'd do is put a visual gauge on the front of the machine that says "Wi-Fi On: X-Minutes Remaining." No logins, etc. required, anyone can access the Wi-Fi. Any time someone buys something, X goes up. If X reaches zero, Wi-Fi access shuts off -- for everyone -- until something is purchased. Maybe set it so that X never goes higher than 30 minutes, and so that a purchase ups X by 10 minutes. Or whatever numbers work to keep a steady flow of purchases coming.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gary Johnson Makes His Play

In a press conference in Santa Fe, the former New Mexico governor officially switched tracks from the Republican presidential primaries to the Libertarian Party's nomination contest.

He's already made one smart move, positioning himself as a competitor instead of someone awaiting coronation. The latter sort of arrogance (whether actual or perceived) was one reason it took Bob Barr six ballots to nail down the LP's nomination in 2008.

He's also already made one exceptionally dumb move -- bringing his support for the "Fair" Tax with him in his party switch (and, as Chuck Moulton points out in comments over at Independent Political Report, proving that even after months on the campaign trail touting it, he doesn't really understand it).

Obviously a former two-term governor enters any Libertarian Party contest as the de facto front-runner and with formidable advantages versus the rest of the field, who range from party regulars (R. Lee Wrights and Roger Gary) and perennials (Jim Burns) to single-issue gadflies (Bill Still) to other recently Republican also-rans (RJ Harris). But he's going to have to work for it, and he's also in a "nowhere to go but down, so be careful" situation.

It's going to be interesting.

Old Year Goal Achieved; New Year Resolution on Standby

Awhile back, I noticed that the number of blog posts here at KN@PPSTER was running below median for the years I've been blogging.

I wanted to bring in 2011 at least in the middle of the pack on that, so I resolved to hit 200 posts by year end. I got there yesterday.

I've tried to keep it interesting and not to resort to Glenn-Reynolds-style "[link] ... heh" or "this is blog post #182" or anything like that. And hey, in the space of a month, my daily traffic has popped up from 80 or so visits per day to around 200 and climbing (admittedly there was a "Christmas bump" of people finding my posts about Android tablets and e-readers vis Google, but I'll take that).

So, time to set some 2012 goals, in the form of New Year resolutions. They're both pretty simple, and the first should be pretty easy:

  1. I resolve to average a minimum of one blog post per day, seven days a week, in 2012; and
  2. I resolve to increase traffic to a minimum of 500 visits per day by next spring, 1,000 visits per day by next fall, and 10,000 visits per week by year end (without any gimmickry like purchased traffic, "black hat" SEO, etc.).
I rely on Sitemeter for my web stats. They don't track 24-hour unique visitors, but rather "visits." If a user is off-site for more than 30 minutes, then comes back, that's a second "visit." But generally speaking, I think uniques and visits tend to converge as the numbers go up (i.e. regular readers who drop by several times a day become a smaller and smaller percentage of traffic). I keep an eye on my stats, and about half my traffic seems to be "organic" -- it comes in from the search engines, and in most cases not due to any conscious keyword-crunching on my part. I write about what I'm interested in, and voila ... other people who are interested in the same things find me.

The rest of the traffic comes in from Facebook (I've got the blog hooked into the "Networked Blogs" app so that every post gets noted on my profile/wall), links from other bloggers, reader retweets, that sort of thing. Every once in awhile I blow $5 or $10 on an ad on another blog, but the click-thru ratio has never been stellar. And in that vein, a big THANK YOU to all of you who re-tweet my posts, "like" them on Facebook and so forth.

Anyway, the point being that if I'm blogging daily, I think I can hit those traffic goals over time.

KN@PPSTER isn't really a commercial enterprise from my point of view, but I figure that at 10,000 visits per week, I can probably knock down enough advertising mad money to do additional cool stuff (perhaps a perhaps blogathon powered by an expensive bottle of absinthe, or maybe some kind of reader contest that has actual valuable prizes).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Crowd-Sourcing My Phone Dilemma

I'm preparing -- it doesn't really matter why -- to abandon my cable company's VOIP phone service.

I haven't decided what to go to yet, though. The options (that I have thought of so far) include transferring my longstanding land line number to:

  • Vonage
  • Skype
  • MagicJack
  • A cell phone

Suggestions, recommendations, don't-even-think-about-its welcome.

[Update: Settled on cell. Port in progress! - TLK]

There He Goes Again ...

Per Reuters:

The White House plans to ask Congress by the end of the week for an increase in the government's debt ceiling to allow the United States to pay its bills on time, according to a senior Treasury Department official on Tuesday.

Only this time, we don't get dinner theatre out of it. The last mock battle ended in an agreement that puts this kind of thing on rails. Obama "asks," and it's then automatic unless Congress says "no" within 15 days. Oh, by the way, Congress is in recess for the next 21 days.

Don't you wish your credit line worked like that?

And Yet Another Mild Defense of Ron Paul

Former Ron Paul staffer (and now neo-falangist blogger) Eric Dondero characterizes Paul as "personally uncomfortable around homosexuals, no different from a lot of older folks of his era."

Unlike a lot of things Dondero says about, well, pretty much everything, I'd characterize that as reasonably accurate. But lest ye take it overboard, watch this infamous video (sorry, embed is disabled), and try to convince yourself that he's a raving hater.

I don't think that characterization flies at all. He sat for an interview with an alleged journalist who was camping it up quite a bit. He went into a room alone with said journalist, stayed there through several homoerotic overtures, and didn't run out until the guy actually dropped trou. And in subsequent discussions of the incident, while he made it clear he thought the joke was crass and classless, he didn't go ballistic on homosexuality per se:

My Dad is Paul's age, and I strongly suspect that had he been the foil for this joke, "Bruno" would at least have ended up with that champagne bottle lodged in an uncomfortable spot.

Paul has been known to cynically exploit homophobia to appeal to social conservatives -- for example by trying to nullify the US Constitution's Full Faith and Credit and Equal Protection clauses in favor of marriage apartheid with his "Marriage Protection Act" -- and that's definitely something to consider when evaluating him as a candidate for the presidency, but at a personal level, his discomfort with homosexuals doesn't seem to rise to the level of the atypical or obsessive.

I Love a Rainy Night

Really, I do -- and I went to sleep last night intending for this to be a post about how very, very nice it is to fall asleep outside (but warm and dry) to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the tent.

Then, about 4 in the morning, I startled awake with a sense that the tent had suddenly become smaller ... and it had. The walls were sagging inward. The pitter-patter of rain had changed to a slightly different sound, a cousin of the sound a gourd rattle makes, solid fragments hitting solid surfaces.

SNOW! Huzzah!

I shook the tent some to get the stuff off its surfaces so that it could return to something like normal shape, then unzipped the door and just watched the pretty stuff come down for a bit, before going back to sleep for a couple more hours. Sweet.

