Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The long and short of the situation

Ayn R. Key nails it concisely:

The only thing left is for President Obama to appoint a horse to the Senate.

Out of the Pool

I showed up at the St. Louis, County Missouri courthouse yesterday morning pursuant to a summons (paraphrased, "you'll help us maintain the pretense that what we operate these days is a 'justice system,' or we'll kidnap and rob you").

After passing through the increasingly familiar police state gauntlet (remove shoes and belt, put everything in a basket for x-ray, walk through metal detector ... hey, uh, WTF guys? You called me!) and checking in at the desk ("Do you have ID?" "No." "Are you married?" "Yes, but I don't have a license for it." "Er?"), I sat in a large room with 209 other people, waiting to have my number called.

In theory, I was to be there for two days, then if my number was not called, I could go home. It turned out to be one day. They called one panel of 36 about lunch-time. I wasn't on it. Then near the end of the day, they called out another panel, told them to report in the morning (I wasn't on that one either), and told the rest of us we were "released."

There was a smoking area, and it was even conveniently located and had a loudspeaker for announcements. There were two television lounges and a number of cubicles for laptop use. They had "free" wi-fi, but it was abysmally bad -- when I could connect to a site, everything had timed out by the time I clicked a link or anything. So I spent most of the day reading (Ursula K. Leguin's The Dispossessed), BSing with fellow smokers, etc.

The little handbook they gave us was a bit roundabout, but did manage to work in the lie that jurors only get to judge the "facts" and that they must follow the court's instructions with regard to matters of "law."

That settled one matter in my mind -- if they can lie to me about jurors' power to acquit in the teeth of the law, then I can lie to them about whether or not I'll swear to follow their instructions on the matter.

I didn't proselytize nullification or anything. For one thing, I didn't want to get pinched on some "contempt of court" bit. For another, I at least half-hoped to be selected for a jury on a case that might allow me to, ferinstance, set some pot-smoker free.

Certain kinds of people tend to find each other, though, and usually they do so in the smoking area. I went to lunch with a guy I'd been small-talking with, and it turned out he had nullification in mind too. He'd once been nabbed on a possession charge, and since scales were involved, they'd upped it to felony intent to distribute. He'd spent two years and several thousand dollars managing to plead it down to a misdemeanor, and was likewise hoping he could help pitch a walk to someone who'd harmed nobody else.

Should I mention whether or not he got picked for a panel? No, I don't think I'll divulge that.

Here in a few weeks, I'll be getting a check for $10 plus mileage. It's tainted money, so I'm just going to sign it over and mail it to a good cause.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What is so suspicious ...

... about putting a package that won't fit IN the mailbox, UNDER the mailbox?

In a sane society, the only thing worrying about that is that someone might steal it before the mailman arrives, on the off chance that there's something valuable inside.

In St. Louis, Missouri, they close the street and send in the bomb squad.

Sounds to me like the St. Louis PD just wanted to mix things up a little and take a morning off from the DWB stop routine over on Kingshighway.

Update: Yes, it was a parcel containing some clothing.

Hmmm ...

Eventually, at 10 a.m., a police officer wearing no protective gear knelt down next to the box and used a pocketknife to unseal it. He sifted through its contents, then carried it away nonchalantly.

And hmmm again:

Whoever steals, takes, or abstracts, or by fraud or deception obtains any letter, postal card, package, bag, or mail, or any article or thing contained therein which has been left for collection upon or adjacent to a collection box or other authorized depository of mail matter ... Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

But since he has a shiny badge, I'm betting he'll probably get away with it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Civics 101: Government spending

There are three types of government spending -- waste, fraud and abuse.

As Anthony Gregory points out, that first category is the least of our worries.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Weiner's true offense

Over at The American Conservative, Pat Buchanan writes:

In traditional morality, what Weiner did, engage in immoral and squalid behavior, should result in permanent shame and instant removal from any position of honor.