When I finally got up and about later, I discovered that the main tent-mis-shaping culprit was accumulation at the base of my tarp lean-to on the north side of the tent. It was getting its share of the snowfall, plus everything that landed on the tarp and slid down, plus some from a small tree overhanging the area. The weight of all this had caused my X-shaped tent-poles to shift position, creating most of inward bow in the tent wall. I probably need to re-engineer that whole mess before we get a more significant snowfall.

Why the Presidential Candidates Won't Ignore Missouri

From the Kansas City Star [hat tip -- Politico's "Morning Score" email newsletter]:

Consultants in both parties say it's increasingly possible the two major party presidential candidates will not campaign heavily in the Show-Me State next fall. After nearly a century as a so-called "bellwether" state whose votes reflected national trends, Missouri is now believed to lean Republican, at least on the presidential level, regardless of the candidates.

In 2008, John McCain beat Barack Obama in Missouri by fewer than 4,000 votes out of more than 2.9 million cast.

No fewer than three "third party" candidates (Ralph Nader, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin) comfortably covered that "balance of power."

Missouri may get ignored by one or both candidates if the election's an obvious national blowout/landslide, but probably not even then -- it's centrally located and easy to drop in on en route between other campaign states, so it's easy to get into the fight here on the cheap, after which the thing tends to snowball.

Certainly if an election is tight enough nation-wide for 10 electoral votes to possibly be make or break, they'll be here slugging it out.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mini-Review: Bejeweled 2 vs. 3, and a Feature Request

Yes, I'm quite late to the Bejeweled craze. Just bought Bejeweled 2 the other day as a Christmas present for myself, and I'm right in the middle of the "playing so much I see gems on my eyelids when I try to sleep" phase. And no, I'm not really very good at all. My high score is 200,000 and change. Some guy apparently played for five months straight and scored nearly 2 to the 31st power.

For the two or three people on earth who don't know about the game, it's a "matching" game -- a board full of jewels, each of which can be toggled one space in any direction. The goal is to create vertical or horizontal groups of three or more gems. Those groups disappear and new gems "drop down" from the top to fill in the space created.

Extra points can be earned by creating groups of four (this creates a special gem that explodes, taking out a bunch of gems and racking up points, when it is in turn matched up with at least two more) or five (this creates a special gem that can be matched with any other, and takes out all gems of that type on the board). I read somewhere that even bigger groups are theoretically possible, but haven't noticed them yet.

So anyway, it's an addictive game of spatial relationships. My guess is that in the 10 years or so since its introduction, it has pretty much replaced Tetris as the premier example of that class of games. If they're considered the same class, that is. I'm not exactly a game guru.

So anyway, I downloaded Bejeweled 3 earlier today, thinking I might buy it as well (on sale for $9.95). All of PopCap's games come with a free hour of play before it's "Buy or Bye."

I find it strange that 3 doesn't look as nice as 2 (we're talking about the Mac version here; others may vary). Even at "ultra" resolution, the gems aren't as large, as well-defined, or as realistic. The game just isn't as pretty. I may still buy it for "Lightning" mode, a slight variant of my preferred Bejeweled 2 option, "Action" mode (both modes are "timed" -- you're racing against the clock). Haven't decided for sure yet. If Bejeweled 3 was as easy on the eyes as Bejeweled 2, I wouldn't hesitate. But right now I'm thinking I'll be mostly playing 2, whether I pay for 3 or not.

There's one feature I'd add to the next version of Bejeweled if I was the guy who gave orders at PopCap. In "Action" (2) and "Lightning" (3) modes, the game ends when you run out of time. I assume (you know what happens when you assume, right?) that this is always a case of "there are matches there that you didn't find in time" rather than "no possible moves are left." If that's the case, it would be nice if the game ended by highlighting the matches the player could have been making when the clock ran out. The not knowing what I missed aggravates me.

They Mostly Come with Fright ... Mostly

Every four years, like clockwork:

This the most important election in history.

It's a turning point.

The current occupant of the White House is TEH MOST [right-wing, left-wing, arrogant, incompetent, warmongering, appeasing -- take your pick] EVAH!!!

Over at WaPo, EJ Dionne as much as admits that that whole line of thinking is mostly horseapples -- but pours a bucket of it on us anyway.

For the first time since Barry Goldwater made the effort in 1964, the Republican Party is taking a run at overturning the consensus that has governed U.S. political life since the Progressive era.

Yawn ... no, EJ, not really.

Since the end of World War II, the federal government has regularly seized somewhere in the neighborhood of one in every five dollars of GDP -- sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less -- from the productive class for redistribution to the political class (directly seized, that is; factor in the costs of federal regulation, currency manipulation, and similar state and local ministrations, and it's more like half your money disappearing down the rathole).

With the exception of Ron Paul, none of the major candidates have believably proposed any changes to that formula.

Yes, there's continuous bickering over how much of the loot goes to which sector of the welfare-warfare state (guns vs. butter), but it's just a rhetorical game of manipulating small percentages and scaring the bejabbers out of the rubes with body counts.

One side says it will get Osama bin Laden out from under your bed, the other side says it will keep cyanide out of your blood pressure medication. Which you should read to mean that one side will give your money to Lockheed-Martin and send your son off to die in some foreign shithole, and the other side will give your money to Pfizer and let grandpa die while awaiting FDA approval of its competitors' medications.

The candidate who wins will be the one who most convincingly promises to do both, more efficiently.

The managerial state is indeed on its last legs, but not because the Republicans are kicking it in the shins. They're holding it up by one arm just like the Democrats are holding it up by the other. When it finally goes down, they'll go with it ... and it won't be an election that brings that about.

Some People Still Prefer Dedicated Devices ...

... and I can't say I blame them.

Brad, for example, has certain preferences in an e-reader (long battery life and e-ink screen) that militate against just grabbing an Android tablet and installing whatever reader/bookstore app(s) he likes.

I have to admit that after some initial enthusiasm for other things, these days I use my Cruz Reader almost entirely as a reader. Typing even a brief email or Facebook/Twitter update is just more trouble than it's worth with a screen-based "keyboard" -- if I'm traveling and need to do that stuff, I'll take a laptop with me.

If I invoke the web browser at all on the Cruz, it's to use the "Daily Paper" app, which is really just a nicely organized set of web bookmarks. I buy books direct from Kobo using their app, or plug downloads from other sources into FBReader. I occasionally use the Pandora app to listen to music, but that's not something I couldn't live without (I've got one of those thumb-sized MP3 players).

Brad ended up with the Sony Reader as a Christmas gift. From a look at the specs, I'm guessing he'll enjoy it. The only down side I see is that Sony is on par with Amazon (with whom Brad ain't interested in dealing) from a trustworthiness perspective (see e.g. the "rootkit" scandal).

But if he decides he doesn't like dealing with them, either, apparently the device can be rooted/hacked and turned into an Android machine (haven't checked, but I bet there's a Linux distro or two that will run on its processor as well).

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

KN@PPSTER isn't exactly a traffic magnet -- 200 visits a day is on the high side, and I didn't really expect that many on Christmas day. So hmmm, 244 visits. What's up with that?

Oh, I see. Everyone in the world except me found a new Android tablet under the tree and went Googling for "free apps." Riddle solved.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

Shikha Dalmia has a piece in Reason today on "The Right Way for Ron Paul to Respond to the Newsletter Controversy."

Refreshingly, in 629 comments (so far!), the word "smear" is used only 19 times. Which means I've only been tempted to hit someone over the head with a squeegee ... well, 19 times today.

Smear as a noun refers to "a slanderous defamation;" as a verb, it means to "charge falsely or with malicious intent; attack the good name and reputation of someone."

The Ron Paul "newsletter controversy" is not a "smear" in either sense of the word, and those who attempt to make it one -- and to shift responsibility for the newsletters' content from their owner and publisher to those who happened to notice it -- do their candidate a disservice. Ditto for those who keep screeching "that's old news" and "he's disavowed that stuff and nobody believes he wrote it."

Ron Paul's newsletters had his name on them. The articles in question had his byline on them. He owned the company that published them. He encouraged people to subscribe to them, and bragged about publishing them, until they became a liability, after which he offered up two different stories about them (at first the ugly quotes were "taken out of context," then he hadn't actually written them, and hell, probably hadn't actually read them). He accepted the money they earned and he used them to build the fundraising list that put him back in Congress after 12 years out of office.

The preponderance of evidence indicates that there was nothing accidental about any of that -- that he was intentionally pursuing the Rothbard/Rockwell "paleo strategy" of playing to the ugliest, most reactionary impulses still extant in America's white working and middle classes in the hope of rallying the old "southern strategy" and "Dixiecrat" voting blocs to a putatively libertarian flag.

That's probably not something Paul can ever put totally behind him. It's a huge, ugly black mark on his political resume. Muttering something about a ghost writer and "moral responsibility," then doing the "I've already answered that" shuffle, as he has for a decade now, isn't even a good start at trying to get beyond it. His handling of this thing so far has been, in two words, Clintonesque bullshit.

If he can't put it totally behind him, he can at least partially defuse it with six words, wrapped in the longer speech Dalmia recommends, and offered without qualifications, disclaimers, excuses or attempts to minimize the importance of the matter.

Those six words? "It was wrong and I'm sorry."

Contra the claims of his supporters, I've been unable to find any instances of him publicly saying that. They may be out there, but if so they're not prominent.

Nothing's going to turn this negative into a positive, but taking it by the horns as Dalmia recommends, with a real apology instead of a bunch of evasions and equivocations from him and cries of "smear!" from his amen corner, might turn it into just one bullet point among many for voters to consider when evaluating "the Ron Paul package."

Merry Christmas!

Just got back inside from my solitary (Tamara and the kids are on the road, visiting her mother) Christmas brunch: A slice of prime rib and a baked potato, cooked over charcoal on the grill, accompanied by a glass of Old Crow and Coke and eaten on the patio (it's a mild, sunny, 37 degree morning in St. Louis).

Here's wishing every KN@PPSTER reader a happy holiday (if not Christmas, then whatever it is you celebrate around this time of year)!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Whatevah ... I do what I want"

Which part of ...

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law.

... does Barack Obama not understand?

Why I don't feel sorry for Perry, Gingrich et. al

Before 1884 in the United States, voting systems ran the gamut from the "oral ballot" -- you went to the polling, told the officials for whom you wished to vote and yes or no on any questions, and they added your preferences to a tally -- to paper ballots printed by the candidates and parties, or written out in longhand by the voter.

Between 1884 and 1891, the states each adopted the "Australian" ballot -- a standardized form printed by the government.

The ostensible purpose for this change was confidentiality, but the real effect was to finally and permanently cement the power of the Republican and Democratic parties -- for with government printing of ballots came "ballot access" requirements.

In some states, it's as simple as "non-Republicans/Democrats need not apply." It's harder for a "third party" to get on the ballot in Oklahoma than it is for a secularist party to get on the ballot in Iran, and for the same reason. In other states, filing fees and/or petition signatures are required (in some cases for everyone, in others only for "third" parties).

Like pretty much every form of government regulation, these requirements raise the cost of entry into the regulated field: The golden-haired boys of the major party Establishments have little trouble covering the costs (if they're even required to) from their deep, special-interest-funded campaign treasuries, but new parties and underdog primary candidates are forced to spend their much of their time and campaign money just getting their names on those government-printed pieces of paper before they can ever turn to actually campaigning for office.

So when I hear that Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum just got bit on the ass by the same rules designed to spare them genuine opposition in their past congressional and gubernatorial outings, not even the world's smallest violin is small enough to register the smallness of my sympathy for them.

Note: If you're interested in ballot access news, then you should be reading Ballot Access News. The only reason I link to CBS above is that BAN has separate stories on each of the Virginia fiascoes, and I wanted a catch-all (I suspect BAN publisher Richard Winger will do one at some point).

Friday, December 23, 2011

"No DRM, no regional restrictions, no crap"

And it's knocked down a million bucks in 12 days at $5 a pop.

It's Louis CK's new standup comedy special. Haven't watched it yet (downloading it even as we spea ... er, even as I type), but if you don't know about him, just take my word for it: He's a funny guy.

Here's his note regarding "piracy" from the purchase screen --

To those who might wish to "torrent" this video: look, I don't really get the whole "torrent" thing. I don't know enough about it to judge either way. But I'd just like you to consider this: I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without "corporate" restrictions.

Please bear in mind that I am not a company or a corporation. I'm just some guy. I paid for the production and posting of this video with my own money. I would like to be able to post more material to the fans in this way, which makes it cheaper for the buyer and more pleasant for me. So, please help me keep this being a good idea. I can't stop you from torrenting; all I can do is politely ask you to pay your five little dollars, enjoy the video, and let other people find it in the same way.

Louis C.K.

I bet some of the middle men who make their money by forcefully interposing themselves between you and the authors and artists you like are lying awake right now (after a hard day lobbying for abominations like the "Stop Online Piracy Act" to protect their racket), thinking about that million bucks.

If he'd gone through them it would have cost you $19.99 (at least) for a DRMed version. He might have still made his million out of it, but he wouldn't have received the goodwill, future sales and direct customer relationship he's generating by doing it this way.

[Update: Watched it. Pretty good. His best? No, but pretty good and definitely worth $5. Oh, and it occurred to me that I should plug in some YouTube for those who have no idea who the hell he is. Enjoy - TLK]

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bush 41 Doesn't Like Newt Much ...

... but the interesting part is why:

Choosing his words carefully, the former president said he knew Gingrich relatively well. "I'm not his biggest advocate," he said.

"I had a conflict with him at one point," Bush recalled, alluding to the crucial moment in 1990 when a recession drove him to renege on his "no new taxes" pledge. He needed a bipartisan group of party leaders, including then-House Whip Gingrich, to stand with him.