Adherents of the old morality cannot understand why he is still in Congress. Was not Rep. Chris Lee, also of New York, a Republican, gone in four hours when it was discovered he sent a bare-chested picture of himself to Craigslist?

However, in the new morality of secular humanism, the gay rights movement and the libertarian left, what men or women do in their private lives is their own business.

You say that like it's a bad thing, Pat!

Buchanan goes on to assert that Democratic moves to throw Weiner under the bus are merely window-dressing, a fake show of loyalty to "traditional morality."

I have a different theory. I think that Democrats and Republicans alike are hammering Weiner because ... he's been acting too much like an individualist.

The purpose of government is to screw us all, en masse. It's a wholesaler, and no wholesaler likes its employees moonlighting in discount retail.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

(Sort of) New: Roulette for the Leisure Gambler, 3rd edition

I wrote Roulette for the Leisure Gambler in 2003. I promoted it for a few weeks. It sold a few hundred copies and got good customer feedback.

Four years later, in 2007, I re-formatted the book, slightly revised it, promoted it for a few weeks, sold a few hundred copies, and got good customer feedback.

Well, it's been another four years. Roulette for the Leisure Gambler, 3rd edition is here. Re-formatted, slightly revised, and with some graphics added to illustrate bet types, etc. Time to promote it for a few weeks ...

The promotion line, as it always has been, is that there's no such thing as a "winning roulette" system, but that I'll teach you to maximize your odds and minimize your losses for less than the cost of your first bet at a $5 minimum roulette table.

If that's your kind of thing, by all means check it out.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

More collection call fun

Does anyone else get those phone calls from collection agencies -- for people who aren't you and in some cases may not even live at your address?

I've had several recently, relating to someone who may or many not reside at a nearby address. Apparently the idea is that if I know that alleged neighbor, I'm supposed to pass on a message from the collection agency (presumably this means that said alleged neighbor hangs up on them when they call, or has a disconnected phone, or whatever).

Anyway, tonight I get an automated phone call asking me to return the call to a particular person at a particular number.

Naturally, the particular person named has "stepped out" and the other anonymous collection agent will handle the matter (same of course being true for the other 20 anonymous agents, since the named person likely doesn't even exist). Anyway, after that chit-chat:

Collection Agent: Do you know [name that isn't mine]?

Me: None of your business.

Collection Agent: [Name that isn't mine]? Do you know [name that isn't mine]?

Me: None. Of. Your. Business.

Collection Agent: So this is a wrong number?

Me: I didn't say that.

Collection Agent: I'm sorry sir, you have to be more specific.

Me: No, I really don't. [click]

I also like the automated calls that give you a series of invalid options:

"Press one if you are [name]. Press two to place the call on hold and go get [name]. Press three if you can take a message."

I generally sit silently and let those options repeat until they cut off with "sorry, I couldn't hear your response ... goodbye."

I'm not [name], I'm not going to go get [name] for you -- even if I know whom he or she might be, he or she is not here; and I'm not your fucking stenographer. But I'm happy to keep one of your lines tied up for a couple of extra minutes, since you woke me up with your robocall and that sounds more fun than hanging up and going back to sleep. Have a nice day.

If Michele Bachmann wants to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination ...

... she has to pick a fight with Sarah Palin sooner or later, and sooner is better. There's a maximum of one alpha female slot in the competition. If one doesn't knock the other out fairly early, they're both doomed.

Anyway, Bachmann just threw the first punch, albeit via the increasingly usual method of using proxies whom she can "take to the woodshed" if it goes bad on her.

I'm not a fan of either one of them, but if I had to bet on one of the two knocking the other one down hard, fast and for the ten-count, it would be Bachmann. "I didn't resign my last political office to pursue a career in reality television" is a body blow that can be landed again and again.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Campaigns 101: Email Contact Operations

While I'm no longer personally invested in electoral politics, I continue to do (and enjoy!) work for political candidates and organizations. The main difference is that I'm more of a "cash and carry" guy and less of an "I really believe that your campaign can change things!" guy.