"He was there, right outside the Oval Office. I met with all the Republican leaders, all the Democratic leaders," Bush recalled. "The plan was, we were all going to walk out into the Rose Garden and announce this deal. Newt was right there. Got ready to go out in the Rose Garden, and I said, 'Where’s Gingrich?' Went up to Capitol Hill. He was here a minute ago. Went up there and started lobbying against the thing."

In other words, Bush doesn't like Gingrich because Gingrich tried to save his dumb ass from the decision that cost him re-election in '92.

For Shame

I'm don't generally ping high on the paranoid scale over "western civilization caving to Islam," but this is the kind of thing to inspire re-thinking.

The UK's government is abducting a child and forcing her adoption, rather than letting her (Muslim) father raise her, because they're afraid the kid's maternal (Muslim) grandfather might find out about her and go on a murder spree.

WTF, judges? The law's alleged purpose is not to accommodate potential killers who might kill. It's to apprehend and punish killers if they kill or try to kill.

Just How Far Behind the Times Am I?

Well, I only just now got around to getting hooked on Bejeweled.

I'm starting to cotton to those new-fangled horseless carriages, though.

Well, How About That

I thought about blogging yesterday on Ron Paul's walkout on a CNN interview, in which he played the "never read that newsletter stuff, been disavowing it for 20 years" card. Had I done so, it would have simply been to note that he was doing the opposite of disavowing it 15 years ago, and didn't change his story until 10 years ago. So it didn't really seem worth it. Here's that interview:

Leon Wolf over at Red State makes it worth examining in a way that didn't seem the case yesterday -- he pulls up a CSPAN interview from Paul's 1996 congressional run in which Paul specifically references the newsletters not as something a bunch of other people were doing in his name and that he didn't bother to read, but as something he was actively involved in and proud of:

Interestingly, Paul also does a big run-around on why he left Congress in 1985 -- he didn't want to give up medicine, he believed in term limits, didn't think we should have career politicians, had kids in school, etc. The real reason he left Congress is that he was kicked out -- he ran for US Senate and lost the Republican primary.

So, hard evidence that the newsletter thing isn't Paul's first or only swing at 1984-style historical "rectification" to eliminate any history that doesn't include him marching out of his mother's patriotic revolutionary vagina quoting Mises.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Not Official 'til it's Official ...

... but it's looking more and more like Gary Johnson is really going to make the jump from the GOP primaries to the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination contest.

Just to head off the conventional wisdom: No, he's not a shoo-in for that nomination.

It took Bob Barr six ballots to get over in 2008, and it was a nail-biter right up to the final ballot.

Of course, Johnson's getting an earlier start than Barr (who declared only a few weeks before the 2008 convention) did, and his past record as a politician is somewhat more congenial to Libertarians.

But he's still going to have to work for it, and he can expect pointed questions over his support of putting every man, woman and child in the United States on a federal welfare check (the "Fair" Tax), his notional support of "humanitarian wars," etc.

And weighing in the scale versus any benefits of a Johnson candidacy will be damage done by the LP's continued self-branding as The Party of Republicans Whose Own Party Doesn't Want Them Any More.

Sometimes, Just for a Moment

I sit back and let myself experience amazement at the sheer quantity and quality of human accomplishment which takes place every day in spite of, in the face of, against the orders of, the gibbering savages who think they're in charge.

Imagine the things we could do without them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Another Mild Defense of Ron Paul

Given differences of phrasing, it's hard to tell how common this allegation is, but a Google search on the word "Paul" and the phrase "hand the election to Obama" returns more than 12,000 results.

The variants run from Obama winning next November if Ron Paul win the GOP's Iowa caucus in January, to Obama winning next November if Ron Paul runs as an independent or third party candidate, and everything in between. And for "if," read "because."

I'm not buying it.

First of all, a number of polls show Paul doing at least as well, if not better, than "generic Republican" or any other particular nominee versus Obama.

Secondly, the Republicans' chances really aren't that good no matter whom they nominate.

Thirdly, independent and third party candidates almost always massively over-poll their actual performance, and more so the further out from the real election that the polling is done.

Bottom line: If you vote, and if you vote Republican, and if you like Paul better than you like the other GOP candidates for whatever reason, don't let anyone sell you on the silly idea that a vote for Paul is a vote for Obama.

Rubbing Hands Together Greedily, Saying "Good ... Good ..."

The Nagasaki Vector, one of my favorites among L. Neil Smith's "North American Confederacy" novels, is available as an audiobook, narrated by Brian Wilson. Cool.

Paulitics 101

Because I'm a vain, compulsive creature who keeps constant track of site traffic, I noticed several hits this morning coming in via a link in a comment on this piece by ED Kain at Forbes League of Ordinary Gentlemen. And because I really ought to blog something today, I think I'm going to push that bandwagon down the road a little.

I'm actually sort of re-growing a soft spot for Ron Paul after my period of disillusionment with him.

I won't vote for him, mind you; but since I won't vote at all, I won't vote against him, either.

I don't see any reason to retract any of the harsh things I've said about him, because they are all true; but looking back at my meanness, I have, over time, realized that I had a tendency to drop one key piece of context:

Ron Paul is a politician.
A SUCCESSFUL politician.

He's been making a mark on the political scene for going on 40 years now. And successful politicians don't do that by actually being the plaster saints that adherents of their personality cults want to believe they are.

It's a lot easier for politicians whose cultists worship their "pragmatism." That term was custom-made for covering the multitude of sins that electoral politics entails. The only sin it won't cover, in fact, is failure. And sometimes it will even do for that.

Take Newt Gingrich, for example. He's spend decades throwing every crappy idea he comes across against the wall to see which ones stick. The "pragmatism" defense worked pretty well for him when his surge required him to do some defensive tap-dancing, didn't it?

Unfortunately for Paul, his cultists focus on items like "honesty," "principle" and "consistency." The next successful politician who manages to really live up to those three things over a career which spans decades will be the first to do so.

So let's talk about those newsletters (again).

Paul's political career began in earnest just as Nixon's "southern strategy" began re-shaping the American electoral battlefield.

From that point on, and right up to the moment that Trent Lott came to grief for opining, at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, that America would have been better off had the Dixiecrats won the 1948 presidential election, it was de rigueur for Republican politicians (especially those from south of the Mason-Dixon Line) to scootch their toes right up to, and sometimes over, the line separating "wink, nudge" identity politics from full-blown, sheet-and-hood-wearing race-baiting.

And that is exactly what Paul did, especially in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as he turned the subscriber list of a newsletter that praised David Duke, entertained the racial theories of Jared Taylor, claimed that 95% of DC-area black males were criminals, etc., into the powerhouse fundraising list that would send him back to Congress in 1996 after a 12-year absence.

Paul was not alone in this approach. Ronald Reagan did not select Philadelphia, Mississippi (the site of the 1964 murder of civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodwin and Michael Schwerner) as the location for his "states rights"-oriented first post-nomination speech in 1980 by throwing darts at a board. George HW Bush was not courting the African-American vote in 1988 with those Willie Horton ads.

This was how Republicans campaigned at that time. And Paul, Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell recognized that when they drummed up their "paleo strategy."

It was not, however, how Republicans campaigned by 2007.

I don't know whether Paul was lying in 1996 when he claimed authorship of those newsletter articles and pleaded "lack of context," or whether he was lying in 2007 when he denied authoring the articles and blamed them on an unnamed ghost writer. But he was lying one time or the other. Big ding on "honesty" and "consistency," and a pretty clear indicator that his only guiding "principle" in both instances was: WINNING.

The same can be said of his pork habits: Earmarking funds for his district, including for projects and purposes that he describes as unconstitutional; but that's okay, see, because once he has the earmarks in there, he votes against the bill that he knows will pass.

And of other things, but I guess I'm getting away from the point here, and that point is that if you assume Paul is just a typical politician of a certain age/era, he doesn't really look that bad, does he? He only starts looking particularly crappy when you compare his actual record to, e.g. Walter Block's panegyrics, the specifics of which no human being could ever live up to.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Xmas, War is Over

In theory, anyway.

In fact, thousands of mercenaries -- er, "security contractors" -- remain in Iraq, working with or for 10-20,000 allegedly civilian US government employees.

Oh, and drones. Supposedly just in Kurdish northern Iraq, but don't be surprised when Pakistan-like "13 killed in alleged US strike" stories start coming out of the country next year.

Old wars don't die any more. They just fade off the front page.

Just in Time for Christmas

Believe it or not, someone occasionally suggests that I should flog KN@PPSTER t-shirts.

I used to sell some KN@PPSTER gear, and a little of it even got bought (particularly memorably, a female fan who shall remain nameless bought a couple of KN@PPSTER thongs).

Thing is, I'm not much of an artist or designer. And since I'm not going to spend $38.99 $31.95 on a friggin' t-shirt myself to find out whether or not these actually arrive looking okay, well, caveat emptor. But, if you're wanting a KN@PPSTER tee sooooo bad that you're willing to pony up close to $40 more than $30 and hope for the best, here's what they supposedly look like:

The front is a black and white photo (circa 2010 -- the "crazy beard and Panama hat" era) of me that I ran through a "half-tone" effect. The back is a quote from one of my old C4SS pieces: "Like everyone else, the political class has to eat. Unlike everyone else, the political class proposes to eat us."

Order here (I repeat -- only if this is really your kind of thing -- I think they're too expensive), and enjoy. I may try to do more stuff later, but I'll probably look at cheaper options to offer.

Addendum regarding "too expensive" -- I get $5 of that $38.99. I figured they were too expensive at $33.99, too, so making a little money myself wouldn't be what dragged them across the "too expensive" line. I'd rather they were, say, $14.99 with $3 going to me. Managed to knock about eight bucks off the price (and took a royalty cut to $3 and change) by switching from CafePress to Zazzle. I also think the shirts will look better. That's the reason for all that strike-thru detritus.

Update: Mug.


Michele Bachmann whines about how Newt Gingrich treats her in debate.

While she stops short of accusing him of sexism, she certainly implies it.

But if the gender bias card is now face-up on the table, it's not Gingrich who played it, it's Bachmann (and her supporters, e.g. Michael Steele tweeting "you go, girl").

Bachmann has a habit of getting her facts wrong (not just with Gingrich -- see e.g. her exchange with Ron Paul concerning Iran's nuclear capabilities) and, in some cases, apparently just making shit up and attributing it to unidentified supporters who somehow manage to buttonhole her in public without anyone else hearing, then disappear never to be seen again (she's pulled that one out of the hat with both Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich).

If anything, her opponents have probably cut her more slack on that kind of thing than a male opponent would have received.

There's more to being a serious candidate than repeatedly claiming that you're a serious candidate. If you want to be one of the boys, wear a cup and take the kicks like one instead of whining about it. Or, to put it a different way, if Bachmann doesn't want her opponents to dismiss her as a stupid bitch, she should stop playing one on TV.

This is What the "National Defense Authorization Act" Looks Like

Courtesy of Egypt:

Remember that whenever you think about the evil bastards in Congress and the White House who are trying to bring it here.

more at memeorandum

Saturday, December 17, 2011

PSA for Springfieldians Living in St. Louis

I haven't visited every Chinese restaurant in the St. Louis area, but I've eaten at quite a few.

So far I've only found one that gets "Springfield-style" cashew chicken right.

I just finished off a #17 combo -- "Crispy Cashew Chicken" -- from Quik Wok at 10665 Saint Charles Rock Road in St. Ann, and it finally occurred to me that I should share the joy.

The combo comes in at under $5 (they take cash only, so don't sashay in with your debit card expecting food; also, they're closed on Sunday) and includes a generous portion of cashew chicken (breaded, deep-fried chicken with cashews and green onions in a brown oyster sauce), a helping of fried rice, and two crab rangoon.

I probably did eat at every Chinese restaurant in Springfield (Missouri) circa the 80s and 90s (I lived right behind Leong's Tea House, owned by the dish's inventor, for two years) and I know my cashew chicken. Quik Wok's is the real thing.

The only place I've had better cashew chicken (unless it was homemade by my Aunt Lois) was a hole in the wall place in Springfield, near the corner of Glenstone and Seminole. That place was still open when I visited a few years ago. I think it may have been called Hong Kong II, but I can't remember for sure.

Note: If the comment thread turns into a tip trade, I'd be interested in where I can find a decent medianoche around here.

My Summary Responses to Presidential Candidates, Part 1

Jon Huntsman edition.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

WaPo relays from Vanity Fair that he has died of pneumonia, after a lengthy affliction with esophageal cancer.

I'll not attempt an obituary, nor a dissection of where I thought he was right or wrong. He was a hell of a writer. That's enough, and all that really needs to be said.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bit'o'Liveblog: GOP debate

Coming in a little late as usual.

8:58 -- They're taking a break and I'm packing it in. This one is like watching paint dry.

Favorite SCOTUS justices: Santorum -- Thomas; Perry -- Alito, Roberts, Thomas, Scalia; Gingrich -- Scalia, but the other three Santorum named as well; Paul -- All good, all bad; Bachmann -- Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito; Huntsman -- Roberts and Alito. Did they skip Romney?

8:55 -- Romney appointed 3/4 Democrats to bench as governor, why should GOP trust him? Romney says appointments had to be approved by a Democrat council, but he picked good nominees.

8:53 -- If judge misbehaves, impeach him, but questions subpoenaing judges to "explain" themselves. Maybe not such a good idea to abolish a bunch of courts.

8:52 -- Bachmann: Real issue is whether or not courts follow Constitution. What we need to do about it is have president and Congress take authority back. Court system isn't final arbiter of law. Praises Iowa for removing judges who uphold Constitution and abolish marriage apartheid.

8:49 -- Gingrich wants to subpoena judges to explain decisions they make, and impeach them if the decisions were bad? Gingrich: "Damn straight." People who disagree with the promotional flag pledge crafted by a socialist flag salesman and modified by mossback religionists hate America.

Switching to the judiciary.