With the 2012 election cycle now obviously under way, I'm going to start putting out some articles, most of which will have an at least nominal "hire me" hook. Even if you don't hire me, hopefully you'll get something out of these articles. This is the first.

What email contact operations are

Quite simply, email contact operations consist of building a list of supporter/donor email addresses and using it to inform your supporters, solicit contributions from them, activate them for events, and get them to the polls.

Why email contact operations are important

Every campaign needs to establish contact with, and keep in touch with, its supporters and (actual or prospective) donors. They're the people who write checks, knock on doors, attend rallies, and vote for you. Or not. If you're not talking with them, probably not. So you need to talk with them. Often. And email is how it's done these days (direct snail mail, too, and phones, but email is absolutely necessary).

Additionally, a campaign email list is a valuable commodity over time. If you're a candidate, you can roll one campaign's list over into the next campaign, or use it to help your party reach your supporters. If you're a consultant, you can bring your lists from previous campaigns into play for the current ones.

If you doubt the value of building contact lists over time, let me throw three phrases at you:

1) Ron Paul
2) 1980-something thru 2008
3) $35 million

Ron Paul didn't just fall off the back of the truck one day and raise $35 million. He spent 20 years building contact lists. Remember the "newsletter" scandal? The subscriber lists to those newsletters are probably what allowed him to raise respectable money for his 1988 Libertarian presidential campaign, as well as the money that got him back into Congress in 1996. And they were the pad from which he launched his 2008 presidential bid.

You don't have 20 years. November 2012 is 17 months away. Time to get started.

Why you should invest in email contact operations

In the past, I've often gone the "free" route (Google Groups, etc.) for email operations with campaigns I've worked on, and I've learned the hard way that that route generally costs more in labor than it saves in money, and ultimately doesn't produce the kind of results you need.

The best solution I've found -- I've been using it for a year now to publish a daily newsletter -- is a company called TrafficWave.

If you've already clicked the link, don't run away -- yes, TrafficWave is an "autoresponder" service normally used in "Internet marketing," and it has a "multi-level marketing" style compensation plan for people who refer clients to it.

That's not a bad thing. It's a good thing. Let me tell you why:

- Because of its association with "Internet marketing," TrafficWave has had to be as close to perfection as possible on legal matters. Your rear end is covered on things like compliance with the "CAN SPAM" Act, and they make it easy.

- Also because of its association with "Internet marketing," TrafficWave has goodies: A 30-day free trial (the size of your list is limited during the trial, but you can move into the paid plan if it reaches that limit), and something called the "Matrix Buster" program (that's what I linked to, and here's why): From your end, it means that your first PAID month is ALSO free. I'm paying for it, and they're giving me a 100% commission. So, you've got up to two free months with TrafficWave to decide whether or not it's worth the money before you have to actually start paying (you can export your list and take it elsewhere if you decide it's not what you're looking for).

- TrafficWave's price for value is simply the best in the email contact operations industry. It's a flat rate of $17.95 per month for as many lists as you need to run, with a total subscribership of up to 10,000. Unless your campaign is a fairly successful "major party" presidential effort, that's probably going to be more than you need. If not, you can upgrade your capacity.

Finally, once again because this is "Internet marketing" stuff, I get a $6 monthly commission on your TrafficWave subscription after the "free trial" days are over.

For that $6 a month as your "upline referrer," I'm happy to provide limited "second-line tech support" and consulting (from political experience) on how to use the service if you need it.

No, I'm not going to put in 40 hours a week on your campaign for that $6 a month ... but I'll help you design a "lead capture form" or "lead capture page" for your campaign web site if you need me to, or lead you through the process of sending your first broadcast. That kind of thing.

Even if you don't use TrafficWave (or me) I strongly suggest looking for a professional email contact solution -- one which will serve you well now and into the future -- if you're serious about politics and campaigns.