I don't set out enough eye candy around here

So ...

Check out those, um, ice cubes.

The associated news item (via Killing Time, via The Other McCain) is that one of my favorite actors, Christina Hendricks (of, among other current offerings, Mad Men, and with a couple of previous fine turns on the late, lamented Firefly), is now the official spokesperson for Johnnie Walker. Hit that first link above for more pix (SFW, unless your boss is a teetotaler or something) and more details.

Hey, is that a casino sign she's posing in front of? I could have sworn I heard something about liquor in the front and poker in the rear.

JPEG or it didn't happen

Per Sam Biddle @ Gizmodo:

Months ago, I asked the Pentagon for its visual records of Osama bin Laden's sea burial under the Freedom of Information Act. Today, I received a thick packet of No -- a complete denial that any records exist. ... The Pentagon claims not a single person aboard the USS Carl Vinson, where Bin Laden's remains were disposed of, took a single picture.

That pretty much tears it. The only plausible conclusion is that he's still alive. And hiding under Eric Dondero's bed.

Follow the Bouncing Ball

I try not to do so too much, actually, but it's hard not to notice the constantly changing Iowa numbers -- or the one constant in those numbers.

Newt Gingrich is up. Then he's down.

Mitt Romney's down. Then he's up.

Ron Paul is up. Then he's up a little. Then he's up some more. Persistently in at least third place, sometimes second, and in definite contention for first.

And keep in mind that Paul's actual caucus support is probably under-measured by traditional polling. His supporters tend to be more ... well, supportive ... than most.

In Iowa, it's not just a matter of dropping by the polling place and punching holes in a card. You have to be willing to spend an evening standing around in your candidate's corner of someone's living room and refusing to move.

Paul's supporters love standing around refusing to move. Romney's supporters and Gingrich's supporters probably include much larger "but there's a Glee re-run on at 8, and your TV is only a 26 inch, and I need to pick up popcorn ..." blocs.

Santorum and Bachmann will likely benefit from more motivated/dedicated supporters as well. Huntsman will probably personally swing by to give his supporter a ride to the caucus, but I don't see it helping much. And Rick Perry will probably be busy with that Glee re-run himself.

In other news, Gingrich has signed on to the National Campaign to Preserve, Restore and Impose Marriage Apartheid, leaving Paul the only major non-adopter of that guaranteed 10-point hit against GOP vote totals next November.

This is starting to get interesting!

Idea for a Chrome extension/function

I may be the only person in the world who'd have a use for this (which I'll explain in a minute), but if not I think it would be really cool if someone made it:

I'd like an extension or other clickable doodad which allows me to randomly re-order all open tabs in a Chrome browser window.

Every day at Rational Review News Digest, I select and post excerpts of (and links to) numerous political commentaries.

At the end of the day I select a "top five most interesting" (from those I've found and those added by other editors) to head up the email edition, but in general I try to "mix up" the order in which I post them -- that way if the Cato Institute's latest piece (ferinstance) is at the bottom one day, maybe it's near the top, or in the middle, the next day.

I used to do that by searching sources in various orders, but these days I just run through my bookmarks, go to, and start adding stories in the order I get from "rolling the dice" there.

It would be nice to be able to jumble up the tab order with a click or two.

Honestly, though, I can't think of a great number of other uses for such a thing, so I guess I'll have to do without it, or learn how to code it myself.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Doubt I'm the Only One Asking this Question ...

Related or not?

This morning, a US Air Force MQ-9 "Reaper" drone crashed in Seychelles.

Meanwhile, Iran's government is claiming that it has figured out how to control the RQ-170 Sentinel drone it captured last week.

The two drones are different models, even made by different companies ... but is it possible that their control systems are similar enough to be vulnerable to the same kind of attack, and that Iran is telling the US "you might as well ground your drone fleet -- if not, we'll be happy to do it for you?"

[Update, 12/15: Another possibility I'm not hearing discussed much is that the drone was, for one reason or another, intentionally put into Iranian possession. For example, after being modified to give them an incorrect understanding of how the US drone fleet works. Or to corrupt whatever diagnostic/probe equipment they plug into it with a virus. Etc., etc. Remember, even the wildest conspiracy theories seldom get as weird as the real world of intelligence and counter-intelligence.]

Monday, December 12, 2011

Newt Gingrich, Motherf---er of Invention

That's what I wanted to call my latest column at the Center for a Stateless Society, but such a title doesn't lend itself well to submitting a piece for publication as mainstream newspaper op-ed. So I went with something else. Teaser:

Look at any of the imaginary lines drawn on the ground by politicians around the world -- "borders" -- and you'll find that those lines started with invented identities, upon which power-seekers piggybacked their pretensions. Gandhi's India and Jinnah's Pakistan, Bolivar's Gran Colombia -- you name it. Nations invent themselves constantly and spontaneously, after which they're boxed in and drained of their inventive energy by their own emerging political classes.

Check it out, and while you're there, hit the ol' tip jar and help C4SS keep bringing market anarchism to the mainstream media.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Get Email

And some of it is more interesting than the rest of it.

For example, today I learned that the US has a secret colony on Mars, and that US President Barack Obama visited said colony (by teleportation from the building now occupied by Square Enix Games) at least twice as a teenager.

You'd think he'd mention that on the campaign trail. All the Republicans are saying their first presidential trips will be to Israel. How cool would it be able to say "the first presidential trip of my second term will be to visit the summit of Olympus Mons ... again?"

I'm a little bit pissed that I've never had the opportunity to visit the colony ... or maybe I have. According to a related story, permanent colony staff

spend 20 years’ duty cycle. At the end of their duty cycle, they are age reversed and time shot back to their space-time origin point. They are sent back with memories blocked.

I think I'll add "may have spent time on Mars, but if so I don't remember it" to my resume, just in case.

Hey, I wonder if Square Enix is in on this thing, perhaps as a front for internationalization of the colony? The teleportation device at 999 N. Sepulveda Boulevard in El Segundo, California was supposedly called "Jump Room." Square Enix produces a game called "Cross Gate." Maybe the next generation of Earth-to-Mars teleportation tech? Inquiring minds want to know!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

When He's Right, He's Right

Newt Gingrich:

Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community .... And they had a chance to go many places. And for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and I think it's tragic.

That set of facts is uncomfortable for some people, but it is a set of facts nonetheless.

The Arabs who lived in Palestine only really began staking claim to a "national identity" after the Arab countries which tried to take over the small portion of Palestine claimed by Israel in 1948 and split it among themselves failed to do so -- and had they not failed to do so, those Arabs would have become Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians, etc. I suppose you could say the seeds were planted in 1918 with the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, but it took the 1948 war to water and sprout them.

None of that invalidates legitimate Palestinian Arab property claims, or even Palestinian Arab aspirations to a state of their own (aspirations which Gingrich, by the way, supports).

I don't see why the claim is even considered insulting. "Americans" were an "invented people," too. Until 1776, they were Britons living in Great Britain's American colonies. Even after war broke out in 1775, they remained so for more than a year, demanding only "the rights of Englishmen." Then, under the influence of Thomas Paine, they re-"invented" themselves, and made it stick.

I suspect the Palestinian Arabs will make it stick, too, but not by pretending to a history that doesn't exist. I'm not with Newt on US foreign policy by any means, but I agree with him that while we're entitled to our own opinions, we're not entitled to our own facts.

Liveblog -- GOP debate

Just quick takes:

Michele Bachmann suggests that what we really need to do is raise taxes on 47% of Americans.

Mitt Romney is all about plans. Obama doesn't plan enough.

Rick Santorum: I'm all for tax cuts, but not for the peasants.

Ron Paul: If you want to save Social Security, stop spending money on everything else.

Q: "Who is the most consistent conservative candidate?" Mitt Romney says he understands meritocracy, while Newt wants to mine minerals on the moon. And because he's been in the private sector, he understands that central planning works.

Oh, snap! Gingrich to Romney: "The only reason you didn't become a career politician is you lost to Ted Kennedy in 1994." Gets big applause for defending letting young people work.

Paul and Bachmann take Gingrich down a few notches on Freddie Mac.

Bachmann says she's the real consistent conservative because she's spent 50 years in the private sector (doing tax law and collecting farm subsidies).

Bachmann accuses Romney of being the only governor who put socialized medicine into place. Apparently she was too busy in the private sector to notice Howard Dean.

Bachmann: "Newt Romney," evil twins.

Gingrich to Bachmann: You're lying about me. I opposed cap and trade, I opposed ObamaCare, I wasn't a lobbyist.

Romney: "I know Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich is a friend of mine. But Newt and I aren't clones."

Perry. Sorry, I can't seem to stay awake when Perry talks.

Hate to say it, but Bachmann's winning this debate. She's making Romney and Gingrich look like chumps, and she's keeping Santorum from getting much of a word in edgewise.

Santorum compliments Bachmann on fighting the good fight and losing, claims he fought and won. Bachmann rebuts that she was in the GOP minority, Santorum had a majority to work with.

Diane Sawyer says hey, we need to go by the rules here. I don't think George Stephanopoulos has said a word yet.

At the commercial break, I read Bachmann as pretty much romping. She's got Romney and Gingrich on the defensive. I was hearing that this debate would be Santorum's showcase, and he's not doing too badly, but Bachmann's on a rampage and taking scalps.

OK, we're back and George is now talking. Q: Should voters consider marital fidelity an issue?

Perry: His vow to his wife and to God is even stronger than a handshake in Texas.

Santorum: Character counts, but people make mistakes and it's not the only thing to worry about. More accommodating line than I expected from him.

Paul: Important, but not something we should have to talk about. Gets on a pretty good roll about the oath of office.

Romney: I've got core values to keep us from becoming a Greece or Italy. Because Mussolini didn't know how to make the trains run on time, but I do.

Bachmann: "The measure of a man or woman" is what the founders emphasized. She's a Christian, proud of it, may even be a virgin.

Gingrich: It's a real issue. People have the right to ask any question to decide if they trust. I've made mistakes, I've had to go to God for forgiveness. But I'm a 68-year-old grandfather and I hope people will look at who I am now.

Immigration. We know you all want to secure the borders, but the question is what to do about the 11 million immigrants who are here without some politicians' permission.

Gingrich: Local boards should decide who gets to stay based on whether they're an honest, valuable part of the community. But I still want a police state and to conscript employers as unpaid ICE agents.

Romney: Not for amnesty. Any kind of amnesty encourages people going places without my permission.

Perry: Enforce the laws already on the books (except for the Constitution, which makes all federal immigration laws void, of course). Opposes Obama's "catch and release" method (never mind that Obama has deported nearly as many in three years as Bush did in eight).

Q: Gingrich called the Palestinians an "invented people." Do you agree?

Paul: Disagrees. Opposes intervention, but believes we should re-write history to make Arab "Palestinians" exist as a group before 1948 because it's the diplomatic thing to do. Or something like that.

Gingrich: "Is what I said factually correct? Is it historically true? Yes." And doesn't care if the Arab "leaders" are mad about it because they're terrorists anyway. "Enough lying about the Middle East."

Romney: Agrees with most of what Newt says except for Palestinians being an invented people. We shouldn't get ahead of Israel or try to set their positions for them. Obama, despite the fact that he takes exactly the same line as every president since Reagan, is anti-Israel.

Gingrich: This is a propaganda war in which the Arabs are lying and we need to stand for the truth.

Romney: We shouldn't speak for Israel.

Gingrich: I'm not speaking for Israel, I'm speaking as an historian.

Bachmann's no longer controlling the floor. She needs to get back in there or lose what she gained in the first segment.

Gingrich: "I am a Reaganite. I am proud to be a Reaganite. I will tell the truth ..."

Bachmann: I went to Israel in 1974 and worked on a kibbutz. Been to Israel as a congresswoman. Talked with Fayed, asked him why they teach children hatred of Jews, he says they don't do it. I pulled out pages showing it. That's what needs to change.

Santorum: You have to speak the truth, but you have to do it prudently. We have an ally, Mitt is right, we should be working with them, not saying inflammatory stuff. Then says West Bank is Israeli land.

Perry: This is a minor issue. Obama has a muddled foreign policy. Now Iran has one of our drones. Completely incoherent, but gets big applause.

Q: Last time one of you had a personal financial strain that forced you to cut back -- hold your answers for commercial break.


Perry: Grew up without running water until I was five, home-sewn clothes until college. Didn't have much, but never felt like I gave anything up. I know there are people suffering, that's why we need to get the economy running again.

Romney: I didn't grow up poor. But I grew up with a dad who had been poor and wanted me to understand hard work. Had jobs when I was growing up, served my church, worked with people who were struggling. I'm in this race not because I grew up without means, but because I understand what it takes to fix things.

Paul: Raised during Depression, but didn't really know I was poor. My wife worked to get me through medical school. Middle class is suffering because of monetary policy that transfers their wealth to the upper class. Got to stop overspending, overborrowing, printing too much money.

Santorum: Grew up in modest home but had my needs met. Family makes the difference, sense of security. Family breakdown is behind economic status breakdown. Promote marriage (for heterosexuals).

Bachmann: Opposed bailout for troubled banks while troubled homeowners got evicted. Privatized profit, socialized risk. I took on Paulson, I took on the president. My folks got divorced with four kids, we went to below poverty, I went to work at 13. I know what it's like to struggle. We still clip coupons and go to thrift stores today.

Gingrich: Grew up in an apartment over a gas station, dad was a soldier. Frugal but not desperate. I have relatives who have been out of work. Callista and I have a small business and we know how difficult it is.

Q for Gingrich and Romney: Yahoo! audience wants you to tell us more about your past support for healthcare mandates. Romney, you encouraged other states to try it like you did in Massachusetts. Gingrich, what changed your mind?

Romney: States can do what they want. That's federalism. My plan was for my state, other states should do whatever they think is best for them. ObamaCare's federal mandate is BS.

Gingrich: Unconstitutional. Tenth Amendment. Been working on health issues since 1974, been trying to find a way to break out of failed third party payment model. We need to fundamentally rethink entire health system along lines suggested by Santorum, doctor-patient, not insurance company.

Q: Heard pharmacists talking about unhealthy habits. Anything government should do?

Paul: No. Government is a referee to keep people from hurting other people. If it's trying to protect you from yourself, you're in trouble (big applause). Why should we have a candidate who has to keep explaining himself on healthcare. Government is force, and once it molds behavior/economy, it violates whole concept of revolution/Constitution.

Perry: Agrees with Paul about federal government, but states should be able to jab 12-year-old girls with STD vaccines whether their parents like it or not.

Commercial break. If you're not liking my takes, you can find others at Memeorandum.

Q: Tell us one thing you've learned from another candidate on stage.

Santorum: When I was first running for office, I listened to Newt Gingrich's tapes. He taught me how to be a conservative.

Perry: Congressman Paul got me intrigued about the Federal Reserve.

Romney: Everyone here exhibits different qualities of leadership. Every time I come to a debate, all the signs I see outside are Ron Paul signs, he enthuses people. Now let's talk about me for awhile.

Gingrich: Two people, one onstage, one not. Governor Terry Bransted, because he's like me, left government, came back. Rick Perry got me engaged on 10th Amendment. Rick Santorum's consistency and courage on Iran will be what makes us survive if we do.

Paul: Appreciates Perry for coming his way on the Fed. We shouldn't be fighting among ourselves if we just follow the Constitution.

Bachmann: Herman Cain showed us power of being plain-spoken and simplistic. I'm the proven consistent conservative.

The end.

Instant Evaluation: Bachmann won the debate in general, and may pull up past Santorum for the caucus because of it, but Gingrich won by not losing. Nobody got a real mitt (pun intended) on him. He's probably still the frontrunner. Biggest loser was Romney. He's just not convincing.

Below 20 Degrees (?), Snug as a Bug in a Rug

I'm not sure how cold it got last night, but when I got up at 6:30am and came in, the Intarweb told me it was 20 degrees fahrenheit, and what data I could find retroactively seemed to point to a low in the mid-teens (I didn't think to look at the forecast before going to bed).

Let me put it this way: There was ice on the inside of the tent walls this morning, presumably from breath vapor condensation. But I slept very warmly in my DuoFold® Union Suit and Coleman® mummy bag, under a World War II wool military blanket. Matter of fact, I removed the blanket during the night. I did, however, use an old t-shirt as a sort of "veil" to loosely cover the part of my face the mummy hood leaves exposed (a cold nose is annoying).

I'm still not sure what exact model that mummy bag is (I found it at a thrift store) but I'm still guessing it's either an older model of, or equivalent to, the Coleman® Everglades 20 degree bag. It's definitely a Coleman®. It's 85-inches in length with a built-in stuff sack, and contains 3 pounds, 10 ounces of DuPont® Holofill® insulation, both of which match older "Everglades" descriptions (Coleman® has switched to its own "Coletherm®" insulation recently, and new "Everglades" models say they're good down to 10 degrees instead of 20).

I can't recommend it enough. It's a fine bag. So hey, I might as well do a "mini-review" for those who are considering cold-weather camping.

First warning: Mummy bags are not for the claustrophobic. Getting into and out of one properly takes some time, and when you're in them you are essentially immobilized.

Here's how you get into the bag -- Or how I do, anyway:

- First, lay out and arrange the bag pretty much exactly how you want it to be positioned for the night. For instance, if you are using pillows, make sure the bottom of the hood area is up on the pillow. As we shall see, changing position is not the easiest thing once you're in the bag.

- Next, get in the bag (which obviously must be at least mostly unzipped for you to do), zip it halfway or so, then turn out any lights, etc. -- because in about 10 seconds you're not going to be able to reach out for stuff.

- Lie down on your back. Find the two drawstrings on your left -- one for the chest baffle, one for the hood -- and make sure you know where they are (I lay them across my chest at a downward angle).

- Finish zipping the bag, and attach the little velcro tab under the zipper handle that keeps accidental unzips from happening. One nice feature of this bag is that there's a cloth tube/baffle that lays over the zipper on the inside, protecting you from drafts or contact with cold zipper material.

- It's already a bit snug, but now let's address those drawstrings. First, close the chest baffle by attaching the velcro tabs on the right side. Then cinch up the drawstring for the hood until your head is completely enclosed except for your eyes, nose and mouth (and as little of those as you care to leave exposed -- if you want to veil your face with a piece of cloth in that space, now is the time). Finally, cinch up the chest baffle until it's tight around your shoulder/chest area.

You're done -- and within perhaps five minutes, you'll be comfortably warm. The bag does a great job of sealing in body heat, especially since that chest baffle doesn't let it escape up top.

I'm a fairly big guy, but not wildly obese or anything. When I'm fully in the bag, I have about 4 inches of space in any of three directions (left, right or up) before I'm pushing hard against the bag. If you want to change body position, it's going to take an effort and the bag is going to roll with you. Personally, I'm getting used to sleeping on my back. The immobility is actually a sort of sleep aid for me.

Like I said, don't try this if you're claustrophobic. But I guess if you were claustrophobic, you wouldn't be sleeping in a 7x7 foot, 4 foot high tent anyway, would you?

You don't want to wear a bunch of clothing in this bag. Not only does that further constrict your motion, but it's likely to get you sweaty and defeat the warming mechanism. Pajamas or long underwear, at the most, should be enough.

Getting out of the bag is just a reversal of process -- un-cinch the chest baffle and hood drawstrings, tear the chest baffle velcro loose, reach a finger out to remove the zipper-stop tab, and unzip. It takes a good five minutes to get into the bag properly; maybe a minute to get out, plus whatever time you spend delaying because man, it's cold out there.

At somewhere south of 20 degrees, I was toasty warm and comfortable all night -- so much so that I did a roll in the middle of the night to get the wool blanket off and cool things off a bit. But of course I was also wearing that merino wool Union Suit. I'm interested to see how I fare at full zero degrees. I'm certain that this bag isn't rated for that, but I expect to manage just fine.

Disclosure: Coleman® didn't pay me to write this. Coleman® didn't give me the bag, a discount on the bag, or anything like that. So far as I know, Coleman® doesn't know who I am (but I'll take any free stuff they want to send me!). They've been a reputable name in the camping gear business for decades, and that reputation is, so far as I can tell, well-deserved.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Word of the Day: Ungainly

Per Merriam-Webster:

Definition of UNGAINLY

a : lacking in smoothness or dexterity : clumsy [ungainly movements]b : hard to handle : unwieldy [an ungainly contraption]
: having an awkward appearance [a large ungainly bird]
Per me:

Gmail's "new look." It's optional for the moment, but if it becomes non-optional, I'll be looking for new email digs. It's just ugly and uncomfortable.